Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Liberia.

First up, ripping open the presents.  
 Confusing the Mrs with my eclectic movie gift selection.

 Quite the haul.  Thank the heavens for modern capitalism, consumerism and the expression of affection via purchasing power.
 The Mrs shows off all her new bling.
 Strike a pose.  [Or two.]  Vogue.
 Obligatory Xmas day viewing of A Christmas Story.  You will, actually, shoot your eye out.
Little known fact, when the wife went into government work, the world lost one of its finest turkey wrestlers.
 We did the math, and this is actually the first turkey we've cooked up in a full size Western style oven in 11 years.  Living in Japan and visits home to the parents when in the US...  crazy long time since we've done this.  Who'd have figured Liberia?
 How awesome does this look, I ask you?
The full spread.  
 The chef and her good works.
 Manly carving is manly.

 The place of eating is prepared.

 Obligatory annual watching of While You Were Sleeping.
 C'mon, you know that looks awesome.

  We call this "sense of accomplishment."
 Sandy loves her some pumpkin pie.
 Leftover Aftermath.  See you next year.

You know Santa Claus was a magic mushroom, right?

Well, not technically. As 'magic mushrooms' are psilocybin, whereas what we're talking about here is the history of the shamanic and psychedelic usage of the mushroom Amanita Muscaria. Sure explains 'flying' reindeer and why Santa always has the munchies. And why he's so jolly and sees little elves all over the place.

Wild Birds Unlimited: When did Reindeer Learn to Fly?:
"Also ancient hymns written between 1500 - 500 BCE talk about the reindeer that could fly after eating magic mushrooms. Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric is a red fungus with white dots that has always been a popular icon for the Midwinter and Christmas festivities in central Europe. The Amanita muscaria mushrooms grow only under certain types of trees, mostly firs and evergreens.

The semi-nomadic ancient peoples, including the Lapps of modern-day Finland, and the Koyak tribes of the central Russian steppes considered the reindeer sacred. Local tradition talks about how shaman wearing a red and white fur-trimmed coats and long black boots gathered the red and white mushrooms in a bag and then came down the smokehole in the top of the yurt. He passed out the mushrooms for the people to string up in front of the fire to dry. Then the people used the mushrooms to draw the reindeer near. Under the influence, the reindeer would prance and fly around until they became exhausted..."
And The psychedelic secrets of Santa Claus | Cannabis Culture Magazine:
"Although most people see Christmas as a Christian holiday, most of the symbols and icons we associate with Christmas celebrations are actually derived from the shamanistic traditions of the tribal peoples of pre-Christian Northern Europe.

The sacred mushroom of these people was the red and white amanita muscaria mushroom, also known as "fly agaric." These mushrooms are now commonly seen in books of fairy tales, and are usually associated with magic and fairies. This is because they contain potent hallucinogenic compounds, and were used by ancient peoples for insight and transcendental experiences.

...Reindeer were the sacred animals of these semi-nomadic people, as the reindeer provided food, shelter, clothing and other necessities. Reindeer are also fond of eating the amanita mushrooms; they will seek them out, then prance about while under their influence. Often the urine of tripped-out reindeer would be consumed for its psychedelic effects.'"

But leave it to Joe Rogan to best sum up - Santa Claus was a mushroom. « The Joe Rogan Experience:
"Santa Claus is bright red and white. The amanita muscaria is also bright red and white.

Santa Claus lives in the North Pole, and he has flying reindeer pulling his sleigh through the air.

Reindeer are native to Siberia, and the shamanic use of this mushroom in Siberia is well documented. Now, I know Siberia isn’t the North Pole exactly, but it’s pretty close, and the earth’s magnetic pole is actually shifting away from North America and towards Siberia.

Also, the animal most connected with the amanita muscaria mushroom is the reindeer. It’s their favorite food, and although I’ve never talked to a reindeer, I’ve got to think eating that shit all day must get them high as FUCK.

Like, “flying” high.

Christmas trees are pine trees.

Pine trees are the trees that the amanita muscaria grows under...

Their shiny red and white caps blooming under the tree looks very much like the tradition of placing shiny wrapped boxes under there.

When people would pick the mushrooms they would place them on the leaves of the tree to dry them in the sun.

That would look an awful lot like when people decorate their trees with shiny ornaments.

People place red and white socks over the fireplace.

OK, first off, why red and white socks? Because again, that’s the color of the mushroom. And why do they hang it in front of the fireplace? Because that was another one of their techniques to dry the mushrooms out for storage.

Santa doesn’t come in through the front door, he hops down through the chimney, on the sneak tip, with a fat bag of goodies.

Well, when Shamanic rituals were forbidden by the rulers of the day, (which they ALWAYS eventually were, because rulers throughout history have realized over and over again that the use of psychedelic substances by their people only serves to make it more difficult to feed them bullshit, and keep them scared and stupid) the rituals didn’t immediately stop, they continued in secret, like secretly sneaking into the house through the roof with a fat bag of ‘shrooms.

Santa lived in a magical place where he was surrounded by elves.

Sounds like a tripper to me..."

Friday, December 24, 2010

The traditional "opening one gift on Xmas eve" experience.

When they say "like a kid on Christmas" this is the look they're talking about.
We call this look "Sachiko Face."  [Hi Mom!]
How adorable is my wife?  Seriously?  [Also, I'm a great shopper.]
Whereas the wife is helping me eliminate excuses from getting my sorry self back into shape.

Liberian Christmas Cake.

While neither the variety available or the ease of acquisition of a Japanese Xmas cake, you can't knock the one we did manage to pick up.

Fried Chicken at Xmastime - carrying on a fine Japanese tradition.

While not actually indulging on fried chicken [my kryptonite for growing up in the South] on Xmas day itself - the Mrs purchased a turkey long ago - I'm still keeping up with the 5 years old tradition of excellent chicken goodness at Christmastime.  [Now that I've departed the land of the Rising Sun, I think this'll be my Christmas Eve tradition for years to come.]

 Thanks to Monrovia's Monroe Chicken - "The Love of Chicken Brought Us Here."  [A play on words from the country's motto.]  The love of chicken did not, in fact, bring us to Liberia.  That would be the USGOV.  But the love of chicken doesn't hurt.  That's all I'm saying.

It's no Japanese Kentucky Christmas Party Barrel, but you make do with what you have in West Africa.

For those unfamiliar with this fine Japanese tradition, a quick summary from an article this year about how McD's in Japan is trying to dethrone the king of all that is Xmas in Japan - McDonald's vs. KFC for Japan's best festive feast |
"KFC (or “kentakkii,” as it’s popularly known) launched its Japan-wide Christmas campaign in 1974 and since then has aggressively marketed its buckets as a holiday essential.

Today, as Public Radio International's Akiko Fujita has reported, 'KFC commercials signal the start of the Christmas season in Japan..."
Pic via.

Wife's holiday creativity - Season's Greetings!

Obvious, in hindsight.

Monroe Chicken does cheeseburgers, too.

There may be other places to snag an American style cheeseburger in Liberia, but I haven't found 'em.  Thanks be to Shiva for Monroe Chicken - outstanding fried chicken proprietors who also indulge in burgers n'fries.  That was a tasty lunch, I'll tell you what.

Bing Crosby - Marijuana Advocate. Certainly explains that laid-back crooner song styling, dunnit?

Bing Crosby smoked pot:
"A 2001 biography of Crosby by Village Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins says that Louis Armstrong's influence on Crosby 'extended to his love of marijuana.' Bing smoked it during his early career when it was legal and 'surprised interviewers' in the 1960s and 70s by advocating its decriminalization, as did Armstrong."

And, of course, my favorite Bing song, appropriate to the holidays...

Xmas prep complete in West Africa - now in hibernation mode till the end of the wkend.

One more day till the requisite ripping open of the presents.  

Season's Greetings. 

[Sandy is literally hugging her cake she loves it so much.  Freud would have a field day.]

Haul from the Xmas white elephant gift swap.

You'll be shocked, I'm sure, to learn I snagged the liquor whereas the wife grabbed the kitschy souvenir. Shocked!

More attempts at hearty home cooking.

As always, varying degrees of success.

Best Xmas List this year - "Top 10 Christmas gifts for the yakuza in your life."

Here - Top 10 Christmas gifts for the yakuza in your life

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"...everything from 1969 is cheaper, easier, faster to do today EXCEPT go to the moon..."

"I know bullshit... they did that in '69, we're moving into 2011..."
From the Joe Rogan podcast here.

In other news - BBC NEWS | Europe | Fake Dutch 'moon rock' revealed:
"A treasured piece at the Dutch national museum - a supposed moon rock from the first manned lunar landing - is nothing more than petrified wood, curators say.
It was given to former Prime Minister Willem Drees during a goodwill tour by the three Apollo-11 astronauts shortly after their moon mission in 1969..."
Yeah, as far as this goes, I'm going with really uncomfortable on TV, drunk or lying...

"Catholic, like, inoculates you, because it's so silly..." - the @joerogan podcast makes me love the world.

The Joe Rogan podcast makes me an even bigger fan of Russell Peters [and Joe Rogan.]  Beautiful stuff.

Best, most accurate Christmas comic ever.

Ricky Gervais' Holiday Message - "You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway."

A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I'm An Atheist - Speakeasy - WSJ:
"...I see nothing “wrong” in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me. I would never deny your right to believe in a god. I would just rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, say. Or stone someone to death because your rulebook says their sexuality is immoral. It’s strange that anyone who believes that an all-powerful all-knowing, omniscient power responsible for everything that happens, would also want to judge and punish people for what they are. From what I can gather, pretty much the worst type of person you can be is an atheist. The first four commandments hammer this point home. There is a god, I’m him, no one else is, you’re not as good and don’t forget it. (Don’t murder anyone, doesn’t get a mention till number 6.)

...growing up where I did, mums didn’t hope as high as their kids growing up to be doctors; they just hoped their kids didn’t go to jail. So bring them up believing in God and they’ll be good and law abiding. It’s a perfect system. Well, nearly. 75 percent of Americans are God-­‐fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-­‐fearing Christians. 10 percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists...

“Do unto others…” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. But that’s exactly what it is -­‐ a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.”

You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

"I find my courage where I can, but I take my weapons from science." xkcd FTW.

"Okay every African dictator ever - you lost the elections now give up power." - The League season finale.

The League on FX is pretty damn entertaining.  And even though I haven't really followed football in years, the show - ostensibly about a fantasy football league - doesn't require any knowledge of the current status quo in the sport [though it probably couldn't hurt.]

When the previous season's champion lost this year and was unwilling to give up the league trophy without a stats recount, he was met with the "Okay every African dictator ever - you lost the elections now give up power" line, which given our current clime and place, made me and the Mrs just fall out laughing.  Especially what with's going on next door in the Ivory Coast.  Too funny.  You know, funny in that 'Wow isn't the comedy of the common knowledge of Africa's corrupt failed states' kind of funny.

The sad part of it is that it wasn't even trying to be topical, given that filming probably finished way in advance of the Ivory Coast's current troubles.  It's just the concept of a corrupt African dictator is such a well known stereotype that it penetrates even into comedies shown to suburban middle America.

"If Assange was in China doing the same thing, the West..."

Ah, the truth of perspective.  The obviousness of the relative hypocrisy of the rhetoric never fails to blow my mind.  And always makes me wonder if I'm the only one who sees it, or am I just wired strangely?  When I see stuff like this, it's a small comfort I've not completely gone off the tracks/am different from some of the others out there.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Anthony Pettis Superkick that's making the rounds.

Yeah, that's some video-game Jackie Chan type shit going on right there."

"The country is now the Homeland, reminiscent of the Nazi Fatherland and the Soviet Motherland."

Yeah, that 'Homeland' bit has bugged me since they started rolling it out.  It's like they're either totally unawares of the implications, which makes them idiots, or they're painfully aware and a bit evil.

Fred On Everything:
"Flags. These are always a bad sign. Hardly a politician appears on television who doesn’t stand in front of an American flag, sometimes three American flags. A venomous nationalism now poisons the air, and grows. We are off and rolling.

The trappings of fascism spread. General David Petraeus, commander of the Eastern Front, poses with the President in the White House in combat fatigues. The country is now the Homeland, reminiscent of the Nazi Fatherland and the Soviet Motherland. We hear of American Exceptionalism, the ritual self-idolizaton beloved of pathological nationalism. Blood and Soil. The American Dream. Ubermenschen. All we need is a short Austrian.

We may get one. The times ripen for a man on a horse. (Or perhaps a woman: Twitler of Alaska looms.) An ignorant populaton, unread, unfamiliar with the outside world, focuses its anxieties on troubling dark things lurking abroad, the brown hordes from the south, the rising Chinese, inexplicable Moslems who want to kill all Christians. Sooner rather than later such a mob finds solace in an angry unity. From an unhappy lower middle-class spring Brown Shirts. Wait.

Things come together: Falling standards of living across a country in irremediable decline, diminishing expectations, growing anger in search of focus, a sense of a birthright being stolen as preeminence drifts across the Pacific. Here is fertile soil for some strange crop not yet clearly seen.

...Constitutionality becomes a fading memory. Random searches in train stations, genital examinations in airports, the decline of habeas corpus, the evasion of the duty of Congress to declare wars, on and on. The government does what it wants. There is no recourse. We are told that it is to make us safe. I haven’t asked to be made safe.

...America has a carefully controlled press that appears free because it is not explicitly controlled by the government. But the real power in America rests with the big corporations and their lobbies, with Wall Street, whose personnel move in and out of the formal government at will. All of the traditional media, radio, newspapers, and television, are owned by large corporations. How curious that they do not question large corporations.

The only free press in America is the internet, and the government does not like it. Washington now moves to “regulate” it. To promote fairness, you see, to prevent piracy, and to maintain national security. Then it will be found necessary to suppress “hate sites.” Just now you are reading a site that has been blocked on many federal installations for promoting hate. There is no recourse.

...A danger is that the country will lash out abroad, ever more feebly as the economy declines, at nations that no will longer pay attention to it. Washington says that it “will not tolerate a nuclear Iran,” and Iran ignores the admonition. You cannot not tolerate what you can’t prevent. The Pentagon sends the carriers to steam ferally in circles off North Korea, which ignores them. The consequences of wounded vanity are not trivial in world affairs, as anyone knows who has a familiarity with the Treaty of Versailles. But who does?"

Bill Hicks puts the repeal of DADT in perspective [20 years ago...]