>>> Bang for Your Buck February 19, 2006
By staff writer David Nelson
February 19, 2006
Essential New Word of the Week: greasicle (Hint: Chinese food truck)
For a long time now, I’ve been utterly fascinated by cults. I know a lot of people aren’t really well-equipped to deal with life, particularly in a society where the vice president can go on a deadly face-shooting rampage. It’s enough to make anyone desperate for answers, and I sympathize. But are there really people out there dumb enough to follow the demented ramblings of some guy from the Midwest who thinks he’s God? Supreme beings don’t typically have receding hairlines and a lazy eye. How come these people haven’t died years ago from slipping on a banana peel, or forgetting to breathe? It doesn’t make sense.
A more important question is: How can I benefit from such people? I’m charismatic, I don’t mind exploiting the terminally stupid, and I’m clearly a megalomaniac. All the pieces are in place for me to establish a cult. I’m ready to lead my devoted followers to better lives, through exclusive worship of me. Soon, I’ll be enjoying the company of my twelve virgin brides. Actually, scratch that part. I’ve never seen the appeal of virgins. I don’t need a dozen hickies and bad hand-jobs a day.
“To truly understand Scientology, I knew some sacrifices had to be made. So, I gathered up my courage and rented Battlefield Earth, starring John Travolta.”
Say what you want about Heaven’s Gate, but they convinced 39 people to kill themselves so that their souls could ride a hidden spaceship. Right now, I can’t get two of my friends to help me move. But all that’s going to change. Life in my cult is going to be awesome. Like the Branch Davidians, my compound will be full of free food and attractive women. All I ask for in return is hordes of money and slavish devotion to my capricious whims. You give a little, you get a little.
The great thing about being a new messiah is that I can learn from the mistakes of my predecessors, and come up with a winning formula. For example, I think I’ll skip the ritual suicide (Tang makes me gassy), but keep the polygamy. I still haven’t decided about the identical uniforms. French maid outfits are way sexier than grey jumpsuits, but potential inductees might not take my cult seriously. And if I can’t convince people who might otherwise put their faith in Jesus-shaped pudding stains, then you’ll know I really went too far.
Actually, now that I think about it, this is going to be a hell of a lot of work. There are so many decisions to be made. Do I go with starvation or sleep-deprivation to break my followers’ wills? How many guns should I be stockpiling? I think what I need is to see a successful cult operating first-hand. You know, for inspiration. And there’s only one cult out there right now worth observing: The Church of Scientology.
First of all, The Scientology people did a great job with their name. The word “Scientology” reads like a labored effort to sound intelligent despite a noticeable lack of substance. Kind of like how fast food chains promise that their deep-fried, cheese-slathered foods are filled with essential vitacins and nutrimites. According to Wikipedia, “Scientology” technically means “the study of knowledge.” Impressive, but I’m sure that’s in the same vein as “Hulkamania” technically meaning a state of hysteria brought about by the presence of wrestling icon/steroid goblin Hulk Hogan. In other words, define the word as scienticiously as you want, but only a goddamn idiot is going to take it seriously.
Prior to my secret reconnaissance mission, I decided to take stock of my Scientology knowledge, in case anyone doubted me. Here’s what I know: Scientology was invented by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. I don’t know what the “L” stands for, but I like to imagine his first name is “Lamar,” like the gay black guy from Revenge of the Nerds. I also know that Tom Cruise is a prominent member, and that he danced around in his underpants in the movie Risky Business. It dawned on me that I apparently knew a great deal more about movies from 1984 than the international organization I was planning to infiltrate. It was time to hit the books.
Of course, gods-in-training don’t have time to putz around with actual books, so I went back to Wikipedia, since I still had the page open anyhow. I learned all kinds of great stuff. For example, high-level Scientologists believe that 75 million years ago, a galactic tyrant named Xenu kidnapped individuals who were deemed “excess population.” He loaded them onto space planes for transport to an extermination site, Teegeeack, or what we call Earth. He then stacked hundreds of billions of these frozen victims around Earth's volcanoes, brainwashed them, and blew them up with hydrogen bombs.
Still with me? Good.
The spirits of the traumatized victims, called thetans, subsequently clustered around human bodies acting as invisible spiritual parasites that can only be removed using advanced Scientology techniques. I don’t know if this is what Al Gore had in mind when he invented the internet, but the Wikipedia entry on Scientology is clearly the pinnacle of what can be achieved in this medium. Don’t believe me? Check out this actual quote, pertaining to past lives, described by various Scientologists:
“These included memories of being ‘deceived into a love affair with a robot decked out as a beautiful blond-haired girl,’ being run over by a Martian bishop driving a steamroller which transformed him into an intergalactic walrus that perished after falling out of a flying saucer, after which he was ‘a very happy being who strayed to the planet Nostra 23,064,000,000 years ago.’”
Scientologists argue that recaps of the Xenu story and other insane narratives are often presented out of context for the sole purpose of ridiculing their religion. Well, no shit. I mean, if you’re writing about Scientology, and you have the restraint to NOT mock stories of exploding ghosts and space walruses, then clearly you must be some sort of android who hasn’t been programmed to understand humor.
Anyway, in order to join the Scientologists, the first thing I needed was a clever alias. Just to be a smart-ass, I decided I would come up with an anagram of L. Ron Hubbard. This was a lot harder than I thought it would be. My first effort, Lorn Hubbard, was too obvious, and my second idea, Burl Brand Ho, sounded like some kind of retarded Chinese cowboy prostitute. Then, inspiration struck. By posing as a doctor, I would have two fewer consonants to worry about, and at the same time, I could get them really excited about accepting such a learned individual. So I became “Dr. Noah Blurb.” Also, for personal reasons, I decided that Dr. Blurb was an expert on female sexuality, specializing in clitoral stimulation, but I decided not to mention this to anyone until I had breached the upper echelon.
Next, I decided to check out their homepage. Not surprisingly, there are many talented Scientologist web designers out there, and their efforts were not lost on me. There were several colorful pictures of happy and probably-not-castrated members, illustrating the rich cultural diversity of their followers. And when I say diversity, I really mean it. These pictures indicate that Scientology is only one transgendered Eskimo in a wheelchair short of winning some kind of multicultural scavenger hunt. Clearly it’s not good for a cult to be too exclusive.
While poking around, I noticed that they offer an online personality test, like the ones administered to idiots brave enough to visit a Scientology center in person. This was great news. It meant I didn’t have to make the trek and risk being abducted. I filled out a few forms in my awesome alter ego, Dr. Noah Blurb, and took the test right away. I hoped it would help me figure out what kind of liquor my cult ought to brew, or what kind of women I should pick for wives, but this was not the case.
Here, for your viewing pleasure, are a few of the 200 questions that the Church of Scientology asked in order to get inside my head. I was asked to respond with a little plus sign to indicate yes, a minus sign to indicate no, or a question mark to indicate I didn’t know/the question had words in it I didn’t understand.
-Would the idea of inflicting pain on game, small animals or fish prevent you from hunting or fishing?
-Are you a slow eater?
-Do you prefer to take a passive role in any club or organization to which you belong?
-Is your facial expression varied rather than set?
-Do you often ponder over your own inferiority?
-Could you agree to “strict discipline”?
Now, I just chose these questions at random, but they’re already giving me ideas. Torturing and slowly eating small animals would be a great way to force my cult to ponder their inferiority. Not only that, a questionnaire of my own would be a good way to weed out the free thinkers and accept only the impressionable rubes I really want.
They provided me with a graph charting my results, but the damn thing is deliberately confusing so test-takers will need to visit a Scientology Center and have it explained to them in person. I really didn’t care about the results anyway, but in case you’re interested, I scored in the “Desirable State” for such traits as “Uncertainty” and “Inhibition,” but landed in the “Unacceptable State” for “Nervousness,” and “Lack of Accord.” And if it’s coming from a reputable source like the Church of Scientology, it must be true.
I’m actually a little upset that my best traits, such as “good with money” and “perpetually horny,” weren’t even mentioned. Some personality test! The one for my cult will be a lot better, and include more questions about bra-sizes, turn-ons and bank card PIN numbers.
I could have left my research at that, but if I did, I would have been remiss. To truly understand the inner workings of Scientology, I knew some sacrifices had to be made. So, I gathered up my courage, prepared for the worst and rented a movie inextricably linked with Scientology: Battlefield Earth, starring John Travolta.
Now, there are movies out there that make you laugh, think, or even cry. Some movies are pretty bad, and make you want to demand a refund. Then there's Battlefield Earth, which makes you not only demand your money back, but add a wrongful confinement lawsuit for good measure. There is nothing, not a single thing, about this movie that can be redeemed. Almost every shot is tilted at a random angle, a cinematographic technique last seen in the campy 1960’s Batman show. If that wasn’t enough to ruin your day, every shot is also tinted some weird color, for no discernible reason. And the script is mostly about alien politics, which is nearly as interesting as late night on C-SPAN.
To put it in perspective, I would willingly chew on the tinfoil that a fat, incontinent man had been wearing as underwear rather than see this movie a second time. It was so bad, it turned me off of my whole cult idea entirely. I don’t want some crappy B-list actor making shitty movies about my writings after I die. So, all my hard work and research came to nothing. But I did learn a valuable lesson, one which John Travolta, Tom Cruise, and L. Ron Hubbard’s ghost ought to heed: It’s great to be worshipped by some people, but not if it causes you to be mercilessly ridiculed by everyone else.
Essential New Word of the Week:
greasicle /‘grisIkl/ n: I don’t know if this is a common feature of college campuses, but mine had a crappy Chinese food take-out truck parked in front of the main library, day and night. For 4$, hungry students could refuel on oily noodles and some sort of meat that it was best not to think too much about. And life was good. But when the cold weather rolled around, something magical happened. The truck had some vents in the cooking area, and from these vents would sprout the most amazing formations of pure grease, frozen solid. Students would spend hours pondering these mysterious greasicles. The chemistry students analyzed their chemical composition. Art majors painted them in watercolor. Philosophy students tried to explain their origin. And one day, a friend of mine snapped one off and ate it in front of a bunch of horrified onlookers. To this day, his wanton act is studied by psychology majors.