Solstice

You may have noticed over the past six months that the sun is dying.

Every day it climbs a little less high into the sky than it climbed the day before. It hangs low in the sky, visiting us with its warmth a little less each day. Every morning it wakes later, and every evening it retires earlier. If it were to continue its malaise, it would eventually be unable to climb even above the horizon, leaving us in a perpetual night. Alone. To die.

Fear not, today the sun is reborn. It is renewed. Beginning today it will climb higher in the sky every day, it will visit us with it’s life sustaining warmth for longer and longer each day. In a short time snows will melt, rains will come, plants will spring forth again, and a new generation of baby animals will be born into a new land.

The circle of life on our tiny little rock will continue on, for at least another year. The sun and the earth care not whether we live or die, yet today, because of their movements, our tiny little lives are saved, to continue on, for at least another year.

It is a time to celebrate, and reflect, and take joy in the knowledge that we live, we are alive and well and living on planet Earth, for at least another year.

Feel free to celebrate this miracle with the religious ritual of your choice.

What a difference a Pomeranian makes…

I gained a new insight into the Trump phenomenon this weekend, in a most unexpected way.

(And before you’re all like “There he goes again with his anti-Trump rantings”, hold on.  This post isn’t anti-Trump.  I am actually coming out right now and saying I am pro-Trump.  Well, I am pro-Trump: the ideal.  Relax, I firmly remain anti-Trump: the man. But this post is not about the man. I’ve had plenty to say about that already, and frankly there’s not much more can be said that hasn’t been said before. No, this post is about the ideal of Trump, which I fully support. And it is about a stuffed Pomeranian, but more on that later.)

Okay, how this all started…

Every year our company has a Halloween party and costume contest.  That’s something of an understatement.  In past years this has been a week long Halloween extravaganza, with multiple costumes, themes, skits, and daily voting, all leading up to one final week long team winner, and usually not a small amount of controversy over the voting process.  In recent years this has been augmented with us then attending the “13 Ugly Men” Halloween Party – one of THE big social charity events of the season in these parts.  This year, due to popular demand, and escalating expenses, we scaled it back to one day of contests, and the big event that night, but… it’s still a big deal.

One of the things I love about where I work is, the people there are, well, the only way to put it is… they are competitive as fuck.  It didn’t matter the prize, they just wanted to win it. And they go all out. Thus the escalating expenses from a week long extravaganza.  But even in it’s one-day scaled back form, it is still a highly competitive event. You’ve gotta bring your “A” game.

When deciding on what costume I would do this year, I looked at the rules, and one of the categories for points was “scariest costume”.  I thought to myself, what is the scariest thing I have ever seen, and my answer came to me immediately.  I would go as Donald Trump.

But it’s not enough just to dress as Trump, there has to be a hook.  Just dressing like a clown is not enough, I expect there would be plenty of Trumps walking around, no, there has to be something unique.  That’s where the Pomeranian comes in.

There’s a old comedy trope about Trumps hair, going back decades, that it’s actually a small, furry, possibly rabid, animal the sleeps on his head by day, and presumably wanders off having it’s own adventures by night.  So there was my hook.  Instead of the usual Trump wig, I would wear a stuffed Pomeranian on my head.

Now, the logistics of strapping a Pomeranian to one’s head is more difficult than one might expect.  (There’s one of those sentences I never thought I’d say.)  First, said stuffed Pomeranian wasn’t quite big enough to cover my giant head, so I ended up assembling something of a Trump-hair-sandwich with safety pins, a Trump wig on the bottom, a poly-fill eviscerated Pomeranian in the middle, and the ubiquitous red hat on top.

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Just a quick word about the hat. My red hat says “Make America ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Again”. I wasn’t about to risk any of my money going to Trump’s pocket by accidentally purchasing official campaign merchandise.

This arrangement had the desired effect.  It was a Trump costume, with a hook, a slight tongue-in-cheek nod that the costume was meant to be humorous.  It was meant in good fun, and it was received as such, even amongst the handful of Trump supporters in our office.

Unfortunately all was not well.  While visually it work perfectly, it was somewhat top-heavy, and for reasons I won’t go into, we were outside on a windy day, and as you might expect a Pomeranian to do, it frequently leapt off my head and attempted to scurry away.

This was not a problem for the costume contest during the day, but for the big party that night it would be a big problem.  There would be much dancing, or in my case white people bouncing up and down, and much moving about, and the floor of the venue was not a place I wanted to retrieve something from to then put back on my head, so… Modifications were needed. Reluctantly, after all we had been through, I made the tough call, and decided the Pomeranian must go. Yes, I fired the Pomeranian.

This minor alteration had an unexpected consequence at the big event. Originally I had envisioned my costume as Trump: the Monster.  Maybe with devil horns poking out of that massive hair, or maybe Frankenstein bolts attached to an orange neck, or… well you get the idea.  So many possibilities.  But early on I decided that while it might be funny, out of respect for a small handful of people I know who liked him, but not for all the wrong reasons, demonizing him was not the best way to go.  No, I decided instead to stay closer to the truth, and portray him as Trump: the Buffoon.  Thus the Pomeranian for a hairpiece.  But now, that visual clue was gone.  I was just Trump.  There were no clues that I was Trump: the Buffoon, or Trump: the Monster, although a few who saw me made that interpretation anyway.

But not all. Something weird started happening.  I expected people to see me wearing my Trump costume as one would a Vampire or Frankenstein or Werewolf costume. People instead began seeing me wearing my Trump costume as one would Batman, or Captain America, or the Hulk.  In short, in the absence of visual clues otherwise, they were seeing me as Trump: the Superhero.

I started getting genuinely heart-felt thumbs-up, statements of adoration like “Love it!” and “You’re wonderful!”  There was lots of shaking of hands and taking of pictures, and appreciative smiles.  They genuinely adored this guy, and they instantly liked me, a perfect stranger to them, for this loving homage I had created to their hero.

That’s when it occurred to me… Well a few things, but first it occurred to me that, for the duration of this night at least, I had no political opinion. None. I would be just a guy having fun with a bunch of other humans having fun, and together we would celebrate, well I don’t know what exactly, but we would celebrate.  Tonight I would be a member of everyone’s tribe.

And it worked.  The highlight of the evening was when I ran into the unknown woman in a Hillary mask. I admit, that was a tense encounter at first, but she was a good sport about it, and I was committed to being a good sport about it, and it led to some wonderful photos. (Let it be known, far and wide, to one and all… I grabbed nothing.) Somewhere out there too are some interesting selfies of me with a very convincing Ken Bone.

But the other thing that occurred to me is, this really was hero worship.  This guy, or at least this image of a guy, is the hero they wanted, and after a few hours, I very much wanted them to have that hero. They deserved that hero, even if I knew deep down, having studied this man for literally decades, that this man was nowhere near the hero they held him to be. I wanted it for them.

I’ve talked with some of you before, for some time now, about the fact that I actually LIKE the idea of Trump. I do. An outsider, coming in to shake things up. Someone bold who tells it like it is. A businessman, not a politician. I like that. That really is what we need. That’s what I want too. That is EXACTLY who I want for president.

That ideal was H. Ross Perot in 92, before he went bat-shit crazy and dropped out of the race.  Believe me, up until that point, I was firmly on the Perot train. He was everything people want to believe Trump is today. Only, he was the real thing.

I have studied businessmen all of my adult life. There are several I would love see run for president. I know which ones are brilliant, and which ones are mediocre, and honestly, I would support even the mediocre ones (Carly Fiorina for example). But in that study, I also knew Trump, I knew his successes and failures, I knew how he ran his businesses and the philosophies that guided him. And I knew, even before he announced his run with the Reform Party in 2000, I knew that he was a fraud, albeit at times a successful one, and I knew beyond anything else that he was unequipped to lead a nation.

Others don’t see that, they don’t see Trump: the Very Flawed Angry Little Man, they see only Trump: the Hero.  And no matter what is shown to them, all they will ever see is Trump: the Hero. They just want it SO bad. They are practically willing it to be true. And I don’t blame them for wanting it, like I said, I do too. I wish it were true. I want a Trump. Just not this Trump.

On the other hand, I do blame them, at least a little, for allowing themselves to become so blinded by Trump: the Hero that they cannot see the truth of Trump: the Man. And I have no idea what it will take to shake that belief in Trump: the Hero. If nothing so far has, I don’t know that anything can. What does a hero have to do for you to lose faith in him?

When Trump said he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any support, he was right. He knew then that they were following Trump: the Hero. I think he was a surprised as anyone.

Of course, this is the great danger of dictators.  They are all seen at first as the conquering hero.  The champion of the people. The savior and liberator of the common man.

That was the appeal of Stalin and Lenin, they were the outsiders who came in to shake up the status quo. That was the appeal of Mao Tse-Tung, reclaiming China for the people, from the wealthy elite and foreign influence. That was the appeal of Hitler, to put Germans first, to make Germany great again. That was the appeal of Mussolini, to restore the greatness of old Rome. That was the appeal of Julius Caesar, to wrest power from the politically corrupt Senate, and give Rome back to the people.

ALL peacetime dictators begin this way. All of them. It is HOW they come to power. This is the path of Trump: the Dictator.

So what have I learned from all this?  Well, first let me say, there are people out there who support Trump because they believe he supports their racist, bigoted, “alt.right” ideals. And whether Trump does or not, he certainly does nothing to dissuade them, and what matters is that they believe he does. Those are the true “deplorables” Hillary was speaking of.

Not all Trump supporters are bigots, and it troubles me deeply when they take to calling themselves “deplorables” as a badge of honor. To me that signals that maybe they are okay with the racism and bigotry, or at least they are okay with an alliance with the racists and bigots. I assume they are not, but their embrace of the term introduces a troubling doubt.

For the other Trump supporters, many I know to be good people, I think I have a better understanding of them. For a few hours, I was one of them, I was celebrating Trump: the ideal, I was celebrating Trump: the hero, or maybe even Trump: the super-hero.

So, yeah, I get it.  I understand the appeal. Deep down I feel that same appeal, I desire it too. I wish I could join you, the hope and joy you feel seems absolutely blissful.

But, I cannot. It was only a moment, and I must return to the real world. I cannot abandon the rational world, the world of facts. I will stubbornly cling to it with my dying breath. Your world is more appealing, but it’s a false hope, it’s an unfounded joy. It is the bliss born of ignorance. I cannot un-know what I know. I cannot un-see what I’ve seen. And I cannot live in a dream world, no matter how pleasant the dream.

If you chose to remain there, in your dream, in your bliss. I understand. And I sympathize. I share your desire. I believe in your ideals. I yearn for the same champion as you. But I cannot worship your chosen hero. I have seen what you wish him to be, and it is beautiful, but I have also seen him for what he really is.

It’s ONE day… (Thanksgiving)

It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow. Stay home. Be with the ones you love. Let the retailers do the same…

(A few words from a retailer and dear friend of mine…)

It’s ONE day. I’m a retailer. I’m a capitalist. I NEED people to shop. But I’ve already given up my Sundays with my family for working for a public that is also working so much that often they only have Sundays to shop together, but I’m also willing to say in a public forum that I’m not happy about the Sunday work, not one little bit. But Thanksgiving has been set aside for thankfulness, contemplation, and reflection. It is SUPPOSED to be a pause-and-think moment. In even small-town American, I now work New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc. You’ll literally have to shoot me before I work on Christmas Day and Easter, but this nation has lost the meaning of this holiday. Shame on everyone shopping. No, I am not condemning the stores opening. In many cases, if they closed and lost those sales to competitors in this economy, it could mean business death. SHAME ON THE SHOPPERS. Knock it off! STOP! It is ONE DAY! I’ll be working every day, literally EVERY day, from Friday morning until Christmas Day. You’ll have ample opportunity to shop, and our economy and us business owners depend upon it. But just this ONE day, stop and be thankful, and let many of us have just one day off work, something for which some of us are more thankful than some shoppers must realize.

— Jeff Haddan

Happy Holidays 2014

It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and already people have started that beloved annual Christmas tradition — belittling people and especially businesses who say “Happy Holidays”.

So I thought maybe I should get my “Happy Holidays” rant out of the way early this year, so here goes…

It’s not about fear of offending someone, it’s about being inclusive. It’s about a business valuing all of their customers, not just the Christian ones. It’s saying to everyone, “I don’t know what holiday you celebrate, but whatever it is I wish you happiness as you celebrate it.”

Only in America would people get upset about trying to wish happiness to everyone. Shame on you Christians, trying to keep all the holiday happiness for yourselves. Learn to share. Maybe be welcoming and friendly to others who aren’t like you. I think maybe Jesus would like that.

(Just guessing on that last part, based on what I’ve read about him — I’m not like hearing voices in my head or anything.)

Anywho…. Happy Holidays Everyone!

Happy Easter

A little over 2,000 years ago the Romans executed a religious leader for political crimes. His followers believed he rose from the dead three days later. This event became the defining moment of the new religion, and over the years many others would come to believe. Within a few hundred years it would become the official religion of the Roman Empire. Within a thousand years it would become the most widely practiced religion on the planet, and it continues to be to this day.

Today we commemorate this single momentous event by having our small children search for brightly colored eggs hidden in the grass by a magical bunny. Everyone accepts this as normal, despite the fact that no one can establish a plausible connection between the executed religious leader and either brightly colored eggs or magical bunnies.

Still, the resulting holiday gives us an opportunity to dress up, gather with family, reconnect with our beliefs, and eat lots of candy and chocolate in the shape of eggs and magical bunnies (but strangely none in the shape of an executed religious leader), so on the whole it makes for a nice day.

Happy Easter Everybody!

“Happy Holidays”

First, let me preface by saying, I don’t get offended when people say “Happy Holidays”, and I don’t get offended when people say “Merry Christmas”. I do get annoyed by people who insist that only one greeting is correct, and who take offense if they do not receive their correct greeting. Otherwise I think this whole greeting thing is blown way out of proportion and people should just lighten up and be glad people are actually talking nicely to each other for a change.

I said all that just so I could say this. I saw a “Happy Holidays” sign today…. wait for it…. at a Christmas Tree lot.

I would think that out of all the places in the world where you might be inclined to say “Merry Christmas” in a retail environment, the one place where you would actually WANT to would be where the ONLY thing you sell is Christmas Trees. But that’s just me….

Happy Holidays Everyone… That’s Right, I Said HAPPY HOLIDAYS

(I’ll keep this one short and light, I promise.  And there’s a joke at the end.)

I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy but… When someone says to me “Happy Holidays”, I don’t assume they are trying to insult my faith.  I don’t think they are pushing some kind of liberal atheist agenda.  I don’t believe they are trying to tear down the fabric of western society.  I just think it’s a friendly greeting, and they are just trying to be nice.

By the same token…

I may be crazy but… When someone says to me “Merry Christmas”, I don’t believe they are trying to push their right-wing Christian agenda on me.  I don’t think they are intolerant of other faiths, or are xenophobic, or that they hate the Jews.   I just think it’s a friendly greeting, and they are just trying to be nice.

On the other hand…

When someone says to me “Seasons Greetings”, I think of this little cartoon I saw where these little bottles of garlic, parsley, and oregano were all saying “hi” to each other.  And that makes me smile.

Merry Xmas Everyone… Yes, that’s right, I said XMAS

For all my dear Christian friends who have made an annaul tradition of getting bent this time of year about the use of the term “X-mas”, please kindly consider the following:

1.  X- (the greek letter Chi) has been used in English as an accepted abbreviation for Christ for over 500 years.  Chi (“X” to us) is the first letter of “Christ” as spelled in the original Greek.  Just for fun, go to Google translate or Babelfish, and try translating “Christ” into Greek.  As a Christian, you should recognize the Chi-rho (Xp) symbol, one of the earliest and oldest symbols of Christianity.  Yes, I know crosses and Jesus-fish are all the rage now, but back in the day the Chi-rho was THE symbol for followers of Christ.  That the “X-” has lost acceptance as an abbreviation for Christ is a reflection of a modern educational system with no focus on classical language, much moreso than any real or imagined atheist conspiracy to replace Jesus with algebra.

2.  December 25th is the birthday of a great many deities, however Jesus Christ was not originally one of them.  That we celebrate his birth on december 25th is a somewhat arbitrary choice made by the early Roman church, as they established the calendar of new Christian holy days.  They could have just as easily chosen May Day or Groundhog’s Day.  (Yes, really, Groundhog’s Day.)  While we don’t actually know the date of His birth, we do know with some certainty that it is very unlikely it was in December.  (Or May, or February, for that matter.)  So the real question should be, not who’s trying to take Christ out of Christmas, but rather who put Christ into Christmas in the first place.  (Believe me, that’s a much more interesting question.)

3.  Almost all of the traditions of Chrismas are older than Christ.  There were decorated trees, and gift-giving, and decorations, and parties, and holly, and mistletoe, and yule logs, and wreaths, and carolling, and probably eggnog, all long before Jesus Christ was born.  Putting Christ into Christmas really didn’t change it all that much.  Just the name really, and it gave us some new songs to sing.  I suspect taking him out of it wouldn’t really change it that much either.  These old traditions, with or without their Christian overlay, are important – they are our connection with our past.  If we don’t know where they came from, if we don’t understand our own traditions, they are no longer meaningful to us.  They become nothing more than pointless, mindless ritual.

4.  A significant number of Christans to this day do not celebrate Christmas.  Certainly no Christians prior to the Roman Emperor Constantine celebrated Christ’s birthday, on December 25th or any other day.  The pilgrims who came here, nearly died, and in the process invented Thanksgiving, did not celebrate Christmas.  Today our modern view of the Christmas tradition is more shaped by Dickens and Coca-Cola than by anything from the Bible.  The New Testament tells a great deal about the activities of the early apostles, and the early (pre-Roman) churches they served, in the years and decades following the death of Christ.  Missing from the scripture is any mention of any remembrance or celebration of the birth of Christ.  From a dogmatic point of view, the birth, aside from being to a virgin, is nearly inconsequential. It is the death and ressurection of Christ that is the central tenant upon which Christainity is founded.  (This is why a magic bunny hides eggs for the kiddies on Easter.)

5.  Two out of three people on the planet are not Christian.  Nearly half of these non-Christians are Muslim, the other half are mostly Hindu or Buddhist.  None of them care what you do with the “X” in Christmas.  This great atheist conspiracy you are concerned about, well the number of atheists in the world is amazingly tiny, and most of them don’t care about your “X” either.  The ones that do care, they ONLY care in the context of where a government agency is involved in the establishment of religion.  You need to understand this – Using government resources to establish religious belief is forbidden by the most holy of their sacred texts, which they call the First Admendment.  Aside from that, what you do as a private citizen, or as a business, or as an organization, with respect to Christmas, honestly they don’t give a fuck.  In any case, you will NEVER hear a true atheist saying “Merry Xmas”.  Their traditional greeting is “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”.  NOW LISTEN CAREFULLY:  Just because someone says “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” does NOT automatically mean they are an atheist.  More than likely it means they are trying to be friendly and inclusive to the two thirds of people on the planet who are not Christians. Despite appearances to the contrary, being Christian does not prohibit one from being friendly and inclusive.

 

Now…  For all my dear non-Christian friends out there, who have to put up with this nonsense every year:  Sorry, and Happy Holidays!

One Nation Indivisible

Monday is Memorial Day, the day we honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country. This holiday began as a remembrance of the soldiers lost in the Civil War, and has since expanded to honor those who paid the ultimate price in the subsequent wars, and simultaneously devolved into a nationwide barbecue celebrating the coming of summer.

It is interesting the aspects of today’s culture that have their roots in the Civil War. One of these is the Pledge of Allegiance. A great deal is made from time to time about the phrase “under God” in the pledge, but what many people don’t know is that the phrase “under God” was a much later addition to the pledge that significantly subverts it’s original and intended meaning.

The key phrase in the pledge, as originally written, was “one nation indivisible”. The pledge was created as a response to the Civil War. It was meant to be a promise that we are, and will forever be, a unified nation. That we would never again fracture or splinter, that we would never again take up arms against our own. The pledge was meant to be a solemn vow of unity that fully transends the hollow “under God” alteration brought on by Eisenhower-era anti-communist hysteria.

It is sad that this original message has been lost. As a country we have become more divisive than ever. We could use the occasional subtle reminder that we are meant to be “one nation indivisible”, that we have all pledged ourselves to the same thing. Those who are so caught up in the polarization between liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, red state versus blue state, they would do well to take a moment to remember the original purpose and meaning behind Memorial Day, and our Pledge of Allegiance.


I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.

Recollections of Easter (The Easter Egg Hunt)

This is a paraphrased recollection of an actual conversation I had with my mother when I was about four or five…

Me: What’s an easter egg hunt?

Mom: We take easter eggs and hide them all over the yard, and you try to find them.

Me: But I don’t like eggs.

Mom: These are easter eggs.

Me: What’s an easter egg?

Mom: It’s like a regular egg, but they come in lots of pretty colors.

Me: So what do I get if I find them?

Mom: You get the eggs.

Me: Can I eat them?

Mom: Can if you want to.

Me: Do they taste different?

Mom: No, they taste like regular eggs.

Me: But I don’t like eggs.

(pause)

Me: You sure they’re not candy eggs or something?

Mom: No, their regular eggs.

Me: Can I eat them scrambled?

Mom: No, they’re hard-boiled

Me: What’s that?

Mom: They’re cooked in the shell in boiling water.

Me: Does that make them taste different?

Mom: Yes.

Me: Would I like them?

Mom: I don’t know, have you ever had a hard-boiled egg?

Me: I don’t think so.

Mom: Would you like to try one?

Me: Yes.

(we pause here for a few minutes as mom makes me a hard-boiled egg, and shows me how to peel and eat it.)

Mom: Well, what do you think?

Me: Mmm, not sure. (I take another bite)

(pause)

Me: I don’t like it.

Mom: What don’t you like about it?

Me: The taste.

Mom: What’s wrong with the taste?

Me: It tastes like eggs.

Mom: It IS an egg.

Me: But I don’t like eggs.

Mom: Fine, then you don’t have to eat it.

Me: So how do I win this easter egg hunt?

Mom: By finding the easter eggs.

Me: How many do I have to find?

Mom: As many as you can.

Me: What do I get if I win?

Mom: You don’t get anything, it’s not like that.

Me: There’s no prize?

Mom: No, there’s no prize.

Me: Just the eggs.

Mom: Right, just the eggs.

Me: And you’re sure they taste just like regular eggs?

Mom: Yes, I’m sure. It’s just food coloring, it doesn’t change the taste.

Me: And there’s no candy eggs, or chocolate eggs, or anything?

Mom: No, no candy eggs, no chocolate eggs, just regular eggs, that have been colored like easter eggs.

Me: I don’t like eggs.

Mom: I gathered.

Me: If it’s all the same to you, can I just stay in a watch cartoons instead?

Mom: Fine…