Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Well, I'm off to Seattle in just a couple of hours. I'll be away until the new year, so postings between then and now are unlikely.

During the interim, let's get some feedback on books in general. What are your favorite novels and why?

For me, any such list would include

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
1984, by George Orwell
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Brave New World, by Alduous Huxley
Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

These books demonstrate the greatness and the depravity of humankind. They offer us hope while reminding us all of the most basic human frailties that so often prevent us from achieving our ideals. After reading each one, I felt enlightened. Atlas Shrugged, in particular, changed the way that I looked at the world.

So I bid you adieu. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Kingdom for an Ounce of Talent

I've finally mastered picking arpeggios in various forms on my guitar. My current choice songs to practice include Johnny Cash's version of Bruce Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman," and a version of Bob Dylan's "He Was a Friend of Mine" combined with Willie Nelson's cover from the film Brokeback Mountain. Say what you want about the film (it was well written, well acted, and well made--to the point that only a low-class bigot can object), but none can deny the perfectly melancholy sorrow of Nelson's vocals:

He was a friend of mine.
He was a friend of mine.
Everytime I think of him,
I just can't keep from cryin'.
'Cause he was a friend of mine.

He died on the road.
He died on the road.

A thousand miles from home,
He never reaped what he could sow,
And he was a friend of mine.
(Dylan's version differs in this verse. In lieu of the third and fourth lines, he says, "He never had too much money / To pay his room and board")

I stole away and cried.
I stole away and cried.
'Cause I never had too much money,
And I never was quite satisified,
But he was a friend of mine.

He never done no wrong.
He never done no wrong.
A thousand miles from home,
And he never done no harm.
And he was a friend of mine.

He was a friend of mine.
He was a friend of mine.
Whenever I hear his name, Lord,
I just can't keep from cryin

Were it not for my only mediocre talent at the guitar, my slightly bad--but not stlyistic Bob Dylan bad--vocals, and my lack of stage presence, I probably could have pursued a career in music.

Friday, December 08, 2006

"Zoinks, like Scoob!"

I have been discussing scary books and movies with some people. I mentioned the novel The Shining as a very creepy novel (though I noted that 1984, with its realistic relevance is perhaps even scarier), and I talked about several creepy movies. Over the past few days we have examined the art of creating suspense and fear in literature and film.

For a coveted spot in the What I Hate (Usually) hall of fame, right above the name Science Guy (winner of the "I used to comment but am now too lazy and/or unable to challenge Aristos" award), post a comment about your scariest read or view. Don't just name it, but tell how it got to you. I'm not concerned if it "grossed you out," but if it really disturbed you on a higher level (e.g. the orginal version of "The Omen.").

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Yadda, Yadda, Yadda

A recent article pointed to the fact that this is the time of year in which the smuggling of children across the U.S.-Mexican Border reaches its apex. Much was mentioned about children who suffered at the hands of their smugglers.

Is the fact that desperate parents wish to see their beloveds the real problem, or is the tyrannical immigration policy that makes "illegal immigration" a necessity the culprit? Think about it. Immigration policy essentially requires children to be chaperoned by less than respectable citizens.

Indeed, it's not the smugglers or the parents who are to blame. It is the United States Congress. How ironic that a nation dominated by the decendents of immigrants takes such a position against immigration. Or is it just that these immigrants happen to be Mexicans (Dios mio!)?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Been Busy ("Sorta")

In case you're wondering--and I flatter myself to think that you do--I have not posted much lately because I am a gaming neophyte.

That's right. I have become an XBox convert, having purchased an XBox 360 and Call of Duty 2.

As an XBox man, I am a converted Playstationist: a reprobate to some, I suppose, but perfectly happy as I now am.

Sony's Playstation3 had two things working against it. First, it was cost prohibitive when compared to the Xbox360. Compared to Nintendo's Wii--which I also considered--the PS3 is even worse. Second, it took too long. I waited and waited for the PS3, but there comes a moment when enough is enough, and that moment came on Thanksgiving.

So, the next time I go nearly two weeks without posting, you might wonder which new XBox 360 game I've picked up.

A Christmas Album

I usually dislike when musicians try their hands at original Christmas songs. Even some of my favorite singer/songwriters just seem to get it wrong.

Yes, I love the classics. On iTunes, I have over 50 versions of "The Christmas Song" (Chestnutt's roasting on an open fire..."), 25 versions of "Let it Snow," 80 versions of "Silent Night," 38 versions of "Winter Wonderland," 50 versions of "White Christmas" (nothing like a Christmas song written by a Jew), 20 versions of "What Child is This?" and lots of the other standards ("Jingle Bells," "Silver Bells," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," etc.

In all, I have over 2,500 Christmas songs, most of which are traditional songs like those above.

And yet, perhaps my favorite Christmas album is The Statler Brothers' Christmas Card. Yes, it has several old-fashioned Christmas songs, but the ones that I enjoy most are their original ones. Consider the lyrics on a few, and then go out and pick up a copy of this remarkable Christmas album.

To the following song there's a sincerity and a longing that is either grateful or melancholy, depending upon your mood.

"I'll Never Spend a Christmas"
The year you were snow queen
At the high school Christmas ball.
The night we got snowed in
And prayed it wouldn't thaw.

The year I bought your bracelet,
And you bought me one too.
I'll never spend a Christmas
That I don't think of you.

The year I helped your daddy trim
The outdoor tree with lights.
You worked part time at Penny's
And I took you home at night.

The year the senior class sold
Christmas trees and mistletoe
And we never thought that someday
This would seem so long ago.

The Christmas Eve you told me
You loved me, and I knew
I'd never spend a Christmas
I wouldn't think of you.

The night we planned the party
To decorate the tree.
It snowed so hard, no one could come.
No one, that is, but me.

The Christmas Eve I told you
I loved you, well I do.
And I'll never spend a Christmas
I won't be loving you.

The following song begins with a drawn out cello and 4/4 beat. It's mood is similar to the one above.

Christmas to Me
Christmas to me
Is wherever she might be.
Singing carols With the choir
Haning stockings by the fire.
Making Christmas bows.
Hanging mistletoe.
'Cause where she is, I want to be
That's what Christmas is to me.

Christmas to me
Is as far as I can see.
Pasture fields covered with snow,
White Christmas on the radio.
Children and sleds
And momma's gingerbread.
At home with just the family,
That's what Christmas is to me.

Christmas to me
Is a tall cedar tree.
Decorated and adorned.
With Christmas balls and strings of popcorn.
Tinsel wrapped with care
With webs of angel hair,
A final star atop the tree
That's what Christmas is to me.

Christmas to me
Is the new born baby.
Lying quietly in the hay
When the angels came to say,
"Peace on Earth to men."
And I pray for peace again.
Scenes of the nativity
That's what Christmas is to me.

Christmas to you,
May it never be blue.
And may all your dreams come true:
Merry Christmas to you.

While the next songs is a bit hokey in some ways, it sounds very good at this time of year.
Something You Can't Buy

The greatest Christmas present
Is something you can't buy.

When World War II was over,
We trimmed the tree alone
But we saved the star for daddy,
'Cause daddy was coming home.
We bought mamma a new dress.
We bought daddy a tie.
But he brought us each something
That money couldn't buy.

The greatest Christmas present
Is something you can't buy.

I talked to pa this evening
For an hour on the phone
He said, "Don't spend your money on presents
We just want you here at home."
But we'll buy momma a new dress
And daddy another tie.
And we'll spend lots of time together
And that's something you can't buy.

The greatest Christmas present
Is something you can't buy.

Someday, and I know it's coming
When all of us won't be together every Christmas,
You know daddy's seventy-three.
And to pay back all he gave me,
I can't, but I will try.
I'll pass along to my kids
That something you can't buy.

Who Do You Think?
There are people who are whispering,
And the rumors are running wild.
There's a woman who's not married,
But she's gonna have a child.

Her name is Mary. She's a virgin
From down in Nazereth, now listen close.
She's gonna marry a man named Joseph,
But the baby's father is the Holy Ghost.

And who do you think could believe such a thing?
Could believe that this story is true?
And who do you think could believe such a thing?
Well, here's hoping to heaven you do.

Now they're saying she had the baby
In a barn in Bethlehem.
And a star moved round the heavens
'Till it stopped right over there.
Then some shepherds said an angel
Came and told them about the birth.
They always knew men went to heaven
But now God had come to Earth.

And who do you think could believe such a thing?
Could believe that this story is true.
Who do you think could believe such a thing,
Well here's hoping to heaven you do.

To Dear Old Aunt Mardi

I have been called an imbicile because I wrote in my own name on the ballot this past November. Alas, I may be. However, I must submit that I am far less the idiot than those who were listed as official candidates.

Until this greater issue is resolved, I will continue to vote for the man most qualified--even if it is a "wasted," and/or "absurd," and/or "inappropriate" vote.

Bill of Rights