Archive for December, 2007

I’m not a big fan of the Washington Post, or the “Court Circular” as some call it.  Well, I’m not a fan of corporate media period as a lot of its product is junk.  But as they say even a blind cat catches a bird now and then.  One of their features had a focus on cookies, and since I’m always on the lookout for additional recipes, I gave it a sensor sweep of the peepers.  Several items came up on the ol’ mental viewscreen for testing out, but one in particular really caught my eye.  The Anzac Biscuits have that euphonious sound quality that rolls over the tongue, so I decided to try it, even though I hate coconut.

I had to scramble to get a hold of the syrup, which turns out to be the cornerstone of the recipe, but I manage to manufacture a batch and give them a try.  K and I both agree the cookies are uncommonly delicious.  We scarf them down and have to make another batch.  And I think we have a winner!  A good combination of sweet and base flavors, and it really sticks to your ribs.  Even Frankie wanted some!  Something about the smell of the Anzac biscuits that got her watching us from her perch on the refrigerator with curiosity.  Her detectors must have been reading the heavy concentration of food regeneratives coming from the discovery of ancient food technology!

The recipe has some interesting history behind it.  The biscuits were put into care packages for soldiers from Australia and New Zealand during World War I.  The ingredients were chosen to allow for the long transportation times without refrigeration, and were packed in tins to maintain crispy freshness for as long as possible.  Church groups of wives, mothers and girlfriends spent enormous amounts of time manufacturing these biscuits for as many soldiers as possible, and so it became something of an institution.  In Australia the biscuit is a part of national identity.  Who knew?

I tell you, there are treasures of knowledge and tasty chompin’ goodness all over the place.  K and I just got the pump up.

Whew!  Another Xmas survived.  Now that the wretched holiday of good cheer is finally past, I feel restored to my good-natured self.  With the solstice behind me, I can already feel the sunlight returning to the power-meter.  Woo and hoo!  K, as usual, made out like a bandit (as well she should).  Her swag bag was overflowing with goodies from the tribute wagon, and it’ll be some days until she has everything all sorted out.  I sense some material for the Menagerie soon to come!  Including the final tally on the advent calendar that refused to make any sense.  Chaos?  No Chaos here.

I got some more work in on the book over the holidaze, working on what is probably the most important revision.  Had to break in a new ceramic cup (thanks boss!) for the meditations.  I find that a little muscle relaxant, aka grog in a cup, helps the creative juices flow as I mold the text into new shapes and forms.  Hard to believe I’m just a week or two from the one year mark of when I started this work.  Still plenty of work to do, and its got me psyched up to the max.

One of the presents I got was the Secrets of Isis DVD I mentioned a while back.  Wow, totally corny, but I love it.  UFOs (that turn out to be faked Scooby Doo style), Bigfoot (who turns out to be just a really scary tall mountain man), and (my favorite so far) car thieves who steal the Trans-am of Isis’s mundane alter-ego.  The thieves repaint her car from red to yellow, and it remains that color for the rest of the show.  Hilarious!  Disturbing that the “morals” segment of the show was cut from the masters in the early nineties – but they show up in the special features thanks to diligent taping by considerate fans!  Awesome.  I always thought shows with morals at the end were eating with both hands.

Here comes 2008.  A “Chaldean ten”, also known as an Isis/Osiris beginning of great power and danger, where new transformations come forward.  I’ll be keeping those Isis morals in mind when the whip comes down, and that wheel of fortune gets a-spinnin’.  No telling what may come up.

I’m not fond of the word “conspiracy”, because in today’s propaganda the word is synonymous with “believes in UFOs”, and is used by party harpies to label people as crackpots who can be ignored and/or ridiculed. Granted, there are indeed crackpots out there who can be ignored and/or ridiculed, but the age-old problem in life is always, in Monty Python terms, to spot the loony.

I admit I have a certain voyeuristic fascination with “conspiracy” websites, in the same way I enjoy the carnival or a midnight movie. There’s truth, and there’s life in the phenomenon, but also madness and just plain ridiculous farce. The fool as well as the prophet walks the edges of humanity, and as always, can you spot the loony? Are you talking to an inspired madman, a dunce member of the know it all club, or a quack cashing in on the ignorance racket?

Bob Dylan sings a song about World War III, where everybody’s having the same dream. Everyone’s the last person on earth after the “end of the world”, walking around with no one else. He offers to be in other people’s dreams if they’ll be in his, but everybody wants to be off by themselves. As always, read into that what you will, and even question my synopsis. It seems like there’s an innate wish for the apocalypse in many people, and I think it’s a selfish wish. I’ve indulged in it too, that desire to be free of responsibility and to experience the judgment day we think everyone else has coming. Who doesn’t want the peace of the hermit in this day and age, when everyone is clamoring for elbow room, and there’s no more frontier to explore? Or even to just be the Omega Man, last hero or heroine of the wasteland to embody the remaining humanity of the world, to kill the evil scum mutants and save the survivors to rebuild the world, give it a second chance.

Like every fantasy, there’s a grain of gold in the vast sludge. Each of us is, in effect, “the last human”. It all really does depend on us, the individual. Not any group or mass of people. But it’s a psychic calling, not necessarily a physical one. You want to save the world, save yourself first, get right with what’s going on in your own life. That’s hard work, and it’s easier to succumb to the temptation to look for outside forces to embody that struggle you must fight and win in your imagination to triumph over the night-blasters.

So I’m reading what I’ve often thought of as an “independent” news site, with good commentary and reporting on issues happening in the world that you just don’t ever see at all on the mainstream news, even though you’re paying for cable to indoctrinate you. And I come across a commentator promising to elaborate on one of those “oh so secret meetings” the super-rich and powerful hold to decide the fate of the world. Well, why not, I’m always curious to hear what the “men of best quality” are supposedly up to.

Before I know it, the text starts to read like one of those insane diatribes you expect to find on the False Prophet channel, and I’m reading yet another of those tiresome “United Nations Will Take Over The World” arguments, interspersed with jumbled information about what the “secret members” of the “super-secret meetings” may or may not have been up to. Very little in the way of facts, or even assertions. Not even a dang-blasted opinion! The general message is they’re out to get you, those rich people, and you can’t trust the UN! Ha-cha-cha-cha!

For goodness sake! I think we just spotted Wham-Bam-Biscuit-Barrel.

I was sad, because this sort of thing lowers the credibility of a news website, and I have to look at this link and wonder if the reliability (not to mention the entertainment value) is waning. Letting in false prophets is generally a sign that Imperial Troops Have Entered the Base, and you may as well blast off to the next waypoint.

But most of all it gets my goat. Nothing irritates me more than when “conspiracy” addicts stop reporting what they know, and start predicting the future. You can spot it a mile away. They stop showing you what they found and start telling you what’s going on. This guy sounded like he went to a hotel convention for some patricians who work for the super-rich he heard about on the internet, was shocked when nobody let him in, overheard a few elevator conversations, got kicked out by security, then had to make a bunch of stuff up while downing some cappuccinos in an internet cafe.

So, clue in “conspiracy” addicts:

  1. No, the United Nations is not going to “take over the world”. The “men of best quality” could care less about their grandfather’s rubber stamp.
  2. No, “the rich people” aren’t “out to get you”. You’re “the great unwashed masses” and don’t even show up on the viewscreen.

Now get back to talking about UFOs.

Every so often, a movie comes along that gets under my skin and changes my world. Titanic is one of those movies. A wild, passionate affair, never to be forgotten. You know, where you still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and scream it’s name. Sigh. Well the memory of that time is not as bright as it once was. The scar has healed into the natural folds of the skin, and so isn’t quite as visible as it used to be. But I’ll never forget those crazy nights of lifeboats and signal rockets.

I saw Titanic for the first time in the theater on a Friday, right before it became a phenomenon. A co-worker had gotten all worked up over it, and recommended I see it. I figured what the heck, there wasn’t anything else in the theaters, and even though it looked like a crummy romance movie, it might be fun to watch the ship sink. I’ve always had a soft spot for movies with an “escape the sinking ship” motif.

All I remember from that first viewing was walking out at the end in shock, and knowing I would see the movie again, the next day. The last time I felt that devastated was when I walked out of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum with some student friends, where we proceeded to walk the streets in a daze until we ended up in a bar. Not that I’m comparing the two in terms of historical significance, but in terms of personal relevance they both socked it to me (but for different reasons).

So I went and saw it on Saturday. Then I went and saw it again on Sunday. After that it became a ritual every week to see it. I started smuggling in six packs of draft cider, and would watch the three-hour spectacle bombed out of my skull and weeping my eyes out. All in all, I saw the movie in the theater eleven times. I bought both of the CDs, the poster, the calendar, and the White Star Lines tee shirt. I played the Titanic: Adventure Out of Time video adventure game and pretended I was on the ship solving the game mystery while Jack and Rose were having their adventure. I even bought the book Futility to get into the whole spooky premonition aspect of it. It became my favorite movie of all time, knocking Star Wars off the top slot like a Ronco Record.

I think the simplest explanation for my obsession with the movie is that I saw it as an allegory for my own life. Certainly, from a detached and rational point of view that could seem ridiculous. But that’s how I saw it. In real life, I felt that my life as I knew it was sinking into the depths as I scrambled to stay afloat and reach some kind of rescue. And I saw it as a real world allegory, for the state of the world itself, headed for disaster and ruin, where only a lucky privileged few make it out alive. Where higher consciousness concepts like love only make it through bitter sacrifice.

I didn’t latch onto any one character. I sympathized with Cal, the “villain” as much as I did with Jack or Rose. They were all representing qualities, or states of mind in the story as influenced by what the real star of the story is – the great ship itself. In the spiritual journeys of some vision quests, the boat or ship often represents your voyage towards the islands of higher consciousness, and is made of your innocence. I’d lost mine, and I’d failed at whatever great task I had been supposed to do in life. I’d never reached my destination, whatever that had been.

When I watched Titanic, I re-enacted the experience of my own life’s failure as a mythological story. By obsessing over it and getting into every nook and cranny I made the wound my own. No one can tell me Titanic is a horrible movie, because I know it is. I lived it, people.

I went on an outdoors weekend retreat with K a few months back, and had a bit of an accident. I was on the outside porch getting the charcoal fire ready to cook the delicious meal we had planned on. There’s this goofy contraption my pa has gotten me in the habit of using to light the charcoal, a kind of metal cup with a thick screen at the bottom. You jam some newspaper into the space at the bottom, place some charcoal on top, and light the newspaper. The charcoal gets a concentrated blast of heat and starts faster. I have my doubts about the overall effectiveness of this thing.

Take the current scenario I’ve just painted. It’s windy, and there’s no cover, so it’s impossible to light a match and get the newspaper going. So I decide to step off the porch and duck down behind the cabin to get a windbreak. This isn’t rocket science. Unfortunately, the two wooden steps are uneven, and constructed in such a way that they appear level. I step the wrong way, and tumble down like a pile of bricks. My immediate reaction is to toss the contraption and move that hand to steady myself into a controlled fall. My knee nearly bends at an unhealthy angle before I slow my fall and slide to the ground. Well, it does make a “crick” noise, and for a moment the pain is so intense I think I’ve broken something.

Luckily, it turns out to be a minor sprain. I can move about, but I have to spend most of our retreat with an ice pack and an elevated leg. Thank the maker for the rum punch we brought! They don’t call it “mixing up the medicine” for nothing. K and I have a blast at our secret little retreat zone, and get some good psychological recovery done. Around here in the nation’s capital (see also, “Doomsville”), you take mental fallout all the time from any number of different sources, and it can be hard to shake the accumulated stress.

As I’m sitting there, nursing a cup of medicine and putting the ice on while the steaks sizzle on the grill, I get to thinking. What happened to me bears a striking resemblance to a scene in my book! Rordan, the main character, is fetching his foster brother some tea when he has an accident. He sacrifices the tankard he’s holding to avoid a nasty fall and ends up mildly injured. Granted it’s not a perfect match – I’m holding a metal contraption that resembles a huge mug, not an actual tankard, and Rordan injures his foot while I injure my knee.

But it’s a meaningful coincidence that’s not lost on me. Rordan’s “accident” is no accident, and I’m not sure I want to be having the same kinds of experiences as a character in my book. On the other hand, it makes me feel closer to what I’m doing with my writing. I’m kayaking those turbulent waters of the unconscious again. Which means I have to watch out for the monsters lurking in the crawlspace beneath porches, waiting to take a swipe at people walking by.

I just got done watching a friend’s tape of the latest entry in the Battlestar Galactica (also known as BSG) good-episode sweepstakes, a two-hour TV movie called Razor. Ever since the amazingly whacky and laughable finale of the third season, I’ve cashed in my BSG hat. I got tired of watching the series bog down in pandering towards “message of the week” and flounder about in pathetic attempts to remain “edgy” and “cool’. Ugh, another one bites the dust.

For those of you not on the BSG wavelength, the current show running on the SciFi channel is a re-imagining of the original series that ran in the late seventies. The show tells the story of the survivors of a massive inter-planetary genocide, who are fleeing their enemies in spaceships towards a mythical planet named “Earth”, where they believe they will find sanctuary. The fleet of spaceships are led and protected by the last military ship, called a battlestar, known as “Galactica”. Their enemies, robotic humanoids called Cylons, attempt to find the spacefleet and destroy them thus making their conquest of the galaxy complete.

The original series has quite a fan following. While it is dark in places, for the most part the show is “safe”, with good guys and bad guys more or less easily identifiable. The special effects and music were exceptional for the time. The episodes are fairly average on the whole, with a few turkeys (a medieval and a wild west themed episode for example) and some magnificent episodes that really stand out.

The new series takes the story and injects elements of “dark realism” which are popular in today’s shows. The program has a grittier, less moralistic tone, with suffering, human greed and sudden death pushed to the forefront. The special effects and music are again top notch, and the writing approach has created some memorable scenes. The actors are all fabulously good, and the creative team behind the show have taken some groundbreaking steps in sharing information on the internet.

There’s a sort of animosity between the fans of the old and new shows, which was rather pronounced until the new show demonstrated its chops. I’d be the first to say re-imaginings blow chunks, and I am a hardened fan of the old series (I grew up watching it), but I think the new show stands on its own. Both shows are excellent, and the new show in no way disrespects the old. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the way the new show has run with the old material, in many ways giving us some really innovative looks at science fiction.

So, why the beef with show now, you ask? Well, it’s hard to summarize my feelings about the direction of the new BSG without giving a long-winded background on the show to provide some context. Here’s why I’ve given up on the show:

1. The Cylons Are Just Emulators
The cylons have created human versions of themselves to infiltrate and sabotage the humans. It is this ability that allows them to make the initial surprise attack that wipes out most of humanity, and to make things difficult for the remaining survivors. The cylons have been attempting to complete their imitation of human beings, by exploring the concept of “love” and trying to reproduce like humans do. To this end, they have taken to capturing and torturing humans to examine their reactions, and some cylons have pretended to join the humans to further aspects of their “experiments”.

The show has been suggesting that the cylons have been genuinely trying to become human (much like Pinocchio), and the show has been trying to blur the distinction between man and machine. My guess is to keep the audience “guessing” as to who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

The problem is, the cylons fail in one crucial test for humanity – elementary morality. I have yet to see a single cylon express remorse for the murder of what must be billions of human beings (the cylons nuked the twelve planets the humans, or “colonists” lived on). Not one of them has felt any pangs of conscience over the thousands of humans tortured and experimented on. Not one cylon has turned against their own people to oppose the continual hounding and massacre of humans in the fleet (Athena does not count, she is “experimenting” with the human-cylon hybrid Hera, and is only giving out information to keep herself alive).

So that reduces the cylons to at best an impersonal force, like a storm or an earthquake, and at worst to a hostile organism like Kudzu or Ebola. The show pretends that the cylons are “people”, when they most obviously are not. I’m just tired of the show presenting machines as if they were human beings, when adaptable emulators are all they really are.

2. The Humans Are Just Dark Hats and Victims
That leaves any human interest and character development in the hands of the colonial fleet. Unfortunately, the humans have not been reacting well to their situation. With a few exceptions, every human we’ve seen has gone insane, abandoned their morality, or joined a fringe group of whackos. While this is realistic, it makes for some really ridiculous storytelling, because you’re presented with people who are all bad guys, or the victims of the bad guys.

The human race has been reduced to thirty-nine thousand people, and dropping. This is literally a life-or-death, extinction event for an entire species. Instead of exploring the possibilities of this unique event, the show has everyone acting as if it’s just business-as-usual! The draconian and extreme measures the colonial government takes are the wrong ones. They’ve reverted to the classic despotism, supported by the military leadership, even though the politics of the fleet is no bigger than a small town!

The way in which the humans all drop to the dark side is easily explained, given the enormous psychological tragedy everyone is carrying. I just wish I’d see some character or another stand out and make a moral stand without later caving in. The fleet has been running, on and off, for about two years now. There should be children on the assembly line now who are straining the resources and testing the commitment of all these dark hats. President Roslyn tortures suspects and takes away civil liberties, while Commander Adama threatens to kill the family of a union leader representing strikers who are tired of working in the refinery ship. Starbuck airlocks people suspected of collaborating with the cylons and Colonel Tigh murders his own wife for betraying them. These are the people I’m supposed to care about? I’m rooting for the cylons!

See, just because life has handed you a rough deal, doesn’t mean you get a hall pass for bad behavior. I didn’t set up the show’s original premise, which was “do we deserve to survive?” The first episode presents the human race with the judgment of “you can’t hide from the things you’ve done” and “it’s not enough to survive”. Well, if that’s the case, the human race is already extinct, because there’s no one worth saving!

So, getting back to Razor. The movie is meant to tide fans over during the long wait between seasons three and four. I hear season four is the last one, where presumably the fleet will reach earth and we the audience will find out what fate awaits the two sides. Unfortunately, Razor is mostly a filler installment, where the writers go back to explore some of the gaps in time from previous seasons, and is less a story than an infodump for people curious about previous events.

I’m not a huge fan of flashbacks or “back then” episodes. A story must always move forward, and keep in the present, or else the audience’s participation becomes passive. Razor takes place in the past, focusing on the perspective of a character named Kendra that’s already dead, and whom we’ve never met until now. She gives us an outside perspective on the main characters of the show (and boy does their ugly dark side look nasty from a detached viewpoint). In between, Kendra flashbacks to the moments that made her what she is – a person who has lost all feeling and surrendered herself to the moral outlook of a superior officer she once served. A superior officer who was a moral monster that ended up dead. So you can guess poor Kendra is going to end up in the grave, even if you don’t catch the fact that she never appeared in the mainline series at any time.

If that isn’t enough, we get some further flashbacks from one of the main characters to explain via exposition the current mission situation the characters are all faced with. That means you have multiple points of view, from multiple points in time, in a movie that’s already an exploration of the past. I was able to keep up, but I found the narrative switches jarring and poorly handled. Some of my friends said they had trouble figuring out what was happening a lot of the time. I can sympathize.

To summarize, Razor takes place at a time period when Commander Apollo (a main character) takes command of the Battlestar Pegasus after the previous commander died saving the ship from a trap he put the ship in. In the second season, the fleet met up with another battlestar that had survived the cylon attack. The original commander of the Pegasus (Cain) and her crew were all psychopaths who started trying to take over the fleet and scrap it for spare parts, until Cain was murdered by a cylon agent who escaped prison. Her second in command took over, until he was murdered by black marketers for wanting too big a cut of the action. You with me still?

The only officer left from the original Cain cabal is Kendra. Apollo wants her to be his second in command, mainly to show the remaining Pegasus crew that their new rulers honor Cain’s legacy of murder and torture. She accepts because, what else has she got to do? The story then gets rolling. The fleet comes across an old cylon ship from the first cylon war that is still fighting and resisting the cylon call to return home. Kind of like those old World War II pockets of resistance you come across in old movies. The outdated cylons capture some prisoners, and the humans decide to attempt a rescue mission and plant a nuclear device to destroy the ship. The humans succeed in rescuing some of the prisoners, but Kendra has to stay behind to manually detonate the bomb.

While this plays out, Kendra goes back to when she first came aboard the Pegasus. She relives the cylon sneak attack on the colonies and how the Pegasus escaped (by doing a blind hyperspace jump). We also get to see her during key moments of when Commander Cain utterly loses her marbles, and the crew joins in with her. At one point, we get the flashback from the other character, Admiral Adama of the Battlestar Galactica. He remembers the first cylon war and his initial encounter with the old cylon ship the humans now face.

While the space battles in BSG are always amazing to watch, the character interaction nearly always baffles me. Never mind the overt problems I mentioned above, I just have a hard time connecting with what’s going on in the story. Kendra has descended into drug abuse and non-connectivity with her fellow human beings, and believes herself damaged beyond repair. She ends up acting out the same unconscious death-wish Cain had. Her effect on the story ends up being zero. Meanwhile, the portrayal of Cain, which I suspect most fans were tuning in for, has no nuance. She’s an obvious loony from the start, and she cracks up immediately after her ship escapes. Her snap decisions come off as capricious and random, the result of a complete psychological collapse. How are we supposed to follow her story if it’s set in stone?

The old cylon ship story is pretty cool. I loved seeing the old cylons from the original series make an appearance. I kept thinking, where were story ideas like this during the second season? Unfortunately, it’s the same old zero character effect on events we started getting in the second season. Since the only casualty is Kendra, who doesn’t matter anyway, the destruction of the cylon ship has no resonance. The surprise revelation of the cylon hybrid is a waste, since it has no effect on the characters. It’s only there to tell us the audience information on what we should be interested in (Starbuck’s destiny). Yawn.

That’s pretty much BSG in a nutshell these days. Characters you don’t care about, who have no effect on the story (such as it is), in pretend-dark edgy situations of anvil-style moral messages, with lots of space battles that look cool. I give Razor the double thumbs down!

The progress on my book continues. I’m 87% through the revisions, and am about to tackle the climax of the story. Come on, big creative push!

I got my hands on the DVD for Hawk the Slayer, and am very pleased I made the acquisition. It’s a sword and sorcery movie from 1981, and is actually watch-able, in a Beastmaster kind of way. The dialogue, characters and plot are all hilariously awful. I place the movie somewhere between average and good. It’s not “good enough” to be good, but it isn’t “average enough” to be average. This is the kind of movie you can watch with friends and have some laughs. Though nothing will beat the sheer WTF-ness of The Core. All I can say is that the universe must have taken pity on me for having suffered through The Return of Captain Invincible, and compensated me with a movie that is both bad and fun.

Just finished Season 1 and 2 of Heroes by means of Netflix. K’s new computer, plus our nifty high speed FIOS connection, equals “watch now”. Apparently, you can watch Netflix movies on your computer, who knew? Because we subscribe, we get a certain amount of free hours of viewing each month, so we’ve been draining that account dry to get caught up with the show. Maybe I’ll go into analytic detail of the show in another post, but for now all I’ll say is the show is worth watching. Lots of problems and plots that don’t add up, and Season 2 drops in quality significantly, but I’d say Season 1 was a heck of a lot of fun.

Musically, I’ve been listening to The Cure’s Wish and really digging it a lot. It comes on the heels of Disintegration, which carries the distinction of being my big breakup album. So to hear the post-breakup energy many years later after putting college way behind me, it’s very cathartic and enlivening. I’ve also been listening to Deutsch Nepal, a dark ambient sound that I’m really starting to dig. I’m going to have to get some more of this stuff. It puts me in the zone when I need to concentrate at work or hash my book revisions out.

On the cat zone, K and I got a large bath mat for the upstairs bathroom, and Frankie loves it. She uses it as a springboard to dash downstairs, then comes back up and rests on the bunched up mat. Frankie made sure to trill at K and give her the head-butt leap of affection to let her know this was approved. Meanwhile, Michael and Blink got a new soft throw to lay on. The fuzzy warm goodness does well on the couch, and when a human sits there with the throw over them, the two cats gravitate. Even independent Frankie has been taking turns resting on it. Wow!

My car was broken into the other night. I drive a bucket, and one of the doors doesn’t lock all the time. Needless to say I never keep anything valuable in there. Just a glove compartment jammed full of napkins ripped off from fast food joints, some moist towelette packets, and a pad of paper with a pencil. I could follow the progress of the intruder exactly. First, the pad and pencil tossed casually to the floor of the car. Then all the napkins got shoved out of the way and left on the passenger seat. Finally the moist towelette packets had been thrown on the ground outside of the car in disgust before leaving the door semi-closed. I had to laugh, because it’s a lot of effort to clear the compartment out for zero returns.

It may be winter for all practical purposes, but I’m still looking forward to next spring’s planting. K and I got ourselves a garden weasel finally, and aim to test it out as soon as the ground dries out a bit from the recent snow we had. The ground hasn’t hardened quite yet with the cold, but the weeds and other plants are on the defensive. I’ll give the scoop on how reliable this ding dang darn thing is when compared to the TV commercial soon enough.

And on a final note, I have yet to begin writing my Xmas cards. The beat down looms!

For those not in the know, an advent calendar is a cardboard poster with a series of doors you can pry open, one for each day until Christmas. Behind each door is a colorful picture, saying, or candy chocolate associated with the Christmas season. The ones with candy in them are large and thick, while the picture kind tend to be flat, with only a backing to protect the hidden pictures. The candy kind shows up in the movie Bad Santa, if you’re interested in seeing one and having a good night’s laugh for entertainment.

Okay, even though I get glum at Xmas, I try to get an advent calendar because I love the idea of opening a door on something every day to get a new scene/fortune/candy. K and I each got one of those ones where you get a piece of chocolate behind the doors. She picked one with a bunch of animals being left hay, nuts, berries and the like by Santa. Now, I don’t see him leaving any steaks for the carnivores, so I’m a little dubious. I have to assume Santa is going off to visit them next, because the carnivores might decide a fresh rabbit is better than a fresh t-bone. I don’t know. Mine is the generic angel kids fluttering about decorating trees and delivering presents. But then I chose mine not for the scene but randomly – I wants the chocolates, not the pictures! I like K’s better though, because her scene is cute. Santa helps the ani-mani-mals!

So December 1st rolls around. K and I open our first door. She gets a nice picture of a choo choo train and a matching chocolate (a choo choo train in a toy, and toys are often an Xmas theme). I open mine up, and uh…huh? There’s a picture of a piece of wood. I suppose wood makes sense in that Xmas usually is celebrated when winter is on its way, and you want a nice roasting fire. But that’s pretty odd. The candy chocolate is a wrapped present, which is on base for the season. Except that it doesn’t match the picture! Here’s the rundown of the Advent Calendar of Doom so far:

Dec 1
Picture: A block of wood
Candy: A wrapped present

Dec 2
Picture: A doll
Candy: A church

Dec 3
Picture: Santa Claus
Candy: A snowman holding a broom

Dec 4
Picture: A pair of ornaments
Candy: A four leaf clover (???)

Dec 5
Picture: A snowflake
Candy: An evergreen tree

Dec 6
Picture: Three evergreen trees
Candy: A squirrel eating a nut

Dec 7
Picture: A fireplace (The block of wood makes sense now)
Candy: A Valentine’s Day Heart (?!?!)

Dec 8
Picture: A decorated Christmas Tree
Candy: A Christmas wreath

Dec 9
Picture: Two gnomes chit-chatting
Candy: A deer with a bow tie and no eyes (…)

Something ain’t right here.

Looking for the proper alchemical ingredients for my watery meditations takes time and effort.  You can always get a “do-fer” at the local supermarket, but there’s a certain sludge factor or an automation residue on those items that reduces their level from “goodies” to “products”.  You have to stay clean to get the sanitation bonus to your life, and in this modern industrial death culture often it’s all you can do to stay supplied.  Do I have the Leonardo’s Workshop of niceties?  No, but I can still dream, and in the meantime here’s what I like.  It being the holiday greed season and stress-out ordeal, I figure it can’t hurt to give people some ideas.

I really dig Pretty Baby Soap goodies.  The soaps have a nice array of smells and appealing, muted colors.  The price is right, the size and shape are perfect, and they give off a good “soft” vibe.  But don’t be fooled.  These soaps are  made of hard-working material.  I get a lot of mileage out of the soaps, and that’s where the craft in them shines.  I never feel ripped off, even if I try something and it doesn’t work out.  I also really dig the herbal bath salts baggies you can drop in the tub and get an instant pump up.  This family has been doing their thing for a while, and it shows.

If it’s flashy colors, vibrant sensations, and kooky smells then I go for Lush.  These things are the unstable isotopes of my bathing world.  They do just about every kind of cleanser, face mask, shampoo bar, bubble bath, and skin gel you can imagine.  For both guys and gals.  The materials melt easily, and don’t hold up for very long, but what a ride.  The prices are expensive, so this is luxury stuff.  They put forward a no-animal testing mantra, which is cool.  The bath bombs work the best for me, little balls of stuff that fizz and crackle in the tub as they release their magic in the water.  I don’t go for the ones with all the glitter and confetti in them, I try to stick with the more mundane selection.

If you really want to go to the people and get involved with the forgotten corners of personal craft, then Etsy is the way to go.  You can discover all sorts of people with nifty skill sets making beautiful, wonderful soap items.  Plus, you are supporting the creative front line in the alchemical supply process.  These sorts of small time handicrafters have some rough edges that can be pleasantly surprising, making your collection of available materials pump up to the next level.  Why does soap have to even be in a formed shape at all?  The smell, color, and ingredients can have any sort of pungent, weird, or tactile quality you want it too.

I could go into more detail, but I want to save some of the joy of discovery for your own efforts.  “There be treasures in that forest,” so get kraken!  Sometimes all you need is a map of ideas.

Oh boy, my favorite time of year has come around again.  I hate to admit it, but I’m a big Grinch when it comes to the holiday season.  The weather is finally becoming crummy on a regular basis, the mutants on the street have an extra kill factor on their difficulty level, and the general malaise of having to send out cards and accumulate gifts for the other planets in the Federation starts to set in.  It’s depressing.

I put on a merry face and pretend the gloom isn’t getting to me.  The only thing I like is the decoration of the Xmas tree, which has been denied to me for some years now.  The folks don’t have the room for even a small tree, and the cats mean K and I have gotten out of the habit of putting one up.  The destructive rampages of Frankie and chomping nom-nom insanity of Michael’s pine needle appetite make such a possibility ludicrous right now.  Just another reason to be sour about the “Season to be Jolly”.  Grrr!

The stores are filled to the brim with two-legged personifications of desperate panic, outright greed and smoldering resentment.  Come on, mutant robots of death, I just want to buy a carton of milk and go!  The parking lots become re-enactments of the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan.  And here I am in Micro Blue, my little go-cart, trying to avoid getting taken out by the Mammoth Car.  Sheesh!  Back at the homebase, the general ambient neighbor radiation goes up.  You can feel the jitters, usually right when you are undergoing decompression and decontamination procedures after work.

I don’t have any horrible childhood memories of Xmas.  I’ve had quite a few wonderful Xmas experiences over the years.  What I’m describing is a kind of background feeling that comes over me.  The doom is all around us at all times, I suppose I notice it more around this time.  Even during this time of greater awareness of so called “higher principles”, people are still acting like they’re on the Planet of the Apes.  I keep thinking about Sandwich Wagon Boy keeping the eatery treadmill open on Xmas Day while Toot Nugget and his screaming brats open their disposable auto-garbage plastic enviro-bot practice annihilators.  I want to jump on the top of the table with my Casio-rebellion keyboard and yell like a stupid fool!

Yup, that’s how I honor Xmas.  By being in the dumps.  I’ll celebrate when Santa Claus conquers the morons.