Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

Here we are again, at the crossroads of years. One year is used up, with another about to begin. And it seems the older I get, the faster I arrive at this particular place each year.

I can remember when I was a little kid that the year 2000 seemed ridiculously far in the future and it seemed it would be some sort of a Star Trek fantasy by the time I'd get there. But now, 2000 is long gone, quickly receding into the past. And the Star Trek fantasy never quite panned out, despite some interesting advances in technology.

2006 was a rather humdrum year for me; pretty much life as usual not appreciably different from the year before. I would say the thing I did that I'm most proud of in 2006, was to rescue a cat that had been run over by a car and to facilitate her life being saved by the vet I took her to.

I expect 2007 to transpire much in same way as did 2006. Though I don't make resolutions, as I know I'd never keep them, I continue to hope to improve my financial situation by getting something better than the McJob I have now. I'm not holding my breath, however, as my state continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

2006 has been a good blogging year for me. On this blog, I have well over a quarter of a million hits, with 30,000 for just this month alone -- something I never dreamed of when I started this blog in mid-2004. Thanks to everyone who reads and comments here and I hope to see all of you again in 2007.

I lied. There's one resolution I make each year that I never have any trouble keeping: Get laid often!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Quotes and Thoughts

"Your thorns are the best part of you."
--Marianne Moore

I've been told this many times by women. Of course, I know that is part of this is due to the "bad boy" fetish many women have.

"I'm single because I was born that way."
--Mae West

Being a free agent is natural to humans. It's marriage that's unnatural and artificial.

"We find comfort among those who agree with us; growth among those who don't."
--Frank A. Clark

This is probably the main reason why I listen to talk shows where I agree with little of what is said. It helps to sharpen my thinking much more than listening to something that is simply "preaching to the choir". Though I'm reassured by those who agree with me, I'm grateful for the challenge from those who don't.

"Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties."
--Erich Fromm

Certainty involves black and white thinking, yes/no answers, an all or nothing mindset. Mathematics involves certainty, but it is in no way creative. Creativity requires the ability to see nuances and to think in shades of grey.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Waiting in Line

Yesterday, I went to the bookstore near my house, knowing they'd probably be having a big after Christmas sale. When I arrived, the place was packed with customers who'd apparently had the same idea I did.

I browsed around and picked out a paperback book and a 2007 calendar. When I went to go pay, I found a long line of people, so I took my place at the end of the line.

I waited quite awhile, as there were only two registers open. Only one line had formed, with the first person in line going to whichever register opened first. As I neared the front of the line, I noticed a man in his early 20s come up and stand next to the first person in line. The man took no notice of him, so I knew they were not together. I had a strong suspicion that he was butting in line and not simply waiting for another person who was in the line.

My suspicions were confirmed when he jackrabbited to the next open register. Either the other people in line were in their own little foggy worlds or they were too wimpy to say something, as none of them spoke up at this blatant move.

I, however, am neither wimpy nor in a fog. I immediately spoke up. "The end up the line is back THERE, buddy," I said, pointing behind me. "Go back there and wait your turn like everyone else."

He gave me a dirty look, but went to the back of the line. What else could he do, now that he had everyone's attention?

This contrasts sharply with something I heard about several years ago. At that time I was working at a plant that was situated near an exit to an Interstate highway. One of my coworkers was going out to the McDonald's across the road for lunch. When he came back from his break, he said to me, "You'll never guess who I just saw at McDonald's!"

"Who?" I asked, totally clueless.

"Jimmy Carter!" he said. "He came in with a couple of Secret Service guys and waited in line like everyone else!"

I believed him because the man that owns the McDonald's stores in my town once worked for Jimmy Carter. Carter was no doubt traveling by car on the Interstate and when he got near our town decided to eat at one of his former employee's restaurants.

Thoughts ?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Rainy Christmas

It's Christmas and it's pouring rain. I don't mind -- though not the ideal of a white Christmas, it's better than a dazzlingly bright, hot day. I'm not doing much today, just puttering around the house like an old man. I spent a good bit of yesterday afternoon and evening "taking care of business", so that I'd not get too antsy being alone today and, so far, I'm doing fine.

I awakened earlier than I usually do this morning, but knowing I didn't have to go to work later on, I got up, instead of trying to go back to sleep. After the obligatory morning bathroom trip to relieve the morning wood, I made myself a bowl of grits and came to sit in front of the computer to surf the net.

My cats came to join me at the computer once they realized I was awake and I fed them the special cat treats I'd bought them for Christmas. Now, as I type, they are each in a window looking out at the rain, one in front of me and the other on my right side.

I've talked to my sister on the phone already today and I expect to talk to my primary lover some time later today.

Later on, I intend to go out and have some sort of Christmas dinner. The only places open in my town are the Awful House (Waffle House) and Denny's, so I've not got a lot of choice here. I would have liked to have had a turkey dinner today, but I don't think either of those places are offering turkey on their menus. Walgreen's is also open, so I'll probably stop there on the way home to stock up on snacks, as I've got several new DVDs I can pick from to watch tonight.

I hope all my readers are spending this day in the way they want.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Thoughts on the Minimum Wage

Last night I was listening to talk radio and the host, who labels himself as a conservative libertarian, was talking about proposed upcoming changes in the minimum wage. The host stated that he's against having any sort of a minimum wage. He believes that in a free market system that both workers and employers should have total freedom in setting the terms of the employment contract; that a worker is always free to decline a job offer if they deem the pay offered to be insufficient. He went on to say that those seeking work are selling their physical skills, their mental skills, or a combination of both. To these, I'd add that what people are primarily selling before these two things is their TIME, which is the most precious commodity we have.

In theory, the libertarian part of me agrees with him; that greater freedom from government interference in conducting our private affairs is a good thing. But on a more practical, realistic level, I know this would work only to the benefit of employers. The goal of employers is to get as much work out of an employee while giving back as little as they can legally get by with in order to maximize their profits.

It's easy to say that people are always free to seek work elsewhere if what a particular employer is offering is unacceptable, but with no checks and balances to curb the worst excesses of greed, it is likely that nearly all employers would be offering rock bottom wages. It is naive and shortsighted to think that employers will offer fair wages just out of the goodness of their hearts. From their perspective, they are in business solely to make money, not help people make a living.

Workers would have to eventually cave in, because they'd have to work somewhere or starve, and more people would be compelled to work at more than one job just to get by. We'd be working more hours in order to get the same wages.

Many people in the 19th century were able to get by without a minimum wage because people then were able to produce much of what they needed themselves and were also able to resort to bartering. But we must remember that child labor was also prevalent during this time, as many families needed every member earning wages, working from sunup to sundown, to support the family. But it's a different world now -- families are no longer self-contained production units, nor is barter a practical solution to cash-flow problems. And, needless to say, child labor is totally unacceptable, repugnant to a modern society.

A completely unrestrained free market system is an unworkable utopia. We must have basic safeguards, such as a fair minimum wage, to curb the marketplace's natural tendency to greed. Let's support raising the minimum wage.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bittersweet Christmas

I've spent a good part of my adult life having minimal contact with my family, both immediate and extended. This is partially because of circumstances and partially out of choice. And since my father died, the family contact has dwindled to almost nil.

I keep in contact with an aunt through IM and perhaps two phone calls a year with my sister, and that's about it. I've not seen my brother or sister in over a decade. I've had no contact whatsoever with my brother in over two years, his choice, not mine, for reasons only known to him. I live near my father's extended family, but they cut off whatever sporadic contact they had with me immediately after his death. I've never been invited to share any sort of holiday gatherings with them since that time. They've never approved of how I live my life, and now that he's gone, they feel no need to continue any charade of a family relationship. That's ok, because I don't especially approve of their fundamentalist lifestyles any more than I approve of my libertine one.

So, for several years now, Christmas has been a quiet, largely uncelebrated day for me. Some years, as with last year, I'm able to spend it with a lover, but mostly my lovers are unavailable to me on that day, as they have families to spend it with and my presence at any of those celebrations would elicit too many unwanted and unwelcome questions. I usually make sure to find lovers to visit on the days approaching Christmas and directly after, which has worked out well for me. This year, my primary lover is spending Christmas up north with her parents, and no others will be available, so I'll be here with my son, who will no doubt spend most of the day asleep.

For most of the year, I am quite happy with remaining aloof from my family, but that all changes at Christmas time, when I miss my parents most, the warm family relationship I experienced as a child, and the Christmases we shared. The last such Christmas for me was Christmas 1970, when I was twelve years old. By the time Christmas 1971 came, my father, siblings, and I were still reeling from my mother's death earlier that year. For as long as my father lived, Christmas always had a somber tone to it, as Christmas was also his wedding anniversary. This was alleviated somewhat after his grandchildren arrived, but Christmas always remained an occasion for him to grieve anew.

If it were possible, I'd choose to go spend Christmas in 1970.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Odds and Ends

I've not seen snow in two winters. From the weather we've been seeing around here lately, it's not likely we'll see any this year, either. Summer lasts longer and longer with each passing year. Though we've had some cold nights this fall, the daytime temps have largely remained obdurately in the 60s. And we've had several days well up into the 70s in the last few weeks and more 70s are predicted in the next week or so. This would be nice weather for June, but I don't want summer in December. It's hard to get into the Christmas spirit when I'm sweating.

I've also seen flies and mosquitoes in the last week, and I'm beginning to see bird crap all over my car. Normally bird crap season doesn't start until April around here.

Global warming, anyone?

My city has voted to join the 21st century. That is, the blue laws have been abolished for good here. In the last few years, the blue laws had been suspended during the Christmas holidays, but had always been reinstated after the holiday season was over. But now, after realizing that a lot of revenue was being lost to the larger city 30 miles away because of our blue laws, they've been permanently eliminated. Naturally, the fundamentalists in town are screaming bloody murder, believing that it's the government's responsibility to promote churchgoing.

Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell have been having an insult war over his handling of the current Miss USA, whose title was in danger because of underage drinking.

Oh, where to begin. I can't stand either Trump or O'Donnell. And there's probably nothing more inane or anachronistic than "Miss USA". Trump worries about the current holder of the title not being a good role model for girls, when the entire concept of Miss USA isn't a good role model for girls, as it's a model of the materialistic, high maintenance woman whose self esteem derives from her appearance and possessions.

I read on Yahoo news that a woman with two wombs has given birth to three children -- a set of identical twins from one womb, and another girl in the other. I never knew it was possible to have two wombs, but the woman has a rare, but not unique, condition known as
uterus didelphys.

The article stated that there have been only 70 women who have given birth from two wombs and that this is the first case of triplets.

I wonder if the father of these babies has two dicks?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Past

Both my parents grew up during the Depression. My mother was the eldest of four children and her family had an easier time of it during that time than my father, who was the eldest child in a tenant farmer family of eight children. Today, I thought I'd share with you how they each celebrated Christmas during their childhoods.

My father never got much for Christmas, as his family was poor and there were so many kids. The family never had a Christmas tree, but each child got a stocking that they would hang on the fireplace mantel on Christmas Eve each year. He never got much: some oranges and bananas, nuts, a new pair of mittens or a winter scarf, and the like. But he was surrounding by a loving family and didn't know any different, so he was happy.

My mother did better at Christmas time, though it was still humble by today's standards. Her family had a lighted tree each year and they exchanged gifts. My grandfather, who was a welder, made two outdoor electric candles from iron pipes some time during my mother's childhood. They were about four feet tall each, painted red, and each had a flame-shaped light bulb at top. They would be placed on either side of the front door each year for the Christmas season. These candles survived my grandfather and graced our front porch each year during my childhood and even into my son's childhood. It was a nice little reminder of the grandfather I was never lucky enough to meet. Unfortunately, after my father died, they disappeared, and I'm guessing that my ex-stepmother just threw them out, not knowing their sentimental value.

During World War II, Americans were under a rationing system for certain goods made out of materials that were essential to the war effort. Shoes were an item that fell under rationing. I remember my mother told me that each person was allowed two new pairs of shoes per year. One year, her grandmother gave my mother her shoe ration card as a Christmas present, as she was an old lady and had plenty of shoes and didn't need a new pair. My mother, on the other hand, was a teenager who loved getting new shoes, and she was very appreciative of my great-grandmother's gift to her.

As for me, I'm very glad to have been a kid in the 1960s and 70s, as I made out like a bandit each year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More Sex in the News

A conservative Christian British man, Stephen Tame, has won more than 3 million pounds in a lawsuit against his employers. He sustained severe head injuries in a fall at work in 2002, and spent two months in a coma, before recovering.

He blames his work accident for essentially turning him into a libertine and wrecking his marriage, as his libido was much higher after his recovery and he changed his sexual behavior accordingly, engaging in affairs, visiting prostitutes, and indulging in porn on a regular basis.

Well, that's his excuse. I guess I don't have an excuse, nor would I ever offer one.

In a study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, it has been revealed that 99 percent of the participants had had sex by age 44, and 95 percent had done so before marriage, with the participants born in the 1940s and onward.

"This is reality-check research," said the study's author, Lawrence Finer. "Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades." Critical of abstinence-only sex education promoted by the Bush administration, Finer went on to say, "It would be more effective to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active — which nearly everyone eventually will."

He also pointed out that the likelihood of Americans having sex before marriage has remained stable since the 1950s, even though people now tend to wait longer before marriage, thus spend longer intervals being sexually active while single.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Reason For The Season?

In recent years, we've heard about a supposed "War on Christmas", which is implicated as one facet of a war on Christianity in general. Some people are now offended by the long-standing greeting, "Happy Holidays", even though it's been around, with its cousin, "Season's Greetings", for my entire lifetime, and probably before. I can't remember anyone ever objecting to these phrases when I was growing up -- back then, people understood that it was a simple sentiment of goodwill with no ulterior, nefarious, Christian-hating motives. No one was concerned with being "politically correct" in those days, either. Rather, what some people now derisively refer to as "political correctness" was known as "good manners" then.

Similarly, back then, no one ever objected to Christmas decorations in public places, particularly those of a secular nature. This is unlike the recent incident at the Sea-Tac Airport, where a rabbi objected to the airport's Christmas decorations, demanding that a menorah be added. The airport's administrators responded by removing all Christmas decorations. While I don't see why they just couldn't have added a menorah or two and have been done with it, the rabbi's reported way of approaching the matter wasn't helping his case any. Instead of simply requesting that Jewish symbols be added, he was reported to have demanded that such symbols be added or he'd sue to have the Christmas decorations removed.

Though many of those who claim there is a full-scale, concerted war on Christmas and want to put the "Christ back in Christmas" and that "Jesus is the reason for the season", millions of non-religious people also celebrate Christmas for secular reasons, alongside of those who celebrate it as a religious holiday. As far as I'm concerned, Jesus is A reason for the season, not THE sole reason.

Indeed, the original "reason for the season" long predates Christianity. The original reason is the solstice and many of our Christmas traditions were adapted directly from Pagan celebrations. Christmas trees, holly, snow men, mistletoe, Yule logs, giving and receiving holiday gifts, huge feasts, are all Pagan in origin.

Most Christian scholars agree that Jesus Christ was not actually born on December 25, but rather some time in the summer or fall, and that December 25 was chosen as the date to celebrate his birth, as it would be easier to convert Pagans to Christianity by adapting their Yuletime solstice celebrations to Christianity. Similarly, Christians also adapted many Pagan traditions to Easter, even the holiday's name, which comes from the Pagan fertility goddess Eostre.

Santa Claus (along with Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, et al), though loosely inspired by the 4th century St. Nicholas is largely a secular symbol of Christmas. Many popular Christmas carols also emphasize secular aspects of the holiday, such as "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "Frosty the Snowman", "Silver Bells", "White Christmas", "I'll Be Home for Christmas", etc.

And though some Christians object to the secular aspects of Christmas, saying it adds to the commercialization of the holiday, many of the ideas behind such traditions promote ethical ideas everyone can agree on: goodwill toward others, generosity and giving, helping the less fortunate, family togetherness and celebration. Christianity doesn't have a monopoly on such virtues.

Many people also don't know that the original "War on Christmas" was conducted by Christians. This began in the 17th century by Puritans who objected to the Pagan origins of the holiday. During Oliver Cromwell's rule of England, the celebrating of Christmas was actually banned. In our own times, some sects do not celebrate Christmas, notably the Jehovah's Witnesses. While researching for this blog entry, I found a site where a fundamentalist Christian, Scott Ashley, listed his Top Ten reasons why he does not celebrate Christmas, along with detailed explanations for each reason:

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Don't Celebrate Christmas
by Scott Ashley

1. Christmas is driven by commercialism.
2. Christmas is nowhere mentioned in the Bible.
3. Jesus wasn't born on or near Dec. 25.
4. The Christmas holiday is largely a recycled pagan celebration.
5. God condemns using pagan customs to worship Him.
6. Christmas is worshipping God in vain.
7. You can't put Christ back into something He was never in
8. The Bible nowhere tells us to observe a holiday celebrating Jesus Christ's birth—but it clearly does tell us to commemorate His death
9. Christmas obscures God's plan for mankind.
10. I'd rather celebrate the Holy Days Jesus Christ and the apostles observed.

To read the explanation for each of his reasons go to:

As for me, I love Christmas, though I celebrate it from a purely secular perspective. I have no problem whatsoever with those who emphasize the religious aspects or with public Christmas decorations. And it doesn't matter which greeting you give me: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa -- it's all good. Accepting heartfelt, sincere greetings of any kind are part of the goodwill toward others that Christmas is supposed to be all about.

Let's all put politics aside for the month of December and practice goodwill toward all people. That's the "reason for the season"

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Nose Knows

Most of us have certain sights and sounds that remind us of certain things and past events. And with some of us, certain odors will set our minds to remembering. Following is a list of scents and what I associate with them.

Baby oil -- Days at the beach in the sixties and seventies. My sister used this stuff as tanning lotion

Gasoline -- Taking long trips with my family as a kid

Newly mown grass in the fall -- Late afternoons at marching band practice in high school

A lit match -- My mother when she'd first light a cigarette

Coffee/Frying bacon -- Saturday morning breakfasts as a kid when my father would make breakfast

Vanilla extract -- My mother baking at Christmas

Cocoa butter -- An old lover

Valve oil -- High school band

Gun solvent -- Being on the police department

Pine/bayberry candle -- Christmas

Beer -- College parties

Fried Chicken -- my father's sister

Burning leaves -- Fall

Hot chocolate -- Winter

Apples and/or Cinnamon -- Fall. Halloween

Chlorine -- Summer

Fertilizer -- Spring

The smell of dirt/earth on a summer night -- the South

Hot tar -- recess at my first school

What are some of the memories you associate with certain smells?

Sunday, December 17, 2006


"Touch is the meaning of being human."
Andrea Dworkin

I find this quotation rather interesting because Andrea Dworkin was a feminist who once expressed the very extreme view that all sex between men and women is, at some level, a form of rape; that women cannot truly give their consent to it in a patriarchal society.

Despite disagreeing heartily with that view of heterosexual sex, I find myself in agreement with the quotation that inspired this entry. Though I realize that Dworkin didn't mean this quote as pertaining particularly to sex, I will confine my remarks to that particular kind of touch.

I never feel quite so alive and human as when I'm engaging in the act of mating with a woman. It's not an emotional thing, per se, as it doesn't really matter who my partner is at any given time; rather, it's a primal and instinctual thing I feel down to my very DNA. Even when it's bad, it's exhilarating and it always recharges my batteries.

To be obliged to be celibate for any extended time would make me feel not fully human, and I'm sure I would become depressed if this were to happen. Nor do I understand those who actively choose to be celibate for long periods of time, or for a lifetime, such as priests and nuns. I function best in all endeavors when I'm well fed, well rested, and well fucked. If any of my core needs is not being met, it will distract me from doing my best in other activities until that need is met.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Silent Night, 1944

I found an interesting story about Christmas during World War II for one soldier that I thought my readers might enjoy. Following is the story in the soldier's own words:

On 24 December 1944 I was spending my Christmas at a little place called Bastogne, Belgium, with the 101st Airborne Division. As many of you already know the story about the Battle of the Bulge, I won't go into all the details about how we were surrounded and outnumbered by the German Army. It was a cold, bitter, dark night and around about midnight surprisingly quiet.

All of a sudden, from the German position, we heard a single voice singing "Silent Night," in German. Soon more voices were added from the Germans. Suddenly, some American Soldier picked it up and before long most of us were singing along with the Germans. This went on for about 5 or 10 minutes and then stopped. A few minutes later we were back at each other, with guns blazing.

This incident has stayed in my memory all these years and when I hear Silent Night I remember. Later I talked to American, British and French Soldiers about it and some of them had experienced the same thing on whatever front they had been fighting on, (Italy, France, Holland). I have talked to Veterans of WWI and they tell similar stories.

In the middle of the worst battle of WWII there was Peace on Earth for a few minutes.

I can't imagine anything like that happening today, which is a pity.

For those not familiar with the history of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of Bastogne in particular, the siege of Bastogne was lifted the day after Christmas, when a unit from Patton's Third Army broke through the German line and liberated the soldiers from the 101st Airborne holed up in the Belgian town. Before this happened, however, the Germans had sent a messenger to the commander of the Americans, General Anthony McAuliffe, urging him to surrender. McAuliffe's reply? One word -- "Nuts!"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Stand Up Close, It's Shorter Than You Think

A study has shown that standard condoms, which are designed to meet international size specifications, are considerably too large for the average man in India.

The study indicates that sixty percent of Indian males had penises one inch too small for standard condoms, and a further thirty percent fell short by a full two inches. The baggy fit led to condoms slipping off or tearing during use.

Dr Chander Puri said that Indian men are too embarrassed to ask for better fitting condoms, which may be a factor in the nation's high HIV rate.

According to the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, the average erect penis length is 6.16 inches, with the average girth being 4.84 inches.

For Indian men, my only suggestion is to try finger cots...those small roll-on latex devices designed to protect the finger while working with various substances. For women of all nationalities, don't go to India looking for sex.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Plans or Lack Thereof

My primary lover has decided to fly to her parents' home for Christmas. They've been having serious marital problems this past year, and she believes she needs to go, as it might be their last Christmas spent together as a family.

She doesn't want to leave me behind, but I'd just make it more awkward for her, as neither of her parents approve of our relationship. I couldn't afford to make the trip, both money and time-wise (I only get Christmas Eve and Day off), anyway, and I wouldn't feel comfortable with her paying my way, even though she has offered to. I've urged her to go ahead and have a good Christmas with them, assuring her I'll be fine.

So, my son and I will be spending Christmas alone. He'll probably sleep all day and I'll likely just read and surf the net. Perhaps I'll call my sister on the phone, as I think she's spending the holiday alone as well. I don't know if I'll get to see any other lovers that day, as they all have families to spend the holiday with and, with some of them, I'd be a decidedly unwelcome guest at one of their family gatherings.

Today, my son and I went up to the mall and I bought him his Christmas gifts. Money is tight this year, but I wanted to make sure he had some gifts that he actually wanted. I knew he wanted clothes, but I don't have a good handle on his taste or size, so this is how we do Christmas.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Grousing About Greetings

I was listening to talk radio last night and the host was talking about the Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays issue. The host stated he hated "Happy Holidays" and that business owners should stick to using Merry Christmas because 85 percent of Americans would be celebrating Christmas. He made it an issue of simple statistics, which misses the point.

A caller pointed out that business owners don't want to lose any customers and that "Happy Holidays" covers everyone and every holiday. He went on to say that it also covers the entire holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day and is not solely about the holidays around the same time as Christmas.

Both of those points are valid ones, but I'd like to add something more. This country has a hell of a lot more serious issues facing it than which greeting one chooses to use in December, such as the Iraq war, unemployment, crime, and so on. What's up with people who get offended by either Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? Is this country turning into the United States of the Perpetually Offended?

For either greeting, the person giving it is being courteous and civil, and the one receiving it should simply accept it in the spirit intended, even if it is not their personal greeting of preference. Just smile, nod, offer a greeting and move on. No need to get your ass on your shoulders about it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

A Bit of Rambling

I'm kind of at a loss what to write about today, so I thought I'd just ramble a bit.

Because I spend a good bit of time in the car, I listen to a lot of radio. I listen mainly to two stations: one that plays light rock/oldies and the other is a talk radio station. I sometimes supplement this with my own music CDs. I started listening to talk radio this summer for the first time, because I got tired of music all the time. The talk radio station is mainly local programming with a bit of national syndicated stuff thrown in, which I find amusing at times, with the mistakes and the folksy tone of it. Sometimes, it's almost like listening to a radio station from the past. There's a woman with uncertain diction and enunciation doing ad spots; in one ad for a plant nursery, she talks about "sprucin gup" your yard" and another about a retirement community where she urges seniors to start, "en-JOINGGG!" life". There's a local lawyer who does his own commercials who refers to the "Sosill security adminisKration"(social security administration). And they've got a new young man reading the news who dutifully reports on car "adsidents". That's right, ADSIDENTS. At first I thought I heard wrong, but he's said accident this way every time I've listened, which is a new one on me. It makes me wonder why his supervisor doesn't correct his pronunciation.

Lately, the light rock station is playing Christmas music 24/7, which I don't mind, but listening to the talk shows is a welcome respite when I'm about to OD on HoHoHo. There's a consumer show that talks about avoiding ripoffs and a show from the state capital about happenings around the state. There's also Neal Boortz, with whom I strongly disagree about sixty percent of the time, but for the other forty percent with which I agree, it's great to listen to -- especially when he demolishes the arguments of Christian fundamentalists who call to disagree with him. But this station devotes three and a half straight hours to sports talk each day, which bores the hell out of me, so it's back to HoHoHo, when that comes on. Sports are great to play, can be fun to watch, but analyzing them in minute detail is a sure cure for insomnia for me.

Yesterday, there was a funeral in my town for a soldier who died in Iraq. There were reports that Fred Phelps and his band of misfit fundamentalist wackos were going to show up to protest this young man's funeral, so the Patriot riders, a group of bikers sworn to protect the privacy of the families and preserve the dignity of such funerals were on hand to honor this fallen soldier. Local townspeople, interested in augmenting the bikers were also on hand, lined along the funeral procession route with supportive signs. Fortunately, none of Phelps' band of misanthropic misfits showed up and the funeral went off without a hitch.

For those who aren't familiar with Fred Phelps, he is a fundamentalist preacher who has made it his life's work to protest the funerals of all American soldiers killed in Iraq. Why, you might ask? Well, he is protesting the fact that the American military allows gay people to serve honorably in its ranks. Fortunately, however, his demented reasoning has caused Americans of all political beliefs to rally together against him. Phelps is doing more FOR the cause of gay rights than against it.


Friday, December 8, 2006

A Christmas Tradition

Every year, when it came time to decorate the Christmas tree, when my mother and, later, my father, would unpack the lights and the ornaments, they'd find light strands that no longer worked, boxes of broken ornaments, and there would never be enough extension cords.

So, we'd all go out to buy what we needed. When we lived in South Jersey in the late sixties and into the seventies, there was always one place we went to first. This was a garden center/nursery called Gaudio's. My parents used Gaudio's in the summer too, for plants, fertilizer, lawn care items, and the like, but it was only when the Christmas season rolled around that Gaudio's became interesting to me. This store really outdid itself when it came to providing everything needed to decorate for the holidays.

As well as having aisles devoted to every type of Christmas decorating imaginable and also wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows, Gaudio's devoted one room as a kind of a Christmas wonderland. Inside this darkened room lit only by strands of Christmas lights, were several Christmas trees decorated in various styles. There was a winding path among the trees with fake snow covering the floor. As a kid, I couldn't wait to see this each year and it never failed to get me into the Christmas spirit. I don't know if I'd be as impressed seeing it now as an adult, but just remembering it now is enough to put me in a Christmas mood.

Indeed, while looking online to see if there was anything on the net about Gaudio's, I was suddenly overcome with a great homesickness for New Jersey, a place I've not seen in over 25 years. Unfortunately, all I could find were some passing references to this store, and I'm guessing it's no longer in business. Too bad.

Is there a place like Gaudio's in your Christmas past? And for those of you who lived in the South Jersey, Philadelphia metropolitan area, did any of you ever go to Gaudio's?

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Memories in Christmas Music

Tonight, I was listening to Christmas music while riding around in the car. My mind always wanders back to Christmases past when listening to it and tonight was no different. It is at this time of year I miss my parents and having a close family the most. If it were up to me, I'd spend every Christmas in 1970, as that was the last one when I had both parents and siblings nearby.

Certain Christmas songs bring back particular memories of people or events. Below, is an incomplete list of songs and some memories associated with them.

O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)

This one reminds me of my mother, as I remember her telling me of how she'd been chosen to sing that song in Latin when she'd been in the choir in school as a kid.

Little Drummer Boy

This one reminds me of my best friend when I lived in Massachusetts. He and I used to sing the "rum pa pum pum" part as "rub your bum bum" while simultaneously rubbing our asses. You have to remember we were only about seven years old at the time. He later died in a car crash in 1980, just shy of being 22.

Charlie Brown Christmas Theme

This reminds me of my high school best friend and his family. The laid back, mellow jazz sound of this song just kind of fits how it felt being around their family.

Silver Bells

This one reminds me of going to center city Philadelphia to see the Christmas lights in the late sixties and of seeing the Salvation Army Band out on the street playing Christmas carols on trumpets and trombones. Nowadays, they only have people out ringing bells at Christmas, which makes me miss the band.

Let It Snow

When I was in the high school band, we did a medley of Christmas songs as part of our marching routine. I remember the band director getting put out at this one girl who kept pushing her hair back every time the wind blew it out of place. He finally sang, "Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow", to the tune of Let It Snow.

Over the River and Through the Woods

This reminds me of spending Christmas with my grandmother's sister as a little kid. At that time, I lived far from my one remaining grandmother and she was the closest thing to a grandmother I had at the time.

Rocking Around the Christmas Tree
Jingle Bell Rock

Both these songs remind me of the Christmas parties my parents had when I was a kid in the sixties. Jingle Bell Rock also reminds me of this girl who sang it in a purposely off key voice at work about five years ago and made everyone laugh.

Jingle Bells

At around ten years old, I'd sing this as:

Riding down the road
In a cracked-up Chevrolet
O'er the roads we go
Traffic all the way
Horns on cars honk
Making traffic slow
Oh what fun it is to sing
This traffic song tonight

Oh, Jingle Bells
Santa smells
A million miles away
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a cracked-up Chevrolet!

There are more, but these are the first that came to mind. What memories do certain Christmas songs evoke in you?

Friday, December 1, 2006

Michael Richards Brouhaha

We've all heard the brouhaha over Michael Richards ("Kramer') getting into a shouting match with two hecklers at the club where he was performing his comedy routine. His comments were of a racist nature, which included using the "N word".

Richards realized that he'd let his temper get away with him and that his remarks were completely inappropriate, and he later apologized, and also sought anger management counseling. However, the men involved declined to accept it. Instead, they've hired a lawyer, who is now seeking monetary compensation on their behalf.

Monetary compensation? I agree that Richards was wrong, his language totally inappropriate, but I take a dim view of these men looking to make an easy buck out of this incident.

Another thing is that black entertainers routinely use the N word when talking about other blacks. Indeed, if this word and the word "bitch" were banned from use in rap music, many rappers would be rendered virtually speechless.

Secondly, black entertainers regularly poke fun at whites, calling them "crackers", "honkies", "rednecks", etc. No one, black or white, bats an eye at this, nor does anyone ever sue about such remarks.

Racism goes both ways. It's not just a white on black thing, but frequently the reverse as well. And it's not a good thing, regardless of which direction its going.