Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Happy Hurlidays!

Time for my annual Xmas rant.

One from the vaults.
(Daily Blatt 12/17/04)
Yeah, a retread, but I figure if they can give us that damned Rudolph every year, I can recycle this.

I truly hate this time of year. All the forced jollity, the commercial bonhomme, the insipidness of the music, and the false once-a-year concern for 'Christian' values all combine to make me ill. I am filled with so much bile against my fellow humans, I fear for the health of my liver at Xmas time.

I am what I would describe as a secular Taoist, a observer of the lifestyle of Taoism without any belief in the supernatural aspects thereof. I haven't been a Christian for many years now. I left the faith in my teens after an argument over evolution with the minister of my family's church. Can't say that I've missed it much, nor do I spend much time looking over my shoulder for the iron fist of God out to smite my sinful ass.

But the dominant culture of these United States, being largely derived from a candy-ass bizarro version of Protestant Christianity, insists on inflicting this Xmas stuff on me.

If I have to hear the blasted Little Drummer Boy one more time while out shopping for a book I swear that I'll tear out my own eardrums. And who out there can deny that the playing of the Barking Dogs doing Jingle Bells should be a crime punishable under the Geneva Convention? Or that the wanton infliction of 24/7 Xmas music warrants the mass fire bombing of radio stations all across the country? And please, please, won't someone kill Troy before he can skreech again?

And what's with this insanity of every show on TV being some sort of Xmas special, beginning right after Halloween and continuing on for the next 8 weeks? What happened to Chaunukah, Yule, Solstice, and Kwanzaa? Suddenly everyone in in America is expected to be interested in the artificially fixed date of birth of the 'miraculously' conceived child of the God of some of the Americans. It is a puzzle.

I mean the idea of most of the folks on sitcoms commenting on (Ch)Xmas is obscene to begin with. Raymond, whom everyone DOES NOT love, by the way, is even more obnoxious when he remembers that this is the time of year that he's supposed to be nice and for some reason goes out of character and is. Right. Or the folks on Will and Grace will smirkingly remind us to be happy and Gay. It is to retch. Or the kids on South Park will ask Santa NOT to kill Kenny. All in the spirit of the season.

And how many times do we have to save bloody Bedford Falls, find the missing Rudolph, and listen to Bing Crosby dream of a White (preferably segregated) Christmas? Or, horror of horrors, why must we glimpse, even briefly, the spectacle of Jim Carrey in Grinch drag gnawing on every piece of scenery in sight? It's only a short while until we'll have Survivor: Arctic Ice Cap to suffer through as well, I predict.

We also have the all singing all dancing parade of the International Has-Been Pop-Stars Xmas Specials to live through. I daresay that most of them wouldn't know a good old fashioned Christian ethic if the damned thing bit them on the bum. Kenny G playing the love theme from Handel's Messiah. Andy (I Left My Talent in Sheboygan) Williams tottering across the stage and singing I'll Be Home for Christmas.

Now there's a threat that will keep me up nights.

Don't get me wrong. I do know people for whom Christmas is a source of genuine joy and religious wonder. To them I say good for you. Enjoy the season.

My former Mother-in-Law was one such person. It was great to see the happiness Christmas brought to her life. Her faith had not been buried by the excesses of the American Xmas celebration. Yes she bought gifts for everyone, often going to great lengths to find something special, but to her this was just a part of the observance of a day most holy.

Which makes the overall cultural Xmas even more offensive in my eyes.

Give me a good Yule log, a nice drum circle and a ritual sacrifice or two. Ah, that would be a Solstice gift to remember!

Till then thankfully, we have the antics of the killer Robot Santa on Futurama or there would be no hope at all during this season.

Cool Yule to you all.

Blessed Be!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cheer Up!

Looks like Dubya's gonna have to hide out in the Bitterroots when it's all over. Even Texas is turning on him.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


62 lbs!

That's 62 lbs since January 5th this year.

So sayeth my Doc!

There'll be a lot less of me to me to kick around this New Year's Eve.

And he took me off of one of my bloodpressure meds as well.

Only a one pill a day wonder now.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Poem of the Day

A Hole In The Floor by Richard Wilbur

for Rene Magritte

The carpenter's made a hole
In the parlor floor, and I'm standing
Staring down into it now
At four o'clock in the evening,
As Schliemann stood when his shovel
Knocked on the crowns of Troy.

A clean-cut sawdust sparkles
On the grey, shaggy laths,
And here is a cluster of shavings
>From the time when the floor was laid.
They are silvery-gold, the color
Of Hesperian apple-parings.

Kneeling, I look in under
Where the joists go into hiding.
A pure street, faintly littered
With bits and strokes of light,
Enters the long darkness
Where its parallels will meet.

The radiator-pipe
Rises in middle distance
Like a shuttered kiosk, standing
Where the only news is night.
Here's it's not painted green,
As it is in the visible world.

For God's sake, what am I after?
Some treasure, or tiny garden?
Or that untrodden place,
The house's very soul,
Where time has stored our footbeats
And the long skein of our voices?

Not these, but the buried strangeness
Which nourishes the known:
That spring from which the floor-lamp
Drinks now a wilder bloom,
Inflaming the damask love-seat
And the whole dangerous room.

Joyeux Anniversaire

François-Marie Arouet Voltaire
(1694 – 1778)
French Enlightenment writer, essayist, deist and philosopher.

René François Ghislain Magritte

(1898 – 1967)
Surrealist artist
Born in Lessines, Belgium.

What Kind of Humanist Are You?


You go out of your way to build bridges with people of different views and beliefs and have quite a few religious friends. You believe in the essential goodness of people , which means you’re always looking for common ground even if that entails compromises. You would defend Salman Rushdie’s right to criticise Islam but you’re sorry he attacked it so viciously, just as you feel uncomfortable with some of the more outspoken and unkind views of religion in the pages of this magazine.

You prefer the inclusive approach of writers like Zadie Smith or the radical Christian values of Edward Said. Don’t fall into the same trap as super–naive Lib Dem MP Jenny Tonge who declared it was okay for clerics like Yusuf al–Qaradawi to justify their monstrous prejudices as a legitimate interpretation of the Koran: a perfect example of how the will to understand can mean the sacrifice of fundamental principles. Sometimes, you just have to hold out for what you know is right even if it hurts someone’s feelings.

What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Poem of the Day

Postscript by Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

Happy Birthday

Georgia Totto O'Keeffe
( 1887 – 1986)

American artist
One of the greatest modernist painters of the 20th century.

Cartoon of the Day

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Poem of the Day

Old Man by Neil Young

Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.

Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four and there’s so much more

Live alone in a paradise

That makes me think of two.

Love lost, such a cost,
Give me things that don’t get lost.

Like a coin that won’t get tossed

Rolling home to you.

Old man take a look at my life I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me the whole day through

Ah, one look in my eyes and you can tell that’s true.

Lullabies, look in your eyes,
Run around the same old town.

Doesn’t mean that much to me

To mean that much to you

I’ve been first and last
Look at how the time goes past.

But I’m all alone at last.

Rolling home to you.

Old man take a look at my life I’m a lot like you

I need someone to love me the whole day through

Ah, one look in my eyes and you can tell that’s true.

Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.

Old man look at my life,

I’m a lot like you were.

Happy Birthday

Neil Young
1945- )

Canadian singer-songwriter

One of the most influential musicians of his generation

Better to burn out than to rust away...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Nice little town you have here - would be a shame if something were to happen to it.

via PZ Myer's Pharyngula:

Thugs for God
Hey, gang, this quote from Pat Robertson is not a joke.

On today’s 700 Club, Rev. Pat Robertson took the opportunity to strongly rebuke voters in Dover, PA who removed from office school board members who supported teaching faith-based “intelligent design” and instead elected Democrats who opposed bringing up the possibility of a Creator in the school system’s science curriculum.

Rev. Robertson warned the people of Dover that God might forsake the town because of the vote.

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover. If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.”

I like it. The message is clear, it's not hard to figure it out…Christianity is like an extortion racket, see, and if you don't cough up, well, Lew here might have a little accident with your car, or your house, or your little girl. And then Mr Big wouldn't be able to do nothin' for you. He doesn't mean nothing by it, he likes you, see, but if you don't show him a little respect, you can't expect him to trouble himself with your worries, OK? Me and Vinnie'll be by tomorrow, and you will have that little donation ready.

Poem of the Day

Elegy by Joseph Brodsky

About a year has passed. I've returned to the place of the battle,
to its birds that have learned their unfolding of wings
from a subtle
lift of a surprised eyebrow, or perhaps from a razor blade
- wings, now the shade of early twilight, now of state
bad blood.

Now the place is abuzz with trading
in your ankles's remnants, bronzes
of sunburnt breastplates, dying laughter, bruises,
rumors of fresh reserves, memories of high treason,
laundered banners with imprints of the many
who since have risen.

All's overgrown with people. A ruin's a rather stubborn
architectural style. And the hearts's distinction
from a pitch-black cavern
isn't that great; not great enough to fear
that we may collide again like blind eggs somewhere.

At sunrise, when nobody stares at one's face, I often,
set out on foot to a monument cast in molten
lengthy bad dreams. And it says on the plinth "commander
in chief." But it reads "in grief," or "in brief,"
or "in going under."

Happy Birthday, Wanda June

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
( 1922 - )
American satirist

Author of Cat's Cradle, one of my favorite novels.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

When I Went Looking for the Pot at the End of the Rainbow, I Really Had Something Different In Mind

Duck and Cover

from Kolchak:

The infamous phrase "duck and cover" doesn't appear in "
Survival Under Atomic Attack." Basically, though, that's the advice the booklet offered Cold War America.

I found a copy of "Survival Under Atomic Attack" a few months ago at a nearby antique store. It doesn't have a publication date in it, but it does have an old-fashioned Civil Defense emblem on the cover, and it refers to another government publication which, it says, was published in 1950. Some of the facts mentioned may be correct, or were considered correct at the time, but they still seem unlikely to me. With that disclaimer, I think I'm going to let this one speak for itself, as much as I can.

"Even if you have only a second's warning, there is one important thing you can do to lessen your chances of injury by blast:

"Fall flat on your face..."

"If you are inside a building, the best place to flatten out is close against the cellar wall. If you haven't time to get down there, lie down along an inside wall, or duck under a bed or table."

"When you fall flat to protect yourself from a bombing, don't look up to see what is coming. Even during the daylight hours, the flash from a bursting A-bomb can cause several moments of blindness, if you're facing that way. To prevent it, bury your face in your arms and hold it there for 10 or12 seconds after the explosion. That will also help to keep flying glass and other things out of your eyes."

"Should you be caught upstairs or in the open at the time of a bombing, you might soak up a serious dose of explosive radioactivity. Even so, the first indication that you had been pierced by the rays probably wouldn't show up for a couple of hours. Then you most likely would get sick at your stomach. However, you might be sick at your stomach for other reasons, too, so vomiting won't always mean you have radiation sickness...For a few days you might continue to feel below par and about two weeks later most of your hair might fall out. By the time you lost your hair you would be good and sick. But, in spite of it all, you would still stand a better than even chance of making a complete recovery, including having your hair grow in again."

"It was said earlier that 15 percent of Japanese A-bomb deaths or injures were caused by radioactivity. But not one of them was caused by the lingering kind. Explosive radioactivity killed them all."

"Naturally, the radioactivity that passes through the walls of your house won't be stopped by tin or glass. It can go right through canned and bottled foods. However, this will not make them dangerous, and it will not cause them to spoil. Go ahead and use them provided the containers are not broken open."

"While we cannot hear, feel, smell or taste radioactivity, its presence can be easily detected with Geiger counters. However, you won't have to use one of these. Instead, you can rely on your local radiologoical defense teams--a small specially-trained corps of 'meter readers'--to warn you of the presence of lingering radioactivity."

"Be careful not to track radioactive materials into the house."

"Neither explosive nor lingering radioactivity has any effect on the operation of most mechancial or electrical devices. Unless the wires are down, or there is a power failure, both your lights and telephone should continue to work...The bomb's radioactivity will not interfere with the operation of your radio."

"Should you help to clean up a contaminated area, you might get some radioactive materials on your body and clothing. So don't go home and sit around in your work clothes."

And the ever-popular:

"Don't start rumors. In the confusion that follows a bombing, a single rumor might touch off a panic that could cost you your life."

For a (very) in-depth look at Cold War propaganda,
check out:

In the Meme Time

from John Scalzi's Whatever:

The 50 Most Significant Comedy Films of All Time,

For those of you want to make an online meme out of this, the idea is to put the list on your own blog/journal, bold the ones you've seen and blue color the ones you own on DVD/video. You can/should also add your own comments on the list and what you think of the films chosen, which I have done immediately below.

Make sure to attribute the Canon correctly (to Bob McCabe and The Rough Guide to Comedy Movies).

The "canon", in alphabetical order:

All About Eve
Annie Hall
The Apartment
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (I couldn't finish watching the dvd)
Blazing Saddles
Bringing Up Baby
Broadcast News (Why is this mediocre movie here?)
Le diner de con
Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (I walked out of theatre after about 30 minutes not having laughed once.)
Duck Soup
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Four Weddings and a Funeral
The General
The Gold Rush
Good Morning Vietnam
The Graduate
Groundhog Day
A Hard Day's Night
His Girl Friday
Kind Hearts and Coronets
The Lady Killers

Local Hero



Monty Python's Life of Brian

National Lampoon's Animal House

The Odd Couple
The Producers
Raising Arizona

Rushmore (I watched about 5 minutes of this on cable tv. Dreadful.)
Shaun of the Dead
A Shot in the Dark
Some Like it Hot
Strictly Ballroom
Sullivan's Travels
There's Something About Mary (Walked out after 20 minutes. May have been the longest 20 minutes of my life.)
This is Spinal Tap
To Be or Not to Be (the Jack Benny version, not the Mel Brooks one)
Toy Story
Les vacances de M. Hulot (Not my glass of pastis)
When Harry Met Sally...
Withnail and I

My comments:

Films Whose Presence in the Canon I'm Particularly Gratified to See (pick up to five):
Dr. Strangelove, Duck Soup, Local Hero, Animal House, The Producers

Films in the Canon Whose Presence Should Not Be (pick up to five):
Austin Powers, Dodgeball, Life of Brian, Rushmore, There's Something About Mary

Films I'd Pick to Replace Them (pick up to five):
The Court Jester
, A Fish Called Wanda, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, any compilation of Looney Tunes written by Michael Maltese and directed by Chuck Jones, Young Frankenstein

How any list of the 10 best let alone 50 best comedy films could not include Young Frankenstein is beyond me. It is a brilliantly funny movie, full of verbal wit and wonderful sight gags. And it remains as fresh as the day it was made.

And Life of Brian over MP and the Holy Grail? Someone's not paying attention. LoB is the weakest of the Python's films and I'm including ...And Now For Something Completely Different in that evaluation.

And finally, what's with the bunch of the 'ooh, I said potty' films? Austin Powers, Dodgeball, There's Something About Mary are all one joke abominations totally lacking in wit or nuance. The same foul joke repeatedly offered as evidence of humor. Feh.