It’s finally time for me start something that was supposed to be a main attraction when we started the blog: religious tract reviews. You know all those folded sheet of paper with a cross on the front that you kinda step over on your way to the corner mart for your morning Sin Coffee? I love those. I collect those, I will cross streets to pick them up off a dirty bus bunch, I risk long discussions with people wearing misspelled sandwich boards just to obtain one more, and I occasionally cross streets, risk discussions, and then don’t even take the pamphlet because I already have that one.

So, you know, I’ve got a couple stashed away. They’re mostly Christian, because that’s what tends to be around, though I have a few from Jews for Jesus, some Mormon stuff, and a Scientologist graph of something from back when I lived next to the Dianetics Center. I’ve also got a Qu’ran and an entire book of introduction to the Qu’ran, but people, I am not reviewing the Qu’ran for this blog. Same goes for the splinter group Buddhist books I got a few years ago from the train station in DC.

In order to start this party off with a bang, I went to the gold standard of crazy pamphlet lit: the Chick tract. Jack T. Chick was born in 1924, and is an Independent Baptist, which isn’t a specific church but basically means that regular Baptists weren’t conservative enough. He’s also a dispensational premillenialist, and in case you’re not up on your proper End Times lingo, just know that Jesus’ second coming is incredibly confusing and the subject of much debate requiring graphs, tables and illustrations, and this guy has a definite opinion on it.

Jack Chick hasn’t given an interview since 1975, and has never released a photo of himself, though there are other photos that claim to be of him. He’s like the Thomas Pynchon of the Christian Comics world. According to his Wikipedia page, he got the idea of spreading the word through comics from Communist China.

The first review in a sporadic, untimely series is going up tomorrow. Try to contain yourselves until then.

St. Graoust

It turns out that I take obscure saint requests. It hadn’t occurred to me until someone asked, and I thought, sure! I’ll just google it and turn something up and it’s fantastic for when I can’t decide on a saint myself.

Famous last words, everybody.

Today we’re plunging into the non-story of one Saint Graoust, about whom we know the following: in the town of Le Langon, the diocese of Fontenay Le Comte, in the Vendee region of France, there is a shrine to this guy with a plaque explaining that he was in the parish records from 1564, converted a bunch of heathens, and was canonized because he raised a child from the dead. The current shrine was built in 1875. And that is it. I can’t find a single other thing with the name “Graoust” on it anywhere.

Luckily, I have a theory!

St. Grwst was a Welsh saint, as if you couldn’t tell,  in the fourth century C.E. He was from Armorica and was the patron saint of Llanwrst and several other places with far too few vowels. Now, not to talk myself up but finding out that info at all took me several trips to the research library at the Big Fancy University where I work, some quality time with Google translator, and all that after I’d frustratedly trolled through collections of saint names looking for something that was vaguely like “Graoust.”

For totally inexplicable reasons, Grwst’s alias was Rhystyd, Welsh for Restitutus, which is the name of the first bishop of London. I have to be clear: having the same name is the only thing that even remotely links the Welsh guy to the British one, but I’m taking it and running.

St. Restitutus barely has anything on him either. “Restitutus” in Latin means “revived,” so maybe he raised someone from the dead. Anyway, the main thing that’s known about him is that he attended the Council of Arles in 314 and denounced heresies like you’re supposed to.

Arles is in France. I’m not an expert on ancient travel routes, but the Vendee could be on the way from Wales to Arles if you were in the mood. And I don’t know a lot about Old French or Old Welsh, but I imagine that “Graoust” and “Grwst” sounded pretty similar.

That’s pretty much the best I can solve this mystery. Hope I helped.

If anyone else would like some of my “help,” let me know and I’ll get back to you eventually.

Dudes-Only Diet Soda

The other day I was driving home from work when I heard the most ludicrous commercial I’ve heard in a while for this thing called “Pepsi Max.” It is diet soda for MEN. Manly, manly diet soda, not that any real man would want to lose weight or watch his calories. It’s just in case he wants to eat a pound of bacon later, he can save up those calories otherwise wasted on a Pepsi. I absolutely did not make that part up.

Sadly I seem to be the only person who has ever heard this spot, because it’s not on the internet, and no one else I know listens to the radio in the car. But here’s a TV ad for it:

In case you can’t watch, here’s a quick rundown.

Dudes are not bothered by: all manner of grevious bodily injury; head wounds; causing serious harm to others.

Dudes are extraordinarily bothered by: diet soda.

Now, in terms of being extraordinarily bothered by diet soda, I’m right there with dudes. That stuff is disgusting. I don’t really like sugar to begin with–I was looking at Pepsi varieties on Wikipedia, and apparently they have unsweetened Pepsi in Europe, which sounds kind of awesome–but fake sugar adds that special ass flavor to take it from something I’m not crazy about to something I won’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

I am however bothered by injury, both on myself and others.

I get that we live in a culture where women have more pressure on them to be thin than men, and through a special sort of non-logic that works out to watching your weight being a feminine trait and therefore something a manly man cannot do unless he wants his man-card revoked. At least in terrible commercials. Normal men pass on dessert all the time, at least in my experience.

After watching this and being kind of baffled by it, I wondered why this was man-cola. Surely it must differ in some way from lady-cola, right? Maybe it’s got testosterone or viagara in it? Enzymes to make digesting bacon easier? Grows your chest hair? Gives you super-burps?

No? It’s got Ginseng and slightly more caffeine? But still less caffeine than a cup of coffee, and it’s still sweetened by the same stuff? Oh. Well then. Obviously being awake is for dudes, then.  Sleeping is so damn girly.

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Despite being an intelligent, well-educated, practical, feminist woman, I read Twilight. I read the crap out of Twilight. I don’t know why I did, particularly past the first one, but I did even though the amount of satisfaction I got from it didn’t even come close to the amount of anger it inspired in me.

To make up for the hours of my life I spent reading a poorly written, poorly characterized, plotless behemoth with basically no redeeming qualities except vampire sex, here are some things that would have made it way better. After the jump, because spoilers, if you care about that sort of thing.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe

thats Nostra Senora to you

that's Nuestra Señora to you

The Virgin, obviously, is neither obscure nor technically a saint, but she’s pretty much my favorite Catholic thing ever. Partly because she’s so pretty, partly because she’s all over everything in Los Angeles, but mostly because her saint day–today–is my birthday. I didn’t even know that until I moved to L.A. and got carded buying booze, but now I’ve had no less than three cashiers tell me about it

Her story really starts in 1523, when the Spanish finally conquered the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. Yeah, I always forget that the Aztecs were around so late, too–in my mind I’ve got them classified as “ancient,” so I think they went away around 476CE or thereabouts. Not true.

Being fervent Catholics, the Spanish started right away with the converting. Among the first to convert was Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, who had possibly the sweetest last name ever. This was 1524; his wife died in 1529, and then one day in 1531, he took a little walk across a hill to get to mass.

On top of Tepyac hill the Virgin Mary was waiting for him, dressed like an Aztec princess and speaking Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs, and according to Wikipedia still spoken by about 1.5 million people in mostly rural areas. The English words “chili,” “coyote” and “avocado” all come from Nahuatl, which I find strangely exciting.

Anyway, Mary had a fairly simple request: tell the bishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumárraga, that she wanted a church to be built on the hill for her. Okay, said Juan Diego, and he went to the bishop with the request. Other Juan was skeptical, and asked that Juan D. bring him back a sign. In an exciting game of divine Telephone, Juan D. relayed this to Mary, who told him she would give a sign the next day.

Meanwhile, Juan D’s uncle had become gravely ill, and on the morning of December 12, he decided that he would go find a priest to administer the Last Rites rather than wait around on a hilltop for some floaty lady. As he went around the hill, however, to his surprise, the Virgin showed up. She told him that his uncle would be fine, and that he should climb Tepeyac hill and pick the flowers there.

That was totally crazy, of course, because we all know flowers don’t bloom in December, but nonetheless there were some lovely Castilian roses waiting up there for him. He picks the roses, stashes them in his tilma (a clock-like outergarment), and brings them back down to the Lady. She rearranges them, tells him not to peek until he gets to the bishop’s, and sends him on his way.

When Juan D. gets to Other Juan’s house and opens the tilma, the flowers are gone but there’s a picture of the Virgin Mary imprinted on the tilma. Church gets built, Juan D. is its caretaker, eight million native Mexicans convert to Catholicism in the next seven years. These days, Guadalupe is as much a symbol of Mexico as she is a religious figure–both Miguel Hildago and Emilio Zapata flew flags with the Virgin on them.

Guadalupe probably served more than anything else as a bridge between the native Aztec religions and the newer and, uh, more forceful Catholicism. The same way that they yoinked Easter for Jesus’ resurrection or Saturnalia / the winter solstice for his birth, they Christianized either Tonantzin, Coatlicue, or both, and built a church on what may have been an Aztec worship site.

There’s also some question about why she wanted to be called Guadalupe. Most Marian apparitions are named after the places they occur, like Fatima and Lourdes. Guadalupe obviously isn’t Nahuatl since there are letters besides x, t and l–it’s somewhere in Spain, which has a less famous vision of Mary. From Sancta.org:

Some believe that Our Lady used the Aztec Nahuatl word of coatlaxopeuh which is pronounced “quatlasupe” and sounds remarkably like the Spanish word Guadalupe. Coa meaning serpent, tla being the noun ending which can be interpreted as “the“, while xopeuh means to crush or stamp out. So Our Lady must have called herself the one “who crushes the serpent.”

I can get behind sharing a birthday with the modern version of a goddess who wore human hearts as a necklace and crushed serpents in her spare time. As saint days go, I think mine kicks ass.

I’m off to go spend my birthday at Mission San Juan Capistrano, a lovely place where I hear there has never been any oppression, ever.

Debates: A Step Beyond

I will admit up front that I’m not an undecided voter. The Democratic party basically has me in their pocket, at least until a more liberal national party develops. In theory I’d love to say that I’m an independent who will vote for whomever’s policies I like best. In reality, that’s basically always the Democrats.

I’m also not a low-information voter, being young and all fired up about this stupid election. Thus, I’m not really the intended audience for the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates. I watch them anyway, obviously biased, yelling things at McCain while peeling apples for apple pie and thinking, Damn! Obama’s presidential. Honestly, it’s boring, I pretty much know what their stances are, and where I don’t it’s about 10-1 that I’ll agree with the guy on the left anyway.

Here, then, are five better ways to watch presidential candidates face off.


You may think that “fisticuffs” is simply an old-timey word for fighting. You would be wrong. Technically it’s bare-knuckle boxing, and dammit, there are rules, just like the debate! You can’t strike a downed opponent, gotta stay in the ring, get up within thirty seconds or you lose, etc. Two people are chosen at random from the audience (undecided voters?) to be the umpires. Plus, it actually causes less brain damage than the gloved version, as there’s less hitting since it hurts your hand more. Finally, it would really increase the likelihood of bringing excellent facial hair back into presidential vogue.

Outcome: Obama. McCain has a slight problem raising his hands above shoulder-level.


I like this one as something with a Town Hall style format. The candidates would come in, stand on separate dance floors, and audience members would request dances. Some sort of moderator would be there to limit time, and maybe help out the audience with what exactly we should be expecting. Both candidates would have to do the same dance, obviously, and we’d be watching for knowledge, interpretation, and the groove factor.

Outcome: Hard to say. Obama seems like he’s got better moves, but I hear McCain can jitterbug like a fiend.

Pub Quiz.

This one’s my own personal favorite form of competition–trivia plus booze. To those unfamiliar with this best of Satruday night activities, you go to a bar, you get beer, you get five of your friends to be on your team, and then you get to crush all your competition and go home victorious. Not only would the candidates need to know important information like where Shiprock is (New Mexico) or who sang “Eighteen and Life” (Skid Row), they’d need to choose teams wisely. That would get the VP candidates in on the game, finally. Plus, people are always deciding their votes on who they’d rather have a beer with.

Outcome: Obama. Palin all but sinks it for McCain, unless the category is “Towns in Alaksa I used to be Mayor of,” or “What should we do offshore?” Plus, I’ve got a hunch Obama would choose people with a wide range of expertise, while McCain would just choose four other old white guys who know where Vietnam is on the map.

Pistols at Dawn.

“Wait,” you say. “That seems awfully final and, well, violent, even for the American presidency.” Maybe, but the duel is a time-honored tradition with precedent, sort of. Andrew Jackson was big into dueling–mainly for his “wife’s honor”–and had several bullets lodged in him from this delightful pastime, including one in his lung and one two inches from his heart. He shot that guy after having a rib shattered by the bullet, by the way. And no one needs to be reminded about Hamilton vs. Burr. Not exactly presidential, but Founding Fatherly.

Outcome: McCain. Duh, he was in the Navy. Hey, have you heard about how he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam? It’s totally true.


If the economy’s going to be in the toilet, the least we can hope for is a president who knows how to put a hotel on the Boardwalk. Maybe they could pontificate a little on second mortgages while they play; if you flip over Virginia Ave to pay for Marvin Gardens, when you flip it back you’ll end up paying 150%. Of course, McCain would end up yelling about the free government handouts you get by passing Go, and there would be total pandemonium and accusations of racism the first time Obama landed in Jail.

Outcome: everyone loses in Monopoly.

St. Hubert

Hubert–who I keep wanting to called Humbert Humbert–was born in Aquitaine around 656 CE. His grandfather had been the king of Toulouse (this was back when basically every holler and hamlet had a king), and his father was duke of Aquitaine. We don’t know who his mother was because women didn’t matter.

As a “youth” he went off to the court of Theuderic III in Paris, was well-received, and “gave himself entirely up to the pomp and vanities of this world,” as the Catholic Encyclopedia so generously puts it. He married a young lady named Floribanne, but above all else he loved hunting and spent nearly all his time doing it.

One Good Friday, when everyone else was headed to a fun day in church, Hubert decided to go hunting. He was pursuing a large stag when it turned, and Hubert saw a crucifix between its antlers. Like Bambi: the evangelical version, he heard a voice say, “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell.” He asked what he should do, and the voice told him to seek out Lambert, the bishop of Maastricht.

I like to think he killed and ate the Jesus Deer anyway. Maybe it even counted as communion.

Hubert went to Maastricht and sought out Lambert. He avoided the “douchebags in the name of Christ” tag by waiting for his wife to die before fully committing himself to the priesthood, giving away all his possessions to the poor. As you do.

In 708 CE, Hubert made the pilgrimage to Rome, but while he was gone Lambert was assassinated back in Maastricht. Luckily the Pope at the time had a vision of the death, and also a vision telling him to appoint Hubert Bishop of Maastricht. Convenient.

He spent the rest of his life trying very hard to win the martyr’s crown–ie, trying to get himself killed in battle–and converting the remaining pagans in the region. He had a vision of his own death in 727 or 728, as well as the foresight to be reciting the Our Father when it happened. I hear that wins you big points with the dude upstairs.

Now he’s the patron saint of hunters, even the ones who shoot moose from planes and can’t form coherent sentences, and his seal is also on a bottle of Jagermeister. Jagerbomb for Jesus every November 3rd.


Catholic Encyclopedia

Patron Saints Index

Hubert, Patron Saint of Hunters

It’s quite simple. Quite.

So you may have noticed that the economy is, to borrow a phrase, fucked the fuck up. To people not closely involved in finance, the events of the past week are confusing. You’re probably asking yourself, what exactly is going on? And should I convert my savings to weaponry inspired by George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire? (They’re only going to go up in value!)

Well, luckily, while waiting in line at the taco truck, I happened to run into nine or ten op-ed columnists and that MBA guy who keeps cornering you at parties. They were generous enough to take the time to explain the whole thing to me. Turns out they’re really smart, and people should ask their opinion more often! I wrote down everything they said. So here, now, and you won’t find this anywhere else, is the complete explanation of our current financial misadventure, as told to me by people who understand this kind of thing:

Alright, Henry, you’re standing in line, waiting to buy a burrito. But what if, instead of buying a burrito with four dollars, you just told the guy in the taco truck that you would pay him four dollars later? Sound like a good idea? Well guess what. You just ruined the economy. And gave four dollars to China, and by the way, I care about human rights now.

This is what happens when you borrow money you can’t pay back. This is what happens when you take out a mortgage with low payments which can quickly rise. My mortgage, by the way – It’s fixed rate. Actually, it’s not really even a mortgage, I have this, uh, it’s kind of an arrangement. Anywho.

It’s a house of cards, built on nothing. There’s no money holding it up, just promises to pay money later. What’s so frustrating is that it’s so. Blindingly. Obvious. My dog could have predicted this would happen. I remember, the first time I heard of a subprime mortgage, I said, this path only leads to one place. And that, I said, is a government loan to a major insurance company in exchange for a controlling stake in the company. Yes, insurance company. Well, no. Not out loud. But it’s just so plainly obvious, I didn’t think it was necessary.

I mean, you’d have to be real idiot not to see this coming. A real out-of-touch, hoity-toity fancy-lad. Anyway, I hope some of that got through to you.

So you there you go. I certainly feel a lot better knowing that so many people are totally on top of things.

St. Adjutor

Today in the anti-infidel edition of Weekend Obscure Saint Blogging, we’ve got a crusading saint. The Crusades are one of those things I’m always meaning to learn more about–partly, because when I heard about them for the first time (as a kid, from the Disney version of Robin Hood) I thought they sounded great. Then I grew up and actually learned something about them, and realized that not only did they excuse mass killings, they were kind of dumb.

Anyway, Adjutor. There aren’t a ton of sources about him online, which is the way I like it–the better to speculate wildly. He was born in Vernon, in the Normandy region of France, around 1070 CE and educated by a bishop since he was some sort of nobility.

In 1095, he decided it was a good idea to take 200 men and truck off to the Crusades, which were happening over in Turkey, after the Byzantine Emperor had asked the Pope for some help with the Muslims. Near Antioch, his 200 troops were surrounded by a force of 1,500 infidels and faced certain death. Applying a solution common to the saints discussed here, he prayed to St. Madeleine (the French name for Mary Magdalene), who sent a huge storm that scared the enemies off, and then Adjutor’s men charged, killing more than 1,000.

He fought for seventeen more years without incident that I can find. One webpage I found says he was fighting the Moors in Spain, not in Turkey, which would also kind of make sense. I mean, Spain’s a lot closer, and they were also in the throes of Christianizing or kicking out the non-Christian people. I’ll never know, though.

Eventually Adjutor was thrown in Muslim jail and bound with chains. His peacefulness and piety annoyed the jailers, so they put more chains on him and threw him in a deeper dungeon. There he prayed to Madeleine again, this time offering her some of his land in France for her convent if she helped him out. She showed up along with St. Bernard, and the two of them airlifted him, chains and all, back to Vernon overnight. Like UPS, but holier.

Back in Normandy he settled down into a holy life, giving Madeleine the land he’s promised and hanging out with bishops. Since his land was right on the Seine, he took it upon himself to fix some rapids that occurred naturally in the river: he and Bishop Hugues set out in a tiny boat, and while the bishop prayed he threw holy water and his chains into the river, which miraculously calmed.

One webpage I found did say he turned back the flames at the Siege of Vernon by prayer, destroying the enemy, but that same webpage says he died 1131, and Wikipedia says the Siege of Vernon by Louis VII happened in 1153. So that would be super miraculous.

St. Adjutor is the patron saint of dockworkers, yachting, swimmers, and generally anyone who does stuff on boats. Go sailing without a life vest on April 30th; you’ll be fine!

Our Lady Collegiate Church of Vernon

Lives and Legends of the English Bishops and Kings

St. Adjutor’s Life Realities (flimsily translated from French)

St. Adjutor’s Miracles


First, some ground rules. We’re not talking about songs which make reference to movies. Breakfast at Tiffany’s song from the mid-90s – there’s no place for you here. Same goes for jokes. Maybe you could argue that Jonathan Coulton’s Re: Your Brains takes place in the world of a Romero movie, but it’s not about the movie. We are looking for songs based on movies, earnestly, or ambiguously ironically at the least.

The Drive-By Truckers The Monument Valley

Strange that on an album of slice-of-life character studies, the most heartfelt song turns out to be about westerns. But then, who doesn’t love John Ford movies?

“It’s all about where you put the horizon / said the great John Ford to the young man rising.” The opening lines describe the act of moviemaking. On the one hand, nothing is more irritating then meta-art. If I have to read one more book which equates writing with physical creation, I’m going to punch a wall. And an artist’s desire to put on display his or her influences is understandable, but tedious. Yes, I’m sure you’re very well-read and that you know a lot about 1920s wax cylinder recordings or 1970s summer camp movies, but show me what you’ve got.

That said, this song pulls it off – mostly because it so accurately captures the long quiet landscapes of the best westerns. And by the final verse, the lyrics tangle John Ford the person with the famous line from The Man Who Shot LIberty Valence. “It’s where to plant the camera and when to say action / When to print the legend and when to leave the facts in.”

In the end, far truer to what makes westerns so enduring than Burt Bacharach’s song The Man Who Shot LIberty Valence. (Sample lyric: “Cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood / When it came to shooting straight and fast, he was miii-ghtyyyy good!”)

Daniel Johnston King Kong

This might be the most straightforward film-to-song adaptation. It’s a chanted summary of the film, told from the point of view of the titular monkey. Daniel Johnston’s childlike lyrics make for an interesting version of the story, full of straightforward descriptions like “He stripped his woman / he stripped her bare / but there was a pterodactyl / there.” It’s more of a description of individual things which happen in the movie, rather than a story.

The Jimmy Castor Bunch King Kong

Here’s another musical take on the same film, but where Daniel Johnston’s focuses on the obsession and fall of creature, The Jimmy Castor Bunch celebrate his power, size, and restraint, apparently. “He didn’t dance or party,” they tell us. But like Daniel Johnston’s song, a good chunk of time is devoted to straight up summary. Regarding Kong’s fight with a Tyrannosaurus, Jimmy Castor sings “He stretched the creature’s mouth until it split / Then like a child, began to play with it.”*

Bob Dylan Brownsville Girl

Even the most unappealing Dylan album has something to recommend it. Knocked Out Loaded, marred by weird 1986 production, and mostly uninteresting songs, has Brownsville Girl, Dylan’s collaboration with playwright/actor/former Holy Modal Rounder Sam Shepard. Clocking in at close to eleven minutes, it’s a winding, half-sung, half-spoken song about, um, something probably. Dylan mentions a girl, a trial, a bunch of places in Texas. Mainly, the song seems to be about this movie Dylan seen one time, ’bout a man riding ‘cross the desert and it starred Gregory Peck. As Dylan ruminates his way across the song (“The only thing we knew for sure about Henry Porter is that his name wasn’t Henry Porter”, he sings at one point, and at another, “Oh if there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now”) he returns to his Gregory Peck movie again and again. He thinks he sat through it twice.

*I would’ve included The Jimmy Castor Bunch’s Dracula as well, but in fairness, that’s probably based on the novel.