the true valentine loves not the vampire

This whole Valentine’s Day story is quite baffling because there’s a whole bunch of weird history behind it. It turns out the Giant Octopus of the Vatican doesn’t even really know who Saint Valentine was. This is an organization that professes it has a hotline to God via the Pope guy who happens to be in the chair at the time. Or something like that. So if they say they don’t have any solid info on Valentine’s connection to Valentine’s Day or love? Then you’d better believe they don’t have anything at all in the archives where they also keep the plans for the fusion device. But it’s okay, because we at TAP already know the true answer.

We heard tell at the Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant located in San Diego International Airport Terminal 1 from a man wearing a Tony Romo jersey and drinking red zinfandel. He swears on his soul that he was vacationing in Bucharest in 1985 at the height of Ceaușescu’s brutal power. He spied a dark cloaked man giving chocolates and flowers to random women at the hotel bar. Thinking this man a dangerous threat and rather drunk, he armed himself with a rolled up Leninist newspaper and followed the cloaked man into the grim night. He made it twelve feet from the hotel door before being accidently knocked unconscious by a nine year old girl on a bicycle. He awoke weeks later deep in the Transylvanian Hills.

There, he proceeded to conduct a hasty forced interview with a vampire. The vampire stated that in fact Valentine’s Day originated as an excuse for vampires to drink more blood then during the other 364 days of the year. The seduction, the lust, the red color, the focus upon bleeding somebody dry, was all an excuse for vampires to consume their extra fill. The man, petrified, demanded meekly to know if he too would die that day. The vampire chuckled, and said no. For the original Valentine’s Day traditions were long gone. Instead, vampires had transformed into vicious corporate shills. They made such a killing on cocoa and flower farms that they were able to bankroll the invention of synthetic blood to sate their appetite. In particular, this one vampire confessed to working for Goldman Sachs Business Development Branch and had a supposed “killer” idea on this thing he kept calling “see, dee, oohs.”

Anyways, who or what, precisely, is the dreaded Giant Octopus establishment? To those who voted for Hilary it’s Trump’s business buddies in NYC, the 1887 KKK, etc, etc. To those who voted for Trump it’s the people in the media, DC, etc, etc. If you voted for neither of them the establishment is one of sixteen different Giant Octopi that occupy your darkest dreams. Like vampires. Or employees of Citibank. Or celebrity award shows.

Did you know the Grammy’s and the BAFTA’s were both on last Sunday? They’ve got so many award shows they have to cram two major ones into one night on different continents. How many awards can celebrities give to themselves? Don’t they know that celebrity awards are the pinnacle of the Giant Octopus’ many magical apples!? Don’t eat it, dear God, don’t eat it! The apple causes the downfall of us all! It laced with haughtiness.

Hey speaking of apples, and love, and whatever else, what does it say about humanity that the original Valentine’s Day love story ends with the downfall of all humanity for an eternity?

Anyways, but if you’re me, the Giant Octopus establishment is everything that tries to remove coherent thought from your brain for any particular purpose that benefits anybody not you. Whether it be an attempt to get your vote, your support, your time, your eyes, or more often than not, your straight cash.

America will spend $20B on Valentine’s Day this year. Or twice what the NFL makes in an entire league year. Or three times the national cancer budget. Why? There are 365 days in a year. Yet this is apparently the day that if you don’t get your mate candy, flowers, or whatever, it means you’re apparently cheating on them, or are possessed by the devil. Which is a mean thing to say, because even the devil is all about this day. It’s why he always dresses in red velvet. Go watch the Japanese anime cartoon.

Anyways, there’s certainly no connection between the Valentine’s guy and love. And yet there are references as far back as Chaucer and Shakespeare associating Valentine’s Day and love. So somehow this thing happened. Somehow humanity has a centuries long tradition of picking this one day over the other 364 for the purposes of affection.

I don’t get it, but I’ll accept it as reality. And that, as always, there just might be something wrong with me in that I wish this day didn’t exist. But even if you accept this as cultural reality, what I cannot wrap my mind around is the Giant Octopus having it’s claws in the 2/3 of Americans that probably shell out substantial gold for this event.

Folks who won’t eat genetically modified crops and recycle their used pencils are all of a sudden all too comfortable paying a 600% markup to Mars Brand Incorporated, or some faceless hedge fund LLC that owns a series of flower mills in Columbia and Kenya paying 3 cents an hour minimum wage. Nobody has a gun to anybody’s head making them buy candy this one single day. Why not buy candy on April 17th? Or cut some fresh wild flowers from a field on June 3rd?

Don’t give in into the Giant Octopi! Don’t give into the vampire! Do something different for your special person. Don’t let the vampire be your valentine instead. I don’t know what that different thing would be, you know your mate, you just find a way to make it happen. But I’m guessing, a good starting point is to try and do something that doesn’t involve spending any cash. That’d be a good start.

Turkey – Ephesus

In 262 AD, having already raided large portions of Asia Minor, a Goth force descended upon Ephesus. Outnumbered (and by this point probably also outclassed) the Roman military was unable to offer any substantial opposition. The Goths sacked Ephesus and burned the Temple of Artemis to the ground. One of the Seven Wonders of the World ceased to exist alongside many other major structures within the city. It’s likely that a substantial portion of the population was killed, scattered, or enslaved. Ephesus never recovered.

It is as if aliens descended upon Europe tomorrow and sailed up the Thames or Seine to gut Paris or London alongside millions of people and all their major landmarks. Only in Aleppo could you find a rough template today to compare this to. Except that with Ephesus it was a factor of time. It has taken five years to lay waste to Aleppo, it’s people, and its historical landmarks. It probably only took a few days to burn Ephesus. All that’s left now is broken stone, rubble, and a ghost of what was once one of the major cities on Earth.

Trees grow on bare grass that was the ground floor of some rich trader’s mansion. The fallen columns of one of the greatest architectural masterpieces ever made were ground down for plaster to make lesser buildings. The written knowledge and cultural history of one of the great cities of history is so completely destroyed, so burned, so reduced to waste that it’s actually disputed which year (not which day or month) Ephesus was attacked by the Goths.

ephesus

When you go back and look at places such as Ephesus I’m inclined to divide the history of the human race into two geographic categories. You either live in a town, city, or country that has been a doormat of history or you do not. Those that caught the doormat category, even to this day, have to overcome the problems that trace their roots back thousands of years.

Despite turmoil, wars, and bombing raids, London was completely destroyed only once in 60 AD by Boudica during her revolt. Paris has never been razed to the ground. Depending on how you count, Ephesus was demolished at least seven times over thousands of years. It’s hard to build a long standing, secure culture, language, commerce, and politics when somebody shows up once every few hundred years and devastates it all. I think this goes a long way to explain why Britain and France are relatively stable democracies while Turkey’s still attempting to discover its identity.

London had the Celts, Romans, Saxons, a few Vikings, even fewer Normans, all eventually melded into English. Ephesus by contrast had to deal with this journey through history:

Arzawans

Hittites

Mycenaean / Ionians

Cimmerians

Greeks

Persians

Macedonians / Seleucids

Romans

Byzantines

Arabs

Seljuk

Ottomans

Turkish

Good luck trying to wrap your brains around how all that is supposed to create a stable safe place to live for multiple generations. Sometimes a sustained melding of cultures can create a truly special blend of humanity that enriches a people. Think of the unique joining of Moorish and Christian that Spain traces its roots. But other times there is no blending, there’s just history’s great eraser that does away with the old, and sometimes never replaces it with the new.

Kemal Atatürk’s vision was that history would be undone, his country remade. He wanted to wipe away the chaos described above. Turkey would be reborn into something new. Whereas religion was the one great binding principle, Turkey would become an ultra-secular state. The Turks would even get a brand new alphabet. What people could and would wear would be dictated. Those who lived in Turkey would become singularly Turkish, one way or the other. The Kurds were oppressed and the Armenians simply liquidated.

In retrospect, it seems clear that this was never going to work. It relied entirely on the personality of one man, and the ability of those with guns to enforce it. Whenever things got out of hand the army would simply step in to preserve Ataturk’s legacy. Turkey suffered more coups than most African states. If the planet’s last hundred years or so have shown anything, it’s that you cannot build long term prosperity in a country where the chief method of civil institution is violence. Eventually things come off the rails. But in the interim, folks can generally muddle through.

So in this sense, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rule is actually the direct successor to Atatürk’s legacy. In that he’s running the show simply because he controls the most guns. The recent coup, while dramatic and bloody, never had widespread military support. Erdoğan controls the army, so he controls Turkey.

Modern democracy and prosperity require many civil institutions that were built up over centuries such as freedom of speech, rule of law, freedom of the press, and so on. How exactly would these have emerged in Ephesus when every once and a while every civil institution was doused in flames?

I’ll roughly wrap up this line of thinking, because I want to talk about Ephesus’s golden age, by saying I’m not optimistic about Turkey’s immediate future.

In the short term it’s the Erdoğan Show. This week he submitted to parliament constitutional amendments to give him unchecked executive level powers. He will get them. He will get them because he wants to be Sultan and Atatürk II. He will get them because he controls the guns. And the guns control the voting, education, media, and just about every other aspect of Turkish civil society. The Erdoğan Show will continue until he dies. After that, what?

It just depends. Sometimes a country can right itself after incompetent one man rule departs. But even if everybody realizes the nightmare was indeed a nightmare, it’s hard to fix things. Just look at what Venezuela, another broken democracy, is going through even though Hugo Chávez is long since dead. Even if Turkey’s ultimate future is bright, I think Erdoğan will ultimately set back progress by fifty years. What comes after that, is up to Turkey’s people.

ephesus-2

The ruins of Ephesus are at the foot of Selçuk, the modern Turkish town. In ancient times Ephesus was on the Aegean Sea. But over the centuries the Cayster River silted up and now the entire area is several miles inland. If one takes a more nuanced view of history than I describe above, you can simply make the argument that Ephesus died out once it lost access to the Aegean and was no longer able to serve as a major port.

A good first stop is the ruins of the Temple of Artemis which are a few hundred meters from Selcuk. What little is left is among the oldest of the places available for visitation. The temple underwent three phases. The Bronze Age shrine might be among the oldest on the planet. This original temple was lost to floods in the 7th Century BC and was replaced by the more recognizable Greek columned temple around 550 BC. In 356 BC a true fringe lunatic of a man burned it down. Starting in 323 BC it was slowly rebuilt to the final recognizable structure.

artemis

Ruins of the Temple of Artemis looking northeast with Selçuk in the background. The single freestanding column is rebuilt from various wreckage they found. Imagine the size of the temple by contemplating a structure that fully filled the entirety of the basin in this photo with 127 total columns. Note the Ionic fluting on the fallen column blocks. Also see in the front of the shot the square holes cut into the eroded column blocks. Each column had a wooden centerpiece which they stacked column blocks through as they built up the height, in the case of Artemis, 60 feet high. The blocks were then fitted, sanded down, fluted, and decorated to give the column a single cohesive look meant to last for thousands of years. The problem with ancient Greek temples was they required wooden roof beams to support the marble tiles that typically sat atop. The intricate concrete roof construction one sees in say the Pantheon didn’t exist yet. This left most ancient Greek temples very vulnerable to fire, despite their stone base and columns. This was the cause of many Greek temples losses, as of course with Artemis as well.

ephesus-map

One of the many maps of Ancient Ephesus. To the left you can see the bulge emerging from the west of what was once the harbor inlet from the Cayster River that lead to the Aegean. The Temple of Artemis and Selçuk are off to the northeast. Note the extent of the city walls. Depending on how you count, Ephesus surely had over one-hundred-thousand citizens. Always a major city state during the Hellenic eras, it reached its cultural, economic, and political heights during Roman rule. For reference in subsequent photos, the Library of Celsus is #20. The Great Theater is #25. Harbor Street is #26.

library-of-celsus

The Library of Celsus. A couple of things to keep in mind as you look at this. First, the façade is a complete reconstruction. Second, look back at the map. As impressive as the library is, it’s one of the smallest buildings that once called Ephesus home. Despite the building’s small size, the library was among the largest of the ancient world housing over ten-thousand scrolls. The interior was burned out by the Goth attack, the façade collapsed centuries later. How much more would we know of the ancient world if at least some portion of the library’s content had survived? Completed in 120 AD by a son to honor his father, both of whom where Roman counsels, it’s a structure that mirrored both its Greek and Roman roots.

grand-theater

Grand Theater of Ephesus. Likely the largest theater in the ancient world, it could hold a crowd of 25,000 people. Greek theater was probably performed through its history and in the later Roman years people died there for the amusement of their fellow humans. I can’t begin to describe to you, but hope to loosely capture in pictures, just how big this place is. It rivals modern stadiums in its size and scale.

grand-theater-stands

harbor-street-above

From the Grand Theater seats looking west down Harbor Street. This must have been quite the view with all the buildings and the ships back in the day. The inlet to the Aegean and the Harbor Gate would have been at the end of this road.

Theater Stage.jpg

theater-backstage

Backstage of the Grand Theater.

Harbor Street.jpg

Harbor Street. Not much is left, and so your brain is left to imagine what it would have looked like. All the way down to the harbor and the ships. The tens-of-thousands of people who walked this street and lived out their lives.

Mosaic.jpg

Turkey – Mount Koressos, House of Mary

When you travel in groups compromises are always necessary. When the group disagrees you can sometimes divide up or sneak off on your own for a while. Other times you just have to deal with it. When you share hotels, cars, buses, trains, and meals with your companions, it’s generally not a good idea to fight all the time. I’ve been on trips where this happens and it truly kills everything.

Being in Turkey I had about five-hundred things I wanted to do, history being at the top of my list. So when we were headed to Ephesus I was fired up. We only had one day there. I could spend six days in Ephesus and not get bored. But then, other members of the group wanted to take most of that one morning and visit the supposed House of Mary which is near Ephesus. I hear this and I’m like, “Oh, uh, …” [checks watch] (I did indeed wear a watch then, which seems strange now.)

I was raised Irish / English / Sicilian Catholic, so you know it’s seriously in my blood. But I was also raised with a light touch of it. My own Grandmother would frequently talk with us about this or that doctrine, Pope, etc, that she disagreed with, alongside her own take on life. It’s a very liberating American take on religion. Nowadays, depending on the barometric pressure outside, I can either truly believe or am an atheist or whatever. A lot of it depends on my mood. So basically I would not consider myself very religious, but I really do try. In this Turkey travel group though were several ultra-hyper religious types. So they wanted to go see the House of Mary and were very set upon it.

Given how much of Ephesus was on my brain I could have protested. I let it go in the name of cohesion. This was the right choice. I figured it would be nice to see the mountains, maybe say a prayer, and generally just enjoy the ride. This was exactly what happened. I don’t regret it.

The full titled House of the Virgin Mary sits atop Mount Koressos which is a few miles from Ephesus. It’s a small house and religious shrine. By which I mean it’s a religious shrine that reminded me a lot of the shrines in Asia, specially Japan. As in, it’s a commercial tourist destination. There’s very little religion about it. In say Japan, sometimes you’ll be walking around temple grounds and there’ll be these people hocking Hello Kitty fascism toys from stalls. I always found this odd, to me a dead quiet church is my pinnacle of prayer. But in many cultures it’s not a big deal to meld commercial and religious ideas on the same site. This is the case with Mount Koressos.

It’s like going to the Mary exhibit at Disneyland. There are several cafes, a wishing wall, tourist buses everywhere, magic water, it’s quite the atmosphere. And this place has quite the crazy tale as well. My first thought was, “There’s no way Mary was there.” I mean, what do I know? But still, it didn’t seem quite likely to me. I get it, Popes have visited this place, but still. Feast your brains upon this tale of discovery:

– Anne Catherine Emmerich, German nun, mystic, and later saint, has a bunch of visions which she imparts to the brains of others.

– Clemens Brentano, author, writes books based upon her visions about Jesus, etc, etc.

– In 1852, Brentano provides a rough description from a vision of a house near Ephesus that John supposedly built for Mary where she lived out her days.

– In 1881, French priest, Indiana Jones copycat, and lunatic Julien Gouyet uses this book’s description to find and identify the house on top of Mount Koressos. Nobody believes him.

– But by 1891 at the urgings of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey, folks get onboard with this idea and the house is made a shrine and taken under management. The first Pope shows up within a decade. Half-a-dozen other Popes have also visited.

So is one to believe this tale of visions, translated through a kook author, and a bunch of people wandering around the 19th century Ottoman countryside with a book in their hand? I’d have to say I don’t. I’m pretty sure that whatever Mary was that she died close to her birthplace and is buried out there. But whatever, it’s all good, people can pray anywhere. That’s the cool part about prayer.

And whatever the house is, it is indeed neat to visit. It’s very old and probably a good example of the style and architecture of ancient dwellings in this part of the planet.

 

Mary House.jpg

Side of the House of the Virgin Mary

 

When there, I kind of separated myself from the group and puttered around. When you go inside the house it’s a converted chapel, very small. I didn’t take a picture inside as it didn’t seem right. I prayed for a short bit and then was on my way. It was a nice moment, but not what I would call any kind of religious experience.

 

800px-House_of_Virgin_Mary2.jpg

Not my shot, taken from Wikipedia. Note the very ancient hallowed c-grade velvet rope, two Apostle endorsed codex plastic information placards, and Papal holy water blessed exit sign

 

Outside there is a wishing / prayer wall that folks can leave notes on. There are thousands of notes. There is also a water source that is said to heal or grant wishes or whatever. I did not drink the water

For me, the ground was the better experience. This was my chapel visit.  This was my Mount Koressos:

Forest.jpg

I’ve got dozens of various shots of nothing but the woods from all across the world. Two of my favorites are on my desk, one from American and one from Japan. I’m always struck by the differences and similarities between them. Wherever you are, the woods are always similar enough that you can recognize ideas, feelings, trends that join you to that remote location. In the sense that the woods near your own home and country do much the same. It’s that spark of fellowship and belonging that most closely identifies us as part of one human race and planet. It’s only there for a moment, but it’s a good feeling. Nature, God, whatever, does that to you. Amen.

Turkey – Marmaris harbor

The next three posts are going to be about my trip to Turkey and it’s history.  These will be a little personal for a variety of reasons.  This below shot is of my first day there, specifically Marmaris, which is where we landed.

Marmaris used to be a small fishing village but has essentially turned into the most tourist of tourist destinations.  It’s not a bad place, we had a good time, but it’s among the most aggressive I’ve seen in terms of fleecing the visitors.

For example, one of the best meals I’ve ever had was in Marmaris.  Turkish meats, prawns, the thing where they cook the fish inside a salt shell, Turkish beer, it was awesome.  Unfortunately the owner lied to our faces about his prices and tried to fleece us at the register.  We had to negotiate him down which was tiresome.  Overall, well worth the meal, just silly.

Marmaris has a pretty decent harbor and throughout history it’s been used by Greeks, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Turks, and so on for both trade and military purposes.  Today’s it’s all tourism though, specifically Russians.

I would imagine that after Turkish pilots shot down the Russian jet and Putin cancelled tourist visas that Marmaris’ economy suffered immensely.  With Putin and Erdogan’s dictator’s détente, I figure they’re looking forward to a profitable upcoming tourist season.

marmaris-005

Sunset over Marmaris harbor

 

ordinary average German citizen attains bestseller status

Can book royalties cross over to the next realm and enrich a person within Valhalla? If so, I’m not sure how this would play out. First off, I assume (I hope) that Hitler’s purpose in Valhalla is for archery practice. When he showed up on 01 May 1945 I figure the Jarls took one look at him and were like, “Ah, welcome friend, we’ve been expecting you for some time.” And Hitler smiles all sheepishly, hoping these weird next life dudes don’t really know who he is. But then four drunk thugs step up and grab him and he realizes he’s done. At this point he starts to whine like a little chipmunk, “Nein. Nein!”. They take him to the range and strap him to a post. Every day drunk thugs practice their bow skills on Hitler. He’s doomed for an eternity to die, be reborn, and die again each day. So if book royalty checks do show up, they’d probably just take the money and buy more mead with it. Hitler never sees a mark.

For those who were unaware, the copyright held by Bavaria on Mein Kampf expired last year. So folks could publish the book again. There was serious discussion about passing a law or twisting it to prohibit further publication of the book. Thankfully this didn’t happen and the book’s on the street again. To me, history should be in people’s faces. So I’m glad they let it publish again. Let Hitler’s book sit in open view. Folks should read it (somewhat) and learn. History can’t benefit humanity when we sweep it under the rug. There are important lessons to be learned. In the case of Mein Kampf, one of the most clear is that men generally tend to mean what they say repeatedly.

Regular readers of this degenerate blog know I sure do hate the mass destruction wielded upon people by the haters for even the most minor of perceived slights. But trends become trends over time. When Sultan Erdogan said over a decade ago, “Democracy is like a train, you get off once you have reached your destination,” it would appear he meant every bit of it. There is nothing Hitler put out post 1933 that he didn’t originally write down in Mein Kampf. His distain of and future overthrow of parliamentary democracy, his intent to lay waste to Russia and the Slavs, his hatred of the Jews, it’s all in there.

For example, take these very specific passages:

“…the nationalization of our masses will succeed only when, aside from all the positive struggle for the soul of our people, their international poisoners are exterminated…”

“If at the beginning of the war and during the war twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the nation had been subjected to poison gas…”

Not much subtlety there. Hmm, I wonder what he hand in mind? It’s important to remember that at the time Germany was (and still is) a pinnacle of modern culture and technology. Germans were not dumb people. So in my mind a few things happened here:

1) They didn’t read his book

2) They read his book and didn’t think he was serious

3) They figured he wrote the book in 1926, and it’s 1933, so he’s hopefully a changed man

4) They didn’t care one way or the other, they wanted a winner to restore Germany from the gutter

All of these views were mistakes. And thus, we eventually get Hitler’s, “You, gentlemen, are no longer needed…”. And the journey was on from that point. It took twelve years to resolve the forces of that conflict. The roots of it began well before Hitler published his book, and in many ways he was just a catalyst. But also in many ways he was an extremely unique and powerful man. One wonders what would have happened to Germany and Europe had history’s fate not cursed the landscape with somebody so evil, so perverted, and yet so talented in the ways of organization and persuasive leadership.

* Because tis the inauguration season, and I hate all humanity, I’ll just throw out the caveat that nothing I’ve written above is meant to apply to Trump. That’s an entirely different situation. History has many of the same notes, but it’s a different sheet of music. Maybe I’ll write more about this later, but suffice to say, America has a far more mature and robust constitutional system than post World War One Germany, a country that had only experimented with democracy for about a decade before Hitler tore it down.

There’s a lot of the purging of history lately. A lot of smart people didn’t want Mein Kampf republished. Folks want to take former slave owners statues off the American street. I’m sure eventually somebody’s going to get around to fully censoring entire books from the school system because they offend four or five folks down by the Sizzler.

But to me, I applaud that Mein Kampf is out there. I’m glad it’s a bestseller. I want all humanity to read, learn, and remember history’s lessons. I want a former slave owner governor’s statue to sit right there. So that when a young kid asks his Dad who that statue guy is, the Dad can be like, “Well, he used to be the governor, he did some neat things, but he also owned slaves and didn’t free them so he was an asshole.” And then the son and Dad have a further good discussion about history.

Putin is not Putin

I get the idea that 73% of the planet now believes Vlad is about seven feet tall, wears a pristine three piece suit, while dual wielding a pair of machine pistols, followed by a troupe of supermodels, and leaves all his enemies dead in his wake.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure none of this is true.  In any aspect, this guy just gets too much credit.  There’s Putin the idea, and Putin the man.  Putin the idea does not actually exist.  The man himself is basically just a gangster dictator.  Putin is not Putin.

Russia is powerful, it influences events worldwide and especially in it’s own backyard.  It has nuclear weapons, and a whole bunch of oil and gas.  But Russia is ultimately a troubled mess.  The economy is in the tank, demographic decline means by 2075 there will be like four Russians left, and generally speaking there’s nobody to carry on the party after Putin goes.

So when folks make Putin or Russia out to be this goliath, it’s not healthy.  It gives credence to a situation that’s not there.  Oh, Russia influenced the United States election?  I’m sure they did.  Did this single act cause Trump to win?  No.  And in any case, is everybody so blind to history?  Soviet Russia has influenced every U.S. election since 1917.  Please kindly go read history.

But when it’s made out that Putin alone has influenced the election, or even changed the outcome?  I’m sorry, but all that does is feed an image that doesn’t reflect reality.  Russia or Putin just simply isn’t that powerful.

You know once upon a time, the idea was that the United States shrugged off the rounding error threats from lesser nations led by gangsters.  But I guess, in today’s social media driven world, that we have to respond with hashtag anger to every petty little slight.  In 1984 or 1996, we’d have just shrugged at this.

White Christmas?

Within the confines of the hovel at my new gig I can hear music played lightly by the gal next door. This is a new concept for me as at the last place playing music without headphones was banned under penalty of confining one to the cubicle overnight while a merger of Bieber and Kanye was played via massive loudspeaker for eight straight hours. Needless to say, nobody violated this regulation. But here it’s considered okay.

This doesn’t bother me as much as I would have expected. Half the time she plays classical music which is soothing to hear as I grind away and contemplate what’d be like to actually one day have a job I enjoy. Sometimes she plays weird pop rock or whatever and I have to break out my headphones to drown it out with music of my own. This is fine too. But being the season, she’s progressed to the occasional Christmas music.

I’m not sure if I can handle this. Christmas is a long 12 days away. A lot of Christmas music is great, classic stuff. But when you really think about it a whole bunch of Christmas music is terrible. The ones where somebody whines about their relationship during the Christmas season are the worst. Nobody cares people, dating is just as much a wheat thresher in May as it is in December. Live with it.

But also, to me Christmas music is an intensely personal experience. At the height of its powers, it evokes memories of childhood where we would all pile into the van to drive to Grandma and Granddad’s place. In the dark, cold Christmas night my Dad would invariably switch over to Christmas music on the radio for the length of the drive. These are nice memories. All my grandparents and my Dad have moved onto the next realm, so the music is especially poignant. As it is, Christmas music almost becomes kind of sad for me, like a requiem.

Lots of people aren’t in the Christmas spirit either this year I guess. Go ahead and read anything online or in the papers recently and apparently the universe is over. Earth is finished. Christmas is cancelled. You’re a walking bleached skeleton. By June of this year, machines or aliens (or both) shall be our masters, dogs and cats will have lived together and procreated creating a master race of pet, The Walking Dead will have somehow become a good television show, and Trump will have become that guy in Star Wars with the wrinkled creepy monster face.

Gee wiz, I had no idea we were that doomed? Though I sadly suppose it’d be the same hysteria regardless of what loser won this last election. Hey you know I didn’t vote for either of them, both of them were terrible, but I never (and still don’t) had it in my mind that either one of them could actually destroy anything. Go read the Constitution, or contemplate how little Obama has been able to accomplish after eight years.

The way I look at, is to default back to my Grandma and Granddad. For you see, they did four Christmas days at war. Think living under Trump or Clinton would have been bad? Trying living through Christmas Day 1942. Unless you happen to live in Syria, we cannot comprehend the struggle and terror of those Christmases where whole cities and countries were being swallowed whole. My Granddad did Christmas Day 1944 under fire at the front within the Battle of the Bulge. Merry Christmas! Signed, your friend, Adolf.

This was a war that killed 300K Americans, probably around 100 million worldwide. One in nine Americans served in uniform. The equivalent number today is if four years from now 30 million Americans were in the military. This is beyond our comprehension.

So later on in their lives I have this idea that Christmas 1956, 1972, or 1986 was always very special for them. They could go back and look at their kids and grandkids and remember just how bad it’d been. Instead of all that nightmare, they could lean back on the couch, sigh deeply, and truly appreciate the joy of Christmas that surrounded them. More than anything, that war defined a whole lifetime’s existence.

Of this, I offer as further evidence the 1954 movie White Christmas. If you haven’t seen this movie, gather the kiddies and those you love, and watch this movie. It’s just too wholesome good not to watch. It’s got a great fun plot, decent music, good dancing, and is basically just an enjoyable time. But at its heart this is a movie about two guys who got shelled together doing everything they can to aid their former general and his failed business. And they get hundreds of their war buddies to help out. It’s a story where memory of the war bleeds through.

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I think that White Christmas connection lasted about seven decades. In an equally godawful presidential election of 1972, you could have voted for Nixon (liar, lunatic) or McGovern (dreamer, lunatic). But regardless of who won, you would have remembered that after Christmas 1943, it couldn’t be much worse.

And indeed, Nixon rightly got his ass kicked out of office and the country somehow didn’t implode. And if your neighbor in 1973 had voted for the other guy, then that was okay because they’d been 19 miles to your left on the front lines and so they were an alright dude regardless of who they voted for.

Now, 75 years later that type of deep societal connection is just about gone. There is literally nothing holding the vast majority of the American psyche together. This is another bother for me with Christmas music. All the good ones were written with this 1956, 1972, or 1986 mindset. These songs were written for people who’d literally been through hell, and could fully enjoy the Christmas meaning and spirit.

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“Merry Christmas, Motherfuckers!”

Who would write an appropriate hit Christmas tune today? No Kanye rapper or Bieber-like-man-child has it in them. Even if they did, would anybody listen or would people just hear it and get sad because they’re too mentally wrapped up in what Trump said about the percentage of glycerol in Twinkies on Twitter?

Do you hate your neighbor and fellow human? Maybe you should. Let’s hate everybody! Christmas spirit? Nonsense! Christmas is yet another day on the calendar to contemplate how awful everything is.

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“Hmm, 60 million have had Christmas ruined because I should never have run.  Hmm, eh, fuck it.”  [lights cigar with $1K bill inside $27.3M mansion]

I have in mind, to write this Star Trek episode. It’s a Christmas episode special. In it, Kirk, Picard, Spock, and Data roll down to some waste planet accompanied by four Red Shirts. They go exploring around. Red Shirt 1 accidently blows himself up with his own phaser. Red Shirt 2 dies from food poisoning after last night’s failed turkey mole dish (true story). Red Shirt 3 gets dragged behind a rock by what the audience sees as a crab-like shadow.

Red Shirt 4 whilst walking upon a ledge gets scared by a monster neither he or the audience can see, and he falls off the cliff to his death. So then there are Kirk, Picard, Spock, and Data investigating the ledge where Red Shirt 4 fell.

Data scans the area and he’s like, “Captain, my scans show there to be zero evidence of alien activity in this sector. It is thus reasonable to conclude, that Ensign Timmy was alone here. Before he fell.”

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Spock nods, and he’s like, “I agree, Captain. Fascinating. It is thus logical to conclude, that whatever Ensign Timmy saw, was contained solely within the confines of his mind.”

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Then Picard, looking straight at the camera, earnestly, with campy Christmas music playing, in a scene worthy of 1979 says, “Why, it would seem, that even in this Christmas season, our darkest fears can overcome us, blind us, and lead us across a fatal line. Perhaps, it is time, during this season above all, to look deep within ourselves. For our own optimism, our own guidance, our own Christmas joy.”

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And all four guys nod happily at this revelation as the music reaches its crescendo.

Then, out of nowhere a giant crab monster jumps out from behind a rock. It attacks Kirk and rips open his shirt.

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Then the crab pulls a knife.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ9FdpLfL98

Kirk spends four and a half minutes going hand-to-hand with the crab monster, ultimately beating him to death with a rock. And Kirk’s screaming and panting over the mangled crab monster corpse. Picard, Data, and Spock are just looking at him, like, “Dude, calm down.”

Eh, either way.

White Christmas? My friends, it is your choice. In the next 12 days you’ll be bombarded with the black, the dark, the unpleasant. Choose the White. Choose optimism, to love your neighbor, to be kind even to your enemies. This is what it’s about. We need more of it. Now more than ever.