December Days

by Brad Nelson12/2/17

What are you doing to beat back “Winter Festival”? Do you say a hearty and unabashed “Merry Christmas?”

What are you doing to stoke the Christmas Spirit? Will you be traipsing around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols? What Christmas albums are you listening to in-home or out-of-home perhaps on your mobile device? What Martha Stewart-like projects are you and the family up to? Stringing cranberries and popcorn to decorate the tree? Are you perhaps trying to outdo Chevy Chase with Christmas lighting of your home? What treats, candies, cookies, or drinks do you enjoy making?

How are you beating back the cold, empty, alienated strains of commercialized, materialized, pre-packaged “Winter Festival” in order to bring warmth and meaning to this season? Are you making any effort at all?

I know we have a creative bunch here. Share your stories, adventures, artistry, techniques, and thoughts on enjoying December and this entire Christmas season. Spread the good cheer. No negative vibes (unless you have a good story, even if poignant). No “I can’t do that—who do you think I am, Martha Stewart?” Everyone can do something.

Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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97 Responses to December Days

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I’m in a rehab center, and I don’t know if I can be out by Christmas. But I do play Christmas music as well as other music on my laptop this time of year. There isn’t much more than I can do, especially given my current lack of a will to live.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I see you’re playing our home version of “Doom & Gloom.” Here’s something to cheer you up. It’s our official online Advent Calendar. It’s something I found for free online.

      Tomorrow is The First Sunday of Advent. I’ve hung a traditional wreath on the main banner of the web site to fulfill that part of the liturgy. There are always little things we can do to dress things up. But if one is bound and determined to be unhappy, nothing will work.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    Elizabeth used to put up an Advent wreath with 4 candles, which she would light each Sunday (she would light one the first week and light an additional one — there is theoretically a specific meaning to each — each week). But that’s down in our old house basement, and there would be no place to put it in our hotel room. I have no idea what if anything her plans are this year. I believe I discussed our Christmas experience last year (not too great, but all right) in last year’s discussions.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I usually get an inexpensive calendar at World Market. It’s filled with cheap chocolate but is a welcome brick in the entire wall of December. For now the virtual one will have to do.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Note that behind the door of December 4 in the StubbornThings Advent Calendar is a nice duet with Bing and (I think) Doris Day.

      • Gibblet says:

        This is the best rendition I’ve heard! It sounds like Bing and Doris really had fun recording the song.

        We had Carols and Communion By Candlelight last night at the Baptist Church. The children acted out the Nativity behind a shadow screen while the Christmas Story was being narrated.
        We sang wonderful Christmas songs, such as “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, “What Child Is This?”, and “O’ Holy Night”. We also sang more contemporary songs: “Adore Him”, “What A Beautiful Name It Is”, and my solo “You’re Here”.
        It was a wonderful time with my church family, and a great start on celebrating Christmas!

        The weather this week is predicted to be all golden orbs! I’m hoping to bundle up and put some Christmas lights on the trees we can see from our living room.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Back when my father was alive, we would get a tree and decorate it (a collective family effort I still have fond memories of doing), including the standard Christmas lights. We never did anything outdoors. But we would go through the area on Christmas Eve to see what nice displays were up — a practice Elizabeth and I continued for many years, until our health got the better of us.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Those are wonderful memories to have, Timothy.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              We had a lot of bulbs, some relatively ordinary and some a bit fancier. I preferred putting those on. After that was done, and my father had put up the lights, we would put on icicles (foil, of course).

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Tell me you’re so old school that you used to hang tinsel made out of lead.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I think it was aluminum foil. We bought it each year, and I wasn’t the one buying it.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                My dad, probably in anticipation of the lead tinsel being banned (probably rightly so…it can be absorbed through the skin) stocked up on it before it went off the market so he had a few packets left to trim his antique tree using his collection of antique lights and ornaments. It would not be easy to put my hands on a photo of it, but I’m sure they exist. It was gorgeous.

                But the environmentally-friendly shiny crap will do.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Your delightful enthusiasm and lightness of spirit shine through, Gibblet. Sounds like you had a lot of good spirit. I was hoping people would be open to sharing their moments, ideas, thoughts, etc., as we go forth in the darkest month of all, and yet ironically one of the brightest.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    A funny graphic I happened upon that just seemed to have “December 4th” written all over it:

    Getting Lit

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Does she have the same hairdresser who did Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Janice Rand) on the first year of Star Trek? (Rand was an interesting character — a blatant sex object who was also very competent in her duties.)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Yes, she could be a dead ringer for Yeoman Rand. The Utopian vision of the Progressives (which Roddenberry was) wasn’t always joyless and sexless. Rand was competent even while doing her job in a miniskirt. Must have been good for morale compared to today’s man-hating feminists who make everyone walk on eggshells around them.

  4. Steve Lancaster says:

    As a Jew I make an effort to wish every progressive/liberal I meet a Heartfelt Marry Christmas. It seems to put them off their feed.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      And a Happy Hanukkah to you, Steve. The first day of Hanukkah is December 13. Feel free to fill us in (if that’s possible or desirable) of what that day means and what the typical activities are.

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    We are decorating our Christmas Tree while listening to Bing’s “Merry Christmas” album as well as choral music sung by King’s College Choir of Cambridge. These will be followed by Ray Conniff’s “Christmas Album.” We will close with “White Christmas” an album cut by the Boston Pops Orchestra directed by Arthur Fielder.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      That’s a heavy-hitting lineup, Mr. Kung. What….no “Simply, having a wonderful Christmas time?”. It’s funny, the first search of “Worst modern Christmas songs” brought up this site in which McCartney’s tune is listed as #1 (and not in a good way). Hate the John Lennon song as well. Turn it off every time I hear that dog.

      But I digress. As Michael Palin said in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “This is supposed to be a ‘appy occasion. Let’s not argue over ‘ho killed ‘ho.”

      Let’s just say it doesn’t get much better than Bing for Christmas music and leave it at that.

  6. pst4usa says:

    I just had an occasion to share some thoughts with two kids about Christmas. As it happens, I was at a memorial service for their GG as they put it, (great grandmother). One of the little girls asked me what some of the people meant by she is in a better place, (the girl was 9). So I told her that these folks saying this were with GG at the time she died and that they were praying with her and they knew she would go to Heaven because they knew she had asked Jesus into her life long ago and she would be with Him. I asked her if she knew why we have such a big celebration for Christmas? No, she said, but she loved it. Well said I, Christ is the first word in Christmas and we celebrate His birth because He is God’s son, and He came into the world 2000 years ago, so that we would be saved. Christmas is a big deal, for her, for the rest of us and for her GG because of what He did for us.
    I am not sure she had heard this before, (probably from GG, but this event made it real), and I hope the kids parents don’t trash everything I said to her, but the seeds were planted and I will trust in Him to nurture and care for them.

    Have a very Merry Christmas everyone.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Nice story, Pat. I would imagine these days it’s difficult for things to get passed down directly from the GG’s or GF’s to the GD’s.

      • pst4usa says:

        Thanks Brad, but I was just trying to answer what I was doing to beat back the “Winter Festival”, and this happened this week end, so I thought it fit the question, and this is a very condensed version. these kids did not live that close to the Great Grandmother so they may not have gotten to see her enough for it to have been passed down.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Pat, passing down inherited wisdom via channels deeper than either Facebook or Jimmy Kimmel is more than enough cause for holiday warm-fuzzies. You have fuzzed your way to a good one.

  7. Timothy Lane says:

    I will briefly discuss one of my gift-giving experiences from the early 1970s. My sister Theodora and I went in together on family gift-giving — she had the ideas of what to give, and I had the money to pay for them. I don’t remember most of them, except that we gave my Aunt Erma a copy of Pauline”s, the memoir of a noted madam from Bowling Green (the city is the much-praised subject of the song “Kentucky Sunshine”). It seems to have worked well, but next year she was in Atlanta, and has been there ever since.

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I recently watched Ron Howard’s “Grinch” starring Jim Carrey. Carrey has some hilarious schtick. My favorite is when, in the guise of Santa Claus and in the midst of plundering Whoville of all its Christmas paraphernalia, little Cindy Lou Who is woken up by the ruckus. The Grinch is a good liar, of course, and makes some excuse for why he is taking the family’s Christmas tree.

    Little Cindy Lou Who is fooled by the fib and then asks the Grinch a question not glib: “Mr. Grinch, what is Christmas all about?” The Grinch loses his cool and his friendly Santa persona and yells “Revenge!” And then quickly changes it and says with his termite-infested smile, “presents.”

    Little Cindy Lou Who, who is having a crisis of conscience about Christmas, replies in a disappointed manner, “Ohhhh…I thought so.”

    This is basically a secular Christmas show despite the word “Christmas” central to it. That is, it’s a winter festival show where the point is social “niceness” instead of about getting and receiving presents. And I suppose that’s about as ambitious as most of us can hope to be this time of year, although there is much to be said about receiving a welcome and useful gift.

    What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      In the original animated version, the Grinch tells Cindy Lou Who that there’s some sort of defect or damage to the Christmas tree, so he’s taking it to his workshop to fix it and then return it. He then gives her a glass of water and tucks her back into bed. She doesn’t ask him what the purpose of Christmas is, perhaps because the Whos’ singing of Christmas gives a good hint that the answer isn’t presents or feasting (even if they do like those) — which is why at the end they sing despite losing all their Christmas decorations and presents, and all their food.

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Still one of my favorites:


    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Great cartoon. Reminds me of Larson.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, that could make future Christmases a bit more difficult.

      Incidentally, TCM has the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, with Reginald Owens as Scrooge (and in which he fires Bob Cratchit on the way home for hitting him with a snowball, knocking off his hat — and charges him an extra schilling because his hat is worth more than a week’s pay for Cratchit), at 12:15 pm Saturday,

    • pstmct says:

      Brad one of the reindeer names is missing, Olive’s name is not on the wall? That’s right you know the one, Olive, the other reindeer. Sorry for the bad joke, I just could not resist. Merry Christmas Brad and all of the fine folks here at Stubborn Things.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        And a Merry Christmas (and Happy New Year, just in case) to you and the rest.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        “Olive the other reindeer.” LOL. Gee…all these years and I’ve never heard that one. My older brother cracked me up the other day when he started singing, “Check the balls on that big collie.” I’d never heard that one before either.

  10. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    One of my favorite Christmas albums is Roger Whittaker’s The Roger Whittaker Christmas Album. It’s warm. It’s whimsical. And with songs such as “The Governor’s Dream” it’s even dramatic. On it are a variety of songs sung to good effect by Mr. Whittaker’s smooth but character-filled voice. There may even be a whistling number in there as well. By the way, it’s a steal at $5.99 for downloadable MP3s.

    Well, having listened to this, earnestly looking for some Christmas spirit, it hit me how good of a singer he is. If not actually embraced bythe Christmas Spirit, I at least was left with a hankering for some more Whittaker so I purchased his The Christmas Song. I haven’t listened to it yet but from the track listing you can see it’s comprised of more traditional and familiar songs.

    If you have no Christmas Whittaker at all, I’d recommend starting with his “The Roger Whittaker Christmas Album” precisely because it isn’t packed with traditional songs. It’s a wonderful departure. But these songs are by no means secular. This isn’t “Frosty the Snowman” stuff. It’s very Christmassy and religious.

    The album starts off with what I consider the best song: Hallelujah, It’s Christmas. Later there’s a dose of whimsy with perhaps an Irish lilt with Darcy The Dragon (Lyrics.) It’s not a great song but it’s playful without being “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Class shows.

    And indeed (I’m listening to the album now), Roger does have a whistling number with “Guten Abend, gute Nacht.” Whatever you say about him, the man can whistle. And by no means does it pain me to say that he’s better than Crosby in this regard.

    “Country Christmas” is a fine song as well. I’m quite sure a country star would do it with more twang and steel gee-tars. But Whittaker gives it is trademark folksy smoothness. Folks today, suckled on modern trash, would call it corny. Luckily some small part in me has survived to recognize this kind of quality. Modern culture is a powerful acid eating away at all quality.

    That said, my least least favorite song on the album is “A Time for Peace.” It’s just a bit dour. But the album soon picks up with the waltzy “Christmas Is Here Again.” This is an extremely Roger Whittakeresque song. Like him or hate him, this is his signature type of song.

    Whittaker is a good singer. And there’s no struggle deciphering what he’s singing. He sings each word quite clearly. Good singers tend to do that.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I have a couple of Roger Whittaker CDs on MP3, but neither includes any of his Christmas songs. I do play them as part of my musical sequence. Some of his Christmas songs are scattered about on various anthology Christmas CDs.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        My older brother introduced me to Mr. Whittaker’s music back in the 80’s (or late 70’s). He had just been through a divorce and was taking comfort where he could…including James Taylor as well.

        They don’t make them like Roger anymore.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I first heard of Whittaker while living in Europe. He was much more popular there and in former British Colonies than in the U.S.A.

      As I recall, he was from Rhodesia or South Africa or some other former British Colony in Africa.

      Whittaker is a good singer. And there’s no struggle deciphering what he’s singing. He sings each word quite clearly. Good singers tend to do that.

      Absolutely true. From the time I was in grade school choir until I studied voice, I was taught to enunciate my words clearly.

      This habit was reinforced when I studied German. I noticed how much easier it was for me to understand people who spoke German clearly than those who ate their words. I try to return the favor to foreigners when I speak English. After all, the goal of language is communication.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Some of his songs, such as “Durham Town”, show a British background.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I checked in wikipedia, and he was born and raised in Kenya, and started college in South Africa. He soon moved to Britain to complete his college education, and also began singing locally. This eventually became his career.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          And I read an interview he gave once. The song that boosted his career, “The Last Farewell,” was one that had come in second in some kind of amateur song-writing contest. How the song eventually came to his ears, I don’t remember.

  11. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Happy Winter Solstice. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to sacrifice a virgin or not. I don’t remember the old rituals that are required to make sure the sun comes back. Will a transgender do?

    But I believe it will come back and the longest day (not the one starring John Wayne) is the opposite of today and then the days will gradually increase in length. That’s if you are north of the equator. And if you’re at or near the north pole, you gotta be gettin’ tired of the darkness by now.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I imagine those at or near the North Pole would also get tired of the incessant light in 6 months, though it’s probably better than the constant darkness. I would guess that a transgender would do if he/she (or perhaps we should use “it”) was a virgin.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        A series I binge-watched lately, “Shetland,” had one of their characters complain about the constant light. Many found it more difficult to sleep. The Shetland Islands are north of the Scottish mainland.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I visited Norway in July of 1974 and it never got dark. It just got somewhat less light. I recall going to bed around 11:00pm and even with the drapes drawn, it was not dark inside. Sadly, the drapes were not lined.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Norway is an extensive country north to south, so I’m curious if that was in the north (say, Narvik) or in the south (say, Oslo or Stavanger or Bergen).

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            As I recall, it was on the coast not far from Oslo. This would have put me at a latitude somewhere between Orkney and Shetland.

            It was somewhat bothersome trying to sleep.

            As a plus, the family I was staying with were very nice to me, and I found the Norwegians the most beautiful people (physically) in the world. Booze was very expensive, because of taxes.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I would love to visit Norway. It used to be a great place before they started letting Muslims in and began worshipping the altar of “the refugee” while letting their own women become victims of political correctness.

          But I digress. Given that ignorance is our condition and it is only a question of “how much” not “if,” it still surprised me yesterday when a friend of mine (my age) told me that he just learned that the reason we have the seasons is that the earth is tilted on its axis. I occurred to me that this is something I learned in elementary school and even now knew that the tilt was 23 degrees (more accurately, about 23.5 degrees).

          The earth wobbles on its axis so that tilt varies between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees, according to Goggled information. And, if memory serves, there is even a sort of “super-wobble” wherein there is another greater cycle of wobble.

          Why the tilt? The “Theia” theory postulate that a Mars-size planetoid hit the Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. Fragments from the collision then coalesced into our moon (which is why, it is postulated) it is generally comprised of the same material as earth’s crust.

          Whether the seasons are a requirement for a habitable earth are after-the-fact- assumptions. Things seem to grow pretty well on the equator. But there is a dynamism to our earth that has so far kept it from dying out, including radioactive decay which, aside from the sun, provides the source of our energy and particularly the vulcanism which refreshes our atmosphere (which otherwise, presumably, would have already evaporated into space like Mars).

          Would I rather have year-round temperate (or even warm) weather or four high-contrast seasons? This is not really a question a Northwesterner can answer. We neither are on the equator nor do we have four distinct seasons. We have six weeks of summer and the rest is rainy season.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Earth has much stronger gravity at the surface than Mars does, so I suspect that even without volcanoes we would have a pretty similar atmosphere.

            As for the tilt, all of the planets have some degree of tilt — about 90 degrees in the case of Uranus (in effect, it has east and west poles). So I wouldn’t bet on other planets r moons crashing into Earth being the cause of the tilt.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Here’s an interesting discussion of the vagaries of planets and atmospheres. I gather that light gasses bleed out more easily, depending upon the planet’s gravity, magnetic field, and closeness to the sun. In that link someone postulates that the larger molecules in Venus’ atmosphere (CO2), combined with gravity, hold the atmosphere despite apparently little or no vulcanism. Or Klingons, for that matter. But offhand there doesn’t seem to be a neat correlation of factors.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I suspect the magnetic field is important mainly for blocking solar and cosmic radiation that can drive some gases out. This matters less further from the sun, and probably also for heavier gases. There’s a reason we have very little hydrogen, helium, or neon in our atmosphere — but a decent amount of argon (nearly 1%).

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                If only that solar wind could blow away the light gasbag, Algore.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            We neither are on the equator nor do we have four distinct seasons. We have six weeks of summer and the rest is rainy season.

            When I first moved to Singapore, my office was in a skyscraper on Shenton Way.

            After being in Singapore for 4 or 5 months, I remember looking out the window and asking myself, “When is the weather going to change and get cooler?” Of course, it didn’t and doesn’t. But so ingrained in my psyche’ was the four seasons, that the thought came to me automatically.

            When people used to ask me if Singapore had four seasons I would reply, “Yes, hot and hotter, wet and wetter.”

            By the way, the only water spout which I have ever seen was out of that same window on Shenton Way.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Sounds like it’s way too warm for me in Singapore. But maybe you can used to it. But the many Filipinos I’ve known over the years who have come from those islands don’t seem to ever get used to our chill.

  12. Timothy Lane says:

    I just came across an interesting parody, a soldier’s version of “A Visit From Saint Nicholas’, in my AMAC message. I think most recipients here would like it. The link is:

    And Merry Christmas to all.

  13. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    We are officially in winter, thus it’s time for the great Poetry, Haiku, and Limerick contest. I’ll start.

    The sun throws golden paint
    On needles of bright green
    Seen through the insulated window
    As if summer has always been

    On closer outdoor inspection
    Beneath the evergreens tall
    All is huddled, brown and dull
    Power in endurance, not Sol

    • Gibblet says:

      WINTER, in F-sharp major

      Suddenly appear the tiny winter birds
      Composing nature’s music on the wing
      Sharp black notes on branch-shaped staff
      A migratory strain, agitato, on bare trees

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Very nice, Gibblet. Have a Merry Christmas Eve.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Weather app is hopeful
        Cold chill on the way
        Meeting moist air and mixing
        White Christmas is in play

        • Gibblet says:

          The snow revealed the nocturnal critter activity in our yard, evidenced by the expected tracks of squirrels, raccoons, and deer. The surprise being the tracks of a cougar, which we haven’t heard from in several years and thought was long gone!

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Gibblet, I climbed to the top of Green Mountain today. It was funny to see all the critter tracks all over. There were surprisingly a lot of human tracks in the freshly laid snow as well. I’m pretty sure I can tell the ones made by deer and those made by bunnies. There rest of them…who knows?

            Despite the higher elevation, there wasn’t all that much snow up there. About an inch and a half. And nothing looked as if it had melted. Here’s a photo I took today.

            I wouldn’t know a cougar’s tracks from that of a large dog. But it’s amazing to know one had passed by your place. Here’s another shot I took today showing a lot of human tracks. There were a lot of people out there today, perhaps like myself trying to burn off Christmas dinner and dessert.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Nice photos. I assume they’re black and white, since the trees would be evergreens. Our meals at St. Matthews Healthcare yesterday were decent enough (and lunch featured some Christmas standards, such as ham and candied yams or sweet potatoes), but the quality was no greater than usual. I didn’t get much exercise because no one came from either physical or occupational therapy due to the holiday.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                These are full color. But winter weather tends to turn things monochrome. We also had ham for dinner. It was pretty good.

            • Gibblet says:

              Brad, your photos from today’s hike are so beautiful. We had about and inch and a half of snow at our house, at only 234 feet elevation, so I’m surprised there wasn’t more atop our favorite little mountain.

              Steve and I studied the difference between dog tracks and cougar tracks to make our determination. In addition to the characteristic differences, these tracks were much larger than our neighbor’s 50 pound dogs make. This cougar, if it’s the same one, has been around at least as long as the 24 years we’ve owned this property. I credit our lack of rodents, stray cats, yappy dogs, and possum to the big cat. It did scare the biggiebers out of my husband one evening many years ago when the cougar let out a loud cry outside our bedroom window in response to his loud yawn.

  14. Timothy Lane says:

    Well, I think it’s time to say it.

    Merry Christmas to all, and peace on Earth to men of good will.

  15. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caeser Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

    (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

    And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

    And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazereth,
    into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem;
    (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

    To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child,

    And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished
    that she should be delivered.

    And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in
    swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there
    was no room for them in the inn.

    And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
    keeping watch over their flock by night.

    And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the
    Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

    And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you
    good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

    For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is
    Christ the Lord.

    And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped
    in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

    And suddenly there was with the angel a great multitude of heavenly host
    praising God, and saying,

    Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

    Luke 2: 1-14.

    I can hear the alleluias!

    This is rock upon which our Western Culture is built.


  16. Timothy Lane says:

    I notice that in your list of upcoming events at the bottom of the page, you include the Orthodox Christmas (they still use the Julian calendar for liturgical purposes), but not Epiphany (January 6). This is the day the magi arrived, and in Spain is known as Three Kings Day and is their gift-giving day (just as the Dutch do their giving on December 6 — St. Nicholas’s Day. It’s a Catholic holy day, as I learned in the Catechism classes I had to attend (though not participate) at the Catholic school I attended for 2 years in Greece. For that matter, Candlemas is at the end of January, though it isn’t a formal Catholic holy day.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I wasn’t aware of Epiphany/Three Kings Day, but it’s just the kind of special day I wanted to feature. Thanks.

      And aren’t we now in the midst of the Twelve Days of Christmas? Found some good info:

      The Twelve Days of Christmas

      Sometime in November, as things now stand, the “Christmas season” begins. The streets are hung with lights, the stores are decorated with red and green, and you can’t turn on the radio without hearing songs about the spirit of the season and the glories of Santa Claus. The excitement builds to a climax on the morning of December 25, and then it stops, abruptly. Christmas is over, the New Year begins, and people go back to their normal lives.

      The traditional Christian celebration of Christmas is exactly the opposite. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and for nearly a month Christians await the coming of Christ in a spirit of expectation, singing hymns of longing. Then, on December 25, Christmas Day itself ushers in 12 days of celebration, ending only on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany.

      Exhortations to follow this calendar rather than the secular one have become routine at this time of year. But often the focus falls on giving Advent its due, with the 12 days of Christmas relegated to the words of a cryptic traditional carol. Most people are simply too tired after Christmas Day to do much celebrating.

      The “real” 12 days of Christmas are important not just as a way of thumbing our noses at secular ideas of the “Christmas season.” They are important because they give us a way of reflecting on what the Incarnation means in our lives. Christmas commemorates the most momentous event in human history—the entry of God into the world he made, in the form of a baby.

      It’s shall henceforth be the policy of StubbornThings to celebrate, respect, and promote The Twelve Days, Epiphany, the feasts, and other aspects (perhaps not including braying like an ass, but you never know). This is the exact opposite of “Winter Festival.” If one is “worn out” by the Christmas Season then one can take that as a sign to detox a bit. Let the joyful celebration continue…minus more “stuff.”

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Incidentally, note that there is a religious significance to January 1 as part of the Twelve Days. The standard Jewish timetable was (and presumably still is) to circumcise a male child one week after birth, so Jesus would have been circumcised on January 1. That date is thus another Catholic holy day.

        Speaking of the Twelve Days, note that this lists the gifts for each day, so these gifts are repeated each. The recipient receives not just a partridge in a pear tree, for example, but 12 — one for each day. The numbers for each day’s gifts are 12, 22, 30, 36, 40, 42, 42, 40, 36, 30, 22, 12. So the geese and swans are the most numerous of the gifts.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        It’s shall henceforth be the policy of StubbornThings to celebrate, respect, and promote The Twelve Days, Epiphany, the feasts, and other aspects

        Funny you should decide upon this. My wife, who is not a Christian and was not brought up in a Christian family told me that she wanted to leave up our Christmas decorations for the full twelve days of Christmas. I normally take things down on January 1st.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          One thing I find interesting is that Christmas through Epiphany is actually 13 days. I suppose the 12 days start with Boxing Day aka the feast of Stephen (the day on which the actions in “Good King Wenceslas” take place). I think it gets the former name from exchanging gifts (often in boxes) on that day in Britain. (Mark Steyn has pointed that Europeans, including the Brits, drag out the Christmas celebrations — and holidays — as long as they can.)

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Europeans, including the Brits, drag out the Christmas celebrations — and holidays — as long as they can.

            This was quite noticeable when I lived overseas. It became even more pronounced once the USSR fell as the Russians follow the Orthodox calendar. Basically, there was no business to be done between December 15th and January 15th. (Probably a little earlier than December 15th, if truth be told.)

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Your wife has good sense. Why should be we beholden to what retailers present as Christmas? Cannot we take better control of our own cheer? Cannot we find more meaning than retail? And although the Incarnation is a radical notion, it is the essence of it. It’s not about retailers reaching down to us to make our lives better.

          Granted, the idea of God redeeming mankind is a little off-putting to me. Not that we don’t need to be redeemed. We are a retched bunch. And yet the situation we are in is arguably not completely of our own making, any more than if we set up a children’s play area and populated it with power tools, broken glass, and a competitive (even mean) spirit.

          Our situation seems very much like being in an ant farm. God seems distant, a marvelous creator who set the clock running and then sits back and watches. So what gives? Was it all the result of one instant of bad judgment in the Garden of Eden? That doesn’t seem likely to me nor does it seem fair to doom all mankind for one act. Surely that is mythology.

          But given the absolutely computer-like complexity of living systems, it does seem we have a Creator, and one who is beyond mere flesh-and-blood. Who are we to understand why we are here or the means used to help us steer a better course? It is completely logical that the Creator would interact with his creation in some way.

          But all of this is above my pay grade. Tinsel, bells, cookies, ribbons, roast beast, It’s a Wonderful Life, carols, and hot toddies are all tangible and understandable things. In an age where not even most of the Christians seem to get it, where does that leave us, the not-quite-pagans, definitely-not-atheist?

          To have a little hope and faith beyond the shallow attributes of our culture is an instinct and likely a good one. It’s a start.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I just noticed that you have Epiphany on January 8, not January 6. I assume this is easily fixed.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      December 6 — St. Nicholas’s Day

      Having grown up a Protestant in the South who celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday, I had no idea about the Catholic calendar.

      The first time I became aware of St. Nicholas’ Day was in December 1973. My parents were visiting me in Vienna and we drove out into the countryside around Vienna. As we went through some little town, we saw children in the street and a couple of people dressed in costumes. One man was dressed as St. Nicholas, which looked something like a thin Father Christmas and the other was dressed up as some sort of devil/imp.

      The St. Nichols figure was patting children on the head and the imp was jumping around growling and chasing children with his pitch fork.

      Immediately, I stopped the car grabbed my camera and started to take some photos. The moment the imp saw me do this, he snapped to attention, pitch fork at his side, in order to let me make a good picture. This was so funny, that I have never forgotten it. I asked an Austrian friend about this episode and he told me the imp was named Grampus/Krampus a figure who punishes bad children before Christmas.

      I am sure I still have this photo packed away in one of the storage boxes in my office.

  17. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a book about the twelve days of Christmas: The Real Twelve Days of Christmas: The Story Behind the Song. It’s a bit pricey for me but it has good reviews.

    Let’s just say in my own home (today…at least at this moment),

    On the sixth day of Christmas my mp3 player gave to me
    Sinatra in a swingin’ theme.

    Just had to take a break from Christmas music although I did have the Mediaeval Baebes on earlier. I really like that album. Plus, although it’s not a Christmas album, I recently purchased a CD (an actual plastic CD) of piano music. So much of the piano music out there (such as the stuff by Jim Brickman) is just so over-done, even cringe-worthy.

    But I found Piano Reflections by Kelly Yost to be an understated breath of fresh air. I really enjoy putting this on in the background. Her (his?) music, too, is part of The Sixth Day of Christmas.

    More info on The 12 Days of Christmas including info on Twelfth Night.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      The Piano Reflections CD has a nice selection of classical pieces. Don’t know who Kelly Yost is, but if he/she plays well, this should be a very nice CD to listen to.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The piano work is understated. Somewhere between expressive (but not too expressive) and hitting the keys in order.

        I just bought (her) follow-up CD, Quite Colors. I got it used for $1.99 plus $4.00 shipping. It’s on the way. You can’t beat that.

        And I really like the first one. This is not just snob-appeal. Tell me there isn’t a difference to one’s personhood between listening to something like this as opposed to hateful and vulgar rap music. This is civilized, complex, interesting, and uplifting music done by Kelly Yost.

        One of my laugh-out-loud moments was to discover her playing on Piano Reflections (track #7) the ending music to an old Atari 800 8-bit game, Lords of Conquest. I always thought that was a pretty good piece of original music for a video game.

        Well, it is indeed a heck of a piece of music, but not original to the game. I discovered that it’s “Prelude in C Major” by J.S. Bach.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Classical music, often unfamiliar, shows up in a lot of places. “The Dance of the Hours” provided music for Allan Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”, and a Bach piece did so for “A Lover’s Concerto” by the Toys. Spike Jones parodied a lot of music, some of it classical, and some of Bob Rivers’s parodies also used classical music (e.g. “The Buttcracker Suite”), though that one at least is well known. The theme song for The Lone Ranger” came from “The William Tell Overture”.

  18. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    December Photo Album

    It was a beautiful but brisk day today on Green Mountain. At the last moment, while still at the car, I decided to put on another layer of sweatshirt and I’m glad I did. It was colder than expected and there was also a bit of a wind.

    This photo gives you a good idea of some of the views available. This was taken in a clear space near the top. I hadn’t planned on snapping any photos but I thought I’d give my iPhone 6 Plus a workout and see how it did. Other than resizing, cropping, and sharpening, I didn’t adjust the previous scenic view at all. In order to be able to expose the sky and the foreground good-enough, and do so automatically, is a pretty amazing thing. Normally skies tend to get burned out (too light) or, in order to expose the sky correctly, the foreground is too dark. How it did both, I honestly don’t know.

    This photo shows the desolation of recent logging contrasted with the expansive view in the background of blue and green. It’s a good balance and gives you a feeling for scale and expanse. A couple similar shots I rejected — ones that showed above and beyond the tops of the trees. I prefer this one with the trees cropped. It gives you much for the feel of looking through a portal as well as giving it a more expansive feel. When you’re out taking photos, don’t crop off people’s heads but do feel free with cropping other things. Sometimes it makes for a better shot.

    Proof that it was cold out today can be found in some of my frosted photos. Sometimes the most interesting things are underfoot, waiting to be discovered. Here’s a sampling:

    Frosted Wood

    Frosted Log

    Frosted Worm-eaten Bark

    Does this edge-on view of a stump remnant look sort of like a Stack of Frosted Pringles?

    Here’s more worm-eaten wood. Or is it perhaps Frosted Worm Language? A billboard? What do you suppose it says?

    Here’s a Powdered-Sugar Stump. I’m pretty sure that’s not ice. And here’s a closeup view at an angle. It’s not always (or ever) easy to see what the focus point is. You can set in manually, in theory, but these cameras still seem to have a mind of their own. Still, this is pretty much exactly how I would have focused it within the narrow depth-of-field of this closeup shot. The camera did pretty well.

    I’m always stunned at the natural beauty of Frosted Leaves. That would make a heck of a puzzle. The iPhone’s camera did a pretty good job with the macro shots. You just hope to hell it’s focussing on what you want. Mostly, it did.

    Here’s more of the Frosted Forest Floor. I can’t say that this is a great shot. But the various patterns and cacophony have their own visual charm. Actually, this one might make the better puzzle.

    Of all the shots, I think this one is my favorite: Frosted Bark. Not only are the patterns in the bark made more interesting by the frost, but I love the almost bluish cast (not adjusted by me) that suggest (as if the ice didn’t) that it is indeed cold out there.

    This is not the best shot of the day by any means, but it highlights the fact the frost can enhance the beauty of even the commonplace.

    This tangle in the undergrowth caught my eye. I don’t even know what this is. I assume they’re either frosted small sticks or frosted pine needles, or some combination thereof. Or it could be a tangle of worms in some kind of love-orgy dance, sort of like some snakes do.

    Last but not least, a small formation of rocks and ferns caught my eye. It almost looks like someone arranged it that way. So I’ll call it Rock and Fern Garden. I’m not sure about the gardener’s artistic choice of the plastic conduit though.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Those are interesting photos. The Frosted Leaves and Frosted Forest Floor looked very similar. Were the leaves on the floor? I could see the similarity of one to a bunch of frosted Pringle’s, but those would all be the same size, and those aren’t. What were the mountains in the background of the first photo?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Yes, the leaves were on the floor. The mountains in the background are the Olympics. They are upthrust mountains formed by the Pacific Plate running into the North American Plate. The Pacific Plate plunges down and below, melts, and then shoots its magma up and creates the Cascade Range. Interesting how all that works. I’m sure global warming is at fault in some way.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          So Green Mountain is on the Olympic Peninsula? As I recall reading, the west side is a temperate rain forest, and enough precipitation passes over the peninsula to give the Puget Sounds are and the western side of the Cascades heavy rain as well — but to the east the climate is fairly dry.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            That view of the Olympic Mountains is from the Kitsap Peninsula which is directly to the east. Hood Canal sits between them like a mote.

            The Cascade Mountains cause most of the moisture of the passing clouds to fall on the mountains and thus eastern Washington is much dryer. On the western side of the Olympic Mountains is the Hoh Rain Forest which receives 140 to 170 inches of rain per year. It’s certainly not a tropical rain forest but I guess that amount of rainfall qualifies if for a “rainforest” proper. And there’s still much rainfall left over for the rest of us.

            But those mountains do have an effect. The Olympics contribute to very localized weather patterns to the east and particularly the northeast. There are various parts (in and around Sequim) that sit in a rain shadow and get relatively milder weather (dryer, but not warmer) than other parts. But generally most of western Washington is fairly wet. Or, really, what it’s known for is not quantity of water, per se, but the number of days in the year with overcast skies and/or drizzle. We excel at that, thus the 50 to 60 inches of rainfall seems like a lot more.

            The Olympics are very close by but fortunately, because they’re not volcanic mountains, they present no danger.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              On the other hand, there’s Mount Rainier, which I gather is capable of exploding someday — I’ve read it ranks with Mount Vesuvius as a threat, except that I think Seattle is closer to Rainier than Naples is to Vesuvius.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                I think the main threat is the alluvial flows. They could wipe out huge sections of highly populated areas. If the mountain simply heats up, several cubic miles of ice and mud will begin to flow off its sides like water.

    • Gibblet says:

      Brad, thanks for sharing these wonderful photos. It would, indeed, be fun to make puzzles out of some of these.
      What a great day for a hike!
      Happy New Year.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        There were a lot of people out today. Ran into a father and 3 sons who were all driving remote control trucks up the trail. They said they could do it on just one charge. That’s pretty good for about two miles steep uphill.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      There is something about being alone with nature, a feeling of calm and awe, that cannot be shared. It is an individual experience which rejuvenates the soul and body.

      Sending out such photos is a nice way to impart the experience.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        As I grow older, Mr. Kung, more and more of my pleasant delusions and illusions are crashed by reality. Mankind is a sick beast and always has been.

        How do you live a good and meaningful life in a world that is crazy, often violent, and usually vulgar? That is an age-old question. One of the answers has been fascism. You force everyone to think as you do so “never is heard a discouraging word.”

        I’m not ready to go Thoreau and get away from people for a long stretch. Talking about this stuff honestly helps me cope. A man’s soul has to grasp onto something better than his surroundings even while grappling with the question of how there can be ultimate good and high ideals that built this crazy place in the first place.

        Getting out in nature is no panacea. It works for me because being isolated from this crazy culture, if only for a moment, is no hardship. I do okay without the constant need to jabber mindless nothings to other people, seemingly out of a never-ending need to keep feeling as if one is alive and matters.

        I’m not sure if I matter. I’m not sure if you matter. I’m not sure if any of us matter. But that is despair faced so that it doesn’t bleed out in a thousand annoying ways (aka “Facebook” which probably should be called “Despairbook”).

        In fact, I enjoy meeting the people who are out there with me getting away from it all. We’re comrades of a sort. Rarely do I run across clowns jabbering away on their cell phones. And sometimes I do hear people jabbering between each other as if they were still in a bar or the office, but perhaps it takes some people time to adapt. They might be outdoor rookies, but at least they’re making the effort.

        Just as there was the “bad Spock with the beard” in the Star Trek alternate universe, there is a universe in which I am a dedicated photographer, complete with art gallery shows and coffee table books. But I’m more of a jack-of-all-trades sort of guy. Still, modern technology makes it easy to bypass the costs of a formal art show which is mainly a snob affair anyway, although not if you’re an Ansel Adams which is certainly a good goal for me or anyone else.

        I could have taken photos of my last five meals as so many people routinely do on Despairbook. But I like looking at the world with new eyes. Isn’t that really what we’re here for? Not as cynics but as watchers and seers.

  19. Timothy Lane says:

    This seems to be a good time to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

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