23 posts categorized "Secularism/Atheism"

Wir Sind Papst Nicht Mehr!

After Thursday's angeljacking, yet more post-Papal sentimentality.  This flyer tells us that a mere €10 will secure a souvenir coin, commemorating one of  "the most important stations in the life of our German Pope."  That is, the day he quit.

But hurry!  The limited edition of a mere 20,000 means your devout grandmother might end up with an empty sideboard.  

The celebration feels aWirsindpapst bit subdued, when you compare it to the heady days of 2005.  People still remember the front page of Das Bild, which loudly declared We Are Pope! 

The faithful here in Bavaria view the former Archbishop of Munich through rose-coloured glasses.  Many will admit that their favourite son had a troubled Papacy; few will call him a failed Pope. 

Note how the blurbers use the word "station".  Does it suggest Ratzinger is being crucified by unbelievers?

Previous popes faced financial fiddles, conspicuously gay priests, and the systemic abuse of children.  None of these problems appeared overnight.  But what was Benedict's response?

Insiders tell us that the Pope was as shocked and appalled by much priestly behaviour as any reasonable man.  A sympathetic BBC Op-Ed reminds us how then-Cardinal Ratzinger led a Good Friday service in which he called out the "filth" afoot, and how it could sink the Church. 

As he assumed power, he choked.  He went back to what he understood best—theology—and doubled down on it.  Stricter adherence to doctrine would cleanse the church.  And, indeed, it would.  If it mattered.

No clerical criminal resorted to Catholic doctrine to justify his corruption, nor the abuse of children in his care.  No misunderstandings, or lack of clarity.  Every offender knew, and understood the rules.   Besides, the secular world, it could be argued, operates on even stricter doctrine than the church does. 

Nope.  The Pope needed people skills, not theological rigour.  Can you think of a worse place to learn people-skills than the Catholic Church?  And the Bavarian Catholic Church, at that.   It's a double-whammy.

When the chief clergyman faces a child whose life has been destroyed by treatment at the hands of fellow clergy, perhaps he might stifle the mumbo-jumbo about the how the abusers' contrition trumps everything else, and how it is the obligation of the victim to forgive.  Secular courts take contrition into account, too.  But they don't let contrition erase the crime. 

Confession is good for the soul.  So let me confess that I was raised, and confirmed, a Roman Catholic.  I am one no more, in part because my Catechism seemed to hate children; it was used in the classroom to justify cruelty, and not love.   The current Church hierarchy stands aghast that their actions can be construed as expressing anything but the epitome of love.  No amount of theology will correct the fact that the priesthood relies on scripture to tell them what love is, rather than personal experience.

Before you buy a coin for your devout grandmother, think about sending your ten Euros to a victim's charity instead.  Surely, a much better way to commemorate Benedict's papacy.  Happy Sunday.

The World's Worst Buddhist

Daibutsu Kamakura pensive
The Daibutsu (Amida Buddha) at Kamakura, near Yokohama, in April 2004.
He looks in a pensive mood, which isn't very Buddhist of him.

If you must have a religion, Buddhism strikes me as a good idea.  By all accounts, it tries to unite the spiritual and the temporal, in a healthy way. 

Should one need the solace of prayer, one could do worse than meditate; meditation is prayer turned inward, rather than upward.  Regular meditation can increase physical and mental well-being.

Buddhist meditation focuses you on yourself, your mind and body.  Is this selfish?  Not at all.  In theory, such deep understanding of one's own being fosters both compassion toward others, and self-reliance.  

(All this compassion doesn't keep you from being a sexist creep, from time to time.  The Dalai Lama maintains that a woman might well become his successor—but she's gotta be a looker, since appearances count.)

So, without wishing to trade-in my broad-church atheism for an actual religion or nuttin', I took Buddhism out for a spin.  Not the whole thing, but a couple of Buddhist precepts.  January was to be a month of ditthi, viewing reality as it really is, not as we wish it to be, and sati, seeing things for what they are with clear consciousness and a sense of truth, as well as being aware of the present reality within oneself, without any cravings for more, nor distatste for what you have.  

IlovesmallstonesA meme piqued me to do it.  Buddhist priest and therapist Kaspalita, along with writer Fiona Robyn, declared that January 2012 become a River of Stones.  Each day, they encouraged readers of their website to write a small stone.  In their words, a short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully engaged moment.  If you read their work, you'll discover that the stones they write, are true gems.

Just what the doctor ordered.  Therapists and support groups tell me that a family like mine—where children were served generous helpings of emotional torture sprinkled with little jimmies of violence—will create adults with a distinct quality of mind.  We have trouble engaging in the moment.  Disengagement with the moment, after all, was once a tool of psychological survival.  The habit dies hard.

Kill it, though, I must.  So I set up a Tumblr for my River of Stones, and dubbed it Der Fluß aus Steinen.  Alert readers will have noticed a link to it on the sidebar.  Readers may notice, too, that it no longer appears.  I lasted eight days. 

It started smoothly enough.  I resolved to capture each stone in a photo, and write of it later.  On January 1, a Christmas three atop a crane on the Odeonsplatz caught my eye.  I imagined that the presents underneath would be Erector Sets for all the little cranes to enjoy.  Maybe Erector Sets were the crane equivalent of toy soldiers, or Barbie.  So far, so good.  Step one on the road to enlightenment.

DSC_4202 - Version 2
Eight days later, I cast a pair of weary eyes around the office.  Mindful of my surroundings and present in the moment, a full pencil sharpener loomed into view.   Should one iron the shavings, to improve the feng shui and attract positive chi, I wondered?   Not exactly On Walden Pond.

And so, mindful of my surroundings and present in the moment, I gave up.

I could never get the hang of these little moments of exquisite, poetic sensibility.  They're all terribly nice, but so what?  

Let's give it another go, right now.  Around me, I notice a number of things in the room where I sit.  It is a living room.  The prints on the wall hang slightly crooked; maybe they leaned together for a furtive smooch, and hastily composed themselves as I walked by.  

These pictures in mild disarray remind me of a Casanova caught in flagrante, who must dress fast to escape.  One could do a 5-7-5 haiku about that.

A lover revealed. 
He is not quite complete.
His socks took too long.

Talk about unmindfulness!  Not only did I fail to describe what sits in plain view, but I leapt to another, more interesting story, the likes of which I've never experienced in person.  (Call me a coward, I always hid naked in the wardrobe.) 

I chose imagination over observation.  Bad Buddhist!

Haiku purists take a dim view of all this metaphor and narrative.   High haiku must adhere to a strict rhythm—it needn't rhyme, because given Japanese grammar and phonology, rhyming would be too easy to be considered artful.  And it must stick to what the poet sees and hears. 

Matsuo Basho wrote arguably Japan's most famous haiku in 1686.  There have been hundreds of translations of these seventeen simple syllables.  Plainly put, the poem states there is a peaceful old pond, a frog jumps in and makes a splash. 

Call me a philistine.  Call me obtuse.  But...I don't get it. 

My Japanese friends (and my husband, to boot) assure me that I am missing a great source of artistic satisfaction, not to mention the serenity which comes from contemplating a moment of exquisite beauty.  Well, yeah.

I have a long way to go.

In the meantime, imagination provides both diversion and solace.  A certain amount of inserenity can pump you up, just as much as a good whiff of chi.    But you have to dodge a trap—living too comfortably in your imagination, rather than seeking comfort on the panet Earth.  Perhaps that's a discussion for another time.

My Favourite Blasphemy

Where is he gay today? Rila Mountains, BulgariaRila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 051

It reads: I'm a Virgin, But This is an Old Fresco.

A belated Happy Blasphemy Day, everyone.  Hope you all managed to score a zinger on September 30th.   Alas, you couldn't have burned me at the stake this year.  No chance to flip the bird at God.  Unless my ongoing contentment as an apostate Catholic homosexual affronts the Almighty in principle.  Surely that counts.

Note that being an atheist does not automatically make me a hereticHeresy is defined as telling untruths about God.  I merely point out the fact that religions contradict each other, and with very few exceptions, demand belief to the exclusion of all others.  Therefore, not believing in any one or more of them is the functional equivalent of not believing in any of them.  Absolutely true, Ninth-Commandment-wise.  But hardly a rousing hurrah for the Lord above.  

I didn't directly insult God—which, by the way, is the defínition of blasphemy—so I'll need to tell you about another time I landed a pie in His face. 

Opportunities to insult God ain't a dime a dozen, let me tell you.  The last time I sneered at the Almighty—in public earshot, so it makes a difference—was over a year ago, in early summer 2010, on a visit to Bulgaria. 

Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 077a
We climbed into the mountains south of Sofia, to the Rila Monastery.  St. Ivan of Rila (876-946 AD) lived in a cavern, and his followers built the complex.  They wanted to bask in his holiness, and perhaps pick up the odd miracle or two, but found the caveman thing a bit too hard-core. 

Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 082
The Dupnitsa Eparchic Hilton.

You can stay in the monastery, and for many, it makes the perfect spiritual retreat.   The building contrasts monastic simplicity with rich ornament; everywhere one turns, one sees a detail which provokes a moment of contemplative pleasure.

Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 077a
Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 077a
Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 077a
Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 082
Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 082
Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 148
Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 082
Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 148
Nice and peaceful, until you enter the chapel, or catholicon.

The door bitch, an angry brown-robed Rassaphore with a Rasputin beard, hassles you on the dress-code.  Uncovered heads, uncovered shoulders, or short pants earn you a puke-green hospital gown, which you must use to cover your immodest flesh.  They forced a burqua-style robe on the woman in the picture below, since God had never seen female legs before, it seems.  The Almighty thinks you're just overgrown ribs, ladies.

Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 148
Master Right and I marvelled at the lush ornament inside the church, and approached the altar.  Thinking that we might contribute to the maintenance of this UNESCO World Heritage site, we lit a votive candle, and made a donation far in excess of that recommended.  And in Euro, too, which at the time still seemed like a jolly nice currency. 

As we turned to leave, the mad monk tried to pull a swifty.  He took our candle from the candelabra, blew it out, and pocketed it.

Now, he may have had a reason.  Perhaps he wanted to make room for other worshippers to sacrifice—except, there was plenty of room left.  Maybe church authorities wanted to keep soot off the murals behind the altar—but then, they might easily move the candelabra to another position.  Perhaps he noticed that Master Right looked Asian, and doubted that someone of another faith could offer a sincere votive prayer.

Or, he was just an asshole.

I favour the asshole theory.  Every member of the uniformed clergy in this joint was scowling.  My childhood church in Pittsburgh, which followed the Roman canon in Carpatho-Rusyn, hailed from this part of the world.  They were grouches, too; our monsignor was a turd of the highest order.  Bile and resentment—or at the very least, grumpiness—oozed from ever pore.

Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 148
A friendly CSR asking "How may I help you today, pilgrims?"

Whassup with that?  Hadn't the Holy Spirit filled them with the milk of human kindness?

Of course, there's a good reason for being a grumpy cleric.  Sexual frustration. 

Celibacy must wear them down.  People get grumpy as hell without sex.  If I adopted a contemplative life like these guys, I can tell you what I'd be contemplating before long.

Now the way I see it, forcing healthy human beings to eschew their biology insults His creation.  It disrespects God's grand design.  Surely as much an affront to the Creator as any of the other inventive sexual uses to which God's creatures put their bodies. 

So I blasphemed.  I took a photo.

"No photo inside!" scowled the monk, followed by some other complaint in Bulgarian.

"How does it feel to be a virgin?" I asked.  "It must be awfully miserable."

"No photo inside!"

"I've had a lot of sex, and it's fantastic.  Would you like me to tell you what sex is like?"

He looked at me, fuming, as I added, "...sex with an adult, that is."

"No photo inside!"

So I took another photo, and we left.  Here it is.  Taking and sharing this photo, so that it may help you wonder at the glory of your God and the miracle that is mankind, may be a blasphemy. If so, may we always blaspheme so beautifully.

Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 082
On the way back to Sofia, we stopped for lunch.  We dined on a terrace, under a tree, next to a mountain stream.  Trout, caught that morning in the very same stream.  Another moment that caused us to marvel at what believers call Creation, and to enjoy it, gratefully.

Rila Monastery-Sofia Day Two 185a
I asked the waitress if she had any spare fish to slap on the back of Christian cars, since they like that sort of thing.  She said no.  What?  According to the New Testament, you can't run out of fish!

See?  A joke at God's expense.  Rather a nice blasphemy, to round off a (mostly) pleasant day.  Click on the quote from Salman Rushdie below, to join next year's Blasphemy Day on facebook.

Salman Rushdie Quote

This little tale reminds me of many half-written posts in my outbox about last year's fascinating trip to Bulgaria.  Stay tuned for more of them.

Reliquary. It's customary.


Many commenters on my previous post about the trappings of Easter were surprised at how a visit to a Catholic place of worship in Europe can unsettle you.  Nothing shows this so much as the display of relics

A relic, in the technical sense, is some physical souvenir of the life of a saint.  It can be an object, such a a rosary or a scrap of clothing.  But the most favoured relics are a little more intimate.  Pieces of the saint, in person, come highly prized.  The faithful often create quite ornate displays for these pieces, and it becomes a shrine, or reliquary

Reliquaries sometimes have their own chapel.  Often, they remain on display in a parish church with which the saint had a connection.  So one can find oneself sitting next to a bone or two in the middle of a service or concert.  Over Easter, we found ourselves by a hip joint in St. Anna's Franciscan convent church, as we enjoyed a brass quintet play the Messiah.  The reoubtable Irish Gumbo asked if the music seemed any hipper.  Alas, no.

Mark, a longtime reader of this blog, notes that St. John the Baptist must have had three heads and five arms, when you count his bits on show across Europe and the Middle East. 

The Imperial Cathedral at Speyer plays host to the shrine above.  That festooned femur once braced the thigh of Father Paul Josef Nardini, who co-founded the Franciscan order of the Holy Family in the 1800s.  (Franciscans in this part of the world are gung-ho on saintly glutes, I notice.)

The pope officially recognised his qualifying miracle (cancer remission in a sister of the order he founded) in 2006, so he's still a bit of a newbie.  He sounds like he was a decent chap and cool dude.  Cool enough to have his own website, at least.  And a facebook page, with three fans.  I'm one of them.

EDIT: Check out this discovery from Resident on Earth.

The Opposite of Christmas

Mittenwald Nativity dramatic
Though Master Right is a one-time trainee in the Shinto novitiate and I am an avowed atheist, we spend an awful lot of time in Christian churches.  That's where the music is.  German churches support a great deal of serious music, and provide a venue for many concerts and recitals.

While listening to the music, the eye begins to wander about the room.  Especially here in Bavaria, since the buildings are rich and grand.  In the days before an average Joe could find entertainment at his fingertips, he looked to the local church as his main source of fine music, art and drama. And they laid it on thick.

The art and the drama went hand in hand.  Paintings and statuary brought bible stories (and more) to life.  Even the humble Nativity set gets the glam treatment.

Mittenwald Krippe close-up 2 
Mittenwald Krippe close-up 2
These Nativities come from churches and museums in and around Mittenwald, in Oberbayern.  All of Upper Bavaria is famous for woodwork, but a thriving violin industry in the town provides an extra dose of woodcarving skills, which enjoy a seasonal outing.

The newborn Christ gets a makeover in many of these scenes.  He often becomes a toddler, since toddlers are way cuter than those ET-like newborns.  If the Holy Infant did, indeed, emerge as shown in the nativity scene below...well, the Blessed Virgin certainly has my admiration.

Mittenwald Krippe close-up 2
Which brings me to the point of this post.  As we visted churches this Easter weekend, we encountered what can only be described as an Anti-nativity.  A life-sized scene of a most unhealthy-looking Jesus in his tomb.

Creepy Christ 1
If one spends enough years kneeling before crucifixes, one grows desensitised to the sight of murder-in-progress they depict.  Master Right, who does not have years of hanging out in Christian churches to make it seem normal, points out how grotesque it actually is.  But this creeped out both of us. 

Creepy Christ 1
Throughout my Catholic boyhood, I encountered many a cute Christ in a stylised manger.  But never a creepy Christ in a mock-tomb.  Is this simply a south German custom?  A European one?  Did any other new-world Catholics see such a thing in their churches at home?   

Don't Touch


This little booklet brings together two familiar themes.

First, the spread of English words into other languages.  And second, the utter cluelessness and insensitivity of Catholic clergy.

Given the nature of the scandals which dog the Catholic Church in Bavaria, does anyone else agree that they might ditch a creepy religious website aimed at young people which encourages them to say touch me?  Am I the only one who finds the title insulting to victims of clerical sexual abuse?  Do they really think that just because the words are English, nobody cares?

The site is littered with pointless English, by the way.   They say see you later.  You're invited on a daily date with the Almighty.  And you can meditate in the—wait for it—Praystation.


This website is led out of the diocese of Augsburg, where Bishop Walter Mixa recently resigned amid accusations, inter alia, of robbing orphans and beating children.  Perhaps the site could be renamed.  Rather than Touch Me God, it should be Spank Me Bishop.

The programme has a facebook page, too, with a whopping sixty-seven fans.  Why don't you leave them a message, everyone? 

Life After Death: Will There Be Cookies?

"You know, one of the best things about believing in a big fat God up there, is that nobody can disprove He exists."

This remark came from a woman of science, who is also a woman of faith.  We weren't arguing about atheism—well, not exactly—but we brushed up against the wall such conversations face.  Proof.

Science never proves anything.  It disproves.  That's the scientific method.

When you've disproved every other alternative, then you have a proper scientific argument.  If someone comes along with another explanation, you need to disprove it to defend your theory. 

This debating point catches many skeptics and atheists without a reply, or with an unconvincing one.

Metaphysical Physicians

In December, CNN muscled in on Oprah territory when it broadcast a Very Special Larry King Live.  The subject was Life after Death

Curiously, King himself didn't lead the discussion.  One imagines he'd take great interest in the subject.  By the looks of him, he seems perilously close to speaking from experience.

The entire piece is embarrassing—so embarrassing, CNN seems to have ditched it from the LKL website. 

The three panelists took the life-after-death position—CNN's medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and authors Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dinesh D'SousaProfessor Michael Shermer served as the lone spokeperson for skeptics. 

And you know what?  Shermer lost, big-time.

He deserved to.  It's one thing to split hairs in philosophical discourse, but quite another to win minds and hearts in popular debate. 

Sometimes, the best strategy is to abandon your case.

Malostranské náměstí
, Prague

Am I talking to your neurons?

The Afterlifers raised patronising snark to high art.  They petulantly asked Shermer: "Am I talking with you, or your neurons?"

Shermer pretty much just pfaffed around in reply.  What might he have said?  As a direct answer, the best I could come up with was something like this:

"Dr. Gupta.  You're a neurosurgeon. You've seen a body without functioning neurons?  So you would say that I could talk to you without neurons? Wouldn't you say that consciousness, then, is a product of neurons, in some way?"

Well, that doesn't exactly slam the case closed. 

The real truth (which both believers and skeptics need to acknowledge) is that we don't know

But by the rules which govern debate on American television in 2010, the first person to admit he doesn't know, loses.  Shermer caved.

One of the commenters on Shermer's facebook page pointed out a response that could have been more effective.  "You should have asked: are there cookies?"

Indeed.  Now, they're on the back foot.   Doctors Gupta and Chopra, and Mr. D'Sousa must confirm that there are cookies in the afterlife.  Or, alternately, that there are no cookies in the afterlife.  Or that they don't know. 

"How do you know we'll find cookies?  We might find tea cakes.  Maybe the tea cakes are only for the ladies, and men find 72 virgins?   How about bacon?  Bacon is better than cookies.  How about nothing?  Maybe we'll find nothing in the afterlife.  Isn't that just as likely?  Why do you refuse to acknowledge that possibility, Dr. Gupta?"

The churchyard at St Georg's, Bogenhausen, March 2010.

Even the usually unflappable Richard Dawkins stumbled over the proof/disproof issue when he spoke at Liberty University.  (LU is enemy territory; an Evangelical Baptist institution founded by Jerry Falwell himself)

A student asked Dawkins a simple question: What if you're wrong?   The real answer, which he eventually reached, runs something like this:

"If I should believe in an Abrahamic God because he might exist, then I should also believe in every other god whom humans have seen fit to worship, because they might exist.  

In fact, I'd better disembowel you at the temple because Zeus could be angry.  I might need to toss you into a volcano, too.  I might just impale you because you're an infidel and the Crusaders could have a point.   I might need to beat you because I'm a Catholic schoolteacher who believes children are naturally evil and must be punished.  And I might just need to be an atheist, too, because that's equally possible.  

No, I won't take Pascal's Wager.  The stakes are too high."

Perhaps Shermer should have replied to the question thus:

"Well, Dr. Gupta, I confess.  You're not talking to my neurons. You're talking to Master Alien Zoog, who orbits Alpha Centauri in an advanced spacecraft.   He speaks through me as his prophet.  

Now, when we die, it is his white light that shines at the end of the tunnel, when he takes all our thoughts and turns them into anti-matter.  Many people with near-death experiences report images of relatives who stand at the other end of a brightly-lit white tunnel to welcome you.  They are anti-matter projections of your thoughts.

You're right.  All this stuff about neurons doesn't explain anything."

Many atheists, skeptics, or agnostics argue against religious belief by seeking to disprove it.  That's not just a losing strategy, but it's intellectually disingenuous. 

One cannot not prove a believer wrong—it's pointless, in any case.  God has been put to the test many times, and He has failed.  It doesn't shake the conviction of the faithful.

One must, however, show that belief is arbitrary.   This fact sows the seeds of doubt more effectively than a head-on attempt at disproof. 

It's more honest.  And it's more fun.


Hell, according to Reubens. From the Alte Pinakotek

god hates #tags

The merry gang from Westboro Baptist Church protests in many places, on many occasions.  Led by Pastor Fred Phelps and his family, you may recall their colourful signs which proclaim that God hates fags, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Obama, America, Italy, Ireland, Lady GaGa and much else of His creation. 

Yes, the Westboro Baptisits hold some mighty firm beliefs. And they love it when you try to disprove them.

"Read your Bible!", Meagan Phelps often shouts in reply.  Many of the least effective counter-protests involve those who have read the Bible, too, and argue that she and her family get it wrong. 

Twitter got it right.  When the Phelps clan protested outside their offices on Folsom Street in San Francisco this January, staff quickly desk-top-published a few signs of their own.  Harmon Leon's post on 

(Iconic American writer Harmon Leon wrote a great post on Asylum.com about the incident.  Check it out.  He also deserves credit for the photo on your left.)

None of the signs actually attacked the Westboro Baptist Church, and their beliefs.  They simply provided alternative beliefs.

God, according to Twitter, hates ponies.  And broccoli.  He thinks we should build prisons on the moon.  And we should wear silly hats only.   One sign proclaimed, in a gesture pure and poetic, that I have a sign.

Read the Bible?  No, Meagan, read April Tips Number Two: What to Do if You Don't Have Time to Get Your Pants Hemmed, published in Esquire on March 31st 2008!  The prophets of style command us through Esquire.  If we obey them, we will be richly rewarded.  And our cuffs will be clean.

WBC was left speechless, and turned tail.

A Reasonable Objective.

When it comes to God, I call myself an atheist.  When it comes to the persistence of the soul, I'm mildly skeptical.

Frankly, I have no interest in converting a believer.  I do, however, have a very serious interest in preserving my right to dissent. 

Just as important, preserving my right to dissent also protects the rights of believers to disagree amongst themselves.  The faithful need to acknowledge this.

If mockery preserves these rights better than logic, then mock we must.

Happy Sunday, everyone.

EDIT: You ain't got no pancake mix!

How to Avoid Jesus While Shopping


Warming to the theme of a secular Chistmas, YouMadam posed a question on my post about Christmas 2009.  If expensive gifts run counter to the true spirit of the holidays, can one blaspheme on the cheap?  

Most Germans shop for cheap Christmas gifts at the local Christkindlmarkt. From the name, you can guess the obvious Christian overtones which no amount of Feuerzangenbowle can distract you from.  Management often pays some kid to dress up like the Christ Child and...well, wander around being Christly.

Luckily, two Munich markets took a secular slant on the season.

Pink Christmas.  The Gay Christmas Market.

Small, but beautifully formed, as we say the backroom.  Pink Christmas used to be a weekend affair, tucked away in a quiet corner of boystown.  (I've mentioned it before)

This year it swelled to an enormous length, and lasted almost the entire month of December.  Not to mention that it extended to that gayest of spots, Berlin.


By the time we visited on the last day, the schedule was taking its toll.  The tinsel had begun to fray, and the trees to droop.


But the partying kept up non-stop.  Every evening, the entire place turned into an outdoor disco where you could shake your long-johnned tush.


Isn't there a Christmas song about Silver Balls?

The rest of the gayborhood got into the spirit.  KraftAkt, one of my favourite Munich gay bars, decked its halls with yuletide drag.  Their inflatable snowman looked like he could use a blowjob, though.

Watch where you stick that icicle, Frosty!

Careful where you stick that icicle, Frosty!

If you're a real-live gay snowman, would the bar's Christmas decoration make a good sex doll?  Or would that be a bit flaky?

Diburnium, the leatherman's supermarket, dressed its window with many helpful suggestions for that last-minute gift. Your friends won't believe their eyes when they unwrap your package!

Merry Fistmas!

Merry Fistmas!

FIST™ brings warmth and good cheer to any holiday gathering.  If I were the marketing manager for FIST™, I'd pitch it  as alternative to a bottle of wine as the perfect present  for the host, if you've been invited to a party.    Like a bottle of wine, he can open it for all to share, or he can put it in the cellar for later.

Tollwood.  The Hippie Christmas Market.

Tollwood is so politically correct, it's secular by default.  

From their website: "The Tollwood Festival is a beacon of cultures, ecology and quality of life.  From the beginning, the festival has striven to be the image of a multicultural society, which is why tolerance, internationality and openness are the cornerstones."

Alas, many Müncheners think Tollwood is a bit of a joke.  The stalls sell a collection of candles, batik, organic soap, hand made pottery, incense and fairtrade knicknacks. Hippies go there to stock up on all their hippying needs.

Tollwood stays mostly schtum about all this birth-of-the-saviour business.  In fact, Master Right and I went there to buy a Christmas-tree ornament, and had trouble finding one


We loved it. At the entrance, an ice sculpture of the pyramids greets guests.  African drums lull you as you make your way amongst the stalls.

P1000098_2 The traditional way to say welcome in Bavaria is Grüß Gott, or "God Greets You".   Tollwood welcomes you with a hearty Grüß Göttin, or, "The Goddess Greets You"

The Goddess, I'm delighted to say, greeted us with a sumptuous paella and a couple of Tsing Taos.  Free of genetically engineered ingredients, as Tollwood policy stipulates.

We didn't work up the enthusiasm to try out the ice rink made of recycled high-tech plastic. So all we could do is lounge under the palm tree made from a recycled autobahn sign.  From the Ruhrgebiet, by the looks of things.  I hope everyone can still find his way to Düsseldorf.