Monday, December 27, 2004

Mazel Tov!

So, apparently somebody thinks I'm Jewish, which is a bit odd to me. I guess it's because my last name is Schwartz, and apparently all Schwartzes are Jewish, or at least we all look like that (I am probably the least stereotypically Jewish-looking person I know). Or maybe it's that my name is Schwartz, and I live in the suburbs. I don't know. All I know is that Ed Koch, of all people, invited me to join the Republican Jewish Coalition this past election season.

I must admit, I was tempted. I have been fascinated by all things Hebrew since, well, a long time. There's something deeply attractive to me, at a fundamental level, about Judaism. Maybe it's the traditions. Maybe it's the way Jews seem to combine fatalism with telling God off when He pisses them off. Maybe it's that wacky Jewish sense of humor, I don't know. My father was interested in Judaism, as well. He once said that if he hadn't been born Catholic, he'd probably have converted to Judaism, simply because he loved the historical traditions and culture. He may have also had a weakness for potato latkes, but we never discussed it.

But the RJC? I don't know. I hate to affiliate myself strongly with a political party-- though I really miss not registering Republican this year, so I could have voted against Marilyn Musgrave twice (not that it would have mattered much, but this woman really chaps my hide, as the kids today like to put it). If I were to join a party, it would be the They're All Bastards Party, and we'd get together every four years to heap invective and scorn (I love that phrase) upon the well-deserving heads of politicians of every political pursuasion. It would be a new, more political Algonquin Round Table, where we sit on chaise lounges, drinking highballs and whiskey sours, and other such intellectual drinks, and discourse upon the sorry state of the nation.

So, uh, you busy in '08?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Christmas: Scourge or Minor Nuisance?

Once again, my friend Natalie has prompted this post. Her recent announcment of detente with the Christmas holiday got me thinking about my own Yuletide issues.

For the two of you that actually read this drivel I'm arrogant enough to call a blog, my father died on Christmas day in 1987. As I was a whopping 13 years old at the time, you can imagine my feelings towards Christmas were, thenceforth, less than salubrious. About a year or two ago, I came to my own detente of sorts, though my reasoning is slightly different: I realized that my being angry and bitter about Christmas wasn't doing me any good, and was making the people around me at least marginally less happy than they would be otherwise.

I have retained at least one issue, howeve, upon which I refuse to compromise: 90+% of all Christmas music is drivel, at best. The only Christmas music I will countenance is unconventional, or unconventionally arranged-- Dolly Parton doing bluegrass-style carols is okay, Englebert Humperdinck doing anything, really, is right out. The only exceptions I will make are for Tony Bennet or Frank Sinatra. Okay, maybe Mel Torme, but that's where I draw the line.

As far as the overcommercialization, well, that's an easy thing to get self-righteous about, but ultimately, all you end up doing is upsetting your friends and family; the message (if it was ever really about the message, but that's another rant) gets lost, and you just look like a jerk. But there are options-- as much as possible, this year, I'm trying to give experiences, not physical gifts. I can't do it for everyone, but most of the people in my life have too many things already-- what they could use more than anything is (say) a whitewater rafting trip, not another nonstick cookware set.

Besides, I think it's easier to personalize an experience than it is to figure out what to get my brother this year. I just think of what he and his family enjoy most, and most of the time it's something like a sailing trip, or a fun time with the grandparents. When lying on your deathbed, will you remember the Transformer you got for Christmas in 1986[0], or the time you went trekking around Japan on your own for two weeks?

On a side note, I must have a sick sixth sense for gifts, or something. At least in my family, it seems that whenever I get disgusted with the whole shopping process and just say "The heck with it, I'll give them this piece of crap", it turns out that's EXACTLY what the recipient wanted-- sometimes whether they knew it or not. (I got my brother a nutmeg grinder, of all things, for Christmas a few years back, and he still tells me how much he loves it!) I'm afraid this year, my ideas are going to get me in even more trouble that way-- I don't know how I'm going to follow this up next year.

[0] Yes I do, actually. Omega Supreme, TYVM. And it rocked beyond belief.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Gimp splash screen contest

For those of you not involved in the Free Software community, the GIMP is a free image-editing program. Recently, they sent out a request to artists to donate artwork for a new splash screen.

Here's my personal favourite.

This is a close second, though.