Saturday, December 31, 2011

Help Wanted For the New Year

AD commonly refers to Anno Domini, Latin for "In the Year of (Our) Lord", and applied to years following 1 BC in the Julian and Gregorian calendars signifying the date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

I've never known why "our" Lord is added to this Catholic interpretation of the date since the "Lord" that is referred to is a Jew, and there is no record of the date of his birth. So why should Catholic clergy from  the Dark Ages be given any credit for veracity much less accuracy in establishing a timeline for the world?  Or for anything, for that matter?

Besides, 1 AD is not the beginning of recorded history even for the poor lost souls who believe every word in  the bible....words that have been misspelled, misinterpreted, made up and changed by monks and  others who added their own flourishes and "corrections" to the "holy word".... so it's irritating to have to calculate backwards to get dates for important things that happened before Roman Emperor Constantine decided to invent a form of Christianity for  his own purposes. 

This is just one of the inanities found in religion. And not limited to the Christian variety either. Jews and Muslims are equally misled by the unscrupulous, the ignorant and the fanatic feeble-minded to whom anything they can't understand is beyond the pale of  reasoned interpretation.

I have probably erred in recounting even this minimal religious history, and I'm certainly guilty of mocking things that many good people believe is gospel. I am not schooled in any religious dogma. What I know is what I have learned through sharpening my own intellect and the borrowing from others whom I trust and admire and find more credible than priests and adherents.

What I know in the very fiber of my being is that fundamental  religions are not just idiotic, they are evil.

My greatest hope for the New Year is that the populace will dismiss the ravings of the religious right and restore to office a man of reason,  intelligence and good will.

And after that, my hope is that we can begin to dismantle  all the trappings of evangelical lunacy in this country and help young people release themselves from ignorance and superstition. 

Sixty-three percent of Americans do not believe in evolution. How the world must laugh at us,  a country famed for its achievements in science and literature. We MUST remove ourselves from the mindless and deadening thrall of religion if we are to be great again.

We can start by seeing the following is relegated to the dustbin of history:

and this

Scientist Colin Blakemore visits a creationist museum in Kentucky.

(The first you must copy and paste; the second is a live link.)

That old smartypants, Kierkegaard, said:

"There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what is not true. The other is to refuse to accept what is true."


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tongues in Need of a D and C

I'm no prude, but I was born in an era when "vulgar" words were not used in "polite society." They were around, and generally overheard, but not employed by women or children.

Today, however, they are not just used, they are all but tattooed on the tongues of both.

Rummaging through  Face Book entries this morning, I found one posting that recounted the Twitter comments of the younger generation expressing disappointment in their Christmas presents.

See:  (I don't know how to give you a live link but the above url should get you there.)

Not only did the sentiments shock me, the verbiage and the attitudes  made me want to vomit.  It spewed from the mouths of youngsters who, it appears, have never known discipline or been taught manners or been exposed to culture of any kind, except that which litters the streets of city, suburb and Internet, and resides in the homes of the morons so prevalent in our society.

It inspired in me such a wave of fury with this country for allowing this to happen, I wanted to grab them and their parents by their hair, along with all the conservatives who want to deny expenditure on  education and culture, along with the ACLU nutcases who have made teachers afraid to correct their students, and lambaste their heads on some sidewalk.

Since this is an impossible dream, I won't apologize for it. However, failing such violent measures, there must be some way to raise up our children, and ourselves, into some more graceful plane of existence.

As I said in the beginning, I am not a prude. I have been known to use some colorful expressions.....but there are some that are raunchy beyond description.

I am disturbed that so many women regularly and frequently say and write the noun (or verb) in WTF. Why is that necessary? Is it a way to assert yourselves? If so, believe me....there are much better, more effective ways to do that. 

Used sparingly, I have to admit, it is an expression that can be quite effective. But any effectiveness will disappear as it becomes the accepted form of disdain.

At the risk of invoking a tiresome trope, shouldn't we all "think of the children" and try to raise the standards of  not just the words they use, but the sentiments they convey.

Perhaps one New Year's resolution in this direction might lead to more. Let's teach the children to raise their sights and help them to acquire a measure of gentility instead of allowing them to expel  mindless filth, just because they can and we are too lazy to reprove them.

Ours is a language so rich it is more than capable  of communicating every nuance of emotion and activity that exists. Let's share it with the young.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Big, Bad Bulb Bashers

The Guardian newspaper is reporting that China has announced plans to phase out domestic incandescent light bulbs within the next 5 years. The Natural Resources Defense Council has estimated that this measure will reduce China's CO2 emissions by 48 million tonnes per year.

I have no clue how much volume 48 million tons of anything might be, but it sounds bloody big. I know a normal amount of CO2 is  beneficial to trees and plants (a farm journal reports that even they can get too much), but I don't know what good it does us. In fact, isn't that the stuff we breathe out as fast as we can?

Lately, an old beau (a REALLY old beau) has been writing to me. I have been horrified to discover he is living his twilight years as a hidebound conservative.

I, on the other hand, am so open-minded I fear my brains may be falling out. Further, I am not grumpy and carpy about the world going to hell; I've become a fighter for, and a happy-go-lucky acceptor of, all things new - if they sound useful, kind or productive.

Let us consider this matter of incandescent  bulbs as opposed to the newfangled twisty ones. My OLD beau is almost apoplectic when discussing them. And nothing I say will dissuade him from his scathing criticism of their proposed phase out.

He is so adamant that  I almost started questioning my own eyes...and checkbook.

About five years ago, my daughter replaced all the light bulbs in seven of our barns. Except for our high wattage security lights, the barns used 25 watt incandescent bulbs. They have been replaced by a similarly "dimmish" CFLs that are never turned off. Only two of about 25 have gone bad in five years.

In the house, I have replaced all my incandescent 100 watts with 26 watt CFLs. Same good light to read by. Two of them are on continuously. They have not been replaced ever.

Yes, it does take a few seconds for the light to come on full power, and yes it has been necessary to change the harps on some of the lamps, and yes, they are more expensive.

But, not to have had to buy and change a bulb in five years (some barn bulbs require ladders to reach) - that's a pretty damn good exchange! Besides, they are not a cold light...they are a warm and cheery illumination.

I must admit that the ultimate inspiration for writing this screed is a video I just watched of John Stossel's barbed criticism of the  mandated use of the new bulbs. Now I know for sure they are some kind of  wonderful, and the mandate will prove beneficial to the planet and its inhabitants.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Let Reason, Reason, Reason Replace Holy, Holy, Holy

In honor of the passing of Horrible Hitch (we're talking Christopher Hitchens of nastiness fame here), I picked up his 2007 god is not GREAT.  Even after the  first page I marveled, as I did at my first reading, that anyone whom I despised so thoroughly was capable of making me want to cover his pasty, alcohol fumy, dormouse-like face with kisses.

In this treatise, he was so logical, so effortlessly reasonable, so totally in tune to every fiber of my thinking being, that I  regretted his untimely departure. 

I was particularly attracted to this sentence which encapsulates the whole of the secular doctrine I have adopted:  

"We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or  outrages reason."

Just so!

In this strange season of greed and goodness, loving homes and homelessness, holy rhapsodies and hypocrisies, it would be good for  us to consider if, instead of wallowing in sentimentality,  we shouldn't somehow help our neighbors to find their way out of darkness and into the light of reason.

Let reason, reason, reason replace holy, holy, holy....and then there will be light.

Thank you, Christopher Hitchens. I send you on your way with my thanks and my good will in whatever new adventures await you.

While there may be no virgin mothers or virgins in heaven waiting to be deflowered by noble assassins, no magical healers or whales or bread or lamp oil, no talking snakes, no god or gods of any kind, there is, in my mind, certainly evidence of life everlasting. And we are not required to kneel or worship or prostrate ourselves - nor go forth and spread religious bile on innocent others.

While I have always felt that it is a good thing not to do bad things, I believe it is, in the end, simply a matter of opening our hearts and minds and embracing the glorious mystery of life by allowing it to live within us for however long we are fortunate enough to be host to it.

I wish everyone health, happiness and whatever joy the season holds for you.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Schmaltzy Christmas Stuff

Some parts of our society - even among those without wealth and also among those with upper class scorn for convention - seem to be trending away from marriage and, thereby, divorce. Seems practical. But what do you do with the kids? Especially for the holidays.

* * * *

My mother and father divorced when I was nine. A year after that, my father remarried. The following year my mother remarried, and I was sent to boarding school. 

Almost everyone at Rose Haven School for Girls in Rockleigh, N.J. had divorced parents. I suppose that was Rose Haven's reason for being.

The "overseer" - Miss Van Strum - and her head honcho, Ms. Carlsen - terrified me. Accustomed to affectionate parents, I found these two not-so-young/not-so-old women cold and distant disciplinarians of youngsters who probably could have used an occasional lap, or at least a hug.

Neither hugs nor laps were on offer - but after a sharp rap on my shoulder, I did learn to say "excuse me" when it was my turn in line to pass in front of the overseer as she stood in an open doorway like an expectant hawk waiting for an unmindful pigeon. This was her method of providing a useful lesson in good manners, if not good will.

The only things that saved me that bleak autumn were my two  roommates. One was a tow-headed imp of a girl called Ann Kniffen. The other was always good-natured Michelle Farmer, 11-year-old daughter of Gloria Swanson. We three were 11 years old and, like most 11-year-olds, we did a lot of whispering and giggling in our beds after dark.

Beyond fun, Michelle was an "old girl" who knew the ropes at the school. She took her oddly manufactured punishment for any minor infraction - circling mindlessly around the driveway for some specified time - with equanimity. And because I saw she was a self-sufficient, independent stoic, whose manner led me to understand she thought crybabies were a useless lot, my pride demanded that I emulate her. I didn't  cry.

Michelle never bragged. She didn't have to. My imagination was sufficiently fertile to conjure up visions of her glamorous adventures with her famous mother. It was clear to me her life was dazzling compared to mine.

Then, because we giggled after dark once too often, Miss Van Strum assigned Michelle to another room and installed in her vacant bed a decidedly less appealing roommate called Frances who introduced Ann and me to the theory of human copulation when she revealed that to make a baby a man puts his "teapot" inside you.

In youth, you don't have to look for education. It falls from the trees.

When Christmas holidays arrived, I went first to Manhattan to stay with my father and his new wife in their upper east side apartment.
My stepmother had a silver fox jacket and a mink coat. My mother said she wouldn't wear dead animals. I felt I was in no man's land....without even knowing what that was.

I really missed my mother but when my father put me on the train for Long Island on Christmas Day I pressed my face close to the dirty train window to keep him in sight as long as I could.

As the cars rumbled and swayed down the tracks toward my mother's new home, I realized this was to be the pattern of all my young Christmases to come.

I thought of Michelle with envy. It was easy for her not to cry and carry on. She was secure, sophisticated and pampered. She wasn't traveling alone on a nasty train on Christmas Day. I wallowed in the misery of it all.

One of my presents that year was a plush "sleepy monkey" with a zipper down his back where I could stuff my nightie. I  took him back to school with me, more for cuddling than for stuffing. When Michelle and I were reunited, we found we each had a sleepy doll. Hers, however, had no zippered pocket.

She thoughtfully assessed me and my monkey and then handed me a gift card that had come with hers. "Keep this inside your doll for me," she said. "I don't have a place to put it." I read the card as she watched. It said, "Michelle, darling. Why haven't you written."

I must have looked puzzled. Matter-of-factly, Michelle explained:  "I can't write to her. She never sent me her address."

She turned away but not before I glimpsed an unaccustomed brightness in her steady dark eyes.

Whenever Christmas weltschmerz overtakes me, I remember Michelle.