Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Yuletide - Happy Holidays, Merry X-mas, and The Mythical "War on Christmas", A Reminder

Or, why there is no war on Christmas and has never been one...

One of the biggest myths perpetrated over the past decade or so is the idea of a "War on Christmas."  A histrionic yuletide debate over whether the United States is a country that represents Christmas.  The push to view changes to the annual celebration as a "liberal" attack on Christmas and the religious celebration.

It's being perpetuated more now with the arson of the Christmas tree at Fox News.  No, that's not a war on Christmas, just Fox News.  Perhaps with their coverage over the past few years it was Antreefa?

This myth gained popularity in 2005 when radio host John Gibson published a book ("The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought") alleging liberal antagonism toward the holiday.  Even Mr. Gibson is surprised by the response his book got and feels the modern claims of the "War on Christmas" go farther than his book ever imagined.  His book focused on things that rarely happen any more - educators and local officials banning nonreligious symbols like Santa Claus or a Christmas tree out of a mistaken belief that displaying them violates the First Amendment.

One of the most oft cited campaigns waged against Christmas is the switch to "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."  The use of the Holidays phrase is claimed to be part of the removal of Christ from the holiday.  A downplaying of the religious aspect.

"When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression."

Clay Shirky

It's important not to get these mixed up.  "Happy Holidays" has gained favor because it is a recognition that there are many different holidays celebrated from Thanksgiving to New Year and that there are many different variations of the Christmas celebration that may not be observed by all.  "Merry Christmas" is a phrase that truly refers to two days specifically - Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  While we often call the month of December the "Christmas season" it is more appropriately the holiday season.  Los Posadas processions and celebrations begin on December 16.  The first night of Hanukkah began on the evening of December 18.  Winter Solstice is December 21.  Kwanza arrives on December 26.  Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, will not arrive until January 6.  Even Festivus is growing in popularity for December 23.  These holidays represent a wide variety of celebrations over the season that involve members of nearly every major religion, variations on Christmas from every denomination, and non-religious alike.  "Happy Holidays" is the most inclusive term for this period of time, encapsulating a greeting that wishes everyone well.  It's not meant to exclude Christmas, it's simply meant to include everything else, and such a phrase makes sense in the retail world, where it is most often applied, as you want to cover the widest possible customer base.

It should be noted that Jews, Muslims, and other non-celebrants say they are not offended by a "Merry Christmas" greeting.  Perhaps, it's our turn not to be offended by a "Happy Holidays" greeting, and to share the sentiment with a hearty "To you as well" instead of a biting "Merry Christmas" correction.

Another variation on the same thing is the outcry over the use of X-mas instead of Christmas, again trying to say that people are quite literally trying to remove "Christ" from the celebration.  This could not be further from the truth and ignores the history surrounding the X.  For starters, the letter is not an X at all, but the Greek letter chi (C/c), which is the first letter of the Greek work  Χριστός which in English is "Christ." The abbreviation has been used from at earliest possibly 1551.  The X has been used in abbreviation of Christ's name (specifically as part of the Chi Rho -  ⳩) possibly as early as 312.  "Xian" and "Xtian" have even been used to abbreviate Christian.  Far from a removal of Christ, the usage is part of a long tradition of remembrance.

We even get into debates over what decorations are displayed, spreading lies about particular administrations and their "removal" of the Nativity scene.  In case you doubted, the White House Creche has been displayed in the East Room every year since 1967, including during the Obama administration.

"Those are good reason.  Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it's getting too dangerous."
Linus van Pelt

In truth, biggest reason why there is no "War on Christmas" is the very thing that most endangers our religious observance and most attempts to remove Christ from the holiday - Christmas is too big of a money maker to be ignored, downplayed, or warred against. Too many business and people depend on the spending on the secular and religious observances of Christmas to make ends meet.  It's one of the reasons given for the name Black Friday; Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving would bring companies into the black (myth it may be).

And it's this focus on the commercial aspect of Christmas, on what we can get and what we can buy to give, that really takes our focus on the true meaning of the season for followers of Christ.  On the greatest gift we know ever to have been given.  And to that, it's less of a war and more of a surrender.  It's Christians freely and willingly getting wrapped up in everything else that Christmas brings and letting it crowd out all memory of what it is supposed to represent.

So, instead of worrying about how others celebrate this season, or worrying over a misunderstanding of an abbreviation, how about we focus on keeping the memory of the true meaning of the season.  Of carrying that inward guidance of the greatest gift freely given.  To have that spirit guide us to rejoice with exceeding great joy.  To be generous and merciful and to extend that spirit to those around us.

And in that spirit, I wish each of you a very Happy Holidays, whatever you may be celebrating, and a very Merry X-mas!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Giving Tuesday 2022

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another."

Charles Dickens

Today is Giving Tuesday.  A day set aside in 2012 to focus on the specific goal of bringing people together for a day of giving back.  In this season of giving this should be our spirit throughout, but it is so easily lost in all the consumerism.  Even this day can get lost among its neighbors - Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday, and Cyber Monday.  But Giving Tuesday is the most important of all.  

Christmas is about giving.  It's when we share the maxim that it is truly better to give than to receive.  It's about giving gifts, about giving of ourselves to each other to share the greatest gift that we have all received.  It's about that great gift that started with a child in a manger.

Giving Tuesday can be celebrated either by the giving of money or the giving of time.  That's an important distinction.  When we can get so caught up in stuff, we can forget that the greatest gift we can often give is our time.  To those we love, to those in need, to those in our lives.  Don't overlook time.

Also, please remember that Covid-19 and this recession has affected charities as much or more than many other organizations.  For those that are able to give monetarily, please consider doing so out of an abundance.  The need is great this year, and we can help meet it.

Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church reminds us that "God loves a cheerful giver."  I cannot think of a greater way to spread Christmas cheer than to celebrate Giving Tuesday well and carrying that over into this entire season and beyond.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Cyber-Monday 2022

Today marks Cyber Monday, a marketing term coined to push people to e-commerce sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving.  It has become the Black Friday of the e-commerce world, often representing the biggest online shopping day of the year.  In fact, Cyber Monday 2020 was the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, with a total of $10.7 billion in online spending.

While online shopping has become normalized and while it is relatively secure, there are still a few tips you should remember to be safe this holiday season.
  • Only shop on sites you trust - Now is not the time to make purchases from unknown or unrecognized vendors.  As in the physical world, if a deal looks too good to be true, it likely is and can be posted by an untrusted vendor as part of a phishing exercise.  Or if you are buying a hard to find item at a markup, it could be from an untrusted vendor using an automated program to capture all of the sale items and sell them at a large markup.  Buying new items from resellers opens you to an increased risk of fraud and counterfeit goods.  Plus, don't use Wish.
  • Do not click links within an advertising email - These can be easily spoofed and it can be extremely difficult to verify.  Can you tell the difference between a Latin "a" and Cyrillic "a" for example if used once in a bankofamerica link?  Instead, go directly to the merchant's main website.  This can help save you from potential phishing attacks and the issues that could follow.
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi while shopping - It can be very tempting to connect to a store's free Wi-Fi while you are shopping to save on your data usage.  But please know, public Wi-Fi is not secure, meaning if you do connect to it, you should not use it for any browsing that would transfer sensitive information. Don't access important accounts like banking and do not shop online while connected.  Save those for when you are back on your private network.
  • Keep an eye on your bank statements - Watch for duplicate or unrecognized charges on receipts and billing statements.  This is your first line of defense against identity theft and fraud.  Flag any suspicious activity and raise it with your bank or credit card company immediately.
Cyber-shopping can be a great time saver and a great resource.  I love its utility and breadth of access.  I just hope we can all stay safe this holiday season, including cyber-safe.  

Sunday, November 27, 2022

First Sunday of Advent 2022 - In the Bleak Midwinter

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent, where we remember the hope and promise of a coming Messiah, as well as looking forward to the promise of His return.  We live in a similar hope today, looking forward to the second coming, when will be restored.  We can understand that longing, that hope.  

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light:  they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. [...]

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The might God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Shop Small Saturday 2022


Today marks the eleventh annual Shop Small Saturday. To act as a counterpoint to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Shop Small Saturday encourages people to shop local small businesses in this kickoff week to the Christmas shopping season. It’s a reminder not to overlook your local businesses. Your friends and neighbors. Those who often truly depend on this season to boost and maintain their businesses. 

In 2022, once again, it’s even a more important reminder. The chains will and have largely survived this pandemic and recession. The Wal-Marts and Best Buy’s of the world have made it, though perhaps a little changed. Your local gift store, your local clothing boutique, may well not.   They may already be gone.

Likewise with restaurants. McDonalds will be fine, your mom and pop diner has likely already suffered and may not be there.

This Christmas season, more than before, look for ways to shop small. It’s worth the small premium you may pay. That money goes directly into your friends and neighbors. It keeps them employed. It keeps the lights on, in their business and in their homes. 

Buy gifts from a local store. Get a gift certificate to a local spa or salon. Get side dishes or desserts from a local diner to go or just grab a gift certificate. 

Look for ways to help out those local businesses around you.

And if you have a favorite business, check on them. Go out of your way to help them through. 

This year has been rough, but Christmas is a time of year we remember that we get through this together. “To George Bailey, the richest man in town.”  We give and remember it’s better than receiving. 

So, from the product of a family business, Merry Christmas and Shop Small!

Friday, November 25, 2022

Black Friday 2022

Today marks the day where retail businesses supposedly get "in the black" or turn a profit for the year.  It still remains an odd name for the day, sharing the Black Friday moniker with financial and natural disasters.  It's also slightly an odd pairing to have a celebration of thanks for what you have and then immediately go out to grab all the stuff you do not, but such is life.

The busiest shopping day of the year, celebrated with often ridiculous appearing sales to get you in the door.  I've only inadvertently participated a couple of times (and usually much later in the afternoon).  This year, like last, may be marked with a very different Black Friday.  Questions surrounding supply, price increases, a looming recession.   Who knows what shopping will look like?

Growing up, the Friday after Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite days working at the store, because it was the day I got to decorate the windows for Christmas.   That's translated into a day at home pulling down all the Christmas decorations and decorating the apartment.

As always, we're not shopping today, but we are enjoying time off.  I hope you and yours are able to enjoy the day as well.  May your shopping go safely, work pass quickly, and all be enjoyable.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving 2022!

 "The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added... No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union."

President Abraham Lincoln: Proclamation of Thanksgiving

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!  I want you all to know that I am greatly appreciative of all of you that are reading.  I pray you have many things to be thankful for and that the list only grows over the coming days, months, and years.  I hope you are able to take the time to be with family today, whether it be the one you are born into or the one you choose, and are able to take the time to reflect on the blessings in your life and to express that gratitude.

Give thanks.

I know this year, as most always, I have much to be thankful for.

I'm thankful to have the time I do with my family.  Working from home creates challenges, but it also has many, many positives.

I'm thankful my office has opened up so that I can go in as necessary and have enjoyed time with my co-workers.  I'm continually thankful for this new employer.

I'm thankful we've been healthy.  

I'm thankful for every time we've been able to see family, especially since we've moved away.

I'm thankful for our home and feeling home in Brownsburg, IN.  To have the church home we do.  To get to sing on that praise team.  For the friends we've made.

I'm thankful Jamie has found opportunities that she loves and that she is enjoying subbing at the kids school.  Getting to see them in the halls.  And getting to experience a lot of different classrooms.

I'm thankful the kids love school as much as they do.

Even in another absolutely crazy year, I'm thankful.  I'm very thankful.

I hope you are able to do the same.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and in remembrance of what has come before...

Who sings to the plants
That are grown for our plates?
Are they gathered lovingly
In aprons or arms?
Or do they suffer the fate
Of the motor-driven whip
Of the monster reaper?
No song at all, only
The sound of money
Being stacked in a bank
Who stitched the seams in my clothes
One line after another?
Was the room sweaty and dark
With no hour to spare?
Did she have enough to eat?
Did she have a home anywhere?
Or did she live on the floor?
And where were the children?
Or was the seamstress the child
With no home of his or her own?
Who sacrifices to make clothes
For strangers of another country?
And why?
Let's remember to thank the grower of food
The picker, the driver,
The sun and the rain.
Let's remember to thank each maker of stitch
And layer of pattern,
The dyer of color
In the immense house of beauty and pain.

*     *    *

Let's honor the maker.
Let's honor what's made.

Joy Harjo, America's Poet Laureate, Honoring, An American Sunrise

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Native American Heritage Month 2022

November is Native American Heritage Month.  Originally declared by President George H. W. Bush on August 3, 1990, the celebration was created in a landmark bill honoring America's tribal people.  The month aims to provide a platform for Native people in the United States of America to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways of life.  It also provides a way for native communities to express their concerns and solutions for building understanding and friendships with the larger community around them.

The celebration has its origins in a turn of the century effort to gain just a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States.  The first such proclamation for an "American Indian Day" was made on September 28, 1915, by President Calvin Coolidge, naming the second Saturday of May as such a day.  The recognition has simply grown from there.  

We must recognize the heritage of our country and land dates back much farther than any date when a European stepped foot on this land.  And when we recognize that, perhaps we can start dealing with the harder issues.

It's a bit ironic that the month is shared with Thanksgiving, a time when we tell a quaint narrative of how the first Americans and the first European settlers shared a feast to mark getting through the long winter before.  A tale that helps us feel better about how the first Americans have been treated throughout our history.  We tell the tale of us getting along, and then turn and paint the first Americans as aggressors for the rest of our history.  We skip over the numerous broken promises, the numerous broken treaties.  And skip over the atrocities we heaped upon them.

We can, we should, and we must do better.

We can start by learning the names and the cultures of the native tribes around us.  By learning the truth of our Thanksgiving story.  By honoring and remembering those who have always been here.  Those on whose land we stand.

If we can do that, we will all be better for it.

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

Chief Seattle, Duwamish

Monday, November 21, 2022

A Reminder

It's probably a good time to give this reminder about the blog.

First, I want to thank you all for your readership and your kind words.  I remain humbled by the response.  To everyone who has let me know you are reading, ever liked a post, or commented, thank you.  It is appreciated more than you could know.  To those of you who read in silence, thank you as well.

I would also like to use this time to post a reminder of the blog rules, and to provide advance warning.  There will be blogs that will either make you mad or will upset you or challenge your position on a particular topic.  The blog is my personal writing exercise and soap box, so it will reflect my biases and my contrarian streak.  I will also likely question things that many people believe are and should be settled.  I am open to civil discourse on almost any topic.

Finally, I wanted to pass along a reminder that I have an email subscription option on the page.  With that, you'll receive an email link each time a new post is added.  There is also an RSS feed option, in case anyone prefers that method.

Further, an update of the reminders previously posted:

  1. This blog represents largely a writing exercise and an outlet for me to get thoughts out of my head.  It contains my opinion on variety of issues from serious to silly and is filtered through my experiences, biases, etc.
  2. I promise, I will post on topics that are so niche-focused, so utterly nerdy that anyone but me is going to be bored to tears.  I try to keep those to only once or twice a week and to rotate through a variety of topics throughout the week to keep it interesting.  I use the labels so that you can screen out certain topics if you want to.
  3. I will post things that you will disagree with and that will potentially make you upset.  I know I am more liberal than the majority of my audience.  Probably regarding doctrine and politics both.  These are both topics I'm going to write on from time to time.  I personally favor moderation and lean center-left, but will post on a variety of viewpoints from center-right to hard left (maybe even hard right in a few instances).
  4. I am going to be harder on Republicans than I am on Democrats.  While I am not a fan of many politicians of many different political parties, I am growing to despise what the Republican party is becoming.  And I reserve the sharpest criticism for them due to one fact above all: the perverse mixture of politics and religion that Republicans promote. Because they purport to hold themselves out as the Christian party, I'm going to hold them to that impossible standard.  
  5. I am likewise harder on churches and Christians than I am on non-believers.  Those who profess to believe have identified themselves as recognizing a higher standard.  To put it simply, "we should know and act better."  And do so based on a reading of the entire Bible.  Sadly, we all too often fall far short of this.  While I do want to extend grace to those that slip, when errors occur as abuses of power in the church  or in ways that belittle the faith they claim to hold, I will be discussing it. 
  6. I'm generally more interested in questions than concrete answers.  I think we as a collective are less curious than we should be and settle for comfortable answers when we should still be asking harder, more difficult questions.  
  7. I am completely open to disagreement and debate. Honest and open dialogue is the only way we can move forward in any civilized society.  However, I have a few ground rules for debate:
    • I will not tolerate name calling or muckraking.  When the thread resorts to calling each other racists, "liberal snowflakes," "libtards," or four-letter words, I will shut it down.  Likewise, I'm not going to let stereotypes and sweeping generalities go unchallenged.  All liberals do not want the destruction of our country, all conservatives are not bigots, etc.
    • I hope for discussion that will foster conversation, not end it.  So I expect more than "guns don't kill people, people kill people" in a discussion on gun control, for example.  I will not let those conversation-enders stand unchallenged.
    • Compromise is not a dirty word.  And likewise, I do hope people change their mind from time to time based on what they learn. Including me.
    • I follow this hierarchy for the value of information: facts, then informed opinions, then general opinions.  Saying "that's just my opinion" is going to get nowhere with me if it is not supported by the facts.
As always, thank you for reading!

Sunday, November 20, 2022


1000 posts. 

That’s a lot of writing. This is the number I couldn’t believe that I was so close to. It’s why I was surprised that I had let the blog sit for as long as I did. When I started the hiatus, I was only twenty blogs or so away from post 1000. 

And now, here we are. 

When I started this process four years ago, I had no idea how long it would last, how much I would find I had to say, or how much I would find enjoyment in it. I certainly had no idea that it would still be going this long after. I just knew there were things in my head that I needed to get down in writing. To put down on paper, metaphorically. 

That still remains true. The content has changed a bit, but the process is still important to me. To write, to express, and to share.  For that reason, I will keep at it. I don’t know if I’ll make a thousand more posts, but I very well may.  Right now, I’m focusing on just one post at a time. 

Over the next month and a half, the posts should be very consistent. The holidays are always easy to write about, at least for me. So, there should be a daily post coming up into the new year. From there, we’ll see how the rhythm lands. 

As always, thank you for reading this far. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Breathe, Just Breathe

"Breathe on me, breathe on me, Holy Spirit, breathe on me;
Take Thou my heart, cleanse ev'ry part, Holy Spirit, breathe on me."

"God is as close as your breath."
Janet Wanner

"Then the Lord God formed then man from the dust of the ground.  He breathed the breath of life into the man's nostrils, and the man became a living person."
Genesis 2:7

Of all the things we need to survive, oxygen is the most important.  Generally, you can survive without food for about three weeks.  You can survive without water for about three days.  But without oxygen, without breath, you can only survive 30 to 90 seconds.  

There are exceptions.  The world record for voluntarily holding one's breath is near 25 minutes, which is miraculous, but still a blip in terms of average life span.

For its importance, breath is mentioned a lot in the scriptures.  If you think about it, the entirety of creation is God breathed.  God breathed and spoke the world, the universe into existence.  Genesis then gets very explicit in the second chapter describing how God literally breathed man into creation.  We exist because God breathed life into us.

We recognize this importance in the birth of children.  Once they are delivered, the room seems to hold its breath until that child breathes its first one and cries.  The room then breathes a sigh of relief.  All is well.

This importance of breath for life is reiterated in the Psalms, in Isaiah, in Ezekiel.  It's spelled out four times in Job.  This gives us one clear message.

God's breath is our life.  It is His grace to us.

And if we study breathing, that should tell us how important we are to God and how close he is to us.

On average, people usually take 10 to 15 breaths per minute when resting.  That's 14,400 to 21,600 breaths a day.  5.26 to 7.88 million breaths in a year.  420.48 to 630.72 million breaths in an average lifetime. 

If God's breath is our life, are we seeking him as often as we seek oxygen?  Are we seeking him 14,400 to 21,600 times a day?  Is our every breath for him?  That would be praying without ceasing.

And that's just when we are at rest.  When we exert ourselves, when we are working harder, striving for something, under stress, under exertion, our breath rate increases.  We need more oxygen.  Similarly, when we are under stress, when we are under exertion, when we can't catch our breath, we need God more.

This part comes easier to us.  We often seek him when we are running out of air.  But are we seeking him enough to sustain us on the days of rest?


"Worship is when we give God His breath back."
Louie Giglio

"Again he said, 'Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.'  Then he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
John 20:21-22

In the New Testament, we also see the breath of God used as a mechanism for the distribution of the Holy Spirit.  More specifically, an impartation of the divine essence of God into each of us through breath.

We have God living in us because of His breath.

And that raises another question.

The prior section focused on how we needed to be inhaling breath for our life.  Are we taking in enough of God?  With the Spirit in us, the focus then shifts to our exhaling.  Are we breathing out enough of God around us?  Are we spreading the Spirit?

Both to those who have been placed in our lives and to God himself.  Are we breathing out enough praise?

Louie Giglio is a very powerful preacher and his statement above is so profound.  Worship is when we give God back what He has given us.  We exert our breath to give the breath he has given us back.

Here's why that's interesting to me.  The average human can forcefully exhale over two times as much breath out than their normal inhalation.  Normal inhalation and exhalation routines are roughly the same.  But we have the capacity to have a much greater exhalation than what we take in.  

Put simply, our cups are designed to run over.

We're meant to spill out once we have taken in.  We should be breathing out life to those around us because we are taking in life.  If we are receiving the breath of God as we should, then by pouring out praise to Him, we can be breathing out His life to those around us.

The cycle continues then.

Breathing in grace,
Breathing out praise
Breathing in grace,
Breathing out praise.

And so on, and so on, and so on...

It's what we were built to do.  It's how our bodies are structured to live.  

Perhaps we should pay more attention to our breathing.

"You are the air I breathe
You are the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

And I, I'm desperate for you
And I, I'm lost without you"

Friday, November 18, 2022

Happy 94th Birthday, Mickey Mouse!

M-I-C-K-E-Y  M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse turns 94 today.  Looks pretty good, doesn't he!

Ninety-three years ago today, Disney released Steamboat Willie in New York.  Though the short was the third Mickey Mouse short to be produced, it was the first to find a distributor and be released, causing the Walt Disney Company to use it as marking Mickey's debut to the world.  This short innovated cartoon shorts at the time by being the first cartoon short to have synchronized sound throughout its entirety.  The magic of sound and comedy quickly propelled the mouse to the most prominent animated character of the time.  

In the years since, Mickey has gone on to be a movie star, television star, comic book hero, corporate mascot, and theme park icon.  To the point where the three circle silhouette is instantly recognizable.  And where referring to something as being "Mickey Mouse" has specific connotations.   

From a life long fan, happy birthday Mickey!  Ears to many more years!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Soapbox - Similarity


"One of the things we try to demonstrate in our yarns is that nobody is all good, or all bad.  Even a shoddy super-villain can have a redeeming trait, just as any howling' hero might have his nutty hangups.  One of the greatest barriers to real peace and justice in this troubled world is the feeling that everyone on the other side of the ideological fence is a 'bad guy'.  We don't know if you're a far-out radical, or Mr. Establishment himself -if you're a black militant or a white liberal - if you're a pantin' protest marcher or a jolly John Bircher - but, whatever you are, don't get bogged down by kindergarten labels!  It's time we learned how fruitless it is to think in terms of us and them - of black and white.  Maybe, just maybe, the other side isn't all bad.  Maybe your own point of view isn't the only one that's divinely inspired.  Maybe we'll never find true understanding until we listen to the other guy; and until we realize that we can never march across the Rainbow Bridge to true Nirvana - unless we do it side-by-side!



Stan's Soapbox, March 1969

The more things change...

53 years later, we could still heed this advice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Cantique de Jean Racine, Opus 11

"The highest goal of music is to connect their soul to their Divine Nature, not entertainment." 

I often find that pieces of music can impact us greatly.  They resurface at various places in your life, where you can remember the places where they were played, how they affect you, and move you in places you may not have recognized before.

Pieces like the Cantique de Jean Racine, Opus 11 by Gabriel Faure.

The piece is a mixed choir composition, usually intended for accompaniment on an organ, which captures the French paraphrase of a Latin hymn from the breviary of the matins, liturgical books for the darkness of early morning.   Composed in 1865, it became one of Faure's early signature pieces.  He was 19 at its composition.

I first encountered the piece at a show choir summer camp at Duke University in 1994, the summer before my freshman year of high school.  The Brightleaf Music Workshop always aimed to expose its students to a wide variety of choral music, from show choir, to vocal jazz, to gospel, and high holy classical music.  The Cantique was one such classical piece for that year, to be performed in the final shows and additionally to be performed at Sunday services in the Duke Chapel.  

This was one portion of the camp that I always looked forward to. 

Duke remains an interesting college campus.  One side is all straight edges and modern architecture, as if completely designed by engineers.  The other is closer to Oxford and Cambridge, assembled by stone masons and craftsmen.  As if completely designed by artisans.  The Duke Chapel exists on this side of the campus, completely mirroring classical cathedral architecture.  Accordingly, the cross shaped building has amazing acoustics that ring music and sound throughout the structure.  

Plus, it has the most beautiful sounding organs that I've heard.  While the Chapel now has three, at the time, it housed two large pipe organs, one with 6,900 pipes, and the other with 5,033 pipes.  You can feel the bass from those pipes in your soul.

For the 1994 Brightleaf song selection for the Duke Chapel services, the conductors of Brightleaf chose the Cantique de Jean Racine to be accompanied by the chapel's organs, and a men's acapella performance of the Amen section of an Ave Maria variation to close.  

To sing those pieces there, with expert accompaniment, and to feel the music in your body and soul because of the construction of the Chapel was a divine experience.  We can often talk about feeling the Spirit in Christian circles and this often comes with more charismatic music.  Something more modern, something where the darkness and the volume allows you to let go and feel the emotion of the song and the praise being lifted.  

This was different.  This was connecting with something older, something greater. A piece that had been performed for hundreds of years, raising praise to God.  A building designed to honor the Lord in every piece that was chosen for it by masters in their field.  The unity of voices singing in harmony.  And the echo of the music in the air.

I count it as one of the clearest experiences where I felt the Spirit of the Lord's presence. 

The piece would continue to pop up in my life, being a competition piece for All-Region Choir in my high school years.  And now, I'm having the pleasure of singing it with the Cummins Diversity Choir, with others who have likewise encountered it in ages past.

And each time we sing, I still feel the echo of that Sunday morning years ago.

"Verbe égal au Très-Haut, notre unique espérance,
Jour éternel de la terre et des cieux,
De la paisible nuit nous rompons le silence:
Divin Sauveur, jette sur nous les yeux.

Répands sur nous le feu de Ta grâce puissante;
Que tout l'enfer fuie au son de Ta voix;
Dissipe le sommeil d'une âme languissante
Qui la conduit à l'oubli de Tes lois!

Ô Christ! sois favorable à ce peuple fidèle,
Pour Te bénir maintenant rassemblé;
Reçois les chants qu'il offre à Ta gloire immortelle,
Et de Tes dons qu'il retourne comblé."

"Word of the Highest, our only hope,
Eternal day of earth and the heavens,
We break the silence of the peaceful night;
Saviour Divine, cast your eyes upon us!

Pour on us the fire of your powerful grace,
That all hell may flee at the sound of your voice;
Banish the slumber of a weary soul,
That brings forgetfulness of your laws!

O Christ, look with favour upon your faithful people
Now gathered here to praise you;
Receive their hymns offered to your immortal glory;
May they go forth filled with your gifts."

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Wakanda Forever


"Wakanda Forever", both a unifying cry and greeting for the fictional country in Marvel's Black Panther, and the title of the newest sequel and Marvel blockbuster.

Jamie and I saw the film yesterday, and I highly recommend it.  For a Marvel movie, the depth of prior movies needed is really small.  You only really need to have seen the first Black Panther movie to understand this film.  In that way, these two Ryan Coogler films are fairly contained, their own pocket of the Marvel universe that can reference the broader picture but never really need it.

The film is particularly impressive in that it does something that is rare not only in superhero movies, but surprisingly rare in film today - it has something to say.  Meaning, the story has a broader message that it would like to share.  And this message is how to deal with grief.

When Chadwick Boseman passed, everyone wondered how they could continue to have a Black Panther film series.  His presence and charisma as T'Challa, the titular Black Panther, shown through his Marvel films and loomed bright the entire Marvel Universe. Coogler addresses that question by making it the central conceit of the film.  How do you tell a story, how do you move on when someone so impactful has died?

The film has each character impacted by loss experience it in a different way, some retreating into work, some into faith, and some disappearing completely.  Through the events of the film, it raises questions of the importance of faith, of believing in something larger in the grief process, on the dangers of holding on to the past, on the importance of a structure around you for support.

If you have any interest in seeing it, I highly recommend it.  One of the better films I've seen this year.  It may not be my favorite Marvel film (as I hold Endgame there just for the feelings that it brings), but to me it ranks as probably the best cinematically.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Noirvember 2022

It's November again, and in our house that means one thing - Noirvember.

Noirvember is a celebration of the greatest film genre of all, film noir.  Film noir refers to the stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and motivations.  It's the genre that provides us the smooth talking detectives, the hard as nails femme fatales that get them in trouble, and the criminals we love to hate.

It remains my favorite genre of film and of literature.  I've spent the last couple of years reading through the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James M. Cain.  And now that I've finished there, I've switched to the precursor with Agatha Christie and murder mysteries.  I've poured over the film careers of Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Richard Widmark.

To me, film noir is best served in black and white, as only that setting can provide the dark enough shadows to make it so perfectly captured.  This puts the best films in the 1940s and 1950s, which unsurprisingly, is the era I have logged the most film viewings in my Letterbox app.

Like last year, we've seen quite a few film noir new discoveries, a few of which I'd like to pass along as recommendations today:
  • The Killing - Stanley Kubrik's tight heist noir.  It breaks the rules in all the fun ways.
  • Force of Evil - We saw this at the TCM film festival with a live introduction by Eddie Muller for a live Noir Alley.  A fairly straightforward noir with a fantastic performance by Thomas Gomez, an underrated character actor.
  • The Bad Sleep Well - Kurosawa's tale of revenge and corporate corruption.  Tense all the way through and while the ending can be frustrating, it sticks with you.  A great use of black and white and lighting in a famous alley scene. 
  • The Hitch-Hiker - Ida Lupino's directorial triumph and the first film noir directed by a woman.  Tight, tense, three person film based on a real life crime.  Keeps you on edge to the end.
  • Boomerang - bit more of a court-room drama, but compelling performances, nonetheless, by Dana Andrews, Arthur Kennedy, and Lee J Cobb.
  • Panic in the Streets - this one was a trip to watch in the height of the CoVID.  Elia Kazan film with Richard Widmark as an officer of the US Public Health Service trying to stop a pneumonic plague from spreading through New Orleans.  Really interesting parallels.
Let me know your favorites.  Until next year, there's more Noir Alley ahead.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Glorious Day

"One day when heaven was filled with His praises,
One day when sin was as black as could be,
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin -
Dwelt among men, my example is He!

One day they led Him up Calvary's mountain,
One day they nailed Him to die on the tree;
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected;
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He.

One day they left Him alone in the garden,
One day He rested, from suffering free;
Angels came down o'er His tomb to keep vigil;
Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is He.

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer,
One day the stone rolled away from the door;
Then He arose, over death He had conquered;
Now is ascended, my Lord evermore.

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming,
One day the skies with His glory will shine;
Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing;
Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine!

Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever;
One day He's coming - O glorious day!"
Glorious Day, John Wilbur Chapman, Charles Howard Marsh

Today was baptism Sunday, which is always a special time in service.  There is a power to worship on these days.  The celebration is firmer, more tangible.   

It's electric.  People who are a bit more reserved in worship move more freely.  Particularly as the baptisms are occurring with song.  The combination of clapping for the baptism and celebrating that bleeds over into the worship and song.   They sing louder, they clap harder.

Perhaps it's the more direct remembrance to what Jesus has done for them.  For their own baptism experience and the joy of seeing others brought into the family.  We know it makes the angels celebrate and it makes us celebrate here too.

For those of the faith, I hope your worship this morning was tangible.  Was electric.  

I hope it was something real that touched you deep down into your soul.  I hope you had a glorious day today.

Because if it wasn't, what's holding you back?

"You called my name, 
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into your glorious day

I needed rescue
My sin was heavy
But chains break at the weight of Your glory
I needed shelter
I was an orphan
Now You call me a citizen of heaven
When I was broken
You were my healing
Now Your love is the air that I'm breathing
I have a future
My eyes are open

'Cause when you call my name
I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into your glorious day."
Glorious Day, Ingram, Smith, Curran, Stanfill

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Rest in Peace, Dark Knight


This one hurts.  

Batman is dead.  THE Batman.

We can argue about who played Batman best in the movies, we can argue about Adam West's portrayal as Batman and how it fits in the large scope of pop culture, but there was one thing that could never be argued.  There is only one definitive portrayal of Batman across all media.  Only one voice that embodied the character so well, that it forever defined who Batman is.

Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman in the classic Batman: The Animated Series (1992).

Conroy was one of the first actors truly delineate between Batman and Bruce Wayne, to portray the gravel that Batman would add to his voice, and often portraying the heartbreak inherent in the character.  And he did it all with just his voice.

As a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, Batman: The Animated Series had a huge impact on me.  Their technique of animating and painting on black matte backgrounds to create a noir edge to the art.  The streamline moderne aspect to the art, placing Gotham City in an anachronistic time period that never existed, but somehow fit perfectly.  Plus, it was the first animated series where particular attention was paid to hiring dramatic actors to fill the vocal roles.

Conroy, prior to Batman, was a Juliard trained stage and TV actor who roomed with Robin Williams.  He consistently worked throughout the 80s, often in soap operas like Another World and Search for Tomorrow.  Batman would prove to be his iconic role, one he continued to portray to the very end and one he took to heart.  He was particularly gracious to his fans at conventions, even as his health began failing him.  He passed away Thursday, November 10, 2022, from complication due to cancer, at the age of 66.

If you have not read it, DC comics released a written work by Conroy with art by the incredible J. Bone as part of their DC Pride issue this June, in which Conroy relayed his experiences as a closeted and recently out gay actor working through the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.  It spoke of his experiences fighting to find work in an industry that refused to put gay actors in a lead role and of the deep connection he made with Batman through the audition process and the development of the character.  It is beautiful and heartbreaking and DC comics has made it available free to read to everyone now in honor of Conroy's life.  You can read it here

Rest in Peace Dark Knight, you are missed.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Veterans Day 2022

"I’ll have you know that a soldier is the most holy of all humans because he is the most tested — most tested of all."
John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Today is a day that the world remembers and honors those who serve their countries.

Armistice Day. Remembrance Day. Veterans Day.

The world remembers and celebrates the end of what was supposed to be the war to end all wars.  The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  Oh, were that true.

As Americans, we remember and honor those who serve and sacrifice for our country.  Who sacrifice for our freedoms as the wars rage ever on.

Thank you. We owe you more than we can say.  May we never forget.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
John F. Kennedy

Thursday, November 10, 2022

My November Guest

I'm currently reading a poem a day, focusing now on the works of Robert Frost.  So, periodically, I'm going to share some of my favorites.  Here, a poem on the melancholy of November and fall.

My November Guest

“My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,

Thinks these dark days of autumn rain

Are beautiful as days can be;

She loves the bare, the withered tree;

She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.

She talks and I am fain to list;

She’s glad the birds are gone away,

She’s glad her simple worsted gray

Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,

The faded earth, the heavy sky,

The beauties she so truly sees,

She thinks I have no eye for these,

And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know

The love of bare November days

Before the coming of the snow,

But it were vain to tell her so,

And they are better for her praise.”

Robert Frost, A Boy's Will, 1913

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Why Do We Make Voting So Frustrating?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, right?

With that said, why do we keep making voting such a frustrating process?

I went to vote yesterday afternoon, leaving the house just after 4:00 pm.  It was 6:25 pm by the time I had actually cast my ballot and left the building.  A frustrating experience all the way around for several reasons.

First, by four, every polling station had at least an hour line.  Jamie had gone at 2:30 pm and waited in a forty-five minute line.  

I went to a station out at the Lucas Oil Motor Speedway.  From the outside, large building, should be able to process a lot of voters.  Short line outside, so things looked good.  When I got in the line though, I learned that the wait was an hour from the point where you got to the door.

The large building was just primarily used to house the line that snaked around inside.  Only six voting machines, so only six people maximum could vote at a time.  And the polls were going to close at 6:00 pm to new voters.

Why have we not worked on ways to improve this yet?

We hold the election on a work day, when it is difficult to get to for most people.   We limit machines to artificially inflate a wait time, as the actual time to cast a ballot is minimal.  Plus we rely on machines that still confuse people in voting to this day, such that they require a person to walk you over to them and explain the process.

It's past time to rethink our process.  Election day as a national holiday, or moved to a weekend.  Paper ballots across the board.  Universal mail in voting.  An increase in capacity at most voting locations.

Something.  Then maybe we can get voter participation up over 70%.

Or let's least admit that the difficulty is a feature, not a bug.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022


Today is election day.  I know it's only the mid-terms and there is a tendency to view non-presidential elections as somehow less important.  

That could not be any further from the truth.  

At the national level, your Senator or Representative will have much more impact on your daily life than any president ever will.  Congress makes the laws, the president enforces them.  An oversimplification, but still a truth.  The men and women of Congress will be writing the laws we are complaining about months from now.  And the fact that there are far too many serving that have been in the office for too long, profited far too much off the office, and have lost their connection to the people gives us even more incentive to vote whenever they are up for election.

Most importantly, and often most overlooked, the local civic and school board elections will more directly impact to your day to day life than any national election.  They are writing the laws and policies that can have the most immediate impact on your community.

So, this is my plea - go vote.  It matters. It really does, more than you think. 

Don’t listen to the voices playing on your fear.  Our votes are generally very safe and free from fraud.  It naturally takes more than just tonight to count every vote and to know the outcome in certain tight elections. This is all normal and not a cause for undue alarm. 

If you need a voter guide for the national elections, there are several out there, like A site like that can walk you through the ballot you will see.   There are likely local ballot information you can obtain out there as well. 

Vote, vote, vote. 

Monday, November 7, 2022

Mitchuation Update - I'm Back

Six months...

I really didn't think it would be six months.  And it has been, nearly down to the day.

When I took a break back in May, I thought I would only take a week or two off from blogging and then jump back into it.  Maybe jump back in at a less frequent pace, or focus on specific days and events, but the intent was always to get back into it.

Then we got bust in the summer with camps and travel, and then we were getting back into the new rhythm with school and Jamie's new job.  And now we're back after fall break.i

Suddenly, I look and six months has gone by.  

Needless to say, I'm back.  I'll be blogging more frequently and finding a groove to continue this exercise.  I'm viewing it as exercise - it's mental exercise, helping me continue to develop this skill.  This fall has all been about creating new routines.  I've been consistently working out for over six weeks now, practicing my languages on DuoLingo for over a month, and am focusing now on a new productivity list.  I want writing to be part of that ongoing habit.

So expect more posts coming.  More updates, more history, more poetry, and more opinion.  More excuses to get ideas out of my head.  

As always, thank you for reading and caring.  

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Fall Back

 It's the most wonderful time of the year...

That day we we’ve had an extra hour of sleep.

I hope you remembered to set your clocks back an hour, otherwise you got everywhere early today. In law school, we had one student buried so deep in studying at the spring forward time, they completely missed the change on Sunday and didn’t notice until Monday morning. 

At some point, I do hope we can get rid of all this spring forward/fall back nonsense. Maybe now with the bill still passed in the Senate there could be traction on the one in the House, keeping us in this state. 

I hope you were all able to enjoy it and hope you have a wonderful day of rest.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

The Fifth Of November 2022

 Remember, remember! 

The fifth of November, 
The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
I know of no reason 
Why the Gunpowder treason 
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions 
Did the scheme contrive, 
To blow the King and Parliament 
All up alive. 
Threescore barrels, laid below, 
To prove old England's overthrow. 
But, by God's providence, him they catch, 
With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 
A stick and a stake 
For King James's sake! 
If you won't give me one, 
I'll take two, 
The better for me, 
And the worse for you. 
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope, 
A penn'orth of cheese to choke him, 
A pint of beer to wash it down, 
And a jolly good fire to burn him. 
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring! 
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King! 
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

If I ever forget to post this on November 5, please check on me.

Now a celebration that is definitely appropriate given 2022 and our continued political situation, Guy Fawkes Day/Night.  The celebration of the foiled plot by Guy Fawkes and his compatriots to assassinate the protestant King James I via explosives underneath the Parliament House of Lords.  It was a symptom of the growing Catholic and Protestant divide in England, an attempt to install a Catholic head of state through regicide. The failed attempt lead to the execution of the conspirators and the introduction of more anti-Catholic legislation in England.

An annual celebration through the lighting of bonfires and burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes complete with grotesque mask to celebrate the survival of King James I.  Members of the celebration would often wear Guy Fawkes masks as well.  

Do we seen any reason our own treasonous plot should ever be forgot?

I hope not.