Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ah, Christmas!

Ghost of Christmas Past: "I am here for your welfare, Ebenezer."
Scrooge: "My welfare? To be awakened by a ghost at one o'clock in the morning is hardly conducive to my welfare!"
(From the 1970 musical "Scrooge," starring Albert Finney)
We actually celebrated Christmas with my in-laws on Sunday, two days early. This year the usual December 25 date didn't fit everyone's plan, so we just rescheduled it. I love the concept. Kind of like a giant TiVo.
There was a half-hour of caroling at the church before the service last night. Someone in the congregation would shout the name of a favorite carol and that's what would be played and sung. I wanted to hold a cigarette lighter over my head and yell, "Layla!" but I don't think they would have gotten it, or appreciated it if they did.
Cookies matter at Christmas, of course, and this year's gingerbread men seemed to work out. There were the classic gingerbread men:
From the "Great Artists" series (left to right: Van Gogh, Picasso, and Toulous Lautrec)
The "You've Got Mail" gingerbread man:
And the "CSI - North Pole" gingerbread man:
Overall it's been quite a year. Every year, for everyone, has its large events, pleasant and not, and this year herehasn't been so different except it's been more like three years worth of it all.

It was the year I lost my father, and my cat. It was the year I learned the course I've taught for 14 years is probably being phased out after this school year.
It was also the year my father finally got peace from a brave, difficult battle that went on for years. The year my cat's long, healthy life ended with a short illness and minimal suffering. And the year I'm getting the opportunity to take on new challenges after successfully handling the same one for 14 years. It's all in the interpretation, and how I end up remembering it is up to me. That's a valuable lesson I learned from one of my favorite people.

A big first yesterday morning. Sitting right here typing, for the first time the cats came up into my lap. Lily came up first and then Willie, seeing the attention Lily was getting and being a true petting gourmond, followed. It's their first holiday in an environment they're just now getting used to. At first they just kind of stared at the tree with cautious reverence, like the 2001 apes looking at the monolith except without the weird music. After that phase came the delighted recognition that a tree that blooms cat toys grew right there in the living room. Lily's the smaller of the two, and can climb nearly to the top of the Christmas tree effortlessly. I probably should tell her not to but it's just beautiful to watch. Willie has started to get up that high too, though not quite as gracefully. When he pushes off with his back legs to jump out, the tree almost looks like it's coming down. The tree started out nice but keeping it that way quickly became hopeless. I really don't mind. So far they've left the other decorations in the house alone. I take all of this to be a good sign for the coming year.
Best wishes to all for a great Christmas and a great New Year. As for me, I have to check the date of the Super Bowl. If I'm busy that day I want to make sure the NFL has enough time to reschedule it. 

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sermonized For Your Protection

"If one has morals, they can't be taken away by me or anyone else." (Lily St. Cyr, legendary 40's and 50's stripper)

This weekend, "The Golden Compass" opened (to mediocre reviews and box office) at a theater near you. It's a movie based on a book I never heard of that was written by an author I never heard of. Or hadn't heard of until I started getting mass-mailing e-mails a few weeks ago warning of the dire consequences sure to result if anyone sees this movie.

If the idea is to make sure no one sees a movie, a campaign to tell people about the movie is a curious approach. In any event, I understand the campaign's objections to be two-fold.

First, the writer, Philip Pullman, is an affirmed atheist whose writings generally portray major religions as groups of people engaged in widespread, organized efforts to tell the less-enlightened people what to do. To counter this portrayal, groups of  offended religious people have organized widespread campaigns to tell the rest of us not to see this movie.  (And on the eighth day, the Lord created irony...)

Second, some of those offended have expressed concerns not about this movie or the book on which it is based, but rather about the more openly critical second and third books in the trilogy. It's felt that after reading the first book, there's a chance there could turn out to be a possibility that maybe someone could conceivably read one of the other books at some time in the future and potentially be influenced by it to some degree. Sure sounds to me like something to spend today fretting about. And I'm sure these folks, in protecting their religious beliefs from any form of disagreement, must have a good reason for disregarding Jesus' own admonition from the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34 NIV)  

Being fair, many of the concerns are understandable. Not long ago, these same folks were warning us about the rush of youth enrollmont into witchcraft-practicing cults after the Harry Potter books and movies were released and, sure enough, isn't that just what happened? It was the most shocking display of social deterioration I've seen since the epidemic of alcoholism that resulted from Lucy doing the still-shocking Vita-Meta-Vegimin episode.

If children ever started getting hold of Phillips' books there's no telling what could happen. Just ask any child who has already read one of the fifteen million copies of books in the trilogy sold since 1995.

Regular readers of this journal know God is an important part of my life, so I'm certainly not taking any kind of anti-religious stance. Regardless of whether I agree with someone's concerns about a movie or book, I can respectfully accept them if they've seen the movie, read the book, etc. We need to think a bit more than we sometimes do before preaching a sermon from the Book of Reefer Madness about how we know the sky is falling because we heard it from someone who saw it in an e-mail he got from a guy he knows who read a synopsis.

Now let's go out there and protect our children from the threat of wizards and golden compasses, and give them more wholesome concepts like talking lions.