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Weird when you sit down to watch a cartoon from your childhood and notice what you either didn’t see or filtered out as a child.  But does it make sense that Santa would promise Professor Hinkle a gift in his stocking after Hinkle tried to murder Frosty?  After having watched and commented on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer some time ago, I’m afraid to watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas!

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Earlier in the week I was in SF as my kids saw the Nutcracker (see my prior obnoxious adult-cynical snark on that magical production as well) with the grandparents.  Jana and I took one of our rare opportunities for a romantic dinner.  I had seen an ad for the Firefly Restaurant in Zyzzyva (SF’s best literary magazine).  The ad is minimalist in form, with the simple slogan “food people eat,” which intrigued me.  It’s located in Noe Valley on 24th Street, near Diamond, which is one of that last businesses on the climb towards Twin Peaks.  Nice atmosphere, warm service, yummy food, and a decor which wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of an esoteric literary mag like Zyzzyva.  It was packed, so definitely call for a reservation.

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On the subject of food, my family and I enjoyed a great cioppino tonight, made by the steady culinary hands of yours truly.  I think I’ve settled on my favorite recipe, with a few tweaks.  Start with this recipe I found at the L.A. Times.

The problem I have with many restaurant cioppino’s is that they just don’t get that it’s supposed to be kind of a tomato-based bouillabaisse.  They cook up a nice tomato stew and for some reason decide to cook the seafood separately and throw it in without any sea food base for the body of the broth – completely defeating the concept.  Okay, unless you want to cook the crab live in your stew (which just seems nasty somehow), you have to precook it.  But everything else should go in uncooked.  I honestly don’t understand the recipes to the contrary.  The stew was developed by the wives of SF North Beach fishermen, with pretty much everything coming out of the water thrown into the broth.  It’s about the seafood, not your sauce.

So this recipe does the right thing, but I found that it still lacked body, so I throw in a small bottle of clam juice at the wine – cook down phase, which does the trick.

And don’t make my first mistake and use a Chianti for the wine.  When they say “fruity,” you need something with body.  Preferably a Merlot, but at minimum in body a Cabernet.  The sharp wine flavor tends to linger if it’s a Chianti.

The only tweaks I suggest besides the clam juice are the addition of a little bit of fresh basil at the end.  I also double the onions, as I often do with stew or sauce recipes, and I throw in a little extra garlic.  And I suggest that instead of a pound of clams or mussels, a pound of each.  Again, it’s about the seafood.

The photo comes from the LA Times recipe page.

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This morning, while my wife and son were on other errands, my daughter and I walked the Eureka Waterfront.  It was a beautiful morning with an extremely high tide bearing lots of animal life in the Bay.  The economic carnage is apparent in Old Town, with Hurricane Kate’s, Greystone Jewelers, the discount clothing place up on H and 4th, and even the candy store on the waterfront closing down.  But walking hand-in-hand with my daughter was a welcome distraction, as were the festivities in Old Town as some businesses seem to be weathering the storm for the time being and drawing in some last minute Christmas business.

We walked into Ramone’s where I could buy Lilith a cup of chocolate.  After placing the order I could see the woman busy behind the steamer and she was pouring out syrups.  I just assumed that she was working on an Italian soda order which had preceded ours, but what came out was a gorgeous presentation of green and red syrups over the whipped cream, and topped off with a candy cane.  The delighted look on Lilith’s face will be one of the more pleasant Christmas memories I carry until I’m ready for the grave, and perhaps even beyond.

As we headed to the table the music coming over the speakers brought me back.  It took me a few minutes, but I realized it was a piece which I haven’t heard since I was a teenager.  It was a simple electronic sans lyrics song off of one of Brian Eno’s old albums, either Here Come the Warm Jets or Taking Tiger Mountain.  Can’t remember the name, but it triggered some old coming-of-age feeling I had as I was moving from Pink Floyd and Tom Petty to what I considered to be the more esoteric musical offerings.  My daughter finished her hot chocolate and walked around the room looking at the artwork on the wall.  She feels things very deeply, my daughter, which means she’ll feel more pain than most, but she’ll also get more out of her life.  And I wonder if the song, when she hears it again in 30 years, will trigger a memory in her.

It was a moment.

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All the usual hand-wringing about how commercial Christmas has “become” seems like just part of the tradition now, as it predates my birth.  Miracle on 34th Street.  The Twilight Zone episode about Santa Clause.

By the way, what many people believe to be the “original” version of Miracle on 34th Street?  Not so.  It was actually the first remake.  Here’s a clip from the original – all about the early version of the “link economy.”  The voices are out of sync, but it’s still fun.

(I have been duly informed and have confirmed that the Natalie Wood version is indeed the original.  This clip is from a 1950s made-for-television remake.  Only and hour long and no drunken Santa.

And on a legal technical note, the Judge could have dismissed the case against Kris Kringle, without political repercussions, when the prosecution rested.  While they had established that he believed he was Santa Claus, they forgot to establish that he was a danger to himself or others.

Is Gimbel’s still in business?

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Well, it’s past midnight, and all the animals are talking in English.

Merry Christmas.

I don’t know if Christmas shopping is really any measure of economic recovery, but for what it’s worth the stores seemed slammed this year, much more than last.  Unfortunately there was an item I could only get from Target some days ago, and I had to park right next to Fourth Street.  I’ve actually never seen the parking lot there so full, though I really don’t visit the store much.  But everywhere I went was packed.  Venlo’s.  Blue Moon’s.  Abraxas.

My question is, where are they getting the money?  Credit cards aren’t any more plentiful than they were last year, and consumer credit remains down.  The illicit economy is in worst shape than last year.  Are there phantom jobs not making it into the studies?

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Fiesta Cafe at Bayside is not my favorite Mexican restaurant (La Costa has that honor, though I keep hearing raves about a restaurant in Orrick which might change my mind), but they do make my favorite chicken mole – the only savory version I’ve found in the county.  Traditionally they have offered a meatball soup with their dinners, but now they offer several soups including the best menudo I’ve had in years.

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My son’s skepticism has emerged.  He has believed in Santa Clause because he wants to believe, but I think this year’s the last.  I won’t go into all the questions he’s asked, but I think I was busted at last night’s dinner.  I was explaining to a guest that a couple of my favorite Christmas seasons took place when my parents didn’t have the money for a lot of presents, and my son who had been eating quietly up to that moment said, “then your Mom was obviously Santa!”

I tried to wiggle out of it, but I think the jig’s up.

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Are there no poor houses?  Are there no prisons?

On a bizarre note, Sheriff Joe Arpaio who has made national headlines for his extreme approaches to immigration law enforcement, offered some Christmas spirit by having his pre-trial inmates sing Christmas carols to him. The 50 or so contestants are being “held on charges ranging from burglary and DUI to murder.”

The winner of the competition received real turkey for Christmas instead of whatever the prison was serving to those less musically inclined.  The winner?   Jodi Arias who is accused of having brutally killed her boyfriend in a cold jealous rage, who was featured on 48 hours, and has reportedly received numerous marriage offers despite her potential residence on death row.  Too kinky for me!

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TPM chronicles the biggest “War on Christmas” battles this year.  And in case you have a conservative loved one looking for a late holiday gift, you can buy him/her a copy of America’s War on Christianity.  See, it’s a rough place to be a Christian.  Among the villains are Jon Stewart, a “socialist” who makes fun of those who think there’s a war on Christians; the Da Vinci Code, and those who want to protect homosexuals from discrimination and violence.

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Needs are up, but donations are down.  Normally the practical Christianity expression of Glide Memorial Church gives out 6000 free bags of groceries in SF’s Tenderloin.  This year they could only afford to distribute 5000.  They will be serving 3000 prime rib meals today.

I don’t know where we’ll be next Christmas, but as my son is old enough to forgo Santa Clause, he’s old enough to learn first hand the real point of Christmas and charity.  We’ll be looking for an outlet locally if we aren’t visiting family in the Bay Area, in which I’ll look to Glide or St. Anthony’s for an outlet.  I’m looking for ideas.

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My parents took my kids to A.C.T.’s A Christmas Carol this year.  My son has now watched about 4 or 5 versions of the story and is becoming something of a connoisseur.  His favorite film version has George C. Scott in the lead role.

My least favorite is an abomination I saw as a child in the early 70s, which not only attempted to convert the story to a musical (I really don’t think Dickens’ work is appropriate for a musical, and sorry, but that includes Oliver Twist).  It was on television yesterday and brought back the bad memory of a 70s film which tried to be scary, but just fell flat lame (the Ghost of Christmas Future with a skull face – ooooo, scary!).  It didn’t include the day after Christmas scene with Bob Cratchett, and it incorporated scenes in Hell, and lots of blabbering about matters extraneous to the original story.  On top of it, the acting and singing are horrible.

My favorite version was actually the 1930s version I haven’t seen since I was a kid.  Sometimes less is more.

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Merry Christmas!

A Florida school banned red and green. It was reported on TV, so it has to be true.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Oh, and to date Fox News has yet to air a retraction. They did post an “update” in which they quote the principal as denying that there is such a policy, and blamed parents for not checking with the principal before Fox ran their story nationwide.

The Village Voice adds this:

County officials shot that story down, but who cares? Fox updated, but as we wrote this, Gateway Pundit (“Florida School Bans Christmas… And Christmas Colors”) hadn’t. Neither had Blue Collar Philosophy (“since Liberalism is a religion and those who believe in it cannot tolerate the one religion that exposes it, namely, Christianity”), nor Weasel Zippers (“it’s come to this”), nor this guy, nor this one, etc.

Full Metal Patriot did update: “After receiving a predictable backlash from angry parents, the Seminole County Public Schools district has issued the following retraction correction… This may have been a case of the school and district doing an abrupt about-face or it may have been an individual teacher taking her authority a bit too far.” Or it may have been bullshit, a possibility Full Metal Patriot did not consider.

Addendum: Another edict from the Fox News Central Committee has been leaked which instructed reporters to skew any discussion of climate change.

From Catholic Worker:

These are from Eureka.

Addendum: I couldn’t find any videos of the Redway/Garberville parade, but I found Bunny Wilder’s video of Jake the Poodle’s Christmas tree.

Jake has his own Blue Moon series by the way.  You can find them all here.

Second addendum: Thanks to Ben for pointing me to Bunny’s Garberville parade video!

Sue Maloney announced it on my show last night, and again this morning, but we still don’t know where it is going to happen.  Just follow the Star I guess.

They are looking for “friendly livestock” to participate.  Unfortunateley, we don’t know who “they” are either.

Addendum: The lighted truck parade also starts tonight starting at 6:30 p.m.  “Anon” has the details in this thread.

Second addendum: It looks like they’re setting up the scene at the Baptist Church across the street from AEE.

I’ll probably offer up a smorgasbord of issues for an end-of-the-year recap.  We’ll see where it goes.  If you have a burning issue, call it in.

KMUD, 91.1 or 88.3 if you’re in northern parts.  7:00 to 8.

Maybe we’ll talk about Rick Warren.

Actually, in the spirit of the time of year, maybe we’ll talk religion tonight.  What is the message of Christmas for you?  What about the war on Christmas?

Developing.  Click, click, click….

Addendum: That was a fun show tonight.  Towards the end of the show we had a discussion about Santa Clause and somebody sent me a link to this video, which really gives you an idea of how badly the mental health system in this country has failed.

My son doesn’t want me to send Ruldolph the Red Nosed Reindeer back for a few days.  He wants to watch it a few times.

I’ve previously expressed my appreciation for the classic.  I could do so and be somewhat PC as Burl Ives did reconcile with Pete Seeger having fingered the latter as a red during the witchhunts.  Jana doesn’t like it however.   Too much negativity in it for a children’s Christmas special.

Aside from the Abominable Snowman, Rudolf and his “misfit” friends are oppressed because they’re different.  It is a little disillusioning that Santa and the magical elves and reindeer were so intolerant and even bigoted.  Plus, Santa was crotchety and irritable throughout the story.  But Christmas is all about redemption, right?  Even saints have their bad moments.

I always thought a great follow-up story would focus on the kids who got stuck with the toys from the Island of Unwanted Toys.  And why couldn’t the Gryphon king tell Santa about the toys himself?   He had wings!

Anybody ever notice that the voice for Rudolph’s girlfriend is the same as that for Rocky the Squirrel?  At least she sounds like it.

I just corrected my mispelling, but shouldn’t the name be spelled with an “f?”

It’s been a long day and I can’t find anything inspiring in any of my news sources. I’m getting ready for bed, and I just have a few questions.

1. Is there a good poultry butcher in Humboldt? I need chicken feet. A big bag of them. I want to try to make my own dim sum meal.

2. Why did Santa promise to give the greedy magician something in his stocking? He’d just tried to kill Frosty. Would Santa have given him a gift if he’d tried to kill the girl?

3. Does it really make any noticeable difference if you don’t sift the flour in your pancakes?

4. Exactly how many seas did the white dove sail before she slept in the sand? Do doves actually sleep in the sand?

5. How exactly did Wonder Woman beat Sinestro in this fight scene? (I love the guy’s summary)

The photo is one of several of a “rainbow show” over at Humboldt Homestead. Some other striking local winter photos as well.

Okay, off to bed.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything this blogger says. There is symbolic and spiritual value to gift giving, in moderation. But this year we may have allowed ourselves to get caught up in familiar patterns, where I was stressfully looking for that particular toy (Bionicle Toa Iniki Nuparu 8713 – and as I learned the hard way, the stores are currently putting the 8900 series on the shelves. 8713 is yesterday’s news. But my son wrote it out specifically in his note to Santa.) in stores I wouldn’t have stepped within a thousand feet of a few years ago – all to preserve my son’s belief in Santa Clause, which contrary to bah humbug skeptics is I believe good for children. The power of myth to nurture a belief in the existence of good in the universe trumps the concerns of anti-critical thought “conditioning.” They’ll learn the “truth” eventually, and then they’ll learn that Santa exists on a different level. But we probably should have de-emphasized the notion that you get whatever you want from Santa just because you ask for it.

As I said before however, my kid doesn’t ask for much. The toy has a violent theme, but there is creativity involved as well in the toy’s construction. After that, you pretty much just look at it, like any model. We’ll probably play it a little differently next year.

My kids also enjoy giving gifts. They take pride in the ornaments they’ve made for relatives, and they are right in the recipient’s lap when the presents are opened.

My son asked for the first time this year what Christmas was about, which necessarily steers you into a discussion of God. In a secular household, how do you answer a six-year-old’s question, “what’s God?” I did my best to explain the concept and how different people have different ideas about God, that Mommy and I don’t know whether there is a God, and that he would have to make up his own mind when he experiences life and maybe some day he’ll find some answers from which Mommy and I can learn from. I think he got most of it.

Questions about sex and reproduction are a breeze by comparison.

Meanwhile, I will take him to a service sometime, particularly if it’s something along the lines of this one. From Shane Claiborne, a blogger at Sojourners.

A few years ago I remember a pastor friend telling me they tried something a little different for their Christmas services. Instead of the usual holiday décor and clutter of the sanctuary, they brought in a bunch of manure and hay and scattered it under the pews so the place would really smell like the stank manger where it all began. I remember laughing hysterically as he described everyone coming in, in all their best Christmas attire, only to sit in the rank smell of a barn. They even brought a donkey in during the opening of the service that dropped a special gift as it moseyed down the aisle. Folks looked awkwardly at each other, and then busted out laughing. It was one of the most memorable services they’ve ever had. Certainly folks came face to face with the “reason for the season” and the reality of what it must have been like for the Savior of the universe to enter the world, far from the shopping malls, as a refugee who found no room in the inn. Imagination.

Further on the meaning of Christmas, here’s Jim Wallis on the famous “Christmas Truce” event of World War I.

I may not make it back here until tomorrow night. In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all, even the grumpheads like Fred and CPR!

The truce image come from Culture of Life News. The dove comes from Declan McCullagh Photography. The Peace flag was presented to the new U.N. Secretary General by Pax Christi.

And last year’s images are still up.

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