Posted by: bkivey | 20 January 2016

Turn the Ship Around

“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”

Mark Watney

The Martian

I saw another recent sci-fi movie this week, this time on DVD. The film was The Martian, and it’s what you get when Apollo 13 meets Castaway, but with Matt Damon instead of Tom Hanks. The result is a superior movie. Even though people who haven’t seem the movie know generally  what it’s about, the story is told in such a compelling way that the film is worth seeing.

There’s a lot to like about this film:

  • Matt Damon inhabits the character of Mark Watney, projecting the kind of good-natured competence we’d like to think we’d have in a dire situation. After he deals with the immediate situation, he figures out what he has to do. He doesn’t (on screen, at least) whinge and moan about how unfair life is. He solves problems. He gets shit done. He also puts up with a steady diet of disco, which is no mean feat.
  • The rest of the cast ranges from good to excellent. Everyone commits to their roles. No one is miscast, and even a bit player like the mission controller whose sole job appears to be monitoring Watney brings nuance to the role. A superior ensemble effort.
  • The screenplay is very good. People act like people rather than characters. The dialogue rings true: people don’t go around cracking wise and getting off one-liners. Matt Damon’s first word after he deals with the initial disaster is what 95% of people would say. There are differences of opinion, but folks act like the professionals they’re portraying. And for a movie about a man making stark choices just to stay alive, there’s a fair amount of humor.
  • The cinematography is well done, capturing the vistas of an uninhabited planet. We know a lot about what Mars looks like: the header on the blog this month is an image of a Martian sunset, so movies should get that part right.
  • There’s a J.R.R. Tolkien reference.
  • The pacing is very good. The movie starts with a disaster and doesn’t let up. I haven’t seen a movie with this level of kinetic pacing since Runaway Train. Every scene and every line move the story along. It’s about the shortest 140 minute movie I’ve seen. In fact, there are places where the movie could reasonably slow down to give the viewer a moment to breathe. Exposition is minimized nearly to the point of making some parts of the movie obtuse. Aaron Sorkin this ain’t. When the ship’s crew is informed that they won’t be returning to Earth after nearly two years away, it wouldn’t have hurt to spend a bit of time showing their reaction. But this movie is about one thing: getting a guy off Mars in the shortest time possible, and the film does a good job conveying that sense of urgency.
  • Directing is very good, but it’s Ridley Scott. He gets nice performances out the actors, and they interact with each other in believable ways.
  • A running joke is that the only music Watney has available is 70’s disco, which he detests, and that conceit nicely offsets the very harsh realities he’s facing. He appears to be a bit of a Happy Days fan, as there’s a scene where the TV show is playing, and in his first image back to Earth he strikes a Fonzie pose. It occurred to me that as the first soft landing of a US Mars probe happened in 1976, the entertainment choices might be an homage to that event.
  • We see once again that duct tape can fix anything. We already know this to be true, so another point for the film.
  • This is a Science fiction story, as opposed to Star Wars’ science Fiction. STEM is front and center, and the movie does an excellent job of portraying what interplanetary travel will likely look like. There is no magic here. It’s human beings living and working in a completely inhospitable environment, and dealing with situations within the unyielding framework of real physics. Choices have to be made, and corners are cut, sometimes with unhappy results. The story by itself is a good one, but the fact that people face real limitations elevates the film and greatly adds to its veracity.

Every movie is a compromise, and even a work that tries to hew closely to reality has to make some stylistic choices. None of the choices made in this film take the viewer out of the movie, but there is one big thing and few minor ones:

  • The One Big Impossible Thing in The Martian is the complete ignorance of radiation in open space. Not that the production crew was ignorant of it, but that they consciously chose to ignore it. A movie where Matt Damon dies of radiation poisoning in a few months isn’t going to do great box office. When NASA executives discuss the viability of the rescue plan, their only concern is if the ship will remain viable for the extended mission; there’s no discussion of the effect 900 days in space will have on the crew. The current record for continuous time in space by a human is 437 days, while most proposed crewed Mars mission profiles are for around 600 days, and there’s real concern whether people can survive the radiation exposure.
  • I had to wonder why a botanist would be sent to a lifeless planet. As this is the third manned mission, maybe something was discovered on the previous two. This is another place the movie might have taken a moment with a few lines of dialogue.
  • The windstorm that sets the story in motion is massively, uh, overblown. The atmospheric pressure on Mars is so low that even a wind of hundreds of kilometers an hour is going to feel like a breeze. Director Scott knows this, but a crew isn’t going to abandon a mission for a mere zephyr. The movie references the thinness of the Martian atmosphere later in the film, so there’s a bit of contradiction there.
  • As would be expected, the metric system is used throughout the film, with one notable exception. Scenes shot in the Martian habitat and ship show monitors with readouts on atmospheric conditions. The air pressure is the only reading in English units (psi). I’d have thought they’d show pressure in kPa or at least millibars. I figured this was a stylistic choice to make the movie more accessible. Even folks who grew up on metric may not know the units for pressure.
  • Hollywood has a tendency to make spaceships too large. I’ve seen an Apollo Command Module (Apollo 10), and a mockup of the Shuttle crew compartment at Johnson Space Center, and the thing you notice is how small they are. The ship in The Martian looks to be at least as large as the International Space Station, a structure that took years and billions of dollars to build. I expect that if you’re planning on going to Mars more than once, it would make sense to build a large, robust ship, and re-crew and resupply it at the end of each mission. And if six people are going to spend a couple of years on board, you’d want some elbow room, but every gram of that ship has to be lifted out of Earth’s gravity well.

Except for the radiation thing, these are minor quibbles that in no way detract from the movie, and this film is good enough to get away with ignoring radiation. This is a well-made, well-acted, entertaining and riveting movie that puts the science in science fiction. It’s been nominated for Best Picture, and it’s only real competition is The Revenant, which will probably win. I was surprised to find that the movie is still playing locally, and it’s a film that rewards a big screen. I expect I’ll go see it in the theater, because if I don’t, I’ll regret it.

EDIT: 28 January 2016: I watched the official trailer for the movie, and it’s like watching a different movie. The trailer seems to be made of outtakes, or more precisely, the director/producers had a different vision for the movie than what ended up in theaters. This is the rare case where the actual movie is better than the trailer. Much better,

Posted by: bkivey | 14 January 2016

The Post Awakens

I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens today. I’m not a big Star Wars fan, although the first film blew me away, but that was 1977 and I was 13. I saw the two sequels in theater, but have never seen the subsequent movies and know almost nothing about them save that almost no-one likes them. My sci-fi interests run more along Star Trek/Babylon 5/Firefly lines, but the movie has gotten good buzz. I thought I’d wait awhile for the crowds to thin out, but realized that unlike 1977 when there was no home media and the movie ran in theaters for the better part of a year, Disney couldn’t start selling to the consumer market until the theatrical run was over. I didn’t want to wait too long.

I might see a movie every 2 -3 years, so I splurged and went the IMAX/3D route. The nearest IMAX theater is a 20 mile hike from the house, but for the 1230 showing the traffic was reasonable. I’d avoided looking up the movie online, and people I know knew I hadn’t seen it, so I really had no idea about the plot. A trailer aired during last years Super Bowl, but it looked like a lot of people running away from explosions; so hard to tell anything about the movie.

I’m assuming that nearly everyone who wants to see this film has done so, and there will be spoilers.

$18 bought admission, a pair of 3D glasses, and what looks to be a pass to a showing this coming Saturday. The theater had comfortable seats and maybe two dozen people scattered about. At 1230 the lights went down and the PSA’s and trailers started. One of the trailers looked like a really bad print because everything on the screen was blurry. Oh yeah, 3D. On with the glasses. Now I could see clearly that if movie trailers are to be believed, the world is full of giant things loudly blowing right the hell up. Isaac Newton has been replaced by Micheal Bay.

On to the movie:

  • I liked that after the splash screen, the movie jumps right into the action.
  • The BB-8 droid was a little distracting, because I was trying to figure out the engineering. Is a rolling ball really an efficient method of locomotion? What about ice or mud? In a largely bipedal universe, what about stairs? There’s a shot of the droid rolling down stairs, but try rolling a large ball up stairs. Maybe it uses the wheelchair ramps.
  • Daisy Ridley and John Boyega breathe life into their characters, and there is some chemistry between them. They’re entertaining to watch. The Finn character gets most of the best lines, but bad news for him, by the end of the film he’s firmly in the Friend Zone.
  • J.J. Abrams borrowed some pages from the Joss Whedon playbook.
  • A good chunk of the movie consists of frame-by-frame reshoots of the original film. Director Abrams specialty is reviving moribund movie franchises, and this may be a case of giving fans what they want, but it’s also kind of lazy. Rather than experiencing an original film, you often feel like you’re watching the 1977 film with a bigger budget. This tends to subtract from the value of the movie.
  • The script is OK. A lot of the humor depends on the actor’s ability rather than any intrinsic humor in the dialogue. John Boyega is very good at this.
  • Pacing is OK. At 140 minutes the movie doesn’t feel overly long, but there are places where tighter editing would have helped. The story doesn’t really get going until about 2/3rds of the way in.
  • Casting is the best part of the movie, and that’s not a bad thing.
  • The Kylo Ren character sure has a lot of hair for a guy that wears a full-head helmet all day.
  • Speaking of which, when did Solo and Leia have a son? Is this canon, or something original to this film?
  • 3D is generally used to enhance the cinematography rather than distract you from it. There are some very effective uses of 3D, including a shot of a Star Destroyer that had me wanting to reach out and touch it.
  • Character motivation could use some help, but I suppose you have to save something for the sequels.
  • What was a side quest in the original, the search for a Jedi master, is the main plot point in this film. Likewise, the main point in the original, destroying the Death Star, is almost a side note in this iteration. That’s not a complaint, just an observation. Without the Death Machine of Damocles hanging over the Rebel’s heads, the movie turns into Saving Private Ryan.
  • It seems everything the Empire builds blows up real good. You could make a fortune in the Star Wars universe selling fire suppression systems.
  • I’d thought the next film might be about how our new heroes find Luke Skywalker, but the ending negates that idea. Still, the ending worked well enough, and gives a sense of how the sequels will unfold. ‘Train you I will, Rey’.

There’s a fair amount going on the film, but I couldn’t really enjoy it, because I just couldn’t get past the complete and utter disregard for basic physics. I can suspend disbelief for spacecraft swooping around like aircraft, noise in a vacuum, and the implications of the inertial dampers required for the shown maneuvers, but there were moments that took me out of the movie:

  • You would not jump in a car that had been sitting for years and drive across the country. You certainly wouldn’t do that in an aircraft, and you sure as hell wouldn’t do that with a spacecraft. I don’t care how robust the engineering is, it’s not feasible. If it had been established that the craft was in use, then there’s not so much of a problem.
  • The energy required to accelerate (or decelerate) an object the mass of the Millenium Falcon to light speed in a fraction of a second is astronomical. If you tried that in an atmosphere, you’d likely blow half the atmosphere away. In any case, you and your ship would be plasma. All that energy has to go somewhere.
  • It’s clear that any weapon that destroys a star for power is a one-time use device in that solar system. And even if the Empire Planet Buster is the size of a small planet (as shown), even a dwarf star would be many times larger and heavier. So where does all that mass go? I’d thought they might have something like a tame black hole, have it suck down a star’s atmosphere to build an energetic accretion disk, and then use the polar jets as weapons. But nope, we’re shown the star being destroyed entire.
  • It’s not apparent where the Death Machine is in relation to the Rebel base, but as there is sunshine at the base, we can assume it’s not in the same solar system. Well, hell. The Empire can fire that thing, and it will take months if not years for the energy to reach the base. And if you’ve destroyed a system’s star, destroying the planets is pointless.

These aren’t nit-picky points. They’re places in the movie that had me going ‘What?!’, and took me out of the film. The movie would have been just as good, and more watchable, without those distractions. I understand that folks in the movie business are a lot more interested in exciting visuals than whether something is even remotely possible. And there’s a lot of good science fiction where the viewer or reader is asked to accept one (or a very small number) of impossible things. As long as those impossible things work in a consistent way, most people will suspend disbelief. Star Wars has a bit of a problem in how it presents itself. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a fantasy that acknowledges that it’s a fantasy, but Star Wars is a fantasy that wants to be taken seriously, and that leads to things like the above mentioned points. It’s a bit of a stretch.

Overall I give the movie 3 stars, losing one full star for the physics problems. The story is decent, the film moves along well enough, and the 3D is worth the money.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: bkivey | 13 January 2016

Amazon and Weight

I ordered some things from Amazon, and they’ve been pushing something called Amazon Prime. Don’t know what that is; can’t be bothered to check. Anyway, when you get to checkout, you have a choice. Standard shipping or expedited shipping if you sign up with Amazon Prime. Trying to stay off the corporate radar as much as is practicable, I opted for standard shipping. And you’d think that the selections would be just that: Standard or Expedited shipping. But they aren’t. The choices are: ‘Fast, Free Shipping’, and ‘No, I don’t want Fast, Free Shipping’.

WTF?

When my brain saw that, it started to riff, as brains are wont to do. I could see Amazon going full R. Lee Ermy on me.

‘You don’t want FAST FREE SHIPPING?! What the hell kind of mental idgit midget are you?! We’re offering you FAST FREE SHIPPING! FAST FREE SHIPPING! You must be some kind of mental microwit to turn down FAST FREE SHIPPING! I have never, in all my born days, seen anyone refuse FAST FREE SHIPPING. Is the concept of FAST FREE SHIPPING just a little too complex for you?Are you unable to grasp the idea? It’s FAST FREE SHIPPING!

Yes, sometimes the world is more interesting inside my head.

Word Watch

Weight. As in jewelry.  This seems like a term I’ve heard before, but I like it. You can see where it derives it’s provenance.

‘Hey man, I like your weight.’

‘Ill be right with you; let me put on my weight’.

It’s a little surprising to me that the term isn’t firearm related. Or maybe it is, and the White folks don’t know yet. The common term for carrying is ‘carrying’, or ‘packing’, or if you’re fans of The Wire, ‘tooling up’.

‘Hold up while I put on my weight’.

‘He’s got some weight’.

It could be a trend.

 

 

Posted by: bkivey | 5 January 2016

Learning to Fail

A recent issue of an alumni magazine contained an article on a ‘listening session’ organized by the university where the university President and other senior administrators met with African-American students to hear grievances pertaining to alleged racism. The complaints ran the by-now-familiar gamut:  I was the only non-White in my class, non-White students treat me differently, people stop talking when I approach. The article goes on to include the usual mea culpas from the administration with promises to do ‘better’ in relationships with the aggrieved.

I’ve noted that I’m very skeptical of self-reported racial incidents, because usually there’s only the complainants word to go on, and in nearly all investigated cases, the alleged wounds turn out to be self-inflicted. Driven by misplaced White guilt, Western society has become a victim-centric culture, and the race to the bottom (I’m more of a victim than you) severely hurts those who may in fact be genuinely hurt. One can only cry ‘wolf’ so many times.

My first response to those alleging racism was ‘What a sorry lot of spoiled, whiny children’. These folks grandparents were subject to real, actual, institutionalized racism, and endured beatings, fire hoses, and police dogs to ensure that their descendants would have the opportunities other Americans took for granted. Now that they have the opportunities, it seems all they can do is complain.

But I realized that there’s something far more sinister going on. These young African-Americans have been told all their lives that in order to succeed, they must fail. This is not only counter-intuitive and at odds with the observed realities of other ethnic groups, it’s completely irrational. Yet they’ve been conditioned to swallow this poison pill without question.

In order for the self-appointed Black leadership and their Progressive White enablers to stay in power, there must be a permanent underclass that will put them in power and to which they can dole out favors. A very effective way to do this is to 1) tell their constituents that their problems are caused by those different from them, and 2) set themselves up as outsiders. While the practice of the first part is duplicitous and malevolent, it’s the second part more than the first which has created the current racial tension.

Landmark civil rights legislation was enacted into law in 1964, but centuries of oppression can’t be whisked away with the stroke of a pen. There was a lot of pent-up rage, some of which was expressed in the riots and formation of Black terrorist groups in the late 60’s. As American society struggled to integrate the former oppressors with the formerly oppressed, civil rights leaders realized that if that integration did occur, they’d lose their power base. And so while mouthing the platitudes of conciliation, they worked to ensure that African-Americans would identify as ‘other’ in relation to mainstream society.

One way to promote ‘otherness’ is to equate the things that make the majority culture successful with a betrayal of ones people. In US African-American culture, any young person attempting to do the things necessary to advance up the economic ladder is met with the derisive ‘acting White’, as if the time-proven methods of hard work and study are a betrayal. George Orwell would be proud. In the Black community, success is failure. Failure is success.

This closure of the traditional avenues for success gave rise in the 80’s and 90’s to thug culture. If people can’t find success one way, they’ll find another, and you already self-identify as ‘other’, what better way to accentuate the point than to operate outside the law? ‘Whitey won’t accept me, so I’ll make him afraid of me’. If thug culture wasn’t actively encouraged by Black leadership, neither was it discouraged. And why should it be? It drives another wedge between African-Americans and others. I don’t really feel sorry for young Black folks complaining about scrutiny from others. Decades of separating yourself from the rest of society will have that effect.

Other cultures don’t seem to have this problem. Commodore Perry forcibly opened Japan to the Western world in 1854. The Japanese, perhaps not wanting to experience another force majeure, had by the outbreak of WW II developed some technology exceeding the West. The British came to India in 1858 and weren’t kicked out until 1947. India today is the world’s largest democracy and home to a robust space program. Asked to describe the average Indian, the words ‘smart’, ‘industrious’, and ‘polite’ would come to most people’s minds.

One might reasonably point out that the Indians and Japanese weren’t slaves. No, but neither were the Caribbean natives and sub-Saharan Africans coming to America and succeeding. The difference is they weren’t raised in the culture of mediocrity pervasive in African-American society. A culture perpetuated by a very small minority as a way to gain power.

So now we’ve come to a time where the culture of failure is self-perpetuating, even to the point that the best and brightest African-American society has to offer believe they are victims. They’ve been so indoctrinated into the culture of ‘other’ that when they’re treated as everyone else, it’s seen as a slight. The sound of ‘listening sessions’ isn’t so much the sound of racism as a bubble bursting.

 

Posted by: bkivey | 1 January 2016

Personal Year in Review

On balance, 2015 was a better-than-average year. The business grew some, and I got to do some cool stuff. ‘Cool stuff’ doesn’t include three hours in Canadian customs.

Some of the things I’ll remember from the year just passed:

  • Three jobs at the Oregon coast. I like the Oregon coast. Every one of the days, including the last day in March, was sunny and pleasant. On each occasion I was able to finish the work by noon, giving me a half-day to play tourist. Those days were better vacations than my actual vacation, which bring me to:
  • My vacation. I can charitably call this week a mixed bag at best. I documented the experience in the ‘Canadian Vacation’ series of posts. I did get to see Banff National Park; a goal since childhood. This was a vacation I enjoy more the further in the past it is, if that makes sense.
  • The best book I read last year was The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Bernard DeVoto, Houghton Mifflin, 1953). A truly fascinating look at the earliest organized American expedition from the Mississippi to the West Coast. After I’d finished the book I had the opportunity to visit the Fort Clatsop reproduction near Astoria, making the history of the Expedition a multi-media interactive experience.

For the year upcoming, my goals are:

  • Grow the business 10%.
  • Develop other income to the point of $500 net/month.
  • See all five of the Great Lakes.
  • Make more progress on the unread books on my shelves. I’m currently reading Origin of Species and the essays of Francis Bacon.
  • Research countries to emigrate to if a Democrat wins in November. OK, I’m only sort of kidding about that.

I’m looking forward to the next twelve months. Happy New Year!

Posted by: bkivey | 1 January 2016

Blogging Year in Review

The end of 2015 closes my sixth year of blogging. Not a prolific blogger, I post when I feel the need to comment, or the spirit moves me, or I have time. I’m not looking to build a following or brand identity, but to have a forum.

I put up 73 posts, and the year saw 2,609 people from 85 countries engage in 3,423 views. I believe last year marked the first view from the Isle of Man. Still waiting for my first view from China.

Top 10 posts:

  1. Nine High IQ Societies
  2. Eight Unusual High IQ Societies
  3. Home Page
  4. Barriers to Social Mobility
  5. PIN Codes for Geeks and Nerds
  6. Stone Knives and Bearskins
  7. Glacier National Park Pt. 3
  8. Leap Day
  9. Fashion Faux Pas
  10. 23 September 2013

Top 10 countries

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. India
  5. Germany
  6. Australia
  7. France
  8. Italy
  9. Russia
  10. Sweden

To everyone who took the time to read, and especially to those who commented: Thank You. May 2016 bring all of you health and prosperity.

 

Posted by: bkivey | 26 December 2015

12 Days of Christmas (PC Style)

The 12 Days of Christmas traditionally run from 25 December to 6 January (Old Christmas).

On the 12th day of the Eurocentrically imposed midwinter festival, my potential-acquaintance-rape-survivor gave to me,

TWELVE males reclaiming their inner warrior through ritual drumming.

ELEVEN pipers piping (plus the 18-member pit orchestra made up of members in good standing of the Musicians Equity Union as called for in their union contract even though they will not be asked to play a note…)

TEN melanin-deprived testosterone-poisoned scions of the patriarchal ruling class system leaping,

NINE persons engaged in rhythmic self-expression,

EIGHT economically disadvantaged female persons stealing milk-products from enslaved Bovine-Americans,

SEVEN endangered swans swimming on federally protected wetlands,

SIX enslaved fowl-Americans producing stolen nonhuman animal products,

FIVE golden symbols of culturally sanctioned enforced domestic incarceration,

(NOTE: after member of the Animal Liberation Front threatened to throw red paint at my computer, the calling birds, French hens and partridge have been reintroduced to their native habitat. To avoid further animal-American enslavement, the remaining gift package has been revised.)

FOUR hours of recorded whale songs,

THREE deconstructionist poets,

TWO Sierra Club calendars printed on recycled processed tree carcasses

and a Spotted Owl activist chained to an old-growth pear tree.

Posted by: bkivey | 25 December 2015

In Hoc Anno Domini

When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so. But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression – for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the le­gions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impresser to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a cur­tain so that man would still believe sal­vation lay with the leaders.

But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of dark­ness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter’s star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

This [Wall Street Journal] editorial was written in 1949 by the late Vernon Royster and has been published annually since. .

Posted by: bkivey | 24 December 2015

The Night Before Christmas, Legally Speaking

Author unknown.

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter “the House”) a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g., stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick AKA/St. Nicholas AKA/Santa Claus (hereinafter “Claus”) would arrive at some time thereafter.

The minor residents, i.e., the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e., dreams, wherein visions of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as “I”), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the parts of the second part (hereinafter “Mamma”), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g., kerchief and cap.)

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e., the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter “the Vehicle”) being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter “the Deer”). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional coconspirator named “Rudolph” may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute “gifts” to said minors pursuant to the applicable provisions of the US Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as “lookouts.” Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim:
“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”
Or words to that effect.

Posted by: bkivey | 23 December 2015

The Politically Correct Night Before Christmas

The Politically Correct Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck
How to live in a world that’s politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to “Elves,”
“Vertically Challenged” they were calling themselves.

And labor conditions at the North Pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.
Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.

And equal employment had made it quite clear
That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
Were replaced with four pigs!
(and you know that looked stupid!)

The runners had been removed from his sleigh;
The ruts were termed dangerous by the EPA.
And people had started to call for the cops
When they heard sled noises on their rooftops.
Second-hand smoke from his pipe
Had his workers quite frightened.
His fur-trimmed red suit
Was called “unenlightened.”
And to show you the strangeness of life’s ebbs and flows,
Rudolph was suing over unauthorized use of his nose
And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,
Demanding millions in overdue compensation.
So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,
Who suddenly said she’d had enough of this life,
Joined a self-help group, packed and left in a whiz,
Demanding from now on her title was Ms.
And as for the fits, why, he’d ne’er had a notion
That making a choice could cause such a commotion.
Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,
Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.

Nothing that might be construed to pollute.
Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot.
Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific.
Nothing that’s warlike or nonpacific.
No candy or sweets … they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.

And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.
For they raised the hackles of those psychological
Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological!

No baseball, no football … someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passe;
And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.

So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed;
He could not figure out what to do next.
He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,
But you’ve got to be careful with that word today.

His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;
Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.
Something special was needed, a gift that he might
Give to all without angering the left or the right.

A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision.
Each group of people, every religion;
Every ethnicity, every hue,
Everyone, everywhere, yes… even you!

So here is that gift, its price beyond worth …
“May you and your loved ones enjoy Peace on Earth.”

This poem is copyrighted 1996 by Harvey Ehrlich.
It is free to distribute, without changes, as long as this notice remains intact.

 

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