Sunday, 23 December 2007

The Spirit of Christmas (not)

Here's my favourite Christmas story:
About four weeks ago, I was rushing around trying to get some last-minute shopping done. I was stressed out and not thinking very fondly of the Christmas season right then. It was dark, cold, and wet in the multi-story car park. I realised that I had lost the shop receipt, which I would need to get out of the car park without paying. So, mumbling under my breath, I retraced my steps to the shopping centre entrance.

As I was searching the wet pavement, I heard a quiet sobbing. The crying was coming from a poorly dressed boy of about ten years old. He was short and thin. He had no coat. He had only a ragged flannel shirt to protect him from the evening chill. He was holding two fifty pound notes in his hand.

Thinking that he had got separated from his parents, I asked him what was wrong, and he told me his sad story. He came from a large family. His father had died when he was seven years old. His mother worked two full time jobs to make ends meet. Nevertheless, she had managed to scrimp and save two hundred pounds to buy her children Christmas presents. She had dropped him off at the shopping centre on the way to her second job. He was to use the money to buy presents for all his brothers and sisters and save just enough to take the bus home. He had not even entered the shopping centre when an older boy grabbed two of his fifty pound notes and disappeared into the night.

"Why didn't you scream for help?" I asked. The boy said, "I did!”

“And nobody came to help you?" The boy stared at the ground and sadly shook his head.

“How loud did you scream?" I enquired. The soft-spoken boy looked up and meekly whispered, "Help me!"

I realised that absolutely no one could have heard that poor boy cry for help. So I grabbed his other two fifty pound notes and scarpered.

But I also like this, which is all over the internet now:

The 12 Days Of Christmas (For the politically correct)

On the 12th day of the Eurocentrically imposed midwinter festival, my Significant Other in a consenting adult, monogamous relationship gave to me:

TWELVE males reclaiming their inner warrior through ritual drumming,

ELEVEN pipers piping (plus the 18-member pit orchestra made up of
members in good standing of the Musicians Equity Union as called for in their union contract even though they will not be asked to play a note),

TEN melanin deprived testosterone-poisoned scions of the patriarchal
ruling class system leaping,

NINE persons engaged in rhythmic self-expression,

EIGHT economically disadvantaged female persons stealing milk-products from enslaved Bovine-Americans,

SEVEN endangered swans swimming on federally protected wetlands,

SIX enslaved Fowl-Americans producing stolen non-human animal products,

FIVE golden symbols of culturally sanctioned enforced domestic incarceration,

(NOTE after members of the Animal Liberation Front threatened to throw red paint at my computer, the calling birds, French hens and partridge have been reintroduced to their native habitat. To avoid further Animal-American enslavement, the remaining gift package has been revised.)

FOUR hours of recorded whale songs

THREE deconstructionist poets

TWO Sierra Club calendars printed on recycled processed tree carcasses

AND a Spotted Owl activist chained to an old-growth pear tree.

Finally, if you want something that is in the spirit of Christmas, try "Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial" by Dr. Leonard Peikoff.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Rules for simpler living

Don't warm up butter before you try to spread it. Just cut off thick slabs of the cold butter and lay them side by side on the bread, leaving small gaps inbetween so there's somewhere for the honey to go when you press the two slices of bread together.

Don't recycle anything at all (unless, like me, you find composting a fascinating recreation).

Don't buy socks of only one colour. All my socks are black, but each pair is subtly different from every other pair, and I also have three odd socks. I keep these because one of the paired ones might develop a hole, and if that happened the newly widowed sock might just match one of the old odd socks.

If you have obsessive-compulsive tendencies, do not buy coloured hangers. We have many plastic hangers and I am always tempted to match the hue of the hanger to the hue of the garment. I also feel the need to arrange the hangers in rainbow order. The pink, cream, brown and grey hangers worry me: should pink, for instance, be a subdivision of red, or should the pastel and murky colours be arranged in a separate series? Checked and striped clothes also worry me.

Don't have more than one handbag. All my stuff (and I do mean all) is in a single handbag. I can't always find what I want in its cavernous depths, but I can be sure that it is in there somewhere. If I need the item quickly, I get Paddy to extract it for me, because he searches systematically whereas I just scrabble.

Don't buy lots of household cleaning fluids. All you need is one cleaner (any non-corrosive kind will do), and a dog (to deal with food spills).

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Philosophy applied to every day life

That's what you get from Leonard Peikoff's podcasts. The latest, published on 11th December, gives philosophical (and, of course, practical) answers to moral questions about labour unions, pain relief and musical preferences, and explains why it really ought to take three people to make a child. The one before (4th December) tackles tatoos, property rights, legal murder and the age of majority.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Count Arthur Strong Talks about Creationism

I listen to Count Arthur Strong's radio show on BBC Radio 4 every Tuesday on the way home from work, but I'd never seen what he looked like till I found him on YouTube. During this Tuesday's show, when Count Arthur is supposed to debate Creationism at the Oxford Union, I was laughing so hard I had to move into the nearside lane to reduce my chances of swerving into another vehicle. Count Arthur Strong's blatherings are the funniest thing I've come across since the TV skit, years ago, showing how it would be if we had guide cats for the blind.

I wonder now: what would my moral status have been if I'd had an accident while deliberately listening to a comedy show? Maybe I should read Diana Hsieh's articles on 'the problem of moral luck' to find out.

Update: rewritten 13-DEC-07 after problem with html script

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Gracious old lady

This is one of my favourites in the British Museum - I visit her every time I go there, which is at least once a year. She lives in the Wolfson Galleries, not far from the Molossian Dog. She looks young, but she's well over two thousand years old - an Etrusco-Latin bronze, half life size, thought to have been found at Nemi and cast during the third to first century BC. There's more information about her on the British Museum site, though she has a presence and grace that I think my photo captures better than the BM one.

Hat tip: Kieron McNulty, who was kind enough to answer my appeal on the Open University Student Association's Classics Forum, found the link for me.