Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Burning Man

Those who went before us were wise...especially about things outside the realm of the every day.

They knew the power of fire, and they never hesitated to use it. Its force is something I believe we tend not to think about too much in these days of other powers - like those that drive cell phones and computers, TVs and radios.

But when it comes down to dealing with evil, fire trumps all.

Many in life are lucky and pass their days without exposure to resident evil. Those who haven't encountered it may not truly understand its slyness. Evil's stalking grounds are more commonly the banal of everyday life: the chance encounter in a coffee shop, or a new colleague at work who seems really quite charming, until the mask is lifted. It excels at catching the unsuspecting off-guard, because while it is the expected companion of heinous crimes against individuals and against humanity, it is not expected to sit down at the dinner table in a quaint little restaurant. Sometimes resident evil is initially confused with abnormality, or a social or emotional dysfunction, possibly because it is pretty hard to get one's head around the fact that there truly does exist pure evil, even in neon-lit, box store-rich Squarebanks. And it's not always wielding an axe or a gun or some other very obvious and tangible instrument of evil.

For too long I left things in my house, stashed under my bed of all places, that carried the stink and contamination of the resident evil that had found purchase at one point in my life. Although these items had lain dormant all of that time, recently they came to life.

It was time to purify; throwing them out was insufficient, they were covered with the slimy slug trail evil leaves in its wake. Fire was the only route to protection.

Sure, burning at solstice is a cliche. But those ancients dealt a lot more with unseen forces than we think we do in this oh so modern and brightly lit time. Although often I think I would have preferred to give the whole experience a miss, most times I am grateful for what happened. Not only did I come out of it much stronger, but I gained awareness of the spirits and forces that are very much alive and cruising in our world. When science became a religion in the 20th century, its gospel of rational thought brought to us a dangerous myopia. It diminishes our abilities to discern that there is so much more walking these lands than what can be tidily explained by science.

It was a darn good fire, one of the best and the brightest I have ever tended.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Grassroots? More Like Astroturf.

Normally, in a more sophisticated part of the world, politicians attempting to pull a fast one would know better than to admit they were trying to use state money to do so.  But this being the state that once thought Sarah Palin was an improvement over Murkowski v.1, the fine folks in Juneau are not savvy enough to up and lie about what they are doing.  I suppose we have yet another thing to be thankful for heading into Christmas.

For about $1.5 million, the Alaska Legislature is looking for a good p.r. agency to gin up a 'grassroots movement' to oppose endangered species listings.  As reported over the AP wire, via the News-Minus this morn:
"'The (PR firm's) main role will be taking information from the conference and other information gathering efforts and trying to initiate a grass-roots movement, for lack of a better term, for going to Congress and asking for some reform changes,' said Eddie Grasser, a legislative employee who is organizing the PR effort."
How on earth is a government-funded public relations campaign even remotely grassroots? This is the sort of chicanery normally engaged in by megacorporations like the Artists Formerly Known as Monsanto or King Coal.  Grassroots does not, generally speaking, begin with a bunch of politicians appropriating state money for a p.r. firm to create a movement.   

In the Realm of the Unintentionally Humorous

Once again, work has consumed at least half my brain; the remainder being assaulted by the liberal application of beer (and hopefully some of Flic's eggnog in the coming days.)

But when I've had the wherewithal, I've been shopping for gifts which is something of a challenge here in Greater Redneckia.  The selection is spotty, particularly if you are looking for clothes other than outdoor gear or the offerings over at Little Wasilla.  We really don't have a downtown like a major city, and no, Virginia, even Anchorage really isn't a major city.   But I digress.

We do have a lot places to purchase guns.  Two of the grocery chains (WallyWorld and Fred Meyers) stock them along with plantains and womens' underthings.  (Safeway, however, does not.  Funny that.)  The outdoors gear shops stock them.  And then there are the local gunsmiths.  Face it, one area in which a consumer has robust options in Squarebanks is in the selection and purchase of firearms.  

Which worked out great, because I'd settled on a .22 for the S.O. this year.  Unfortunately, the big chains use the model I chose as a loss leaders, so it is not stocked by the local businesses (gunsmiths) which frustrated my plan to shop local.  But Frontier Outfitters had a few in stock and that settled it. 

I was not prepared, however, for the humor that is the form one fills out to purchase a gun.  (I've been given guns, but never purchased one.) Is the form meant to prevent the sale of a gun to a criminal, or is it just to aid in tracking them down after they've done something wrong?  Questions I had to answer:
  •  Are you a fugitive from justice? 
  • Have you ever used or possessed illegal drugs such as marijuana, etc? 
  • Are you an illegal alien?
  • Have you ever renounced your U.S. citizenship?
High silliness.  

Saturday, December 12, 2009

'Tis the Season

For decorating the tree. For me, Christmas starts just about a week before Thanksgiving. I don't subscribe to the Walmart way of looking at the world, which is to say that Christmas stuff should go on display after the goblins of Halloween have been put away. Well, I do confess to lighting my Xmas lights around my front door and along the driveway right about the end of October, but that is mostly due to practicality...a way to see the moose waiting in ambush when I schlep home in the dark at 4:00 PM.

But, even without the Big Box store way of things, I have always felt that living in Fairbanks is pretty much like being in Narnia under the White Witch- where it was always winter - except that we do have Christmas. And we have a lot of Christmas.

Although for quite a number of years I put up a classic Alaska tree (all the better to showcase one's ornaments) - of late I have been buying the excellent (and relatively cheap) trees at Alaska Feed. Except that this source of cheap trees is no longer known to just a few, and if one wants to get a half-way decent tree, one has to rush off and select it sometime in the first week of December. This year, I did wait til three days ago, but the trees were getting picked over.

So, perforce, my tree is up and in the process of being decorated. It's an exhausting task - necessitating many pauses and rests in the easy chair by the fire - with a cup of real* eggnog at my elbow and three snoring dogs at my feet.

Come to think of it, maybe its all the eggnog refreshment stops that are exhausting, not so much the stringing of the lights and the placement of the Christmas pickle (no explanation of this needed for readers of German heritage), the sparkly Christmas stars, the cat-in-the-jack box, or, my most treasured ornament: the squid ball (a clear glass ball filled with squid beaks sold in Point Aransas as a fund raiser for the local sea life lab).

Every year, I sort of drag my feet initially about getting a tree, but each time after I haul out the Christmas totes and unpack the many boxes of ornaments collected over the years (each with its own story) its worth it. And taking the time to load the tree so full of these memories that it practically tips over (it doesn't help that I never seem to be able to get the darn thing straight in the tree strand), is wholly enjoyable. It never fails but that I come across a little chotka that jiggles loose some long-forgotten episode of a Christmas past.

Some seasoned readers of this blog may remember the Tannenbomb of last year - where my tree croaked brown dead less than a week after purchase. Ah, this year I babied this conifer. Whisked it out of the store and into the pre-heated, toasty cab of my truck. Practically constructed a hermetically sealed corridor from truck to front door so there never was opportunity for freezing shock. Sawed off a hefty chunk of its stump, and plumped it into molasses-laden water. This time, I did it up right, and I am pleased to report the tree is drinking thirstily - having sucked up a gallon of water since last night.

Now, its back to work. Time to hang the stuffed cow-in-a-parka ornament....

*not the sugar-ladened stuff sold in the dairy section of Freddie's. Nope, this one is one dozen raw eggs, a pound of powdered sugar, two quarts of heavy cream and at least a fifth of whiskey or rum to "cook" those eggs, or more like, the imbiber.