Happy Winter Solstice and/or Yule!

So the wacky-doo Christian Right wants to stop the secularization of Christmas? They stole it from the pagans! And today is the real deal–the shortest day of the year, the official beginning of winter, which is all based on actual events (the earth turning on an angle away from the sun) not some arbitrary date made up centuries ago and which isn’t even in the Bible. Fortunately, you can keep most of your Christmas goodies and still celebrate the Solstice/Yule–these include wreaths on the door, a decorated tree, candles, even dressing up like Santa Claus (or Old Man Winter).
If you really want to get serious, here are instructions for a Roman Saturnalia, though getting a CEO to sit down with the peasant underclass may be difficult.
You may also want to make some cider for Wassailing about, perform a mummer play, or kiss under the mistletoe.
Meanwhile, the Christians did invent the folk art of Nativity Scenes (Alaskan, Lego, action figure, and dioramic) so we’ll give ’em that.

Kwaidan – Lafcadio Hearn

1904 (this edition 1968)

Strange that it took an American emigre to immortalize Japanese folk tales,
writing at a time when the oral traditions he was capturing were dying out. Strange also that his Kwaidan (“odd tales”) is so short, when Japan is brimming with ghost stories and monsters. Of course, there are other books in Japanese by Japanese authors of folk tales, but this is the classic, and Hearn became an honorary Japanese. Kobayashi’s film of the same name tells five of these stories, but readers will spot that only three come from the “Kwaidan” volume, the rest from his other books. Hearn’s insect studies are also included here–his essay on ants is particularly good, as he compares human society to the ant colony, and the colony wins. He also tries to get his mind around how humans would adapt to living with a hive/soldier ant mentality of pure selflessness, and doesn’t succeed.
My friend Gerald gave this to me in 2003 on my birthday, along with The Glass Key by Hammett. I finally got around to it. In fact, I think I read it in Japan, but my memory is foggy–I surely don’t remember the ants article.

Don’t Let Them Be Misunderstood

A good defense/appreciation of the Beatles American albums. Either way, it’s good to have these stereo versions out compared to the “mastered on wax paper” 1987 CDs that have still yet to be remastered.

WhatGoesOn.com- New Beatles Capitol box set misunderstood by critics:
It should be noted that in the early sixties, teen albums rarely sold in excess of a few hundred thousand copies. Capitol?s success with its reconfigured Beatles albums containing hit singles changed that. Record companies soon realized that well-crafted rock albums could be big sellers. A few years later, thanks to the Beatles and Capitol, the album replaced the single as the dominant pop and rock music format.


Amazon’s Quiet Revolution

While Google announces new acquisitions almost daily (the universal library is fairly mindblowing), Amazon makes little improvements which you only notice later. For example, I just added Mike Davis’ Ecology of Fear to my “Now Reading” sidebar, and went to grab the URL. You can now read the first sentence of the book, and get a list of the books Davis cites in his book (all hotlinked) and a list of books that cite Davis’ book (also holinked). It’s a minor improvement on the site, yet quite cool.

Good Times x500

Cut-up artist Chuck Jones (not the animator) makes “Isolation Studies”out of pieces of edited speech, cut up and usually ordered like a list. His sources? NPR, Buffy, and, in his funnier works, Loveline. If you’d don’t know the radio show, then the effect will be diminished. But if you’re a fan of Adam and Dr. Drew, these recontextualizations are strangely satisfying. I recommend “Loveline Questions” and “Alright, Okay, Goodtimes, etc.”

Four in Five

I just bought my fourth burner in the five years I’ve had my G3. I seem to be eternally cursed by bad burners and bad Firewire cases. The last lump of poo was a Pioneer drive in a very bulky EZ-Quest case which never properly burned DVDs and totally shut down after my year warranty expired. I took it to my friendly, local computer fix-it shop and they had a look at it. First they thought it was the drive, so they swapped out the drive for a new one and…that didn’t work either, so they thought it was the case. In came the new case…and the old drive didn’t work, so I had to get a new case and drive. Jiminy Christmas.
So, now I have what you see above, a Metal Gear case with a Plextor PX-712 12x DVD burner (48x CD) inside. It doesn’t use a fan (great!) and is all lit up with blue LEDs, making it look like a pimpmobile. It makes all sorts of low noises when it starts up (not in a bad way), some sounding like a secret radio transmission. I’m putting it through its paces as we speak.
We’ll see how long it lasts. Seeings how much I paid, it better last several years, thank you.