28 November 2012

White Wine in the Sun

I really like Christmas
It's sentimental, I know, but I just really like it
I am hardly religious
I'd rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu, to be honest

And yes, I have all of the usual objections
To consumerism, the commercialisation of an ancient religion
To the westernisation of a dead Palestinian
Press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer
But I still really like it

I'm looking forward to Christmas
Though I'm not expecting a visit from Jesus

I'll be seeing my dad
My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun
I'll be seeing my dad
My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun

I don't go in for ancient wisdom
I don't believe just 'cos ideas are tenacious it means they are worthy
I get freaked out by churches
Some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords but the lyrics are dodgy

And yes I have all of the usual objections
To the miseducation of children who, in tax-exempt institutions,
Are taught to externalise blame
And to feel ashamed and to judge things as plain right and wrong
But I quite like the songs

I'm not expecting big presents
The old combination of socks, jocks and chocolate is just fine by me

Cos I'll be seeing my dad
My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun
I'll be seeing my dad
My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun

And you, my baby girl
My jetlagged infant daughter
You'll be handed round the room
Like a puppy at a primary school
And you won't understand
But you will learn someday
That wherever you are and whatever you face
These are the people who'll make you feel safe in this world
My sweet blue-eyed girl

And if, my baby girl
When you're twenty-one or thirty-one
And Christmas comes around
And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home
You'll know what ever comes
Your brother and sisters and me and your Mum
Will be waiting for you in the sun
Whenever you come
Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles
Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun
Darling, when Christmas comes
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun
Waiting for you in the sun
Waiting for you...

I really like Christmas
It's sentimental, I know...


20 November 2012

Books: Let Nothing You Dismay by Mark O'Donnell (1998)

It's Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve in Manhattan--five days from the holiday Ground Zero--but Tad Leary, the most confused man on earth, doesn't know whether to celebrate or go crazy. He's just been fired, he's about to be evicted from his sublet, he's getting nowhere on his overdue folklore thesis, "Social Hierarchies of Imaginary Places," and on top of everything else at age thirty-four (older than Christ), he's five-foot-one and still baby-faced, so he's treated like a child wherever he goes. Nonetheless, he's been invited to seven different Christmas parties that day, and he decides to explore every one of them for possible work, apartments, love, and just plain distraction. 

I picked up Let Nothing You Dismay mainly due to the fact that writer Mark O’Donnell passed away in August and was reading his bio. He and Thomas Meehan shared the 2003 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical for their work on Hairspray, and they wrote the 2007 film adaptation. The pair also worked on another John Waters musical adaptation, Cry-Baby, for which they received a 2008 Tony nomination. His twin brother, Steve O’Donnell, is the head writer of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and wrote two episodes of The Simpsons.

So I was intrigued and was able to find a used edition of his book at Iliad’s in North Hollywood. But while the novel is well written -filled with some tasty one-liners that will make you smile- the book takes forever to get going. And at a slim 193 pages, that’s a problem. Also, Tad seems a bit lost –which I guess is the point of the novel, a man at the crossroads- but I found this drifting from one party to the next more pointless than interesting. The book starts great and then there is this whole middle part that seems out of place with the start, and only in the final few pages does it become interesting again. 

The question is, if I find a used edition of his first book, Getting Over Homer, do I risk buying it after being somewhat disappointed with his second?

13 November 2012

Books: The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde (2012)

In The Woman Who Died A Lot, the seventh volume of the ongoing series involving Thursday Next, author Jasper Fforde takes a break from the BookWorld to tell a story set firmly in his alternate universe town of Swindon. 

Thursday, now four months into her forced retirement due to the events of the previous book, is still finding “real” life a bit of a problem. The assassination attempt has left her with scares that will never heal but she must also deal with certain family issues –one that include her son Friday’s lack of momentum in his life now that his career in the Chronoguard was relegated to a might-have-been. Then there is daughter Tuesday, who is having difficulty perfecting the Anti-Smote shield needed to thwart an angry Deity's promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth, and Jenny, who doesn't exist.

But with Thursday Next, even a job as Head Librarian at The Swindon All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso’s Drink Not Included Library, does not mean a smooth life, especially with budget problems and the leader of the SLS –Special Library Service- who wants to do early morning raids to retrieve overdo books.

Then Friday and his fellow workers at Chronoguard get Destiny Awareness Letters that now describe their future lives now that time travel no longer exists. All are pretty depressing, but for Friday, it’s even more so. He’ll murder someone by the end of the week, and has no idea whom Gavin Watkins is and why he’ll kill the man. 

Meanwhile, Goliath Corporation is stepping up its attacks on Thursday by trying to replace her with a synthetic model, a Day Player. This, of course, brings her in contact with her nemesis at Goliath, Jack Schitt. 

Then there’s the looming death of the planet from Asteroid HR-6984.


It’s always nice to read Fforde, who fills his world full of clever puns and funny wordplay. His comic genius –who will remind many of the late great Douglas Adams- is that he never quite takes the whole thing too seriously. Still, like all science fiction writers obsessed with techno-babble, Fforde lays a great deal of it around and it becomes a bit much, which is why if you’re new  to Fforde, The Woman Who Died a Lot is not the best place to start. Even if you read some of the background on this series, it can be very confusing. The plot lines run sort of parallel and very rarely interact, which can be confusing.  

The novel is not breezy and one to be completed in a one or two sit-downs. As a matter of fact, I recommend taking a bit of time with the book, and don’t be a bit shy that you have to go back every once in a while.

But I love this bizarre world that Fforde has created and look forward to each new novel.

05 November 2012

Election Eve

“Water is patient. Water just waits. Wears down the cliff tops, the mountains. The whole of the world. Water always wins.”

Election Eve

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the these words in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” we know what he really meant at the time, that all “white men” only and especially ones that held property. Over the last two centuries, that sentence has become a flashpoint for everyone one else in America who is not of the Caucasian variety, because even today, two hundred and thirty-six years later (and one hundred forty-nine years after the Emancipation Proclamation), there are too many Americans who believe that Jefferson’s words –“that all men are created equal”- still means white men.

The truth remains in what Jefferson wrote, but the meaning needs to evolve to embrace a nation that refuses to stay stagnate. Nature, as history has proven again and again, abhors a vacuum. I’m often reminded of a line in Jurassic Park, where Ian Malcolm says “…If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers…”That is where we are at now, life wants to break free from the boundaries that wants to stop it, and what people don’t realize that it will always wins.  Sure, it may take a while, but like any struggle, be it real or metaphorical, what is right will always win. Because that is nature; it cares not for geopolitical world views, it cares not of opinion. And the more we try and stop it, the more it tries to break free. 

So this idea, this thought, that the meaning of Jefferson’s words cannot change, cannot evolve over the centuries as a nation such as America grows larger and larger is illogical. The rights of many blacks, women and gays (who were there, back then, make no mistake about that) have evolved over the last two centuries, probably more so in the last fifty years than any other time since 1776 (some argue that it’s been too fast, though how they judge that opinion is very nebulas). And why is that? Because we as a nation needed to have those rights evolve or we would never had made the strides we have in almost everything you can think of. We need to ask questions of everything, because if we don’t, if we cower in the dark because we don’t like the answer, then we’ll never move forward. 

And that is what’s at stake here. Do we go forward, into darkness and the undiscovered country that lies before us, or do cling to ideas that, while sometimes good, honorable and even moral are also archaic and most likely dangerous to a good majority of souls that cling to this blue/green planet? At what point did a few think that by accident of birth and circumstance, they were meant to rule the world and those who did not agree would suffer? 

Being a human who thinks of others is not a weakness, just as being a liberal does not mean being weak. For decades, the conservatives have tried –and ashamedly succeed in many parts of United States- of making liberal a dirty word. I know it isn’t, but it’s hard to convince anyone of the other “persuasion.” I’ve learned they care little because pointing out facts and contradictions, logical incongruities, and blatant hypocrisy is akin to asking sun to rise in the West. They don’t want their minds changed, they want their faith reinforced.

I want to believe I have an open mind, willing to listen to others who think I’m wrong. But that’s just it, no matter what -rom the start the conservatives think I’m wrong. That’s a hard place, but also a challenging part, to start from. 

History is replete with souls who tried to change the views of the intolerant, especially in the last 50 years: Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, George McGovern, Gene McCarthy. Hell, it was the liberals who remade this country and ended legal segregation and legal sexism. Not the conservatives, who always seem to cling to the old ways.

And by now, we know conservatives only talk about social issues that don't actually negatively affect the lives of their supporters because they can't talk honestly about their fiscal plans. Fact. The reason the GOP focuses on things like gays and abortion so much is that if they don't, or can't any more, they'll be forced to actually talk about their fiscal policies, in which case their millions of supporters will realize that they've been voting against their own best interests for years. The way I see it, every time a politician promotes anti-Obama sentiment they're actually telling their constituents "I think you people are stupid and I’m using your stupidity to make you vote against your own best interests by creating a false specter of a Second Obama Presidency.”

I think liberals believe no American should be turned away from a hospital because they are too poor or lack a proper legal defense. We believe that people should make enough from one job to live on, to spend time on raising their family. We believe that individuals and not the state should dictate who gets married and why. The best way to defend marriage is to expand, not restrict it.

And by allowing the United States to become a service industry and a land of bankers only, the conservatives have help create an unsustainable America. By moving manufacturing jobs –the backbone of the middle class for 70 years- overseas because workers here demanded better wages, better working conditions and above all, a better life than the generation before, the CEOs (who legally buy politicians like I buy underwear) of these companies call us anti-Capitalistic and un-American.

But what I’ve learned in the 50 years I’ve been on this planet is that America always works better when the interests of all are considered. We’ve seen through the eons that at its darkest hour, we can come together and fix what is broken.

The question is this: Can a nation so divided as this one is at this juncture come together and put aside our bruised egos, our petty religious differences, our intolerance, and  our he said/she said mindset and move forward and become a nation that we idealistically thought we could be 236 years ago?