Monday, December 31, 2007

Easing out of the Holidays

We generally keep the tree up until Little Christmas, or the Epiphany. Back in the good old days of permissive polluting, the city would collect all the trees and make a huge pile in DePeyster Field down the block. The night of Jan. 6, there would be an enormous bonfire. The Kiwanis Club would pass out peanuts, the high school choir would sing and we all watched the blaze and imagined pagan spirits rising into the smoky sky (Or was that only me?). Anyway, that has been banned for lo! these many years and there has not been any appropriate holiday ending ritual for me until the past few years when John and Sally and I have gone up to the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland for their Boar's Head and Yule Log Festival.
The cathedral is a beautiful stone building which just celebrated its 100th birthday this past year. They have been doing this for 45 years and it is a splendid pageant. It begins with the Beefeaters marching in, cowled monks bearing torches to light the candles, followed by minstrels, servants bearing the boar's head, ladies of the court singing, tumblers and acrobats, and funny little boys dressed like jesters pulling in the Yule log. Joseph and Mary come in, he leading a donkey with a brave young enactor sitting side ways on its back.Then come singing shepherds (with live sheep which bleat baritone bleats) and the three wise men, all costumed brilliantly. The organ and trumpets are raising the roof, the audience is singing, too, and the choir is trilling away. It is just a joyous occasion in a perfect setting.
We always go to the Christmas Eve service at the Kent Unitarian Universalist church, which is a completely different setting. It's a nice old building, being one of the oldest in Kent, founded by early New England settlers here. A piano. No stained glass or soaring transept. It's a bit like having your friends over for some Christmas caroling. It always ends with the congregation holding candles and singing "Silent Night" in English, German and Spanish.
Even we heathens like a church at Christmas time.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Campaign Fatigue

It's time to go back to the smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear. I know it was we liberal Democrats who pushed for this way of choosing presidential nominees, but the unintended consequences of this eternal campaigning have created this plethora of babbling, blathering bobble heads. Aside from turning this into some kind of religious convocation, they are only saying what they think "we" want to hear. I defy anyone to believe that these "debates" have any relationship to what the eventual president will actually do once in office. The money being wasted on this also makes me furious.
I want a moratorium on media coverage. Can't we just all pretend that they don't exist? I just want all of them to sit down and shut the hell up. Or for a giant hand to reach down out of the clouds and smite them mightily.
With the exceptions of Warren G. Harding and Richard Nixon, those old pols didn't do such a bad job of selecting our leaders.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Memory of My Own

One of my favorite television presentations was on many years ago: "A Christmas Memory" based on a memoir by Truman Capote. Geraldine Page played his eccentric cousin with whom he lived in Alabama, in a house full of other relatives, by whom Truman and his old cousin were treated like outsiders. The time period coincides with my own childhood, particularly a Christmas we had to spend with my father's family in Montgomery. It was early in the Depression and my father's job in Atlanta would not start until the first of the year. We had been living in Philadelphia and New Jersey and the South was another country to my sister, brother and me. Everything smelled different and the people talked funny. (My father's accent had been tempered by a number of years in the northeast.) There was a girl cousin my age who had a playhouse in the back yard which she was not that thrilled to share. I don't know how we all fit into my grandmother's house since my father's sister and her family were also living there, so there were 4 of them and 5 of us, plus my grandmother. Typical of a southern household in spite of no money to spare, there was a maid and my uncle's "man" who, in a white jacket, served his breakfast, switched to a black jacket and chauffeur's cap and drove him to work in a disgracefully rattle trap roadster. Our Yankee mother was amused by this, given that our Christmas dinner was fried squirrel with a bit of buckshot in it.
As far as I was concerned it was a fine Christmas. There was a puppet show at the neighborhood park-"The Night Before Christmas" played out on a tiny stage which was pure magic to my eyes. Santa brought me a tiny teddy bear. I was a little bit envious of my cousin's doll, complete with a little trunk full of clothes, especially as my little bear was wearing only his fur.
It seemed to me that we were in Montgomery for a long time, but I found out later that it was only about 6 weeks. It must have been a terrible time for the adults, but for a self centered 4 year old, it was just about perfect. I have "A Christmas Memory", the Capote one,on video tape. I don't watch it every year, preferring to "ration" it so it doesn't get stale. It's lovely.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Movies and Other Meanderings

Yesterday I went to see "Atonement". I had read Ian McEwen's book and was interested to see how it could be made into a film. The book is written as a novel within a novel, so I figured it would be a difficult process to put on screen. However it was very well done, a terrific movie. If you have read Anthony Lane's review in the New Yorker, ignore it. Somtimes I wonder about that man. When he reviewed "Moulin Rouge" he complained that the love duets were badly done because they never finished the songs. Duh! This time he complains about the scenes at Dunkirk, missing the point entirely that they are presented as the protagonist's hallucinatory impressions.I can't really trust his opinions since he raved about "Titanic", thus causing me to sit through what seemed like several agonizing months waiting for the damned ship to sink and kill those annoying people. Same with "The Aviator", one of the worst films ever to be nominated for an award. I am too cheap to walk out of a theater - and it's fun to bitch.
John and I went to see "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" under the mistaken impression that is was funny. Oy! It is very good, but very depressing. You know what's going to happen almost from the very beginning, but the acting it excellent. I really admire Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but in this movie,in close-ups you can see his dirty, grimy fingernails. He plays a sleazy sort of person, but he has a job as a manager in a financial business. I mean, it's not the sort of place where you'd expect dirty fingernails. I have a feeling that, in real life, he probably smells bad, and I feel sorry for his fellow cast members, especially Marisa Tomei who has to get really close to him, if you know what I mean.
I realize this doesn't fit with the picture of our manger appearing above. I add it as an antidote to the current glut of unwed mothers proliferating throughout the media. I doubt that any of them will be giving birth to a future Messiah. Of course you never know.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Pickle

The first time I spent a Christmas in Germany with Emily and family, I learned about the pickle tradition. A pickle ornament is concealed somewhere in the tree. The child who finds it receives an extra gift. In both my own children and family of origin, this custom would have resulted in another custom: The Trashing of the Tree, along with sundry minor injuries to family pets or whatever living creatures got in the way. It is not that we are a greedy lot, just a tad competitive - all in the spirit of this holy season. of course.
In Akron for the past four years, a group of German craftsmen (and women, naturally) have set up a Chriskindl (that's the way THEY spell it, the former godless commie pinkos; the merchants are from Chemnitz a former East German city. Letters to the editor have noted this.) Markt downtown. It is a great holiday happening, and has become a very popular Christmas event. Their wares range from glass blown ornaments, wooden toys, sugared almonds, Stollen, Bratwurst, beer (no Gluhwein this year)and lots of heavy German food - Kartoffeln (potatoes), sauerkraut. There are musicians, ice skaters and singers.
All this leads to my pickle, which I purchased there last year. There is no small child to search for it, so I hang it right out there. If a small child shows up, perhaps I shall conceal it in the prickly branches and watch the little tad get all scratched up. All in the spirit of the season, of course.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Great Minds

There were two op-ed pieces in the NY Times of Dec. 13, pertinent to my last blog (or screed, if you will), and if I knew how to make a link from here you could read them. You can still go online and check them out. One is by Roger Cohen, titled "Secular Europe's Merit" and the other, by Judith Warner, is titled "Holier Than They". I was pleased to read their opinions, expressed much better than mine, but it is nice to know that I am in the same company.
I did my annual storytelling thing for the Caring Ladies from the Catholic Church over in Stow. I have been doing this for over ten years and I am counting on them to get so old they will forget that they are hearing the same stories. Of course, I am getting so old I may forget, too, but so far I have been able to entertain them. It's a nice gig, because they bring all these great food dishes of indeterminate ingredients. It is always good and so far I have not been poisoned. They are a jolly lot. We had a discussion about who it was who first contacted me and came up with a number of names of ladies since decease, so we could not tell for sure who it was.I finally know a few of their names. They all live in these enormous houses on winding streets in the suburban sprawl of Stow. They have to give me detailed directions, which I always scout out in the daytime so as not to get lost in the forest of extravagant lighting displays.
That reminds me: in the poorer neighborhoods, vinyl blow up displays are popular. Unfortunately, so is the prank of poking them with sharp objects, thus causing the sight of blubbery looking, bright corpses, strewn about the yards. I cannot think of many things more depressing than the sight of a deflated Santa or Rudolph. This must be very traumatic for the kiddies. It happens also at Halloween and Easter - dead lavender bunnies. Sad.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Christian Litmus Test

After reading about Mitt Romney's "John Kennedy" speech, I had to ask myself a question: Besides Iran, Iraq, the UAE, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia (theocracies all), are their any other countries besides the U.S. of A. which require a religious commitment of their leader? Well, I guess the Queen must not convert to the Roman church, but so far as I know the leaders of most other countries pretty much keep their religious affiliation to themselves. It's even possible that there are some - gasp- atheists running things here and there in the world.
We have a born again Christian in the White House as I write this and he has managed to wreak havoc both here and abroad. So during this endless presidential campaign, hopeful candidates are obliged to present their religious bona fides or face the condemnation of the voters via the media, which jumps on every glitch in the various adventures of those who want to be president.
Aside from the concern about Kennedy's being a Catholic, which stirred up fears of the Vatican dictating policy to the land of the free, I don't remember knowing much about any president's religion. It was certainly never mentioned during their campaigns. Somehow the religious right has become the arbiter of candidates' worthiness to run the country and everyone is scared to death of them. In actuality I expect that most people don't give a rat's ass about this, but most people don't vote. And the ones who do, give us all what only they deserve - a George Bush.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Return of the Kapers

For a number of years, I produced for the extended family a little newspaper called The Kent Kapers. It contained family news and a lot of ranting about actual news of the world at large. It started out as "A Growing Voice in the Midwest", but as members of my immediate and extended family began to gad about it became "A Growing Voice in the World", reaching isolated, excited readers from Germany to Fiji and points between.
With the arrival of the Internet, the news which would normally have gone into the Kapers began to to be dissipated though instant communiques from computer to computer. We all began to know too much about each other every day. No more surprising scoops for the Kapers. At this point in the development of the digital age, we even stare at each other through the magic of Skype. We can observe the bed hair, the crooked glasses, the spinach caught in the teeth, the bathrobe worn at noon.
I think the last issue of the Kapers reflected the immortal last words of Little Caesar": "Mother of Mercy, is this the end of the Kent Kapers?"
It was, at least for that version. But here we are again, reincarnated as a blog, called Kent Kapers ll. I have been requested to resurrect the sadly missed publication in this form. I do ask for contributions from far flung readers. I shall try to keep you informed and amused as I figure out how this is supposed to work.