Monthly Archives: December 2007

Is Blogging Software Necessary?

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I spent most of last night, downloading and previewing all kinds of blogging software. Why, I really don’t know, just curiosity, I suppose. You know what they say curiosity killed the cat. Thank goodness, I’m not a cat, I would have died along time ago. I could just as easily write my blog in Microsoft word and the copy and paste it into WordPress, but that would be just too damn easy.

I tried everything from “blog.mac” to the free open source program “NVU” which will do everything from from edit your webpage to a blog. In the end nothing does everything you want it to. One program does something better, than the other, and vise versa. Too bad you couldn’t just put them all in blender, and out would come the perfect application. I suppose the one that comes the closest is the one I am creating this post with, Macjournal 4. It probably has the best features of all the software I previewed. Along with posting to any url, including blogger and wordpress. you can also record audio and create a podcast. The one thing it is missing is that you can’t edit anything in xtml. If you going to spend money on one piece of software for blogging, this is the one. If you don’t want to pay a cent, then download the open source “NVU”, but remember you always get what you pay for.

What Happened to 2007?

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We just finish with Festivas, Hanukah, Solstice and now New Year’s Eve is upon us. How did that happen? I barely had anytime for last years resolutions and now it’s time to make new ones. I say, why bother making any if you know you won’t be able to keep them. Perhaps, we should make ones that we know we’ll be able to keep, like to smoke more, eat more red meat, and eat more sweets and to gain weight. I think the goal is to make realistic ones, and not ones that have to do with quitting or losing something. Make one that perhaps involves joining a creative writing, or music group. Mine is to organize a guitar workshop via Facebook. Happy New Year and go out and do something interesting or fun in 2008.

One quick note, the other night when I was over at my friend Anne’s place for dinner I discovered a great pink sparkling Australian wine called “Pink”. It will only set you back around 12 dollars CND. So if you are looking for something to put into your glass as you ring in the new year give it a try. It also comes in yellow, if you think pink is too girly.

Pagan Winter Solstice

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In ancient pagan times, the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere was celebrated as the night that the Great Mother Goddess gives birth to the baby Sun God. It is also called Yule, the day a huge log is added to a bonfire, around which everyone would dance and sing to awaken the sun from its long winter sleep.

In Roman times, it became the celebrations honouring Saturnus (the harvest god) and Mithras (the ancient god of light), a form of sun worship that had come to Rome from Syria a century before with the cult of Sol Invictus. It announced that winter is not forever, that life continues, and an invitation to stay in good spirit.

The last day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere occurs between the 20th and 22 December. The Roman celebrated Saturnalia between 17 and 24 December.

To avoid persecution during the Roman pagan festival, early Christians decked their homes with Saturnalia holly. As Christian numbers increased and their customs prevailed, the celebrations took on a Christian observance. But the early church actually did not celebrate the birth of Christ in December until Telesphorus, who was the second Bishop of Rome from 125 to 136AD, declared that Church services should be held during this time to celebrate “The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.” However, since no-one was quite sure in which month Christ was born, Nativity was often held in September, which was during the Jewish Feast of Trumpets (modern-day Rosh Hashanah). In fact, for more than 300 years, people observed the birth of Jesus on various dates.

In the year 274AD, solstice fell on 25th December. Roman Emperor Aurelian proclaimed the date as “Natalis Solis Invicti,” the festival of the birth of the invincible sun. In 320 AD, Pope Julius I specified the 25th of December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

In 325AD, Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, introduced Christmas as an immovable feast on 25 December. He also introduced Sunday as a holy day in a new 7-day week, and introduced movable feasts (Easter). In 354AD, Bishop Liberius of Rome officially ordered his members to celebrate the birth of Jesus on 25 December.

However, even though Constantine officiated 25 December as the birthday of Christ, Christians, recognising the date as a pagan festival, did not share in the emperor’s good meaning. Christmas failed to gain universal recognition among Christians until quite recently. In England, Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas festivities between 1649 and 1660 through the so-called Blue Laws, believing that Christmas should be a solemn day.

When many Protestants escaped persecution by fleeing to the colonies all over the world, interest in joyous Christmas celebrations was rekindled there. Still, Christmas was not even a legal holiday until the 1800s. And, keep in mind, there was no Father Christmas (Santa Claus) figure at that time.

The popularity of Christmas was spurred on in 1820 by Washington Irving’s book The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall. In 1834, Britain’s Queen Victoria brought her German husband, Prince Albert, into Windsor Castle, introducing the tradition of the Christmas tree and carols that were held in Europe to the British Empire. A week before Christmas in 1834, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol (in which he wrote that Scrooge required Cratchit to work, and that the US Congress met on Christmas Day). It was so popular that neither the churches nor the governments could not ignore the importance of Christmas celebrations. In 1836, Alabama became the first state in the US to declare Christmas a legal holiday. In 1837, T.H. Hervey’s The Book of Christmas also became a best seller. In 1860, American illustrator Thomas Nast borrowed from the European stories about Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, to create Father Christmas (Santa Claus). In 1907, Oklahoma became the last US state to declare Christmas a legal holiday. Year by year, countries all over the world started to recognise Christmas as the day for celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Today, many of the pagan uses are reflected in Christmas. Jesus was born in March, yet his birth is celebrated on 25 December, the time of solstice. The Christmas celebrations end the 12th day of Christmas (6 January), the same amount of days that the return of the sun was celebrated by ancient and Roman pagans. It thus is no surprise that Christian puritans – or even conservative Christians – often are upset that Christmas “is not as religious as it was meant to be,” forgetting that Christmas was not celebrated at all until fairly recently.

The 25th of December is celebrated as the birth date of Jesus Christ. The Bible does not mention Christmas, and early Christians did not observe the birthday of Christ. Christmas as we know it became widely popular only in the 19th Century.

Christmas starts on 25 December and ends 12 days later on 6 January with the Feast of Epiphany also called “The Adoration of the Magi” or “The Manifestation of God.”

The concept of “Peace and Joy” over the Christmas season originates from the pagan believe in the magical powers of mistletoe. Enemies meeting under a mistletoe had to call truce until the following day.

In Finland and Sweden an old tradition prevails, where the twelve days of Christmas are declared to be time of civil peace by law. It used to be that a person committing crimes during this time would be liable to more stiff sentence than normal.

During the Middle Ages, many churches were built in honour of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children. Wearing his red and white bishop’s robes, he would ride on a donkey to deliver gifts to children. In 1860, illustrator Thomas Nast introduced Santa Claus in the fashion we now know him.

Let the Tinsel Charade Begin!!!

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Where did the year run away to, was I soused and so over-medicated, that I only rouse out of my slumber today, and found that it is only a couple days till Christmas. In a few sleeps, families all over the world will be celebrating the best way, they know how. By getting drunk, and unwrapping gifts they never really wanted and eating so much Turkey and fixings that they will have to go out on Boxing Day just to buy a new pair of pants. My advice would be to wear your stretchy (fat trap) pants when attending these kinds of Festivities.

Most people, I know, either don’t have any living relatives, or they are too far away (believe me when I say, they aren’t complaining). Then there are the families that live close by, and they usually have nothing to do with each other, except for holidays and birthdays. The bottom line is, they really can’t stand each other. Maybe they only have these gatherings because their Mother started it many moons ago. Now that she has passed on, they still feel the need to keep up this tinsel draped charade. They never fight at family gatherings, but they feel the need to put up with each other, year after year, celebration after celebration. I ask myself, why do they do this? Could it be the loads of unwanted gifts that they will receive from each other? The many unwanted bars of soap, ties and socks. I guess, it comes down to tradition, and what one knows.

I opted out of the whole farce quite a few years ago. I always hope that I will wake up and it will be 2008. New Years Eve is another bogus holiday, which I will cover in a later posting. My Mother lives close, my brother in snowy Alberta, my Father’s ashes sit in a pine box at my Mother’s place. I will go to my Mother’s house for Christmas breakfast. My cousin, Dave and his wife, Wendy are coming over to celebrate this occasion with us. Perhaps, we can sit around the pine box and talk about what an idiot my Father was. After all isn’t that why “Festivas” was invented, so you can air all of our grievances. Merry Festivas and Christmas!!!!

It’s “Festivas” Time Again

Festivus is an annual holiday that was made popular by Reader’s Digest writer and editor Daniel O’Keefe. It was introduced to popular culture by O’Keefe’s son Daniel, a scriptwriter for the TV show Seinfeld, on December 18, 1997, in the episode “The Strike”. (Season 9, Episode 10). The holiday is celebrated each year on December 23, but many people celebrate it at other times, often to avoid the Christmas rush. The holiday includes novel practices such as the “Airing of Grievances”, in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him/her over the past year. Also, after the Festivus meal, the “Feats of Strength” are performed, involving wrestling the head of the household to the floor, the holiday only ending if the head of the household is actually pinned.

Some people, influenced or inspired by Seinfeld, now celebrate the holiday, in varying degrees of seriousness; some carefully following rules from the TV show or books, others humorously inventing their own versions.

source provided by wikipedia

The “Real” Cool Cats

Today someone made a comment regarding, a fellow musician. They referred to this person as a “real” musician. I thought to myself, mmm…. what does this genuinely mean, being called “real”. In all my years of playing and hanging around with these eccentric, cool cats (I looked up “musician” in the thesaurus and cool cat was used as a synonym), I had never, ever heard anyone refer to a musician in this way.

I was bewildered and began to ponder, and ask myself, who are the fake cool cats and which are “real”? How can one be distinguished from the other? I must have overlooked something. I was fooled for all these years. My god, the wool must have been pulled over my eyes! I had never given it much thought, before this. In fact, I never gave it any thought, until today.

Most of these hep cats, that I have known or been acquainted with, haven’t exactly been able to make a living playing their instrument of choice. The only ones, that succeeded, I can count on my one hand. If a “real” musician means giving up your day job, then I must have known nothing more than bogus ones. The only “real” ones, that I knew were Bryan Adams, and James Keelaghan (James only became “real” in last 5 years or so). I also knew a guitar player named Brian Russell, who’s claim to fame, is that he never had to work a day job in his life. The last time I saw him, he was Roger Whittaker’s, lead guitarist. Don’t laugh; he was paid the biggest bucks that you can only dream of, for that gig. He would go out for a few months and not have to work the rest of the year. One of the best guitar players(who will go unnamed)that I ever heard in my life, had never been on a stage or made any money at it. The fact that he had never made a cent doesn’t mean that he is bogus. To me, he was one of the most “unreal” musicians” I have ever heard.

I have contemplated this, and have come up with a definitive answer. What I really feel that a “real” musician is, no matter what your day job might be, is this. All it means is that you have a passion for the music that you are playing or writing. It is a part of who you are, it is in your soul, and you are able feel it in your gut. It doesn’t matter if you are still poor. Money has nothing to do with being a so-called “real” musician or not. In fact, if you ask any famous ones, why they began playing an instrument, money won’t be mentioned. I feel the only thing that differentiates us all, is if we are able to be a full time working musician or not. Most cool cats out there will never achieve that in their lifetime, which doesn’t in anyway make them any less worthy, or “real”.

No Direction Home


Many people have commented on the fact that I don’t have a sense of direction. Not the kind, that many people have, where they can’t figure out who they are, or where the heck they are going. They probably can just call Deepak Chopra to help. I am speaking of the kind of direction or lack there of, where you are driving the car, and you have no idea where you are going or where you have been. North, South, East and West, is all the same, as far as I am concerned. I guess, GPS’s were invented for people like us Apparently, from what I’ve read on the internet, woman are worse than men when it comes to having no sense of direction. We may lack direction, but we will always be the first ones to stop and ask “how do we get to blah, blah place. Men on the other hand will just keep driving in circles, till they see the nearest strip bar or liquor store. Anyway, this is my thought for the day. In closing, I have to say, if you don’t want to invest in a GPS, it always helps if you bring your Mother along as your own private navigator.

James Barber R.I.P

James Barber a.k.a “The Urban Peasant” passed away this past weekend, doing what he loved doing. According to his wife, he died of natural causes, while sitting in a chair reading a cook book and waiting on a pot of soup on the stove. What a way to go, doing what you love.

James Barber entered my life, via his cooking show,” The Urban Peasant”. I became familiar with him, during my days of not having cable. I used to watch him everyday on CBC. His show was one of the reasons that I became interested in cooking. His show, was on TV when the only cooking shows were on PBS. This was before the era of the rock star chef. One of the dishes that sticks in my mind that he created on the show and then I recreated at home was “Dirty Rice”. Here is the recipe and may you be as inspired as I was.

Quick Dirty Rice (New Orleans Style)

Yield: 4

INGREDIENTS:
Quick Dirty Rice (new Orleans Style)
2 tbsp oil
2 chicken liver or 2 duck liver
3 green onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 cup cooked rice

DIRECTIONS:
Quick Dirty Rice (new Orleans Style)
Heat a saucepan over high heat, add the oil.
Add the liver and cook for 3-4 minutes, until done. Remove from pan.
To the same pan, add the green onions and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring.
In the meantime, chop the liver and return it to the pan.
Add the spices, salt and rice and cook for one more minute.

Let It Snow…Let It Snow

This morning Vancouverites, woke up to a blanket of white. Snow always conjures up childhood memories for me. The sight of snow makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I think, of my youth and how we would sit around the radio listening for a list of school closures. I’m sure there were some kids today, that wish the snow fell on a weekday, instead of a weekend. The snowfall always puts me into a Christmas mood. It make me want to just watch the snow fall and bake shortbread cookies.

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