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“Faux-Ever’ Lets Blacktip Island Churchgoers Sample The Afterlife

Faux-Ever

A member of the Blacktip Island Ecumenical Community Church, under the guidance of a church elder, gets a taste of the afterlife with the church’s new Faux-Ever headset. (photo courtesy of Justraveling.com)

The Blacktip Island Ecumenical Community Church Thursday unveiled ‘Faux-Ever,’ a virtual reality headset that allows churchgoers of any religious tradition to experience the afterlife of their particular faith.

“Users input information about their personal belief systems,” the former Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “It’s like a Buzzfeed quiz, only with a religious focus, and draws on the teachings of classic theologians as well as popular novels and cinema.

“We tried to be as inclusive as possible,” Ephesians said. “The headset provides more than 128 different versions of the afterlife,” Ephesians said. “You can get anything from sitting on lotus pads to hunting buffalo on the Great Plains to being at one with an expanding universe. We even have a Cthulu option, but that didn’t end well for the congregant.”

Church officials hope the devices will strengthen users’ faith.

“We see it as sort of a trainer, like what pilots use before they get in an actual airplane,” church elder Harry ‘Scratcher’ Wrasse said. “There’s no telling what the afterlife will be like. You want to get a hint of what to expect, maybe even a nudge to change your ways.

“A lot of times people’re surprised what they see after programing the headset,” Wrasse said. “One person expected milk and honey and instead got a wasteland and his mouth stuffed with clay.”

The program is not without its critics.

“Jerrod and his cohorts are making a mockery of religious faith,” said the Reverend Pierre Grunt of the Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral. “There is no way that gizmo can provide a glimpse of anything like Heaven. They’re turning religion into a video game.”

Faux-Ever has proved popular with early testers

“I filled out the survey, slipped on the visor, and the next thing I knew I was floating around the reef,” said divemaster Marina DeLow. “The reef’s pretty much my church, so that made sense. And was kinda comforting.”

Others were underwhelmed.

“I expected something nice, the whole 100 virgins sort of thing,” Lee Helm said. “Instead, I wound up sitting on a cloud, playing a harp, surrounded by chubby little angels wearing diapers. I just felt . . . depressed.

“James Conlee, he got eternity at the Sand Spit bar with unlimited beer,” Helm said. “It’s not fair.”

Ephesians is encouraged by Faux-Ever’s successes.

“We’re working on adding more options,” he said. “Going forward, atheists will see a black, blank screen. And for a small donation to the widows and orphans’ fund, we can throw in a séance so you can talk to dead relatives.”

**

Ask Dermott:

Hey, Dermott,

First there was Jefferson Airplane. Then there was Jefferson Starship. Then there was just Starship. Then they were all gone. My question is, who was Jefferson? – Slick With Worry

Slick,

Jefferson was Jefferson Beaumont. Beaumont, Texas’s named after him, too.

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Blacktip Island Resort Launches Virtual Reality Scuba Diving

virtual reality

A virtual hawksbill turtle swims across the virtual Blacktip Island hardpan during an Eagle Ray Divers virtual reality scuba dive on Thursday. (Photo courtesy Leah Shore)

 

Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Cove resort this week unveiled a new virtual reality scuba program for guests who are unable to swim or are afraid of the water.

“We stick them in a V.R. suit, strap them in a harness and hang them in the conference room on bungee cords,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “They can kick and flail and bounce around just like our regular divers.

“We pipe in sounds of regulators, bubbles, pistol shrimp and boat propellers to add to the realism,” Latner said. “We have a divemaster to tell bad jokes between dives, too, and give virtual fire coral and jellyfish stings when needed.”

Local underwater videographers have been hired to provide a variety of reef scenes.

“What each diver sees totally depends on what they do while they’re hanging,” said local cameraperson Leah Shore. “We’re shooting non-stop so there’s as many options as possible.

“Anything you’d run into on a real dive, you get in the V.R. room,” Shore said. “A current could kick up, a shark could chase you, the viz could go to hell, you name it. A guest freaked yesterday when she hit a downwelling and dropped 50 feet down the wall.”

Critics object to the program’s pricing as well as its secondary use as punishment for scuba divers who damage the reef with poor diving practices.

“They’re hanging folks on rubber bands and charging them the same as if they were on a boat,” dive tour organizer Kelly Cottonwick said. “That’s not right. Neither is making divers dangle in a cubicle if they bump the coral a few times.”

Eagle Ray Divers defended both practices.

“Those V.R. suits aren’t cheap,” Latner said. “And we have staffing costs to cover. Bottom line, we’re not forcing anyone to do anything. Except coral-crashing yahoos.

“Reef conservation’s a bonus,” Latner said. “Blacktip Island’s reefs are so healthy because we protect them. Reef trashers get two warnings, then they hang in the conference room and think about what they’ve done. It’s in the waiver they sign.

“If they can demonstrate improved buoyancy, they’re welcome back on the dive boat,” Latner said. “We’ve been selling buoyancy classes like crazy this week.”

Guests, meanwhile, rave about the experience’s authenticity.

“There was a ton of virtual surge today,” virtual diver Buddy Brunnez said. “The divemaster had to bring buckets for a couple of us to barf in. And a guy yesterday was complaining about decompression sickness.”

Latner said the resort will soon offer virtual reality specialty courses in night diving, navigation and nitrox.

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