Archive for December 2012
Christians for Herod
backing Jews for Goliath
No room in the inn
Apologies to the Eighteenth Century
That monstrous Beast, the People assembl’d
Mobocrats clamour! a Terrible sound:
That the High shall be least! And the paupers resembl’d
A HAMMER Almighty, pinning kings to the Ground.
There’s a certain little quirk
In the thinking of a fellow
Of a man named Edmund Burke
And followers of his, less mellow:
Though their logic’s often right
That quick upheaval devastates
They never realize that they fight
The losing side in all debates
Look! The liberals appear
The group that studiously shuns
Revolt, for common sense is clear:
Police alone should have the guns.
History, they say, has closed
“Don’t kill the tyrants! Dock their pay.”
For weddings, armies, CEOs
Are quite alright if they are gay
Emily Esfahani Smith at The Atlantic writes:
Feminists want men to treat women as equals; traditionalists want men to treat women like ladies. Are the two mutually exclusive?
Chivalry is about respect. It is about not harming or hurting others, especially those who are more vulnerable than you. It is about putting other people first and serving others often in a heroic or courageous manner. It is about being polite and courteous. In other words, chivalry in the age of post-feminism is another name we give to civility.
This is not true. It doesn’t even make sense–nobody would be debating chivalry if it were simply about courtesy. The point of contention is the gendered character of chivalrous obligations, both the stupid ones (door-holding, restaurant payment) and the the extreme ones that expect me to die for strangers.
Plenty of feminists of have explained how chivalry is bad for women, but as a dude who wants to survive shipwrecks I’ve got another beef with it. Stories of men giving up their lifeboat spots for women are supposed to inspire me to noble sacrifice, but they don’t. They scare me by turning heroism in the face of death into a minimal expectation for men.
It’s even dumber in the case of the Titanic, since stricter safety requirements could have easily prevented mass death. But what if you are in a situation in which not everyone will survive? Here’s my proposal:
1) First, kill the outspoken racists. I stopped watching Walking Dead in frustration after the survivors repeatedly risked their own lives to save Merle Dixon, whose hatred endangered them all. I don’t advocate killing racists in non-emergencies, but you don’t let a good crisis go to waste.
2) Alright, let the children go first. They take up less space and my intuition suggests it’s cruel to let a child die in uncomprehending fear.
3) Let people volunteer to stay behind. People who are really into dying with honor get to go out like champs, so it’s almost a win-win.
4) Draw lots. Good luck!
Seriously though just enforce safety codes better and you’ll avoid 90% of these situations.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Best anti-materialist joke: A child, a child, shivers in the cold /let us bring him silver and gold.
Laziest ending: He will bring us goodness and light is like saying Jesus is “nice”
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Best exhortation: Join the triumph of the skies!
Worst contraction: heav’n
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Most metal: Only carol to mention the power of Satan
Most awkward construction: did nothing take in scorn
O Come All Ye Faithful
My strongest endorsement: I adore every line.
Sketchiest reason: Probably because I associate it with tripping.
Joy to the World
Best duet: Heaven and nature
Most pointless gendering: Let Earth receive her King.
Mary Did You Know
Clearest theology of the Incarnation: This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you elegantly sums up the dual nature of Christ. The last line hammers that point home by naming this infant the Ground of All Being.
Most disappointing: A song of such chill-inducing brilliance shouldn’t have so many lazy half-rhymes.
Most interesting shepherd behavior: quaking
Clunkiest line: With the dawn of redeeming grace never fits the meter.
Carol of the Drum
Best expression of solidarity: I am a poor boy too
Cleverest use of filler: PA RUM PUM PUM PUM
O come, O come, Emmanuel
Most historical: Puts Jesus in the context of the Jewish people in exile.
Least chill: Kind of a dick move to sing around actual Jewish people.
Mary’s Boy Child
Most skeptical: …or so the Bible say, making it the only carol to question the reliability of the source text.
Silverest lining: Nothing else in this song is interesting enough to dislike.
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
Proposed strength : The shift to a minor key in the last stanza probably works well.
Research difficulty: Never made it to the last stanza, fell asleep at harps of gold.
–> Christmas music VII: Time to get political
Santa songs are easy to snark because they’re stupid and I hate them. But a lot of Nativity carols work.
One of the problems I have with a lot of contemporary Christian worship songs is the way they try to invoke reverent awe and end up something like this. If you write a boring praise song, you make God seem boring, and that means you’ve failed.
But listen to “Joy to the World”. Its author seems genuinely happy that God became a man, not just properly respectful of it. “O Come All Ye Faithful” is actually joyful and triumphant at the Word appearing in flesh. And that flesh-becoming is the main reason this atheist loves the Christmas story: the king of the universe is a peasant born in a barn. Whereas Easter is a holiday of victory celebrating a Messiah conquering Death, Christmas is a human-scale story of hope.
That doesn’t mean you can’t screw it up! “Away in the Manger” pretends like it understands the Nativity, focusing on the actual birth of the infant, in the present tense. You’ve got your hay, your cattle, the entire Christ-was-born-in-a-shithole boilerplate. But then you get the anachronistic Bless all the dear children in thy tender care / and take us to heaven to live with thee there. Huh? Jesus can’t care for children here, he’s a baby himself! Who’s the narrator here, and why are they making their afterlife reservations to a baby? Why mention No crying he makes? There’s no reason baby Jesus wouldn’t have cried. This isn’t nipticking; if Jesus was too perfect to cry, was he too perfect to bleed?
“Once in Royal David’s City” is also uncomfortable with duality:
And through all His wondrous childhood
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.
Check out the only canonical story about the childhood of Jesus:
42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
So Jesus wandered off and talked to strangers and backsassed, but don’t let that stop you from instilling bullshit lessons about compliance!
The worst, though, is the bowdlerized “O Holy Night”. I love “O Holy Night”, sung in its entirety . But many artists–Mariah Carey, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole—leave out the best stanza, the one that has includes Chains shall He break/ For the slave is our brother / And in His name all oppression shall cease. They celebrate God donning human frailty by removing the explicit reference to human suffering. If the audience for Christmas music is so pro-Herod that they find anti-slavery sentiment distastefully “political”, they don’t deserve the song. Better to just drop God, replace “He” with “we”, and reclaim what we can for a Leftmas carol:
Chains shall we break, for the slave is our brother, and in our name all oppression shall cease!
Rise from your knees! And hear the People’s voices!
O night sublime…
You’ve gotta check out “Nice Guys” of OK Cupid, it’s amazing.
I’ve had non-reciprocated crushes on friends. I know it’s painful. Here’s some unsolicited advice:
Oh, right, why women date “jerks”:
1) Maybe this guy isn’t really that bad, you’re just sad that the woman you like chose him and not you. I’m not making fun of you; it really sucks. I’m partial to this explanation largely because whenever a friend I was crushing on dated someone else, they honestly turned out to be pretty cool dudes. I like to think that reflects well on my judgement via the transitive property.
2) Some men are assholes, and they often have no trouble attracting women. Not because women love being treated badly (huh?) but probably because stereotypical assholes tend to share a cluster of desirable traits like confidence, ambition, and charm. But the cool thing is you don’t have to be a jerk to have these! Martin Luther King spoke with authority and refused to back down even in the face of death threats, and very few would say he was a jerk.
MLK was, in fact, quite the ladies’ man. The FBI has the tapes to prove it.
“Idleness, indifference, and irresponsibility are healthy responses to absurd work.” —Frederick Herzberg, via the delightful Alfie Kohn
“Come on,” said my roommates, “it’s not bad. Just get high and you’ll have fun.” But I didn’t. You’d think mowing a lawn high would be great–you’re outdoors, you don’t have to talk to anyone or focus on much–you’d think mowing grass would perfectly complement smoking it, but you’d be wrong. Because lawn maintenance is bullshit.
Other writers are anti-lawn for all sorts of laudable environmental and urban design reasons. Now I’m all for striking a blow against monoculture or Puritanism, but my overriding objection is mortality. I have a limited amount of time left before I’m not “I” anymore, and I’ll be good and goddamned if I’m going to spend it doing counterproductive manual labor without pay.
This shouldn’t be the “deviant” position. The weirdos here are the lawn maintainers, who feel entitled to enlist everyone in their crusade to blanket the world in monotony and pesticides.
Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the manger, angels, stars, shepherds, animals/flocks, wise men and their gifts, and Bethlehem, resized according to how often each is mentioned in twenty-two Nativity carols. One song is one block. I had originally tried to count the mentions of God the Father, but the whole Triune God business makes that difficult.