Thursday, December 25, 2008

NOT PJ: What's the Reason for this Folly?

"All I want for Christmas," says Bernard Darnton, "is Christmas":

I wasn't one of those who bought a house near the top of the market with a hundred-percent mortgage and then extended the loan six months later to buy a bloody great big shiny new TV, so the recession has so far passed me by.

The worst effect I've seen is that austerity is now fashionable, even amongst those who aren't feeling the pinch. I hope it's a passing fad and I intend to ignore it, much as I ignore most passing fads. Not having a bloody great big shiny new TV I don't usually find out what the passing fads are until they've passed by, reached their destination, gone to the pub, and are having a lonely drink to drown their sorrows having been deserted by their followers.

Regarding the TV thing, I should add that I don't have anything against shiny expensive gadgets – Note to Santa: I quite like shiny expensive gadgets – it's just that I don't want a top notch telly when the programmes are so crap. Shite in high-definition is still shite.

The worst aspect of austerity-as-fashion-accessory is that it has invaded that stronghold of glorious consumption, Christmas. I know there are supposed to be religious reasons for Christmas – Jesus or Sol Invictus or something – but as far as I'm aware no verse in the Bible mentions the real highlight of Christmas, a fat bloke dressed as a Coke can.

This year our family has decided to cut back. That is, one person in our family has decided to cut back and told everyone else to comply. I certainly wasn't part of this daft decision, being merely a hanger-on by marriage. (And I only find out about this stuff after the fact. Mrs Darnton does all the present buying and associated carry-on at our place.)

I don't think any of us is in financial trouble. I suspect the dig-for-England mentality is just a bit of vaguely Puritan middle-class guilt. A bit like when your mother told you to eat your dinner because people were starving in Ethiopia. Which makes as much sense as putting your coat on because it's cold at the North Pole.

We are now subject to strict present buying rules, which have been laid down by the central authority. Each participant is to buy one present, addressed to a designated recipient, up to a legislated maximum value.

Excruciating Christmas morning horrors await. The primary failure of the centrally-planned Christmas is that not everyone knows the plan. The Christmas Control Authority has been too polite to tell some people that the trimmings have been trimmed. Those without inside knowledge of how the systems works will arrive arms laden and expecting full festivities. Their generosity will be cruelly punished.

The Christmas Control Authority has also become the clearing house for problematic gift-buying decisions. Those who've been assigned a difficult relative or someone they don't know well seem to believe that a bureaucracy clever enough to make up all these rules also knows exactly what everyone wants. No. Expect resources to be misapplied to the novelty sock and amusing coffee mug industries. I'm almost praying for scorched almonds.

On the upside, the atheists are going to have a good time regardless. While the churchgoers are going to church, the atheists will get in a two- or three-bottle head start to make the proceedings bearable, perhaps even entertaining. Without an explicit liquor ban, this will be the festive outlet of choice.

The question for next year is: will the failed experiment result in a return to laissez-faire or a second round of regulation to correct the problems caused by the first lot.

I wish you a raucous and regulation-free Christmas and hope that Santa hasn't been turned back from your place for the crime of overloading his sleigh.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Man the Enlightened Being': - Frank Lloyd Wright's Christmas Message from 1953

I like to post this Christmas message from Frank Lloyd Wright every year around this time ...
so it's probably a good time to wish all of you a great Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year -- that is, every single one of you who doesn't wish increased state bullying upon me and mine and on the rest of the populace of New Zealand who remains here. Just a small number of you, then.

So as the offices here at Not PC Towers begin to shut down for the holidays, I really do want to re-post architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s poetic message on “man the enlightened being” which he used to send out at Christmas time. “The herd disappears and reappears," says Wright's message, "but the sovereignty of the individual persists":

Literature tells about man. Architecture presents him. The Architecture that our
man of Democracy needs and prophecies is bound to be different from that of the
common or conditioned man of any other socialized system of belief. As never
before, this new Free-Man’s Architecture will present him by being true to his
own nature in all such expressions. This aim becomes natural to him in his Art
as it once was in his Religion.

With renewed vision, the modern man will use the new tools Science lavishes upon him (even before he is ready for them) to enlarge his field of action by reducing his fetters to exterior controls, especially those of organized Authority, publicity, or political expediency. He will use his new tools to develop his own Art and Religion as the means to keep him free, as himself. Therefore this democratic man’s environment, like his mind, will never be style-ized. When and wherever he builds he will not consent to be boxed. He will himself have his style...


Read on here for the full message: Man, the Enlightened Being by Frank Lloyd Wright, and remember to have a great individualistic holiday season. And remember this useful advice about responsible holiday drinking: Try to schedule responsibly so you get it all done before lunch.

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DOWN TO THE DOCTORS' Illuminati Conspiracy Overturns Light Bulb Ban

In the New Year Doc McGrath will be regular weekly correspondent. Here's a wee taster for now...

Last week Gerry Brownlee announced, on behalf of the new National-led government, that plans by the previous administration to ban incandescent light bulbs were to be shelved. This is, of course, a fairly minor change in itself - but it offers a glimmer of hope to those who believe that people should be encouraged to think for themselves and act in accordance with their judgment.

The Clark/Cullen/Simpson troika and would-be Light-Bulb Czar David Parker thought they could chop away more of our freedom by spending three-million dollars telling people how they should light up their homes. This blew the fuse for most voters.

Weary after nine years of taking orders, they finally rejected Helen and her endless micromanagement of their lives. And so, the Blue Team once again occupy the treasury benches. Yes, this is the same Blue Team that gave us the Resource Management Abomination, and many New Zealanders are justifiably nervous at what other plans the Nats might have up their sleeves.

However, one of their first moves has been to put the kibosh on the proposed light bulb lunacy. The Libertarianz Party, while recognizing this as a small blow for freedom, is hopeful that it may represent the start of at least three years of quiet but steady deregulation, which is surely the route to prosperity and working our way out of the economic recession.

The word ‘Illuminati’ literally means enlightened ones. Fortunately, the National/ACT/Maori grouping have become enlightened on the issue of light bulbs, and have conspired to defeat Nanny and her army of interfering busybodies.

New Zealanders can choose, if they wish, to use the energy saving fluorescent light bulbs that look like coils of plasticine. I use them at home, but I’m not yet sure how much they will trim off my power bill. But at least I have a choice now. Helen Clark’s ban was an insult to every thinking person.

Look for more from Doc McGrath in the New Year ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SUS'S SOUNDBITE: Let's make Christmas more commercial!

Another sound bite from Susan Ryder.

I love Christmas. I love everything about it, from shopping to decorating to singing carols. It’s my favourite time of the year, as it is for millions around the world.

There’s something about putting your tree up. I put mine up earlier than anybody I know, with the exception of my sister who occasionally pips me to the post. I usually aim for the last Sunday in November, complete with my favourite festive music. My youngest sister, a mother of three, somewhat violently swears the two of us to secrecy, lest my nephews and niece pester her to get their tree up ridiculously early, too.

The music is important, because it simply wouldn’t be Christmas for us without it. The first is from Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters, originally recorded in the 1940s. My late grandfather was a huge Crosby fan and he and Nana had the record. We played it every Christmas until it quite literally warped – and even then we still played it. Several years ago we discovered it on CD, thereby preserving the tradition for the next generation, who I’m delighted to report know all the words of Mele Kalikimaka.


The second is a relative newcomer, “Aaron Neville’s Soulful Christmas”, introduced by one of my brothers-in-law, a musician. Aaron might look like a criminal – and he does - but he has the
voice of an angel. I defy the hardest heart to not be moved by his rendition of “O Holy Night” in particular. Occasionally we will permit an interloper on Christmas Day itself, but generally it’s just Aaron and Bing. Perfect.

Anyway, back to the tree where my decorations are like old friends who visit once a year. Some were picked up in my travels in the days when the offerings in New Zealand were severely
limited, but now, thanks to globalisation, we are spoilt for choice.

No matter the size of the tree, though, or the quality and quantity of the decorations, they come alive with Christmas lights. The lights provide the magic.

Retailers love the Christmas season and for good reason. For many, it’s the busiest time of the year with December sales representing a healthy portion of their turnover. The big annual
spend-up on Christmas gifts is an example of the market at work. Stores are stocked to the brim with goods to sell, employing thousands of staff in the process. Students are gainfully employed
as much-needed additional staff to help offset the costs of their next educational year, or to just get through the summer.

Manufacturers work hard to complete orders on time and freight companies are flat out with seasonal deliveries. The livelihoods of many depend upon the Christmas season, and yet every year we hear the same cries that Christmas has become commercialised, as if it is a bad thing.

But why is that so?

To answer that question, it is worthwhile to explore its origins. Here’s a quick look. Christmas is a Christian holiday and like other Christian holidays, it has its origin in paganism.

Saturnalia was a Roman festival in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture. It began on 15 December and lasted for seven days of feasting and revelry, just prior to the winter solstice that
fell around 25 December on the Julian calendar. The solstice included glorification of Mithra, the god of light who several centuries later became known as the god of the sun. The Roman
Catholic Church had the habit of absorbing pagan traditions into Christendom, converting the holiday commemorating the birth of the sun god into “Christ Mass”, a ceremony honouring the birth of the Son of God.


However, Christmas-time celebrations prior to the 1800s still featured much pagan revelry among the British commoners, at times little more than wild carousals. It is believed that this
drunken revelry had much to do with Oliver Cromwell – never much of a partygoer – going so far as to outlaw Christmas in the 17th century, forcing it underground for a time. This ban was
extended to many of the early North American colonies where “violators” were fined five shillings. After its reinstatement, Christmas still bore much of its earlier debauchery, but some of
our current traditions started to appear. For example, caroling began with groups of individuals visiting houses in the community singing songs in exchange for eggnog. Gift-giving, however, was still extremely limited, and virtually unknown within families.

The traditions of several countries are involved. The Yule log came from Scandinavian mythology, “Yule” being the Anglo- Saxon term for the months of December and January. After
most Scandinavians had converted to Christianity, “Yule” became synonymous with Christmas.

By the 17th century, the Germans had converted the Christmas tree, originally a sign of fertility, into a Christian symbol of rebirth. The Dutch called Saint Nicholas, an altruistic bishop from the
4th century, ‘Sinterklaas’, who was to become ‘Santa Claus’ in the USA. In 1823 the American professor Clement Clarke Moore wrote the delightful poem entitled A Visit from Saint Nicholas,
better known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.'

But perhaps the greatest change occurred after the publication in 1843 of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, providing lessons on charity and the importance of caring for family and
friends. As a result, Christmas became a joyful, domestic holiday focusing on children in particular. It was an illustrator with “Harper’s” magazine, who first depicted Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole in the latter half of the 19th century, while Coca-Cola ran commercials in 1931 showing Santa as the children’s gift-giver, as we know him today. Rudolf, the much-loved ninth reindeer appeared in 1939 via an advertising agent on behalf of his retailing client, all of which paved the way for the commercialism seen annually for decades.

The festive colour and sparkle brightened the dark days of the long northern winters, with the seasonal sales providing welcome respite during the slower trading months.

But what of Christmas down under, occurring as it does in early summer. Is it not odd to see traditional winter celebrations imposed by early settlers upon warm, sunny days? Christmas
cards depicting robins on snow-covered mailboxes? Rugged-up Carolers sipping hot toddies?
Not at all … if that’s what you like. Whether you prefer a traditional roast meal or a barbecue outside, a formal dinner or informal brunch, a church service to celebrate the birth of Christ
or a walk along the beach, a large, rowdy family affair or a quiet day indulging your favourite pastimes, is entirely up to you.

And rather than decrying its commercialism, I prefer to embrace it for the wealth it provides and the jobs it creates. It would be a mean-spirited Scrooge who begrudged another his
income during the Season of Goodwill. Do some people overstretch themselves fi nancially? Sadly, yes. But the truth is that nobody forces them to do so. Beautiful doesn’t have to be big and bold. It never did. Yes, the Santa sleepwear is tacky. Yes, the reindeer antlers are tragic on anyone old enough to pay full price at the pictures and Michael Jackson’s 'I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus' (I really did!) drives me nuts, too. But it all vanishes in comparison with the beauty of a Christmas tree lit up in the darkness, or the enrapturing melodies of some of the most beautiful music ever written.

Not to mention the face of the little one who gazes upon the simplicity of the nativity scene in the stable where the celebration of Christmas, as we know it today, all began.

May Father Christmas be good to you all.


This articloe originally appeared in the Franklin E-News. Get more of Sus' Soundbites here. And have a Salacious Saturnalia!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oops!

I think I’ve overdone the holiday reading again …

Holiday2008-09

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