Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Love of...Country?

This morning I read an exceptionally thought-provoking piece that bears sharing here. It gets at my personal beliefs about "love of country" and how dangerous that can be.

I will admit to wanting to document it here for my own selfish purpose of wanting to be able to find it more easily in the future. Regardless of my motives, though, anyone who stumbles across my post and then moves on to "High Treason" on via Negativa will be fortunate. He writes about a poem by José Emilio Pacheco, a highly-regarded Mexican poet.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

So This Is Christmas?

It's Christmas Day, 2011. It's not yet 7:00 am, but I've been up and awake for close to three hours now. I didn't get up early to prepare gifts or stuff stockings—we haven't exchanged gifts in quite some time and we decided this year we wouldn't even do our "traditional" stocking stuffers. So I don't know why I got up early. Maybe I just needed a bit of early morning reflection time.

After my wife and I decided gift exchange was rather pointless for us—if we need something and can afford it, we buy it— we shifted to doing stocking stuffers. We would fill one another's Christmas stockings with little treats: a can of smoked oysters, special jams or teas, a tin of sardines, a whimsical toy. It was fun and we enjoyed it, but I guess it just played out. This year, we didn't put up a tree or any ornaments or decorations.

So today is Christmas Day, but it doesn't look like Christmas Day. We'll have a special breakfast this morning and a special evening meal, which will add a bit of seasonal celebration.

Maybe next year we'll return to the old traditions. Or maybe we'll make some new ones.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Embarrassment of Low-Dose Sentimentality

I sometimes think people are embarrassed by their emotions, by what some would call their "sentimentality." I would argue that's true for some of us who tend to view the "Christmas mush" as a profit-driven, media-induced effort to persuade us that we should listen to our "consciences" and spend accordingly...our "consciences" tell us we must buy to express our love. Because we are skeptical of the motives behind the "Christmas mush," we are loath to buy into—and certainly loath to express—the emotions that the media present to us as evidence of the Christmas spirit.

But I think if the skeptics among us were to be completely honest with ourselves, we would not work so hard to present ourselves as unwilling to buy into the Christmas spirit.

Despite my lack of belief in the biblical basis for Christmas, I have no particular reason to find anything offensive about Christmas. While I think Christmas has been co-opted by capitalists to a very great extent, I find the themes surrounding the Christmas holidays (and many other religious holidays, for that matter) to be good and valuable and attractive. Goodwill toward men. Peace on earth. Sharing. Helping those less fortunate. Love of family and friends. Being charitable in thought and deed. Those are good things. (Noticeably lacking, unfortunately, is goodwill toward the Earth, but that's another post.)

But back to my opening comment: if you're skeptical about the motives of those around you, you tend not to want to reveal your own...especially the ones that are REAL inside you but that appear, at least to you, PHONY in others. Part of it is that you're questioning your own skepticism, I think, and part of it is your concern about your image among those who share what you may think is your intellectual superiority. You don't want to look like a patsy for the proletariat, as it were.

I will readily admit that I remain highly suspicious of the motives behind a lot of the "spirit of the season." Earlier and earlier Christmas sales, earlier and earlier Christmas tree availability (another issue for another post), bigger and bigger splashes by the media about their toy drives and help for the homeless and so forth. But I have to acknowledge that the results of toy drives and efforts to help the homeless are, or can be, wonderful. The fact that the motives behind them may not be "pure" in the way I'd like them to be does not change the results. While the results may not always be as good as I'd hope, they're probably better than the outcome of inaction.

Granted, some believe, as I once did, people are not naturally caring, empathic beings. But whether people come by those attributes naturally or not, I believe many people and perhaps most people do possess them. They want the world to be a better place. They want to help their fellow humans. They don't want to allow themselves to be the beasts we all can become. And I think most people, even those who present the face and the attitude of a hard-ass, believe the same thing.

In my admittedly schizophrenic assessments of people, I think the hard-asses are just willing to allow themselves to exhibit sentimentality in extremely low does, if at all, and that's an embarrassment in and of itself. I've been embarrassed across the board in that regard.

As of this moment, though, I am allowing myself to revel in the spirit of the season. I just wish I'd revel in it year-round. I wish we all would revel in it year-round.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cabin Porn

Thanks to my friend Bev, I just spent quite awhile salivating over design concepts, photos, etc. for cabins. I want DESPERATELY to have a place far away from the madding crowd as an escape. Take a look at this blog of Cabin Porn and you, too, will be converted.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wonderful Breakfast

I stumbled upon a very interesting blog this morning. "Stumbled upon" may not be the way to put it. A post from the blog was the first link listed when I did a search on Google for "wonderful breakfast." The blog is called Hallucinations. It is written by an Indian woman by the name of Shruthi Rao. She lives in Bangalore, India. She is a "foodie." She is a gifted writer. She was featured (with an incorrect spelling of her name and other details about her misrepresented) in an article in The Hindu (page 1, page 2). Despite the paper's apparent inability to get all the facts straight, it's interesting to read an English-language paper from India; gives a different perspective on the world.

The image is linked from the article on The Hindu.

Later I may explain why I was looking up "wonderful breakfast."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Pleasures of Pie

My fascination with pie, and the tendency to indulge that fascination, came upon me abruptly. I don't know the exact moment it happened, but I would say it occurred within the last four to six weeks. For reasons unknown to me, I have become moderately obsessed (say what?) with pie. Not all pie. Mincemeat, my favorite from my childhood, is no longer high on my list. And the pies shown in these images are not the kind over which I obsess. No, the pies with which I am profoundly fascinated are these: cherry, apple, pecan, and peach (not cobbler, pie!). There may be others, but I am not sure. Oh! I'm partial to rhubarb pie, too, though I've only had a few pieces in my life and none recently. So my affinity for rhubarb pie may be a function of memory playing tricks on me. I mean, I could have a piece right now and might loathe it. In fact, come to think of it, it may be a little too sweet for my taste. But then it may not be sweet at all. And since we're talking sweet here, is that not what pie is all about? I do not have much of a sweet tooth, though I tend not to turn up my nose at cookies and candy. But cake? I can do without it. Pie, though, is like nectar of the gods. Assuming, of course, that I am gods and it is my nectar (are my nectar? I mean, since we're talking plural here).

The pie in the top photo is a lemon pie, which was very good, but lemon pie and its cousins lack something I like: chewable substance. Lemon pie just fills my mouth with flavor. The crust adds a shade of substance, but not quite enough for my liking. I like a bit of "meat" to my pie. Which leads me, inexorably, to another favorite pie: steak and kidney. But that's another story. For me, "pie" immediately calls up something that goes extraordinarily well with coffee. Steak and kidney in a crust does not do that. But it's known as pie and I will not argue the point. But for the purposes of this treatise, I will ignore steak and kidney pie, if that's alright with you.

The bottom photo is a coconut pie, a coconut cream pie to be precise (if I am correct, which may not be the case). It was very good, too. While it also lacked the degree of substance that I enjoy, the little slivers of coconut gave me something to chew on, which satisfied my oral fixation a bit better than did the lemon pie. With the way I've been describing these two pieces of pie, you'd think I did not truly appreciate them. I did! I enjoyed them immensely! But they were not exceptional pies the way an apple can be. You know, an apple pie with firm chunks of apple that require your teeth to work a bit.

Back to my fascination with pie. It just took me by surprise. I have always enjoyed pie, but did not seek it out; I was satisfied to have a piece on rare occasions when someone else decided to buy or build one. But suddenly I am on a mission. When I drive by a funky little diner, I am just as likely to swerve into the parking lot with pie as my purpose as I am to check it out for what I call "diner food," which is a term I cannot define well so I will not try here, lest I go off course entirely and head in a direction not anticipated as I began writing this.

I do not know why pie is on my list of priorities of late. But it is. And when I think of pie, I cannot help but think of riding along with my father, as a kid (me, not him), on his trips to visit lumber yards around south Texas. He would stop and visit with the lumber yard owner and write up an order for a carload of lumber (my father was a lumber wholesaler) and then, as often as not, he would take me to a local diner for a piece of pie. We ate pie in several small towns in south Texas. Now I wonder if my recent excursions into pie-seeking is related to my recollections of my youth and my attempt to regain a foothold on memories long since lost. If that were the case, my fascination with pie could be a symptom of unresolved psychological issues or, perhaps, even some sort of psychosis the likes of which I have never faced before.

More likely, I think, I just like pie and have come to realize there's nothing inherently wrong with that. Except, of course, for the calories. I'll have to work on that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

West of Fort Worth

This was originally posted on September 1, 2008 on another blog that I created and subsequently ignored. Let's see if this looks the same:
If I were looking for a planned residential community, I might want to avoid this one. Of course I realize that there may be many other people who enjoy spending time with rattlesnakes. Obviously, the people who own the Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch do.

If you have been looking for acid stains, here's a number to call.

The courthouse in Weatherford is an attractive place.

Here's one of two signs we saw on our outing today, advertising dance lessons.

We had lunch here today. In Thurber, Texas. It's a place called The New York Hill Restaurant. My favorite wife and I felt rather young; the clientele was, by and large, über-elderly..

My seat at lunch allowed me to watch dozens of hummingbirds feast at several feeders. When we went outside, though, it was tough to get close enough for a shot.

The other dance lesson sign. I am dangerous on the dance floor. Seriously. I could hurt someone. And I probably have.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


It has been only a few days since the greyness of early winter descended upon us. Insistent winds have torn most of the yellow and brown leaves from the trees, blanketing the lawns and streets of our neighborhood with dull-colored rags ripped from the limbs above us.

I am surprised by how quickly the stark dullness of these early winter days has ground into my psyche. I am tired of the uncomfortable coolness and tired of the lack of sunshine and tired of the wet, sloppy streets. It is too cool for shirtsleeves and not cold enough for a heavy jacket. When the sun tries to peak out from the clouds, the dullness seems amplified and exaggerated.

The time has come for me to kick through the doldrums. It's early. There is too much more of this coming to permit myself to be smothered by it.