Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Simon Says...

Did you know that the song “The 12 Days of Christmas” is a coded message used to teach Catholic children about the bible during the Anglican Reformation in England? According to one website:

“Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829 were prohibited by law to practice their faith either in public or private. It was illegal to be Catholic until Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England in 1829[…] The 12 Days of Christmas is in a sense an allegory. Each of the items in the song represents something significant to the teachings of the Catholic faith. The hidden meaning of each gift was designed to help Catholic children learn their faith. The better acquainted one is with the Bible, the more these interpretations have significance.”

It then lists the different days and what they mean:

1 Partridge in a pear tree = Jesus Christ2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists 5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the 'Pentateuch' which contain the law condemning us of our sins.6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation7 Swans A-swimming = the gifts of the Holy Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Spirit10 Lords A-leaping = the Ten Commandments11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Isn’t that interesting?

No, it’s not.

Because it’s completely fucking wrong. And nothing about it makes any sense. I could go into great detail outlining why this whole idea is so completely batshit crazy, but most of what I say would be cribbed from the excellent Snopes article on this very subject. And here it is -

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait…..Done? Welcome back. Did you like that? Wasn’t the final sentence just the best thing you’ve ever read? If you didn’t read it, basically it says that the song was likely a memory game people played in the days when the ball and cup game was the pinnacle of entertainment. One person named a gift (“A partridge in a pear tree”), and the next person added to it before repeating the previous gifts (“Two turtle doves/and a partridge in a pear tree”), and on around the circle adding more and more until people couldn’t keep it going anymore. Just like Simon. Aren’t I clever?
Anyway, by now I’ve taken up about 10 minutes of your time, and I’m sure you’re wondering why. Well, I’ve been hearing this particular myth for some years now, and I’m truthful enough to say that the first time I heard it, I sort of believed it. I mean, that song must be about something, and it’s in our nature as humans to seek out the origins of things. Case closed. And I didn’t think about it again AT ALL for a couple years.
Then, one boring day, I happened upon the article listed above and my eyebrows raised, I put the information into the part of my mind where I keep useless factoids, and once again I didn’t think about it again. But I’ll be damned (no pun intended) if the following Christmas this story didn’t spring up like a bloody pox. I must have had to sit through five or six different people rattling off this claptrap, their voices the very definition of matter-of-fact as enthralled audiences nodded along with self satisfied shit eating grins on their faces*. And you may not be able to infer from my typical blog posts, but I’m actually not the type of person who likes correcting people to their faces, especially in public. There’s rarely any point to it. So I let it go, hoping that one day they would figure out the truth (and quietly hoping that a far bigger asshole than me who KNEW the truth would get the satisfaction of telling them.)
Basically though, for me it all comes down to two things – First, stop telling me how hard it is to be a Christian and trying to illustrate your point with ridiculous tales like this. Nobody cares, least of all me, and I will kick you in your crotch regardless of your gender. And second, if you’re going to devote your life to something (like a religious faith) at least have the decency to do the fucking research. Every year people piss and moan about how commercial Christmas is, and how we need to put Christ back into it. And if you believe that, good. Good for you. Don’t stop believing in something. Just make sure that something isn’t some shit somebody made up.

*Note: This sentence contains WAAAAYYYYYY too much description. But I just really want you to understand. Forgive me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hold me closer...

Ok, this is a post I've been meaning to do for a while so bear with me and strap in; it's gonna be a long one.

If you asked me what my favorite movie was (and people often do), my answer would be a slightly evasive "It depends on my mood. There are so many." And that's true - at any given time it might be Seven Samurai (if I'm in an action movie phase), The Godfather (if I'm feeling drama), Malcolm X (because he's the coolest person ever) or Schindler's List (I have my reasons). But whatever my answer, there is always an asterix attached. One of these ---> *. Without a doubt my always and forever favorite movie is Almost Famous (in addition to one of the above). Every time I watch it I find it means more to me than the last time. Now, I'm not going to defend it as the best movie ever made; Cameron Crowe is really just John Hughes for the late nineties, and his movies are in much the same vein. But no film speaks to me more than this one, and here's why:

Most everyone who knows me understands that I've always been in bands since I was about 12 years old. I started playing out in bars and clubs a couple months after my 19th birthday, and I continue to do so to this day. The exact number of bands I've been in is a subjective question. If you count the numbers of different people that I've jammed with over the years with the intention of starting a band only to have it fall through after one or two practices, than...probably between 50 and 80. If, however, you only count the projects that got off the ground then I would have to say I've been in around five bands (two of which played out semi-professionally). I've been a musician since I was 12 and through my teen years and into my twenties that was all I wanted to be. The story of why that's no longer exactly true is a longer one and definitely for another day. But, during those years I focused on nothing else. I went through junior high, high school and some of college having never played any sports (save for one half-hearted year of football during which I never played), dated ANYONE or been a member of any type of activity. I just wanted to play in bands and, I hoped, be semi-successful at it. I could write an entire book about all of the ins and outs of this, and how and why it made me who I am for better and worse. Instead I'll move on.
Bands, you see, are alot like a bad relationship. Everyone goes into it thinking that it's the best thing ever. You'll have a couple practices where everything seems to gel, and everyone will be getting along so well. You'll know in the back of your mind that every previous band you've been in started in just this same fashion, and they all invariably ended up a mangled corpse of bruised egos, stupid ideas and frivolous anger. "This time, though, it's different" you'll tell yourself. "This is the ONE." And, to all appearances, it is. You'll master a few songs, put together some of your own, book some shows, and maybe even get some recognition. Things have never been better. Then slowly things start to crumble. People who were perfectly happy in the limelight will start to demand that their ideas be heard. Women will start coming around. And bit by bit everything ends up in the same public toilet as your last venture.
I was always left holding the bag in these situations because, and stay with me here, I had the purest motives.
"Bullshit" you say, and you're right to do so, but let me say this. I won't deny that it's nice to look out onto a sea of people and know that they came to see you (at least partly), or that it's nice to have praise heaped upon you, and it's certainly nice to get the attention of women you wouldn't even dream of talking to otherwise (and I must interject here that sex is almost NEVER a factor here. Don't let movies fool you into thinking that small local acts get more ass than a toilet seat. That's for the big guys.) But I was never in it for those reasons. I was in it because I LOVED music and how it allowed me to express myself. And that's the secret. If you do something for any other reason than it makes you truly happy you'll never stick with it. You'll elope with the first pretty face that comes your way. And everyone always did.
But I digress, and I fear that I've lost you, or at least that I've gone completely off topic. Forgive me for that, this is a sensitive subject for me. So I'll leave you with this one final thought.

Watch it please and watch it all. If you somehow managed to get inside my head (no pun intended) this video would be playing in a constant loop. I guess I've said enough. I'll write more if it's seems warranted.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Just for you

Since I haven't made any comments about it yet, I started my new job yesterday. It's a bit overwhelming to be working in a new place in a completely new field. Nevertheless, it's not the degree of culture shock I've had when starting other jobs in the past. Maybe because I'm finally old enough to realize that it's pointless to worry about most of the things people worry about when they go into a completely alien (and possibly hostile) environment. To give you an example of what that means, I refer to people liking you, wanting to be immediately good at the new job, worrying about how you look, ect... You get the point.

I'll post alot more about this soon I'm sure, but I worked 12 straight hours today with almost no rest. My face hurts, and I didn't even use it except to eat.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turtle, Swan

Because the road to our house
is a back road, meadowlands punctuated
by gravel quarry and lumberyard,
there are unexpected travelers
some nights on our way home from work.
Once, on the lawn of the Tool

and Die Company, a swan;
the word doesn't convey the shock
of the thing, white architecture
rippling like a pond's rain-pocked skin,
beak lifting to hiss at my approach.
Magisterial, set down in elegant authority,

he let us know exactly how close we might come.
After a week of long rains
that filled the marsh until it poured
across the road to make in low woods
a new heaven for toads,
a snapping turtle lumbered down the center

of the asphalt like an ambulatory helmet.
His long tail dragged, blunt head jutting out
of the lapidary prehistoric sleep of shell.
We'd have lifted him from the road
but thought he might bend his long neck back
to snap. I tried herding him; he rushed,

though we didn't think those blocky legs
could hurry-- then ambled back
to the center of the road, a target
for kids who'd delight in the crush
of something slow with the look
of primeval invulnerability. He turned

the blunt spear point of his jaws,
puffing his undermouth like a bullfrog,
and snapped at your shoe,
vising a beakful of-- thank God--
leather. You had to shake him loose. We left him
to his own devices, talked on the way home

of what must lead him to new marsh
or old home ground. The next day you saw,
one town over, remains of shell
in front of the little liquor store. I argued
it was too far from where we'd seen him,
too small to be his... though who could tell

what the day's heat might have taken
from his body. For days he became a stain,
a blotch that could have been merely
oil. I did not want to believe that
was what we saw alive in the firm center
of his authority and right

to walk the center of the road,
head up like a missionary moving certainly
into the country of his hopes.
In the movies in this small town
I stopped for popcorn while you went ahead
to claim seats. When I entered the cool dark

I saw straight couples everywhere,
no single silhouette who might be you.
I walked those two aisles too small
to lose anyone and thought of a book
I read in seventh grade, "Stranger Than Science,"
in which a man simply walked away,

at a picnic, and was,in the act of striding forward
to examine a flower, gone.
By the time the previews ended
I was nearly in tears-- then realized
the head of one-half the couple in the first row

was only your leather jacket propped in the seat
that would be mine. I don't think I remember
anything of the first half of the movie.
I don't know what happened to the swan. I read
every week of some man's lover showing
the first symptoms, the night sweat

or casual flu, and then the wasting begins
and the disappearance a day at a time.
I don't know what happened to the swan;
I don't know if the stain on the street
was our turtle or some other. I don't know
where these things we meet and know briefly,

as well as we can or they will let us,
go. I only know that I do not want you--
you with your white and muscular wings
that rise and ripple beneath or above me,
your magnificent neck, eyes the deep mottled autumnal colors
of polished tortoise-- I do not want you ever to die.

-Mark Doty

This is my favorite poem ever. It might be because I met Mark Doty once at a reading (and the preceding reception), and I heard him personally read it with the explanation that is was what it so obviously is - a poem about his lover dying of AIDS. It might be that I was so immediately impressed by him on a personal level: the fact that we shared the same affection for Tolstoy, but above that the simple fact that he was so approachable and interesting and fun.

Anyway, as for why I'm posting it: Despite the fact that I have a degree in Lit, I've never been a big poetry guy. I appreciate poetry, and I have read several poems that I've liked, but poetry hardly ever made its way into my daily life the way that straight up prose fiction did. Outside of the select few poems that have implanted themselves into the modern subconscious (Two roads diverged...yeah, see? Try and judge me now), what poems I liked were quickly forgotten. This poem is really the sole exception to that. Lines from it randomly pop into my head all the time. So Reason #1 was the fact that it's a fantastic poem. So read it.

"This is the worst kind of discrimination. The kind against me."
--Bender Bending Rodriguez

Reason #2 is like that quote: more depressing because it involves my life. I was watching some of "The Two Towers" on TV last night (aren't marathons great?) and I got to thinking about a friend of mine who used to LOVE the Lord of the Rings. We worked together and I don't know how many hours we must have spent talking about those books and movies. He eventually moved to another house, and eventually left the Center altogether. We lost touch, but I'd always hoped to run into him again. I still had a book he loaned me for one, but I missed the guy too. A couple months ago I heard an unconfirmed rumor that he'd suffered a massive stroke (he was, I think, 53 or 54) and they were going to take him off life support. I tried in vain to find out if this were true until I saw his obituary in the paper two days later. After my initial acceptance, I figured that at least I would be able to go see him one last time. I scanned to the bottom of the article to find where and when the funeral and/or showing would be when I happened upon the line, "burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the family" and then it had somebody's home address. Classy.

So Lord of the Rings brought me to my friend, which brought me to Turtle, Swan, which brought me to you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

T-minus 8 days...

...until I start my new job. Now here is a random video of a gecko dancing to 50 cent.

I dare you to watch this and not laugh. I dare you.

And make sure your friends are there to see it.

You're welcome.

I swear I won't do this alot.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Life During Wartime

I thought that today I would actually try blogging instead of just throwing up random thoughts from inside my head for all to ignore. So here it goes.

Michael Moore was on Larry King on November 19th to discuss the proposal to divert some of the $700 billion (with a "B") Wall Street "bailout" to the big three automaker to alleviate some of their financial woes. Here's the link (and I suggest you watch it if possible):

The whole thing is just over 7 minutes long, but the part I'm talking about starts at the 5 minute mark.

I personally love Michael Moore. Not so much for his politics, which are hit and miss with regards to my own, but for being so much of a d-bag. He truly does not give a fuck, and whether he's right or not, we need people like him. If you hate him, then...good.

Anyway, for those who don't watch it, he basicly says that this is the opportunity we've been needing for some time to force a change in the auto industry. Tell these companies that if they want this money, they will have to start building hybrid cars, fuel efficient SUV's, mass transit systems, and all of the work needs to be done in America. I'll let you draw your own conclussion, but I'd like to hear about it when you do.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

More new beginnings

I heard today that I finally got hired at Erie Insurance. For those of you that don't know (and those that do) I have been trying to crack that nut for years. I can't tell you how many times I've gone onto their website hoping to find a job posting that I could even think about applying for, or how many times I got dressed up and walked down there resume in hand, to only be sent packing by the receptionist (though I harbor no ill will toward her and never did).

To new beginnings...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Here are links to a couple of videos that make me smile. The first is, I'm sure, the sort of thing that a child of mine will do some adorable time.

The next one is NOT safe for work, but DO watch it sometime. It's probably my favorite video ever.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I get like that sometimes

I remember when I was a small child, every Thanksgiving (that I can remember at least) was held at our house. Relatives would come and go, in a rush to get to as many different gatherings as they could cram into a day. It never bothered me; there's not even anything in particular which sticks in my mind outside of a few random images. To tell you the truth Thanksgiving never meant that much to me. What does stick with me, though, is the memory of getting up from the table in those days and thinking, "That's's now officially Christmas."

Like most every child I enjoyed Christmas, though not for the rampant commercialism. I'm not going to lie and say that the prospect of new things didn't excite me, but I just liked the fact that it was the one time a year that my whole family, well my mother's side of the family, got together in one place. Everything would be filled with a positive energy, and my memories of those years past are full motion videos in my mind. I recall, for instance, that this was the setting in which I saw "The Princess Bride" for the first time. See what I mean?

But, actually, that entire story is not even the point of the blog. No, I somewhat wasted your time with it in order to tell you this story:

Every year, when the gifts had all been unwrapped and the final person had left, I would go to bed and lay awake for what seemed like hours fearing the prospect of the next day. I was now, for all intents and purposes inside the mind of a child, at the furthest point between two Christmas's. New York to Paris. I would begin to think that I hadn't actually lived in the moment quite enough - that I had taken this last month for granted and now it was gone for an entire year. And so, when the following Thanksgiving rolled around and I got up from that table, I would begin to try hanging on to the random happy moments that occurred during the Christmas holiday. The trouble was, I could never seem to keep it up for very long. There were always too many other things going on for me to stop and appreciate what was going on around me, and I was without fail left with the same feeling at the end of every December 25th.

I've always tried to hold on to moments too much, and as a result I've always been overly wistful. And that's how I feel right now about a few certain things.

That was the point of this blog. I could go on...for a while. But I won't. Thanks for reading this far. Let me know what you think, because I'd like to hear it.

And don't worry, they won't all be this long.

Monday, November 10, 2008

...and we're live.

This is my first blog. Thanks to May for giving me the idea (or more properly letting me steal it). More to follow.