A Giant Flaming Christmas Pud’

December 24, 2008 at 9:05 pm 1 comment

It would be remiss of me to begin this post without first issuing an apology to a dear friend, Mr. Ryan Heise, for not approving the comment he left on my last entry.  I read the comment in my Inbox but wasn’t aware it needed approving.  Shame on me.  This Web 2.0 this in not as intuitive as I’d hoped for – here I was thinking that linking to someone’s blog would have automatically approved their comments.  How wrong I was.

Oh, and to Joe: I read yours too.  And the feeling is mutual.

It’s Christmas Eve!  To all those dear friends of mine who pride themselves on being cynical, jaded, neurotic and wholly critical of the rampant commercialism of Christmas in its myriad forms: LIGHTEN UP.  Go grab some ‘nog, you scrooge, and receive unconditionally a lipstick-ey kiss from a favourite aunt.  Christmas rocks, and despite my own recent grumblings as I tried to track down a vanity mirror for my mother (Jesus, those things are expensive), it is not simply another excuse to pick a man’s pocket.

I, for one, have had a lovely Christmas so far.  I finished my internship with the National Post on Friday without too many complaints on my part, and spent a perfect couple of days with Cait.  I tried skiing for the very first time yesterday, then came home to cheese fondue and Californication (the second season has wavered, but never well and truly faltered, and is now gathering some excellent steam).  I received two new books (one by an accident of the mail, and one on purpose) and one new cd: Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy.  Here I was, working my way ponderously through Dylan’s Chronicles, not knowing that album he spends the middle of the book reflecting upon is, indeed, Oh Mercy, which he recorded in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois.  It’s a fantastic album, and a perfect companion to the later Time Out Of Mind.  I keep meaning to write another entry on why I love Dylan so much, but I’ve been lazy.

I doubt that I’ll be able, or willing, to return to this blog before 2009 descends upon on us in a week.  I got this insane urge to write a little about the past year.

As part of my year-end duties at the Post, I had to compile seven different blog entries that best summarized the year.  Every publication does this, right?  TIME releases their Top Ten lists regularly, so do most news websites compile the top stories, the top technology advances, etc etc (mine will be posted to the National Post blog sometime after Christmas, in the week leading up to New Years).

Anyway, I had to do a bit of reflecting on what’s happened in the past 12 months.  Friends, it’s been shitty.  Something like 130,000 people died in one fell swoop in Burma when the typhoon hit.  80,000 more were killed in China during the Sichuan earthquake.  The Congo continues to fall apart, listeriosis killed 20 in Canada, and nearly 7,000 babies in China nearly died from tainted milk.  It sounds Biblical.  And yes, there’s the economic dowturn that threatens thousands of jobs and is as yet without a clear solution (bailouts likely aren’t it, but who knows).

The thing is, maybe it doesn’t need a solution.  Just maybe.  I know I do this a lot, that thing were I defer to some columnist or another to help me make my point.  If it irritates you, tough: I happen to highly enjoy Peggy Noonan and her writing, and something she wrote on December 19 touched me.

The entire article can be found here.  It’s a reflection (there are no shortage of “reflections” out there for your perusal these days) on the loss of faith that people (read: Americans, but I think it’s a widespread malaise and applies just as equally to Westerners of every stripe) have experienced in the otherwise rock-solid foundations of North American life: banks, investments, government and society as a whole. Noonan turns to a friend who practices planning for the future:

The other day I called former Secretary of State George Shultz, because he is wise and experienced and takes the long view. I asked if he thought we should be optimistic about our country’s fortunes and future. “Absolutely,” he said, there is “every reason to have confidence.” He told me the story of Sumner Slichter, an economics professor at Harvard 50 years ago. “He was not the most admired man in his department, but he’d make pronouncements about the economy that turned out to be right more often than his colleagues’.” After Slichter died, a friend was asked to clean out his desk, and found the start of an autobiography. “It said, I’m paraphrasing, ‘I have had a good record in my comments on and expectations of the American economy, and the reason is I’ve always been an optimist. How did I get that way? I was brought up in the West, where the future is more important than the past, in a family of scientists and engineers forever developing new things. I could never buy into the idea that we had crossed our last frontier, because I was brought up with people crossing new frontiers.'”

I have this tendency to grumble and gnash my teeth with the best of them, because its fun and cathartic and its easier to criticize while seeming fair than it is to praise without seeming gushy.  Deep down, I like to think that it comes from a place of intense optimism – most often, the people upon whom I heap my disdain are those that I see as standing in the way of real equality, who want to crusade for the sake of seeming magnanimous rather than acting to actually improve something.  So many forms of protest and badge-wearing are such acts of egotism that it’s a little astounding that people get anything done at all.

Anyway.  What I meant to say, perhaps to those people but really to everyone in general, is that things will come back.  They always do.  2009 could be, and heck, WILL BE, better.  Give the credit to Barack Obama, if you want.  Give the credit to that newfangled journalism degree you might be working on right now.  Give the credit to auto bailouts, a cure for AIDS, or the steady lift on media censorship in China.  Give credit to just accepting every good thing that someone offers you. Give credit to your own gumption, and spending beyond your means to rent a car and drive from Washington to Washington.

Man, that took me nearly an HOUR.  Jeepers.  My mom is pressing the entire family to accompany her to church, which will make this my first trip to church since…well…two years ago at least.  I don’t go anymore; haven’t for years, really.  I figure I will when I’m ready to, but I don’t want to unless I’m committing myself to something.  But it’s Christmas and mom doesn’t want to go alone.

So, before I do that, here’s the best Christmas gift you’ll get all year.  I was going to save it for my big Dylan post, but maybe I’ll spare everybody that. Click here to listen to Bob sing “Dignity”. It’s a rousing little ditty that was originally written for Oh Mercy (and is referred to in his autobiography as the “demo”).  It’s a gem.  I’ll have track down his new Bootlegs album to see if they’ve included it.

My favourite part of his song is that barroom piano in the background.  It is, for like of a better metaphor, kind of like foreplay.  It keeps rising and falling, the pianist playing with gusto but falling back at the last second to let Dylan take over.  It’s the BEST.  It keeps you on that edge the entire time.

And merry Christmas to everyone.

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

This is a Huge. Fucking. Disaster. Happy New Year Everybody!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. cait  |  December 25, 2008 at 1:59 am

    …do I hear some tambourine in that song?

    YES.

    Reply

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About Upper Lip

It's mostly a collection of sweet links and copious amounts of talk talk talk. I like it more and more every day. And yes, even the ugly blue/green color scheme is not without a certain charm.

Yours Truly

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