Category Archives: Holiday

I am a Patriot, and I Love My Country

“The first round of explosions has started.”  –  A July first Facebook status post.

I’m hoping the people who try to burn down our neighborhood every 4th of July will finally make friends in the country so they can go out there and frighten the wildlife. Either that or get someone to drive them downtown for the city’s fireworks display. My dogs hate the explosions and I haven’t celebrated independence day for almost a decade now. Between the dogs and my own disabilities, there is little sense in mucking up the air with burnt offerings to the gods of independence. All of us are dependent on somebody. Some of us are just more cognizant of this fact than others.

The episode of On the Media that was playing in my headphones when I started writing the reply to the above status post was topical for the looming July 4th holiday. A similar holiday also happens on July 1st in Canada. Canada is celebrating 150 years as a nation. Except they really aren’t. Celebrating, that is. Not in the way Americans would recognize.

“Canadians kinda don’t need [patriotism] we have hospitals” – Stephen Marche

Snark aside, there is something about the July 4th holiday and the near-manic manner in which it is celebrated that leaves the outside observer and likewise the cynic wondering “what do they have to celebrate?” With incomes at all-time lows for the average American, with poverty on the rise and the mega-rich in ownership of the entire US government; with popular denial of science leading to defunding of scientific ventures like the SSC, the international space station and the space program which in turn has led to Europe breaking new ground in science exploration over the last decade, one really wonders what it is about America that we really are celebrating.

I mean, we aren’t the free-ist. We aren’t the happiest. We aren’t the richest. The one thing you can put your finger on that we do better than anybody is build an impressively large military, spending more on our military than the next 8 countries combined. We pay a lot more for healthcare than any other country, and we get some of the shoddiest results from this overspending. We  consume the most. We throw away to most. We throw away so much usable stuff that there are countries whose economies are benefitted by buying our cast-offs and putting them to use.

I set this piece up with the chorus from Jackson Browne’s song I am a Patriot several years ago. Before Trump. Before Obama’s second term. That is how long I’ve been stewing on these ideas I’m putting down here, the conflict at the heart of America’s need to scream their love of themselves at the world. There is something really, horribly wrong with this picture.

I am a patriot
And I love my country
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family
The people who understand me
I’ve got nowhere else to go

This observation is at once achingly true and laughably simplistic, which is why this song rings true with me. Most people are patriots because, what else would you want them to be? Hate their lives and where they live? Who lives long in that state of mind? Not too many people. Consequently, everyone is a patriot and no one is, simultaneously. This is a truism just as everyone is as free as they want to be is a truism. Absolute freedom is to be released from constraint, to not have to eat or sleep or breath. Not have to feel pain or feel anything at all. Absolute freedom is death, to not know constraint of any kind. Are the enslaved then to blame for their own enslavement? Only if you believe death is a preferable state of being. Of non-being. Embracing freedom as a concept that can unite all people in the third verse is an acknowledgement of the universal appeal of these fuzzy concepts, and yet freedom is as indefinable as patriot in the real world.

So I don’t hate my country anymore than the next fellow. I just don’t understand why it is we in the US feel compelled to try to burn the whole place down every 4th of July. If I had to pick one thing, just one thing, that I thought was superior about the US, about America, I can give that answer without much thought. The best thing about our country is the first amendment to the constitution. Freedom of speech makes everything else possible, because the ability to form concepts and communicate them to another is possibly the most human thing we do. The most distinctive thing about us as living creatures. It is the first of the four freedoms for a reason.

That is why when the US fails to live up to the promise of the First Amendment, it can be so devastating to those caught in the crossfire. People like Aaron Copland.

“Copland’s scores and recordings were banned in hundreds of overseas libraries. Access officially denied.” – Sara Fishko Fishko Files

I recognized Fanfare For The Common Man as the inspirational music for Air Force One almost immediately. But then, I’m a movie buff as even a cursory reading of this blog should illustrate.

Every Independance Day for the past decade and more I have sat down and watched movies with The Wife. My go-to film is 1776 on laserdisc. I like this version better than the streamed or bluray offering because it is actually a statement on the divisive nature of American life.  Visible across the length of that film are splices and ink-marks and scissor cuts where Jack Warner at the direction of the Nixon White House cut scenes and whole songs from the film. Nixon didn’t approve of the apparent cowardice of the conservatives as portrayed in the play. Their stated willingness to allow others to risk so that they could preserve their wealth and security. The words may be placed in the mouths of the actors on the stage, but the sentiment of the time is beautifully captured in the verse of the songs, the fervor of John Adams, the melancholy of the (real) dispatches from George Washington in the field. Franklin’s open pragmatism. The feeling that America must be free to find her own destiny, not ruled over by Europeans intent on subjecting it for the purpose of profit for themselves, no matter the cost. This version speaks to me in my soul, the tension and conflict then and now. The pulls in different directions, to risk for the sake of principle, to recoil at the prospect of loss. This is life in the US and possibly life as it is throughout the world.

The Wife watches either ID4 or Live Free or Die Hard sometimes both of them. Over-the-top explosions, hammy one-liners and the good guys winning in the end. I think she shares more with the sentiment of the average American than I ever could just in her choice of movies. Nothing in life has ever been that simple for me, and maybe that’s the point. She seeks escape in her movies. I seek new ways of looking at the world and myself, insights that have never occurred to me before. That I haven’t driven her screaming mad in 30 years of life together is more a testament to her strength than it is to my willingness to compromise on what movies I will sit and watch repeatedly.

Rites of Spring

A few years ago on Facebook, I posted the image at right to The Wife‘s wall.  Silly me, I was thinking I could entice the woman I love into engaging in some Rites of Spring when I posted it. Easter is the traditional holiday that most closely corresponds with the Vernal Equinox, the celestial demarcation for the beginning of spring.  Easter is promoted as the original spring festival, unlike the Hallmark created holiday of Valentine’s day which is as like a real celebration of spring as porn is a representation of sex.

I say silly me because I spent the better part of that Sunday fending off attacks from friends affronted by the notion that Easter is in any way sexual or that the fertility goddesses alluded to in the image have anything at all to do with the resurrection of their savior or the holiday that Catholics created specifically to counter the carnal celebration rituals which had predominated societies of all kinds prior to christianity’s rise.

This year Easter will arrive almost comically late to the spring scene, April 16th. The trees have been budding for about a month here in Austin as I write this. The birds will already be on their way further North from here by the time we get to Easter, so the sexually repressed will breath a sigh of relief knowing there will be little confusion between their sacred holiday and the equinox. It is a testament to the sexual repression present in the US that there isn’t even a wiki page on the subject of Rites of Spring that isn’t about music. Another testament is the fact that I can’t even say exactly when I posted the image to The Wife’s Facebook wall, because the image is consistently removed as offensive every time it is posted there.

I am sorry that the fact that spring is the time of rebirth, of fertility and sex, gets in the way of a deathcult-like obsession with afterlives and resurrection that is found within the various flavors of the christian religion when it comes to their spring celebration. The sexual repression that Paul introduced into the church from it’s earliest days has seized hold of the majority of the religion’s followers in the US, causing them to reject all things sexual as anti-christian. Jesus was not a sexist, he saw no need to place women in an inferior role in the world.

There is also a hemispherical bias at play here. I’ve often wondered what an Australian would think of the hubbub common in the Northern hemisphere surrounding this issue. Easter is in the fall in the Southern hemisphere; consequently the death-cultish air that bothers me about Easter probably is a nice foreshadowing of the oncoming winter when viewed from South of the equator; a preparation for the dying off of plant life, the hibernation of animal life, with a spring resurrection waiting at the other end of winter.

I originally entitled this piece Easter-Ishtar-Astarte. How about Tammuz? Because I wanted to push back at the near-hysterical responses I got from offended christians on Facebook. The offense has since spread all across the internet, with rebuttals on nearly any christian site you care to look at (no I won’t link any of them) most of them rather petty in tone.  Also, most of them cherry-pick history to prove their points, largely relying on Bede and Herodotus who give the preferred twist to the pagan spring rituals that pre-date christianity.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen

One would think there was no basis for the worshipping of the feminine, a common theme in the pre-monotheistic times, if you listen to modern christian apologists. That there was no goddess Asherah mentioned in some versions of the Old Testament, that she wasn’t worshipped as an equal right alongside the shrines to Yahweh in ancient Israel, before the cult of men, the cult of the penis asserted itself and made itself the lone holiness to be worshipped.

The truth is that the facts are much harder to tease out than those people who simply want to prove their worldview try make them. For example. The article at Scientific American on the subject of this meme cites the Germanic deity Eostre as the basis of the word Easter, as many of the christian apologists do.  However, the sole source of this proposition remains Bede. In the end, the need to prove that Easter is or isn’t some phonetic variation on Ishtar is pointless and petty, a hallmark of the vast majority of Facebook content. As one of the commenters to the SA article pointed out;

Actually, there is a connection between Oestre and Ishtar. Ishtar is associated with Venus, which is often referred to as the morning star, or light-bringer with its association with Lucifer (lucis = light). Venus is the planet of love and marriage traditionally. 
There are Babylonian egg myths too featuring Ishtar being hatched, and the mystic egg falling from heaven to the Euphrates. These same myths are recycled from their Egyptian/Babylonian origins and do seem to be connected to the old pagan rites. 
The mythology of Astarte (Greek) and Ashtoreth (Jewish) seems very similar too. Everything seems to have a common origin. (emphasis added)

The rest of the meme is even more questionable than the assertion that Easter and Ishtar are one and the same. Further down in the SA article is the observation;

The cosmic egg, according to the Vedic writings, has a spirit living within it which will be born, die, and be born yet again. Certain versions of the complicated Hindu mythology describe Prajapati as forming the egg and then appearing out of it himself. Brahma does likewise, and we find parallels in the ancient legends of Thoth and Ra. Egyptian pictures of Osiris, the resurrected corn god, show him returning to life once again rising up from the shell of a broken egg. The ancient legend of the Phoenix is similar. This beautiful mythical bird was said to live for hundreds of years. When its full span of life was completed it died in flames, rising again in a new form from the egg it had laid.

Eggs appear to be central to almost all of the spring rites and creation stories.  They lend themselves quite handily to the theme of new life arising from an apparently inanimate object. There is no specific linkage between Ishtar and eggs that I could lay hands on; but then there doesn’t need to be, since the egg is all over the various mythologies of the day as being the beginning of life.

The hardest facet of current Easter practices to track down is the Easter Bunny. Theories abound, and I even have some thoughts of my own on the subject as relating to the Wolpertinger and the Jackalope, both icons of Germanic influence in the US. The rabbit’s springtime mating antics do bring me back to the point I started with. Like so many things human, the trappings of tradition cloud the purpose of the celebration.

The Rites of Spring from a human standpoint are necessarily sexual. That is how we renew the species, creating children who go on to make the future of the human animal a reality. Nearly all of the celebrations of spring outside of the deviancy of of the christian religion are sexual in nature, as they should be. If you want an example of this, wander through the galleries of ancient temples dedicated to the subject.  Read about the fertility rites that are still practiced in Asia. These are not perversions any more than christianity’s sexless renewal celebration is a perversion of nature as well.

Betony Vernon The Boudoir Bible

Adam and Eve 
Albrecht Dürer

The US is demonstrably repressive when it comes to the subject of sex.  Demonstrably repressive, and at the same time unhealthily obsessed with meaningless sex like pornography, which can be found all over the place in spite of the almost reflexive repression present everywhere in the US that isn’t the internet. Or San Francisco. Naked bodies being used to sell every single product you can imagine, whether that sales strategy makes sense or not.

Pornography is not really sex in the same way that film is not real life. The proverbial money shot, a hallmark of pornography, defeats the entire purpose of the sex act. If the male’s bodily fluids aren’t left inside the female’s body, what is occurring is no more meaningful than a daily walk in the park. A session of weight lifting. Swimming a few laps. It is exercise; and in the case of pornography, exercise engaged in for the purpose of display only. As Robin Williams once famously quipped pornography is “an industrial film covered in fur”.

Sex is a joyous celebration of life. It is central to the human experience. No adult life is complete that doesn’t include some form of sexual interaction with a willing partner on a regular basis. Good health requires this and I consider it a travesty in the US that we cannot come to grips with the existence of sex all around us all the time, much less be unable to declare that the Rites of Spring should be founded around sex.

I have a solution to this frustrating issue from a non-believing perspective. I’m simply going to stop acknowledging Easter as a Spring holiday. The Vernal Equinox is the holiday now.  I’m done with the vagaries of Easter, aside from the chocolate of course. Dopamine rewards being what they are I’ll take them where I can get them. I’ll just wait til Monday April 17th to go chocolate and Blackbird egg shopping this year. I can wait a month. We’ve got these dice to play with. Should keep us busy for at least that long.

(What you have just read is the second 2017 version of my Vernal Equinox post. The “ctrl-z while editing” Blogger glitch claimed the first version scant days before its publish date. I have no idea how that version differs from this one.  C’est la vie. This post was based on one that was originally publshed here)


Every day should be a learning experience. I do my best to follow this wisdom day-in and day-out. It amazes me how often things I think should be transparently obvious are not, and how the mundane day to day events in human cultures sometimes never get communicated to people from outside that culture.

The Vernal Equinox, for example, is also the first day of the Persian New Year. I discovered this while listening to Code Switch the other day,


Lacking the ability to just move the New Year around willy-nilly myself, and also lacking a desire to mix one celebration with another, I’ll have to simply wish celebrants of Nowruz a Happy New Year! and leave it at that. However, a two-week festival leaves plenty of time to celebrate beyond simply observing the Rites of Spring, so I may have to explore this festival idea some more. 

Valentine’s Day, 2017

Can you tell I’m not a fan of this holiday?

If anyone knows the author of this image I’d love to credit them.
Image first used by me here. A long time ago.

What was your first clue?

J. Geils Band Love Stinks

The Wife and I did our Valentine’s outing at 9pm last night. I recommend not doing anything social on the Fourteenth of February unless you like lines, crowds and unpleasantness. Also, don’t buy flowers or chocolate until February 15th. Take this advice from someone who has been poor all their life. Take the hit to your romance, not your wallet. If they love you they’ll be even happier you saved a few dollars that the two of you can spend on something else.

A word of warning. Do not attempt to economize on Valentine’s gifts without getting the buy-in of your significant other. They will slam the door in your face if you fail to mention this plan to them in advance. You might also take the time to plan other activities you can engage in while presenting said love tokens. Just a thought.

TED’s idea of a valentine.

What’s interesting to me is that all of this happens in a culture that values lifelong monogamy. It seems like we want it both ways: we want love to feel like madness, and we want it to last an entire lifetime. That sounds terrible.

War on Christmas, Black Santa

This was a thing again this year. FOX News declaring that Santa is white. Why is it important what color Santa is? Why does anyone care? The fact that this is still a thing makes it even weirder than it was way back in 2013 when Jon Stewart riffed on the subject in these segments from his show,

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart 12/13/2013, WAR ON CHRISTMAS – S#@T’S GETTING WEIRD EDITION

Gretchen Carlson issues a manger danger warning, and Megyn Kelly defends Santa Claus’s historically-based Caucasian bona fides.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart 12/13/2013, WAR ON CHRISTMAS – S#@T’S GETTING WEIRD EDITION – BLACK SANTA

Fox News debates Santa Claus’s ethnic background, and Jessica Williams concludes that Santa Claus could not possibly be black.

I really do miss Jon Stewart. News was a lot more fun with him around.


Listening to NPR’s Code Switch for December 19th, 2017 turned me on to the inspiration for Megyn Kelly’s rant,

So let’s ditch Santa the old white man altogether, and embrace Penguin Claus—who will join the Easter Bunny in the pantheon of friendly, secular visitors from the animal kingdom who come to us as the representatives of ostensibly religious holidays. It’s time to hand over the reins to those deer and let the universally beloved waddling bird warm the hearts of children everywhere, regardless of the color of their skin.

Aisha Harris writing for Slate, Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore

Santa Claus, the Spirit of Giving, 2016

“There is a Santa Claus but it’s an idea, it’s not a person. Santa Claus is doing good things for people, just because; and so long as you keep doing that throughout the rest of your life, there will always be a Santa Claus”

Rebecca Watson relating her father’s words in SGU#74

Santa with Soul

I find that atheists and skeptics generally step on the sense of wonder in their haste to squash pseudo-science, religiosity, false-piety and fear-mongering.  I understand their goals and for the most part agree with their principles if not their ham-handed practices.

One of the subjects that gets trodden most savagely in the dust of shattered illusions is the story of Santa Claus.  I’ve lost count of the number of people (Penn Jillette in particular) who have specifically targeted Santa Claus in their personal lives, trumpeting raising children without fostering a belief in imaginary beings. I couldn’t disagree more.

I celebrate the secularized solstice holiday referred to in the US as Christmas, which involves a jolly fat guy who delivers presents dressed in a red suit. We spend the holiday with family and friends, giving gifts and trying to brighten the dull central Texas winter days. I also spend time reflecting on what the passing of this year means to me, and preparing to celebrate the New Year.

The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant.

My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather’s house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.

Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.

For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn’t until I met and married her that there was any magic during the holidays for me, and then only because of her.

She presented an argument that I couldn’t defeat. That there was something good in nurturing a sense of wonder in the children. That perhaps Santa isn’t a person, but is instead the charitable spirit that lives inside all of us. That the giving (and receiving) doesn’t have to end at all.

So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of their heart and doesn’t seek to be recognized for charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn’t get recognized enough these days.

The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.

(courtesy Berkeley Breathed)

You can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus and tell me how he’s actually St. Nicholas, how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he’s the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It’s all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it’s just about as true as any of the rest of them.

You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.

It is a game, the same game it has always been. A game shared by adults and children down through the years whether they knew it or not.  It can be a fun game or a hurtful one, but it is a game; as an inveterate gamer myself, it’s one I’ve come to enjoy now that I understand it.  It can be a valuable teaching tool when used correctly, and a crushing burden when used incorrectly. So play it wisely, always with the knowledge that a game should be fun. If it isn’t fun and you have a choice, why play?

(compiled from two previous posts. 2006 & 2012)

The Reason for the Season, 2016

The solstice approaches.

I know this because my self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder is kicking in. I want to stay in bed all day. I can’t be bothered to go out to do routine shopping.

Well, the latter isn’t just the SAD.  No, that comes from my cumulative experience with this time of year, which is why a self-diagnosis for SAD may just be my hypochondria (also self-diagnosed. Well, self-diagnosed if the wife calling you a hypochondriac for 30 years constitutes self-diagnosis) kicking in, reinforcing my disgust with the crass commercialism which denotes this slowly expanding season.

There was a time in my youth when we waited until after Thanksgiving to start hyping all things Christmas. I remember going out in the yard after Thanksgiving to admire the life-size nativity scene that my grandfather always put up (complete with genuine hay bales borrowed from farming relatives) in the front yard across the street from the Methodist church in Leoti where he sang in the choir regularly. Setting up the tree and decorating it was generally a part of the Thanksgiving celebration.

These days if you are into labor-saving you put up “Halloween lights” which can be color-changed to “Christmas lights” or just put up the Christmas decorations early. In this household you will find Christmas decorations that stay up all year, the ultimate in labor-saving.

Holiday shopping madness hits just about the time that November rolls around; consequently I refuse to go out amidst the press of people who are willing to knife total strangers in order to get the last dublafluwhitchy that is the thing to have this year. I won’t go shopping between Thanksgiving and New Years unless I run completely out of an essential food item (eggs, oatmeal, tea) and even then I won’t go gladly. I won’t go gladly because I hate Christmas music and it is played non-stop in most retail businesses between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Basically I turn into the Grinch promptly following Halloween, and stay that way until Christmas Eve, when I put on my best face in order to not spoil the holiday for the family. Christmas and the solstice holiday it supplanted are celebrated when they are because of the effect that shortened days have on the human psyche; and it would be pointless to attend a celebration as the Grinch when it is thrown specifically to drive the Grinch away.

But the real reason I know the solstice is approaching is that even in my current boycott of the news cycle the War on Christmas, the incessant whining of the christian majority of the US that they are in fact an oppressed minority, has made its way into my information stream despite my best efforts.

The Winter solstice is a pagan holiday. This year it will occur on December 21st for the Northern hemisphere of planet Earth. The pagan holiday (which went by several names) spanned across the current date of Christmas, traditionally for about two weeks, until a few days after the current New Year’s day.

Retconning Christmas: David Kyle Johnson on the Real Reason for the Season

This task that I set myself periodically, this attempt to push back against the wilful ignorance of the average American, this attempt to enlighten the masses as to the true breadth and depth of the history that is expressed in the secular holiday we call Christmas seems hopeless. Even the simple idea that facts when presented without bias can change minds seems hopeless in light of current psychological studies into things like Motivated Numeracy or the Dunning-Kruger Effect especially when polls conducted by the Pew Research Center show,

…that most Americans believe that the biblical Christmas story reflects historical events that actually occurred. About three-quarters of Americans believe that Jesus Christ was born to a virgin, that an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, and that wise men, guided by a star, brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. And eight-in-ten U.S. adults believe the newborn baby Jesus was laid in a manger.

In total, 65% of U.S. adults believe that all of these aspects of the Christmas story – the virgin birth, the journey of the magi, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds and the manger story – reflect events that actually happened. Among U.S. Christians, fully eight-in-ten (81%) believe in all four elements of the Christmas story. Even among people who are not affiliated with any religion, 21% believe all these events took place, and 37% believe at least one (but not all) of them occurred.

But still I soldier on, year after year, attempting to point out the silliness that surrounds us.

The word christmas is a bastardization of Christ’s Mass, which is specifically a Catholic celebration. The Catholics, being the earliest example of admen on the planet, realized that they could more easily sell their religion if they simply adopted the holidays in the areas that they wished to convert. When they moved into Northern Europe, they took on the holiday known as Yule and incorporated it into their religion as the day of Christ’s birth (even though it’s considered most likely that the date would have been in spring) and it is even more likely that the celebrations of Saturnalia spread around the Roman Empire, influencing the the celebrations held informally long after Rome had ceased to be a power in the region. Whereby Roman celebrations influenced Yule which in turn influenced celebrations in the later christian eras.

Christ’s Mass (Mass being what a protestant refers to as a ‘sermon’) was thereby invented, placing a holiday that directly coincided with celebrations already being held on the shortest day of the year, accurate calculations of which could be made (and were and still are essential for agriculture) with the crude technologies of the time.

What I’m getting at is this; if you are calling the solstice holiday Christmas and you aren’t a Catholic, then you are referring to the secularized solstice holiday officially celebrated in the US, which doesn’t observe holidays for any recognized religion including christianity. There is no need to further secularize your solstice celebration by calling it a Holiday.

This sort of silliness knows no bounds. The Son attended a charter school that was hosted at a Catholic Church for a few years while he was in grade school and they used the phrase Holiday Party to describe their Christmas Party. If there is one group that should be using the word Christmas it’s the Catholics.  They certainly didn’t hesitate to tell him all about god in that school, which was the main reason his attendance there was brief. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t just say Christmas.

Christmas being Yule modernized isn’t nearly the earth shattering revelation that FOX and their devotees might think.  A good number of the names for things that we use daily, even the names of the days themselves, are derived from Germanic/Northern European traditions, whose gods were not the gods the Romans worshipped (Remember to think of Odin on Wednesday next time it rolls around) nor the later god of the christians that Rome would officially adopt. Our traditions in the US are a literal smorgasbord of celebrations cobbled together from every major culture on the face of the planet.

If you hear me wish you a Merry Christmas, it is because May your feast of the Winter Solstice be Enjoyable is too cumbersome to say repeatedly. It certainly isn’t because I revere Jesus, or self-identify as a christian.

“Jesus is the reason for the season!”

Axis tilt (22.5 degrees) is the reason for the season. Lack of sunlight causing depression is the reason for the celebration. Christmas has as much to do with Odin as it does with Jesus, and has even more in common with Coca-Cola ads from the early 20th century than it does with any god; Coca-Cola having created the figure of Santa Claus that most of us recognize today.


(courtesy the Coca-Cola Company)

Jesus was not a capitalist. Jesus does not want you to buy gifts to give away on the winter solstice; not only because he wasn’t born then, but because you should give gifts every day of your life. If you really want to know WWJD? Then I’ll tell you, that is what Jesus would do as well as washing the feet of the poor and feeding hosts with loaves and fishes. Give gifts every day to the people around you who need them. Be thankful you have them near you every day that you can, because those days are finite like the number of days remaining in our lives.

If you remain unfazed by these facts; if you are still determined to insist that Christmas is a christian holiday, I’ll go a few steps further to illustrate my point. The Puritans that the average US citizen credits as founding the American colonies specifically targeted Christmas as being a pagan influence introduced by the Catholic church. They exorcised it’s celebration from their religious practices, even punishing celebrants caught loafing during the early years of the colony.

The US is not a christian nation. The authors of the Constitution had little evident love of religion. Having just escaped religious persecution in Britain and the rest of Europe, and being besieged by the mandatory religious practices written into several state charters, they consciously kept all mention of religion out of the document aside from the proscription against religious tests. If you go beyond their ranks you are faced with the fact that there were French colonies as well as Spanish colonies, and if you want a contrast with the straight-laced Puritans it’s hard to find one more glaring than the types of celebrations held in New Orleans down through the years.

The United States exists as a celebration of reason not religion. Reason is the basis for Humanism and the Enlightenment, this country’s real foundations.

I apologize for ruining Christmas for you, I’m sorry.

The world isn’t as simple as any of us want it to be, wish it would be. It won’t change just because you or I think it should; and like those toys you bought for the children, it won’t go back in the !@#$%^&*! box so you can return it. Next time buy the pre-assembled one that has all the pieces in the right place. The child will be happy for the gift anyway, they probably won’t notice the missing parts, and the world will continue to spin on its (tilted) axis whether we will it or not.

Just relax, sit back, and have some more eggnog (or whatever your beverage of choice is) it’s just a few more weeks and then we’ll have a whole new year of problems to deal with. Now isn’t that a refreshing outlook?

…Oh, and Merry Christmas!

(abridged and enhanced from this post)

April Fool’s Day

It is April the first in case most of you haven’t checked your calendars. That is April Fool’s Day in the US.  I despise April Fool’s Day. It’s the only day of the year trusted sources go out of their way to pull your leg; and as many good comics have noted, the amateurs are never as good as professionals when it comes to telling jokes. Consequently most of the attempts at humor are merely attempts, and the ones that are convincing simply confuse the stupid for years to come when the humor of the moment is long gone.

Via Berkeley Breathed on Facebook

I was lucky this year.  The first prank I came across was concocted between Berkeley Breathed and Bill Watterson showing an aged Mr. Watterson happily signing the rights to Calvin and Hobbes over to Mr. Breathed.  (in 2017 he did it again) Given the political year we are having right now, I don’t even think this development is beyond possibility.  Comic artists.  They never stop having fun, do they?

I’m taking my lucky break and running with it.  Count me out for the rest of the day.  I will be hiding in my living room with the lights down low, the wifi turned off and the router unplugged, watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island like Opus has been for awhile now.  Somebody slide a note under the door when it is April the second so that I will know it is safe to pay attention again?  I’d really appreciate it.


As I was driving and listening to my usual podcasts later that day I nearly crashed the truck yelling “bullshit!” at the news that the EU was banning CO2 from all sodas and champagne in an effort to reduce global warming.  Even away from Facebook and the internet I could not escape the japes.

Then there was the news that April Fools day inspires the usually complacent to check the veracity of the news on April first before just believing it.  Frankly I doubt that is true.  I’ve seen far too many people believing ridiculous things lately, even on April first.  Pretty sure that one was an April Fool’s joke.

In the end I’ve be forced to the conclusion that I will have to embrace April Fool’s day.  The Chinese government issued a warning that jokes on April the first would not be tolerated because;

“’April Fools’ Day’ is not consistent with our cultural tradition, or socialist core values,” state news agency Xinhua announced on social media Friday. “Hope nobody believes in rumors, makes rumors or spreads rumors.”

It is actually against the law to tell falsehoods in public in China.  Literally no jokes allowed. While I loath misinformation myself, anything that pisses the Chinese government off is something we should probably have more of right now.  So pass me those paper fish and some tape. I have some April Fish to fry.

Rites of Spring

A few years back on Facebook, I posted the image at right to The Wife’s wall.  Silly me, I was thinking I could entice the woman I love into engaging in some Rites of Spring when I posted it.

I posted it on Easter because Easter is the celebration that corresponds most closely with the Vernal Equinox, the real demarcation of the beginning of spring.  It is the original spring festival, unlike the Hallmark created holiday of Valentine’s day which is as like a real celebration of spring as porn is a representation of sex.

It is a testament to the sexual repression in the US that there isn’t even a wiki page on the subject of Rites of Spring that isn’t about music. Another testament is the fact that I can’t even say exactly when I posted the image to The Wife’s Facebook wall, because the image is consistently removed as offensive every time it is posted there.

I am sorry that the fact that spring is the time of rebirth, of fertility and sex, gets in the way of a deathcult-like obsession with afterlives and resurrection that is found within the various flavors of the christian religion when it comes to their spring celebration. That the sexual repression that Paul introduced into the church from it’s earliest days has seized hold of the majority of the religion’s followers in the US, causing them to reject all things sexual as anti-christian. Jesus was not a sexist, saw no need to place women in an inferior role in the world.

There is also a hemispherical bias here. I’ve often wondered what an Australian would think of the hubbub common in the Northern hemisphere surrounding this issue. Easter is in the fall in the Southern hemisphere; consequently the death-cultish air that bothers me about Easter probably is a nice foreshadowing of the oncoming winter when viewed from South of the equator; a preparation for the dying off of plant life, the hibernation of animal life, with a spring resurrection waiting at the other end of winter.

I originally titled this piece Easter-Ishtar-Astarte. How about Tammuz? Because I wanted to push back at the near-hysterical responses I got from offended christians on Facebook. The offense has since spread all across the internet, with rebuttals on nearly any christian site you care to look at (no I won’t link any of them) most of them rather petty in tone.  Also, most of them cherry-pick history to prove their points, largely relying on Bede and Herodotus who give the preferred twist to the pagan spring rituals that pre-date christianity.

The facts are much harder to tease out than those people who simply want to prove their worldview make them. 

For example. The article at Scientific American on the subject of this meme also cites the Germanic deity Eostre as the basis of the word Easter.  However, the sole source of this proposition remains Bede. In the end, the need to prove that Easter is or isn’t some phonetic variation on Ishtar is pointless and petty, a hallmark of the vast majority of Facebook content. As one of the commenters to the SA article pointed out;

Actually, there is a connection between Oestre and Ishtar. Ishtar is associated with Venus, which is often referred to as the morning star, or light-bringer with its association with Lucifer (lucis = light). Venus is the planet of love and marriage traditionally. 
There are Babylonian egg myths too featuring Ishtar being hatched, and the mystic egg falling from heaven to the Euphrates. These same myths are recycled from their Egyptian/Babylonian origins and do seem to be connected to the old pagan rites. 
The mythology of Astarte (Greek) and Ashtoreth (Jewish) seems very similar too. Everything seems to have a common origin. (emphasis added)

The rest of the meme is even more questionable than the assertion that Easter and Ishtar are one and the same. Further down in the SA article is the observation;

The cosmic egg, according to the Vedic writings, has a spirit living within it which will be born, die, and be born yet again. Certain versions of the complicated Hindu mythology describe Prajapati as forming the egg and then appearing out of it himself. Brahma does likewise, and we find parallels in the ancient legends of Thoth and Ra. Egyptian pictures of Osiris, the resurrected corn god, show him returning to life once again rising up from the shell of a broken egg. The ancient legend of the Phoenix is similar. This beautiful mythical bird was said to live for hundreds of years. When its full span of life was completed it died in flames, rising again in a new form from the egg it had laid (4).

Eggs appear to be central to almost all of the spring rites and creation stories.  They lend themselves quite handily to the theme of new life arising from an apparently inanimate object. There is no specific linkage between Ishtar and eggs that I could lay hands on; but then there doesn’t need to be, since the egg is all over the various mythologies of the day as being the beginning of life.

The hardest facet of current Easter practices to track down is the Easter Bunny. Theories abound, and I even have some thoughts of my own on the subject as relating to the Wolpertinger and the Jackalope, both icons of Germanic influence in the US.

The rabbit’s springtime mating antics do bring me back to the point I started with. Like so many things human, the trappings of tradition cloud the purpose of the celebration.

Courtesy Berlin Art Parasites

The Rites of Spring from a human standpoint are necessarily sexual. That is how we renew the species, creating children who go on to make the future of the human animal a reality. Nearly all of the celebrations of spring outside of the deviancy of of the christian religion are sexual in nature, as they should be.

If you want an example of this, wander through the galleries of ancient temples dedicated to the subject.  Read about the fertility rites that are still practiced in Asia. These are not perversions any more than christianity’s sexless renewal celebration is a perversion of nature as well.

The US is demonstrably repressive, when it comes to the subject of sex.  Demonstrably repressive, and at the same time unhealthily obsessed with meaningless sex in the form of pornography.  Pornography which can be found all over the place in spite of the almost reflexive repression present everywhere in the US that isn’t the internet. Or San Francisco.

Pornography is not really sex, in the same way that film is not real life. The proverbial money shot, a hallmark of pornography, defeats the entire purpose of the sex act. If the male’s bodily fluids aren’t left inside the female body, what is occurring is no more meaningful than a daily walk in the park. A session of weight lifting. Swimming a few laps. It is exercise; and in the case of pornography, exercise engaged in for the purpose of display and nothing else; or as Robin Williams once famously quipped “an industrial film covered in fur”.

Sex is a joyous celebration of life. It is central to the human experience. No adult life is complete that doesn’t include some form of sexual interaction with a willing partner on a regular basis. Good health requires this, and I consider it a travesty in the US that we cannot come to grips with the existence of sex all around us, all the time.

Much less be unable to declare that the Rites of Spring should be founded around sex.

I think I have a solution to the problem, at least from my non-believing perspective. I’m simply going to stop marking the holiday as celebrated by the majority of the christian world. Starting this year, the Vernal Equinox will be my Spring holiday.  I’m done with the vagaries of christian Easter, aside from the chocolate, of course. Dopamine rewards being what they are, I’ll take them where I can get them.

Independence Day

For the last few years my July 4th celebrations have been limited to watching my favorite holiday film and the wife‘s favorite holiday film; which are 1776 watched on the dusty old laserdisc player (the only complete version of the film in existence, although the blu-ray comes close to it) and ID4 which can be watched on any format as long as it includes surround sound.

For me it’s hard to beat the patriotic zeal of John Adams and his co-conspirators plotting to remove the American colonies from under the heel of their English masters. A good portion of it set to music, and sung quite well by the original broadway cast, directed by the same director. I own and have watched the blu-ray version of this film.  It is quite good, but it is not the same film that was released on laserdisc; nor does it have the secondary audio track describing the painstaking effort spent on reassembling the film after it was cut by Jack Warner with a pair of scissors; this after it had been put to bed by the director and assumed finished.  The cutting included the removal of a pivotal song in the middle of the film Cool, Considerate Men at the request of President Nixon, personally.  The song portrays the views of conservatives of the time who did not want to risk their lives, wealth and property on the very slim chance that Washington would ever be victorious against the British army.

The pro-slavery song Molasses to Rum should be especially poignant this year, given the tragedy enacted in Charleston a few weeks ago.  History is a fine teacher, if you don’t deafen yourself to its advice.

On a lighter note, the wife loves ID4. When the pool was functional, she was frequently alone in the living room watching it while the rest of us retired to the pool. One year she begged a projector from friends and we watched it on the patio from the pool.  That was a good summer.  The best part of the film for me is the scene where Houston, having been destroyed by the aliens earlier in the film, is nuked in a defensive attempt to destroy the invading aliens.  Any film that destroys Houston twice is a watchable film in my book. Sorry Houston residents; the truth hurts, I know.

A sequel to ID4 is slated for release next Independence Day (2016) titled Independence Day Resurgence which they shorten to IDR. I Don’t Relate to that title very well.  Maybe the film will make up for it.

Robert Reich on Patriotism

The most common form of Independence Day celebration, fireworks, are only a memory for me. As a kid it was my favorite holiday because of the fireworks. We’d always have a decent personal show set up in the street in front of our house, or in our back yard. I constructed models just to blow them up with fireworks on the 4th of July. I remember fondly the first time Leoti paid for a firework display, laying in the middle of the football field watching the fireworks go off overhead.  I also remember many a summer where I temporarily deafened myself standing too close to explosives when they went off.

Another point of history that should be instructional.

As my disability has progressed, sensitivity to noise has increased. Any loud noise can set off vertigo quite easily. Flashes of light are painful, not enjoyable. Combustion fumes alone have been known to send me into a vertigo spell, so the great American pastime of trying to set the neighborhood on fire on Independence Day occurs without my active participation.

In Austin the city display is the only display allowed by law, a fact I find ironical as well as sensible.  There is always a neighbor who defies the ordinance and sets fireworks off anyway, usually several of them. The police and firemen are kept running all night long responding to calls.  At least the region is well watered this year. Won’t be any county-wide grass fires set off by fireworks this summer.

Oatmeal’s America Explained to Non-American’s on a Facebook friends wall inspired this introspection.  I can’t link the image, you’ll just have to go to his site and soak up the glory that is American Independance Day.  Looking back, as I’ve alluded to twice already, I wonder why the obvious desperation of July 4th celebrations isn’t apparent to more Americans. We so desperately want to demonstrate to the world how happy we are being free.  One would think that the joy of real freedom would be enough, if only we know what that elusive thing really is.