Tuesday, December 31, 2013

“If It Was Good, It’s Gone; If It Was Bad, It’ll Be Back”--Popcorn by The Colonel # 77

Doncha hate Little Mary Sunshines and “morning people”? They plague regular people the way The Birds plagued Tippi Hedren in “The Birds.” If someone with Aladdin’s Lamp wished all the perky people into the cornfield, then regular people could start the day wishing each other a cheerless “Mmpf,” and all would be well, all would be well, all manner of things would be well.

The Greeks had no god like good old two-faced Janus, patron of liars, doorways, and the New Year (“January”). What a divine job description.

Is there a name for the condition in which one feels safer in even-numbered years like 2014 than in odd-numbered years like 2013? The feeling is clearly irrational -- Presidential and Congressional elections occur in even-numbered years, and those don’t generate feelings of safety.

Marshall MacLuhan, the late Canadian intellectual, wrote “Understanding Media” and “The Mechanical Bride” and is best remembered for the saying, “The medium  is the message.” He coined the phrase “the global village” and wrote things like, “Television is an x-ray machine.” There’s a rumor about an unpublished lost item (manuscript? data compilation? multimedia presentation?) entitled “The Boolean Pulpit.” Maybe it will be published in 2014 and change everything. Something will; something always does, so why not a lost manuscript?

“No one is really alive till he has died and all memory of him is erased from the face of time.” --Gnomic saying not by Marshall MacLuhan

Pop quiz: In 2013, did more languages or species go extinct?

The Romans celebrated the solstice festival of “Sol Invictus” (“Unconquered Sun”), who begins his comeback as days start to lengthen. I wonder if Sol’s legend could borrow from Santa’s and have Sol come down each chimney and burn the creosote away. Legends should be useful.

Intriguing headlines:

Gambler rewards man who returned $300K left in cab

Pa. Mayor skips ball in favor of City Hall rehab

NYC transit hubs handle flood of lost items

Police: No beer led to ceramic squirrel stabbing

Christmas tree of bottles sparkles in Lithuania

NORAD tracks Santa logged 19.58 million Web visits

Deer makes appearance at Pa. sporting goods store

San Diego sues over stinky sea lion waste

Surfers dressed as Santa Claus gather in Florida

Zen mondo:
American seeker: “If you follow any way, you will never get there, and if you do not follow any way, you will never get there. So there is a dilemma.” Hisamatsu: “Let the dilemma be your way!”

“It would be so cool if the earth’s crust were made of graham crackers. It would disappear like the ozone layer, but for completely different reasons.” --Mitch Hedberg

Merry Sixth Day of Christmas. A (real) message from the prime minister of Israel:

We celebrate Christmas with you. We know the importance you attach to our common heritage, to the State of Israel, and to the City of Jerusalem, where so much of our common history was forged. We have a great past, we have common values, we have the desire to seize a common future of security, prosperity, and peace. So, from the city of peace, Jerusalem, I extend the warmest Christmas greetings to all of you. Merry Christmas.” Back at you, Bibi.

Happy 2014, elections and all. --Col.T.H.Clapping (at) outlook.com

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Your Grandmother Would Consider Your House Filthy, and by Her Standards It Is, But Life is Different Now, So Bobeshi, Don’t Be Looking Down from Heaven and Judging! --Popcorn by The Colonel #76

Christmas is not the right time to tell your young child that he or she is imaginary.

We don’t like the name “Black Friday.” Too ominous. Join us in renaming the day after Thanksgiving “Solvency Friday.”

Q: What’s the name of the guy in the Magritte painting with the apple in front of his face? A: Art.

E-Z Top is a rock group whose music comes in jars that are not hard to open. One twist of the wrist, and out comes the music, like evil from Pandora’s Jar.

The Dry Tortugas are an island group of southern Florida west of Key West. “West of Key West” sounds like where the Elves go at the end of the Third Age. “Dry Tortugas” sounds as if Baptists discovered them, but in fact Ponce de Leon found them in 1513, and he was no Baptist. “Dry” means “no fresh water.” The islands support a U.S. National Park these days. In heaven there are Wet Tortugas, where Bobeshi goes for a drink and to get away from her immaculate celestial house, which has come to bore her.

Have you heard the Grinch’s cover of Kermit’s “It Isn’t Easy Being Green”? Brings tears to your eyes.

Nothing in the text of the Matthean Infancy Narrative numbers the Magi. The number three is  probably based on reverse engineering from the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Legend added names, given as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, but there are variants.

Danger, danger. Adding things to the Bible, like subtracting from the Bible, opens the door to syncretism, a mixing of true and false religion on which the Almighty has a record of frowning mightily.

Before you know it, the Christmas tale involves Conan the Barbarian throwing Rudolph into the flaming maw of Ba’al Moloch.

Not to mention the beloved hoofer Stanley Holloway dancing about in a well-choreographed crowd in front of some idol and singing “Just a little bit (cha-cha-cha), just a little bit (cha-cha-cha), just a lit-tle bit of hu-man blood.”

By Zoroaster’s thumb, that would be unfortunate. Don’t let it happen. Stay close to Scripture and celebrate “Unspecified Number of Kings Day.”

If you get books for Christmas and ask yourself, “Where the heck am I going to put all these books?” comfort yourself with the thought that there is no “right” way to organize books. There’s nothing sacred about the Dewey Decimal System or the Library of Congress Classification System, or even the “fiction alphabetical by author” rule. If organization by color of cover or size of volume works for you, do it. Ditto the pile-the-books-on-the-floor system, a popular favorite.

Metaphysics, the science of being qua being, takes its name from the position in Aristotle’s collected works of his work on the subject: “After (‘meta’) the Physics.” Nietzsche and many modern materialist philosophers hate metaphysics because they think it involves what they deride as a “two-story universe” (natural and supernatural).

“At sixes and sevens” is a British expression for being in confusion or disarray. It isn’t much known or used among Americans.

An Irish expression is “BS&M.” It stands for “bull[sauce] and molasses.”

Chuck Norris completes crossword puzzles without using clues.

The Colonel’s Lady, her Canadian brother-in-law, and we all visited Gillette Castle togrther on the 23rd. It’s off-season and closed but not fully deserted. We love the sign that says, “During Thunder & Lightning Storms, DO NOT SEEK SHELTER in Pavilions, Porches, or Restroom Buildings.” One expects it to go on “Just Man Up and Face Your Fate.”

“My life is like that village that had to be destroyed to be saved.” --Wallah Stevens

Emoji is a Japanese word that means something like emoticon, but the etymologies of the two words are different. Emoticon is from emotion plus icon. Emoji is from Japanese e (picture) and moji (letter, character).

People always equate beauty with good, but it just ain’t so. [There are] beings of haunting beauty, mesmerizing beauty, disarming beauty, flawless beauty, maddening beauty, bloodthirsty beauty. [I]n this mortal world, a lot of predators are beautiful, and if you’re quick and motivated enough, you can admire that beauty while they kill you and eat you.” --Cold Days, by Jim Butcher.

“It’s Not Easy Being Green”:

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel,
Mr. Grinch.
You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel.

All men are brothers, we like to say, half-wishing sometimes in secret it were not true. But perhaps it is true. And is the evolutionary line from protozoan to Spinoza any less certain? That also may be true. We are obliged, therefore, to spread the news, painful and bitter though it may be for some to hear, that all living things on earth are kindred.” -Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)

Q: What do you call a cross between an iPad and a Christmas tree?
A: A pineapple!

Evening prayer of St. Augustine of Canterbury (as good for Christmas Eve as any eve):

Watch Thou, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight
And give Thine Angels and Saints watch over those who sleep.
Tend Thy sick ones, O Lord Christ
Rest Thy weary ones
Bless Thy dying ones
Soothe Thy suffering ones
Pity Thy afflicted ones
All for Thy Love’s sake.

Hebrew bedtime blessing:

I will both lay me down, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. --Psalm 4:8

Last full measure of devotion:

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” --Job 13:15

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46.

Merry Christmas, everybody, and may every particle of your being sparkle with the light that is uniquely yours, and brighten the whole world thereby. It’s the practical thing to do, and good manners require no less.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Jolly Beggars Play a Celtic Concert and Peter Loffredo Does Dylan Thomas at The Buttonwood Tree

This weekend tradition runs high with the sounds of The Jolly Beggars on Saturday night (8 pm) and Sunday when Peter Loffredo brings the age-old Christmas story to life, for two shows (3 & 7 pm).


The Jolly Beggars bring the rich tradition of Celtic folk music and storytelling to modern day audiences. Based out of Hartford, CT, their traditional songs and musical arrangements have exposed many to the joys of Celtic music. They tell traditional stories from Irish folklore and intersperse their musical arrangements with traditional reels and jigs.

Characterized by their tight harmonies and use of guitars, mandolin, tin whistles, octave mandolin, mandola, tenor banjo, double bass, bodhran, spoons, and more, The Jolly Beggars have quickly built a solid following and continue to spread their music around the east coast. They spent the summer of 2011 touring the east coast and playing shows from Maine to North Carolina. All of the members of the band have studied music extensively throughout their schooling and five members of the band teach music part- and full-time around Connecticut.

Peter Loffredo Presents “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” 

December 22 @ 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm

“A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

Performed live by Peter Loffredo accompanied by John Cappaletti on piano.
Connecticut Heritage Productions (CHP) is proud to present Dylan Thomas’ holiday classic A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Peter Loffredo brings to life these sometimes amusing, sometimes touching memories of childhood in the early 1900s. Holiday music adds to the nostalgia with songs of the season.
This series of warm childhood remembrances not only reflects the Victorian era in Wales, but speaks to the magic of holidays, to the eternal joys of family and friends, and to the human condition in all times. Dylan’s masterful poetic prose as well as his gorgeous use of the English language makes this a holiday show for the whole family. The performance is suitable for all adults and for children old enough to sit through a live performance.

Admission by donations plus a non-perishable food item for: The Amazing Grace Pantry

For more information call (860) 347-4957
or vist:  http://www.dylanthomas.com

Friday, December 20, 2013

Kids Arts 2014 Summer Employment - Applications Available Now

Kids Arts 2014 is the City of Middletown Commission on the Arts 5-week summer arts enrichment camp featuring the Oddfellows Playhouse Children's Circus and NEAR, Inc. Creative Arts Workshops for kids 6-14. The program begins June 30 with mandatory staff training during the week of June 23.

If you are between the ages of 16 and 23, you may be eligible for a summer position with the program as a counselor in training, counselor, or artist in training.

Applications are available online and the deadline for submission is March 21, 2014.

For more information you may call the City Arts Office: 860.638.4510 or email: arts@middletownct.gov

Thursday, December 19, 2013

National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day Vigil Friday At Holy Trinity

In recognition of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day on December 20, Wherever You Are Healthcare for the Homeless (WYA) —a program of Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC)— and St. Vincent de Paul Middletown will host a memorial service and candlelight vigil Friday, December 20, 2012, 4:00 – 5:00 pm at the Church of the Holy Trinity, 381 Main Street, in memory of the areas’ homeless residents who passed away in 2013, and to bring awareness to the plight of the homeless in our city.

The memorial service is open to the public; those who are homeless or near homeless are encouraged to attend. Guest speakers include Mayor Dan Drew; Senator Paul Doyle; Ron Krom, Executive Director, St. Vincent de Paul; Ann Faust, Middlesex County Coalition on Housing & Homelessness.

According to the CT Coalition to End Homelessness, in 2013 Connecticut’s emergency shelters served more than 14,000 people (an increase of almost 30% since 2011), including over 2,500 children. The state’s unsheltered population increased by nearly one third between 2011 and 2013, and has increased 82% since 2009. Connecticut has seen a 10 percent increase in chronic homelessness among families with children between 2012 and 2013. Of the 4,506 total people counted during a one-day snapshot of Connecticut homelessness in January 2013, 235 were counted in Middlesex County; 23 percent were families (including children) and 77 percent were adults (without children).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Family Film at Buttonwood, The Blue Butterfly: A True Story of Healing in the Rain Forest

Vivid images of the Rainforest, close ups of animals and emotional stories of love, healing and faith fill the screen during this 97 minute film featuring William Hurt. (The Incredible Hulk, The Host)

The Blue Butterfly, a film from Spiritual Cinema Circle, is written by Pete McCormack and directed by Léa Pool.

There are lots of kids who love running around and catching insects in jars, but it’s different for young Pete Carlton. Pete has cancer, and according to the doctors, it’s not going to get better. Instead of giving up hope, though, Pete has a dream of catching the rare Amazonian blue morpho butterfly. With the help of his mother, and a famous entomologist, Pete sets out on a transformative journey that touches everyone around him. This is the premise of the Canadian film The Blue Butterfly, and the best part is, it’s based on a true story.

The real life Pete Carlton is one David Marenger, also once a young Canadian boy given 24 months to live before likely succumbing to brain cancer. David was only six years old. Instead of writing to a famous entomologist to get to the Amazon like Pete, however, it was the Children’s Wish Foundation that heard of his love of butterflies, and his deep-rooted desire to seek the vibrant blue morpho. The foundation granted him that trip to Mexico, along with a Montreal entomologist, George Brossard. The young boy was so sickly that, much like Pete, he had to be carried by his entomologist friend through his trip.

The efforts were not in vain, however. Something changed in that jungle, something truly miraculous. After a long journey, David managed to find the blue butterfly. He went home, and the doctors found that the cancer in his head was shrinking instead of growing. David went into remission, and astonished those doctors by continuing to get better.

Decades later, David stood in the jungle again during the filming of The Blue Butterfly, a rare morpho in his hand. This time, though, he was standing, unaided, healthy, happy, 30 years old.

Do miracles exist?

Hope, belief and perseverance are what David counts as the cures to his ‘terminal’ disease. Like the real-life protagonist, The Blue Butterfly hero, Pete, chases the butterfly through the jungle, seeking hope and meaning behind what anyone would consider a tragic occurrence. Why is he the one who has cancer? Why does this have to hurt his mom? Why can’t he be like other kids? The Blue Butterfly’s beautiful juxtaposition of mysticism and scientific study doesn’t answer all the questions explicitly, but instead demonstrates the power of love and belief.

We’re all looking for answers, aren’t we? However, as demonstrated by Pete, sometimes we don’t need all the answers. Sometimes, all we need is a miracle in the form of hope.

7 pm.  Film is free, donations are gratefully accepted. Refreshments are available and All are welcome.

The Buttonwood Tree - 605 Main Street - next to It's Only Natural market. Free parking after 6 pm.
860-347-4957  www.buttonwood.orgwww.buttonwood.org

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro To Publicize Unemployment Compensation Cuts Wednesday In Our City

From the office of Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who represents Middletown in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) will host a roundtable discussion on Emergency hear from Connecticut residents who are facing the loss of their federal emergency unemployment compensation tomorrow, December 18 at 1:00 p.m., in City Hall. She will be joined by Bill Villano, Executive Director of CT Workforce Alliance, and Connecticut residents receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation

DeLauro has repeatedly called for these benefits to be extended, but Republican leadership sent the House of Representatives home for the year without doing so.

Due to that inaction, emergency unemployment benefits will expire on December 28. In CT, 26,000 people will lose a crucial lifeline in the middle of the holiday season. Nationwide, 1.3 million people will see their benefits cease, with that number growing to 1.9 million by June, about 28,700 of them in CT. By the end of 2014 that number will grow to 85,100 in CT.

DeLauro had called for an extension of emergency benefits to be included in the budget deal recently passed by the House of Representatives. That deal is now waiting for Senate approval.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BOE Budget Workshop

Board of Education Budget Workshop for tonight has been postponed.  Tentatively rescheduled for January 7th.  Stay tuned for confirmation.

“He Ain’t Heavy, Father, He’s My B-B-B-B-B Gosh It’s Cold” -- Popcorn by The Colonel # 75

Epigraph: “It takes one to know one, and that works both ways.” --Alfred E. Neuman

“Luck is the residue of design and devotion.” --Tad Friend

Frank Sinatra founded Reprise Records, which he pronounced “REpreeze.”

Win Free Okra! Free Win Okra. Okra Win Free. Free Oprah Winfrey. Whatever.

There’s a dog-eat-dog world circling Sirius.

Every winter the Federal Reserve has a bond-purchasing cruise on the QE II.

Sign over novelist’s desk: “10 Days With No Contrived Coincidences to Further the Plot.”

Marxist aspiration: “The Living Shall Be Raised.”

Harvey Harbinger: The drink that makes you see the future.

My father made a Nativity scene in the living room fireplace every Christmas, but he bought a second, much smaller set, got rid of all the pieces but the infant, and put the smaller infant in the manger in place of the larger. He said, “The news that night was ‘Unto us is born a Savior,’ not ‘Palestinian woman gives birth to three-year-old.’” RIP, Dad (1910-1996).

“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” is a Unitarian carol that never mentions Jesus.

Zen poem:

In spring, abundant flowers;
In autumn, a harvest moon;
In summer, a refreshing breeze;
In winter, snow.

If useless things do not hang in your mind,
Any season is a good season.

We tried to fire up our new snow blower on Sunday morning. It turned over but wouldn’t “catch.” We took our shovel and went to shovel the driveway by hand, asking the Colonel’s Lady to try starting the new blower. Fresh eyes, fresh brain, all that. A moment later, the thing started up. “What did you do?” we asked. “Oh, not much. It’s just that this little key here has to be turned to the ‘on.’ position.”

In New York recently we took a meal at a cafe called The Grey Dog. Days later, the results of an Internet search included “Grey Dog University.” That caught our eye, but the unthrilling truth was that The Grey Dog has several locations, one on University Place. 

The experience prompted this thought: as competition among colleges heats up to the melting point, school names will surely get zippier, and Chinese chains will get into the act: “Bright Future Internet College”; “Big Income University”; “Hundred Flowers School of Social Research.” “Grey Dog University” will seem dowdy by comparison.

Drinking buddies lament the loss of one of their own: “He’ll be McSorley missed.

Cosmetic surgery joke. One aging ladies’ man got so much “work” done that his face looks like a balloon with features drawn onto it with a Magic Marker. Now when he winks at a woman, his pants fall down.

The luck of having talent is not enough; one must also have a talent for luck. -Hector Berlioz, composer (1803-1869)

The quotation above is an example of “chiasmus,” or a-b-b-a arrangement of items: luck/talent/talent/luck. The name “chiasmus” comes from the Greek alphabet letter chi, which looks like an X. If you arrange the elements of a chiasmus on two lines, and draw lines from like element to like element, the result is a chi, or X:

Luck                      Talent
           x              x
x x
x x
            x                x
Talent                       Luck

Heraclitus said you can’t step in the same river twice. Parmenides said you can’t step in the same river once. Who's deeper?

Zillow.com is the one where you check on the market value of your house; Zappos.com is the one where you buy footwear. Don’t confuse them or you run the risk that (a) you will get bad information on the value of your footwear, and (b) someone will step on your house.

“No matter how many years you sit doing zazen [Zen meditation], you will never become anything special.” --Master Sawaki

“The irrationality of a thing is no argument against it, but rather a condition of its existence. Yet a casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith alone proves nothing.” --Fred Nietzsche

Nelson Mandela’s death reminds us that although he survived his great prison ordeal, not every imprisoned black man did. Eric Bogle wrote and sang “Singing the Spirit Home,” and the copyright is his (you can hear the song on YouTube).

They came for him in the morning,
an hour before dawning
The pale white moon was waning
in the African sky

The cell door flew wide open,
they stood looking at him
He saw no mercy in their hearts,
no pity in their eyes

As they took him and they bound him,
tied his trembling hands behind him
He felt his courage leave him,
his manhood disappear

His legs would not support him,
so from the cell they dragged him
He sobbed and screamed and cursed them
in his loneliness and fear

With faces closed and hidden
the white guards walked beside him
Indifferent to his pleading --
they'd been down this path before

But other eyes were watching,
other ears were listening
Other hearts beat with him
in his final desperate hour

From the darkness of that prison
came the sound of his brothers singing
Courage, their voices told him,
you do not walk alone

From their cells beyond the shadow
he heard their voices echo
As in love and pride and sorrow
they sang his spirit home

And their song of hope and freedom,
it rang inside that prison
It beat against the iron bars
and crashed against the stone

As in their fear and hate they hung him,
the last sound that filled his being
Was his brothers singing,
singing his spirit home:

"Courage, brother,
you do not walk alone
We shall walk with you
and sing your spirit home."