It’s a weird day to be reflecting on the attacks of September 11, 2001.
I’m on dog, cat, hen, and house-sitting duty this week, a regimine that wraps up today when PB and the gang return from a jaunt to the Garden State. I wanted them to arrive home to a spotless kitchen and dining room, so I was in severe cleaning mode. And so I was listening to Howard Stern, which is running the usual holiday “History Of” shows. As such, they broadcast tape of the Stern show from that day.
Even if you’re not a regular listener or if you think Stern is nothing more than a mysoginist with a penchant for dick jokes, you’ve got to sit down and listen to this broadcast.
When historians seek a historical documentation of this terrible event, the more astute ones will most certainly stumble across this tape. To listen to it is to relive it, in real time, with real reactions from some of the most vital New Yorkers there are. There are comments from these folks that are incredibly prescient, some naively so. You experience it all in reviewing this broadcast, the fear, the anger, the outrage, the uncertainty, all of it.
Through it all, Howard and regular callers like Joey Boots and Crazy Cabbie strongly emote these feelings and advocate a swift and certain response by the United States. I felt the same way at the time myself. Still do.
The United States began its land war in Afghanistan in October 2001. We’re still there, and the intense yearning for justice you likely had and that are voiced so elegantly through the Stern broadcast is still elusive. We followed with an invasion and war in Iraq that was even less effective. There are many, many reasons to despise these godammed wars. Primary among them in my book is that none of it has ever delivered justice.
I am a secular humanist both by rearing and by my own choice as a grownup. And yet, I get to celebrate Christmas.
This is the remarkable nature of Christmas, its awesome universality. And, in fact, if you look a little into the history of Christmas, you discover that this universal message is what saved the holiday’s life.
People didn’t always cherish Christmas, you know. Oliver Cromwell’s England tried to outlaw it. They called it “Catholic” and worse. It was restored with the rest of the “restoration,” but English clergy were still fishy about the whole thing. By the 1800s, the English were again weary of the holiday.
Then this guy wrote this book. Something about these three spirits coming to visit this mean dude, and the visits really stopped him from being such an asshole. The story doesn’t center on the Jesus Toddler, but it does emphasize Christ-like values, no? Generosity? Neighborliness? Good will? Spirit? All that crap?
A Christmas Carol was the realization of the universality of Christmas, the first expression of the idea that it was about more than the Toddler Jesus, and that it can be for anyone.
It was in this spirit that Christmas came to these shores as well.
As much as your reason-for-the-season pals might like you to believe otherwise, Christmas is not an intrinsically American event, at least, from the historical perspective. Some states would fine you for celebrating it. By revolutionary times, Christmas just seemed so damned English and was not generally celebrated here. George Washington in fact used the Germans’ love of the holiday as a tactical advantage to kick ass at Trenton. You can bet that Washington never asked anyone for some goddamn figgy pudding.
Then this guy wrote this book.
A collection of stories, actually, called The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, by a fellow named Washington Irving. Some of these stories describe old traditions around the holiday, and their publication revived American interest and, again, put forward the more universal theme.
There are some things humans seem to arrive at universally. We all need to eat. We all seem to gravitate toward belief in a higher power. And societies as well seem to need to recognize and celebrate the winter solstice. It makes sense, especially in a formerly agrarian society. When there is no planting and no harvesting, it is a good time to spill your cornucopia and rejoice. The ancient Romans had Saturnalia. Pagans have Yule. America, it seems, has nearly universally gravitated toward Christmas.
I am fortunate personally to celebrate Christmas with family, specifically, with PB and clan. We have a bespangled Christmas tree. An enormous turkey is in the oven. PB says this one has a nice fat back on it, so it should be quite delicious. PB and I were up until 3 in the wood-shop putting the finishing touches on one mighty amazing gift. Later, he and I will cook an outstanding Christmas dinner, and we will cast a resplendent table.
Not much mention of the Jesus toddler, you’ll notice. Our approach to Christmas is as a generally secular event. This is as it has been in my family since as long as I can remember. Tree. Presents. Santa. No Jesus.
This isn’t weird. Check out this here poll numbers here:
More than nine in 10 Americans celebrate Christmas — even if they’re atheists, agnostics or believers in non-Christian faiths such as Judaism and Islam, according to two new surveys.
But the surveys also indicate that while most call Christmas a holy day that’s primarily religious, their actions speak volumes to the contrary.
Many skip church, omit Jesus and zero in on the egg nog, according to the polls done by LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based Christian research organization, and USA Today / Gallup Poll.
So. No matter how many exaltations go out about the over-commercialization of it and the complaint that every year we allow Baby Jesus to languish in his crib, guess what? We’re still a bunch of fucking idolators anyway.
And yet, as we’ve discussed: It is the very secular and broadly inclusive nature of Christmas that once saved its life and in fact that brought this holiday to us. And, as I’ve argued here before, it’s not actually we seculars who kick up the dust about an alleged “war” on “Christmas.” I for one like Christmas just fine and would gladly have all Americans comfortable with “Merry Christmas” as a solstice greeting.
Look. When somebody sneezes I say “God bless you.” I don’t do so because I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will then appear from the vapors and will magically seal your pie hole so that demons won’t enter your bronchial system and cause you to shit mustard. I say it because I speak English. Because I’m an American. Because that’s what you say when a person sneezes.
So it is, or so it should be, with Christmas. But then you have these folks who insist on wringing hands in the public square about the Jesus Toddler, and that makes everyone act weird. I’m telling you, this national awkwardness about Christmas is the fault of the reason-for-the-season folks. Not us. We’re pretty much a live and let live crowd around here.
One more thought, and I couldn’t help it. I just couldn’t help but have this cross my mind this morning. I couldn’t help but wonder: I wonder if these fellas are having a nice Christmas today…
I spent some time last evening cleaning up the wrapping paper on Zappadan. You know how it is, just because the holiday is over doesn’t mean there’s not work to do. I considerably expanded the Zappadan 2010 blogroll in my sidebar, and I intend to keep it there through the year as a reminder to visit those sites regularly. For those bloggers who observe it, there is a community worth maintaining. And, by the by, if you blogged regarding Zappadan and I don’t have you in the sidebar, please add to the comments here or shoot an e-mail to bradybonk at gmail dot com. Thank you.
I also added some excellent posts to the “Greasy Love Songs” page, so please, peruse it. It is a good resource for Zappadan 2010 I think. Also, all of the KIAV posts may be accessed via the “Zappadan 2010” category.
It is sad to see the Zappadan holiday season come to an end. I always enjoy it so.
As you’ve seen, this year, I chose to create a book report of sorts on Barry Miles’ Zappa: A Biography. It has been the third time I have read the book. From what others have written about the book, it does have somewhat of a mixed review. Some feel that Miles didn’t really unearth anything new, that he cribbed everything in the book from other sources. Others—and I am a bit more in this camp—think that Miles was kind of hard on his subject. Then, on the other hand, if you’re writing a biography, you can’t very well be a sycophant, now can ya?
If this year’s Zappadan project wasn’t some indication, I shall say it here: I find the book to be an extremely valuable resource. I likely could have gone on for another Zappadan, using nothing but the Miles for my source material. I may actually do that…next year. Who knows. Yeah, the book sometimes pisses ya off if you’re a true Frank fan. But some of the reference I was able to track down from it…I adore the obscurity. I mean, who would have thunk you could get Zappadan mileage out of this?
A few years ago, I wrote for Zappadan that “Zappa got me through.” I meant that. It was my freshmeat year of college, a year that gave me the most wonderful awesome living situation of my entire life: Living in an 8 x 25 dorm room with two meathead jock assholes (Crawford Hall, Ohio University). I despised them and they thought I was weird (I was). I would not have made it through that year without Freak Out, Lumpy Gravy, and Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. It might not have been the healthiest way to cope. But tossing on my headphones and experiencing such a surge of creativity and such a scorn for stupidity really served as a crutch when trying to live in such close quarters with these lunkheads. Without “Hungry Freaks, Daddy” I would have been lost. Utterly.
Anyway. Some fellow Zappadan bloggers have expressed that they think I have done a good job here. Thank you. It was a lot of fun and as it happens I’m between assignments right now, so I had time and it was fun.
[Zappa’s record label] Bizarre did a deal with Warner/Seven Arts to distribute their records on Reprise. …Now all they needed was some ‘product’ to release. …Warners must have had severe misgivings about their involvement with Bizarre. The distribution deal meant that Warners had to pay Zappa each time he delivered some product, but some people at Warners thought he was abusing the terms of the agreement by coming up with any old thing to release. Zappa had known about Wild Man Fischer for some time (there is even a brief quote from one of his songs, ‘Merry-Go-Round’, on Lumpy Gravy.
Live street recordings appealed to Zappa, and An Evening With Wild Man Fischer can be seen as an extension of his use of voice collages on the Mothers albums. Wild Man Fischer became the first release on the new Bizarre label when the single ‘The Circle’ came out in October 1968.
Zappa was responsible for Fischer’s initial foray into the business of music, an album called An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, contains 36 tracks of “something not exactly musical.” Zappa and Fischer remained close — until Fischer threw a jar at Zappa’s daughter Moon Unit Zappa, barely missing her. Due to this falling out, Zappa’s widow Gail Zappa has chosen to not release An Evening with Wild Man Fischer on CD, to the ire of the small but dedicated Wild Man Fischer fan club.
My parents and my brothers each had their own pile of albums. My dad was a sucker for the Columbia House record deals and he’d send away for opera and big-band stuff. He loved Tommy Dorsey and Harry James, and would try to teach me the differences between musicians. My mom played Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Billie Holiday, her favorite. Everything she sang brought me down. Years later I learned that Billie Holiday suffered from depression, too.
[My brother] Anthony was on the edge of what was radical. I remember he came home with the Frank Zappa record Freak Out!, which had some psychedelic images of Zappa surrounded by other washed-out-looking musicians. To me it looked scary and dangerous. When my dad listened to it he went into his “What the hell is this?” routine.
Just for shits and giggles—Howard Stern interviews Frank Zappa:
P.S. Congratulations to Howard for re-upping for another five years. Geh kak afen yam.
By this time there were a number of people living at Kirkwood, including a groupie called Pepper, whom Frank had introduced to the house, but who was now running after Arthur Lee. There was also a singer called Bobby Jameson whom Frank was working with. He arranged Jameson’s song ‘Gotta Find My Roogalator’, making the session musicians on the backing track sound very like the Mothers.
Republigoats and “conservatives” have an unhealthy obsession with the human fetus, and it’s high time for those of us in more reasonable circles to begin framing the issue in this manner.
Check it: Last night, the House of Representatives killed a bill that would have recognized that strong-arming little girls into marrying perverts is a violation of said little girl’s human rights. Republigoats killed the bill at the mere suggestion that the bill would somehow lead to more abortions, although the bill didn’t even deal with the issue at all.
That, friends, is a fetus fetish, and it is high time that these folks are called out on it.
You’re not convinced?
On Oct. 11, 1996, Rick Santorum’s wife had a miscarriage. As reported steadfastly by The Washington Post a decade later, Santorum and his wife brought the remains home with them. They named it “Gabriel.” They and their children “kissed and cuddled” with it. Then they boiled it up and ate it.
Wait, no, that’s a typo. Sorry. Then, they held a mass and whatever. But, c’mon, when you read over that last sentence there, I bet you didn’t even skip a beat. The whole episode is just that bizarre.
We read recently too that the nation’s previous chief executive was also reared as a fetus fetishist. George W. Bush accounted proudly about how his mother had saved the flotsam of a miscarriage in a jar and had shown it to her son. I just hope when you do that you don’t accidentally stick that thing away next to the pickles.
What is a “fetish?” As defined, the word and the concept go beyond some asshole slobbering over some broad’s boot heel. Specifically, a fetish is “the attribution of inherent value or powers to an object.”
When there is a death in the womb, it is tragic. I have known many women to whom this has happened. It is not an uncommon occurrence. It is horribly sad. Women generally need to grieve when this occurs.
But the anti-abortion folks are rife with people who anthropomorphize dead bodies. Not even those aborted by medicine, but those aborted by the Lord. It’s in the friggin’ Washington Post: The man brought a dead body home and had his children snuggle with it. He named it and took it outside for a game of catch for goodness’ sake. (And it threw better than Gary Dell’Abate! OOOOH!)
The antis have an unhealthy obsession with the human fetus, and a new frame should be cast to recognize it. They proved this last night, when they lined up against a bill designed to actually protect real living children against the off-chance that it might possibly maybe harm a batch of theoretical children who do not actually exist.