EARTH DAY AGAIN – APRIL 22, 2016

earth day 2016I run this Walt Kelly Pogo cartoon every year. Despite the passage of time, it is as true now as it ever was. It shouldn’t be. Garry and I remember the first Earth Day. How sure we were that everything would get better. We believed we could fix the world.

Forty-six years later, the earth should be cleaner. We should be saving the planet, not destroying more of it. But, reality bites. The earth is more endangered than ever.

Pogo - The First Earth Day - 1971 - Walt Kelly

Pogo – Earth Day 1971 poster – Walt Kelly

Save the planet. Save something. Live greener. Use less stuff. Don’t litter. Do what you can. Don’t let the despoilers buy all our beautiful places and pave them. Say no to fracking. Say yes to fossil fuel alternatives.

Vote for smart people. Caring people. Vote for people who understand that climate change is real. That if we are not good shepherds for our earth, there will be no earth to shepherd.

Let’s leave a green planet for the next generation and the ones thereafter.

For a history of this day, see “The History of Earth Day.”

COLORFUL INDEED! IT’S APRIL FOOL’S DAY ON THE INTERNET

Dinosaur Cartoons

Colorful ain’t the half of it!

It started when one of my favorite bloggers announced that he was selling all his cameras and buying one, cheap (and poorly regarded) Canon mirrorless camera because his equipment addiction had gotten quite out of control … Happy April Fool’s Day!

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I think that Audible.com rather outdid themselves and everyone else by announcing a full-cast reading of “Excerpts from the Encyclopedia Britannica.” They actually give you an audio sample to listen to which is composed of dramatically read entries from the encyclopedia.

Who know what other adventures lay before more on this strangely wonderful day?

audible april fool -2Today is an excellent day to keep your tongue firmly wedged in your cheek. Don’t believe anything you read until you get to the end. And don’t “share” anything until you’re sure the clown isn’t set to pop out of the box and yell “APRIL FOOL!”

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OH CHRISTMAS TREE … WEE CHRISTMAS TREE …

Christmas living room poster 2015

After last year’s “live baby tree” debacle wherein all three baby trees died in their pots before the ground unfroze enough to plant anything, I have returned to the fake tree alternative.

Christmas old photo postcard 2015

It turns out, we don’t have tree lights because all the trees we’ve had for the past five or six (or more?) years came with lights. The price of lights has gotten sufficiently high to make me feel I can live without them.

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I added red bells, big silver ribbon atop the tree (all four feet of it!) … and red velvet bows. With some gold curling ribbon to fill the gaps and it’s pretty.

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Surprisingly satisfying. Not finished, quite. A little more to do and presents to be wrapped will fill the table eventually.

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Modest, but definitely a Christmas tree. It’s the season of lights, but not on our tree.

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A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

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It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

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Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

Uxb Common Christmas Poster

Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

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Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

BLUE CHRISTMAS

My Top 10 Sad Christmas Songs, Rich Paschall

While you are dashing through the snow, listening to jingle bells and silver bells all the way, enjoying the winter wonderland, you may be thinking of joyous music.

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After all, it is a time of joy to the world, peace on earth and good will to men.  If you are on a sleigh ride over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house where you will pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie, you may think “Baby, it’s cold outside,” but that probably will not dampen your holiday spirit.  While some songs lift you up, there seem to be an abundance of those that do the opposite at this most wonderful time of the year.

Uxbridge Common Christmas

If you need something to wallow in, then Country and Western might be your genre.  There are plenty of people dying off or running away for Christmas.  Johnny Cash gave us the “Ringing The Bells For Jim.”

Yes, Jim is dying throughout the song, but it does sound like he will make it in the end.  On the other hand, none of us make it in the end.

Marty Stuart chipped in with “Even Santa Claus Gets the Blues.”  It seems his favorite reindeer was lost in a hurricane.  I’m not sure why they were in a hurricane exactly.  Rumor has it that the reindeer was Dasher and not Rudolph, just saying.  You can download the blues on MP3 and there is even a website that will teach you how to play it on your guitar.

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Rock and Roll pumped out plenty of sad songs over the years.  Marvin Gaye said “I Want To Come Home For Christmas.”  As we know, Marvin should not have gone home at all.  Early rockers, the Everly Brothers, told us “Christmas Eve Can Kill You.”  And of course, Taylor Swift has written about another boyfriend breakup in “Christmases When You Were Mine.”  That’s not surprising since she breaks up with all of them rather quickly.

The rock and roll list is rather substantial.  I have some of them for you in my top 10, so on with the blues!

10. Someday At Christmas, Stevie Wonder  The pop star tells us that things may be better someday, but “Maybe not in time for you or me.”
9.  The Little Boy That Santa Forgot, Nat King Cole  Not only did Santa forget him “he hasn’t got a daddy.”  This one might make number 1 for some people.
8.  Christmas Shoes, Bob Carlisle  A little boy wants to get his mother a nice pair of shoes for Christmas.  It seems she is dying and he wants her to have a nice pair when she gets to Heaven.  This ranks 10 on the Tear-Jerk meter.
7.  Same Old Lang Syne, Dan Fogelberg  Despite the title, the lyric is actually set on Christmas Eve where the singer meets a former lover.  At the end, the lovely Christmas snow turns to rain.
6.  I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Bing Crosby  You may know this by another artist but Crosby was the first.  Recorded in 1943 during World War II, it seems the fighting boys will only be home in their dreams.

The top 5 may have brighter and more popular music, but they still have sad lyrics.
5.  Last Christmas, Wham  A lot of rockers have gone for this one, including Taylor Swift.  It is her kind of song.  You know, “Last Christmas I gave you my heart. The very next day you gave it away.”

4.  Merry Christmas Darling, The Carpenters  The song came out in 1970 right after the duo hit the big time.  Lovers are apart at Christmas and Karen delivers a sad sound as only she could.

3.  Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland  If you think this melancholy song is sad now, consider that director of “Meet Me In Saint Louis,” the movie where the song first appeared, found it so depressing he ordered the lyric rewritten.  The director, by the way, was Vincente Minnelli, one of Judy Garland’s husbands.

2.  Blue Christmas, Elvis  This one would have to be on everyone’s list.  As you will see in this live version, a thin and sweaty Elvis makes all the girls swoon while he sings sad lyrics at them.  I don’t think they were listening anyway.

1. Please Come Home For Christmas, The Eagles  The original version by was by blues singer Charles Brown.  Released in 1960, it made number 1 on the Christmas chart in 1972. The Eagles had a mega hit with it in 1978 and it actually appears on their Greatest Hits album, which was a huge seller.