Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When Lambs Lie Down with Lions

Periodically I run into people who claim to be spiritual rather than religious. They believe in a creator, but they do not believe that creator is to be found in any organized church. In fact most of them seem to believe that any form of organized religion is the antithesis of spirituality, and that adherence to the tenets and precepts of a particular faith is one of the surest ways to remove oneself from god's presence...or to remove god from one's own, whichever the case might be. Although I understand where these people are coming from, and what they mean by that, I must confess that I almost always think that they are just making excuses for their inability to embrace their own essence as beings created by the creator they say they believe in.

Nature: often majestic, but warm and fuzzy?  not so much.
Usually these irreligionists point to nature as the place where they feel most at peace and most in awe of the god of their understanding. They are not comfortable in church where too many rules and too much ritual and way too many people get in the way of encountering the divine. They see these things as impediments to experiencing the true creative genius of the god they are able to accept. Nature on the other hand, with its majestic mountains, fragrant flowers, towering trees, spectacular sunsets, surging seas, and beautiful beasts, seems a more apt repository of the perfections one would expect from the author of creation. Human beings just screw everything up, and never more thoroughly than when they are crafting social contracts with their gods.

Blue Whale - top of the food chain, size-wise, eats some of the smallest stuff in the sea.
Now it's a convenient thing to find a place of worship like nature, where all the majesty of creation is available to wonderment without any of the inconvenient exigencies of living within a community of believers who think the creator expects something in return. But is this nature really so undemanding as the detractors of religion imagine, or is it really just a wishful construct designed to get church-goers off their backs?

Mosquito: deadliest creature on the planet. Go ahead, slap one. It'll make you feel better, even in church.
I can't help but think that all the spiritual naturalists would find little peace or spirituality were they compelled to live naked and naturally within the nature they so much admire. They would soon find, without the intervention of stout walls and double pane windows at a minimum, that nature is a cruel and brutal force, and there is no difference between the top and the bottom of the food chain because the food chain is a closed loop. While death and taxes may be the surest things in our human existence, the one immutable in nature is that, sooner or later, everything gets recycled through a digestive tract.

As Jonathan Swift observed in 1733:
So nat'ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller fleas that bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.

Or Victorian mathematician, Augustus De Morgan, expanded 140 years later:

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.

Flu virus: tee-friggin-ninetsy.
Pandemic: too friggin scary.
The irony of spiritual irreligion is that, once you have accepted that humanity is created, you are pretty much stuck with the notion that the same god who is responsible for all the perfections of nature also made humans with all their obvious flaws. You have to then wonder how an omnipotent god could have done such a superb job with everything in the universe except the alleged pinnacle of creation that is man. This essential tension in the logic of creation is what makes it possible for so many people to suppose that everything that exists is the result of an incomprehensible series of random accidents. In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded.

The difference between humans and the rest of creation, as any dutiful child of Judeo-Christian Bible believing parents will tell you, is that humankind is created in the image and likeness of God. Unfortunately, likeness to God, any god, is not a concept easily embraced by science, especially not big bang theorists or fundamental evolutionists. They need another concept to explain how we humans got where we are, however accidentally, in spite of our enormous capacity for screwing things up. Two candidates have emerged: logic and opposable thumbs. Neither one will suffice on its own for logic does not explain war, and opposable thumbs do not explain our ability to conceptualize all the possible iterations of immortality, from reincarnation to the beatific vision.

Cobra: I wouldn't want to handle one in nature or in church either.
Some tests of faith are better left to the crackpots.

To reconcile all this, one also needs to consider free will. Free will is the wild card in the miasma of creation. Free will makes it possible for humans, creatures imbued with the attributes and proclivities of their creator, to reject their essential nature and behave as if they weren't created at all, but merely the result of an incomprehensible series of random accidents, even to the point of crafting social contracts with their maker that would make that maker a little nauseous.

It is I think this last thing that makes it so difficult for us all to get together and agree on who or what God is and what we ought to do about it. Atheists apart, irreligionists are not necessarily irreverent or ungodly. Neither are the proponents of particular religions necessarily saintly. In fact it is entirely possible for them to espouse ideas antithetical to the deity they claim, and to do it in the name of that deity. This is what led Mark Twain to observe:

Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them.

And also:

Zeal and sincerity can carry a new religion further than any other missionary except fire and sword.

The Lion of Judah and The Lamb of God are one and the same in the Christian tradition.
Most of us prefer the Lamb because we are sinners and the Lion has ginormous teeth, teeth that trump rock, paper, scissors and most hand guns.

This is why the God of Moses and the Father of Jesus and the Allah of Mohammed look very different, one from the other, even though they are all, historically at least, the same divine fellow—the God of Abraham. Should we be excused then for wondering if this One True God that we all claim has set us on a path to mutual annihilation in a cosmic game of rock, paper, scissors where Christian supplants Jew, Muslim murders Christian, and Jew builds settlements in Muslim's homeland? Is this really what God intended, or is it possible that there have been some errors of interpretation and understanding along the way that have persuaded the devoted that wars, inquisitions, pogroms, holocausts, and acts of terror are the means by which the God of Love expects us to advance his cause?

When lions lie down with lambs, it is to keep the lambs safe from other predators until the lions are hungry.
At the risk of being branded, either literally or otherwise, an infidel, I think it is the latter. I think large errors of interpretation are self-evident. I don't believe for a minute that the Creator God wants his creatures to slaughter one another to prove their fealty—even though, in nature, He seems to have decreed that they slaughter one another in order to eat.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Post Valentine's Day Blues

I got a lot of flack various places yesterday from people, mostly lonely souls I surmise, who think Valentine's Day is a made-up holiday designed to enrich Hallmark along with the florists and jewelers of the world. "Spare me the clich├ęd gifts," seemed to be the call of the day. "Don't send me any flowers or candy. I'm not into empty gestures or anyone else's idea of how you ought to express your affection."

A lot of women were jumping on this particular bandwagon. I was left wondering, do they really want to be totally ignored on the one day of the year set aside to celebrate romance, or have they been thus far so disappointed with their prospects that they just want to hide in a closet until it's over? Is this a call to give up the chase, or is it rather a challenge to get creative? I don't really know. I did what I thought was the right thing by my wife, whom I love, and she did even better by me, so I really don't care very much what anyone else thinks about Valentine's Day.

...except that it was kind of sad to hear from so many unhappy people in such a short space of time. It was like something was profoundly wrong in the universe that wasn't going to be easily fixed. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yeah...It's Valentine's Day. click something already!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cruizin' the Neon Drive-In

These images available as numbered series prints in my Etsy store. Just click on the 'Shop Aimless Arts' tab above.

Neon Caddy Dreams

Red Roadster, Red Roadster

Neon Carhop Special

Dodge Ball Under Lights

Top Down - Lights Out

What Daddy Doesn't Know

Friday, February 4, 2011

Deep 6 News - Exclusive Interview with the Geezer Bandit

Nineveh: Good evening. This is Nineveh Westin for Deep Six News. One of the stories that has captivated the nation over the last couple of years is that of the Geezer Bandit, the elderly gentleman who is responsible for a string of bank heists in the San Diego area beginning in 2009. There has been a lot of speculation about the Geezer Bandit, both by authorities and in the media, and attention on the case intensified last week when the Geezer Bandit struck again, bringing his total to thirteen armed robberies. How is he doing it? How does he make his escape? Is he really elderly, or is he wearing an elaborate disguise? What possesses a man in his eighties to suddenly embark on a career of dangerous felonies? Tonight we hope to find out. Deep 6 News has scored an exclusive interview with the Geezer Bandit. I can't tell you how we did this. What I can tell you is that the Geezer Bandit only agreed to be interviewed if we made significant concessions to maintain the security of his identity. I am here at an undisclosed location, one chosen by the Bandit himself, alone with a single cameraman, proving once again that Deep 6 News gets in over its head to bring you coverage that's out of your depth. Ladies and gentlemen...the Geezer Bandit.

Nineveh: Good evening, Mr. Geezer.

Geezer: Hello, Nineveh.

Nineveh: Mr. Geezer, if you don't mind, I'd like to get right to it. The FBI has characterized you as a dangerous armed robber. Even though you haven't shot anyone, or even fired a weapon, they maintain that you have terrorized and traumatized the tellers of the banks that you robbed to the extent that some of them will require counseling or even therapy. How do you respond?

Geezer: Nineveh, that's just ridiculous. I'm 83 years old. I've got arthritis, cataracts, fallen arches, and high blood pressure. I can't remember the last time I had an honest erection, and I don't know if the problem is with my memory or with my libido. The last time anybody considered me dangerous was in 1999.

Nineveh: I see. And what was it that made you dangerous in 1999?

Geezer: That's the year my wife told me I had to quit driving. She said if I didn't quit, it was just a matter of time until I killed someone.

Nineveh: I see, and did you quit?

Geezer: Well, I cut down a lot. I quit driving at night, and I try to avoid heavy traffic. I had noticed that I had the most trouble with my driving when I was talking or listening to the radio. I'm not a very good multi-tasker it seems. So I turned the radio off and quit listening to my wife. So far I haven't had any accidents...knock wood.

Nineveh: And does you wife still want you to quit driving?

Geezer: I don't really know. Like I said, I quit listening to her.

Nineveh: What about the bank robberies? Don't you think they're dangerous?

Geezer: Maybe to me.

Bank of America security camera shot of the Geezer Bandit in action.
Note the firm grip on the stick-up note, and the non ostentatious display of the Glock in the leather pouch. If he has to use it, he probably won't hold it sideways. Consummate professional.

Nineveh: Why do you do it? What makes a respectable looking elderly gentleman want to rob banks?

Geezer: Isn't it obvious? I need the money.

Nineveh: Really? The authorities won't say how much you've gotten away with so far. After 13 banks it must be quite a haul.

Geezer: Not at all. It's not like I'm emptying out the vaults. I only hit one teller at each bank. The most I can hope for is a few grand per job. That's why I have to keep coming back every month or so. I'm making less robbing banks than I get from my social security.

Nineveh: You're drawing social security? Wow! It never would have occurred to me that you were drawing retirement.

Geezer: Sure. Like I said. I'm 83. I've been retired since 1992.

Nineveh: Okay. Help me out here. You say you've been retired since 1992, and you say you started robbing banks because you need the money, but you didn't start doing bank jobs until sometime in 2009. Is that right?

Geezer: Yep, that's right. I just can't live on my social security checks.

Nineveh: But you could before 2009. Is that what you're saying?

Geezer: Well before that I didn't have to live on just social security. I had a pretty good retirement fund built up when I retired. I was getting on fairly well up until the economy started going south in 2007 and 8. By 2009 what I'd had was mostly gone.

Nineveh: You mean to tell me that you lost your retirement when the economy collapsed?

Geezer: I wouldn't say I lost it. I know exactly where it is.

Jenifer: You do?

Geezer: Sure. The banks got it. Strictly speaking, it wasn't lost. It was stolen.

Nineveh: Whoa. The banks got it? Is that what you're doing—trying to get your retirement money back from the banks?

Geezer: Well, that's an interesting thought, but they don't really have it anymore. They paid it out in bonuses to their executives and traders. Those guys with the gigantic houses out on Long Island and in Marina Del Mar, the guys who have emaciated wives with impossible breast implants who can't smile anymore because of all the botox injections—those guys have my money.

Nineveh: That's a pretty serious charge. Can you prove that?

Geezer: If I could prove it I wouldn't be robbing banks, but just because they can't be prosecuted doesn't mean it's not true. The banks have overseen a massive transfer of wealth from what used to be the middle class into the accounts of a handful of thieves and pirates, and the government let them do it.

Nineveh: Seriously, Mr. Geezer, you don't expect us to believe that. If it's really as you say, the government would have stepped in and put a stop to it.

Geezer: Why would they? The agencies that are supposed to protect us from scams and piracy are run by con-men and pirates on leave from the same banks they regulate. The government hasn't stopped them yet, and it's not likely to the next time they wind us up to fleece us.

Nineveh: I have to say, Mr. Geezer, that you seem kind of upset about this, even though at the beginning of this interview you said you were too old to get worked up about things anymore. Isn't this really why you're doing what you do—you're taking revenge on the banks because you think they took your money?

Geezer: Look, Nineveh, I can't deny that that would be an attractive proposition, but I don't see how I could begin to get back what they took. Like I already said, I rob banks for the money I need to live on. I'm not getting very much. I'm not even getting back what I used to have. I'm just keeping my head above water.

Nineveh: But what if you get caught? You have to admit you've been pretty lucky so far. The police are looking for you. The FBI is looking for you. Your picture is all over the news and the Internet.

Is this where the Geezer buys his hats?
Fashionable tweed flat cap.
The kind favored by the Geezer Bandit.

May not be available in thrift shops.
Geezer: I know. Can you believe they're now saying I'm a young guy wearing an elaborate disguise? Hell, you can see the hairs growing out of my ears. Elaborate disguise? I bought those hats at a consignment shop. Cost me about three dollars apiece.

Nineveh: That's all very interesting, but you still haven't answered my question. What if you get caught?

Geezer: Think about it. How much worse can things get for me? I go to jail, I get three squares a day, a roof over my head, and free medical care. I quit robbing banks, and I'll be living in a refrigerator box in an alley somewhere. I look at getting caught like a reasonably good retirement plan—certainly better than the one I used to have. No one can steal it from me.

Nineveh: Well you could get shot and killed too. I mean, after all, you're carrying a gun.

Geezer: Just an occupational hazard I guess. I've found that it's really hard to get people to give you money if you're not carrying a gun...unless you're a bank that is.

Nineveh: There's been a lot of talk in the media recently about hand guns and oversized ammo clips. What kind of gun do you carry?

Geezer: It's a 9 millimeter Glock.

Nineveh: That's a favorite hand gun among gangstas, isn't it?

Glock 19.
The firearm favored by gangstas.
Easy to carry while you're holding your pants up.

Looks cool sideways...
if you'd rather look cool that hit your target.
Geezer: I don't know about that. It's fairly small and light and easy to carry. I don't need a canon. I don't want to shoot anybody. I'm standing across the counter from a teller—usually it's a woman—all I need to do is convince them to give me the money. I start shooting the place up, my career's gonna be over pretty quick.

Nineveh: You indicated that you get your clothes from a thrift shop. Where did you get the Glock?

Geezer: That's a pretty interesting story actually. I took it off a guy that was trying to rob me.

Nineveh: You're not serious?

Geezer: Absolutely. Guy was just a kid—maybe 19 or 20. Had one of those flat brim baseball hats on sideways, way too big for his head, kept sliding down over his eyes. And then he had these huge pants on, crotch down around his knees. He had to hold them up with one hand. He comes out of an alley holding that gun sideways. Probably saw that in a movie or something. Anyway he tells me to give him my money, and I tell him I don't have any, and he starts to get agitated. I kept circling around him, away from where he was pointing the gun. He kept spinning after me to keep the gun pointed in my face. When his hat slipped down over his eyes, I just reached in and snatched the gun. He wouldn't let go, so I pushed his hand up over my head so he couldn't shoot me. He reached up with his other hand to try to snatch it back, but then his pants fell down around his ankles. That's when I gave him a knee in the crotch. He let go pretty quick after that. Ran off, and it was just about the funniest thing I ever saw, him scrambling backwards and trying to pull his pants up at the same time. I mean really, these guys want to be bad-asses, they ought to put a little more thought into their wardrobe choices.

Nineveh: That's incredible. Weren't you scared?

Geezer: Of course I was scared, but I didn't see where I had a lot of choices just then.

Nineveh: And you said you weren't dangerous.

Geezer: Well I'm not really...just a little more dangerous than that kid maybe, but that's not saying much when you think about it. Punk let an 80-year-old-man take a gun away from him with his bare hands. Probably won't be joining up with the Marines or the Navy Seals anytime soon.

Nineveh: Getting back to your bank robberies, how are you getting away with it? How do you make your escape? Do you have a getaway car, an accomplice, a driver?

Geezer: You don't really expect me to answer that, do you?

Nineveh: People want to know.

Geezer: Of course they do, especially the FBI.

Nineveh: Well, you make a good point. It's just that I kind of have this idea of you driving off from the scene in a hybrid car...I don't know, a Prius or something. How about it? Can you at least confirm that you are a green bank robber?

Geezer: That's funny, Nineveh, but think about it. Those hybrid cars are pretty expensive for a guy has to buy his clothes second hand. Besides, have you ever driven one of those things? By the time I got a Prius from zero to sixty I would be eligible for parole.

Bicycle Cop stops a Toyota Prius after a 'high-speed' chase. Green isn't for everybody.
Nineveh: So you use a high-performance car then?

Geezer: I didn't say that. They're expensive too, and premium gas is pushing $4 a gallon. Even bank robbers have to keep their overhead down these days. Let's leave the hybrids and the Italian sports cars to the pirates and thieves. At least that way we'll be able to see them coming.

Nineveh: You keep referring to the bankers as thieves, like you're making some kind of moral judgment, but you're a thief as well, are you not?

Geezer: Believe me, the irony is not lost on me, but it's a question of scale. I've robbed 13 banks in two years, but I still haven't taken as much in total as Jamie Dimon at J.P. Morgan or Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman get for talking on their phones for a couple of hours. Honestly, I don't think I'm in the same league. I'm pretty sure they would agree with me, but probably not for the same reason. I may have gotten famous, or infamous, but I wouldn't say I'm a real big success, would you?

Nineveh: Since you mentioned it, there is the question of your newfound fame. You seem to have struck a chord with people. There are two FaceBook pages about you, untold Tweets, a line of Geezer Bandit clothing. Any thoughts on what this all means and why it seems to resonate with the average guy on the street.

Geezer: If you must know, it kind of pisses me off.

Nineveh: How so?

Geezer: Bank robbers need anonymity. Being famous is putting a pretty serious strain on my ability to get in and out of a bank without being noticed. Hell it's probably hurt a lot of people. As soon as somebody over 60 walks into a bank you gotta think all the tellers are ducking and hiding or going on break. Your mama probably has a hard time getting service at her bank since I got my face pasted all over the Internet. Not that it was that easy for her before that. Banks have pretty much gotten out of the service business. Every little thing they do, they have to get a fee. I even heard they want to start charging a fee for talking to a live person. Please, you tell me who the real thieves are.

Nineveh: Do you think you're a sympathetic character?

Geezer: Everybody's got their cross to bear. Life's not easy. It never was, and it just got a lot harder for most of us. Folks may identify with my problems, but that doesn't mean they want to be me. Even the people who seem sympathetic to me are working their own angles. Those guys selling Geezer Bandit t-shirts and hats, you think they're sending me a percentage of the profits? Hell no. I take all the risks, and they're making money off it.

Nineveh: I never thought of it that way. You can't even capitalize on your own notoriety, can you? If you tried, you'd get caught.

Geezer: Exactly. I don't see how. I mean I've thought about it. Just don't know how I'd get it done. I even considered leaking a sex tape. That seems to work for a lot of people whose only real talent is for celebrity—you know, people who are famous for being famous. I suppose I could arrange to take some off the back end, if I could get some porn distributor to rep it. Still pretty risky though. Besides, there probably aren't very many people who want to watch an old man get his freak on, especially with an old woman, which he'd pretty much have to unless he actually worked for the banks he was sticking know what I mean?

Nineveh: I'm not sure that I do.

Geezer: Well a guy like me would have to pay a young woman an awful lot of money to get her to pretend to be interested. I can't imagine being able to afford it unless I was a senior vice president of some bank—the kind of guy who spends old people's former retirement savings on club hostesses and pole dancers.

Nineveh: Oh, I see. certainly has been interesting talking to you, Mr. Geezer, but I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Thank you for giving us a little glimpse under the flat cap so to speak. I know everyone has been just dying to know what you're really like.

Geezer: You're welcome. It was a pleasure talking to you as well, and I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight on a few issues.

Nineveh: Yes, thanks again, and good luck to you as this incredible story continues to unfold. Well there you have it folks, the Geezer Bandit, the man who has captured the minds and hearts of much of America and the undivided attention of the authorities. Will he continue to elude capture? Will he rob another bank? Will he ultimately be killed in a hail of gunfire? Only time will tell, but now, thanks to this exclusive interview, you have a more complete picture of what this fascinating man is really all about. This has been Nineveh Westin for Deep Six News, where we're in over our heads...for you.