Monday, November 30, 2009

Iron Jesus

According to The Boston Globe, we have a new Jesus, and His name is Iron Jesus. Forgive me, but I can’t help thinking of that episode of Hogan’s Heroes when Hogan, eager to buck up Colonel Klink’s momentary loss of self-confidence so this man’s easily-suggestible, blind egotism can go on serving the Allied cause, informs the kommandant that the men in the barracks refer to him as the “iron colonel.” Klink really dug the sound of that. The name thrilled him.

Of course, “iron” in that sense denotes strength, courage, indomitable will, unwavering purpose and all that good stuff; it’s just possible Jesus might have approved of that. However, as you can see in the photograph, this is not that kind of Iron Jesus. It’s more like Black & Decker Steam Iron Jesus, set to join the endless pantheon of other Jesuses, such as Potato Chip Jesus, Window Jesus, Cloud Formation Jesus, Grilled Cheese Sandwich Jesus, Shroud of Turin Jesus, Rock Jesus, Tea Leaves Jesus, and so on, a limitless string of accidental or naturally-occurring Jesuses who have plenty of similarly-made Virgin Marys to keep them company.

This begs the question: what did Jesus really look like? And then this: how was He “off camera,” so to speak? We’ll never know, of course, as no contemporary ever described or drew a portrait of Him, and the person we read about in the bible hardly seems human in the usual sense (which might be the whole idea I suppose). The Jesus in the bible is idealized, deified, only speaks in aphorisms. He’s practically a marble statue. What about Jesus the man? What about Man Jesus?

This is what I would like to see: someone should write a fanciful short story about a modern-day time traveler who learns ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, studies the customs of Galileans and so on, and sets off on a plan to infiltrate the apostles to kill Judas, just to see how things would turn out if the traitor of all traitors was out of the way. Our time traveler knows half the point of Jesus’s life was His grand denouement. The whole story would seem to fall apart if he wasn’t martyred, so what would happen then? Intriguing, wouldn’t you say? So this guy, the time traveler, conquers the space/time continuum — a small hurdle, but he knows some people over at NASA who are secretly working on the problem — and manages to insinuate himself into the apostles. Initially, he’s disappointed to see how short and unattractive Jesus really is, how He has such a big, hooked nose, and is put off by the Savior’s shrill, piping voice and lack of manners. Apparently, Jesus thought nothing of interrupting people. He was often petty and querulous, and made horrible sounds while eating. It also turns out Mary Magdalene was a fat, coarse, unintelligent woman, not a nice girl at all — our time traveler has no idea what Jesus could have possibly seen in her, for despite being put off by Jesus’s disdain of social niceties, it soon becomes obvious that He is a brilliant and well-spoken man and certainly could do better than this bimbo. Not to mention it didn’t look good with her hanging around.

To continue: the time traveler, who names himself Fredo by the way, and has decided to pose as a Corinthian to explain his bad accent and imperfect speech, uses his charm and makes himself useful while plotting to do away with Judas. As Jesus and His posse travel from town to town, Fredo’s the one who goes ahead to make all the arrangements, finding cheap places to stay and sometimes employs underhanded practices to keep everyone fed with a little spending money besides. Fredo, it seems, can procure everything. Jesus asks no questions and the disciples are delighted with his services. Plenty of food, plenty of wine, Fredo is all right. He even came through with barrels of fish and baskets of bread that time when supplies dwindled low during some big meeting on a mount. And that wedding they were invited to when the wine ran out? Fredo saved the day then, too. How did we ever get along without him? they all ask.

Now a twist: Judas turns out to be a great guy. Keen sense of humor, fun to be with, he’s the one who warms up the crowd before Jesus speaks. Judas even saves Fredo’s life when Fredo cheats a Pharisee out of a few pieces of silver in a sort of three card monty scam. The Pharisee is all for retribution but Judas smoothes the whole thing over. Seems he knows the Pharisee, they’ve had some dealings together.

So Fredo can’t kill Judas. Judas isn’t a reprehensible human being at all, he’s history’s greatest drinking buddy. He knows a million jokes. He was the one who came up with “pull my finger.” How can you kill the guy who’s the life of the party?

So Fredo talks Judas into becoming the world’s first Christian missionary. It takes a long time, but he finally convinces Judas to travel to Rome to spread Jesus’s teachings. It was a very hard sell, but Jesus had lately been telling the boys to be more proactive, so Fredo uses that to win Judas over to the idea. When Judas finally relents, Fredo gets him a donkey and a map and sends Judas on his way.

On we go. Palm Sunday. The Last Supper. Fredo can barely keep a straight face when Jesus predicts one of them will betray Him. Garden of Gethsemane. Expecting something, Jesus? Fredo thinks with a wry smile. It’s gonna be a long night. And then...

Judas shows up! What the—? He strolls over and kisses Jesus. Then the soldiers move in. Peter draws a sword and hacks off one of the soldiers’ ears. Jesus tells Peter to cool it and turns to heal the soldier’s ear — heals it, no tricks. Then the soldiers lead Jesus roughly out of there. As He passes Fredo, Jesus looks him square in the eye and says in perfect English, with a good American accent, “Nice try.”

Our time traveler goes: “Whoa.”

Something like that.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lookee What I Found Here

Look everybody, a post! I found it underneath my office chair the other day and decided to toss it up. Don’t know how the cleaning lady missed it.

Now don’t worry . . . nothing momentous has occurred in my placid, humdrum, steady-as-she-goes life since the last post. After all, how much can happen in, what is it now? Three years? Four? No ripples in this pond, my friends. No murder convictions or sex change operations yet for your old pal Schprockie. Just living the American dream, even without the standard SUV — er, Prius, I mean— parked in the driveway. Yes sir, just give me a La-Z-Boy, a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a TV remote with fresh batteries and this guy is good to go.

Wellll, maybe a few things have happened.

For a long time, things had been quiet at work, and when I say quiet, I mean really quiet. Graphic design is considered an “insecure business” — meaning, of course, that we are forever only as good as our last job, and accounts can come and go for the most whimsical of reasons. Client loyalty is the only thing we can hold on to or hope for, and sometimes all it takes is for someone to say the wrong thing, or a job to be mishandled, or a vendor to say something not very nice about us, and out the door we go. With the economy being what it is, and freelancers selling themselves for cheap on Craigslist (“You want brochure, Joe? I got lotsa colors, you come here, I make nice-nice long time.”), business has been decidedly slack. And the evidence was all around. In our office, stacks of blank time sheets formed ten foot columns by each desk as these desks’ occupants listlessly browsed the Internet and chuckled at inane YouTube videos. Tumbleweeds blew through the office, cobwebs formed on telephones, and the wind, the incessant wind, whistled its plaintive tune through desk chairs and printers and copiers. Each day was just like the next and we all grew gaunt and hollow-eyed, watching for the phone to ring whenever we weren’t Googling something. It was, as I said, really quiet.

Then one day last June, just after my coworker, Moonshadow, bagged the trash and prepared to haul the load downstairs, one of the bosses made a surprise early morning appearance and cordially asked Moonshadow to step into his sister’s (the other boss’s) office. The request was meant to sound offhand, light, friendly, but its very offhandedness, lightness and friendliness sounded ominous. I liked it not. I sat up in my office chair like a gopher poking its head out of a hole, sniffing the air, sensing that something was in the wind and it portended ill.

80 Hour Man and I exchanged glances. He too picked up on the vibe.

The theory was this: Moonshadow, God bless him, was never one to keep up appearances. If he had nothing to do, everyone knew he had nothing to do. He kept the monitor of his computer positioned in plain view and you could always tell when he was working or when he was watching “Strong Bad” on Homestar Runner. The worst of his failure to keep up appearances was this: when tired, he would stretch out on the rug behind his desk and take a little cat nap . . . which, to be honest, could be portrayed as a “power nap,” a recharging of the batteries if you will, something that would eventually boost productivity. However, lately he had been doing this a lot more, and it looked bad, so maybe that was the reason for this little chat.

Some fifteen minutes later, 80HM and I were summoned into the same office.

It turned out Moonshadow and fellow sometime blogger John H. were given the sack. Both of them, gone, just like that, victims of the economy. The explanation was that Moonshadow and John H, being younger, would stand the best chance of finding work, whereas neanderthals like 80HM and I would quickly find ourselves too young to collect social security and too old for everything else. So there it was, half our workforce decimated by the economy. Scary, scary stuff.

A week and a half later, five computers were stolen from our office. The thieves, having seen the window 80HM thoughtfully left open for them in his office and correctly deducing that no security system was operational, slipped in, snatched up every laptop in sight, and then, with a touch of dignity, used the stairs rather than the window to make their exit from the building. The next morning I was the first to arrive and nearly tripped over the discarded external drive they left in front of the elevator door. I called the police, sat down to calmly eat my breakfast and read my book, and then commenced a day I shall never care to repeat. First a police officer arrives. While answering questions, my boss (the sister) enters the office. Explanations, shock, rage, acceptance, a little more rage, some strategizing, then one last burst of rage from her. Detectives arrive, more questions. Off to the Apple store to acquire new equipment. Phone calls to clients explaining what happened, asking for deadline extensions. Thanking a powerful, merciful, most beneficent God that the server wasn’t stolen. Petitions to Him to save my company and save my job. Promises to proselytize heathen everywhere.

Since then it’s just been 80HM and me. 80HM is a good guy and I like him well enough, but he has a million annoying habits which I become more sensitive to with each passing day. I am thrown together with him Monday through Friday without the interposing personalities of other coworkers, so my exposure to him and all his endearing traits is unremitting and complete and without filter. I am reminded of one of Dante’s circles of Hell, where two old enemies are buried in ice up to their necks and one gnaws at the other’s head for all eternity. Some days it feels like that, though not nearly so much fun.

In other news, my 18-year-old daughter, Daughter Number 2, moved out of the house. She and a friend collected all her stuff during a work day, then DN2 returned home later to tell us she was out. Shock, rage, acceptance, a little more rage, some strategizing, then one last burst of rage from us. Two body piercings and several tattoos later, we still see her and things are cool, but boy, that sure took some adjusting. She’s an adult and all that, and she has every right to go off on her own, but it felt like she ran away. But what can you do? We help her any way we can.

Well, that’s about all I have time for. Thanks for coming by. I promise to be a better blogger right after I proselytize some heathen.