Walking through the Venetian in Las Vegas, I spot a nightclub called Tao, named after the ancient Chinese philosophy. I am Taoist, and I'm not quite sure I like having this particular nightclub named after my religion.
For starters, the bar has its religions confused. The nightclub's centerpiece is a 20-foot-tall statue of Buddha. Buddha was not Taoist. He was Buddhist.
Devout Buddhists don't drink alcohol or eat meat, but in addition to serving a plethora of cocktails, the club also boasts on its website that it serves Kobe beef. I'm wondering how Buddha feels as he looks out over the throngs of drunken carnivores.
Meanwhile, down the road at the Zanzibar Cafe in the Aladdin, one of the menu items is "Buddah's [sic] Delight with Chicken."
Okay kids, I am only going to say this one more time: Buddhists don't eat meat! It is not nice to put deceased chickens in their leader's delight!
But back to the concept of a nightclub with a Taoist theme; there is nothing in the Tao Te Ching,
the original Taoist spiritual text, specifically addressing the
consumption of alcohol. (Lucky for me.) The book, and other Taoist teachings, simply
say you should live a balanced life and respect your body. So I suppose it's okay to call a nightclub "Tao," although naming a bar after any religion makes me squirm. I'm thinking a bar called "Jew," or "Allah's Place" or "Drunken Willy's House of Christ" wouldn't go over so well.
Before I dive into this controversy, let me make one thing clear: I think Spongebob Squarepants is weird and irritating. But that has nothing to do with his sexual orientation.
The hyperactive cartoon character, a talking sponge who lives under the sea in a pineapple, has come under fire recently from the ultra-conservative group, Focus on the Family, for promoting "acceptance of homosexuality to children." Spongebob was among a slew of other cartoon characters and Muppets featured in a diversity video that was sent out to 60,000 American elementary schools this week.
This is not the first time the far right has called into question the sexual leanings of fictional children's characters. A few years back, Reverend Jerry Falwell attacked Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies for being a gay role model. Why Reverend Falwell was watching Teletubbies in the first place is beyond me. He's got to be old enough for Mr. Rogers by now.
There's been speculation for years about Ernie and Bert. (When I blogged about them last weekend, I was unaware of the Spongebob controversy.) And I also learned recently that Noddy and Big Ears, folk heroes to British school children, and the star characters in my third grade Christmas pantomime when I lived in England, never made it in the US because, according to the BBC they were believed by some Americans to be "implicitly homosexual." Noddy and Big Ears were an elf and a talking toy.
How people find time to worry about the sexual lives of elves, toys, Muppets, and Teletubbies is something I find baffling. Have they considered getting a hobby? But the latest Spongebob controversy strikes me as especially absurd. It is scientifically impossible for a sponge to be gay.
To make sure I was not making false assumptions, I called my friend Darbi, who almost got a Bachelor's Degree in marine biology a few years back, but opted for the more lucritive field of English instead. Darbi confirmed for me some information that will shock scientists worldwide: I, Dave Fox, actually retained one small scrap of information from my high school biology class.
The piece of information I miraculously retained has to do with the sexual habits of sea sponges. Sponges cannot be gay, or straight, or bisexual, or transvestite. Sea sponges have no gender. They have no sex organs. They are just sponges.
"But they reproduce, right?" I asked Darbi.
Yes, she said, but in a boring, non-kinky kind of way. They don't whip out the handcuffs and have hot, steamy sponge sex. Darbi told me she thinks sponges can actually reproduce with themselves.
Boy, there's a scary thought. What if masturbation made you pregnant? But sponges apparently can't even do that. They just simply have no sexuality.
So the media have had a field day with this one, attacking Focus on the Family's founder James Dobson for speculating about Spongebob's sexual orientation. FotF has responded with a scathing rebuttal, stating Dr. Dobson never said Spongebob was a gay sponge. All he said, their article asserts, is that the video in question was promoting tolerance for homosexuality, which Dr. Dobson believes is immoral.
Fair enough. Dr. Dobson has a right to his moral views just like everybody else in this country. But he goes on to attack mainstream media outlets, such as MSNBC, charging, "I have never had my words more misrepresented than they were in this instance."
Did the mainstream media misrepresent Dr. Dobson? Probably. I don't believe Dobson ever actually said Spongebob Squarepants was gay. But as a professional humor writer, I can't be upset with columnists who allowed themselves a little poetic license here. When radicals on either side of the spectrum start getting their panties in a bunch over sex and cartoon characters, they're feeding us with material.
Here's the real kicker though: In a desperate attempt to defend itself, Focus on the Family is now accusing MSNBC columnist Michael Ventre of saying that Christians are "creepy, rigid, arrogant, cruel, know-it-all, pompous, obnoxious and treacherous -- better know by the acronym CRACKPOT."
Ventre did use those words, but not in regard to all Christians, as FotF implies. What Ventre said was that radical conservative groups are hijacking Christianity, and that those fringe people are "giving Jesus Christ a bad name."
So, Dr. Dobson, you have every right to attack the media if they have distorted your statements -- but distorting theirs does not help your case.
When I started blogging about this incident, my plan was to slam Dr. Dobson for claiming Spongebob Squarepants was gay. I now do believe that Dobson said no such thing. And there is something else I believe.
I believe so-called "pro-family" groups like Focus on the Family are making bigger asses of themselves every day for taking on topics like this in the first place. I don't feel sorry for them for the firestorm of ridicule they attract with these issues. I believe they are scared. They are losing ground -- because in 2005, far more Americans have a problem with FotF's message of intolerance than we do with people of minority sexual orientations.
Man... here I was, complaining a couple of days ago that the media needed to find something to talk about other than the death of Terry Schiavo, and two days later, the Pope dies. That wasn't exactly the solution I was looking for.
St. Peter's Basilica is staying open 22 hours a day between now and the Pope's funeral on Friday. Throngs of mourners are filing past his body and (welcome to the 21st century) snapping pictures of the late Pontiff with their cell phones, according to CNN. I just hope they're behaving a little bit better than they did when I saw the Pope in 2001.
Between Terri Schiavo, the Pope, the Michael Jackson trial, and the looming wedding of Charles and Camilla, there has hardly been time for media coverage of davethefox.com, which celebrated its fourth anniversary online on April Fool's Day.
1) A woman has just sold a grilled cheese sandwich on eBay for $28,000. She claims the sandwich is a miracle sandwich that has an image of the Virgin Mary burned into it, and that the sandwich is ten years old but has never gone stale, and never developed mold even though it's just been sitting on her nightstand all these years.
2) There are people who not only believe this, but who would also suggest I am going to hell because my own spiritual beliefs do not support the concept of the Virgin Mary appearing in grilled cheese. Pizza, maybe, but....
Here's the thing: I follow a Chinese philosophy called Taoism. I do this quietly. I'm not out to convert anybody else. It's just what works for me. I have had self-proclaimed "Radical Christians" scream in my face before that I will burn in hell if I do not accept their faith. And I'm not sure who's been bidding up the price of this sandwich, but somebody ratcheted it all the way up to $28K. My guess is the people who believe in the miracle sandwich are the same ones damning me to hell.
Fair enough. If people who find their spirituality rooted in nature rather than grilled cheese are going to hell, I'm not even going to try.
The happy news about this sandwich is that the winning bidder was not someone so sadly desperate for a miracle that they would pay for something like this. The winning bidder was an online casino that bid on the sandwich as a publicity stunt. The casino's owner told the Miami Herald, "It's a part of pop culture that's immediately and widely recognizable.... We knew right away we wanted to have it."
The casino is now consulting with food decay specialists "to try and figure out how this sandwich stayed in such good shape over the years," a casino spokesman told the Herald.
The casino plans to send the sandwich and its seller, Diane Duyser of Miami, Florida, on a world tour to be photographed at places like the Taj Mahal, Red Square, and the Eiffel Tower.
Duyser says she has "never even been on a vacation before," which is tricky to fathom, considering she also claims the sandwich helped her win $70,000 at a casino in her neighborhood.
For those of you who are tired of me writing about this, the happy news is I'm probably done. Yes, I have squandered way too much blog space on this sandwich. In my defense, I would like to point out that I have written nothing about Paul McCartney's upcoming performance at the Superbowl Halftime Show, whereas every single other website on the Internet has had the same smirky comment this week about McCartney having a "wardrobe malfunction." Now there's a joke that got stale fast.
Hey everybody! Glorious news! The Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich is back on eBay! Yesterday, I reported about Diane Duyser of Miami, Florida, who is auctioning the sandwich. Duyser claims she made it 10 years ago, and that it has never grown mold because an image of the Virgin Mary has appeared in the bread to protect it. eBay pulled the sandwich from its website, but now they have allowed Duyser to start her auction anew.
"After looking at it a second time, there's nothing to indicate that the seller isn't willing to give up this cheese sandwich to the highest bidder," said eBay spokesman Hani Durzy in an article on CNN.com.
So if you were hoping to acquire this miracle sandwich, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The auction is back on eBay and bidding is open until Monday. That's the good news. The bad news is the price has gone up a little bit.
Earlier this morning, the highest bid on the sandwich was $99,999,999. (Plus $9.95 shipping and handling, and 55 cents insurance. Must be a heavy sandwich.) That bid, however, appears to have been a hoax. At the time of this writing, the high bid is now listed at $69,107.69. And keep in mind most eBay auctions experience a flurry of bidding in the last few minutes before the auction ends (which, if you are interested in bidding on the sandwich, is Monday, November 22 at 5:22 p.m. US Pacific time).
Duyser, who desperately needs to pray to the Virgin Mary to help her with her spelling, writes, "You are viewing an extroidinary [sic] out of this world item!" She then describes at length how this is not a hoax, oh, and that if you win the sandwich, you are not supposed to eat it.
In response to people falsely bidding up the value of the sandwich with no intent of paying for it, Duyser says eBay has now stepped in to ensure that all bids are real. They are verifying the identity of all bidders before allowing their bids to be posted.
If you were hoping to procure this sandwich for your own collection of miracle-related knick knacks, and cannot afford the rapidly rising bid price, have no fear. I have a roast beef sandwich with an image of Mother Theresa that has appeared in the mustard, and I will sell it to the first person to send me a mere $2,195.00 plus $4.95 for shipping via priority mail. (Insurance is free.) Drop me an e-mail if you are interested.
First, there was the Church of Cheese. Now, just when you thought the search for salvation couldn't get any cheesier, a woman is claiming to have seen an image of the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich.
Diana Duyser, 52, of Miami, Florida, claims that ten years ago, after grilling herself up some cheesy goodness and taking a bite out of the sandwich, she saw Mary staring back at her from the bread.
"So?" you say. "So the Virgin Mary appeared in a grilled cheese sandwich? Big deal."
But wait, there's more! According to the Associated Press and CNN, Duyser claims she then put the sandwich in a clear plastic box lined with cotton balls and kept it on her night stand... where the sandwich has stayed completely fresh for the last ten years.
Hallelujah! Praise Gouda!
After keeping her 10-year-old fresh-as-can-be-but-you-better-not-eat-it sandwich to herself all these years, Duyser decided recently, "I wanted to share it with the world." So she did what any good Christian would do. She decided to auction the sandwich on eBay.
eBay officials pulled the item from their website before the auction finished, saying the listing violates their policy prohibiting auctions that are jokes.
Duyser swears on her sandwich, however, that this is not a joke. The AP quoted her as saying, "How could eBay do this to me?"
Is Duyser insane? Perhaps. But not as insane as the person who bid $22,000 on the sandwich before the auction was canceled.
It's that special time of year when I begin having a nervous breakdown in my attempt to depart for my other life as a European tour guide. Part of my annual pre-departure ritual involves sifting through the pile of crap that's been sitting on my bedroom floor since I returned to Seattle after last fall's tours and emptied out my backpack.
Yesterday I stumbled upon a brochure I picked up last year for the "Kerk van Kaas" or "Church of Cheese" in Edam, the Netherlands. This is not just any church of cheese. No! This is, the brochure brags in six languages, the "biggest church of cheese" in the world -- a 1:10 scale replica of an actual church.
I have several concerns about this. What happens when it's hot out? Does the church melt? Do they have problems with rodents? And why did they build it out of Edam cheese instead of Swiss? A Swiss cheese church would be holier.
Loser of the Week? It's only June, but this guy's a contender for Loser of the Year: 28-year-old Matt Starr of Sachse, Texas, who, according to the Associated Press and the Dallas Morning News, trampled and knocked a four-year-old boy against the seats at a Texas Rangers baseball game to grab a foul ball before the toddler could.
Fans started chanting for Starr to give the ball to the young boy. According to the AP, Starr shrugged and refused to. Texas Rangers announcer Tom Grieve voiced his opinion on television, calling Starr, "the biggest jerk in this park."
But here's the icing on the cake: Starr used to be a youth minister and a coach for his church women's softball team. The Dallas Morning News reports that at the Sachse Assembly of God Church, "friends of Mr. Starr stood in a circle and prayed for the truth to emerge about him."
What truth do they need other than the videotape showing Starr trampling a four-year-old kid? The truth already has emerged. And while I follow a different religion from Mr. Starr, I would humbly suggest that the video is God's way of showing the world what a dumbass he is.
When I was about 13, a baseball landed in my seat at a Baltimore Orioles game. I still have the ball. Every time I look at it, I remember that game. I hope Mr. Starr remembers this game for a long time to come... and the wave of national publicity exposing his stupidity. So far, he has been cowering inside, refusing to talk to the media. I hope he is having fun with his baseball.