Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Resolution Will Not Be Televised

Maybe Mick and Keith were saying the same thing as the Wizard of Oz:
"Pay NO ATTENTION to That Man Behind the Curtain!"

Time once again when our thoughts turn to New Year's Resolutions. Something I never put much stock in as an adolescent, but eventually I recognized many things I wanted to improve upon. I gave it a try and admittedly had little or no success. When the next year rolled around, there they were again. I notice standing in line impatiently behind them are more issues that have cropped up, requiring attention. Hmmm...take a number?

I try to convince myself "this year will be different." I try to analyze the reasons for past failures and how to avoid them. Aiming too high. Diluting my resolve on too many targets. Giving up because it was easier than putting out effort. Letting a slip here or there provide an excuse to bail.

But I think there are two reasons that most resolutions fail: First - there's nothing all that magical about New Year's Day. After all, it is a day like every other in most respects, and not everyone's New Year begins on January 1 anyway. Success can only be measured by the day at hand, so why not start today? Second - all too often we fool ourselves into thinking we can go it alone. How conveniently irrational! A built-in lack of accountability too! Too arrogant, momentarily confident or proud to ask for help when more often than not, it would gladly be given. Chances of success increase dramatically.

When I was young I couldn't reach the first branch of the big oak tree at the end of our driveway. But I'd ask a friend for a "boost".  Once the first branch was grasped I could climb as high as the others would hold me - to a place where the sun filtered through the canopy and the tree swayed gently in the breeze. I looked out over the cornfields from a place where there was no need for resolutions. A perch I couldn't have reached without the help of friend. Why was is it so much easier to ask then?

This year my goal is to pay it forward each day and seek nothing in return - "untelevised."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Real Santa

(For a change I created today's artwork rather than plagiarize)
Merry Christmas.

Recently The Mind of Wallett provided a thorough treatise on many of our Christmas traditions, culminating with an expose of The Fat Man himself. Not the one in the bathtub. Santa himself. Visit This, That, 'N' T'other for more.

But this posting is not in reference to the Santa of legend. It's about the Real Santa. More along the lines of the one you might have caught kissing Mommy, or maybe even Bad Santa. It depends.

For as I thought about it, Who sees me when I'm sleeping? Who knows when I'm awake? Who knows if I've been bad or good?

That's right, it's me! I can bring presents or coal. I make a lot of lists.

And I don't just mean I create the lists, I mean I find myself on the lists I create - both Naughty and Nice. However, unlike the best thing you can put in your golf bag to lower your score (eraser), it's not so easy to get off the Naughty list once you're on it. Because you know.

Santa's lists are of course a form of Inventory. By seeing yourself on the Naughty list, you can find acceptance. The eraser may not work, but the ink can fade in time, with effort. By seeing yourself on both lists, you will find humility. Look at all the other people you put on the list. By asking "what part did I play in that?" you may learn forgiveness. Santa doesn't hold grudges. Anymore.

In closing, let's recap a few other cool things about Santa: Santa speaks every language. He remembers every child's name. And when he speaks to you, he speaks to the innocent child within all of us. He knows your happiest memory, and your saddest moment.

Santa takes you back to a place and time when the world was simple.
Where you were as unspoiled as new fallen snow.
A place where you can begin anew.
Santa's not just me. He's you too.
So go out and exclaim, ere you drive through the night -
"Happy Christmas to all - and to all a good night."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The World Beyond

The following is offered as temporary relief to the sugary-sweet seasonal postings.

The World Beyond was another one of those bizarre B&W TV shows that would appear in my 1960's dining room, on Friday nights at 8 PM if I recall. Kind of like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits in genre, but typically the episodes were creepier, and I was hesitant to watch right before bed. Creepier still, I can find no images or references for you on the internet, but trust me, it's out there.

This was to be the segue into today's topic but for seeming lack of evidence, we will try the angle that actually got me here. Ahem. I just finished The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan courtesy of my friend Manish. Built upon greek mythology rather than 'wizarding', in this particular edition, Percy and friends take in a visit to The Underworld and live to tell about it.

Scene from Ingrid Bergman's The Seventh Seal
(Is Alex Von Sydow offering Death "Rock"? Is the chessboard set up sideways?)

Without giving too much away, Percy's visit to Hades reveals a huge but bland, dismal section for the rank-and-file, a smaller eternal torturing section, and a smaller still resort area for heroes.  And as he debates his condition, Hades starts to complain about his commute, the hired help and the number of new subdivisions he's had to open recently. Who would have thought?

The scene put me back in the time-traveling phone booth with Bill and Ted. To recap: In their Bogus Journey, the duo is confronted by Death. Bill explains to Ted who they've encountered, and Ted greets him with a classic line I'm sure we all hope to use someday - "How's it hanging, Death?" In a parody of The Seventh Seal, Death offers them freedom if they can beat him in a game to be named later. After Death explains that no one has EVER beaten him, Bill and Ted give Death a Melvin and escape temporarily.

Death is not amused. Eventually Bill and Ted agree to the contest, with surprising results. After defeating Death in the board game Battleship, Death demands to play best 2-out-of-3. Bill and Ted proceed to beat Death in Clue, Electronic Football, and Twister to earn their escape and the services of Death for the rest of their Journey.

As I don't seem to have the snap to actually embed the video, I send you to YouTube to see these most excellent clips of Bill and Ted's Bogus Adventure. You might find yourself better equipped to deal with Death after watching these.
Back already? What is the relevance you ask? Aha. Note that neither Percy, Bill nor Ted have to cheat Death. But should Death ever ask you to "Get down and give me infinity" you may find the need to cut some corners.

Fortunately we have a lot of practice by cheating Death every day. And not just by getting up and taking fluids. I'm convinced for example that most of the meetings I attend are a form of cheating Death. Time stops and life itself seems to extend to eternity. You probably have similar experiences. Embrace them. Otherwise Death is winning.

William Sandler as The Grim Reaper. Not so grim after all.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Turning Straw Into Gold

Growing up with Charlie Brown's Christmas, I could always relate to the sad little tree Charlie Brown fell in love with. At my house, we would typically go into the woods, but occasionally voyage to an actual tree farm. My Dad would proceed to pick out the sorriest, most pathetic tree he could find - because it showed the most promise and was the cheapest - then he'd scrounge around for any free greens, rope or wire he could find left behind.

We had some trees that may not even have been in the evergreen family. Once home the mad scientist would go to work. We would mount the tree in this stand forged at the time of King Arthur, and weigh it down with these lead blanket logs - the kind of thing my Dad always had an abundance of. We would stand back, staring at the bare trunk, anxiously waiting for the bit brace to be brandished (for those of you not familiar with this surgical instrument, I provide an image similar to the $3 one I bought at a Hamfest with my Dad and later refurbished.) But I digress.

The stray greens would be screened for just the right ones to fill the bare spots. The trunk would be bored, branches inserted and hung precariously with wire, and Voila! The perfect tree. Then after decorating, we put full-length mirrors against the wall, to "double" the resplendent tree lights, each one being the size of your fist. Rumplestilzchen had struck again.

The point is that Christmas, the tree, and life itself, is what you make of it.
So if you find your tree bare, be glad you have a tree. If it needs work, man up and get your bit brace. Step back and review your work. See what your friends and family think, and pay attention - for random moments occur without notice, as discussed previously.

Enjoy the holiday season.