Don't let The Man tell you it's Tuesday

2006 will be one second longer than 2005. Did you know that? It’s a form of leap year that comes every seven years – adding one second to the clock. 12:00 to 12:01 am on January 1st will be 61 seconds long. One extra second to kiss, or fire guns in the air or go “Wooooooooooo!!” or to wonder if Dick Clark is going to die on the air. Who knew making a system of time was so complicated. Leap years, leap seconds, the bizarre and antiquated shifting of the clocks forward and back twice a year, all, I assume, taking into account the gradual slowing of the Earth’s rotation. Not that there’s much to take into account – it’ll be 200 million years before the days on Earth are 25 hours long – but still…I mean one second every seven years? That’s over twenty five thousand years before the clock are an hour off. At which time I don’t think anyone s going to be saying, “What the hell? Why is the sun setting at 7:00? When I was a kid, 23,000 years ago, the sun set at around 6:00 this time of year! Who designed our idiotic chronology system? Squirrels? And why won’t God let me die?”

It does have a certain bureaucratic appropriateness, though. People always complain how you can never get a group of people to agree on anything, but time is a good example of that. Because, of course, most time is a totally artificial construct – days, months, none of them actually mean anything. It’s Tuesday because we say it is, and for no other reason. If everyone got together and said, “Let’s make today Monday instead, so we can watch Arrested Development again”, it would now be Monday. So I guess it’s somewhat fitting that this incredible thing we’ve gotten most everyone to agree to has clauses and sub-clauses and points of contention. But hey, it’s a start right? Today days of the week, tomorrow world peace.


The Demagogue who Stole Christmas

I usually don’t give people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly much thought because they’re so meaningless. They’re show-business people whose job is to entertain, and getting really upset at them is like getting really bent out of shape over Jessica Simpson’s music, or clothes. It’s pop-culture fluff. It’s always concerning, the propagation and dissemination of hate and ignorance, but, again, that’s entertainment. Pan e circum. Bread and circuses.

So it just feels really sad to me, this attempt to further exploit and betray Christmas that Bill O’Reilly has launched. Everything is political right now in the United States. The ideological battle lines that were drawn after the 2000 election have crept into every facet of our lives. Remember the brief but fervent claim that the Penguins in the documentary March of the Penguins embodied conservative values? Now, in an attempt to boost ratings, and in the process increase sales from his own gift shop, O’Reilly launched his “War on Christmas” campaign. The result being that the phrase “merry Christmas” has become hostile, political. A form of verbal violence. I’ve seen signs on stores, and heard people saying “Merry Christmas. And I mean Merry Christmas.” Subtext being: “Merry Christmas and fuck you if you aren’t one of us.” Subtext also being: “I am right-wing. Are you?” A person can’t say merry Christmas, or not say merry Christmas, without it being a political hate statement.

All this under the guise of saving Christmas. Bill O’Reilly doesn’t give a fuck about Christmas. It’s a tool to sell his show. His job is to entertain and if this works? Great. Bill O’Reilly no more believes in what he says that Jay Leno is heart-felt and passionate in the contents of his monologues. And the fact that he would try to gut the parts of the holiday that are still sincere and good and true – and they’re there, amidst all the commercialism and nonsense – under the guise of protecting it is just so sad. I know it’ll pass in a couple years, so no big deal in the grand scheme, just sad.

Yes, we have inadvertently made Christmas the holiest of holidays to our culture’s true God – Consumption. Yes, you can fixate on this element and practically burst into flame at the irony and hypocrisy and crassness of it all, but it isn’t necessary to do this. There is also something really cool about the amalgam of holidays that have converged into what we now call Christmas. All the various pagan rituals with the vague Christian twists make it such a neat patchwork celebration of our most noble human components: Hope; perseverance; a belief in something better. In darkest part of the year we light lights against the bleakness. We create feasts amid stark fields. We celebrate forgiveness and compassion during the time of year it is easiest and most biologically logical to forget others and survive, and as a traditional time of reflection – the turning of a year - arrives. And, yes, we give gifts to remind ourselves of the value of giving, and to remind ourselves about the people close to us. That’s good stuff.

And the “inclusion” attempts are really more divisive. Hanukkah is a minor holiday, and its insulting and ignorant to play it up, and remember it for your two Jewish friends, but then not even be able to name the season in which Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur takes place. Kwanzaa, was a nice idea, but defeats it’s own purpose. It was invented in 1966 by a college professor as a reaction to the Watts riots as a new holiday that could unite the black community. Which it doesn’t, but even if it did, it’s so manufactured, and so flagrantly a “black” holiday with only murky African connections, that it would only create another cultural divide.

Anyway, O’Reilly will have a great Christmas, I’m sure, because his ratings are up and he probably made a lot of money using his show to sell his stuff, and a lot of people will have a good Christmas because they get their Orwellian Minute of Hate and they get to spread anger while feeling self-righteous. But this will pass, like all the other human weaknesses ebb and flow. Like all the bad things that spring up during this holiday and swirl around our noble truths which remain a constant, like a star guiding us.


The Labyrinth's New Manager

So, why the long break, you ask? Oh, let’s not get in to it. No, really, I don’t want to talk about it.

I mean it.

Okay, fine, you persistent minx, you! The break was largely because of two things: one, every time I heard or read or saw a reference to “blog” it was in some quasi-creepy/depressing trendy sense and it made me step back a bit, but more so was number two: I messed it up for myself. One of the reasons for starting the site was that it can become exhausting teaching and being in “teacher-mode” and it gradually consumes your identity and you become this morally rigid, secular-evangelist. So, the blog was a way to write in a forum in which I could actually be myself, and remind myself who that is. Also, writing is the thread that guides my personal Theseus back out of the maze.

What do you mean ‘what do I mean’? Theseus? Went in to the labyrinth to slay the minotaur? Found his way out by stringing a cord behind him? It’s all a big metaphor for the way we have to go into our own minds and battle our personal demons. Writing is my cord for finding my way out when my mind has become a labyrinth and I don’t even know myself anymore. Don’t know what I mean? Look at some of the entries from last spring – there’s some depressed, depressed shit there.

Anyway… You see, because I’m a doof who just looooooves attention and approval, I mentioned the site to a couple of my students, which is in and of itself fine and great. But a couple of other students found out and used the site to vent their, apparently, substantial dislike for me. Since I knew who they were, and knew they were students, I had to respond as a teacher, not as a person. When a student says something childish, cruel and horrible to a teacher, he has to recognize that this is a person still developing, who depending on his or her personal biochemistry has varying degrees of understanding of ‘other people’, and who, above all else, you dare not adversely affect the precious precious precious self-esteem. You either ignore the comment or respond constructively. A person, on the other hand, gets to just say “fuck you, too.” This then led to self-censoring in writing, because if students are reading regularly eventually you get concerned about how much you reveal and more importantly, if students who dislike you are reading, you don’t even want to talk about things honestly or sincerely. You don’t dare reveal human weakness or truth (this is why many teachers seem so bland and insincere after a few years). Soon, much of the purpose, and all of the fun, had been sucked out of the process.

This isn’t to say I don’t want to hear any negative feedback (although I have to admit I do more enjoy the feedback of the “Wow, you’re so great and smart and funny, please please have sex with me” variety), I just would prefer it wasn’t of the personal grudge type.


Why start again now? Because I miss the forum. Because it’s fun. Because students who were using it as a staging ground for some silly personal battle have hopefully moved on.

It’s the grand re-opening. If you were here I’d give you a balloon and a hot dog. I’d hang out an “Under New Management” banner, even though it’s not true. Speaking of which, has anyone ever, in the history of everything, ever one gone somewhere because it was under new management? I mean, unless this new manager was your daughter, or something. Because, mostly, who cares? “Hey, Becky! Let’s head us on down to the Dairy Queen and meet the new manager! I’d like to hear her thoughts on Dilly bars!”

Anyway, here we are again.