moe’s mom was supposed to be here for christmas eve dinner, but the ice-pocalypse has still got us in its icy grip… mind you, issaquah-hobart road has been chemically de-iced and plowed, and for every other place in the greater seattle metropolitan area, the roads are passable, at worst… but i had to walk out to the park at the corner of hobart-ravensdale road, this afternoon, to pick up a package, because the fedex driver, the USPS driver, a door-dash driver, and a tow truck had a “confligration” (complete with flashing lights and everything) at the top of our neighbourhood. there were two cars that passed me on the way to the park, which i’m not sure whether they got through or not, and there were two more cars that passed me on the way back… and i’m not sure whether or not they got through either…
so, conditionally, moe’s mom is coming for dinner tomorrow (after it has been >50° for more than 24 hours), along with scott and nancy (our friends from up the road towards issaquah about 10 miles), and that means that moe has decided that she has to make TWO dinners… she had originally planned to make indian food for dinner with scott and nancy, but her mom won’t eat indian food, so she’s getting enough steak for dinner, and to take back so she can have left-overs tomorrow… and, because of the fact that steak night was supposed to be tonight, moe made pasta tonight…
i’m slowly rebuilding my music collection. today i added two tom zé albums, from the early 2000s, which are “no longer available” — meaning “the only place to find them is on discogs. one is an album i had pre-cloud-drive-disaster, called “Estudando o Pagode (Na Opereta Segregamulher e Amor)“. the other is one that “just happened” to be available from the same vendor, from two years earlier, in 2003, and it’s called “Imprensa Cantada“. both of them appear in several tom zé anthologies, but the original CDs have artwork that is NOT included in the anthologies, and, especially in the case of tom zé, the graphic artwork is almost as important as the musical artwork in the overall scheme of things. i should be getting another Gogol Bordello CD pretty soon, also
we’re giving away the last piece of ikea furniture that we own, that is NOT shelves, tomorrow… which should be interesting, as we currently have three days worth of snow on the ground, and only a few tire tracks of people driving past our house. it’s the king-size storage bed frame, which means that now we’ve got the adjustable bed frame on the 4-inch legs that it came with (rather than on the 2-inch legs, on top of the storage bed), no storage under the bed (currently), and no headboard (currently). the plan is to get some other form of storage, and a headboard… and, possibly a dresser and nightstand to replace the ones i inherited from my grandparents in 1980-something.
moe is getting “stem cell treatment” on her knees on thursday [UPDATE: WEDNESDAY!!] (hopefully the roads will have cleared enough by then that i can drive out of the neighbourhood). this is to (hopefully) “cure” her bum knees, which currently have no meniscus. if everything goes according to plan, this is going to create “new” padding between the bones in her knee. naturally, “insurance” won’t pay for it, and the only other option — total knee replacement — isn’t happening at the moment because the orthopedist that moe has been seeing is fat-phobic, and won’t operate until she’s lighter than she’s ever been in her adult life. 😒… so the (veterinary) clinic is paying for the whole procedure(!!). alledgedly, it’s going to be a couple of days of being “pretty out of it”, followed by a couple weeks of “light duty”, and then it will develop into an “up to 80% improvement”, which is A LOT better than where she’s been for the past few years.
i’ve managed to stay a lot more insulated from the standard xmas “celebration”, this year, but it’s primarily because of the pandemic, which doesn’t look like it’s going to be ending any time in the forseeable future, barring a miracle of some sort… and, as we all know, miracles that involve anti-vax mask-holes, and the right-wing, republican’t, fascist, white-supremacist IDIOTS that currently make up slightly less than HALF of the population of this gawd-forsaken wasteland, are, for all practical purposes, totally unheard-of… but, on the plus side, almost complete isolation for the second year in a row, has made it so that i have only had to listen to one, partial rendition of “feliz navidad” this year, so i can’t say that’s all bad.
VEWPRF was made only a little bit more tolerable this year because the pandemic has made everything else so awful that there didn’t seem to be as much energy put into the decorations and the public displays of “christianity” that there usually are…
but, because of the pandemic, we did NOT have things like the profusion of money-making gigs for performers, and the big, lavish dinner parties, and the exchange of massive quantities of commercial products, and the mass, forced, fake “love for all” like we usually have, either, so it all, sort of, evens out into a generic awful that has been, more or less, constant, since… oh, i don’t know… march? january?
so they’ve discovered a vaccine for COVID19… at the same time that they’ve discovered a new varient of the COVID19 virus. at this point, they’re pretty sure that the vaccine will work for the new varient as well, because of the fact that it’s a mRNA vaccine, rather than one based on dead or disabled virii, but, in part, because of the fact that it’s a new vaccine technology, the anti-vaxxers are even more suspicious of it, and quite a large number of them have already said they won’t get it…
what i’ve heard is that people who know seem to think that, if we can achieve masking, social distancing, and vaccines for 100 days, we MIGHT be able to “open up the economy” again around june of 2021… but, with the republican’ts and other assorted “christians”, anti-vaxxer/anti-masker idiots who will fight anything they don’t understand, and deliberately refuse to understand anything that’s not in the bible, i sincerely doubt that we’re going to see ENOUGH masking, social distancing, and vaccines to accomplish much of anything other than the opportunity for the idiots to say “see, it didn’t work”…
and the more “important” you are seems to be the determining factor in who gets the vaccine first. #drumpf got it, in spite of the fact that he’s already had it, and he’s (allegedly) already taken hydroxychloroquine as a “prophylaxis” (which it’s not, despite all the hype he gave it). my brother, who is a RN, got his last week. i don’t know IF i’m going to get it, let alone WHEN… maybe when i turn 65…
for a long time, i was one of the people that they came to when they wanted to organise music for the community “Solstice Grand Dance” ritual in bellingham. it’s likely that i did this, pretty much every year, from the early 1980s until i moved back to seattle in 1998. it ended about 5 years after i left bellingham, because the person who motivated the whole thing, my very good friend and mentor, Kenyth Freeman, decided that he was tired of being the motivating force behind it, and tried to give the responsibility to someone else, which didn’t work out so well. it was a “synthetic” ritual, in that it took elements from a number of disparate spiritual traditions. it was not presented, specifically, as a spiritual ritual, but it very definitely had very spiritual overtones, which got louder if you were actually aware of the spiritual traditions out of which they were taken. the music was usually improvised, with various flutes, guitars and percussion being the main instruments. for people who “knew”, it was a spiritual ritual of the highest order, but for most of the people who attended, it was a community dance, with sort of ritual elements… and the stated goal (at the start of the ritual) that, after the dance was over, the participants were to get together with whomever they were sexually attracted to, and fuck like crazy bunnies.
actually, that was a big part of the solstice grand dance for everyone that i knew, whether or not they were “in the know” about the “secret origins” of the grand dance.
and, it may be that the command to “go out and fuck like crazy bunnies” was one of the attractions for “the community” — 90% of whom were completely unknown to me — but that may be just conjecture on my part. there may have been more people than me, who were doing it for the ritual part, and not for “other reasons”…
The kindergarten teachers I know each tell the same story: Roundabout the middle of December, all the kids who celebrate Christmas transform into voracious little three-foot monsters bereft of morality or self-control. All the behaviors parents worked so diligently to instill in them collapse under the long duress of waiting for Santa.
Alas, my own daughter fell victim to the phenomenon this year. It was a jarring revelation to watch my sweet, caring, sharing, loving little girl decompensate into this ruthless feral capitalist, a frothing cauldron of I want who sees herself as the only being in all of existence. Matters did not improve at school; as it turned out, putting 15 feral capitalists in a room where they could spend all day rubbing their I want woes together exacerbated the situation dramatically.
My wife and I eventually got her past this crisis of materialism, but it was remarkable nonetheless. It was as if a virus got passed from kid to kid to kid until they were all infected with an insatiable lust for more stuff.
Neither of us blamed our daughter for her behavior. In retrospect, it was thoroughly unsurprising: Here is this wee child, possessed of a moral code still in formation, gripping the live wire of Maximum Capitalism that was engineered specifically for people in her age group. It was an extension of the Consumerist Boot Camp that begins the day after Thanksgiving, her first real lesson in what is expected of her in the hollow, soulless economy she was born into.
Many of her adult contemporaries did not seem to be faring much better as the season ground to a conclusion. My wife works retail and came home every night with tales of wrath and fury spewed by customers ostensibly seeking to purchase items intended to make someone happy. Instead, their exposure to Maximum Capitalism, with its attendant insipid music score played on an endless loop, brought out the werewolf in almost all of them.
It would require a crackerjack team of sociologists, historians and economists to properly explain how the dominant methods for celebrating this holiday came to be the pluperfect mess it is today, so here’s the short version:
The Roman Emperor Constantine co-opted a wide variety of ancient pagan holidays in the name of Christianity in order to cement his rule, and the winter solstice celebration was foremost among them. Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations — his treatise on free-trade capitalism — in 1776, the same year a bunch of wealthy businessmen decided they wanted to plunder the North American continent free from British interference (read: taxes). By then, Constantine’s solstice-inspired Christmas was the biggest day on the Christian calendar, and once it was stapled to US-style free-trade capitalism, door-busters and Walmart riots were all but inevitable in the fullness of time.
Like I said, it’s the short version.
The wanton garishness at the heart of the modern consumerist Christmas season serves to vividly underscore the emptiness of soul and spirit felt by so many today. Like the holiday itself, mere life has become an exhausting, overwhelming grind bereft of meaning beyond immediate, inert gratification. Trust in longstanding institutions is collapsing, the climate itself is collapsing, the specter of actual doom hangs low over us all, and the proffered solution – Buy more stuff! – is a lie as vast as the problems themselves. “Buy more stuff” is, in point of fact, a massive part of what has gone so starkly wrong in the first place.
It is difficult to imagine a more important time than right now to refocus our spiritual energy toward the vast clockwork of the natural world.
For many, myself included, there is refuge and profound meaning found in a celebration of the winter solstice that Constantine absconded with 17 centuries ago. Celebration of the solstice is as old as the stones; Stonehenge and Newgrange, the Bronze Age monuments in England and Ireland, are both aligned with the winter solstice sunrise. Stone arrangements left by the Anasazi people in New Mexico around 200 BC are likewise attuned to the movement of the sun.
Celebration of the longest night of the year is everywhere. The Hopi descendants of the Anasazi celebrate Soyal at the setting of the solstice sun with a ceremony of fires and dancing that lasts all night. In Iran, the winter solstice is celebrated as Shab-e Yalda, which means “Night of Birth,” in which families and friends gather to read poems and feast. It is called Dong Zhi in China and Inti Raymi in Peru, and these celebrations are striking in their similarities.
Wiccans and other practitioners of ancient witchcraft (a word they proudly own) celebrate the winter solstice as an affirmation of life itself as being sacred and interconnected. People celebrate solstice individually and collectively by dancing, feeding animals to help them through the winter, or by communing with nature in an act of deliberate release, spending negative energy into the darkness of the longest night on the promise of the sunrise to come.
It is difficult to imagine a more important time than right now to refocus our spiritual energy toward the vast clockwork of the natural world. The bill for generations of pollution and greed has finally come due, in the guise of rising seas, murderous storms, permanent droughts and towering fires, and this is merely the beginning.
“In this age of ecological collapse,” counsels Truthout journalist Dahr Jamail, “I believe an Earth-based spirituality with roots as strong as the deepest keel is as necessary as water and food, if not even more so. Nothing less than a practice based on remaining attuned to the wisdom of the Earth herself will provide the daily grounding each of us needs to stay balanced and centered as portions of the biosphere collapse around us.”
Life, renewal, rejuvenation: These lay at the beating heart of every winter solstice celebration. Though they differ in root and practice, they all respond to the same reality: The winter solstice is the longest night of the year. Its passing means the days will grow longer, and the Earth will soon give birth to itself once again in a spectacle of warmth, splendor and bounty. The winter solstice is the first step toward the healing light.
In the beginning and at the end, it is about hope.
Amid the consumerist Christmas that corporations are pushing upon us, we can still reach for the spiritual renewal at the center of the ancient solstice holiday.
Today is Christmas and the solstice has passed, but amid the consumerist Christmas that corporations are pushing upon us, we can still step back and reach for the spiritual renewal at the center of the ancient solstice holiday. The wonder of the turning Earth and the life-giving sun is still with us today. Christmas consumerism may have paved it over and smothered it in advertisements, but it is still there, bright green and gold, waiting to be bathed in the coming dawn.
“The solstice is an astronomical fact we can all agree upon,” my friend Alexandra is wont to say. “We are all subject to the seasons and dependent on the Earth and the other living things. This is a better basis for a belief system, and worthy of reverence. There can be no arguing about it. Peace on Earth could be the result.”
this would be a good time to re-read the VEWPRF rant that i posted in 2008, because… well, it just is. that’s all.
the panto started last weekend, and it was good. it wasn’t great, but, for the first shows, it was better than average by a few steps, and it definitely has the potential for being great… especially after a couple more weeks of actual “rehearsal” 😉 i actually played most of the notes correctly, played a few notes that i have never been able to play before (low F, E and E♭), and they were audible and (most importantly) in tune, and i only got lost/confused/missed cues a couple of times, and it wasn’t because i wasn’t paying attention, like it usually is… which is good. there are a few physical sound effects: the ratchet, siren whistle, thunder sheet, bar chimes, slide whistle, that sort of thing, and there are a few electronic sound effects: horse whinney, squeak-stomp-splat for the donkey stepping on the ogress/mouse… and i’m thinking that i can probably come up with a better sword fight sound than the one i’ve got currently, which is bashing two metal spatulas together.