So Dies November

Put away the pumpkin spice and break out the peppermint.

3 weeks of Thanksgiving means 5 weeks of Christmas. Next year it’s back to 4 and 4.

I kind of missed Thanksgiving, strep laid me out and I lost the whole weekend.

But I finished MISTER FRIDAY! Buy it.

Anyway, Christmas is underway and it’s finally time to go full-bore on music and cartoons.

I’m editing a few pieces and gearing up to send out a few others. And of course, reading.

Hope you had a good November. This is not a very interesting blog post, but then again, nobody reads these, so who cares?

So begins the avalanche of Christmas books!

When Thanksgiving lands on the 22nd, we will have what is mathematically the longest Christmas season possible at 33 days. Get your reading in.

I started with the audio of this gem by Tolkien, who wrote letters to his kids from Santa Claus and his Polar Bear. This book collects those annual Christmas Eve letters, some of which ran contemporaneously with World War 2.

Overall it was good, and some of it even ties in with his Middle-Earth races. I’ve heard the print edition is illustrated so that is cool.

That is all I really have for now, it has been a rough week for reading, but more will come.

6 Historical Details about Thanksgiving (and you won’t BELIEVE #7)

This year both our kids are into reading, so we picked up some library books about this holiday, and learned/remembered some cool facts about how Thanksgiving came to be:

1) The modern holiday is an amalgamation of traditions dating back almost 400 years, from early colonial America. The main feast we celebrate took place in 1621.

2) The English Pilgrims that came over on the Mayflower had a hard first winter on this continent, suffering a 50 percent casualty rate from starvation and exposure. During the next harvest, they ended up with so much food, they knew they would do more than survive. They could even get fat.

3) This was unusual back then! We take our food for granted in America nowadays because it is so easy to come by, compared to how hard people had to work for it in 1621. It was about 85% of what you did.

4) The Pilgrims called their place “Plimoth Plantation.” The local Native American tribesfolk were the Wampanoag people. One of them spoke English, the famous Squanto (or Tisquantum), but he himself was not Wampanoag.

Squanto had had a hard life; he was taken into slavery, sold to the Spanish, escaped, came back to America, and found that his tribe, the Patuxet, had died of disease. He was the last one. He joined the Wampanoag people, and was with them when they met the Pilgrims.

5) As the Pilgrims were celebrating their massive harvest, the chief/king of the Wampanoag, called Massasoit, decided to join them, and brought 90 of his men with them. The English and the Natives celebrated by eating food and playing games for days. (Probably to avoid leftovers.) It was a joyous event for all present.

6) Thanksgiving Day was officially established in 1789 by George Washington. Later, Thomas Jefferson said “nah,” and made it less of a big deal. Americans celebrated it on and off until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln said “Boom, we’re doing this thing.”

7) Maybe John Wilkes Booth really just agreed with Thomas Jefferson. (Boom, also.)

So there you have it. Have a sit, have a think, and realize what a miraculous age we live in. There are still hungry people, yes. We haven’t solved all our problems yet.

But food is so readily available to us, in such a wide variety, all year long without interruption, border to border, coast to coast.

It’s a big deal to wrestle sustenance out of the ground. Let’s never take it for granted. Similarly, let’s be thankful for those who make it happen, and for those who celebrate with us.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I nuked my Twitter account

Image result for mushroom cloud

I meant to get this done a few weeks ago, but it was hard to find an app that could handle my entire archive of almost 28,000 tweets. Which, when you think about it, is a lot of bullcrap to be talking about in short bursts. That’s got a lot to do with why I wanted to scrap the whole thing.

My apologies to anyone who RT’d or Fave’d my stuff in the last couple of days. I’m really trying to minimize my digital footprint with regards to insubstantial things. I am friends with groups of people in wide circles (some writers, some fellow Christians, some general old friends, etc) and will use Twitter to engage in discussions with them as I see fit, but for the most part I wanted to really scale back my presence on there because it’s dumb, it’s a mob hive, and its rules are ever-changing with the intent punishing people @Jack doesn’t like.

So yeah, all my tweets, boom, gone. Nine years’ worth of them. I have an archive, so that’s fine. But they’re not hanging out there in cyberspace, reminding me that I have put a lot of junk onto the Web in the last decade.

Happy Monday, peeps.

Recent Reads, Fever Dream edition

This is a big update so let’s keep it quick:

The Last Wish, Andrzej Sapkowski. This is from The Witcher, a popular Polish fantasy series that started in the 90s, became a video game, and will soon be a Netflix series with Henry Cavill. I got a ways into the audiobook before I caught the flu and spent a whole night dreaming CRAZY stuff about The Witcher while trying not to barf. So I couldn’t finish it. But it was interesting.

Squanto, Charles River Editors. A seasonal pick, and a really good one. It relies on a lot of original sources, which are rare enough, so it paints a more accurate picture than the footnote stuff you get in school.

The Witch Elm, Tana French. An extremely talented author, this book had a strong hook and gorgeous writing, but it wandered and ultimately failed to land for me.

Skyward, Brandon Sanderson. Love this dude, love his stories, this was one of his quicker-paced books and was really well done.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson. She’s a famous blogger, known for her humor, so I picked this up. It was really hilarious in parts, but like most blogger books, it got repetitive in tone and moral.

Veritas, Quinn Coleridge. A supernatural semi-frontier story in 1890s Colorado, featuring a main character who is a blind-mute. The latter half delved into a lot of darkness and torture but it was overall a good read and I will pick up the sequel.

Dragonwatch: Wrath of the Dragon King, Brandon Mull. A favorite series of mine, though apparently these are now coming out eighteen months apart? Bummer to wait that long. Typical good middle grade fantasy, though the ending cliffhanger involves a main character getting amnesia, and I kind of hate that as a plot device. Nevertheless I will read the next one…when I’m halfway to my next-next birthday. ūüė°

Heroes get remembered, legends never die.

Image result for michael crichton

While it may be premature to call Michael Crichton a legend after ten years, the man was certainly prolific, productive, and proficient. I will always heap praise on his imagination as well as his technical knowledge, his zeal for research, and his ability to take that which is “commonly known to be impossible…”

…and make me believe that it is not only possible, but about to happen.

Time travel. Cloned dinosaurs. Alien probes that give us godlike powers¬†by accident. Gnarly aggressive gorillas that really don’t want us taking diamonds from Africa. And that’s just a small sampling of his work that I’ve read.

The man had the #1 book, movie, and TV show in America at the same time in the 1990s. He wrote novels to pay his way through medical school because oh yeah, he was a freaking doctor.

When I hit seventh grade, and was just about tired of middle grade/young adult books (keep in mind that¬†Harry Potter¬†wasn’t a thing yet), I made the jump to big-time sci-fi so I could read THE LOST WORLD and then JURASSIC PARK. (Oops. Order, and such.)

Then I gobbled up whatever else of his I could, partly because I was much less picky, and partly because I didn’t know why I liked what I liked, only that I liked it, and I didn’t have this idea in my head that I only had time to read the best of anything. Some of his stuff wasn’t the greatest, but most of it was, and it fueled my drive to tell my own stories.

Granted, I made up a lot of stuff that he would have researched, but hey, baby steps.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of his passing due to cancer. It was significant enough in my life that I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news.

I’m just glad that he left so much of his time and work for people to enjoy even after his death, in the form of books. The fact that they’re good, and historically significant in American culture, ensures that many future generations will have the chance to enjoy them as I have, and that makes me happy.

RIP, Mr. Crichton. And thank you for your labors.

The Synchronicity of HallowThankMas

You guys, I love this time of year. I love having a huge holiday to look forward to each month. Decorating, making treats, smelling the seasonal smells and seeing the seasonal sights…yeah, I’m one of those guys. The rest of the year is one huge giant slog, with an intermission in July for some crucial birthdays. Other than that, we’re all counting down to the Big Three:

Halloween!

Wherein we embrace death, the universal destination of life. The price that all men must pay. That innate fear within humanity. Some approach it with varying degrees of severity; I prefer the whimsical touch, with an understanding of the reality of death, of the necessity of fear, and our ability to live joyfully in spite of these two things we can’t control.

Thanksgiving!

That mighty feast of the harvest, wherein we take a look at how full our lives really are, how we have reliable channels to sustenance, an abundance of rich and delicious things to fill our bellies. A day of friendship and family and football and food comas…in my adult years so far, I have come to understand the innate value of all of this, especially in such a tumultuous world. Did my parents worry about my future the way I worry about my children’s? Perhaps. ‘Tis only human. But on this day, and in this season, I set aside the worry for what is to come, and revel in gratitude for what has already arrived.

Christmas!

O, thou art the grandest of kahunas. (Kahuni?) That capstone of the year, bursting with color and magic and fulfillment of wishes…of TV specials and blinking lights and mystery gifts in the living room…where reindeer fly and fat men pull one all-nighter and the bank account gets mugged like a cripple in a bad part of town. And the music! Oh, we could gush for days about the music. But we’d rather just listen to it.

Much like Thanksgiving, the lens of adulthood shifts the meaning of Christmas for me. I had a few rough ones in my twenties, on my own, short on funds, trying to make sense of certain trials in my life. While I still chase that childhood feeling, and see my boys lap it up like I did, the deeper meaning is clearer to me. Keeping Christ at the center of it is crucial, because ultimately it’s a holiday about God keeping a promise He made to us.

There is a synchronicity among these holidays, perhaps unintentional, but one that I find all the same: we live in a world where forces can exert their will on us, and we can’t always fight back, and at times we may despair because we know death is at the end of the road.

Yet we also live in a world of plenty, and with our cup running over, we can reflect on the bounties of life, and their real value.

Because ultimately this life is fleeting, and though death comes, its sting is gone, swallowed up in the fulfillment of a divine promise.

I love that we get to remember those things every year. That we dress it up in a parade that smothers all senses, with colors and tastes and smells and heart-shattering joy.

I can endure nine months of the hard, cruel grind of life if I know there’s a respite at the end of the road. Three gory, gracious, gift-laden months of respite.

I love you guys. I love this time of year. I love this life–especially when it’s going great, and even when it sucks.

I hope you love it too.