Sunday, December 25, 2005

It ain't a fit night out for man or beast...

I realise not everyone thinks WC Fields funny, and many seemed shocked by his attitudes, but I think it very unseemly that so much of the planet should have a raucous party on the day he died. Much worse taste than anything he ever said or did. Observers say he never appeared drunk, but he was touchy about it sometimes. When The Christian Science Monitor complained that Never Give a Sucker an Even Break had "the usual atmosphere of befuddled alcoholism," he wrote back: "Wouldn't it be more terrible if I quoted some reliable statistics to prove that more people are driven insane through religious hysteria than by drinking alcohol?"

For the younger generation who don't like Black and White movies, can't get his films on DVD (out of fashion), have only ever seen bad prints with muddy soundtracks on late night tv - it must seem strange. I love him as a juggler who brought character to the performance, rather than that pure 'Olympian' skill. I remember him as a person in love with words, and as a fellow curmudgeon (the kind of Dickensian word he loved).

Upon hearing a Christmas carol on the radio, Fields shouted
"Turn it off! Cease! Give me an ax, a heavy tomahawk! The royal mace of England! I'll smash the thing and its illegitimate fugue!"
(Will Fowler, "Sleigh Bells Give Me Double Nausea," Life, Dec. 15, 1972)

According to the Hippy Calendar, on this day in 1965 Tim Leary got busted on the Mexican border, and given 30 years in jail for a small quantity of pot.

How nice to live in a rational and non-judgemental culture.

Godfrey Daniel!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

It depends on whether you prefer stress or relaxation, I guess...

It hadn't dawned on me what a (traditionally) female festival this seems like.

Immediate apologies to non-traditional females and males.

Of course, childbirth sits at the centre of the Christian part of it (with cuckolded Joseph standing sheepishly in the corner); then quite a lot of cleaning and cooking gets involved; get-togethers with family members and in-laws(even when you don't get on with them); feeding of the 5000; decorating the house, and wrapping and decorating presents; shopping, of course; giving; selflessness.

For macho males who still believe in bread-winning, and bringing home the bacon (eeurgh)the only game in town seems like the 'my present (given or received) looks bigger than yours'. Conspicuous spending and flaunting of wealth.

I don't really buy that the 'pagans' do shopping, and the Christians do frugal...

...although I do feel amused that the only person who doesn't 'Bah Humbug' me professes Christianity. Not only does he not judge people, but he dislikes the fact that a Christian festival got co-opted by commercialism. As he knows I do not have a faith, he entirely understands and agrees that I shouldn't celebrate Christmas (any more than I do Hannukah or Ramadan or any similar event). Funny that.

I don't understand any of it, so I have tended to sleep through as many of the days as I can and wake up after the fever passes. I don't eat birds, or chocolate or sugar or cream, so most of the 'fun food' passes me by. Like most vegetarians I eat little and often, and don't like the stuffed feeling of one big meal, and I already drink slightly too much, so I don't want to increase that. Funnily enough, I just watched 'The Thin Man', set in the Prohibition period when the US had a law against the sale and consumption of alcohol (although people from all classes consumed it illegally) and marijuana had not yet got banned.

Now I might have enjoyed Christmas in the USA in 1936....

One day I may understand, I suppose.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thank goodness

Thank goodness that's all over for another year. it went pretty smoothly, actually, after all the build-up and anxiety. Jules asked me out for a Solstice drink with Gordon. Julie working from home so we got to hang-out together. Nice compliments from people about the magazine.

And now I can pack away the notional decorations for another year. I still don't know why we don't all get the day off work for such an important festival. The Jewish people I work with don't get Hannukah off, either, so I suppose I can't complain.

[pardon, what's that you say? Whaaaa? You mean there's more?]

but, but, I did my holiday celebration/libation. Quite enough for me!

Oh well, if everyone gets the day off I don't like to complain...what are they celebrating* exactly?

* The Puritans were sticklers for taking the Bible, and nothing else, as their guide for how to live a good, Christian life. And since the Bible never indicates exactly when the anniversary of the Nativity should be observed, they reasoned that God must not have intended for it to be observed at all. Otherwise a date would have been provided. So they banned its celebration. Between 1659 and 1681 it was actually a criminal offense, punishable by a fine of five shillings, to celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts.
Christmas only became a legal holiday in England and America late in the nineteenth century. Before then people were expected to go to work on Christmas Day.
Actually, rather than trudge through my traditional rant, you could just scan December Archives for 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Nothing much changes, although I find great links and quotes I had quite forgotten:

"After my Christmas Lectures I received letters from the pious saying that they would have no objection if only I had qualified my remarks by saying: 'But I should warn you that many well-informed people think differently . . .'

When did you last hear a priest-in the pulpit, on radio, on television, in infants' Sunday School-qualify his statement with 'But I should warn you that many well-informed people don't think God exists at all . . . ?' " - Richard Dawkins

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Solstice!

Actually I had a grim, grey overcast morning to greet me, nothing like this sparkling picture from Alaska

However, I cheered up immediately when I realised that a bunch of anarchists had once again pulled it off, and published a quarterly online magazine. To avoid repetition, I should just point you to the Maybe Logic Academy's blog - Only Maybe, where I appear under my avatar of BogusMagus.

Robert Anton Wilson will be doing a course on politics, next, but I suspect I will break my run of only attending his courses, and perhaps elect to do Antero Alli's 8 Circuits of the Brain course, as i missed Bob's.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Back to Zero

Amazingly, in this season of conspicuous consumption and over-indulgence, I may actually find myself clear of debt. In 33 years of self-employment I didn't borrow, having such an erratic and unreliable income, so I never joined 'credit culture'.

I have had a small steady job now for 7 years, so when I decided to join the computer literates I found myself in a position to borrow enough, rather than save up (and people said buying a computer with a credit card gave you some security, too - as well as probably needing a card for online shopping). So I got the damned card, and have owed on it since. Several times I squeezed it down, but things happened to push it back up (computers died, among other things).

Now, finally, I may have got it Back to Zero.

I can live with the Scrooge story, of living frugally, because if we intend to do a Potlatch festival (redistribution of wealth) then I don't think we should offer gifts bought on credit. In the magic of fairy tales, such gifts would come with a heavy obligation. I dislike the idea of someone giving me something and having to work next year to pay back the debt...and actually, of course, getting out of debt really is a gift to others, if having a debt costs others (which it does*).

So hopefully now I can get into the correct usage of a card, paid off each pay day.

And even if you don't think others pay for your debt, giving yourself a present seems another tradition these days. "One for them and one for me..." So perhaps I just gave myself the present I really wanted.

Big thanks to Steve and Ken for making it possible this month.

* Paying for the Other Guy's Christmas Presents
Still on the subject of credit cards and holiday spending, over 1.3 million households in the United States filed for bankruptcy in 1997, partially a result of the huge number of credit cards readily available to virtually anybody who can sign a name (1.5 billion cards circulating out there, a 300% increase just since 1980). The plastic money seems to come out in earnest every November and December, as even cautious folks seem to lose self-control. Bankruptcy costs the U.S. economy over $40 billion annually, a hidden tax of $400 per household when these costs are passed on to consumers, as they usually are. So, when you add up your own holiday expenses in January, throw in a nice chunk of cash for gifts that other people bought on credit but then couldn't pay for.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It's Just a Ride

We reached Bill Hick's 44th birthday - whatever that means when someone died so young. Either way - I miss him. He did his best, with time travel gags - you can listen to his stuff about Iraq and George Bush (Sr) from the 90s and it will freak you out that we went through the same loop within such a short space of time. Everyone knows headlines don't change much - people have such a short attention span - but his stuff sounds really spooky, as in, an exact repetition of events within a dozen years.
And compared to politicians and war economics, how much harm did we druggies do?

"Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Diary dates and Family Greetings

I changed the clunky Archiving layout I had, with American dating system, to something more manageable. Some of it got lost in the process. I have re-published the whole thing now, so it should work OK.

In the process of checking back on the last two Christmas season's links and comments I found I had missed Matilda's birthday in the flurry of the end of November. [I may not do clowning and slapstick and acrobatics anymore but I can still kick myself].

Happy Belated Birthday to Tils, on her 4th birthday!

And while on belated birthday greetings, Hi K! (a week before her).

Greetings to all my scattered family members...and best wishes for the end of one year on the calendar and the start of another...however you celebrate it (if you do). I hope the new job suits you, Julia!

Goodwill hunting...

On Saturday night I saw 20 Santas on the street, and two of them were fighting, rolling on the floor. I couldn't tell if they meant it, until all the others ran over and piled on top of them - which lead me to believe that I had just witnessed a local manifestation of Santarchy.

Ah glory be!

The season of goodwill has arrived, when normally pleasant people get grumpy and stressed out about having a few days off without actually getting a holiday, as they have so many compulsory things to do. Where happy families become divided about whether to party by having the relatives around, or by having some time to themselves. Whether to spend lots on yourself or help the homeless (the ones who'd feel grateful to have a stable to sleep in). And all that. Traditionally everyone gets annoyed with me because I won't change, and I point out that it's their tradition that doesn't change. As usual, I highlight different calendars, go around saying Happy Hannukah, and generally act in a boorish manner - and they answer with the traditional greeting of "Bah Humbug!" (Curiously, the person saying it used to have to dislike Christmas, now it gets used to greet them!)

As usual, I point out that vegetarians don't get off on banquets. I don't eat birds, I virtually gave up sugar 30 years ago, and I don't like feeling stuffed (like a snake with a pig in the middle). I already drink and smoke as much as my system likes, so can't increase my consumption without making myself (and others, no doubt) miserable. I still have the ambitious plan to (a) pay off the few hundred quid on my credit card that paid to replace my PC that suddenly died (b) find a few quid to donate to charitable causes (c)express my pleasure in partnership and friendship without having to 'shop'.

All of which makes me the Guy Fawkes on the bonfire, the Scrooge in the corner, the Bringer-Down demon... (sigh)

I know this seems a little premature (!) but I wish you all a Happy Winterval! (they came up with that horrible word as a non-denominational, secular greeting - ANYTHING rather than just stop the whole business) with an emphasis on the word BUSINESS.

For those of you of a Christian tendency, I recommend the Buy Nothing Christmas site for some creative ideas.

For the secular, sorry if you missed Buy Nothing Day on November 26th, but you can still get your Gift Exemption certificate and such on the AdBusters site.

And don't forget, as the forces of 'goodwill' surround you complaining that you're spoiling their party, you don't have to bow to social pressure. Don't feel alone - check out CelebAtheists.

If you insist that Christmas involves spending and giving, try giving a present that will really get appreciated through or Concern Gifts.

My last word on the subject.
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