FLEXING THAT FAITH 


As a recent convert to Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, I was worried that my newfound faith would somehow prohibit me from taking part in the greed-grab that is the United States of Christmas. After all, according to the tenets of my new faith, we have "flimsy" moral standards and I get to claim every Friday as a religious holiday, so what more could I ask for on this earth? (When you consider that the afterlife holds the promise of a stripper factory and a beer volcano, I feel almost sorry for you nonbelievers.) Yet, after poring through various religious texts – of which there are mercifully few – I've discovered that there is absolutely no proscription against gift-getting. Even better, there's no insistence on gift-giving either, so I totally win, since all my stupid Christian friends are bound by some sort of "charitable" edict handed down by their non-noodly Lord. Give freely and ye shall receive squat, I say! Ramen. So, here's what needs to be bought. And remember, if you don't buy me this stuff, you're going to hell. First up: The PENGUIN CLASSICS LIBRARY COLLECTION ($7,989.50 at Amazon.com). Earlier this year, when Amazon and Penguin teamed up to present what amounts to "Literature's Greatest Hits" – a collection of 1,000-plus books that weighs more than 700 pounds and takes up more than 75 linear feet of shelf space – I sent out an e-mail to friends and colleagues recommending that they buy it for me. They laughed, but I kinda wasn't kidding. I know nearly eight grand might seem like a lot of money, but for great versions of all these great books, it seems like a steal. Penguin completely owns the classic literature market (thanks to definitive editions and global reach), and any box that contains Graham Greene, Jack Kerouac and Domesday Book in it is exactly the sort of room-filling box I want to open on Christmas morning (or on Gimelli Eve, the night of the twins, when you traditionally open two presents while eating pasta). Plus, it qualifies for free shipping!

Continuing my quest for quantity of quality, I insist that you purchase for me the STEVIE WONDER "DIGITAL BOX SET" ($189 at iTunes Music Store). I requested this in my Notable Noise column a few weeks back, but nobody responded. Now, you're duty-bound to purchase this for me ... or you're going to hell. It's got every single album Stevie has ever recorded, which, for someone who already owns most of them (ahem, me), wouldn't be that big of a deal. But they've tacked on something like 150 "bonus" tracks of alternate versions, live performances, remixes, mono mixes Ã? basically the very things they should have put in the hold-it-in-your-hands box set of a few years ago, but didn't. Seriously, I'm the world's second-biggest Stevie Wonder fan (besides Stevie Wonder) and this would make a great present for me. Seriously. No, seriously.

If I'm not worth eight grand to you, and the prospect of figuring out how to give me a digital gift is too ethereal for you, go ahead and plunk down $290.70 for VERVE'S "FREE AMERICA" SERIES. Released in an insanely limited edition earlier this year in France and imported into the States in even smaller quantities, this 15-disc series highlights obscure, American free-jazz titles (which means they're really obscure.) Although some confirmed classics are in there – Certain Blacks by Art Ensemble of Chicago – most of them are long-forgotten titles by well-respected artists (Frank Wright, Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy and others). You could buy them individually at $18.98 apiece ($24.98 for a two-disc Braxton set), but that would be stingy, and your God doesn't like stingy.

Also on my want list: flights, hotel and admission to ANY EUROPEAN METAL FESTIVAL this summer. I've never been to one, but listening to a three-CD compilation from 2004's Wacken festival (Armageddon Over Wacken), I'm reminded that when European metalheads number in the tens of thousands, they like to get their asses rocked by everyone from Anthrax and Mötorhead to Cathedral and Cannibal Corpse to Children of Bodom and Zodiac Mindwarp. Any people who can stand a lineup that messed-up are the kind of people I'd love to spend a sweaty, muddy weekend with. Plus, it's safer than a British soccer game! Alternately, if you're a cheap bastard, buy me WE LOVE KATAMARI ($29.99 at Amazon.com) so I can master it before Sarah at Will's Pub does (not likely). The first Katamari Damacy game was as addictive as heroin-laced crack and nearly as reality-altering. I fear how much I will love the new game. Now, before you think I'm totally selfish, allow me to share with you my final requests. I've decided to augment my Pastafarian list of avarice with some items that will benefit others besides myself. No, I'm not going to ask you to send a basket of eggs in my name to a poor farming family in Botswana (but you should: www.mercycorps.org) or beg you to donate money to Islamic Relief's Asian-earthquake relief fund (but you should: www.irw.org). No, in keeping with my faith, these items will primarily benefit me; any ancillary goodness is purely the appendage of fate.

First, give the WINTER PARK PUBLIC LIBRARY MONEY TO BUY MORE CDS. Whoever it is that stocks the "young adult" section is clueless about what "the kids" are listening to. The line between "young adult" and "rock" is mystifying, but the likes of Sebadoh and The Dears are well-represented in both. I've spent quite a bit of time marveling at the bizarre breadth of the library's music collection (jazz and world music could use a little work), but the thing is, I've already checked out most of the titles I want to hear, and would love a fresh infusion of discs. Solely for my listening pleasure, of course.

Finally, I would implore the folks at BIG SKY BREAD COMPANY to begin USING PRESERVATIVES in their delicious bread. When I pay four bucks for a loaf of this most marvelous product, I wish it would last for more than a day before getting all moldy. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that's their whole schtick, being all natural and crap. But no matter how good their bread is (and trust me, it's damned good), nobody – not even a carb-loading Pastafarian – can eat a whole loaf of bread in a day.

There, now I feel better. Like I've given something back to the community. Ramen.

jferguson@orlandoweekly.com

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