Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Merry Christmas from Old Friends

It was a favorite from the Christmas 2005 Cup of Joe. And since numerous readers requested it again, then here it is, and hope you have as fine a Christmas/Solstice/Whatever for 2006 as this wee fellow is having. Stick out your tounge for Christmas if it makes you feel festive.

As for me, here is a Christmas image from me (well, actually Chuck Jones and a guy named Seuss) to all of you.

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Camera Obscura - 101 Christmas Classics Free

Never mind scouring the television schedules or the mangled stacks of DVDs in some video store bins looking for the Christmas special or movie or even the hard-to-find parodies of Christmas' past.

Now you can watch what you want, when you want and all for free and online.

The Fanpop Christmas Spot offers 101 favorites all for your holiday pleasure. Yes, 101 classics just for you, dear readers.

There are the obligatory favorites of Charlie Brown, Rudolf, Claymation favorites and even movies like "It's A Wonderful Life" and cartoons galore, from "The Simpsons," "South Park", and even Batman and The Justice League. Plus there are old commercials and the seldom-scene-since-it-aired Chuck Jones and Richard Williams version of "A Christmas Carol."

Music videos are here too, from Bing and Bowie to Judy Garland and much more. Plus TV specials like"Mythbusters" and even Ali G.

But the must-have and must-see entry is one from the late 1970s -- the complete "Star Wars Christmas Special." It is beyond rare and yes, often beyond bizarre.

The links are all here at The Christmas Spot.

Christmas Card Idiocy Redux

The faux shock of the personal Christmas card sent out by Governor Bredesen continues to swirl - much like the swirl that follows when a toilet is flushed and likewise carries a variety of human waste with it.

Truly, people - the intolerance and hate and self-serving partisan dreck surrounding the anger of Bredesen's personal Christmas greeting - has gone on and on and on. Makes me wonder if some Neo-Cons need some time away from staring into The Abyss of Imaginary Woe and perhaps consider instead time spent contemplaing the bona-fide generosity and good will which the rest of us bask in during December.

Since banning all images beyond, beyond --- well, hell, what DO these folk want on a Christmas Card?

Surely not am image of a trio of Zororastrian judicial astrologers from Ancient Persia named Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar riding camels to visit a child in some barn!! There may even have been more such Easterners arriving at the Nativity setting!! Some scholars even say that "Caspar" was a form of the Persian name of "Jaspar," whose real name was
Rustaham-Gondofarr Suren-Pahlav of the Suren-Pahlav Clan, the ruler of the eastern-greater Iran, (via WikiPedia). Perhaps we should all just limit Christmas gifts to gold, frankencense and myrrh.

And an image of some snow-covered log-cabin homestead? Obviously that's a reference to anti-materialism and Global Warming.

One *cough* minister, Patsor Maury Davis of Cornerstone Church in Madison has been widely quoted as saying:
"Christmas ought to be kept pure," and compared the governor's gesture to sending out a picture of a Klansman on Martin Luther King Day

How about a picture of a decorated Christmas tree? Well .... even that is some kind of non-American European notion which elicited the ire of ministers who claimed the "tree" was anti-God, too. (See here)

Blogger Roger Abramson offers this thought:

I realize that asking conservatives of the more whacked-out variety to use good judgment in their political discourse is basically asking for the moon, but it kills me how they seem to have dropped the ball here. If they had any sense, then instead of focusing on the religion issue, what they should have said was how great it was that in this period of gloom and doom, in which Democrats are cackling about the failures of the Bush administration's foreign policy, here is a Democratic governor highlighting--and implicitly endorsing--a relative success."

Using Christmas and politics is ... well, it's a common theme. Here's a sample of a speech which occurred last week in Greene County:

"The Rev. Alexander told the audience Thursday night that those in the right wing of the Republican Party would have “all kinds of problems” if they found out that Jesus was a liberal.

“It would remove one half of their vocabulary. They would no longer know what to say about us Democrats because they couldn’t call us ‘liberals’ because Jesus was one,” he said.

Alexander compared the Pharisees of Jesus’ time to many Republicans of this period of U.S. history.

“Who was the party of the rich? ... Who were the people that were guaranteed that nobody ever got onto their turf? ... That wanted to maintain the status quo? ... That didn’t want to change things?” he asked rhetorically.

“They had to do whatever necessary to maintain power. They had to protect the elite. They had to make sure that the rich got richer. They had to make sure that the poor continued to remain under foot and kept out. And they had to make sure that nobody ever did anything that would change anything,” Alexander said.

He continued, “Jesus said to these Pharisees the most scathing words ever recorded in all Scripture. He said, ‘Woe unto you, you scribes and Pharisees — hypocrites.”

Perhaps a better indication of how some people get the whole idea of Christmas - it is not merely a chance to enhace the national economy, as President Bush said yesterday: "Go shopping." The following is from the Mountain Press in Sevierville:

Nikki Presnell, a teacher in grades six through eight who coordinated the upper-grade side of the fair, said she wanted her students to learn that the concept of Christmas is not all Americanized.

"Everyone celebrates Christmas in a different way," Presnell said. "(The students) also learn geography and where each country is. They've done basic research on the country, and they draw maps and flags, as well as find the Christmas information.

"The students also work with partners," Presnell said, "and that was interesting because you had to depend on someone else and show teamwork and how important that was. Some of the (older) groups worked with the younger students and differentiated instructions."

Sixth-graders Kaity Dunn and Kayla Durham worked together on a project about Greece.

"Instead of Christmas trees, they use this," Kayla said, pointing to a frame with holy water and some green branches around it.

"(Students) have been really high on this from the beginning," Ball said. "When we presented this to them, they were excited.

"We've had a lot of parents and community members involved," she said. "Parents found some of the recipes and cooked traditional dishes that they brought in to share with the kids, and they helped make some of the arts and crafts. This is turning into an entire community event, not just a school event."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Almost A Theremin Christmas

How to explain the thought that arrived unbidden in my brain last night -- "I'd like to hear some Christmas Theremin music".

It's not like I'd just been listening to some Theremin music or had been pondering on the odd and weirdly hypnotic sounds of the strange device. The thought arrived in and of itself, fully formed, like a stranger who appears in front of you claiming to be an old friend.

And so there it was - not borne of some distant memory of Christmas Theremin music Past, or a contstant yearning deep within my flabby heart. Just a sudden craving for something which I did not even think existed. (NOTE: see the update at the end of this post for a most important addition.)

The Theremin, true, fascinates me and has since I learned of it way back in my childhood. Others have, like me, from time to time, expressed interest in ordering one of those kits where you build one. But I never have and no one I know owns one. I did once take piano lessons for some years and yet never moved past the playing (and poorly too, even after six years of ill-attended lessons) of "Silent Night". So while I love all kinds of music, playing an instrument or even singing a song isn't something I can do well or at all.

But a Theremin - there is no keyboard, no fret, no touching the device at all, no way to identify how to evoke a note or a sound in a particular key except for the player's ability to find it by hearing or remembering how a tune sounds or is played. It's sounds are made by memory and electrical fields created by your own body - the stuff of science fiction. A wealth of Theremin related information can be found here, if you know nothing of the instrument, made in the 1920s by a Russian physicist named Lev Theremin.

And so the search was on across the internets, starting, naturally, with YouTube. And I did discover a couple of examples of people trying to play a Christmas song on a Theremin - with terrible results. So I went Google Video and even to the vast collection of music on Odeo. The results were meager. (The curious can look here or here, though these attempts are just awful.)

And not only was there no, or just awful, Christmas Theremin music -- good music samples of the Theremin were not to be found in abundance.

However I did find two astonishing examples of exemplary Theremin musicianship. The first I will add here is from Japan - where else - and features 10 musicians playing a variation of the Theremin. It's called a Matryomin and is built to resemble a Russian nesting doll, or Matryoshka. The musicians play a segment from Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, in E Minor, Opus 95, "From The New World." Keep in mind as you watch how difficult it would be for 10 people to play this on key and in synch with each other.

Still, that did not whet my Theremin Desire. Played by a master, the music created is ethereal and beautiful. Luck was with my search as I found the following video of Lydia Kavina - the last student taught by Theremin himself, whose work was featured in the soundtrack of the movie "Ed Wood." Lydia, surrounded by the appropriate amount of billowing fog and mood lighting performs "Claire de Lune". No, it isn't a Christmas song - but it somehow quenched my thirst for .... whatever it was I was seeking. Enjoy.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments below, the ever-intrepid Cinemonkey was able to locate some honest-to-Pete Christmas Theremin music!! Kudos, Cinemonkey. Here are the links. A complete Christmas Theremin music CD is available here, which includes some samples. And a podcast from Theremin world from Sunday, December 17 devotes part of the broadcast to Theremin Christmas, which you can access here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Evil Christmas Card of Gov. Bredesen

Some Tennessee bloggers - and a few national ones too - have been angrily deriding the Christmas card created by Governor Bredesen because they do not like the picture it features, which the governor painted himself.

The image is of a woman the governor met while touring Afghanistan, and includes the following thoughts:

May the peace and joy of this Christmas season be with you and your loved ones throughout the coming year," the card reads.

"While it may seem odd to put a portrait of a young Muslim woman on a Christmas card, this Season reminds us that He loves His children most of all," Bredesen stated on the back of the card. . . The back of the card closes with, "May the miracle of Christmas help bring peace to this young woman and her wounded land."

Yeah, that's just evil - wishing peace at Christmas.

Both the Neo-Conservative bloggers and even the Islamic Center in Nashville share the same outrage at the card - why? Simple. They are all Fundamentalists who seek to destroy and deride all things Not Them.

The rhetoric spewed by these Fundamentalists includes:

But on the serious side, why couldn'’t Bredesen have just sent out a simple card with a nativity scene, a tree, a door or a wreath, a dove, heck, any number of traditional Christmas cards.No, apparently it'’s not that simple. He just couldn'’t resist shaking it up politically." -- Terry Frank

"Looks to me like he'’s using a Christian holiday to pander to a religion that has nothing to do with Christmas. Why not put a Menorah on the card then? -- Toni

"The way I feel about the Governor's Christmas Card is likely similar to the way African American women feel about rich and powerful black men taking up with white women. -- Kleinheider

"This obsessive kissing of Muslim posterior does nothing except make us look weak in their eyes. Plenty of Muslims feel entitled to having the kaffir bow down to them, and self-aggrandizing idiocy like painting a Muslim girl and putting her on your Christmas card plays right into that belief. They'’re laughing at us, for God'’s sake." -- comments from Powerline

"We know God loves all his children, but Christianity has plenty of its own imagery for the holiday; we hardly need to borrow from Muslims for holiday greetings, especially these days". -- Captain's Quarters

All their whining, deeply rooted in xenophobia and narrow-minded concepts, is yet another proof that Fundamentalists are a bane on humanity.

They despise individualism, or any thought process that exists outside their miniscule reality. When they oppose something, they always couch it in terms of war. The state, the nation and the world suffer from such Fundamentalists daily and the only positive here is that such tirades at least clearly mark these witless and dangerous tyrants so the rest of us can avoid them.

Wonder if it's ok when a Christmas card has a snowflake on it? Or maybe a reindeer? What about those cards that are homemade photos of the family who sends them?

The likely answer is No. Christmas can have no personal meanings. It is the Fundamentalist way or no way at all - or they will declare war on you.

This wasn't the Official State of Tennessee Christmas Card. It was a personal one from the Governor to those he chose to share with. I do like how Brittney at NIT expressed it:

I honestly cannot believe that people are getting worked up about a Christmas card that WASN'T EVEN FOR THEM. Unless it has your address on it, find something else to get all peeved over."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Link Searches for Cup of Joe, 2006

I used to make a game of entering odd phrases into a Google or Yahoo search engine a few years ago, like typing a nonsense word like "spog" or "frunkle". Today, "spog" could take you to a page for "st. paul's oculomotor group" or to the urban dictionary definitions where spog is now -- uh, meaningful. And "frunkle" is a user-name or something.

It's sort of eerie to see how the search engines of late 2006 try and understand gibberish, and how gibberish isn't gibberish.

It's also most fascinating to track the search words and phrases that will bring visitors here to have a Cup of Joe.

Here's a sample of some recent entries:

1. Robin Wilhoit Naked -- who is looking for nekkid photos of this Knoxville newscaster? Perhaps she is searching herself to make sure "those photos" are NOT on the internets. More likely, there is in fact a sub-culture on the internets who hunt for nekkid pics of local newscasters. Ew.

2. Erotic Pigeon Forge Getaway -- yeah when I think erotic getaway, I think Comedy Barn and discount stores.

3. CSI Facial Reconstruction Toy -- wow, they make those? that's kinda cool.

4. Masterbation for Peace -- um, if you do not know how to spell it ... naw, I guess it doesn't matter.

5. Whale Tails -- this from two places recently - NASA and the U.S. Senate. And they found the post here a legitimate informative one, describing slang for seeing some babe's g-string protruding over the back of her jeans. At least they didn't search for "coin slot."

Of course the hands-down winner this year of our lord 2006 for search entries that have brought readers to this page from single continent, and by reckoning, brought over 7,000 hits since July is "Cats That Look Like Hitler." Best link-post I ever did.

Having It Both Ways

What happened?

Via Christian G.

More Faux News idiocy here. What a load.

Tennessee's Legal Limbo or The Annexation Dance

The wiggly rules about annexation and defined growth boundaries have shown up in two cases in East Tennessee and revealed yet again that property owners' rights are a fading remnant in America.

I admit I am perplexed by the notion, as reported in the KNS story, that only one person was eligible to vote in a South Knoxville annexation proposal on the ballot .... because if only one person was eligible, why place it on an election ballot?? Even more odd is that this Legendary Sole Voter moved into the area which allowed him to vote just prior to the election and rented a home owned by the developer of the annexation site. And after the election, he moved out and the home was destroyed.

The KNS story is here, and R. Neal at KnoxViews also has some questions about this very strange deal.

Meanwhile, in Rogersville - or rather, outside Rogersville - 130 homeowners are suing to prevent annexation of their property. And again, questions arise over whether or nor election laws were followed since this proposal was also on the ballot. The suit was filed by Knox attorney, David Buck, who news reports (via Kingsport-Times News) are eager to describe as:

ssociated with the Knoxville-based anti-annexation group Citizens for Home Rule.

It claims that the people included in the annexation did not want to become part of the city and that the annexation is not reasonably necessary for people living in the affected area.

The lawsuit also makes several claims of technical flaws in the annexation.

For example, it alleges that the plan of services was not advertised for the required 15 days. There is also an allegation that there was not three copies of the plan of services and annexation ordinance available for public viewing at City Hall, the water department and the courthouse, as is also required.

Rogersville City Attorney Bill Phillips was served with the lawsuit Wednesday. He said he doesn't believe there were any technical flaws with the annexation, but if there were they will be corrected."

I love how government can magically go back and revise and re-date documents to make everything legal and correct.

Most notable in both the Knox and Rogersville stories is that these expansions go outside the 20-year growth boundaries which the state demanded cities/counties create. But those boundaries seem to have little meaning -- and worse, the law creating such boundaries also changed the nature of legal actions concerning annexations, so that in legal confrontations, all burden of proof is now on the property owner, and not on cities. The cities no longer have to prove their needs for annexation in court.

Attorney Phillips says with the new law in place, annexation opposition usually fails:

Under the old law, there were many annexations that were overturned by lawsuit," Phillips said. "Under the new law, the burden of proof has switched to the persons being annexed, rather than the town having to prove reasonableness of the annexation. With that burden of proof being switched, it makes a big difference.

"There are very few lawsuits that have been filed since the new law took effect, probably because it's difficult to win."

NOTE: Citizens for Home Rule is an advocacy group supporting rights of individuals. From their web site:

"CHR is dedicated to the preservation of the legal rights of its members in the matter of unwanted annexation, and provides the legal and financial resources to file suit and block such annexations.

We believe CHR is the most litigious advocacy organization in the State of Tennessee, and we are the City of Knoxville's most frequent and most successful litigant."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

im in ur magazine, killin ur n00z.

If you don't understand the headline of this post, then you are not part of the You selected by Time Magazine as Man of the Year in their issue with a faux mirror on the cover.

So instead of You, they should have said Us. Because most of Us know what's what when it comes to the internet, blogs, YouTube, iPod, and other personal computing practices.

Or they could have said Some of You. Or some of Us.

Next year, Time will announce that Them is the winner of their MOTY title.

(oh for the love of -- fine, fine, explanation of the headline on this post can be found here)

Border Wall Company Hires Illegals

I told you this was going to happen. I said it in April about the idiocy of building a Hi-Tech-Mega-Super Wall on the border with Mexico.

A company has agreed to plead guilty for hiring illegals to build the wall to keep illegals out.

A Southern California fence-building company and two executives pleaded guilty Thursday to knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and agreed to pay a combined penalty of $5 million. The executives could also go to prison.

The penalty is one of the biggest fines ever imposed in an immigration case, and the case represents a rare instance in which prosecutors brought criminal charges over the hiring of illegal immigrants."