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Odds And Ends
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
My impression is that it came on just slowly enough that people didn't freak out nearly as soon as they should have. That just had no idea what was coming.
Meanwhile, on a much lighter note, I've got the first cut on my new page design posted here. Please have a look and tell me it it renders OK in your browser.
Would you believe this is two days work? Six separate CSS hacks? Neither can I.
It would have been a ten-minute job if (a) IE wasn't such a piece of crap, (b) I hadn't insisted on exactly that placement of the images, and (c) I actually knew what the hell I was doing. Since A and B were not going to change, C did, and that's ultimately what took so long.
Finally, James at HH finds something I've wanted for a long time - a hand-held laser powerful enough to actually hurt you! Why is it that every Christmas, I always want something that can put my eye out?
Saturday, December 25, 2004
For some reason - and I really have no idea what that reason might be - I've found I have very little to say since the election. This is unusual, considering that I've always seemed to have something to complain about, on an almost daily basis, for the last three and a half years.
Happily, there is no need to stop posting just because the bile stream has run low. I've had some good ideas about what a good, modern blog should look like, and this is a nice opportunity for me to find the proof in that particular pudding. I'm going to redo this site and see if it's really going to be as cool as I think it will be.
I plan on using lots of video, and doing it right. This means I have a lot of new technology to learn and some interesting technical hurdles to overcome. Of course, the word "interesting" in this context means "time-consuming", so it's going to be a while before there is anything new here to see. Maybe a month or two, if all goes well.
The only thing I can promise is that the new stuff will meet the same high standards you've come to expect, meaning it will please and amuse me, annoy my wife, and ultimately consume a tremendous amount of time and valuable internet resources.
Please check back in a month or so, and see if I'm not just bullshitting you. It's not every day that monkeys evolve into something new.
Friday, December 10, 2004
Suppose it were mid-November, and you greeted a passing stranger by suggesting that he have a "happy Thanksgiving". Is there one sane man on the planet who would consider that an insult?
Why should Christmas be any different?
For many of us, Thanksgiving is a strictly secular holiday. In my own experience, comments like "Jesus Christ, this pie is good" or "Good god, look at all those leftovers" pretty much constitute the extent of my personal religious expression during this time. Christmas at my place is much the same, and it always has been.
It is of no concern to atheists like myself that Thanksgiving, like Christmas, was originally a religious occasion, or that it remains a religious event for many people now. It began as a formal expression of thanks to a Christian god (offered by genuine Puritans!) and it remained a religious observance throughout most of its history. Like Christmas, it eventually changed, for many of us, into a secular observance. Religious and secular observance of the holiday occurs concurrently, and often effortlessly, even within the same room. You need not be religious to benefit from a moment of reflection and gratitude for the good things before you, or to enjoy the company of family, friends, and traditional food. It is a cultural celebration as much as it is a religious one.
So is it an insult to bring Thanksgiving up in conversation? Does the image of a turkey offend the passing crowd? Is it a crime for business and government employees to find a Thanksgiving reference in their office email?
Looking at how we have come to treat Christmas, I suppose we ought to assume it should.
At least one college at the local Ivy-league university has taken down their Christmas tree in the lobby, and the expression "Merry Christmas" is explicitly disallowed from any official correspondence. There is a significant fraction of the population there who will remind you that saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" is offensive to some; it's never the correctors who are offended, of course, but some invisible class of easily-angered citizens who have presumably suffered long enough.
I could understand the objection if this sort of thing involved a lot of gospel singing and Jesus-invoking, but it doesn't. I've witnessed it myself - it mostly involves trees, candy canes, Santas, and general wishes for happiness and good cheer.
Christmas at the office is just as secular as I am, which, when you think about it, is hardly surprising. It's never been that hard for employers to acknowledge Thanksgiving without explicitly invoking Jesus, either, and most have managed to walk this fine line without too much difficulty, haven't they?
So why do so many people on the left now consider this to be such a big deal?
It's gotten to the point where you can use it to spot the conservatives in the crowd. "Merry Christmas" is a political code phrase now, like "states rights" or "social justice". This is just impossibly sad, stupid, and unnecessary. When, exactly, did the party of children and the downtrodden decide to embrace this guy?
Maybe they felt left out after conservative extremists started bitching about Halloween. Maybe they were afraid that there would be an idiocy gap between the parties and they they should rush forward to close it. Some of them, of course, are just intolerant bigots who will attack Christians any way they can. Personally, I'd pay good money to see any of these people, just once, correct a Jew by suggesting that "Happy Hanukkah" is an offense phrase, or telling a black man to keep his Kwanzaa decorations out of his cubical. Personally, I suspect they don't really give a fuck about anybody being offended, this is about something much deeper than that.
The irony here is, I don't even like Christmas. It's at the bottom of the holiday list, just below Easter. While Thanksgiving and the Fourth Of July remain a pretty big deal to me, Christmas could just fade away and I'd never miss it. I also don't like the fact that my money says "In God We Trust" on it, and it'll be a cold day in hell before anybody forces me to recite a pledge of allegiance to anything, much less a nation under god. I generally don't even capitalize the word 'god', because to me, it's just an ordinary noun.
But that's never stopped me from celebrating Christmas, and it's never caused me to feel bad because someone else was celebrating it, either. Just between you and me, I've found that when I get away from the canned music and bullshit for a while, when I find myself looking out the window at some thickly-falling snow and thinking of old friends who ought to have a little something special in their stockings this year, I'll actually enjoy it, too, at least for a little while. Why not?
While you are at it, put a nice carved ham in front of me and I'll enjoy it a hell of a lot more. I'm fortunate in that I actually look forward to visiting with both my regular family and in-laws, and I've long ago negotiated a truce with most of the people close to me which absolves us of any real gift-buying obligations. I watch TV or visit the mall so seldom that I am rarely assaulted by the relentless music and animatronic reindeer, or the headache-inducing clang of those fucking bells.
In short, I'm free to finally enjoy it now for the first time in my adult life, just in time to watch the rest of the world do their best to ruin it as quickly as they can.
Well, I can promise that you'll never hear the phrase 'Happy Holidays' pass my lips. It's part of that lame, artificial, New-Puritan Newspeak that only survives because so many people are cowed by it. It is not enlightened, or kind, or even liberal - this fake language does nothing but empower the people who presume to impose it on us. So here's what I have to say to our New Puritans: Fuck you, and Merry Christmas to you all!
And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
Quote Of The Day
You'd never guess this guy used to edit the National Review:
Today's near-universal and minimally respectable attitude - the rock-bottom, nonnegotiable price of admission to polite society and the political debate - is an acceptance of gay people and of open, unapologetic homosexuality as part of American life. This would have shocked, if not offended, the great liberals of a few decades ago - men such as Hubert Humphrey.
Such a development is not just amazing. It is inspiring. American society hasn't used up its capacity to recognize that it harbors injustice, and it remains supple enough to change as a result. In fact, the process is speeding up. It took black civil rights a century, and feminism half a century, to travel the distance gay rights have moved in a decade and a half.
Looking For That Special Gift?
New Kid On The Block
A good friend of mine let me in on a little secret today - he's got a new blog up, and it's pretty damn good, too. Rob knows how to live the good life, biking and snowboarding in all sorts of fun places, and often emerging unscathed.