Rudolph the Red-Nosed Snowman and Chestnuts Roasting on Harumpha-Dum-Dum

Spoiler Alert: Seasonal Misanthropy (aka “bah humbug”) ensues:

If you are a sentient creature who actually leaves his domicile during this time of year, I’m sure you’re familiar with this experience: you walk into your favorite restaurant, store or coffee shop, and your ears are immediately pierced by a familiar recording emanating from the store’s sound system. It’s familiar because it’s the very same song you heard in the last shop you were just in.  And will hear again in the next shop you go to…

Hey Santa, can I borrow your headphones?

Hey Santa, can I borrow your headphones?

And so it goes for, oh, about two months at the end of every year.  Or as one friend observed as I was composing this screed, “I audibly groan when I hear the first Christmas song when I’m strolling by the Halloween candy…”

I realize that it’s a stretch, but by the middle of December, my own apocalyptic mindset finds it hard to separate the expressions “Christmas music” and “fascist conspiracy.”

It may just be that “fascist” is my default descriptor for all things grating or unpleasant. Calling something “fascist” is one of the easiest and most and dismissive epithets our language offers.  But, rightly or wrongly, that’s kinda where I go when I observe repetitive conventions that are practiced in the service of commerce: I feel like I’m being subjected to not-so-subliminal thought control.

So while I readily acknowledge that calling Christmas music a “fascist conspiracy” may be a tad over-wrought, there is still something genuinely disturbing about the Teutonic lockstep by which we are subjected to a redundant torrent of (mostly) insipid music everywhere we go during this reflective time of year.  

Tell me you don’t agree:  that there is nothing like hearing Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” over and over again to take all the wonder out of Christmas.  Why, just the mention of that tedious tune is enough to send a malevolent ear-worm eating its way into your brain, isn’t it?? 

Now, if you’ve read this far, you may find it hard to believe that I actually like a lot of the music that comes with this time of year.

What drives me nuts is hearing the same blasted songs over and over again.

So this is not an absolute invective against any kind of seasonal, turn-the-page, peace-on-earth, goodwill-toward-men sonic celebration.  I think it’s a good idea to pause for some reflection before the beginning of a new year, and I am entirely capable of getting into the holiday spirit.  Hell, I bought my girlfriend a lovely pewter candlestick for Christmas back in 1969 (and she still has it!).  

And music certainly has a role to play in prompting that mood of seasonal introspection. But every year, the sonic gates open for a two month deluge of extraordinary popular delusions (and yes, the madness of crowds) that starts the day after Halloween.  

Yes, I know Santa Claus is coming to town.  And you know what he can bring me?  A pair of noise-canceling headphones.

For me, the issue here is not the music itself, but how its constant repetition subverts its benefits.

Before you write me off entirely as Scrooge incarnate, consider this illustration of my quandary:  Every year for the past more-years-than-I-can remember (or actually care to count), Ann and I have made a pilgrimage to the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Nashville to attend Dave Pomeroy’s “Nashville Unlimited” Christmas concert. This is precisely the kind of occasion for which Christmas music is ideally suited, and over the years this event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Room In The Inn shelter and programs.

Every year Dave’s show concludes with the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble (RIP, Butch Baldassari) playing a nearly all-mandolin rendition of the traditional “Carol Of The Bells.”  And when I hear that, I think to myself, “OK, now it can be ‘Christmas’…” 

But that momentary ebullience gets pretty well beaten out of me over the course of the next couple of days, when I go to my favorite coffee shops and restaurants and hear the same half-dozen tunes played again and again.

Let us pause here for a moment to empathize with the hapless souls who work in these establishments, where decrees from their Corporate Overlords leave employees little choice but to endure the aural onslaught or seek employment elsewhere (where, of course, they will be subject to the same oppressively redundant playlist).  Every time I’ve broached the subject with somebody behind a counter, the inquiry produces a similar grimace-and-eye-roll.

Why, just yesterday, the guy behind the fish counter at the grocery story was whistling “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.” Clearly, his brainwashing was complete. I decided to get chicken instead.

These endless repeats of the same old songs – even with the jazz, R&B and hip-hop variations that are thrown into the mix – serve as a constant reminder to just how out of control the whole season has gotten.

When you hear holiday music occasionally – like at a special, seasonal concert with a charitable purpose –holiday music can be a pleasant reminder of a ‘special time of year.’  But when you hear the same fucking songs over and over again… I can’t speak for you, but I start to wonder if I’m in the middle of a totalitarian nightmare, a sonically-induced Forced March to the Gas Showers of Compulsory Goodwill, where the only viable escape route is to buy something. 

Could these objections just be a “boomer thing”?  By which I mean: Maybe it’s just that I’m old.  I’ve been listening to this shit for 60+ years now. Maybe that’s why it’s wearing a little thin.  Maybe multiple decades of the same old songs has made them tiresome.  But really, there should be some sort of ‘statute of limitations’ (short of actual death). 

Do others in my age bracket, similarly exposed for more than a handful of decades, share any of these sentiments?  I mean… is enough enough, or have we not yet had our fill of chestnuts roasting on an open fire?

Maybe we can take a clue from our Puritan forebears: They recognized the pagan origins of the holiday, found no Biblical justification for it observance, outlawed the practice, and put transgressors in stocks for celebrating Christmas.  

Locking celebrants in the pillory for observing Christmas seems a bit draconian now, but at least in the 17th century they didn’t have to listen to the music for two months.  



This Is Progress?

If you recognize these people, you're a "boomer."

If you recognize these people, you’re a “boomer.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what might be found under the broad and general heading of “exploring the cultural legacy of the generation born between Hiroshima and Dealey Plaza.”  

My generation, in other words.  The “boomers.”

There might be more to come on this broad and general topic. For now let me try to put these ruminations in the context of this week’s Big Story:  You could comfortably argue that one of the “legacies” of my generation generation (I was born in 1950) is the now undeniably revealed practice of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that has finally and quite rightfully been described as “torture.”

You know, like we only see in movies…. NOT.

We think we are so civilized, with our running water and electricity, our motorized transports, our pockets full of gizmos, our elevated use of language and visual communications.

And yet, when fear takes center stage, as it did after 9/11, we devolve into practices that are positively medieval.  We have met Ramsay Snow, and he is us.

And here’s the truly disturbing thing about these revelations from my perspective: these reprehensible practices were encouraged, sponsored, developed, and implemented by elements of the same generation that thought they were going to “Give Peace A Chance”  (i.e. George W. Bush, born July, 1946).

This is the kind of paradox that can only be observed with a slap to the forehead and a loud “Whathefuckingfuck??”

And of course, I’d like to think that I, personally, am above such atrocities that are committed in the name of my safety and security.  But the fact of the matter is that while all this was going on, Ann and I were avid fans of the TV show “24” – a program that went to great lengths every week to justify precisely the forms of conduct we are condemning now. You can’t help but feel that makes you complicit on some level.

The same generation that gave us “C’mon people now, smile on your brother.” has also given us water boarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and the latest incomprehensible vulgarity to be injected into our vernacular – dare I say it? – “rectal feeding” – two words that should probably never been seen in the same sentence, let alone the same phrase.

How do you reconcile these contradictions, other than arriving at the conclusion that decades may pass, but ‘nothing really changes’ ?

Technology marches right along.  The humans that create it still dwell – emotionally, at least – in caves.

I think my wife succinctly expressed the consternation – failure? -  of my generation recently when, in response to some item in the recent news – ISIS, drones, some other malevolent force – she simply said, “you know, I really expected that by the time I got to this point in my life we’d have some kind of world  peace…”

I think a lot of us expected that, in the 60s and parts of the 70s.  And then the 80s came along and we all went off to Wall Street (or it’s Main Street equivalent).

On the one hand, I suppose I can argue that my generation laid the ground work for whatever progress has been made in civilization.  On the other hand… well, just read a newspaper.

This is progress?

I don’t really have any answers.  Sometimes you just have to take a few minutes and ponder the questions.

I wonder if any of my contemporaries are wondering the same things.  C’mon, all you high-school classmates on Facebook… tell me: are you thinking about these things too?

A “Portal” At My Feet

Sometimes you get an idea, and though it may be a few weeks before you can actually get around to it… sometimes the execution is exactly what you had envisioned.  Such is the case with this puddle of rainwater that I noticed as I was leaving the ground of Sweetheart Abbey near Dumfries, Scotland last October…

Portals usually open in the heavens above; occasionally they open at your feet – as happened here at #Sweetheart Abbey near #Dumfries

©2014 aka @driver49

Caerlaverock Castle
and Introducing “Mr. Turner”

I am FINALLY getting into the photos form my trip to the UK back in October.

The hold up has been software related… I won’t bore you all with the details, other than to say that software I have been relying on since I started the whole “Portals of Stone” thing last year was updated, and the update didn’t work as well as the… what do you call it, the “down dated”? version.

Anyway, those issues (more more or less) resolved now and I’m starting to turn out some new “Portals” (PW <UK14> like the one above/after this post.

One upside of the recent difficulties is that I am now using a new suite of photo processing programs from Topaz Labs. One module that showed up as something of a “bonus” in the process was a new program called ‘Impression’ which lets me digitally emulate the fine-art techniques of several masters.  Among them is JMW Turner…

I first learned of Turner (Wikipedia entry here; image samples here) after my first trip to Scotland in 2012. He was regarded as Britain’s premier landscape artist in the late 18th and early 19th century, and once I started looking at images of medieval ruins online, I realized a lot of the paintings I encountered from that period were by Turner.

Now it seems that “Mr. Turner” is about to undergo something of a personal renaissance – he is the title character in a feature film that will hit theaters here in the US on December 19.

I will post the trailer for that film at the top of this page in a moment. In the meantime, here is a rendering of Caerlaverock Castle near Dumfries, Scotland – re-imagined as “Mr. Turner” might have painted it:

©2014 aka @driver49

The Promise of A New Day

December 4, 2014, 11:43AM:

Sunrise, Cedar Key FL - September 2014

Sunrise, Cedar Key FL – September 2014 -  click to embiggen

The mornings
always seem so promising
I start every day
with a clear slate
that means
I can get straight to my work
but first I have to do this
and that
and then
another thing
and then
something else
pops up suddenly
that needs tending to
and before I know it
the morning is almost gone
and I’m thinking
“the afternoon looks promising…”

Sunrise Through The Ruins – Sweetheart Abbey

I have not spent nearly as much time as I would have liked by now going through the photos I brought back from my trip to the UK last month (was it really two whole weeks ago that I returned??).

Part of the delay has been due to software issues.  I made the mistake of upgrading some of my image processing plugins, and in so doing have apparently lost the use of important tool-sets that have been rearranged in the newer version.  Oh, the times we live in.

I did see this one yesterday, though…

When I first tried to calculate the angle of the sunrise from this location, I thought it was going to come straight through these windows in the eastern wall into the nave/sanctuary. There must be some date when that occurs, but it wasn’t this date.

I was rather struck though by the simple colors of the sky as the sun began to rise (off to the right). When I saw the image in silhouette yesterday, I thought it would be worth sharing:

Sunrise – the East Windows of Sweetheart Abbey – October 2014@historicscotland @welovehistory @visitscotland @GreatBritain @TwitterUK @medievalworld @getolympus @abbeycottage
Sweetheart Abbey south of Dumfries, near the River Nith in south-west Scotland, was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway, daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway, in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her.

#Medieval #medievaleurope #Europe #stonebuilding #instatravel #travelgram #photooftheday #thebest_capture #ig_masterpiece #nuriss_tag #awe_inspiringshots #pro_ig #global_highlights #igworldclub #ig_select #editoftheday #capture_today #waycoolshots #featuremeinstagood #igcapturesclub #ig_masterpiece #ig_great_pics #picoftheday #instadaily #bestoftheday #instapic

©2014 aka @driver49

The Sun Sets on Autumn, 2014

We had a very dry month of September here in Middle Tennessee this year… the result has been a rather muted autumn foliage season.
Monday afternoon I went out to see if I could find a last bit of color before a forecast rain set in. I was really surprised as I left the house at the extent to which many of the trees I saw had already lost all of their leaves.  Winter is already upon us…
My destination was the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia convent and campus on West End Avenue.  I’d driven by there a few days ago and thought… I’ll be there’s some interesting scenery there… and this is what I found:

The Last of the Fall Foliage
I wasn’t sure if I’d find this much… as I was driving into town this afternoon, it looked like a lot of trees have already lost ALL of their leaves…. @NashvilleTN @InstaNashville #november #sunset #fall #autumn #foliage #leaves #leafpeeping #nashville #nashvilleguru #musiccitysunsets #igersnashville #heartnashville #nashvilleTN #nashvilleinstagram #nashvilleincrowd #nashvillegram #nashvegas #tennesseeinstagram #tennessee #musiccityliving #musiccityusa #musiccity #615 #nashvillescene #nashvillesky #nashvillelife
©2014 aka @driver49

Sunrise at Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey
@historicscotland @welovehistory @visitscotland @GreatBritain @TwitterUK @medievalworld @getolympus @abbeycottage
Sweetheart Abbey south of Dumfries, near the River Nith in south-west Scotland, was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway, daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway, in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her.#Medieval #medievaleurope #Europe #stonebuilding #instatravel #travelgram #photooftheday #thebest_capture #ig_masterpiece #nuriss_tag #awe_inspiringshots #pro_ig #global_highlights #igworldclub #ig_select #editoftheday #capture_today #waycoolshots #featuremeinstagood #igcapturesclub #ig_masterpiece #ig_great_pics #picoftheday #instadaily #bestoftheday #instapic

©2014 aka @driver49