31 December 2006

Snow I presume and the Chinese Panda

I began to to think that there would be no snow cover before the end of the year. On Thursday evening I ran and it was clear but overnight flurries developed. They stopped but eventually another spat of flurry arrived on Saturday morning and later turned to wet sticky snow. Conditions apparently worsened elsewhere and on the tele stations scrolled church closings. I found it quite funny that it mostly Lutheran churches closed. I guess Lutherans are not as rugged as Garrison Keillor makes them out. This is certainly not blizzard weather. This type of storm only slows people down because of the perceived (possibly real) slipperiness. I saw no cars in the ditch today although I noticed one with a blown out tire. I saw more cars on the side of the road returning home from Christmas and then no snow existed.
The weather did not prevent me from going out to do something I wanted to do for weeks. In fact I had a craving and using some self control contained it until today: Chinese food calls. I think I was inundated by the movie "A Christmas Story" where at the end of the film they eat Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant. There is nothing remotely Christmasy about Chinese food but somehow eating it during the Holidays allows me to connect with the movie. Nonetheless the food was decent. I especially enjoy General Tso's Chicken and Mongolian beef. The Panda offers them both in addition to crab and lo mein, fried rice, and you get the picture. Yet to add to the picture there was even a lone decorated Christmas tree in the dining area to make my Christmas Chinese dining complete.

28 December 2006

Taconite Phil


The intractable Phil poses before a Taconite mascot on the northern shore of Minnesota. It is believed that Phil's wardrobe may have evolved from taconite-like substances hidden beneath his lair.

27 December 2006

An unwhite Christmas


It's the third day of Christmas and we are still without snow. Why do we need snow for Christmas? Phil would have a good answer but unfortunately he is out doing other things (i.e. drinking more beer).
I will proffer an explanation- it's cultural and western centric idea. Most of the nations that celebrate Christmas as extravagant as us are in the Northern Hemisphere. It usually snows during the period when Christmas comes. Our Southern Hemisphere counterparts must suffice with dreaming about white Christmas since it is highly improbably that the Almighty would bless them with snow in Hawaii or Australia or India. Not that snow does not exist in those places somewhere. Probably in moutainous terrain there is plenty of snow in the Southern Hemisphere. So Christmas revelers head to the mountains to get in the mood for Christmas. Maybe Go Tell It On the Mountain is a more popular Christmas tune down there.

25 December 2006

Happy Christmas

It seems that light must be the theme for Christmas this year. I attended two church meetings and light happened to be the subject. Jimmy Mac at the Hill gets the kudos for incorporating the Irish monolith into a sermon. I thought it was kind of ironic since I was just writing about that the other day.
However, what Jim pointed out that the people of those days were fearful because the sun kept getting lower in the sky. They probably built these structures in an attempt to save the light. The contrast of course is that Jesus came into the world to bring hope and defeat fear. No longer had they to fear the sun fading away.
Go so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever trusts in him would have life eternal.

Jesus came as the light of the world- to illuminate the souls of humankind to recognize God.
Have a happy and blessed Christmas.

24 December 2006

Incarnation celebration in Ireland


Castebar youth bring in the Christmas season with a concert and pantomime of the account of the birth of Jesus. Although I was not present (it's about 4000 miles away on Ireland's western shore) I got to virtually be there via some pictures. If you haven't check out the Castlebar website you should. It is filled with local news and photos of County Mayo.
I only passed through Castlebar when I visited Ireland back a few years ago, but this is a bustling county town but I digress. I just wanted to again make note of those who recognize Christmas as a time to recognize the birth of Jesus. It is amazing how the birth of one person effected the whole world even though his birth probably went unnoticed at the time. In fact December 25 may not even be the exact date of birth. Some place the birth in late September although some place the conception of Jesus on December 25. That's pretty weird but would agree with what some label as the incarnation. Ancient Ireland probably celebrated this time of year by recognizing it as a turning point in the calendar. Several ancient artifacts (i.e. New Grange) seem to suggest structures built to coincide with the solstice similar to stuff at Stonehenge. Well, a few centuries later a fellow comes speaking of one who came at just the right time, bridging the spiritual with the real- incarnation.
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
I wonder what these Irish thought of this? Was it alien to them? Or had there been a structure that pre-existed that somehow enlighted them, where the shadows became substance?

22 December 2006

A babe in a manger with a polar watching

Besides the traditional manger here I really like the tractor. That's something so artisically placed in the scene that I will never forget.
The polar bear is going to see the infant via tractor to present him a candy cane

What sucks - the cult of Santa


Every year you see him. Every year he comes to your mall or supermarket or parades through the center of town with elves and reindeer, but why on earth do we do it. Has this mystical legend cast a spell on us even though I am sure most would not believe in Santa Claus? Santa is not real yet he still sticks around year to year. He hasn't been superceded in the computer age either. He still does the "Ho, ho, ho" mantra and apparently plans to get kids what they want most.
Two items I have to present about this fellow.
1. The myth and the man. I my research over the years of things Christmas I have come to the conclusion that who we recognize as Santa Claus is a construction of numerous folklores and legends from Europe concerning a kindly gift giver who visits near or at Christmas. In transporting these customs to the states, it seems his identity has become more clear. Now he's a fat bearded man who lives at the North Pole and delivers gifts on Christmas Eve via a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Santa also perfers Coke to Pepsi. This is a far cry from perhaps the most orginal source of legends, Nicolas of Myra. Apparently this kindly man helped out a family by secreting gold in the daughters' stockings back in the days when Constantine was the world super power. Far cry? You decide.

2. Is Santa the patron saint of Christmas? In the last century I believe the Santa myth has pretty much become the center of the Holiday. All you Christmasolgists would probably say "Who cares, it was supposed to be about light and winter in the first place until some guy thought it worked well with the Biblical accounts of Jesus' birth." Well, to make a long story short it was a pragmatic choice. See here for more. (Ironically, I might add, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the festival of lights, takes place within the same time frame.)
Seems like everywhere I go Santa (a myth) gets the main attention. I see it almost everywhere.
Mind you, not all give Santa that type of place. I hope to pay homage to those folks who decided to decorate with manager scenes. I'll post some pictures on the blog if I can.

Lastly, it makes me wonder why Americans keep up this Santa myth- flying reindeer, able to get into your house, able to see you. Santa seems like a miraclous kind of guy in way- kind of like Jesus.

18 December 2006

Radio show a smashing success


The annual radio show I produce and write for Christmas was again a enjoyable time for our live audience. The night before I was unsure it would be up my quality standards because. Working 40+ hours a week with not many hours available on the weekend meant there could be a crunch. It arrived on Saturday.
I finished a 2 sketches just hours before performance. We did not get the rehearsal in that we planned before the show. As I have experienced in my previous production career, the performance is 10 times better than the dress rehearsals. And once again the adage was correct. Only near miss I am aware of was my script having blank pages just as I was about to do a sketch. Fortunately, another script came to the rescue just in time.
Thanks to the ever quotable Phil being generous, there are numerous production pictures. I will probably post most on the radio show blog.

13 December 2006

On the reading list and an audio book to boot

In the midst of the stress leading up to the radio show, I have been reading some and listening some.
Red Moon Rising- An intriguing book detailing the emergence (or more like re-emergence) of round the clock, everyday prayer. Is it a coincidence that others from other places around the world were beginning the same devotion to prayer? So far much of the story takes place in North Western Europe. I've only heard of maybe a half dozen places where there is a 24 hour prayer room in the States. Then again it seems that it is more an underground movement rather than a program. It wasn't "thought up" but just seemed to grow out of urgings of the spirtual kind that began to unite others with the same urge. Inspirational and occasionally challenging without glorifying the "practice."
Everything Christmas- At first I borrowed this book from the library. I then thought it had such useful stuff concerning Christmas (stories, history, songs, recipes) that I went out and found a cheap copy off of Half. Now reasearch for the Christmas show will not be so time consuming.
Himalaya- Finally, Himalaya is the unabridged audio book of Michael Palin's book and documentary travelogue of the same name. Witty and informative. I am intrigued with the many unique people he encounters. I however fell asleep during the part when we met with the Dalai Lama. Nonetheless, Michael Palin's reading (and interpretation in some cases) makes this an enjoyable to escape to highest places on earth.

The artist formally known as Phil

The ever quotable Phil, whose wit and wisdom is oft refered to here, has decided to take up a residence on the Internet. In a decidedly uncharacteristic, yet much anticipated move, Phil has launched out into photography as a means of expression and is using the Net to exploit it. His corner on the market appears to be close ups of flora. His sense of balance and composition work remarkable well with the simplicity of flowering plants and the occassional insect. There is also a mushroom which is a fungus of course.
Check it out.
Also be sure to check the HCC Radio blog, the online companion to the annual holiday event at Harvest Community Church.

05 December 2006

But the ground pulls at my feet


We may look upward and dream but we are always faced with the prospect that gravity clasps us to the terra firma. And so ends the David Crowder Band's opus, A Collision. The final track, The Lark Ascending, is fused with a conversation that I cannot tell whether it really happened or not. David Crowder is talking with some guy named Andy on the phone and the conversation leads into the discussion on who is the lark. David quotes the poem which inspired Vaughn Williams to compose the orginal Lark Ascending as the music starts to ascend until a wall of sound emerges. It reminds me a little of Keith Green. Still, a real incredible ending.
So who is the lark? All David can say is that its not him and with further comments comments seems to suggest "dual citzenship": the result of the collision is the tension of being on earth yet having this transcending identity (presumably one locked in Jesus).
Overall an excellent CD that transcends the typical structure and style of releases that tend toward Christian audiences. I appreciate the band's decision to "collide" some different influences from Loretta Lynn to Hank Williams. Even Sufian Stevans gets a nod. A beautiful collision indeed.
In other colliding news- Kevin Max released a Christmas album!? I was going to lampoon it but apparently it is a rather unique interpretation of some traditional carols (note the review section). He may be the least remembered member of DC Talk (we could of had him at See You at the Party for a bargain.) but he is still loved.