Monday, December 14, 2015


Barking Up the Wrong One

One of my principal objections to the way politics unfolds nowadays on the conservative end of the spectrum (where I have lived ideologically for nearly 50 years) is that almost everyone seems convinced that the best way to convince me to support their preferred candidate is to trash all of the other candidates and/or call people who support those other candidates vile names.

Of course, one of the two problems with that rhetorical strategy (which is ubiquitous on Twitter and other social networking platforms, and which has taken root in more conventional conservative media as well) is that it employs an absurd double-standard where other candidates' flaws are trumpeted, while the preferred candidate's are waved away as trivial, or ignored altogether. Every candidate has flaws. It just makes an advocate look ridiculous to pretend otherwise, and to make those flaws the raison d'ĂȘtre for opposing that candidate. I think we are better served by considering the candidates more holistically.

The other problem is that, in general, people are more persuaded by positive messages than negative ones. The best way to convince me to support Rand Paul, let's say, isn't
to trash the other candidates. It is to highlight what you perceive to be Senator Paul's strengths (which happen to be considerable).

To some extent, I blame political consultants for this problem, but in the end we are responsible for our own behavior. Candidates (and their advocates) who consistently put forth a positive message will win me over much more successfully than candidates (and their advocates) who spend their time attacking their Republican rivals and anyone who supports them.

For the record...

I think Marco Rubio is a good man, and a staunch conservative. I think he would make a fine President, and I have contributed to his campaign.

I think Carly Fiorina is a good woman, and a staunch conservative. I think she would make a fine President, and
I have contributed to her campaign.

I think Ted Cruz is a good man, and a staunch conservative. I think he would make a fine President, and
I have contributed to his campaign.

If you prefer someone else, more power to you. I'm always happy to discuss these things, calmly and rationally. Who knows, one of us might even change the other's mind ("the art of persuasion, beautiful and just," as those of us in the rhetorical arts like to say).
But if you start attacking me personally the moment you find out I don't support your candidate, you do that candidate no good service, as I will simply tune you out (as will most other voters you might be trying to persuade).

"Wait! You have attacked that Trump fellow and his supporters pretty harshly."

That's different. Trump isn't a conservative, or even a Republican, really, and most of his supporters aren't either. Fuck 'em...

Things That Make Me Happy: Hot Streak Edition

In a game marred by a constant downpour, my beloved Kansas City Chiefs did just enough to defeat the San Diego Chargers 10-3 yesterday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium. The win was the team's seventh straight, and at 8-5 the Chiefs are still in the hunt for the playoffs. Quite remarkable given the team's 1-5 start.

QB Alex Smith threw an interception, a rare occurrence. He had gone 312 straight pass attempts without throwing one, a team record and the second-longest streak in NFL history. Alex managed to throw for 191 yards and a touchdown in the downpour, but the key to the win was the 150 yards the Chiefs racked up on the ground.

Alex wore gloves for the first time trying to combat the wet conditions.
Next up is the final regular-season road game, against the 4-9 Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

My "Charlie Brown" Christmas Tree: Day One

It was raining yesterday morning when I left home to go to 8:00 Mass at St. Peter's. It was still raining when Mass let out, so I was walking with my head down when I stopped at the Hy-Vee on the way home. That drew my attention to some small Christmas trees and wreaths they had on display outside, and in particular to one little guy standing off by himself...

I spent a good part of the rest of the afternoon wishing I had brought the little tree home with me the first time I saw him, so after the Chiefs game ended I went back to Hy-Vee to see if he was still there. He was...and it was still raining...

I took him inside and after a ridiculously long wait finally got someone to take my money. They bagged him up, and when I got him home I parked him on top of one of my Bose 201 loudspeakers.

Once I had him out of the bag and put some water in his stand, he opened up a bit, and I could see that he is reasonably symmetrical. He also my childhood, actually.
It has been awhile since my living space smelled like a fir tree. It is a magical scent...

For the record, he's a Fraser fir, and today
I will be heading over to Hobby Lobby to get some appropriate decorations. I'm sure HL will have plenty of stuff that will work well with such a small tree (if you're not buying your Christmas decorations at Hobby Lobby, you're out of your ever-lovin' mind).

It should be a lot of fun decorating him. I'll document the process here, of course.

"You have a plan to keep the cats from attacking him?"
At the moment? No...

Christmas Movie & TV Shows

A sufficient number of "steamboats."
One TV show I'm fond of that always does a good job with its Christmas episodes is the Hart Hanson police procedural comedy/drama Bones, now in its 11th season. The show is based on characters created by mystery novelist Kathy Reichs.

My favorite of their Christmas episodes is Season Three's
"The Santa in the Slush." Although they are not romantically involved (yet),
Dr. Temperance Brennan (played by Emily Deschanel) agrees to kiss FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (played by David Boreanaz) under some mistletoe in order to get something she needs from a co-worker.

Of course, she winds up enjoying the experience, as her co-worker knew perfectly well that she would...

It has been arranged for Brennan to spend Christmas Eve with her father and brother, who are incarcerated, and her brother's wife and children. No Christmas decorations are allowed in the prison trailer where the family gathering will take place, so Booth and his son arrange a unique "Christmas miracle."

They set up a Christmas tree within sight of the prison trailer, powering the tree's lights with Booth's car battery. He calls Bones on her cellphone and has her and her loved ones look out the window...

Yup. Every single time...

Until Next Time...

Most of the Christmas hymns and carols I was taught in school are English in origin, with an occasional song that originated in France, or sometimes Ireland. But "O Tannenbaum" is German, and I actually learned the German version before I even knew there was an English translation. In fact, it was in those 20th century translations that Christmas gets featured. The original German lyrics simply sing the praises of the faithful evergreen tree.

Like most songs that can be taught easily to young children, "O Tannenbaum" is quite simple musically. A lot of artists get a little heavy-handed with their orchestrations, trying to make what is essentially a children's song into something more substantial. Not a good idea.

More to my liking are versions that preserve the charming simplicity of the song, like today's send-off. I wrote about Vince Guaraldi and his landmark soundtrack for the original 1965 A Charlie Brown Christmas special last Thursday. Guaraldi's jazz-inflected rendition of "O Tannenbaum" is one of the highlights of the score for me, true to the original but also with a whimsical charm of its own. Enjoy...

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