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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

WATN Problems in 2013

For about a month and a half in the summer, WATN went off the air.  I was having problems with my Google account and could not log in, let alone contact anyone to pay to renew my domain name of wordaroundthenet.com.
To make matters worse, Google had changed how their entire website and domain name system worked, and what used to work to log in no longer did.  I couldn't even find anyone to contact, until I made an entirely new account to reach them and tell them of the problem.
By then it was too late, the domain name had been locked up and I couldn't get it back.  And by then I'd become so annoyed with Google's awful customer service and interface, I'd decided I didn't really care.
And after the election in 2012, I was about ready to give up even writing on a blog in any case.  My 7th anniversary for WATN passed without notice, because I didn't care that much.  But the thought of having a platform to reach people and perhaps help with my writing career pushed me on and I found a solution; I got the present domain name and started up again.
Unfortunately I lost about half my hits a day in the process, and they've never come back.  On the other hand, I'm not getting even a tenth as much of the spam and search bot traffic I used to, so I wonder how many actual real readers I lost.
I think probably the hits are down not out of any loss of many readers, but out of that loss of Google-preferred driven bot traffic, and who wants them anyway?
Then I made a dumber mistake.  Over the years, I've picked up a lot of trash comments as all blogs do.  I've found a way to lock those out, by requiring any comment on a post older than a certain time to be confirmed by me, but there were more than 40,000 spam comments on my blog by that point.  After almost 8 years, that's what happens.  So I started wiping out 1000 comments a day, a tedious and annoying process made slightly easier by the ability to list and select 100 comments at a time and delete them en masse.
The problem is it became so mindless and dull I selected a page of 100 real, welcome comments by actual people, and wiped them all out too.  I apologize to everyone whose thoughts I expunged by accident.  I appreciated them all, even the negative ones, but there's no way to get them back.
So its been a rough year for WATN, but at least its still going.

2013 GREATEST HITS: An Awful Price

" Almost 24% of all pregnancies worldwide die in abortions."

I'm always hesitant and try to be careful when I write about some subjects, not so much out of worry about how people will yell at me but how they will feel and how it will affect them.  Abortion is one of those topics that gets people screaming at each other, but they tend to forget that people are involved.  I've talked to several girls who have had abortions and it haunts them terribly, that thought of their baby dying and having done it themselves.
That's an aspect that pro-life people often forget with their placards of dismembered babies and shouts of murder.  Some women who do this don't seem to care at all but many, perhaps most, do feel awful about it later on.  Those women need to be treated gently and with love.
But the truth cannot be forgotten or ignored out of love - that's no love at all.  And the truth is abortion is a horrific monstrosity in modern culture, a ghastly evil that plagues America and other nations.  Its always been with us, but at least in the past it was considered wrong.
Like so many things these days, the wrong has become right and the good considered awful.  And behind it all is a greater cost than most have considered.  I wrote about this cost in April of last year, including a few stats to consider, and people seemed to like it and passed it around.  I got a lot of hits on the piece, then they dropped off.
For example, in the 104 years between 1864 and 1968, an estimated 4,946 blacks were lynched in the United States.  Meanwhile, in the 38 years since Roe vs Wade was ruled on in 1973 and 2011, an estimated 17,653,000 black babies were aborted.  That's a ratio of 3,569:1.  The lynchings were horrible, but this mass slaughter of babies is inconceivable.  Blacks in America are facing nearly genocide before they even can be born.
But there's a different kind of cost.  Each human being born in America is part of the nation's economic power.  On average, over the lifespan of an American citizen, they are worth an estimated $25,000,000 of Gross Domestic Product.  This is found by examining the productivity, earning power, and spending of each citizen over their whole life span (including the amount spent on them by family before they can work).  That means every baby killed by abortion costs the nation $25 million in economic productivity.
To date, almost 55,000,000 people have been put to death before they were even born.  Adding up that potential productivity in today's dollars and you get a total of $43 trillion dollars deleted from the economy.
The comparison to war dead seemed to particularly catch peoples' attention.  In a society that tries to keep everyone alive and make them as comfortable and at ease as possible, at the expense of everyone else, this ghastly rate of slaughter seems to go without mention far too often.
And the harsh truth so many women seem to be understanding in their sadness is that abortion does not make you un-pregnant.  It makes you the mother of a dead child.

FAUX HATE 2013

Some of the fake hate crimes listed in this year weren't resolved until the following year, such as the Emma Sulkowitz "Mattress Girl" case.
  • 2013, a black minister in Virgina has his house spray painted with racial slurs and the porch and his car set on fire.  Later it is revealed he did it to his own house to draw attention and funds because he could not afford to pay rent.
  • 2013, a black server gets back a receipt with the words "no tip, nigger" on it and goes on TV and national news for rudeness and a racial slur.  She gets ten grand in donations from a paypal account set up before the news goes big, but people notice the writing isn't like the rest on the receipt.  In fact, it matches her own writing, and it turns out she did it.
  • 2013, in the fall semester at Vassar College saw an amazing increase in the incidents reported to the Vassar Bias Incident Response Team.  Spraypainted messages such as "Hey, tranny, know your place" were reported, a total of six reports in all.  They were actually done by a pair of students who then reported them as attacks on themselves, and apologized later.
  • 2013, a lesbian server gets a receipt with the words  "I'm sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle."  She sets up a paypal account too and NBC runs the story.  She ends up with $ in donations but photographic evidence shows that the family did tip and when confronted, the woman hems and haws and backs away.  Seriously, how would they know what her lifestyle was like anyway, and why is this news?  They were even polite about it.
  • 2013: A girl visits UC Santa Cruz and reports that she was brutally beaten and raped while looking for banana slugs on campus at a LBQT conference.  It turns out she deliberately sought someone on Craigslist to beat her and have sex with her so she'd have "evidence" for the story.
  • 2013: A girl calls friends reporting a rape by 3 youths, one perhaps as young as 16 at Union College in New York.  Police later see footage of the girl completely untouched and unharmed call her friends then hide in the bushes until they arrive.
  • 2013: Emma Sulkowitz claims she was brutally raped by a boy she thought was her boyfriend and carries a mattress around campus to highlight her plight, since the college campus won't protect her.  It turns out the sex was consensual, that she'd stalked the guy, and then when he wouldn't hook up again, she started to yell rape.
  • 2013: Oberlin College, a report of a KKK member wearing their goofy "ghost" white costume walking around on campus spreads.  The college has a "Day of Solidarity" so traumatized snowflakes can get over a costume, but when police investigate they cannot find anything on any cameras or eyewitness reports.  The nearest possible source of this report: a girl walking around wrapped in a blanket.
This is part of the Faux Hate Crime Series.

Monday, December 30, 2013

CANNIBALISM AND DRAGON POOP

"Which came first, the magic item or the enchanter?"

If you don't play any computer games, this piece probably won't have anything in it at all for you except confusion and perhaps a chance to giggle at me.
I've been playing computer games since the late 70s, starting with my friend's TRS-80, and most of them have been fantasy-oriented.  I enjoy fantasy games because my soul seems to have an affinity with the fantastic and magical.  I can remember the wonder and longing I felt when my oldest brother David first told me about The Hobbit when I was very young.
There's an aspect to these games that is very weird and annoying to me, though, and its in enchanting.  In the MMOG EverQuest, there was a class called "Enchanter" which my brother Joel chose to play based on its description. It was said to be a class which could create magical effects and enchant weapons and armor for great power.
It was lying.  They could do no such thing, in fact nobody could make anything of any power.  There were crafts in the game that let you make things, but they were weak and incredibly difficult to attempt.  The parts were rare, some of them were very expensive to buy, and you tended to fail as you tried to make things, which destroyed the parts and sometimes the very equipment you used to create them.
The Enchanter in EQ was an enormous disappointment, and, being Verant/Sony, pointing that out made them not responsive but angry and contemptuous.  You could get banned from their customer forum for noting problems with the game.
So the magic items you could find apparently fell from the sky, like dragon poop, and nobody, anywhere, could make them.  Literally, none of the crafting abilities in the game made anything that anyone in the world used, they were all unique items, not things any store carried or anyone had in their house.
But at least the crafting system in the game made a sort of sense.
In World of Warcraft, the MMOG successor to EverQuest, it got even more silly.  There is an enchanting skill in WoW, not a character class.  Anyone could be an enchanter.  The problem is, there was a very limited, restricted list of enchanting possibilities, for only a handful of items, and few of any real use.
And to top it off, in the weirdest system ever, you destroyed magic items to make new ones.  The only way to enchant items is to get special materials to use for the process, which can only be obtained by disenchanting existing magical items.
So where did all those magic items come from in the first place?  If you have to destroy existing ones to enchant new ones where did the first magic items come from?  Dragon poop again?  They don't even pretend there was some long-lost race of people who could do this once but the ability is lost, they just shrug and wink.
And why can I enchant a shirt but not a hat?  The answer always comes down to shortcuts and illogical barriers to control game balance.  Its easier to control the power level of characters in a game if you keep them from doing certain things and heavily restrict how they can do it.
The Elder Scrolls series was a huge exception to this.  In the second Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, they added enchanting, which followed the same basic principle.  You paid a price and chose from a long list of effects tailored to your desires and got an item.  You could create powerful effects with amazing flexibility.  In fact, flexibility of spells and design was a hallmark of the Elder Scrolls series.  You made what you wanted.
However, in Morrowind, this had changed.  They introduced the concept of the "soul stone" which was used to magically store the soul or life energy of a foe you defeated.  That was then used to enchant items with, and would dictate how good the item was.  Your skill at enchanting affected how efficiently you used the items (such as how many charges a weapon would have with that enchanted effect).  These soul stones were also used to re-charge items.  Further, you could only enchant an item with a spell you knew, which could be difficult to find.
Then Oblivion came out, and enchanting changed again.  Instead of having a huge, open-ended set of possibilities, Enchanting became more limited.  You could only enchant items at specific, limited places rather than wherever you were, and the choices were more limited.
And with Skyrim, the latest in the series, enchanting became even more limited.  And cannibalism rose its ugly head.  Now, instead of enchanting items with any spell you knew, you could only enchant items with effects you learned from destroying.. you guessed it... existing magical items.  Once more we come back to dragon poop.
You have to destroy an item to learn a magical effect which you can then use to enchant another.  And your enchanting skill affects how powerful the enchantment effect is, further limiting its utility.  And since you need to have a certain power level to even get items to disenchant, you can't spend talent points building up your enchanting skill, but you need the enchanting skill to make the items to survive picking up items and... well you get the idea.
And to make matters worse, it appears that this system is being carried over into the Elder Scrolls Online MMOG.  And it appears, based on initial information, that the choices of enchanting are even more limited.  The reason?  Player vs Player, or PVP. This is what always comes to kick you in the teeth in terms of creativity and flexibility in online games, the player vs player combat.
In the single player Elder Scrolls games, Enchanting was a very potent way of increasing your character’s power, though perhaps to an unreasonable extent. In a single player game such imbalance is forgivable, but in an MMO it needs to be eliminated to keep combat fair between players.
Some people - a very few people - love this kind of thing and game designers seem fixated on PVP.  It dominates their design choices, balancing efforts, and often changes are made to the game as a whole to address only PVP.
Almost every MMOG out there has PVP and most have special dedicated servers that are especially focused on PVP.  Those servers are always the least populated.  But game designers all seem to be hardcore PVP guys and so they are very keen on making that work well even at the expense of the rest of the game.
I get that you want to make all aspects of the game fun, so PVP has to be addressed, but it should never impact the rest of the game in any remotest sense.  And that's a basic rule that the designers never, ever seem to understand - or are too lazy to attempt.
Further, the designers are making access to soul stones even more limited.  Now instead of being items you can find around the world, they are specifically limited to special loot and quest rewards.  And from what they say on the official site, it appears that ESO will also be using the "destroy items to get materials to enchant with" method.
Its just ridiculous and illogical, as if they're less concerned about making sense than they are design.  Can't both things be attended to?  Can't design and balance make sense, too?
Balance can be tricky, I understand that.  In the first game Elder Scrolls: Arena you could make any spell you could think of based on some simple fundamental concepts (damage with an element, protect yourself, etc).  I built an unstoppable doom spell based on their system because they had a pretty simple flaw.
You see, in Elder Scrolls: Arena, spells had a mana cost and difficulty based on the effect of the magic.  The cost was based on the initial effect, but if it had a lingering effect, that was quite cheap.  So I was able to build a spell which did 1 point of damage at first then a huge amount every time increment after for very cheap and it would obliterate enemies in short order.  This was a loophole in their design which Daggerfall closed.
I get that you cannot let players easily build their super sword to mow through enemies or the game is not only dull but falls out of whack: Joe Blow is 10 times more powerful than Jane Blow at the same level.
But the concept of "challenge" and "balance" that game designers use is different than what you or I might think of.  FOr example, here's what the ESO designers think about blacksmithing as a crafting ability:
In many MMOs, crafted equipment is often either greatly inferior to gear from dungeons and PvP or so costly to create that it is not worth the effort. To counter this issue, gear created through Smithing needs to be appropriately priced. Materials used in the creation of a crafted tier need to be obtained through completing content that gives equipment of equal or slightly lesser value.
They're right in one sense.  In EverQuest, the results of smithing both sucked and were immensely difficult to attempt.  But requiring people to go through challenges which drop stuff as good as what you can make is ridiculous.  Why would I ever make something if it requires me to go places which drop things as good as what I can make?  Why not just use what drops instead?  I get that you can possibly buy this stuff in some player trading auction house but it is a concern.
And why doesn't expense, time, and difficult of obtaining materials translate into an equivalent to danger?  What I mean is this: going through a dungeon or a hazardous area to obtain crafting materials is one way of creating challenge.  But so is making the effort take time, requiring expensive parts, and requiring searching for those parts. These should be worked out to be equal challenges.
After all, people in the world are making items regularly, but they don't go delving into monster-packed dungeons to do so.  How on earth does that stuff get made?  Further, if you have to go delving into a horrible place that can kill you to make items... then spend money and time to make them... that means the challenge to crafting is greater than just finding an item.  And since they're talking about making recipes harder to find, that adds another level of challenge to crafting.
So crafted items ought to be more excellent than discovered ones, not equal.  They should be the equivalent of the finest stuff you can find, not the average or minor stuff.  However, they do have the right idea in ESO; apparently they have decided you'll be able to make nearly everything that is in the game.
Collecting ingredients and actually making items for crafting should take as long as it takes to find an item on average, including metagaming time like gathering a group and traveling to the location.  And when it comes to time, Star Wars: The Old Republic has a brilliant idea in which your companions are the ones who actually do the crafting.  You send them out to find and make stuff, and that means you can be adventuring while crafting.  It takes 3 hours of real time to make that item, but that's time you don't have to personally spend.
Its just really strange to me that designers keep going back to this well of cannibalism to make items.  It makes no sense at all and seems like an idiotic short cut rather than a well-considered system.  And since I have this particular platform to yell about it on, I decided to use it to get it off my chest.

2013 GREATEST HITS: Hope I Die Before I Get Old

"instead of facing up to that and realizing maybe that was all childish nonsense, they're trying to pretend they aren't old at all."

One of the frustrating and surprising parts of writing is what resonates with people and what does not.  I don't have any talent in guessing what people like and will pass on, so I just write what interests me and hope for the best.
In February of this year I wrote a piece based on a cartoon I kept seeing which showed the alleged life of young people and how very sad it is they grow up and become so set into patterns and old ways.

But as I pointed out there's a host of things wrong with this cartoon, and almost all of them are very bad for culture.

The truth is, its okay for young people to have wild and exciting ideas, but its also okay for older people to be more cautious and wise.  The cartoon accepts that its natural to be influenced by others but only thinks that is good if the others are young and chaotic rather than old and stable.
And as I said in the piece:
Here's the thing - what they think is new and shocking and creative, isn't.  Its new to them and it seems innovative, amazing, and world-changing, but it is nothing new.  All those ideas, all those concepts, all those solutions and plans were thought of and have even attempted in past.  Young people just aren't aware of that yet.  Its like young lovers thinking they've come up with everything they do for the first time in history.Those squiggly lines?  They're traditional and historical too.  The library is full of books about them, all those 'new' ideas and fresh, creative concepts.  Its great the young people are thinking about them, its a good process to go through.  But its not new.
In fact, over time ideas are tried and examined and considered and tested and some survive, while others don't.  New isn't necessarily good or better than old - in fact, it usually is not.  Most of the time something different is more New Coke than IPod (which wasn't actually new, but people thought so at the time.  MP3 players had been around for years).  But we do need new inputs, new concepts and ideas - or at least very old ones that have been forgotten, so the energy and creativity of youth is useful.
But the fact is, the reason people start abandoning those old squiggly lines as they get older isn't boredom or lack of input or laziness or a mind that becomes calcified and loses its creativity.  That all can happen, of course, but the main reasons are experience and wisdom.
By the time you're 30 you have tried all those ideas, read and learned about them and where they go, seen more of the world, learned what humanity and life is like, and figured out they don't work.  Yes, it seems perfectly reasonable when you are 19 that rich people should just like pay for all the poor people and it would all be great.  When you're 50 you understand economics and human nature better.
We need both inputs, but modern culture thinks and teaches that only the young are good and old are awful and wrong.

Friday, December 27, 2013

REALITY?

"Reality TV looks in only one direction: down."
-James Wolcott

I have watched a few episodes of Duck Dynasty, and its fairly entertaining.  There are some shows that make me feel like I'm wasting my time and I feel guilty for watching them, and almost all "reality television" falls into that category.
If there's not something that I learn or gain from watching in a reality show, I don't care to view it.  I think that's part of why I don't like sitcoms, either.  They feel like a gigantic waste of time to me.
But there's another aspect to "reality television" that bothers me, and I suspect its something that bothers others as well.  A commenter on American Digest summed the problem up like this:
Almost all "reality" tv is the result of so-called liberal conformists holding ordinary people up to ridicule.  The pretext for each show may differ, but the ultimate intent is identical---to laugh at someone else's frailty and enjoy a catharsis of social superiority. Look how funny these peoples' values are! Look how absurd they are! How ridiculous! Don't you feel superior? (That's one of the reasons I hate the Walmart shoppers photographs---they're just unkind. Funny, maybe, but unkind.).
Journalistically, there'a big difference between the Charles Kuralt-style delight in human eccentricity and the frankly condescending and spiritually immature worldview of today's media. In truth, most people are pretty humble in their abilities, interests and aspirations. They are also capable of deep sincerity, generosity and kindness. The left media has no understanding or respect for any of these virtues---which just demonstrates the depth of their moral sickness.
This came up in response to an article in the NC Register which suggested that Duck Dynasty was only picked up by A&E out of an intent to mock and deride.  The show was meant to be a lampooning of the bitter clingers, a display of their stupidity, hypocrisy, and bigotry.  Pat Archbold writes:
This is what happened. The whole idea of the show was to parade these nouveau riche Christian hillbillies around so that we could laugh at them. "Look at them," we were supposed to say. "Look how backward they are! Look what they believe! Can you believe they really live this way and believe this stuff? See how they don't fit in? HAHAHA"
When the producers saw the way the show was shaping up, different than they envisioned it, they tried to change course. They tried to get the Robertson's to tone down their Christianity, but to their eternal credit they refused. They tried to add fake cussin' to the show by inserting bleeps where no cussword was uttered. At best, they wanted to make the Robertson's look like crass buffoons. At worst they wanted them to look like hypocrites. They desperately wanted us to laugh at the Robertsons. Instead, we loved them.
This very well may be true, it certainly has the ring of truth, but at this point it seems merely speculation.  However what is certain is that the primary appeal of "reality" TV for viewers is spectacle and mockery.  People didn't watch the Osborne family out of a love of Ozzy's music and a desire to see what wisdom he would share, but out of the same thing that gathers a crowd when someone is on a ledge pondering suicide.
Back in Victorian England and a bit earlier, the insane asylum Bedlam would raise money by allowing people to visit and watch the insane people.  You could pay a few pennies to go see some loony in a cell doing crazy things and often scandalous stuff that wasn't generally available for viewing.  And that's what reality TV is now.  Its a chance to watch crazy people do strange, ridiculous stuff.
You can tell that this is the case by how the producers will emphasize and even set up ridicuous and outrageous things and try to build conflict.  A few words said in frustration are cut together with an angry look and you suddenly get drama and conflict!  The ordinary work of a job is ignored, but the time when the job gets hard or crazy, that's what gets showed.
According to people who have been on these shows in the past, things are cut and spliced together out of context and without relation to how its showed.  They keep footage of all kinds of things.  A girl is crying because she's homesick, they film it.  A guy gets mad and yells, they film it.  Some guy on the editing floor splices them together and you get a mean guy picking on a girl - that's good television!
The entire purpose of this is to give people a sense of superiority, to give viewers the feeling they aren't so bad after all.  People expressly say that about reality shows.  I used to feel like my family was nuts until I watched [insert show title here].
There's something basically shameful about this attitude, but it is common in all of us, I suspect.  The need to feel better about yourself, even if its at the expense of others.  And since reality TV is so cheap to create, its not going away.  The concept is so cheap and easy to produce, they can ram out dozens of these a season and reap big profits.  As Ace points out at his HQ:
Like the eight reality tv shows about auctioning off the contents of abandoned lockers. Or HGTV's and DIY's six thousand shows about home repair and flipping houses.
Cable TV is becoming more like the Internet -- a quickie burst of shallow information and entertainment which you need no context for, need no investment in, and which you can watch in five minute intervals and then just walk away.
And that makes it very, very good at providing people (like me) with a low-cost, low-investment way to waste precious time, never really realizing how much time is being wasted until one realizes one just spent five hours watching "Holmes Makes It Right."
Duck Dynasty isn't unique in this, its rather typical, and the guys clearly are playing this up to entertain.  They don't need to do all that crazy redneck stuff, Cy really isn't that clueless and loopy, its just good television.  And people eat it up because its fun.  And unlike most of these shows, the guys on the show aren't continually swearing and getting into shameful situations.
In fact, the few shows I've seen have primarily been just the guys doing ordinary stuff, like getting a loaner truck while their own gets worked on because his son banged it up in an accident.  And having the nephew and niece dumped on him so their moms can go shopping.
I can see why this appeals to people other than just "spot the loony" because there's more to these shows than just spectacle and train wreck watching.  They are entertaining because they entertain; an episode of Duck Dynasty is like a comedy bit by Bill Engvall, just describing the silly and crazy stuff that happens in life in an amusing way.
Its just significant to me how many of these shows are about merely feeling superior and mocking different aspects of life.  Marriage, child rearing, family life, work, etc.  These honorable and proper ideas are turned into a target of derision, and I am certain that it is on purpose.  Because that shapes culture and perception.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

SONGS I LIKE - The Load-Out/Stay (Jackson Browne)

'Cause when that mornin' sun comes beating down
you're gonna wake up in your town
But we'll be scheduled to appear
a thousand miles away from here

Jackson Browne has had a long career, stretching from the 70's to the present day.  Browne's politics are hard left and he apparently has quite a temper that involves hitting his wife, but his music is definitely good. He's so far left that in protest of America during Ronald Reagan's presidency he put out an album which was printed backward so the record came out of the left side of the sleeve.
Browne started writing songs in the 1960s and was a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. His earliest hits were recorded by other bands, such as "Shadow Dream Song" and "These Days" which were recorded by Greg Allman, the Byrds, and Linda Ronstadt among others.
In 1972 his first solo disc included "Doctor These Eyes" still a classic rock favorite and was very well received.  Over the next 30 years, Browne scored 15 top 40 hits, including "Somebody's Baby" which was featured in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High and "The Pretender."  His most recent hit was "The Night Inside Me."
"Stay" was recorded in 1977 live for the Running on Empty album.  It is basically a tribute to his fans, but the song people know is actually a medley of two songs.  The first is "The Load Out" which is a tribute to his roadies and the work they do, which immediately segues into "Stay" and it sounds like a single song.
The song is a heart-felt glimpse into what its like to perform and be on the road, and it has been a favorite for decades now reaching new generations with its quiet beauty and thoughtful descriptions.
There's one interesting story in the song.  When it was performed for the recording, the talented backup singer Rosemary Butler was unable to get to the mic (the reason varies with each telling of the story) and guitarist David Lindley ran to the mic and did a falsetto version to fill in.  It was so amazingly effective that for years they repeated this performance.  That's why when you hear the recorded version the crowd suddenly breaks out cheering.  He really does sound amazing in the chorus, but the second is by Rosemary and she's great too.
This song appeals to me because it tells a melancholy and bittersweet tale of the regret when the show is over for the band.  Playing and getting that reaction from the crowd energizes the band, but then its over and they just want to play a little longer.  One more song, oh won't you stay?
Now the seats are all empty

Let the roadies take the stage
Pack it up and tear it down
They're the first to come and the last to leave
Working for that minimum wage
They'll set it up in another town
Tonight the people were so fine
They waited there in line
And when they got up on their feet,
They made the show, and that was sweet,
But I can hear the sound of slamming doors and folding chairs
and that's a sound they'll never know

Now roll them cases and lift them amps
and haul them trusses down and get'um up them ramps
'Cause when it comes to moving me,
you know you guys are the champs
but when that last guitar's been packed away,
you know that I still want to play.
So just make sure you got it all set to go
before you come for this piano

But the band's on the bus,
and they're waiting to go.
We gotta drive all night
And do a show in Chicago... or Detroit.
I don't know, we do so many shows in a row.
And these towns all look the same.
we just pass the time in the hotel rooms
and wander around backstage.
Till those lights come up, and we hear that crowd,
and we remember why we came.

Now we got country and western on the bus,
R & B, we got disco in 8-tracks and cassettes in stereo
We've got rural scenes and magazines
And we've got truckers on CB
We got Richard Pryor on the video
And we got time to think of the ones we love
While the miles roll away
but the only time that seems too short is the time that we get to play
People you've got the power over what we do
You can sit there and wait
or you can pull us through.
Come along, sing this song
You know that you can't go wrong
'Cause when that mornin' sun comes beating down
you're gonna wake up in your town
But we'll be scheduled to appear
a thousand miles away from here

People stay just a little bit longer
We want to play -- just a little bit longer
Now the promoter don't mind
And the union don't mind
If we take a little time
And we leave it all behind and sing
One more song


Oh won’t you stay just a little bit longer
Please, please, please say you will
Say you will

Oh won’t you stay just a little bit longer
Oh please, please stay just a little bit more

Now the promoter don’t mind
And the roadies don’t mind
If we take a little time
And we leave this all behind and sing
One more song


*This is part of the Songs I Like series.

Monday, December 23, 2013

EDITING CHRISTMAS

"Cupid is not a reindeer!  Try 'Cliff' or 'Rudolph.'"

I'm pretty sure everyone knows what I think about Santa Claus by this point, and this poem is a major part of what launched Santa to replace Jesus in Christmas but the image is pretty funny.  Its a reproduction of a Christmas Card by the Eisner family.  
Will Eisner was the man who wrote and drew The Spirit, a comic that comic fans and industry types know but most folks don't (a movie was made based on it that was pretty good a few years ago).  He was so influential, groundbreaking, and honored by the comics industry that they named their awards after him.  TV has Emmies, movies have Oscars, and comics have Eisners.
This card makes fun of modern editors, PC and picky, and what they would do to the famous St Nick poem:


I've read several places of writers who took established classics and submitted them to modern editors to see what the reaction would be and usually they get rejection notices.  Part of the reason is that the writing style is dated, and part of the reason is that editors are usually more concerned about editing than writing.
In any case, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

SWEET LITTLE JESUS BOY: A HUMBLE SUGGESTION

Another Christmas-time repost from a few years back. As commenter Eric pointed out, you can tell the Christmas story to your kids and still have the rest of the holiday stuff you grew up with, but really: this is a celebration of an actual historical event of incredibly significant meaning for the entire planet, why do so many parents ignore the main story?
Sweet little Jesus Boy
They made you be born in a manger
Sweet little Holy Child
Didn't know who You was
-Sweet Little Jesus Boy*

Manger Scene This season is more known by pictures of a fat elf in a red and white suit than it is for manger scenes, angels, and baby Jesus. This transformation is in a way not surprising, as America is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity and any public displays of Christian faith. At the same time, the commercialism of the nation has become even more pronounced so the image of a gift-distributing myth better fits the culture than a self-sacrificing savior of love and peace.

Yet I have a suggestion for parents. Instead of teaching your children about Santa Claus, instead of telling the story of a magic fat bearded elf who shows up once a year with a reindeer-pulled sleigh, try a different story. Tell your children about Jesus. I know, its radical, but hear me out.

Those of you who are Christians consider possibly telling your children the story of Jesus Christ, of his miraculous birth, his saving mission, his loving parents, the adoring shepherds, the tales of his youth. Tell them about the greatest drama on earth, so they know what Christmas is about. Teach them of the incarnation of God in humanity to live and save and teach and die for salvation and love.
Didn't know you come to save us, Lord?
To take our sins away
Our eyes was blind, we couldn't see
We didn't know who You was.
Those of you who are Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and other religions who either consider themselves Christian or heavily borrow from Christian origins, think of the same thing. Even if you have problems with some of the basic Christian doctrines of God and man in one flesh, teach them the story in the Bible, because it is part of what you believe, and Santa isn't.
Long time ago, you was born
Born in a manger low
Sweet little Jesus Boy.
If you are Muslim, then teach them the scriptures as well, teach them of when Jesus came and the stories around his arrival. Read to them from the Bible, because Muhammad taught that it was scripture as well.
The world treat You mean, Lord
treat me mean, too
But that's how things is down here
We didn't know t'was You.
If you are Jewish or Hindu or some other religion, teach your children about Jesus because he was a historical person who walked the earth, teach them the tales about Jesus because the season doesn't make sense without understanding what is said. Teach them the stories about Jesus even if you don't believe them because of the history of western culture and the impact on the world makes it a useful, important thing to know.
You done showed us how
We is trying
Master, You done showed us how
Even when you's dying.
If you are atheist or agnostic, if you think the Bible is a myth and Jesus was just a guy - if he lived at all - teach your children anyway. Teach them about the Jesus myth if that's what you think it is, because if you're going to tell your children a fantasy, why not tell them about the fantasy of Jesus Christ so they understand all those carols and why people celebrate his birth this time of year? It is, as I noted above, an incredibly historical event, a deeply significant thread of the history of the world that has had such transformational power over cultures and years that it cannot be ignored without damaging history and literature.
Just seem like we can't do right
Look how we treated You.
But please, sir, forgive us Lord
We didn't know 'twas You.
Teach them about Jesus instead of a fat elf, because Jesus really lived and is so foundational to our past and our culture, while Santa Claus is a myth largely created by department stores trying to drum up more sales. Santa Claus is a story extremely loosely based on the life of a Christian man in the distant past who would be absolutely horrified at how his legacy is being presented. The Santa we know now is almost completely a commercialized creation, a massive trans-company advertising gimmick that has become so embraced and embedded in culture that it is pushing aside Jesus Christ.

Yes, I know Jesus probably wasn't born around this time of year but now is when we celebrate his birth. Yes, I know some of you think Santa is so cute and fun for the kids, but so is the amazing story of Jesus. Yes I know you think Santa is an irreplacable part of giving gifts and the "spirit of Christmas" but he's a pale, weak shadow of the ultimate gift which encourages giving and the true Spirit that shone on that day long ago. Children love Jesus, believe me.

Just a humble suggestion to consider. Forget Santa. Forget the socks on the mantle. Forget reindeer, red-nosed or otherwise. Teach Christ.
Sweet little Jesus Boy
Born long time ago
Sweet little Holy Child
And we didn't know who You was.
*Sweet Little Jesus Boy is an old negro spiritual from the south that slaves sung about Jesus and his birth. The themes of forgiveness, cruelty of man, longing for freedom, and the love of Jesus are powerful today, even long past the ending of slavery.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

FAERIE TALE, ILLUSTRATED

"Once upon a time..."

I wrote a fairy tale a while back and recently I entered it into a contest but it didn't win.  I'm considering releasing it as a free e-book, but its very short and I'd have to burn an ISBN to publish it and I don't think I want to do that with such a short story.  Maybe I'll bundle it with some other short stories and publish them together. 
The more content you get out there, the more visible you become and the more people are willing to take a chance on your writing.  After all, who knows how good a guy's one book is, but if he has 8 out there, chances are he's good enough to try.
At any rate, here's a version of the fairy tale I wrote a while back for a girl, who turned out to not be worth it.  Its an 8- page comic, perhaps you might enjoy it.






Wednesday, December 18, 2013

OF EQUALITY

"The proper outcome of this issue has weighed heavily on the court for many months."

When the 14th amendment was proposed, it was meant to be a partner to the 13th amendment, banning slavery.  Lawmakers thought that it wasn't enough for the constitution to declare all men equal and say all are the same under law.  They wanted to make sure through a constitutional amendment that it was clear.
Further, they wanted to make sure people who had been part of the confederate rebellion were not going to be influential or have power to harm the US again. So they came up with this amendment:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article
You'll note that the amendment is mostly a broad response to the Civil War, and most of it is pretty well ignored these days.  But that first section is the one that gets a lot of work.  Its considered the "due process" section, and you'll note that it specifically and only applies to the states.
This is a strange approach, since the US Constitution already protects due process in the 5th amendment, but there was some debate whether that applied to state as well as federal law.  So we get this clause, which was primary meant to protect minorities.
However, there's a real problem with this amendment that we're only beginning to get a peek at.  People, particularly those who wrote the amendment and voted for it, never seem to think through what it says and means.  I'm guessing that they figured common sense and logic would apply but that's not going to work when people are paid to find creative and lucrative ways for a law to be interpreted.
Look it over again:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
What this says is that EVERYONE who is a US citizen gets equal protection of law.  See that last line?  Now, one would reasonably think this means "you have to enforce the law equally to protect all citizens, you can't ignore them for some people."  So you can't have a law protecting people from theft, then not enforce the law when, say, left-handed people are robbed.   And that's what the writers meant.  But that's not how its being used.
The 14th amendment is being interpreted to mean "you cannot treat anyone differently under law."  That is significantly different than "everyone gets equal protection" because it means not just that everyone gets the same legal guardian by the government, but that everyone must be treated the same by all laws.
This interpretation is the basis for some good; Loving vs Virginia was the Supreme Court decision that, based on this interpretation of the 14th amendment, decided that states could not ban marriages between blacks and whites.  Note, the ban had nothing to do with protection of the laws, only equal treatment under law.
And this interpretation is the basis for courts requiring homosexual "marriages" be legalized in states.  Because they are insisting that everyone be treated the same under law; if you can marry a girl, you should be able to marry a boy too, or its not equal.  Now as Anthony Scalia pointed out in his dissenting ruling on a different case, the argument opens up not just a can but an ocean liner full of worms.
I've been sitting on this idea for a while now, waiting for a nice current example to pop up, knowing that it would happen.  And here we go, Judge Clark Waddoups of United States District Court in Utah ruling on a polygamy law that since we have to allow homosexual marriage, well we can't stop polygamous relationships.
This is not so much the "slippery slope" that some are suggesting or stating outright.  Its a natural, inevitable consequence of a much earlier decision to treat the 14th amendment differently than it is written or intended.  Once that equality of law idea had been decided, the entire system begins to fall apart.
How can you tell a child they cannot do anything under law, if the 14th amendment requires states to treat everyone the same under law?  How can you tell a man he cannot go into the women's dressing room if everyone must be treated identically under law?  How can you tell anyone they cannot do anything differently from someone else?  The president gets to ride Air Force One, not you - 14th amendment!
And you cannot argue that existing law can separate people out; this interpretation has been used to negate existing laws.  Because people were deemed to have been treated differently, the law was deleted by the constitution.  Saying "due process makes it okay for some to be treated differently" doesn't work; due process and existing law is what made homosexual marriage and mixed race marriage bans the law.
This extends far further than people seem to be considering, in ways they would most certainly consider awful.
But once you've opened up that ocean liner of worms, you can't stuff them back in.  Each new precedent builds on the previous one; each court case is the descendant of the previous.  The same argument
that says the 14th amendment requires states to recognize homosexual "marriage" is the one that requires states to allow 4 year olds to drive.  And you can take it further.
This interpretation could be taken to argue that someone who breaks all sorts of law should not be so treated.  After all, what is a compelling state interest or in the best interest of the community is subjective, it changes from culture to culture.  It was obviously in the best interest of the community to have marriage be a structure to raise children in 20 years ago, today its a horrific act of bigotry.
And if you insist that, even if existing law prohibits it, all people should be treated equally under law, and further argue that laws must be changed to represent this, then where's that line drawn?  What possible basis do you have to say "thus and no further?"
You have none - by design - because modern legal theory is not based on absolutes or limits, but on current cultural whims.  What is unacceptable today becomes mandatory tomorrow, and vice versa.  So laws against all manner of activity can, even must be jettisoned, based on the constitution the way this is being handled.  
Sex with minors?  How can you treat children differently under law than adults?  Sex with animals?  Theft?  Murder?  Rape? Where's the line drawn?  Where society decides it is, that day.  And it all comes down to a well-meaning but superfluous law after a catastrophe of a war drawn up by a congress and government which had no realistic opposition and did not think straight what they were doing.
So don't be surprised when things show up in the law like a judge arguing that you have to allow polygamy.  And don't be surprised when the next thing comes along, either.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

ITS A MAN'S WORLD?

"It was always the proper mission of feminism to attack and reconstruct the ossified social practices that had led to wide-ranging discrimination against women. But surely it was and is possible for a progressive reform movement to achieve that without stereotyping, belittling or demonizing men."
-Camile Paglia

Something interesting happens to most women when they get married and have a boy: they change their perspective on men.  I think its not unreasonable of girls to get a certain grrl power men-are-dumb point of view in modern culture, we're constantly bombarded with this message.  It would take a pretty strong and unusual girl to resist the education that music, film, television, books, and education all imprint on her.
In college, young women are told all men are rapists at heart, and their denials is simply proof of the rape culture that menaces women constantly.  Advertisements continually portray men as hapless idiotic children.  With few exceptions, television shows almost always show the male characters as barely-literate frat boys and cave men.  Music and movies promote the image of the all-powerful kung fu genius girl who looks hot constantly and always has the right put down to make men look bad.
But when a woman marries, she finds out guys aren't all like that.  Her husband has her faults, but strengths as well - or why would she love and marry him to begin with?  She finds out that he's no more immature and childish than her, just in different ways.  She learns that men have strengths and abilities that women lack, just as they lack things women have.
And when she has a son, she sees things from a different perspective.  That shirt that was so cool and empowering that said "Boys suck throw rocks at them" when she was 12 seems horrible and abusive when her son is the target.  She finds out that her school treats boys as if they are some awful imposition that need to be drugged into submission and silenced in class.  She learns that all the girl-power stuff she grew up with was at the expense of the boys.
But with a culture that so strongly tries to repress and shunt aside boys and treats men like knuckle dragging brutes, its even tougher for a boy to grow up as a man.  I feel for the boys of today in school where they learn they should shut up and stop being masculine, that its awful and wrong to be a man and beautiful and good to be a woman.  Growing up in the face of that can't be easy.
There are places where this isn't as much of a problem, of course.  Rural areas tend to raise men from boys because they still have to man up and face life.  They are expected to overcome challenges and provide.  Yet those boys are in the minority, and they still face these pressures.  Boys are not just being challenged to grow up to be men, they're being discouraged from doing so.
And we're going to need those boys to grow up to be men.
Camile Paglia is one of those leftist thinkers I admire most of the time.  Like Christopher Hitchens and George Orwell, Paglia is able to think past her politics and ideology to see things rationally even when they challenge or oppose what her side tends to say.  Like Hitchens and Orwell, she has her blind spots - as do we all - but one of her biggest targets is modern feminism.
In a recent piece called It's A Man's World, and It Always Will Be for Time, Paglia writes:
A peevish, grudging rancor against men has been one of the most unpalatable and unjust features of second- and third-wave feminism. Men’s faults, failings and foibles have been seized on and magnified into gruesome bills of indictment. Ideologue professors at our leading universities indoctrinate impressionable undergraduates with carelessly fact-free theories alleging that gender is an arbitrary, oppressive fiction with no basis in biology.
As the saying goes, there are some ideas so stupid only an intellectual can believe them.   Paglia goes on:
History must be seen clearly and fairly: obstructive traditions arose not from men’s hatred or enslavement of women but from the natural division of labor that had developed over thousands of years during the agrarian period and that once immensely benefited and protected women, permitting them to remain at the hearth to care for helpless infants and children. Over the past century, it was labor-saving appliances, invented by men and spread by capitalism, that liberated women from daily drudgery.

What is troubling in too many books and articles by feminist journalists in the U.S. is, despite their putative leftism, an implicit privileging of bourgeois values and culture. The particular focused, clerical and managerial skills of the upper-middle-class elite are presented as the highest desideratum, the ultimate evolutionary point of humanity. Yes, there has been a gradual transition from an industrial to a service-sector economy in which women, who generally prefer a safe, clean, quiet work environment thrive.
And as I've written several times in the past, the world we now live in is one which women rule.  Women won the battle of the sexes, and they've managed to craft a civilization which fits their life and desires most closely.  The strengths men tend to have are nearly useless in this modern world, but the strengths that women have tend to be dominant and most in demand.
Women have done their job as civilizers, and the result is that now men have to strive to find more difficult, elusive ways to be masculine and productive.  There are still those high-risk, industrial type jobs like oil well rigger and king crab fisherman that are men-only positions, but for the most part they are outliers, rarities in modern society.
But as Paglia points out, this is temporary:
The earth is littered with the ruins of empires that believed they were eternal.

After the next inevitable apocalypse, men will be desperately needed again! Oh, sure, there will be the odd gun-toting Amazonian survivalist gal, who can rustle game out of the bush and feed her flock, but most women and children will be expecting men to scrounge for food and water and to defend the home turf.
Its been a very long time since the last civilization-destroying catastrophe took place.  We haven't had a massive plague or immense disaster that sets culture and technology back by generations for nearly a thousand years.  Its been a good run, it put us on the moon and gave us the internet you're now reading.  But it won't last.
I suspect we're on the cusp of one of these events, one almost entirely man-made and by our own doing.  And when that time comes, when the disaster hits, most of the people who die and suffer will do so out of sheer ignorance.  How do you get food when the supermarket shuts down?  How do you heat your house when the gas shuts off?  What will you do when your neighbors suddenly decide they need your pantry more than you do?
Its great living in a civilization where we don't have to fight and kill to survive.  It is ultimately preferable.  I would not do well in a barbaric society, a weak scribe and illustrator.  But barbarism is the default setting for humanity, for as long as we've been on this earth, it has been the greatest bulk of our experience and history.
For women to act like that can't ever happen again, and that we'll never, ever need men - that men are the cause of evil and wrong - is suicidally idiotic.  And honestly, deep down, I suspect there are very, very few women who prefer men be the emasculated wretches they've tried to turn us all into.
*UPDATE: Is this really the kind of man that modern women want, or just the kind that a certain sort of ideology promotes?
Yes, that's pajama boy from the latest Obamacare ad. Maybe a perfectly nice guy but who's going to chop the wood?

Monday, December 16, 2013

THE UPDATED ROSTER

"I personally believe the documents are not false."
-Mary Mapes

dangerous radicals
There was another shooting, in a school.  Every time this happens, like clockwork, you see the exact same scenario play out.  The same people yell that gun control would prevent this and the same people claim that the Tea Party or those scary right wing nut jobs who want smaller government are to blame somehow.  Usually someone suggests or outright states that the perpetrator has to be a member one of those two groups.  
Its happened over and over, they keep trying and trying to show that its crazed right wingers who do this, and over and over they keep failing.  At Ace of Spades HQ they had a partial list of these events and the accusations, with the eventual facts that came out.  I've added a few to the list to make it more complete here:
  • October 2002: The Beltway area was terrorized by a sniper, who was confidently profiled as a right wing white man angry at government.  It turned out to be a black Muslim who was pulled over repeatedly and let go because he didn't fit the profile.  Media and trial lawyers try desperately to claim he was not motivated by Jihad, but he clearly says so and has many photos of Islamic extremist imagery and statements.
  • April 2007: Seung-Hui Cho shoots up Virginia Tech.  Media speculates Tea Party rhetoric to blame.  Cho was off medication and mentally unstable, states in videos he made that he hates Christians and rich people.
  • Sept 2009: census-taker Bill Sparkman found hanged in rural Kentucky. Media speculated it was Tea Party, or at least crazed anti-government fanatics.  It was ruled a suicide. 
  • Feb 2010: Joe Stack flies small plane into an IRS building.  Media claims his ideas were straight off a Tea Party sign and implies links to the group.  They left off the quotes from the Communist Manifesto in his suicide note.
  • Feb 2010: Amy Bishop shoots colleagues at University of Alabama faculty meeting. Media suggests gun-loving Tea party membership.  Ms Bishop was an Obama voter and Democrat party activist. 
  • March 2010: John Patrick Bedell shot two Pentagon security men.  Media speculates he's a right wing extremist, but he was a registered Democrat is a 9/11 truther. 
  • May 2010: massive Times Square car bomb found. Bloomberg speculates it's someone upset about ACA.   He was just a radical Muslim.
  • August 2010: Amid Ground Zero Mosque debate, a Muslim cabbie is stabbed in NYC. Media speculates: was it a a right winger  bigot?  No, it was an art student leftist who was off his medication.
  • Sept 2010: James Lee takes hostages at Discovery Chan HQ. Media speculates: tea partier? No he was an environmental extremist who feared global warming and overpopulation. 
  • Dec 2010: Clay Duke shoots at FL school board. Talk show host Mike Malloy on blames Glenn Beck. Duke is a hard left activist who loved Clinton/Soros sponsored Media Matters website.
  • Jan 2011: Jared Lee Loughner shoots up campaign event of Rep. Giffords, killing several people including a judge. Media: Tea Party rhetoric and Sarah Palin are to blame and ignores other victims for a focus on pretty Giffords.   He was just a lunatic conspiracy theorist without any clear politics.
  • July 2012: James Holmes shoots up theater in Aurora, Colorado. Brian Ross suggests he's a Tea Party member on live TV. Turns out he was just a crazed man off his meds without clear political leanings. 
  • February 2013: Christopher Dorner goes on a cop-killing rampage.  Media ignores his politics, calling for people to not focus on his ideology.  Dorner was a strong Obama supporter, gun control advocate and huge fan of MSNBC.
  • April 2013: Tsarnaev bros bomb Boston Marathon. Media suggests Right Wing Nut Job commemorating "Patriot's Day."  Turns out they were just crazed Muslim radicals. 
  • September 2013: Aaron Alexis shoots up the Navy Yard, media suggests he's a right wing gun nut.  Alexis is an Obama voter who drives a Prius.
And of course recently, the media tried to blame the Lee Harvey Oswald (a communist) killing JFK on right wing conservative Dallas Texas.
As I wrote in my Common Knowledge piece, Jim Jones of the Guyana mass suicide was a big time leftist, Democrat activist, and friend of high profile Democrats.  You can just guess what the rhetoric would be if that had happened today: Religious nut, Christians are dangerous, look what faith does to people.
If they ever do find one that's a tea party rally attender or a Republican, you know it will be used as proof, proof!  that these groups are evil and horrible.  One example is all it would take, and forever after that would be the repeated name.  Joe Blow, the Joe Blow party, tea partiers are all Joe Blow.
The fact that almost all of them are left leaning to the extent they are political at all is proof of nothing, of course.  That is just coincidence, and they are no true Scotsman.  Ignore their politics, that's irrelevant and hurtful to the people attacked.
My position is that crazed evil people do crazy, evil stuff regardless of their politics.  The fact that almost all of these killers ended up being left leaning to some degree is not evidence of some particular murderous evil in the left.  They were insane and horrible people that did insane and horrible stuff, their politics was as significant as the breakfast cereal they all ate.
Oh, and the most recent shooting in Colorado?  A left wing gun control socialist.  He was stopped because an armed deputy was at the school.

Friday, December 13, 2013

SORRY AGAIN, VIRGINIA

Here's a post from a few years back. Every year, this bothers me more, especially for Christian parents.
"Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus lane..."

In 1897, an Eight-year-old Virginia girl supposedly wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun asking if Santa Claus really existed.
DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O'HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.
In response, the editor wrote a short column that has become more or less famous, the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history. Putting aside the unfortunate father's allegiance to a newspaper, this has always struck me as an odd episode. Even in an opinion piece, a newspaperman, especially an editor, is supposedly dedicated to the truth. At the very least, one would expect they are not inclined to knowingly and deliberately lying in their paper.

Santa Claus does not exist. We all know there is no magical elf riding a flying sleigh around the world drawn by 9 tiny reindeer, the lead of which has a glowing red nose. This is myth, a story we tell children but know is complete invention. To be sure, there is some fact behind the myth: there was a bishop named Nicholas who gave presents to the poor and had a festival near Christmas.

HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
St Nick Nicholas lived in Asia Minor (Eastern Turkey today, the region known as Anatolia) and there are several stories about this man. He provided dowries for three prostitutes so they could marry (essentially buying them out of slavery) and is famous for giving gifts in secret (apparently not all that secret). Nicholas was part of the Council of Nicea, he supposedly struck the heretic Arius in the face and was removed from the council and jailed for the act. Also famous for defending the falsely accused, he was sainted for allegedly bringing back to life girls who had been hacked apart.

It is this Bishop Nicholas that many stories began to be built up around, and in the iconography for the man he was usually depicted with three golden orbs to represent the dowries for the three girls he rescued from prostitution which are at times mistaken for oranges. The feast of St Nicholas is December 6th, and was traditionally a children's festival, involving gift-giving and candy. From this developed slowly the corruption of Saint Nicholas until the Dutch version Sinterklaas became Santa Claus. Bishop Nicholas had a long white beard and white hair, but was not fat, he was rather skinny - iconography was very stylized but also was very strictly passed down as accurate depictions of the various saints.

One by one various elements of the myth built up over the years, such as the red and white suit from the Bishop's winter mitre and cape worn for holidays. The chimney and stockings came from legends such as this much-tamed variant on how the prostitute girls got their dowries:
A nobleman who lived with his three daughters had fallen on hard times. The daughters had no chance of marriage, since their father could not pay their dowries.

One night, St. Nicholas threw a sack of gold through a window of the nobleman's shabby castle, which was enough for one daughter's marriage. The next night, he tossed another sack of gold through the window for the second daughter.

But on the third night, the window was closed. So, St. Nicholas climbed onto the roof and dropped the sack down the chimney. The next morning, the daughters found the gold in the stockings they had hung to dry by the fireplace.

Hence leaving the stockings out for Santa Claus.
Clement MooreIt was in 1822 that the poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" was written by Clement Moore for his children, which more or less formalized the myth of Santa Claus, who was gladly appropriated by stores for a more commercial-friendly hook than a humble, poor baby who came to save us from sins such as greed. Santa Claus also was an acceptable atheist replacement for Christian stories, it gave non Christian children a figure to celebrate and a reason for the holiday without needing that pesky Jesus in the picture.

Famous cartoonist Thomas Nash drew a picture of Santa Claus as a rotund man for Conde Nast magazine, and the image for some reason stuck - perhaps because a jolly fat guy is more approachable and less intimidating to children than a thin Bishop. In Europe however, Father Christmas is always portrayed as thin.

TODAY'S PARENTS
It is almost ubiquitous that parents in America and other nations tell their young children the myth of Santa Claus with all the usual trappings: stockings hung out (although we have electric driers to dry our clothes now), cookies set out for the elf, pictures of Santa all over, songs about him and the reindeer, and so on. The children are told that Santa is quite real, if anyone asks, like Virginia, the parents insist that the stories are true, that Santa Claus is a real elf who really uses magic to fly around the world on one night and give all kids their presents. That there are really 9 tiny reindeer who live on the north pole and can fly.

This is as opposed to stories like the tooth fairy and the Lion King, where children are amused and entertained by the wonder of fantasy and talking animals, where the joy of various tales such as Cinderella are presented as just that: stories. Parents don't insist that The Little Mermaid was real, or that My Little Pony really exists in a far away land of rainbows. But Santa Claus? Parents get mad when someone says he's not real. A school for small children recently came under fire in England for daring to issue a worksheet that said "many small children believe in Father Christmas" rather than teaching the orthodox doctrine that Santa really exists. My oldest brother was shown doctored pictures of Santa on his sleigh flying through the air by a teacher when he asked if Santa was real. See, pictures don't lie!

Why?

Why do parents tell their kids this myth is real when they won't with others - why cling to this myth with such fierce tenacity when others they shrug at. The Easter bunny, leprechauns and pots of gold, the comedic talent of Margaret Cho, these myths nobody feels compelled to defend but when you dare to question the reality of an elf the parents are very aware is fake, they get mad. The children, think of the children!

What makes me unhappy is that these are otherwise good parents, at least most of them, who try to raise their children with basic ethics. They will teach their children it is wrong to lie, that telling the truth is good. They will try to show an example to their children by how they live, by avoiding things in their presence, at least. Then they look that child straight in the eye, with deliberate calculation, and tell him or her an outright, intentional and outrageous set of total lies. Yes, Virginia, that fat magic elf really exists, really, really.

What could compel a parent to do this? It's one thing to tell your child wondrous stories - you should! It's one thing to try to make Christmas a wonderful, special time of year - you should! It's another to do so in a way that demonstrates that not only is lying fine, but that adults should lie to children when it makes them happy. What exactly are you trying to teach your kids, again?

Away in a MangerThe most disturbing to me is that many Christian parents do this too, they are part of the process and myth and lies. They'll go along with every step of the process, the reindeer decorations outside, the stockings, telling kids Santa will soon be here, the cookies and milk. One of the names for Santa Claus is Kris Kringle. This title comes from the German word Christkindl, as in Christ child. Just something to consider when you tell your children all about merry Chris Kringle. Children taught about Santa Claus and his gifts are far more focused on goodies coming and magic flying reindeer than the actual reason Christmas exists: to celebrate the (likely springtime) birth of Jesus Christ. A baby in a manger with shepherds visiting doesn't excite much interest in a little boy or girl but a magic elf bringing him presents and constant exposure to him does.

For Christians, the myth and fierce defense of the lie that Santa exists is a fierce defense of something taking the place of Jesus Christ on Christmas. This is somewhat like having your kid's birthday, then diverting all the attention to a magic gnome that will show up and give everyone candy. Yes, kids this is Jimmy's birthday, but you all get candy from the mystic gnome! Sorry Jimmy, go in a corner and open your presents.

YOU GRINCHY SCROOGE!
Why, I can hear you cry, what a miserable bastard, how could you be so mean to children! I hope you don't have any kids! When you have children, your story will change, what a stingy jerk! I know at least some of you are saying this because I've heard it before. I know the arguments: its fun for children, its harmless, it teaches them the joy and importance of giving.

The problem is, none of these arguments requires that you tell the children a lie. Sesame Street teaches children important lessons, but nobody feels compelled to tell their children Oscar and Big Bird are real, or would get mad at someone for saying otherwise. Joy can be spread without telling your children an intentional lie about a magic fat elf, and there's no lesson of giving involved, unless it's "give to me."

The reason presents were given around Christmas to begin with was to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, because you couldn't give anything to God - who owns and has everything, literally, already. You can give gifts to each other, and do so to demonstrate the teachings and purpose of Christ: that we are generous, merciful, and loving.

For the atheist - if you don't believe in God, why is the story of a child born to the heraldry of angels who healed the sick and died for salvation of others any more offensive than the tales of Santa? You don't believe either, why pick Santa to laud rather than Jesus, who is the entire purpose of the holiday?

For the Christian - why on earth are you telling your children a deliberate lie about this myth, let alone having some figure eclipse Jesus Christ, whom you profess and confess to be the king of kings and the central figure of all reality and history? The birth of Christ was so important in the Bible that heaven exploded with praises and glory, and our response is to teach our children about a secular myth?

CONCLUSION
Corporate Santa For those of you who still are reading, not to mention those who will actually return here, I just wanted to do my part to point out a problem with our modern Christmas: this holiday is about baby Jesus in a manger, there wouldn't be a Christmas without this event. Believe what you will about this Jesus, the entire point of the season is for Him and His incarnation. This was a historical event, it really did happen.

Sure, it didn't happen on the 24th of December, sure the Roman Catholic Church took this day to give converts and pagans a holiday that replaced winter solstice celebrations and other holidays. We celebrate every President's Birthday on the same day in February, even though only one was actually born that day. The purpose is not to claim this was the exact day, but to give a specific day to celebrate the event. After over a thousand years of history, this is a traditional day to have the celebration.

Trying to replace Jesus Christ with a magical elf is just bizarre, even if you aren't a Christian. Pushing Jesus aside for the tale of a gift giving fat man is useful for stores, but it makes no sense and is further a destruction of centuries of tradition and culture. Is that really what you want to do? Christian and atheist a like have good reason to continue the stories of Jesus and not replace him with Santa, and other faiths have reason to avoid Santa as well. Just something to consider, before you throw a rotten orange at me.

The city of Demre today is built on the ruins of Myra, where Bishop Nicholas lived and worked. They have a bronze statue of him that used to be on a prominent pillar in the town, but in 2005 the statue was removed and a fat red-suited Santa Claus was put in its place to make the image more familiar to visitors. The bronze statue of Nicholas was moved to a local church. If Nicholas was such a pious man he punched Arius in the snoot for denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, I doubt he'd be much amused by this development, or venerating him in any capacity.