Weekly Rochester Events #311: And You're at the Nines
Thursday, December 23, 2004Now that Christmas is just a couple days away, and with the religious and political action this year, all I want to do is to lambaste Christianity. Perhaps it's just a long-lost calling from my days at Gracies Dinnertime Theatre when I co-authored the article Wonderful Life in Volume 8, Issue 10, November 9, 52 A.T. ... er ... 1997 (bonus points for knowing what "A.T." is). More likely, though, is the brewing disdain for the hypocrisy demonstrated by Christians. Especially the noisy ones who get in the news.
Let me just qualify this by my view of Christianity: it's entirely from the outside. My dad was raised Catholic and my mom was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and between their experiences, they decided to raise my brother and I without formal religion and instead let us decide for ourselves as we got older. I never read the Bible and I'm getting curious to do so — as best I can tell from what I've heard, it's a bunch of stories that provide a jumble of contradictory morals which mirrors our experience in life. Oh, and I tend to mix up Christianity with Catholicism and any of the other Bible-based religions so I'm probably talking about any one of them, or any religion, but I'll stick with "Christianity."
One thing about Christians that really bothers me is that they don't seem to innately know right from wrong. Rather, they have the Ten Commandments which remind them which behaviors are not acceptable. Well, one through four are just to establish the religion: believe in God, only worship the one God, don't use God's name in vain, and maintain a Sabbath. Five through ten are more disturbing — who doesn't know this stuff? — honor your parents, don't kill, married people can only fuck one another, don't steal, don't make shit up about other people, and don't idolize other people for their stuff.
I mean, do Christians really spend their lives remembering the Commandments so they don't steal stuff? On the one hand, I hope not; on the other, why have the list? Recently in the news, Covington County (Alabama) Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan had the Ten Commandments embroidered on his robe and said, "the Ten Commandments can help a judge know the difference between right and wrong." Now, I thought judges were there to determine if someone committed a crime in the eyes of the law, not to determine if they broke one of the Commandments, so I'm not sure what the point is — other than to remind prosecuted Christians they're certain to get preferential treatment in McKathan's court.
This reminds me: what's wrong with the separation of church and state? It seems that as long as it's the Christians manipulating the government, they're all excited about it. But what if there was a U.S. approved version of the Bible, edited by the FCC? I'm sure they wouldn't be happy about that, but I digress.
There is a long-standing idea that science and religion merge into one ideology sometime in the future. However, they're really on parallel tracks and no matter how much progress one or the other makes to understanding the world, their convergence is just an illusion on the horizon. In the end, science will never conclusively prove the origins of the universe, and religion will never provide proof of matters of faith.
And it's for this reason that government and religion must be separate: governments should exist in the world of provable reality while religion should exist in the world of faith. Governments should never legislate today's flavor of idealized morality, and people should never have power to enforce judgments on the basis of religion. That is, governments falter when they attempt to coerce their populace to rigidly follow a set of rules — as the percentage of people whose behaviors are deemed unacceptable increase, so does the likelihood of revolution (for instance, taxation without representation was as much about finance as freedom to self-govern.) On the other hand, religions falter when they grant the power of judgment to individuals (for instance, the Salem witch trials.)
But I'm not done with Christianity. Most people would say that someone who thinks they can talk to God is crazy, but for Christians, they call him the Pope. (There's a joke in there somewhere that I've been trying to work out for years.) Evangelical preachers speak with tremendous confidence that they know what is or is not good, moral, or ethical. However, just like me or anybody else, they're just people, and are prone to erroneously judging other people's behaviors negatively just because those behaviors are different from their own. Christianity provides with these people with a pulpit (literally) to broadcast their ideas and breed judgment and hatred.
One last thing: Jesus. Now, I don't know much about the life of Jesus Christ, but just through osmosis (metaphorically through the high concentration of Christian information in this country, not through an excess of liquid) (and yes, I should have said "diffusion" instead, nerd, but I figured people like the word "osmosis" better) I've picked up a bit. When I see people wearing around those "What Would Jesus Do" reminders, I wonder if they ever think about that — really think about it. Would Jesus believe that justice can be found through killing a criminal? Would Jesus buy shoes from a company if he knew those shoes profited one man because he uses child slaves in another part of the world? Would Jesus demonstrate love by making obligatory gift purchases one time a year? Would Jesus turn his back on a man begging for change if he knew that man would use the money for drugs? What would Jesus do?
While I'd love to ramble more on that topic, I also wanted to get into a couple things from the past week. First, on Thursday, I went to Riverside Convention Center (123 E. Main St.) to see the discussion on the downtown casino. The panelists were Eugene Christiansen, an economist and CEO of Christiansen Capital Advisors, LLC (41 Campus Dr, New Gloucester, ME) Robert C. Batson, an attorney at Albany Law School (80 New Scotland Ave, Albany) with expertise on Indian land claims and New York State gambling regulations, and Mayor Vincenzo Anello of Niagara Falls, NY (city map). Through the discussion, I felt that a casino similar to the one Niagara Falls had would be a very bad idea for the City of Rochester — or anywhere in Monroe County, for that matter.
Mayor Anello and Eugene Christiansen made it clear to me that the casino works in Niagara Falls because that city is a major tourist attraction. Christiansen said that the way casinos help the local economy in the long term is by drawing in visitors to spend money in the community. Any money that is spent at the casino is money not spent at other local venues, so if the local community is the primary spender at the casino, then they are not spending money at other local venues and the economy suffers. On the other hand, if visitors are the primary spenders, they will also spend money on other local businesses, and the economy does well. This works for Niagara Falls, but, even though we have a fair amount to offer, we have a very small percentage of tourists visiting the city. Why would a tourist come here to go to the casino when they can go to a casino in Niagara Falls and also see fucking Niagara Falls?
Robert Batson said that it is illegal to run a casino in New York, so the land must be granted to a sovereign nation (i.e. a Native American tribe) through a compact which is approved by Congress and grants the land to the sovereign nation for "all of perpetuity." Mayor Anello said their compact was poorly worded and done without public comment, so the city receives almost no revenue in exchange for the 52 acres given to the Seneca tribe. In their case (and in general) the granted land is exempt from most local, state, and national laws — laws that include building permits, inspections, and fire codes. It's in their best interest to make their guests feel safe, but not necessarily to actually make them safe. Worse, though, is that if the casino fails, the land stays in the possession of the tribe: they can leave the abandoned casino on the property until it crumbles into the ground.
In the end, I think the risks far outweigh the benefits. However, I have little hope that people will think through my concerns. They see that there will be jobs, they note that Mayor Anello feels his casino has helped his city, and they think this is a silver bullet for downtown. Well, I'll agree it's some kind of bullet.
Later that night I seemed to be the only one from the meeting who went on to The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) which wasn't surprising because pretty much everybody there knew there was nothing to do in Rochester's dead downtown. (*Grumble grumble*) Anyway, I finally got to see The Black Arrows who are this very good medium tempo, high distortion rock band followed by the super tight rock-and-roll from Bee Eater.
On Saturday, my expectations of a great time were well met at The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) This time, things started off with The Scarlets doing their very good power-rock (although I wish they'd start off with one of their stronger songs.) After that was the best punk-rock band around: The Blastoffs and following that is the really good and really quite insane punk-rock band Eddie Nebula and the Plague finally settling in to their now not-so-new lineup. Seriously, they're insane: consider the chorus from "Rochester Girls:"
Don't you fall in love today
Too bad it's so catchy when Ed sings it.
On a different note (but at least Rochester-related [and don't say, "well, duh"]) Sunday I biked to my friends' house. I bought a new face mask which I could use with the goggles I have without fogging them up. When I left, I really didn't pay too much attention to the temperature, nor what it was forecast to do during the evening. On the way out I was riding into a 10 mph wind at about 8°F and returned with a somewhat lighter breeze at my back, but in -3°F temperatures. All the while, I was plenty warm (except for the little gap between the bike helmet and the goggles.) Yes, it's true: I'm fucking badass. Or insane. Whichever.
Tuesday, I finished my triple play at The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) I only got to see a song and a half of The Challengers because they started much earlier than would have been typical. Nonetheless, I thought they were a good classic punk band: loud, fast, and with simple songs. Metal influenced punk-rock band Serious was next and did a Christmassy set: their drummer was an elf, the bass player was Santa, and Josh, the lead singer and guitarist, was Mrs. Claus. It was one of their best shows: tight, fast, funny, and well structured. They've also got T-shirts of their "world tour" consisting of a bunch of shows in Rochester and one in Buffalo ... I gotta get one.
So in conclusion, Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy ... uhh ... whatever the Pagans do, and Happy all the other crap. By the way, O'Bagelo's (165 State Street) is closed the next two Saturdays, and I don't see much point in trying to find another place for lunch on Christmas Day.
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About the title ... The Nines is located at 311 College Ave. in Ithaca, N.Y.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including Monroe County and occasionally the Western New York region) from Thursday, December 23, 2004 thru Wednesday, December 29, 2004.
It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
The musical styles listed can include punk, emo, ska, swing, rock, rock-and-roll, alternative, metal, jazz, blues, noise band, experimental music, folk, acoustic, and "world-beat."
Events listed take place during the day, in the evenings, or as part of the city's nightlife as listed.
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