Thursday, December 30, 2004

Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the International Calendar Society (Excerpt)

President: Ladies, before we close our meeting, I would like to thank Monsieur Lemois for the wonderful luncheon: I especially enjoyed the semaines cinquante-deux and the wonderful dates. Magnifique!

As is our tradition, we invite each member of the board to offer her comments, critique, or complaints. We take pride in this, even though it provokes rather frank observations, because we believe that we are better for it. We will start with you Jan.

Jan: Yes. Well, I think that we entertain too many new resolutions -- we should limit them. As my Norwegian great-grandmother used to say, "Martin Luther doesn't require it; the King doesn't require it; neither should we require it."

President: Thank you, Jan. Valentina?

Valentina: I sink we are too much cold and too much in the ground. We should come out of the hole and open our hearts to the love. Also, I do not sink there should be the dais reserved for the president.

President: Alright. Marcia?

Marcia: I've never hidden my feelings. There are snakes in our midst -- we should drive them out. It is neither good nor holy to avoid this issue. I will not passover it again; I will resurrect it at every meeting.

President: I must disagree Marcia, but your are entitled to your opinion. Avril?

Avril: Really, this is all so foolish, so taxing, so cruel.

President: Next is Mae.

Mae: I think we are too quick to forget our forebears here -- namely, our mothers. Surely, we could arrange a suitable memorial.

President: Good idea. June?

June: Let's not forget our fathers, Mae. I also believe we should make an effort to graduate our goals and to marry them to our mission. Is that so rare?

President: Alright. Julie?

Julie: First, I would just like also to compliment Monsieur Lemoins on the juliennes de la Bastille. I think we need to assert our independence -- what could compare with that? -- and to trim up -- I would reduce our size by a fourth.

President: I think we're just about right, but.. Augusta?

Augusta: I have little to share other than unstudied speculation and assumption. Beyond that, I am vacant.

President: Ok. Septima?

Septima: Well, we should resume our studies and celebrate our labors. To Monsieur Lemoins, I would just say: "Yum! Kippers."

President: Yes, they were delightful. Octavia?

Octavia: We should chart a new course -- set sail for great discoveries. That would be sweetest to me.

President: Here, here. Let's see... Novia.

Novia: Well as a veteran of this society, I would say that we should be quicker to give thanks, as they do in my native Turkey. We would all relish that. And, kudos, to M. Lemoins on his calendrier grégorien.

President: Delicious. And, finally, Natividad. Hannah, cou... could you bring the mike closer? Thank you.

Natividad: Well, I cannot add much except, as my Filipina grandmother used to say, "Pagkahaba-haba man daw ng prusisyon, sa simbahan din ang tuloy", which means, "No matter how long the procession, it still ends up in church." Bless you.

President: Ladies, thank you for your thoughts. A happy new year to you all.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Whatever of the Year

Our __________ (fill in the blank) of the Year goes to our frequent commentator Harry, a strange, wayfaring blogger.

Admittedly, it was a difficult choice from among the three suggestions we received; however, "whatever" seems to capture not only the essence of the pages hereunder, but also the observant visitor's immediate and emphatic reaction to them.

For, we are everything or anything, even if that is nothing, no matter what; we are any one of a number of things, whether specifically known or not; we are whatness -- quiddity, if you will -- of any kind, in any amount, to any extent, being what or who it may be. We are definitively indefinite; we are pro-noun; we are poetic (whate'er you say).

Whatever.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Last Day to Fill In The Blank

Thus far, we have heard only from the 1) related, 2) uncertain, and 3) wildly optimistic. And, from the rest of our avid visitors.... blank. Perhaps, this is poetic justice.

Still, it hurts. :-(


Link

A Word On Our Editorial Policy and General Approach to Theme, Style, and Subject Matter Selection

Link

Monday, December 27, 2004

Feast of St. John

Some visitors may believe that the blogger's habit of referring to himself in the third person -- a la your humble Contributor -- is of recent vintage. Such as: "Some people think that we should raise taxes. Bob Dole doesn't think so. Bob Dole will not raise your taxes."

In fact, it's a rather ancient device (even for ancient bloggers). Consider St. John the Evangelist, whose feast is today. In his Gospel, he referred to himself only as "the disciple Jesus loved" -- whence "the beloved Disciple". Much later, there was signed "your beloved brother", usually preceded by a request for money or some grandiose claim of superiority to his elder brother.

Thirty-two years ago today, brother John received his First Communion. Something weird that year -- early Seventies -- doesn't this usually come in May, with the girls in tiny veils and wedding dresses, and the boys scrubbed, pressed, combed, and presentable possibly for the last time until their own wedding? But, then, he was named for the beloved Disciple, and he was combed, well-behaved, and ready to receive.

Two years ago, he was out of the hospital, after having torn his thin-as-paper skin on Christmas Eve. How did it happen? Well, he was reaching for something that fell on the floor, and the drawer with the metal edge was open, and, while he was leaning over, his shoulder pressed on the wheelchair throttle, and he had just taken his painkiller-cocktail strong enough to kill a junkie.

That day, I had brought him communion. This office was granted a few years prior, when O'Brien asked if your humble Contributor would serve as a extraordinary eucharistic minister for the homebound, then lit his pipe waiting for an answer. Well, Father, that's like asking Kitty Kelly to write your authorized biography; that's like asking Boris Yeltsin to head up the Temperance League; that's like asking Dr. Ruth to take the cloth and give talks on abstinence. A slight, smoky chuckle from O'Brien. How about something direct and true: unworthy. "Ah, well, none of us are worthy, are we? So, then, you'll do it? Of course you will. Grand. Good man. We'll get you fixed you up with a pyx and a bit of an orientation. You'll do fine."

Beloved brother John was my last assignment, lasting just a few months: showing up on any given Sunday with the host. Search around for his copy of the abbreviated rite. Don't worry, we'll make another copy; just look on mine. Sign of the Cross. Confiteor. Lord's Prayer. Agnus Dei. "I am not worthy... but only say the word." Corpus Christi. Amen. Silence. Prayer for Health.

Then, after communicating, he'd crack open the café latté -- still hot (a long sniff before drinking); unwrap the Dutch apple bagel -- still warm (crumbs on the bedclothes); talk about th'old times and greater care in maneuvering the wheelchair.

Five weeks later, brother John had his Last Communion -- his viaticum. Not by me: Fr. Z came by the hospital. Friends and family dropping in. Some talk about life and death. Joking. Good nights. Lights out. Then, the phone call too early in the morning. Your beloved brother John.

"From his fullness we have all received."

(John 1:16)

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Dynamite Epic

Gentle visitors, we are not in the habit or business of reviewing movies on these pages; however, a recent gift from Klaus prompts an exception to this rule.

The movie is Napoleon Dynamite.
Warning: semi-spoiling analysis ahead.

The epynomous protagonist, Napoleon, is everything his name does not imply: geeky, plodding, and hopeless. Indeed, he appears to be saved, in the end, only by a bizarre deus ex machina. But, all is not is as it seems.

The film opens with a particularly dweebish allusion to magical, supernatural influences, that pop up throughout, to comic effect. The husband-and-wife writing and directorial team -- Jared and Jarusha Hess -- have brought the mock heroic genre back to life in a post-modern setting -- the wilderness of boring, rural Idaho -- and, the story has the marks of an epic.
It features mythical creatures, such as Pegasus, Nessie ("our underwater ally"), "Ligers", and Tina the Llama. The harsh but ordering goddess Grandma -- like some smoke-raspy, dune-riding Hera -- whose unexpected absence from home occasions ground-shaking changes in the earthly Idaho realm. A thrift shop and "glamour" photo studio appear as secret stores of the gods, offering our oddball hero vital aids in his seemingly impossible quest, which is no other than to win the hand of the sweetly goofy lady, Deb, and to vanquish his foes. Late in the story, after hours of devotion on the Internet altar, a latter-day and larger-than-life Venus appears to transform and rescue Napoleon's hapless older brother and to give Napoleon the last gift necessary for his quest.

In the end, Pedro Sanchez, Napoleon's apparently moribund ally, utters an almost imperceptible prayer, with an allusion to El Nino. His prayer is answered in the most unexpected way, and Pedro casts a glance heavenward, as he sees that the cake that was rejected has become the cake of victory. Sweet! Even the stand-in babysitter, Uncle Rico, suffers chastisement at the hands of Rex -- a kind of preposterous Zeus -- for his vain and dishonorable pursuits; but, with the chance for redemption.

But, there's even more here, namely
  • Napoleon's world is an exaggerated illustration of our own unavoidable propensity for creating our own world -- our umwelt, as some outlandish and incomprehensible philosophers call it. Unlike Napoleon, most of us spend a great deal of effort attempting to order this world, reconciling it to "The World" -- that is, to the most sensible determinative of acceptance and success.
  • Our lives are, again, unavoidably strange -- at least, in some respects. If we invest all of our effort seeking to avoid, deny, or otherwise cancel this strangeness, then we will ultimately be disappointed by an unaccountable defeat, by psychological breakdown, or, worse, by death. If, however, we accept the strangeness, then we might be liberated, even jovial, in the face of it.
  • With the acceptance of this inherent life-is-strangeness, we are then open to the inexplicable and unexpected hand of Providence -- the deus ex machina occasionally dropping into the disasters on our little stages to set things right or, at least, to offer some explanation.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, you say. Our humble Contributor is, once again, too anxious to find fullness in emptiness, everything in nothing -- in this case, by reading way, way into what is, at best, a quirky, marginally entertaining, indie flick.

Well... perhaps. I would simply note that the closing scene of the film will only add to the deepening and mysterious significance of tetherball to the history of the world and the progress of the soul. (Despite the pleas, rejoinders, and threats received, more on this, anon.)

Irresistible Christmas

Some would have had us resist Christmas. At first, it sounded good -- simplify, resist materialism; then, we find our resistors have more in common with the Puritans and Roundheads -- banning Christmas and plum pudding, when not burning monasteries and hunting fugitive priests.

In England the Puritans could not end customs of St. Nicholas’ feast day, however stringently legislated against. However, the Puritans caused significant disruptions of traditions. John Evelyn wrote in his diary on 25 December 1652 (and also in 1653): "Christmas Day, no sermon
anywhere, no church being permitted to open, so observed it at home."


The Roundheads were uncompromising; they delighted in holding Parliament on Christmas Day. The following remarks were recorded on the floor of Parliament 25 December 1656:

COL. MATTHEWS: The house is thin, much, I believe, occasioned by the observance of this day. I have a short Bill to prevent the superstition in the future. I desire it to be read.

MR. ROBINSON: I could get no rest all night for the preparations of this foolish day’s solemnity. This renders us in the eyes of the people to be profane. We are, I doubt, returning to Popery.

(from http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/santa/the_reformation.htm)

The Popish, having more in common with your everyday pagan than your skinhead Puritan, are not ashamed to admit co-opting various solstice festivals. Indeed, it seems only to have added to the meaning of Christmas.

As a consequence, the conscientious non-objector can, in the space of a few hours,
  • watch the placement of the ceramic Baby Jesus by the tiny niece dressed in Spanish lace, illuminated by just two, flickering, electric candles (for safety purposes);
  • spear the Swedish meatball and sample another variation on cranberry relish;
  • catch up with the poor relations, otherwise intent on a game of spades;
  • enjoy the fruitful ferment of hops, well rendered;
  • admire the Chinese made flashlight/hazard blinker from grandma; and,
  • lend a hand to clean up the mess to the scratchy strains of a grandiloquent Wurlitzer belting out "Silent Night".

Then, at the end of the day, don the spanking new undershirt. Friends, I can heartily recommend the v-neck for comfort and versatility.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Note After Midnight Mass

The deck sparkles with frozen dew, and, for once in recent memory, looks good.

The dog sits, alert and looking out into the darkness. She is part shepherd: the rest of her a mix of lesser breeds.

The message on the bottle reads: "Nollaig Shona Dhuit" -- "Happy Christmas To You."

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Fullness of Time and Other Strangers


Every miracle can be explained -- after the event. Not because the miracle is no miracle, but because explanation is explanation. -- Franz Rosenzweig

A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool. -- G.K. Chesterton


Some years ago, not long after I returned to the Catholic Church, a random thought struck me about the notion of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. If Christ is truly present in every tabernacle of every Catholic church (perhaps some churches in the Los Angeles, Richmond, Albany, and St. Paul dioceses excluded) in the world, as the Catholic Church maintains, then that fact has some fascinating implications.

For example, if true, and if believed by Catholics, why would such Catholics ever want to be anywhere else? Why not simply hang around church all the time? Shouldn’t you try to be with that Presence around the clock? Why drop in for just an hour or so once a week?

I never really came up with a very good answer, other than that such spiritual stalking -- I won’t call it worship -- doesn’t seem very practical, whatever its transcendent mercies. We get hungry and sleepy. We have things to do. We have to work and live and die. We cannot just hang around church all day.

These things that we all have to do -- these things that keep us out of church, that keep us from doing, if what the Church teaches is true, what everyone should really want to do -- are necessities. They come with the turf of human existence.

The God that gave us the Real Presence -- an amazing thought in itself -- also created us. He knew we needed to do the very things that keep us away from the eternal Presence. He must have intended us to do these other things, then, even if they keep us away from the Real Presence for a week at a time, because we are living in the real world, and God put us here. And yet, the Real Presence is still there, in every Catholic church in the world.

I would not have created things this way. I would not have created a sacrament that way. God’s way is too internally inconsistent. And yet somehow, his way is better and seems more real, more improbable but still completely true, even if it does not appear to make sense.

This idea of a Genuine Plan, of a Design, that seems internally inconsistent, but is true, came back to me as I considered Christmas.

Christmas is hard for our age to grasp. Increasingly, it has become simply a commercial buildup to one bacchanalian day that fits into a smear of celebrations -- stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day -- that most people call “The Holidays,” presumably to blunt its Eurocentric poison and give them an excuse to eat Kwanza chicken.

However, because most of ostensibly Christian society has become completely divorced from the idea of a Church year, with its seasons and feasts, Christmas is just one day in the string. It is like a rose garden in the middle of the desert -- we come across it, maybe enjoy the looks of it, smell the roses a little, and slip back into the desert, taking with us a few good memories, but likely as alienated as ever.

Christ’s birth was a long time ago. It came at a rough time in human history. It came to a scratched out part of the world, and happened to those who, looked upon objectively, were not the consequential people of their day. It was an improbable start for what became a very big idea. Like the demand for constant worship implied by the Real Presence, the Christmas story seems unlikely, even crazy.

As we face Christmas morning, we are left considering something that -- like Christ in the tabernacle -- makes little sense and seems to imply impossible devotion. And like the notion of the power of the Real Presence, believers are left with many questions.

But at bottom, rests a rock-hard, stark proposition: that at one particular moment in time, and no other, at a time chosen for reasons that make no sense to me nor, as near as I can tell, to anyone else, God chose to enter human history to embark on a mission to save every soul, from the beginning of the world to the end of time.

Like so much else about God, it is just crazy enough to be true.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Last Day

There is but one shopping day before Christmas, and your humble Contributor is putting the final touches on his shopping list. Soon, he will consult his calendar to find a suitable time to begin the task.

Oh, you say, typical behavior in the male of the species homo sapiens -- waiting until the very last minute to do Christmas shopping, and ending up rummaging through the few, remaining items on the shelves: odd things, typically in re-taped and partially crushed boxes, such as a home tofu-maker, a set of color-coded of fondue forks, or a pair of lavender, aromatherapeutic slippers with additional scent strips such as Crystal Morning, Mountain Stream, or Herbal Sunset. (Note: no similar slippers available for men, in odors such as Springtime Fungi, Java Dribble, or Puppy Poupourri.) How long, you ask, can our patience last when presented with the likes of these.

Wait. I've already heard this. The flyers have been advertising "Last Minute" specials for the past week. But, this is mathematically incorrect. By my calculations, we still have more than 1,400 shopping minutes before Christmas. Plenty of time to hunt, take down, and drag out items from the mall. Please ladies: do not condemn men for being precise and arithmaically sound.

Plus, consider this scenario:

The world comes to a sudden end today -- December 23rd, 2004. All of your inordinate time spent finding the perfect gifts for a host of people has come to naught. You are stuck with a raft of presents that you can give to no-one, that no-one can enjoy, and that you cannot return even for store credit. Yes... all sales are final.

Worse yet, all of the hours you wasted in this vain pursuit you could have spent actually preparing for Christmas. Now, you are handed a one-way ticket to the place below. Meanwhile, your humble Contributor, who wisely refrained from presumptive shopping, would -- were it not for the fact that he led a uniformly dissolute and sinful life -- be enjoying every good gift in the place above.

You get my point.

Unfortunately, I seem, once again, to have dropped my point on my foot. Fortunately, its sharpness was slightly dulled by the lavender, aromatherapeutic slippers that I must now wear for the balance of eternity.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A Brief History of Tetherball

We have previously offered a primer on tetherball, considered its virtues, and, I trust, resolved its "issues". To round out an elementary re-education on this subject, we next attempt a brief history of tetherball.

Strange to say, we could find no concise -- much less comprehensive -- treatment of this noble sport. Fortunately, we have seen a renewed interest in exploring vital, though often ignored, subjects -- such as this recent historical sketch of the clothespin. One is tempted to ask -- why have they left us hanging for so long? Well, aided by the extensive research of our alert contributor Blue Clinkers, we mean to take down the laundry.

Early History - Uncertain Beginnings

Because of the scant sources now available, historians still disagree on the origins of tetherball.

Some hold that its roots might be found in the gruesome practice of the Tatars in about the 9th century, whereby they would string up the detached head of one of their unfortunate foes to a rough-hewn pole and beat it about for sport. The pole thus employed came to be know as the Barbar Pole, after the barbaric practitioners whose job it was to supply the head.

Over the centuries, these cut-throats refined their practice -- continuing to shear and spill some blood, but with far less drastic results (except in so-called "beauty parlors"); thus, the modern-day barber pole. (In fact, the transformation was been so complete, that the former bloodthirsts began warbling in close-harmony when not clipping heads.)


Note: This lively Tatar sport, no doubt, inspired the goat's head polo, with which the Afghanis are enthralled. Moreover, not to be outdone or to waste a thing, the neighoring Tajiks often engage in intramural goat carcass matches. Indeed, the name "polo" might be traced to an early Western traveler of these remote regions, Marco Polo, whose name, in turn, is derivative of "pole" (though, Marco was Italian).
Other scholars believe that tetherball evolved from early maypole rituals -- whereby an entire village might turn about a large pole, grasping tethers and dancing. Coming at the onset of warmth and fruitfulness in Northern Europe, the maypole was strongly associated with pagan rites of fertility. (Curiously, we could find no study of fertility and tetherball; but, we hypothesize that the offspring of tetherballers would, largely, be vigorous and well-rounded.)

Without a consensus on origins, we can nonetheless conclude that tetherball springs from either death or love or both -- which explains the poetic fascination with the sport.

***

Well... despite our best efforts, the body of tetherball literature has proven too large and rich to digest in one sitting. So, we must take in it in pieces. More anon.

__________ of the Year

This is the time of year when we learn the __________ (fill in the blank) of the Year. There's the Person of the Year, the Athletes of the Year, the Women in Public Relations Woman of the Year, the Blog of the Year, the Word of the Year, and the Fungus and Lichen of the Year (among other of nature's stars).

Many publications simply announce the winners, in oligarchic fashion. Others give their readers the opportunity to vote on a number of candidates for the honor (I was pulling for Amanita regalis to regain the top fungus spot.) But, notice that no-one allows the readership to choose the category! We aim to fix that, Hereunder.

We ask our gentle visitorship to nominate a category -- that is, _____________ (fill in the blank) of the Year -- in the comments below. For example, you can't use "Lichen", because that has been taken and is fast becoming unfunny; but, you can use "Plastic Bag" -- although, that would certainly lose. Anything will do except offensive and utterly tasteless submissions, which will be deleted with extreme prejudice.

In any case, we will leave the nominating open for the next week, then carefully study the submissions, then announce the winner in semi-oligarchic fashion next week.

***

In the crockpot... "A Brief History of Tetherball."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

You Go, Miss Pounsford!

Looking for some interesting alternative TV viewing in this age of vacant Hollywood twaddle and reality shows that reveal just how low society can go? Then go back in time to TV's roots in 1928! In the lab of Scottish television pioneer John Logie Baird, vivacious Miss Pounsford turns her elegant head this way and that (rather endlessly, thanks to modern-day technology) as one of the first persons to have her image televised. We're only sorry, we could not see her having a smoke! In any case, Miss Pounsford's efforts in the cause of science are quite an improvement over Stookie Bill.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Boughing To Pressure

Douglas poured himself a Scotch, and gazed wistfully into the broad room, almost unaware, for a moment, of his several guests. "I guess I’m a sap for the holidays," he said, ruminatively. "I still pine for the Old Days, you know."

Ivy sat back on the new sofa, gazing around the room, herself. "I love these new colors."

"Oh... yes," said Douglas, "We tried to spruce the place up a bit. Something called Loblolly or some such. I would have preferred something with a tinge of blue, or maybe a cypress. But, ... even so, I feel that we’re missing something."

Pointed as ever, with tray in hand, Holly said, "Now, darling, we discussed that. Still... I must agree -- something is missing."

Garland stood up and re-filled his own tumbler. "Why not hang something all about, you know. Something festive."

Ivy sat up and clapped her hands. "Oh, do! Something creeping."

Carol piped in, "Green would work ever so well."

"What? Do you mean some sort of vegetation?" asked Douglas.

Fraser, who had been quiet for some time, looked up from his book. "I should think something from the phylum coniferophyta might do nicely, especially this time of year."

"But," said Douglas, "Would that be allowed?"

"Not in public, certainly," said Garland, his elbow on the cedar chest. "But, I should think in the privacy of one’s own home... surely.... Anyhow, who would know?"

Carol sat on the bench, staring forlornly at the piano keys and wondering if she should play.

"Well," said Douglas, looking into his glass, "I should not like the authorities to know of it."

"Oh, now darling," said Holly, "Do be a man! What did those wonderful Gaelic ancestors of yours used to say -- 'Sé misneach arm fir misniúil' - 'A brave man's weapon is his heart' ? You should take a stand and put the axe to the trunk, so to speak. Then, we should ever call you 'Douglas fir'."

"Here, here!" said Garland. "Really, you should Doug. I wager y’ule not regret it."

"Here, here!" said the other guests, raising their glasses.

Douglas set his own glass down resolutely and said. "You're right! By golly Holly, I jolly well will!"

Just then, the chimes rang, and, straightaway, Douglas opened the door.

"Well, if it isn’t the Old Man himself," he said, greeting the newcomer with a beaming smile. "And bearing gifts, too – do come in Klaus."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Tweeking the Geek Out

We've entered a very self-conscious period of our brief career -- 15 days online -- adolescence in the lifespan of a webpub. So, we were extremely disturbed when a recent visitor opined that our humble site has "a slight, 'geek' quality to it;)" (Note her improper punctuation.)

Of course, if she meant 'geek' in the 'dweeb' sense, then we take the strongest exception to her characterization. Or, as we might otherwise have put it

>Dude! She was, like, so out of line :-[] I mean, like... I don't
know. It was, like, so random!

>>Brutal, dude.

Geeky, indeed. Notice how we employ the lexicon and cadence of speech of a middle to upper-middle class American youth, with vulgarities stripped out to avoid offending the sensibilities of our gentle visitors. This shows that we're "with it."

But, you say, these guys are bogus -- total posers. To the contrary, could a poser say the following

>Dude, you missed the latest post-hereunder! Totally radical! They rule!

>>Dude, I'm so bummed :-( What's the url?

Does that sound dweebish? Yeah, you wish.

CYAL8R


Mickey Mao

The toothy rodent -- seemingly quiet for some time -- has again reared his cute head. Now, he and his fellow travelers have joined with the Chinese Youth Communist League to begin a Second Long March -- this time south to establish the Magic Maoist Kingdom. Is this Goofy or what?

Are you now surprised that your cab stalled at the Chinese animatronic group in the It's a Small World ride on your last pilgrimage? Small world = one world.

Will we soon see the fowl, triumphant image of Donald "Peking" Duck? Or, Bambi and Thumper pointing the way to the Great Leap Forward?

One can only hope that the political and religious prisoners in China may have some access to Disney merchandise from their dank cells and labor camps, and, perhaps, a glimpse of the 2008 Olympics between the cold, steel bars.
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Friday, December 17, 2004

Christmas Gifts For Contributors

It's not too late to purchase appropriate Christmas gifts for our fine contributors.

Consider how much they have given you over the last few weeks. That they have given you nothing, next to nothing, or a whole lot of nothing should not trouble you. In some primitive cultures, doing nothing was well-regarded, and giving nothing was a sign of great respect: the notion being the non-gift bearer regards the non-recipient (such as a Great Leader or Goddess Queen) as having everything, and anything the downtrodden serf could offer would be paltry and insulting. Therefore, the non-gift giver came empty-handed. (Note: this is not reciprocal -- the Great Leader is expected to provide out his massive store of beneficence.)

We asked our contributors to create wish lists -- but, they resembled phone books for a large metropolitan area. Thus, after much effort on our side, and pouting on theirs, we have culled the lists to a single gift suggestion.

We know that our gentle visitorship would be happy to do the least they could do.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Traffic Report, Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Visitors are, no doubt, clamoring for an update on our traffic. Well, after our last breathless report of "biblical" gains in visitors, things settled down to a more "catechetical" proportion: 181 at days end. We have come through our Enron phase and -- not having to cook the books anymore -- look forward to a steady pace. (Trans: like a foot race at the senior center.)

One thing, however, was initially disturbing. A survey of our exit pages found two things:
  1. that John Kerry will be the next president, and
  2. that most visitors to our pages never return.

We wracked our brains attempting to come up with a rational explanation of No. 2. Finally, after an arduous non-failure of imagination, the answer became clear:

most visitors are so overcome with joy at these pages that they abandon the solitary outpost of their computing device, reject the virtual world, and embrace the real world, they're lives utterly transformed!

In fact, I have heard from one former visitor who was so moved by our ineffable wisdom that she is selling her suburban mini-mansion and purchasing a farm, where she plans to mark out a technology-free zone and to raise llamas. (I am now sorry that I dropped the complimentary 1986 Eastern Regional Llama Festival wine glass I had. It would have made a nice Christmas gift for her.)

Wonderful! A hearty bravo! But... are our former visitors just a bit too joyful too soon? Too satisfied with too little? Our potential advertisers are growing restive at this news.

Gentle non-visitors, wouldn't you be more satisfied with, say, a commercial showing an SUV traveling through a beautiful, digitally-enhanced wilderness, where you would never drive anyhow, with the windows rolled-up against the harsh environs, with the strains of John Tesh coming from the premium sound system? As the Volvo ad once went, this car might save your soul. Or, for that one-on-one connection, personals in the sidebar:

... I enjoy cozy, fire-lit evenings, dewy spring mornings, and long walks off short piers-- ha, ha, just kidding.

Please consider this.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Emily Post and Crying Rooms

I promised a rant, a churlish screed. But if one waits long enough, these moments often pass. I had read a news article about long-dead etiquette queen Emily Post's institute naming the 10 most rude things people do to each other in today's society. Among them, rather high on the list, I believe, was parents who bring noisy children to restaurants. Not even sure if I have the phrasing right, as I tossed the paper and later couldn't find the article online.

Gimme' me a break, America. This isn't England--we like children in the USA. Or do we like them enough? To wit:

A young mother attending a local house of worship with her children had problems with the two-year-old, who was getting a little squirmy (through a half-hour-plus sermon, I believe). The toddler wasn't unusually distracting (not "on a tear" in tearoom, as Emily might have phrased it)--except to the "Perfect Father," of another family, who was sitting rather inconveniently behind the child. As the mother managed to intermittantly quiet the child through various tricks that mothers use, the Perfect Father could contain himself no longer. "Puh-leaze!!!" uttered he in a loud hiss to everybody in general. It was loud enough to prompt two rows of the congregation, previously focused on the service, to turn their heads around to see what was going on. The embarassed mother later said, "Maybe I should have asked him to pray for me." Oh, perhaps he was. One never knows.

My point is that society has lowered its tolerance for children being children. We drug them with ritalin in schools and expect to be packed off to "crying rooms" at the first or second or third misguided peep or word in church. Yes, parents should control children, guide them in right morals and manners, and make sure they don't put pussy in the well, but perfection in the social graces, as Emily knows, we hope more perfectly now, takes years of effort and practice. And while there may have been perfect children raised by perfect parents, instances of these are rather, uh, singular.

"Issues" With Tetherball

A devoted (and imaginary) visitor recently sent this note:

Dear Remainderman:

I read with interest your illuminating, but too brief, piece on the virtues of tetherball. I must admit, I find it hard to argue with your indemonstrable logic: without a doubt, this sport has peculiar virtues.

My problem, however, is a personal one. You see, my memories of playing tetherball as I child are dark and disturbing. The fellas were always after me to play -- but, I never felt like they were asking me just for the fun of it -- I always felt like there was a string attached.


Then, when we did play, these guys -- bullies really -- would take advantage of my short stature to pound the ball relentlessly, until the ball and rope were wrapped around the pole tighter than a cobra's coil.


Over the years, I got over these memories, and my lower earnings -- or, at least, I thought I did until I came across your piece. Suddenly, the memories began rushing back.

Objectively, I agree with your conclusions; subjectively, I can't. What am I missing?

A gentle visitor.


Gentle Visitor, my first response to your cry for help would have been: "Buck up, man! That's the way the ball bounces." But, of course, that would not apply to tetherball and, in any case, it would seem insensitive and slightly Schlesingeresque.

Let me try to help -- two points.
  1. Your ill-education (not your fault) has left you entirely ignorant of tetherball tactics. Study these and stop worrying about "rushing memories" and start employing the "sudden rush" technique (staying on your side, of course).
  2. If this fails, then perhaps you should consider taking up a sport where the short of stature (darling folks, by the way, we love you all) suffer no disadvantage -- such as shuffleboard. (Although arm extension may be a factor in effective follow-through.)

I trust that answers your "issues" and boosts your confidence in that great arc of the tether.

Soon, we hope to give the first brief treatment of the history of tetherball.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A Word On "Filler"

Many visitors to this site -- such that there ever any -- may find that, given the bustle of the season, they do not have the time to read and absorb the various postings hereunder each day; and, based upon a superficial glance, some may leap to the rash conclusion that these pages are filled with hastily prepared pap and meal; or, worse, a slapdash hash of inconsequence and tomfoolery; or, worst, a steady diet of gruel (to quote The Bard) "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." But, the truth is far from that.

First, one should note that any daily publication of consequence, from time to time, struggles to fill itself with worthy news and opinion, owing to the pressure of going to press or the wont of compelling matter. The grand journals typically have large staffs and are, generally, able to avoid "filling", such as with a story about two ducks named Fred and Ethel in the local pond.

Second, our own staff is, by any measure, modest in size; yet, the demands upon it are no less great. We have been wisely hesitant to rush into the digital maelstrom, so we still do things the "old-fashioned" way -- e.g., painstakingly setting the type for each posting. Moreover, we must address the typical business of publishing: complex design and layout; frequent editorial meetings; routine attorney consults regarding libel, defamation, slander, plagiarism, false utterance, postal fraud, scandal, and outrage; etc. All, I might add, without remuneration.

Third, though still toddlers, as it were, in the world of words, we have the great promise of our Other Contributors. Even now, they are composing as yet unwritten tomes of great weight and scope -- no doubt considering how Pythagoras or Aeschylus or Herodotus would hold on a particular point -- taking care to allow each thought to mature fully, unlike certain of our hasty visitors.

In all, we will continue to create, as Shelley once wrote (perhaps seeing ahead to this project with unfailing clairvoyance) "a record of the happiest and best moments of the happiest and best minds." And, we are happy to do so.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Feast of St. Lucy

"Then you shall be radiant at what you see."
As feasts go, a strange and wonderful day, this day. As John Donne wrote:

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;

The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world's whole sap is sunk;...

(from A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day)

Lucy is patron saint of disorders of eyes (having lost her eyes prior to her death at the hands of Diocletian) and of "light", if you will, since her feast day falls on the winter solstice in the old Julian calendar -- the harbinger for the lengthening of days -- and her name derives from lux -- light.

As a consequence, this day, the Swede's are as apt to wear lit candles on their heads as drive Saab's or Volvo's, and the Sicilians are likely to eat "Santa Lucia's eyes" and cuccia.

In our own country, sitcoms generally frame our celebrations and understanding of ourselves -- no less true for Lucy -- mother of all sitcoms. Some would blame Fred and Ethel for this turn of events -- I think that's unfair.

In any case, for our own celebrations, we might do better to raise a mug of steamed coffee, share spherical biscotti, and sing a few stanzas of "Santa Lucia".

Skip the "Babalu".


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Sofa Remorse

It happens. A kind of decor-induced cognitive dissonance under the genus lamentabilis emptoris ("buyer's remorse"); a subspecies of furniture anguish; first cousin to dresser depression, bureau blues, and dry sink regret.

We know how it happened. How inviting she looked in the soft, warm light of the catalog -- the sultry earth tones; the fresh fruit casually heaped in a bowl beside; the promise of recline and gentle conviviality. Your senses came to life; your imagination awakened; your left brain shut down. See seat; love seat; buy seat. Then, one day, she arrived, and, in the cold, hard light of the day, she resembled nothing more than a brazen settee -- a tawdry lounge act.

Then, you turned slowly to that grand, old divan, looking worn and forlorn, pushed to the side, and seeming to weep. "After all these years -- giving you the comfort of my arms, supporting you in your weariness, absorbing your bumps and beverage indiscretions, and offering a place for your uncouth guests -- after all this, am I to be shuffled off to the cellar, peddled to a passerby, or made an object of charity, for the sake of this ... this young, bolstered and well-upholstered thing?"

Now you're thinking twice... second guessing, like the armchair general, who hasn't seen action since the ottomans were put underfoot. "Why, if I were young, we'd be walking all over those damnably dense Persians!"

But, wait -- there's is a simple remedy. First, be honest with your feelings -- stop cushioning the hurt... stop couching it mere disappointment. You hate this sofa! Good. Now, remember when, one day, himself was a witty, charming, attentive fiancé, and, the next, he was a slug of a husband slouching on the... yes, the sofa. And, in time, you got over it: you changed the lighting, you re-arranged things, you accessorized. Soon, he had blended into the furnishings.

Yes! Patience. Imagination. It will be alright!

There Is A God

As reported recently by Paul Harvey.

Good day.
Link

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Virtues of Tetherball

I have treated this subject in passing, hereunder; but, it certainly deserves a more complete exposition.

Time was that the virtues of tetherball were well known to every grammar school student. We've since become largely uneducated. For those who need a refresher, or a first reading, on the simple advantages of tetherball, they need only look here.

But, the benefits do not end with a brief physical education. For example, tetherball provides a wonderful entree to the problems of physics, what with it's centripetal and centrifugal aspects. Of course, the ball itself has been central to demonstrating Bernoulli's Principle. One can almost picture the young Johann Bernoulli observing the path of a rudimentary tetherball in an Antwerp sandlot, and, suddenly, discovering some axiom or other of calculus. Or, the tyke-ish Johann Kepler, doing likewise, and seeing the motions of the planets.

And, oh, the larger life lessons one learns only with time around the pole. Just, for instance, that the guy with greater stature and agility always wins (and makes more money). Or, that one's career is likely to involve staying in one place with his focal work turning in circles, never really advancing. Or, that what goes around, comes around. When you think about it, tetherball also serves as a vital metaphor for interpersonal communications -- particularly between husband and wife.

With such evident and excellent virtues, it is hard to imagine that the sport has gone flat with the public. Sadly, it's fair to say that the game has gone to the dogs.

Still, we look for a rebound. Toward that end, we will soon consider certain "issues" with tetherball.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Traffic Report, Friday, December 09, 2004

Well, well. We are truly pleased. From 1 visitor on December 6th to 70 visitors by December 9th. This increase goes far beyond any geometric progression known to mathematicians -- 70 fold -- it is, in a word, biblical. Unfortunately, the bible verse it brings to mind involves Jezebel and Beelzebub. That's right: the numbers are fudged. Big time.

We've pieced things together, and here -- as best as we can determine -- is how it went.

7:05 a.m. Home. Change setting on site meter, such that any visit by contributor yields hit. Exit and enter repeatedly like 18-month-old male of species homo sapiens making fun sound by applying paternal adjustable wrench on sheet metal of shiny new car.

7:45 a.m. Starbucks. Ask young lady for brief use of her laptop. She is taken aback. Establish authenticity and volatility by shaving one eyebrow and grasping double-shot espresso in shaking hand. She permits. Check blog. Set blog as her new home page. Thank her. Tell her that her cafe americain is gauche to the French, offensive to real Americans, and, in any case, has grown tepid.

8:05 a.m. On interstate. Spend ten minutes attempting to hit blog employing used, ancient (circa 2000) PDA, provided some time ago by client in lieu of paying his bill. Discover that it needs 4 AA batteries to operate. Discard.

8:30 a.m. Office. Over work day, secretly switch home pages for each employee. On PC of woman in Purchasing, place bid on Ebay for collection of clothespin figurines.

6:30 p.m. Home. Spend early evening writing fawning comments to entries. Mistakenly post comments to MegaDeathLives blog. Later, fall asleep during third episode of Hawai’i Five-O marathon.

Book ‘im, Danno.

Blue Clinkers, You Ask?

What on earth? Indeed, earth. Twice-fired--at least in Holland. I hope to take advantage of their versatility. To lay a foundation, to build an edifice, to pave a road, and occasionally, to loft one in the general direction of a deserving target. But like many a novice, I'll be learning on the job. So if you can't quite figure out what's being built, or if my shakey limb tosses wide of the mark, or even if the pavement seems to lead nowhere--or everywhere--I ask you, Patient Reader, to bear with me.

Stay tuned. I'm feeling a churlish moment coming on . . .

Thursday, December 09, 2004

A Word On Our Other Contributors

Please do not mistake the seeming scarcity of our Other Contributors as slack or detachment. They are no sphinxes; they are no mute, terrifying idols, demanding everything and supplying nothing. Far from that.

Rather, they are men of such letters and learning that their very quietude inspires whatever scraps of wit and wisdom one might find on these pages. (What? ... then keep looking. They're here.)

How shall I put it? Well, for instance, Christmas comes but once a year, and, yet, most people do not truly wish that it came each day. It is this great feast's relative rarity that makes it all the more anticipated. Just so, these daily postings are like so many dreary X's on the calendar; but, when the Other Contributors post--why, one might fairly draw a rotund circle around the date with many, emphatic stars.

And, believe me, with good reason: for these quotidian ramblings of mine are but the continuo awaiting the soaring strains of the virtuosos that will come.

"The deserts will become like Eden."

Fantasy Tetherball

It's not too early to begin thinking about your fantasy tetherball line-up for the coming season. Baseball is long since over, and some players are spending the off-season relaxing before grand juries. Football has failed as a political prognosticator. Hockey is taking a sabbatical. Basketball has become too violent a spectator sport. Curling season is already well underway. (Note: revised rules of curling apply sweeping changes.)

The indoor tetherball season, of course, begins on January 1st, taking as its cue the dropping of the Great Ball from the pole at Times Square. The outdoor season begins on April 1st, when the real talent comes out to play. This year, the Word Tetherball Federation has adopted the following theme: "What Makes The Ball Go 'Round."

Amazingly, there are still tetherball deniers out there. Consider these insolent comments:
Where outside of camp have you ever seen anyone play Tetherball? You don’t hear anyone quitting work for the day and heading for the gym for a good game of Tetherball. I’m fairly certain it's illegal outside of licensed summer camp facilities due to the danger inherent in that rope getting wrapped too high up the pole. (http://www.harrisonline.com/plain/2000/jph0306.htm)

But, this bespeaks a shocking ignorance about the game. One might start with a primer on the rules. Then, by golly, get out and give it a whirl. We think you'll find it a vigorous, challenging, and animated sport.

More on the advantages of tetherball soon.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Warrior Monk

Benedictines rock!
Link

Flowing With Non-Dairy Creamer

"On that day, the mountains shall drip new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk."

I can see that day coming. For now, at least, we have milk in the fridge.

Dairy products had become the victim of the current domestic obsession with pigment application and -- to be honest -- my own lacteal lackadaisiality. "No-one is stopping you from picking some up." Strictly speaking, this is true; but the issue is more complex and nuanced than that.

Not three days ago, found myself searching out a suitable, substitute mate for the coffee. Snapped a packet and ripped it open. Here's what came out.

  • Corn syrup solids - what you scrape off the plate a few hours after serving pancakes.
  • Vegetable oil - since when are cotton seeds, safflowers, and/or palm kernels vegetables?
  • Sodium caseinate (a milk derivative) - in the sense that a few, unscaled notes are derivatives of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
  • Dipotassium phosphate (moderates coffee acidity) - I though that was the point... a little acid to balance our base natures.
  • Mono & Diglyerides (prevents oil separation) - what they use for tanker spills.
  • Sodium aluminosilicate - made its name as additive to paint and pet care products.
  • Artificial flavors - surprise.
  • Annatto color - actually that might look good in the billiard room.

Believe me, I have nothing against non-dairy hot beverage lighteners; just not my cup of tea.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Traffic Report, Monday, December 06, 2004

Our first recorded visit yesterday. Admittedly, it was very late at night. And, yes, our visitor may have landed here by some happy misdirection akin to driving off a dark and lonely mountain road and encountering a fast approaching ravine.

Yet, what joy! It's like the difference between existence and non-existence. Like the difference between getting a zero on a test and getting one point for a partially-correct spelling of your name.

I imagine our fair visitor to be a post-modern Diogenes, wandering the webbed wasteland in search of an honest site -- pausing for approximately 3 seconds to fix his beam upon us -- then shuffling off to another URL.

Or, like a latter-day Lone Ranger sans Tonto and Silver -- searching out injustice, outrage, and atrocity. Kemo sabe -- you find here.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Feast of St. Nicholas

Poor old St. Nick. Obese. Pipe-smoking. Harnessing endangered species as beasts of burden. Using up vital habitat in the fast-shrinking northern polar cap. Running a sweat shop on the backs of the vertically challenged. Wearing a garish, fur-lined outfit.

Are you surprised that you've been banned from some Christmas parades? What could now recommend you to the children of the world? Pure jollity? Come now. When was the last time anyone felt appropriately "jolly"?

The way I see it, you have two choices:
  1. get the patch, go vegan, raise consciousness, become a goddess, and travel in a solar-powered vehicle; or
  2. return to your roots.

The latter's probably better.

P.S. I've been good this year.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Pallette For A Palate

Melon in the kitchen. Bran Muffin in the dining room. Peanut Butter in the bathroom. Therefore, it was a great disappointment when the living room went to Martinique Morn.

But, you say, did you consider Martinique Dawn? Yes. But, even the most saturated palette in Fort-de-France could barely tell the difference.

No. What was sad was the abandonment of the food theme. Why not stick with Celery? In the right light, a Fennel would also have satisfied. Or, Baked Brie - certainment. Why not Glazed Pears with a trim of Vanilla Brandy? Or, for that matter, Horseradish -- though, this is merely a condiment.

True, we'd almost need a gourmand to advise us, instead of the woman they pulled from Hardware to mix the paint. (Did she know the difference between a claw and ball peen? Hard to tell. But neither would be the thing to apply to a Mosaic Glass.)

Maybe I should drop the whole food thing. Just roll a Tobacco. Indoors! Think of the hue it would stir. Or, rather, lounge in a Spring Meadow, aye the Green Pastures. Or, something chic -- a Cafe Clair alongside a Brunette sporting Pearls & Lace -- by all means. Or, go further and slap up a Panacea. Mount the ladder for Cloud Nine.

Or, maybe draw on my own color challenges to produce new, alchemic colors: Barking Dog, Vengeance, Rotted Stump.

No. Food and fruit are the things. We should do the living in Olive.

"A spreading olive tree, goodly to behold."

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Traffic Report, Friday, December 03, 2004

Happy to report an utterly unvisited blog on its first day. There is something pure and wonderful about emptiness: a clear, blue sky; a vast, uncluttered horizon; an uninhabited place. How delightful the open road and a full load of fossil fuel.

I have consulted the great vacancy of my mind, from time to time, and found it pleasing and restful.

I forgot what my point was.

----- Original Message ----- Sent: Saturday, December 04, 2004 12:21 AM
Subject: hereunder traffic report for Friday, December 03, 2004

Hereunder
-- Site Summary ---
Visits Total ............................ 0
Average per Day .................. -
Average Visit Length ............. -
This Week ........................ 0
Page Views Total ............................ 0
Average per Day .................. -
Average per Visit ................ -
This Week ........................ 0

Friday, December 03, 2004

Election Results for the Sports Fan and the Superstitious

It's been a month since the election, and, still, some are in a blue state.

Some watched polls, some examined entrails, some consulted augurs, and some conjured Fillmores past. I can do nothing to console these folks.

But, to those who relied on the Gridiron Bounce, I can offer some enigmatic balms.

The Oracle at Delphi

Legend has it that, in the 8th Century B.C., the Oracle advised a quadrennial sports festival to bring peace among the warring Greek states. Some say she's been silent for a few millennia; others say she's moved to another site. Did Cheney secretly visit the Delphic ruins in early August with talking points for the Pythian priestess? Was it coincidence that the presidential election comes the same year as the Olympics? Or, that the U.S.A. walked away with the most olive clusters? Or, how about that the marathon run actually began in Marathon?

The Curse of the Bambino

The Boston Red Sox had not won the World Series since 1918, when they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The Bambino went on to become the Sultan of Swat. Did the Oracle consult the Olympian pantheon at the behest of Bill Buckner? Did the gods offer just one choice: Fenway Park or Beacon Hill -- the Bosox Bullpen or the Botox Brahman. We know how it went. Next thing you know, Curt Shilling was stumping for Bush. Unrelated events?

The Oracle of the Pigskin

The rule was this -- whenever the Washington Redskins won their last home game before a presidential election, the incumbent party would win the White House; conversely, whenever they lost their last home game, the challenger would win. This year, the Redskins lost to Green Bay, but Bush won. Clinton Portis scored what looked like the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter -- before the play was called back on a bogus penalty. Did the Redskins actually win... before they lost?

I don't pretend to know all the answers; but, I hope this helps. You might also just ask Pythia.