Grandpa’s Pocket Watch

All the things of childhood
I remember, oh so much,
things I saw, and things I heard,
and things I could not touch.
The ivory keyed piano,
the stereopticon,
old and musty books,
these things are now gone.
But one thing enthralled me,
still reaches ‘cross the years,
it is my grandpa’s pocket watch,
my memories hold so dear.
When I sat up on his lap,
when I was five or six,
and leaned my ear ‘gainst his chest,
I heard its tocks and ticks.
Tucked into the pocket
of the bib of his overalls,
across the distant decades
it’s still a beacon call.
I used to love to wind it,
to open up the case,
just to hold it in my hand,
and behold its pristine face.
It never gained a minute,
nor lost one, I’m sure,
with time metered out
by the mainspring’s constant whir.
That watch now is gone,
to where I can’t surmise,
to wherever things return
when their owner finally dies.

The Low Anthem – To Ohio

A live version of the Low Anthem’s song “To Ohio” from last year’s CD, “Oh My God Charlie Darwin.” It just missed making my top ten for 2009, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love their music. Well worth the listen if you like something soft and acoustic.

A Little Fun With Christmas

Christmas now looms large on the horizon, what with Black Friday, and Cyber Monday on today’s agenda. I thought I’d throw out a few interesting facts about how we celebrate this holiday.

St. Nick of old European legend was said to be accompanied not by elves like our modern version of Santa Claus, but by an impish little devil creature named “Krampus” who punished and kidnapped naughty children. If kids were bad, Krampus would leave them bad gifts. That’s where the idea of giving people coal for Christmas first probably originated.

The custom of gift giving may not connect so much to the gifts of the Magi, as to an old Roman winter celebration. The winter solstice, which coincides with Christmas, was the only time of the year when the rich would give their slaves gifts of food and the like.

The origin of caroling dates back to the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, when Christmas was regarded as a festival of pure joy and drunken revelry.

Groups of poor medieval carolers would go around to houses singing and begging for food and drinks, threatening to throw rocks through the windows of anyone who refused to give them a handout.

This type of drunken revelry got so out of hand that Christmas was banned from celebration for years in America in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Those same ancient winter-solstice celebrations, usually lasting 12 days, gave rise to the tradition of burning a yule log, often mentioned in classic Christmas songs. People would try to find the biggest log possible to burn in a fireplace, to keep the light and warmth going during the 12 days of the feast.

But what about other holiday traditions we practice, like putting a shedding tree in our living rooms each season and hanging stockings on the chimney with care?

Practices like that can be linked to a single tipping point in history that changed the course of Christmas forever. The year was 1823. The game changer was New York author Clement Clarke Moore, the man who wrote the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” otherwise known as “The Night Before Christmas.”

In that single poem, Moore gave us our modern-day version of Santa Claus, stockings and reindeer. Some of the most cherished Christmas traditions we still live by and follow today. He changed it all. From 1823 forward was when Christmas as we know it began. All of the traditions from different cultures — Jewish, Christian, Scandinavian celebrations — all came together at that point.

Although variations of the Christmas tree had been around since the 16th century, dragging an evergreen into our homes became a modern mainstay in 1848 after a magazine in London published a photograph of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria posing in front of a decked-out fir.

People in Britain went crazy for the photo and started putting up Christmas trees in their homes. Later, an American magazine copied and altered the image of the royal family to look like an American family, popularizing the trend around the United States.

Lastly, the origins of Santa’s most famous reindeer, Rudolph, go back to 1939, to a Montgomery Ward department store in Chicago. That’s when an employee by the name of Robert L. May created the lovable red-nosed sidekick in an effort to promote a Christmas coloring book being sold by Montgomery Ward. Clement Moore had hinted at reindeer in ‘Night Before Christmas,’ and May’s idea of Rudolph took it even further.

Now, off you go to hang those stockings, decorate that Christmas tree, buy overpriced presents, sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to strangers and wait for Santa. And drink and be merry, of course.

What’s Going On?

Anyone who thinks we are making headway in Afghanistan, or thinks that the work there is a noble cause, you need to read this article from the Dailykos. Our brave young men and women are laying their lives on the line, and we’re bleeding our treasury dry for this kind of foolishness.

Waiting

I was all comfy in my sweats this morning, and sat down in front of the fireplace to log on with the laptop. Well, as far as that goes, it worked out to that point. But as soon as I woke the Windows 7 system up from its sleep mode, it hit me with various necessary update messages, then the anti-virus/anti-spyware program popped up that it needed to download the newest version in order to protect my computer and its data. Now more than an hour later, my laptop is all nice and cozy in front of the fireplace, two reboots later, having its hard drive scanned by the anti-virus software, looking for infections, while I have retired to the nether regions of the house to get some work done with my trusty old Mac.

This is all too often the story. Boot up the Windows machine and wait for this fix or that, that scan or this one, while the Mac just does its job. No spyware issues. No virus issues. No waiting on endless updates. No reboots. No hour or more of scanning hard drives, files, etc. Just chugging away, doing its job, no fuss, no muss.

The Bear Hunter

Frank was excited about his new rifle and decided to try bear hunting. He spotted a small brown bear and shot it. Right after, there was a tap on his shoulder and he turned around to see a big black bear. The black bear said, “That was my cousin and you’ve got two choices … Either I maul you to death or we have sex.”

After considering briefly, Frank decided to accede to the latter alternative. Even though he felt sore for two weeks, Frank soon recovered and vowed revenge.

He headed out on another trip where he found the black bear and shot it. Right after, there was another tap on his shoulder. This time a huge grizzly bear stood right next to him. The grizzly said, “That was a big mistake, Frank. That was my cousin and you’ve got two choices. Either I maul you to death or we have rough sex.” Again, Frank thought it was better to cooperate.

Although he survived, it took several months before Frank finally recovered. Outraged, he headed back to the woods, managed to track down the grizzly and shot it. He felt sweet revenge, but then there was a tap on his shoulder. He turned around to find a giant polar bear standing there. The polar bear looked at him very sadly and said, “Admit it, Frank, you don’t come here for the hunting, do you?”

Kids Explain the Bible

Students in parochial schools, both Jewish and Christian, were asked to write about the Bible. The following are some of the responses:

(OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY)

In the first book of the Bible, Guinness, God got tired of creating the world, so he took the Sabbath off.

Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree.

Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark.

Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day, but a ball of fire by night.

The Jews were a proud people and, throughout history, they had trouble with unsympathetic Genitals.

Samson slated the Philistines with the axe of apostles.

Moses led the Hebrews to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients.

The Egyptians were all drowned in the dessert. Afterward, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the Ten Amendments.

The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple.

The Fifth Commandment is humor thy mother and father.

The Seventh Commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery.

Moses died before he ever reached the UK.

Joshua led the Hebrews in the Battle of Geritol.

The greatest miracle in the Bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still, and he obeyed him.

David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar.

King David fought with the Finkelsteins, a race of people who lived in the Biblical times.

Solomon, one of David’s sons, has 300 wives and 700 porcupines.

(NEW TESTAMENT HISTORY)

When Mary heard that she was the Mother of Jesus, she sang the Magna Carta.

When the three wise guys from the East Side arrived, they found Jesus in the manager.

Jesus was born because Mary had an emaculate contraption.

St. John, the Blacksmith, dumped water on his head.

Jesus enunciated the Golden Rule, which says to do one to others before they do one to you. He also explained, “Man doth not live by sweat alone.”

It was a miracle when Jesus rose from the dead and managed to get the tombstone off the entrance.

The people who followed the Lord were called the 12 decibels.

The epistles were the wives of the apostles.

One of the opossums was St. Matthew, who was by profession a taximan.

St. Paul cavorted to Christianity. He preached holy acrimony, which is another name for marriage.

According to the Bible, a Christian should have only one wife. This is called monotony.

The World’s First Billion Dollar Home

This is the extravagant $1 billion home built by a multi-billionaire Indian tycoon to house his family of four in Mumbai.

With 27 stories, Antilia will be home to Mukesh Ambani and features a health club with a gym and dance studio, a ballroom, at least one swimming pool and a 50-seater cinema.

Towering above the Mumbai skyline, the 37,000 sq ft. property is 570 ft. high and also boasts three helipads on its roof, and nine elevators. The bottom six floors are parking garage for staff and guests.

Glitz and glamour: Crystal chandeliers take up most of the ceiling at this ballroom. There is also a stage for entertainers and a kitchen which can serve hundreds of guests

There are countless lounges throughout the building where fine rugs, chandeliers, and mirrors are featured heavily.

Mr Ambani, 53, who owns a majority stake in the oil, retail and bio-technology conglomerate Reliance Industries, built this dream property, which, partially due to the high price of land in Mumbai, is valued at over $1 billion.

He will employ a staff of 600 people at the property. His family will live in the top floors, where they will enjoy views of the Arabian Sea.

Mr Ambani has surprised many by constructing Antilia – named after a mythical island – as he built his business reputation as a private individual who avoided the flamboyance of India’s ultra-rich.

Hamish McDonald, author of a history of the family business Ambani and Sons, told The Guardian: ‘Perhaps he has been stung by his portrayal in the media as an introvert. Maybe he is making the point that he is a tycoon in his own right.’

Numerous powder rooms and reception areas lead off the lobby which has nine elevators. Each floor uses different materials to give a differing look.

The vast building is constructed from glass, steel and tiles and also features a four-story hanging garden which is designed to keep the interior cooler in summer and warmer in the winter.

According to Forbes magazine, Mr. Ambani is worth over $25 billion. He is the richest man in India and the fourth richest in the world.

The interior of the property, on Altamount Road, has been designed by a U.S. firm and has been described as ‘Asian contemporary’.

Friends have defended him against charges of excess. One told a newspaper: ‘He can’t just walk into a cinema and watch a film like you or me.
It’s only a family home, just a big one. It’s a question of convenience and requirements.’