Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Beginning

So 2008 is over and let us breathe a sigh of relief. It was a hard year in many ways for many people, but here's to 2009--may the New Year find us full of hope, inspiration, and the spirit of renewal.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Music?

I am clueless about music. I rarely listen to it and most of the time it's just intrusive background noise to me, but there was a story in today's Inquirer about this song (which I do happen to like) that I found fascinating. Here's the story in a nutshell.

"Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, a song that is almost 25 years old, rose to #1 on the charts in the U.K. this Christmas season. The most downloaded version is by a woman named Alexandra Burke who was a contestant on a U.K. show called The X Factor (brought here as American Idol) and she won with "Hallelujah" as her final song. She obviously has a good voice, but the video on YouTube is painful to watch, so if you want to see it, you'll have to find it yourself. The second-most popular is by Jeff Buckley, above. Jeff Buckley was a singer from California who drowned in the Mississippi River in 1997 and this fact seems to make his version even more moving and poignant. In fact, a lot of people have recorded this song to varying degrees of success. I didn't listen to all of them (that would be too much punishment for me), but I listened to a few, and this was the one I liked third best. Leonard Cohen himself also recorded it here.

I kind of like his version too. It's strange and rather dirge-like, but I like the oddity of how he whips around to look at the chorus when it's their turn. Anyway, here's the really interesting thing about this song, for me at least. What's it about? The religious imagery refers to the story of David and Bathsheba and their illicit love. What's more, it mentions Samson and Delilah and the way Delilah cut off Samson's hair and robbed him of his incredible strength. Whatever love is going on in this song has gone terribly wrong. So does all this reference to sad Bible stories classify it as a Christmas song? I think it has something to do with the melody more than the words. It just sounds holy. I guess I'll have to go along with the author of the Inquirer article who says that it "delivers uplift and consolation, enlightenment and the recognition of shared experience." A song that can do all that works any time of year.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Wishes

Click on the photo to see the Christmas wishes of a third grade class who decorated this little tree for Christmas. The wishbone ornaments are a nice touch.

It's not raining, it's not snowing, it's not icy. The sun is out and it's pretty mild compared to what we've been through all ready. So that is enough for a joyous Christmas for me. Hope it works for you too. What are your Christmas wishes?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Critter Comforts

Don't forget to feed the birds and squirrels and other critters in your yard this winter. In fact, before your kids even start opening gifts, have them take some breadcrumbs and seeds out for the birds to celebrate the day. Thinking of others is always a good idea for those who are so gifted themselves.

Longwood Gardens has a great display of real trees outfitted with the most amazing ornaments made of birdseed and other good things the wild critters love. They've even provided some directions for making some simpler ornaments that kids might have fun doing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is It Getting Warm In Here, Or Is It Just Me?

Snap, crackle, pop. The bubble of euphoria that surrounded P-E Obama seems to be bursting as his plan to have Reverend Rick Warren give the inaugural invocation was announced yesterday. To say Rachel was miffed last night would be putting it mildly as she called it a betrayal of a significant portion of the people who helped get him elected. The Reverend is apparently an evangelical pastor who preaches that same sex marriage is akin to incest, is opposed to abortion, and was a large voice in favor of California's Proposition 8. Thus, the gay community and liberal supporters are white-hot mad that P-E O. is giving Warren the honor of the opening prayer at the inaugural ceremony. I hope they don't show up and throw shoes.

So what to make of this move. Is Obama thumbing his nose at many of his supporters in an attempt to curry favor with the evangelical right or is he making a brilliant gesture to illustrate one of the prime messages of his campaign, that his goal will be to make a more inclusive America where all voices can be heard with respect and consideration? Guess we'll just have to stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Able To Leap Tall Buildings In A Single Bound

I'm not sure even Superman could leap this one; it's awfully tall and it made me dizzy to take this picture. This is the new Comcast Center, currently the tallest building in town, at 17th & Arch where we went yesterday to see the Christmas show in the lobby. The show itself is all a video, but what a video! The screen is immense: 83 feet wide and 25 feet high. Comcast says it's the largest 4 millimeter LED screen the world, with 10 million pixels. It's five times brighter than the latest high-definition TV. You could swear that the people running around up there are really there dancing above the crowd and not merely projected on a screen. Just amazing. I tried to post a video I took, but I'm not having any luck. Will have to work on this.

Another thing that totally surprised me was to see the state of City Hall. I have never in all my life seen it this clean. I worked across the street from it at 2 Penn Center for several years and I've been in town over the years now and then, but this is something else. Go see it before it gets all grimy again. It's a wonder to behold. It almost looks beautiful.

Alexander Milne Calder spent 20 years creating some 250 sculptures for Philadelphia’s City Hall. Included in his creations is the 37-foot bronze statue of William Penn atop the tower, and the eight bronze sculptures that were installed from 1894-1896 above the clocks/clock level: four eagles (perched above each clock face); a Native American warrior with a dog; a Native American woman with a child; a Swedish man with a child; and a Swedish woman with a child and lamb. This is the first time the sculptures have been cleaned and treated since they were installed, so no wonder they were so dirty.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Give It A Rest

Sometimes amid all the frenzy and hoopla of the season, simple can feel just right.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Don't Vote

Now here's my question on the Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich scandal. The Governor has done some very nasty things and is on the verge of impeachment. Probably heading the list right now is his threat to sell the senate seat vacated by Barack Obama to the highest bidder, but this is by no means all the evil he has perpetrated. The list is quite extensive. However,the senate seat issue is such a hot button that the debate rages about how to decide who gets it now that Blagojevich has been totally discredited. Under normal circumstances the Governor would be the legally empowered person to decide the successor of a vacated senate seat.

So what to do? Who gets the seat? There are five or six--maybe more--wannabes clamoring for it. One suggestion is to have a special election and let the people of Illinois decide. That way nobody can be accused of any monkey business. Here's where it gets complicated for me. The citizens of Illinois are the very people who elected Blagojevich in the first place. Did I say "TWICE"? Not only that but in the early 1970s Otto Kerner, a former governor and federal judge, was convicted and sent to prison. While governor, Kerner acquired shares in a race track association and then helped its owner secure favorable dates for races.

More recently there is the sad case of George Ryan whose 35-year political career was tarnished by scandal. Investigations into widespread corruption during his administration led to his retirement from politics in 2003 and federal corruption convictions in 2006. Ryan entered federal prison on November 7, 2007, to begin serving a sentence of six years and six months. He is reportedly lobbying President Bush for a pardon as we speak.

A third governor to go to prison was Dan Walker. After his term, Walker was convicted of fraud involving a failing savings and loan.

And then there are all the corrupt politicans who escaped prison but remain forever known for their dastardly deeds. Richard J. Daley himself was one. Another was a former Illinois secretary of state, Paul Powell. At Powell’s death, the New York Times reported, the governor actually placed guards outside the official’s office to keep staff from removing documents. Then Powell’s executor found $800,000 in shoe boxes in Powell’s closet. Wonder where that came from?

So my question is do we put it to the voters of Illinois who elected all these corrupt officials in the first place to decide who gets the senate seat? How is that a good idea? It might be a better idea to just toss their names in a hat and let me pick one. Or you. Or anybody but an Illinois voter.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Apologies to Robert Frost

It's a dark rainy day here today, and I am thinking how nice it would be to go take a little nap. But I just got home from running a lot of errands and have too much to do. Miles to go before I sleep.

On a happier note, I filled (yes, FILLED) my car today for $15.62. I was stunned. The guy at the cash register said, "I bet you hate getting change from a $20.00 at the gas station." I said, "I was probably about 20 myself the last time that happened." Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but all the same. Change. From a 20. Wow.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fun With Mice

I knew mice weren't all bad. This one is in contention for an Olympic Gold medal.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm Warning You

I mean it. Whatever you do, do not run out to your nearest Trader Joe's and buy these cookies . . . Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermit Joe Joe's. Just because they are the biggest mouthful of deliciousity you've ever tasted is no reason to speed to the store and stock up on them because they are only available during this time of year and once they're gone, they're gone. Good! You will have missed them and be better off for it. Forget Williams & Sonoma's overpriced holiday candies and cookies. These are just $3.99 a box. If, for some bizarre reason, you ignore my advice and just happen to wander into Trader Joe's anyway, don't buy this either.

You can thank me later.

Give Them The Money, Already

This debate over whether or not to bail out the auto industry has gotten ridiculous. Congress blithely approved a 700 billion dollar giveaway to Wall Street giants and AIG with virtually no accountability or demands that they modify their business practices, but is making the automotive manufacturers grovel for a measly $25 billion to tide them over until the credit crunch eases up and people start buying cars again. The point here is that if the automakers go under, America will have lost a huge manufacturing base and will be outsourcing the making of cars to other countries (along with all the rest of the stuff we now outsource). It will cost millions of jobs and untold anguish to every person and business that has anything to do with the manufacture of automobiles: autoworkers, suppliers, dealers and who knows how many other businesses and industries that depend on auto manufacturing for a living.

The Detroit CEOs who came to Washington this week are appropriately contrite and willing to deliver corporate survival plans that include a focus on higher efficiency vehicles and management restructuring. The unions are promising to cooperate and make wage concessions to keep the companies afloat.

The latest talk this morning is that the Senate wants to reclaim part of the original 700 billion Wall St. bailout and give part of it to Detroit. The hitch is the current administration won’t agree to that. Surprise, surprise.
I think Jon says it all pretty succinctly: