Thought of the Day: Crazy Conservatives and Their Conspiracy Theories

If liberals were even half as crazy as conservatives, then they would be pushing theories like claiming that the media actually conspired to get Trump elected, simply to boost their ratings and readership over what they knew, and accurately so, would be an epic, endless shit show of emotional and intellectual immaturity from our nation’s highest office.

In a word, “Gold, Jerry. Gold!

PS – And speaking of the news media, do you know who the luckiest man in the world is right now? Bill Cosby. Yes, his reputation is destroyed, he may likely be convicted, and he hopefully will get exactly what he deserves. But he is so fortunate that Trump and his shit show are dominating the news cycle. Otherwise, the Cosby trial would be getting the 24/7 OJ treatment, with full news coverage dissecting every detail of the accusations and testimony.

Chick’nCone Waffles

I stopped by Gansevoort Market on my way to the Whitney the other night and discovered that The Meatball Guys, who were charging $6 for a single meatball (albeit an artisanal, fairly delicious meatball), had gone out of business. They were replaced by Chick’nCone, which takes the inherent glory of fried chicken and waffles and turns it into what’s supposed to be a hand-held, on-the-go version of the dish – basically an ice cream waffle cone filled with chicken chunks.

For under $9, it’s competitive with the rest of the offerings at Gansevoort Market. But the Chick’nCone tastes more like an industrialized version of itself, more akin to something Tyson might have extruded into a bag and stuffed onto the shelves of your supermarket’s freezer aisle than the artisanal creation it’s posing as.

In fairness, the chunks of chicken, albeit overly sweet and soggy from all the sauce, were at least quality meat. Which is almost a shame because they smother it with so much sauce (I would have loved to try a sauce-free version) that they could have easily gone with McNuggetesque bird scraps and you wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference. But the real problem was the waffle cone, which was way too sweet and fragile – like one of those supermarket waffle cones instead of one you’d find in a high-end creamery.

Chicken and waffles work so well together because of the combined taste and the texture. But if you pour globs of sweet BBQ sauce onto soggy chunks of chicken stuffed into a sugary, brittle cone, then that’s an entirely different combination – and not a winning one as far as I’m concerned.

Thought of the Day: The Greatness of God

Cult leader and mass murderer David Koresh.

Why is it that some people can walk into a crowded market and blow themselves up, killing hundreds in the name of their God? Is it because they think it’s part of God’s plan? It seems like everybody thinks they are special, that God has put them on this planet for some amazing purpose (well, except for us atheists).

But what if God didn’t have any special plans for you? After all, everyone can’t be special. Otherwise, no one would be special, right?

So what if God’s purpose for you is to lead a relatively unremarkable life? Would you defy God and demand more?

Cult leader and mass murderer Jim Jones.

And doesn’t it seem strange that religious extremists always tend to lead relatively unremarkable lives until they decide to embrace religious extremism? You never hear of a cult leader who excelled at math, or a suicide bomber who was a gifted musician. No, they tend to be your average, run-of-the-mill nobodies – right up until the moment that they decide to commit mass murder and then blame it on their God.

For most of these “believers,” especially the sad ones who take their belief to the extreme, their actions seem to be more about their own presumed greatness of themselves rather than the presumed greatness of their God.

Thought of the Day: Altruism

The other day I helped a blind woman cross the street. I didn’t do it for money, thanks, recognition, or out of fear that some deity would punish me if I didn’t. No, I simply did it because someone needed help, and I could provide it. And, man, did it feel good!

Over the years I’ve drank a lot of booze, smoked plenty of dope, and had some really amazing sex, but nothing can compare to the pure joy of helping a fellow human in need. And that is arguably the most important lesson we can learn in life.

Corner Slice and the Gotham West Market

Given all the hype Corner Slice has received, it took me forever to get over to Gotham West Market and try this new pizza joint for myself. Though Eleventh Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets, where this food hall is located, isn’t exactly a convenient location. And despite all the new development that’s been slowly creeping west along 42nd Street, there’s little if any reason to wander over that way – other than the perennial reason that is the Landmark Tavern.

But I was headed to Pier 94 for Art New York, the annual international contemporary and modern art fair. So I decided to approach from the south, grabbing a late lunch at Gotham West along the way.

This relatively new food hall is a nice looking place. And it seemed spacious, though likely due to the fact that it was completely empty on a Thursday afternoon, despite crowds starting to amass nearby to heckle El Trumpo, who was paying a visit to the Intrepid…presumably in search of more seamen.

I went straight to Corner Slice, which is indeed located in the corner of the food hall. They specialize in what most New Yorkers call a “grandma” slice, though even that has many variations. In a nutshell, it’s basically a traditional, thin crust with a Sicilian shape – rectangular pies cut into square slices. The real distinguishing factor is the heavier sauce, which typically includes chunks of tomatoes, along with slightly less cheese. And some go as far as putting the sauce on top of the cheese, but the Corner Slice has the cheese on top with the tomato chunks occasionally busting through.

I ordered a slice of their margherita and a slice of soppressata, which is their version of pepperoni. With a small iced root beer, it came to $9.75, which isn’t bad given all the fanfare.

And the pizza wasn’t bad, either. It wasn’t particularly warm, but it was a good grandma slice – on par with what you can get a neighborhood places like Delizia’s. Their dough might give them a slight edge, as it’s similar to focaccia bread.

Corner Slice might have genuinely impressed if the pizza had been fresh, or at least a little warmer, perhaps with another sprinkle of cheese. But that’s how they served it, so that’s how I’m judging it. After all, it’s not like they were in a rush…there was only one other customer besides myself.

Being a food hall, Gotham West Market has a number of other options to choose from. And in an impressive (and, let’s be honest here, totally unprecedented) feat of self-control, I was able to walk by Ample Hills, which is one of the vendors there, without ordering their salted crack caramel ice cream. Yes, I’m actually crediting myself with not eating something, because that shit is so damn good that resisting it becomes noteworthy.

As for Corner Slice, I don’t think it lived up to the heavy hype. Maybe it did when it first opened, but that was less than two months ago. They can’t be phoning it in already, can they? Or maybe if you live in that area, which still remains a relative wasteland of culinary options, something like Corner Slice would seem like a gift from the gods. But it can’t even compare to the four pillars – John’s (Bleecker Street), Patsy’s (East Harlem), Lombardi’s (Spring Street), and Totonno’s (Coney Island) – let alone something like Roberta’s.

I might give it another try if I am ever in the neighborhood again. Perhaps on my way to next year’s Art New York? But unless you have a reason to be over there, you can probably do just as well with a grandma slice from your local pizza joint.

 

Does God Play Games?

Is there a secret version of the Bible that I don’t know about? One that’s being covertly circulated among today’s Christians here in America?

I have to wonder, because I went to church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. I also attended Sunday school. My father was a Deacon in the Catholic Church, having earned a doctorate in theology, and my mom volunteered as a secretary for the local parish.

But many of the words and actions of today’s most vocal Christians seem utterly foreign to me. They profess their faith, but seem to act according to an entirely different doctrine.

So Many False Followers
As one example, I could focus on the Christians who go to church every Sunday in luxury automobiles and designer clothes. I do recall a Bible passage along the lines of, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Does Jesus want you rolling in to Sunday services in luxury vehicles that are designed primarily to flaunt one’s wealth and cost enough to feed a family of four for 10 years (quite literally…I did the math)? Is that how the Bible teaches us to behave? Is that how Jesus rolled? What about the meek inheriting the Earth?

I could also focus on the behavior of certain Christian conservatives, who often object to programs that help the poor and less fortunate, who seem far more eager to strike down their enemies than to turn the other cheek, and who focus on hate and intolerance when so much of their Lord’s message is about love and tolerance. What would Jesus do? Would Jesus oppose taxing the rich to serve the poor? Would Jesus build a wall? Would Jesus own an assault rifle?

Instead, I think I’ll take this in an entirely different and unexpected direction. I’m going to talk about professional athletes. Specifically, those who all too often invoke God in their preparations, performances, and celebrations.

Does Jesus Score…or Save?
I love sports. I’m not a betting man, and neither was Jesus…as far as I can tell. But I do love sports, for the benefits they bring to participants (from physical activity to learning to work together in harmony towards a goal) as well as for the entertainment and joy they provide spectators.

But why is it that some people clearly believe that God actually takes sides in such spectacles? Given all the misery and suffering in the world, why do people think God has any vested interest in who wins or loses something as trivial – in the grand scheme of things – as a game? Yet so many athletes, coaches, and fans invoke the blessings of their chosen God before, during, and after sporting events.

Even as an atheist, I’ve always found this behavior to be somewhat sacrilegious. Because, after all, these are just games. Our team wants to beat their team, to prove that we are more talented than they are, or at least willing to work harder – not that we are somehow “better” children of God then those other “lesser” children of God.

And for those who argue that it’s more than just a game, that modern professional sports are ultimately a business, this only makes such prayers and praise all the more sacrilegious. Instead of asking for God’s blessings to perform better than another group of individuals for the sake of entertainment, you are asking God to help you get rich – at the expense of others. Or, in the case of most professional athletes, even richer – and often filthy rich. Is that a lesson from the Bible? What would Jesus do? Was he all about gettin’ paid?

Let’s overlook the fact that many modern sports, their superstar athletes, and their legions of tribal fans engage in borderline idolatry. And the fact that many sporting events are played on the Sabbath, turning a day that’s supposed to be sacred into a day of frivolous spectacle and shameless profit. Even though, right there, we have evidence that fans, athletes, and owners are already violating 20 percent of God’s commandments.

But let’s put all that aside for a moment and ask whether it jives with the teachings of the Bible, Torah, or Qur’an to ask God to help you beat your rivals for financial gain and personal glory? And do you really believe that God helped you score that goal? Of all the things that God is supposed to be involved in, do you sincerely believe that this omnipotent being is actively favoring you to succeed in a sporting event, to provide you with personal glory and riches at the expense of someone else?

It’s strange that you rarely see a doctor, scientist, or winner of the Nobel Peace Prize thanking God for helping them achieve success or glory, when – if God were willing to intervene to help someone achieve success and glory – those are the kinds of things one would assume God would get involved with, at least if you take the Bible and its lessons to heart.

God-Given Greed?
It’s just as strange to see professional athletes talking about their God-given talent. And some of that talk goes beyond sacrilege and borders on blasphemy.

For example, American football player and infamous press conference pouter Cam Newton appeared in a Super Bowl advertisement entitled Cam’s Prayer. This “prayer” was a paid endorsement to help himself and others achieve even greater wealth (he earned $24 million the previous year, while the company who paid him to endorse their product had earnings in excess of $233 billion).

The voiceover – which the athlete surely approved, as it’s designed to make the viewer think it’s actually him speaking (and it may, in fact, be him speaking) – claims that God has given him these gifts, his talent as an athlete, so that he could be the best, that he could succeed, and gain wealth and glory by triumphing over his fellow man. It proclaims: “You placed purpose on my shoulders so now I come to you. Lord, give me the strength to finish this… my way.” Not God’s way, mind you, but his way. As if to say, damn it, God, give me what I want! You made me great (or so my Mommy says) now give me the glory and riches I deserve!!!

That doesn’t sound like the God I read about in the Bible. Bestowing special gifts on select individuals so that they can achieve riches and glory? No, I don’t think so. According to the Torah and Bible, God is more interested in putting gruesome burdens and obstacles into people’s lives to test their faith – not providing them with advantages that enable them to gain individual wealth, privilege, and glory.

But claims of divine favoritism are prevalent in the world of professional sports. Athletes flash shirts saying “I Belong To Jesus” as they mug for the camera and then thank the Lord for making them a winner before driving off in their Lamborghini to their mega-mansion so they can count their money. Sounds to me like they belong to someone else, perhaps even Satan.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there is some other version of the Bible, some other Christian doctrine that guides these people. For there is nothing in the Bible I’ve read that condones such behavior. In fact, there’s plenty that not only contradicts it, but outright condemns it as well.

What Would Jesus Do?
Which leaves me wondering, what sort of athlete would Jesus be? Would Jesus even take the time to play a sport? Or would he spend what little time he had in this world, what little time any of us have, and help those who are in need? And I’m not talking about making a handful of pro-bono tweets for a charity and a contractual appearance at a benefit dinner, but a full-on commitment to helping those in need.

Sure, you could argue that people are in need of entertainment. But that’s not really true, is it? No, people want entertainment. They need food, shelter, and compassion. There’s a big difference between want and need, just as there is a big difference between the what Cam Newton does and what Mahatma Gandhi did. And Gandhi wasn’t even a Christian.