Wednesday, December 20, 2006

… as in olden days



Mrs. Z and I (well, Mrs. Z mostly) put up our Christmas tree Sunday night. I’ll give those of you who know us fairly well a moment to recover.

You see, we haven’t always been the most festive observers of the Yuletide season. It probably started 12 years ago, when my father passed away suddenly a month before Christmas. The next two years, I was saddled with major illnesses around the holidays. After that … well, we were out of practice.

Now don’t get me wrong, we always celebrate Christmas and are happy to do so. It’s just that we don’t generally have a month-long run-up of THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. Last year, that started to change when Mrs. Z and I started a new Christmas Eve tradition, the Downtown Dash. (You can read all about that here.)
But this year, we both got a full dose of THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT – and early. A large amount of the credit has to go to this lovely lady, who not only shared with us her exuberance for the holidays, but was a real inspiration for our renovating "The Pit." With a clean and organized apartment, we were able to purchase a new Christmas tree and give it a wonderful home where the coffee table normally sits.

By the time it was set up – with its white lights, silver-bell garland, red ribbons, silver ball ornaments, candy canes and a few-sizes-too-large, tree-topping star, I could only stare at it slack-jawed and murmur “It’s beautiful” repeatedly. It really is. And it was in that moment that I realized THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT had just swept over me like a wave in which I didn’t mind drowning.

While this glorious tree has had a lot to do with it, my joy this Christmastime has as much to do with being surrounded by and closer to those I love — perhaps more than ever before. This year has brought a lot of turmoil, but overcoming such strife has left me with a feeling of gratitude I could never have had if the 2006 had gone smoothly.

As I sit bathed in the surprisingly bright glow of the Christmas tree, I can feel its white light pouring into my heart. And it seems to be offering itself as a candle I can hold out before me to light the way in the coming year. I reach out to take the hands of those who love me and invite them to walk with me.

This glow, this light, this SPIRIT … I offer it to you, dear readers. Take some of it to light your way. Let’s walk together, if only for a little while.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I dare you not to smile

Just when you think it can't get any better, the counter hits 1:09.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A bit of music fanboyishness

I just sent this off to Lindsey Buckingham.

Lindsey:

I hardly ever write fan mail, but I just wanted to drop you a note and thank you for your music. I had been aware of your music (and that of Fleetwood Mac) for many, many years, but I only really started to listen to it in the last five years. During that time, my admiration for your songwriting, instrumental craftsmanship and passionate singing has grown exponentially.

Then, last night, I watched your CMT "Crossroads" special with Little Big Town and was reminded anew how you pour yourself into your music more than any other artist I know. And I thought about one of my biggest regrets: how I wish I could have become a devoted fan of yours while my father was still alive (he passed away in 1994). Dad was a great guitarist and soaked up the work of other fantastic guitar players, and I am convinced he would have been as big a Lindsey Buckingham fanatic as I have become. Indeed, I think of my father often when I listen to your music. And that's just another reason to love your work.

So that's why I'm writing: to tell you how much your music has touched me and to thank you for it. I'm glad your latest work is getting good recognition, and I wish you the best as your career continues.

Stephen Sykes
Springfield, IL


If you want some prime examples of why I'm gushing, check out "Under the Skin" or "Out of the Cradle."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Extra crispy legislation: government moves to save us from ourselves



It was barely more than a “News of the Weird” item when word began circulating that New York City was considering outlawing the use of trans fats in its restaurants. How would the archetypical NYC cop survive without donuts, one of the most egregious trans-fat transgressors? And we chuckled.

Today, the trans-fat ruling is the lead item on many online news services.

‘The Board of Health voted Tuesday to make New York the nation’s first city to ban artery-clogging artificial trans fats at restaurants — from the corner pizzeria to high-end bakeries,” states MSNBC.com. “Restaurants will be barred from using most frying oils containing artificial trans fats by July and will have to eliminate the artificial trans fats from all of their foods by July 2008.”

The ban is not New York’s first foray into aggressive health promotion. The city was one of the first to enact a comprehensive public smoking ban — a legislative trend which only recently reached my hometown of “Springpatch,” Ill. So within three years, NYC has moved to clear its residents’ lungs and its arteries.

Here’s the $64,000 question. Many of us are, at best, offended, and at worst, frightened, when a government tries to tell us what is immoral or obscene (see gay marriage or Nipplegate). But what will the volume of the outcry be as government begins to legislate health more and more? Readers?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Slingin' and swingin'

You Are Spider-Man

Quick and agile, you have killer instincts (literally).
And that kind of makes up for the whole creepy spider thing.
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