Archive for December, 2011

The Skirmishes of Christmas Past

Friday, December 30th, 2011

It’s almost New Year’s, so another battle is drawing to a close in the war on Christmas. There isn’t really a war on Christmas, but the American reactionaries seem to want there to be one so bad that I’ve decided that I may as well humor them.

With a little help from God, I figured out that the “war on Christmas” rhetoric has come about because Christmas itself started as part of a Christian “war on paganism.” Sure they won that war, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching how the Bible Belt has treated the Civil War, it’s that American Christian’s, or at least the southern ones, have a hard time admitting that a war is over. Sure they lost in the Civil War, but I can see where they’d have just as hard of a time giving up on a war that they won.

So they just figure that any deemphasis on the Christian mythos is a renewal of hostilities rather than a simple “growing up” of people that no longer need magical explanations for the simple facts of nature. Hey, if you’re not with them, you surely must be against them, right?

Holiday Beat

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

It’s almost Christmas. Santa’s no doubt gotten the oil changed on his reindeer and sharpened up their antlers. And an even surer bet is that I’ve been listening to a lot of Holiday music.

Holiday music covers a pretty diverse spectrum. Every genre of artist wants to get into the act, either because they love the holiday or because they see a chance to cash in. After all, you can even find Christmas albums by several prominently Jewish artists. And more than in most other types of music the novelty songs, the comedy songs, get a fair shake. The Chipmunks had their first success with a Christmas album. Everybody knows that Grandma got run over by a reindeer. And Christmas Rhapsody is one of the more amazing parodies that God and I have heard.

Even some “standards” are built around gimmicks. Consider “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and “The Little Drummer Boy.”

And that’s where I want to go off on a rant. I love “The Little Drummer Boy.” It’s an endearing little story with a fun approach and an approachable tune but I can’t say much for most versions of it. More than most Christmas songs, for some reason, performers like to bleed all the life out it. You’d think that groups with serious drummers would latch on to it and back up “pa rum pum pum pum” with some serious stick work. Instead what I keep running into is wimped out back up singers and pianos without punch, groups that seem to think that it’s amusingly ironic to do the song without a drum track at all.

Well it’s not. It’s pathetic. The Stylistics showed that you can do it with smooth vocals and still make it work, as long as you have a good drum track to back up the singers. But if you really want to hear the song done well, look up Bob Seger’s version. Now he showed that you can respect the source material but still make it live.

Minorities Report

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Hanukkah is just around the corner. Living in a predominantly Christian country, I’ll admit that the Jewish holidays have a tendency to sneak up on me. Sure they move around a bit, but so does Easter and I still manage to keep a handle on when that’s coming up.

Now this is going to go in the completely wrong direction, but I was talking to God about Hanukkah in particular, Jewish holidays in the less specific, and Jewish culture in general and he used the subject to teach me something about queer culture. One of the things that I’ve never quite been able to wrap my head around is the straight friends and acquaintances that I have that show a fair amount of interest in gay entertainment. This includes people that I’m about as sure as I can be that they aren’t just peering out from the depths of their closet, but who seem to have a more than passing enjoyment of movies and music and such that I’m into for their queer content.

God pointed out that I enjoy the Hanukkah songs that have accrued in my holiday collection. He pointed out what fun I have listening to Allan Sherman’s Jewish parody of My Fair Lady, and, as trite as it sounds, how I’ve enjoyed movies like Yentl and The Fiddler on the Roof.

So yeah, I get it now, I get why straight people watch queer entertainment. I suppose I should have gotten it just from seeing how I enjoy looking at alien cultures in science fiction.

But just for the record, Schindler’s List is still an overly pretentious pile of dung.

Minter Holidays

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Candy canes. I get it, I really do. Peppermint has become the quasi-official flavor of Christmas and candy canes are really only partly to blame.

Sure there’s “egg nog” and some pumpkin spilling over from Thanksgiving, and a few other niche stalwarts like sugar plums, but really it’s come down to peppermint. I went grocery shopping this last weekend and I was kind of amazed. There were candy canes, of course. And peppermint ice cream, which I’ve come to expect. But there were also pretzels covered in mint flavored white chocolate, peppermint malted milk balls, chocolate covered mint marshmallows, peppermint chocolates, peppermint bark, and mint mocha frappuccinos.

Yeah, I bought my share of that stuff, so yeah, I’m encouraging the problem, but I also bought some egg nog almonds (which could just as easily have been named nutmeg almonds).

God tells me I shouldn’t be surprised at all this. He’s only surprised it took so long to catch on. Christmas, after all, is just the Christian version of the winter solstice celebration. And there’s a reason that all the gum maker’s like to refer to peppermint as “winter fresh.”

Wonders and Miracles

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

I was starting to ask God about the history of the Bible the other day, and she stopped me, she told me it just wasn’t worth putting in that much effort thinking about it. She went on to give me a new perspective, she equated the Bible to a modern counterpart, so that I could more easily grasp its import.

We’ve discussed the Bible before and she’s explained to me how a lot of the problem is with people who want it to be one thing, and one thing only. Generally that means that they want it to be the inerrant word of God, the first word and the last word, from which all of God’s intent can be divined. But it’s really a collection of things strewn together not so much because they are of a piece as because the book was sort of intended (by man, not God) to be a full curriculum for the scholars of the day. In its way it was intended to be the whole library that you could carry in your satchel. Sort of a farmer’s almanac for the cultivating of humanity.

So scattered throughout the texts that make up the Bible, we have histories, we have fiction, we have genealogies, laws, and gossip. One of the most predominant things though is fiction masquerading as truth. So what does all this suggest as a modern equivalent? Well that last item should really give it away. The Bible is the historical equivalent of a “best of” from the “National Enquirer.” Like any good tabloid the Bible has just enough fact and just enough substantive reporting to cast a thin veneer of possibility across all of its made up stories, just enough to keep people wondering.