Unwelcome! Please don’t come in.

Trick or treat?  I say trick.

We have neighbors. Some are close by, and we hang with them. Others we can’t even see, and it takes over five minutes to walk to their house. Recently the sign to the left appeared across from our house. Many of the pictures that are on this site came from walks that I took on the other side of that sign. I am not exactly sure what I did (ok, maybe I do), but it has landed me in the “bad list” with our far-away neighbor. I will call him The Old Man. I think that if I had just been intimidated like he wanted, I would still be on the “ignore list”. Unfortunately, I asked him why he was being a bad neighbor, and I guess you don’t ask a bad neighbor that kind of thing. The land that is now off limits is an island that has been turned into a peninsula, and an upscale subdivision. There are deed restrictions, and it was sold as a future gated community. The Old Man is making sure that the gates are indeed put up. In order to build there your house must be huge, your garage must fit 3 cars, etc. etc. The houses that are out there sold for over 500K in an area where 250K is high. There are only 2 houses, but they are lake front properties. Unfortunately the lake front is full of stumps from the way the lake was made a hundred years ago. This little city is a blue collar hunting and manufacturing town, so there is not much in the way of upscale development. Real estate in general is doing badly, especially here in Michigan. So the end result is that we have neighbors who bought a nice house in a lousy place, and there is little they can do to change that, except control every little detail they can. Oh, and he can.

As frustrating as it is to be living near someone who treats the neighborhood as filth, I can’t help but pity him. He’s stuck, probably in debt, and since he can’t change where he lives, he will just do everything in his power to make sure we know he is better than us, and that he thinks he has something we wish we had. He would not believe the truth.

It probably does not help that this is what he sees when he pulls out of his private-no-trespassing-no-parking-tow-away-at-owners-expense drive every day:

What, isn't it a pretty boat?

I guess I am not that motivated to find another place to keep the boat.

Christianist Dominionism

Lately I have stumbled across a term or two that, although strange at first, seemed to put bones in some of the thoughts and feelings I have had for years. I grew up rather politically unaware. I am not sure if it was intentional on my parents part to not get involved, or if I was just so oblivious to those areas of life that they just passed me by. I would guess the latter. As I matured (at an admittedly rather slow pace), I started to hear political noises, but did not make much sense of them, and we eventually moved overseas, where any American noises were drowned out by local coups, kidnappings, and general strife in that country. Upon returning, my social group was Republican, but I was not sure what that meant. I somehow figured out that it meant “values”, which would assume that the Democrats did not have such things. Then I started to become aware of social causes, and realized that they were mostly pioneered by Democrats. There seemed to be some conflict with the abstract idea of values that the Republicans held, and values Democrats routinely put into practice. Now, this was still in my early adulthood. I still saw nothing wrong with despoiling the Earth, after all, it was all going to burn soon. Over the years I found myself coming back to the connection between Christian values and Republican values. Only in recent years has it occurred to me that there really is not a connection at all. Or, I should say, there should not be.

The principles taught by the Christ have nothing to do with small government, low taxes, and business autonomy. Just as he had no statement about Caesar’s rule of Israel, he makes no statement about the direction of America. So here is where the title of the post comes in. The evangelical church wants to change the world. That sounds good. They want to change it for the better. That is good too. They want to change it through the use of power, “in the name of Jesus Christ!” Hmm… That sounds a little strange. Like it or not, Evangelicalism is involved in a movement, and it’s goal is to bring the world under the dominion of the Christ. Actually, dominionism is a view held by a larger group that includes Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and several other Protestant and Catholic branches. What is interesting to me is the way that, inside the church, we are told that we are in the minority, and we are fighting to keep America wholesome against the hordes of unclean unchurched pagan sin worshipers, and it is a loosing battle. But when you look at the last two elections, the reality is obvious: it is working, and it is not a minority. The other word in the title? Christianist, as in Islamist. This movement toward power by Christians is not itself Christian. If you pay attention to the media, you will hear about the effects of power, no matter the spiritual label. There are historic bad times that were brought on by Christians in power who claimed to be led by God.

Apart from the political aspects, what are the implications of dominionism? What does “under the dominion of Christ” actually mean in everyday life? Does it mean that I dedicate my life to the following of his teachings, and example? Does it mean I surrender all my desires, to be fulfilled through relationship with God? Does it mean giving away all I have to follow this way of life? So far, dominionism does not seem to mean any of those things. It does seem to mean spending more money on things/stuff/junk that is either sold at church, sponsored by a church, written by a pastor or the current favorite conservative pundit. It does mean making sure the world around me knows that I disapprove of their falleness, without admitting to it myself. It does mean accepting every word from a pulpit, assuming that God has put that person there, not politics, charisma, selfish ambition or pride. It does mean family values is a political issue, not something to live out, in real life. It does mean equating democracy and free market economics with Christianity and integrating them with evangelistic outreach.

I agree that our culture is corrupt, but I also think that the church is corrupt and misguided in it’s attempts to force change. The real reason that the whole thing is corrupt is not because there are so many people fighting against Christianity or Christian values in our culture, but because we Christians on the whole aren’t very good Christians. All this talk and political ragging about marriage, and family, but why should anyone believe us? Have we been a good example? What is a good example anyway? Successful, nice house, friendly, good neighborhood? Is that the Christian ideal? That is the American Dream, not God’s desire for us. I am pretty sure he does not care if we have it, but he does care how we think about it, crave it, worship it, and protect it. Why do we think this way? Why do we fret about our crap, manicure our lawns, expand our borders, pray for material blessings, and bless wars? Why do we still have broken families, greedy pastors, and bitter and broken churches?

It could partly be because we believe what we are told. Are we willing to turn off our TVs and radios, and listen to God? Not just for a day or a week, but for a year? Can we stop watching movies, stop reading the newspaper, turn off the music, and turn off the Internet? Can we take a sabbatical from “church” on Sundays? Are we afraid to be alone with our thoughts, and alone with God for that long? All those inputs tell us what to think, what to believe; how can we know which thoughts are our own? Are we just picking up what someone else tossed at us? Can we trust their intent? Maybe true Christian living begins with questioning everything, even our faith. Is it really mine if I have not questioned it? Think of the questions the Christ asked of those around him and those who were following him. Am I willing to let him ask me questions?

Christianist Dominionism? It is dominion over everything but self, in the name of the Christ, who told us to love God, and love our neighbors. Oh, and to pay taxes.

Eating cautiously

Well, after Nathan lived after eating mushrooms from his yard, I was a little envious. I had recently digested some shrooms, and then had a little scare and even went out and bought activated charcoal for a little home treatment. It turns out that I would have had to consume over a bottle and a half of caplets for a single dose, and they usually treat with a dose every hour for 4 to 12 hours. At $10 a bottle, it seemed a little steep, but hey, my liver is worth more than that. That particular incident was a convergence of several possible gastrointestinal hazzards, so it was hard to know exactly what it was. There was the flu that was going around at work… I had eaten quite a bit of roasted chicken, which I am some what allergic to when it is cooked with the skin on… We had just had large salads made from organic spinach, only a week after the spinich e. coli scare… I ate some mushrooms that I was pretty sure were *Lepista nuda* or Wood Blewitts, which are poisonous if uncooked, but I cooked them, but then they sat in the fridge for a week or so. Anyway, it did make me think a little harder about putting fungus in my mouth.

So then when I was picking A up from school on Wednesday I noticed several Shaggy mane (*Coprinus comatus*) on the grass between the parking lots. I started picking them as I waited and chatted with B on the phone. I found 5 good ones, and as we were driving out of the parking lot we noticed that there was a whole field more. We stopped and made several trips, returning with handfuls. In the end I had a nice pile in the passenger seat.

Seat of potential poison

When we arrived home I threw out a few that were already showing signs of turning to ink (ie. they were showing shades of grey on the gills). I took the rest in and washed them and cut off any parts that looked bad.

toxic torpedoes?

They really looked pretty good, and seemed like they would make good eating. The ones that I prepared were all still young, and in the button stage, meaning that the cap had not pulled away from the stem much yet. They were white throughout, and had a ring on the stem where the cap connected. The outside of the cap was shaggy, and shed some of it’s scales when handled.

Drumstick

I sliced them into quarters lengthwise and saut├ęd them in butter. They had a lot of water content, and made a wonderful sauce. I did add just a little garlic and then put them in a container in the freezer after trying a bite.

Is that squid?

Yesterday I found more Shaggy mane in the park, and cooked them up too. But rather than putting off the inevitable, I added them to my stir fry. They were very tasty. At one point though, my hands and legs felt a little tingly, and the ringing in my ears stopped. I felt suddenly clear headed, and generally good. I think it may have been my sinuses emptying out after the chili-black-bean sauce I added to the meal. Anyway, it seemed to be a success.

I may try the Blewitts again soon; there is another batch growing under the blue spruce…

nasty bits

Just a warning: This post contains earthy subjects that range from phalic imagry to canine genitalia references. You have been warned.

Now, I like fungi. I like mushrooms, and all sorts of squishy or hard alien growths that can be found in the woods, or in your flower pot. They are just too strange not to like. But sometimes my relationship with fungi is a little strained. This year at the end of summer we had a growth in the mulch around our flowers that tempted me to make an exception. The name is *Mutinus caninus*, and is also known as Dog Stinkhorn. These stink horns generally look like a horn, growing right out of the ground, and have a sticky bit at the top that contains spores, and attracts bugs. Well, the Dog Stinkhorn looks rather like the name would imply and bears a strinking resemblance to a dog penis. Have a look:

Don't stare!

While that is gross enough, the smell that it emits is like strong.. hmm, how do I put this.. prostatic, or maybe seminal fluid. So not only do we have these little dog penises sticking out of the ground around our flowers, it *smells* like we have little penises sticking out of the ground around our flowers. Oddly enough, nothing seemed to be attracted to the spore slime…

So, what do I do? The obvious…

No! He isn't!

Yes, I pick one up. I pick everything up, my brothers can tell you that. I even smelled it, and it smelled just as bad close up. The “fruiting body” as it is called in the reference books, is hollow, and is usually this bright pinky-orange color. The brown slime at the tip attracts flies in this species, and usually only lasts a few hours because the flies eat it. No flies this time. Eventually the nasty things shriveled up, and the smell went away, but the scar on our idilic view of nature will always remain.

That was my first run-in with stinkhorns, and I quickly read up on them. They are a very odd bunch. Others have blogged about them, and a few others have dedicated whole pages to them.

A more scientific approach can be found here.

My apologies if you did not heed the warning.