Where you can read the relatively rational ramblings of a silly half-monkey, half-boy. This freak of nature is named Joel. He also responds to the name 'Bart Wang'.

Friday, December 23, 2005

C.S. Lewis is one smart dude

It's Christmas time. There's no need to be afraid. At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish hate. We also engage in ridiculous practices that kill us mentally, spiritually and, sometimes, physically. My friend, Ben Tombs, sent me some links to two chapters from God In The Dock, a book by C.S. Lewis (yes, the guy who wrote The Chronicles Of Narnia). Read them for some challenging thoughts on the season we celebrate.


What Christmas Means To Me

Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn't go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business too have a 'view' on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone's business.

I mean of course the commercial racket. The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it. I condemn it on the following grounds.

1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to 'keep' it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out -- physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go?

3. Things are given as presents which no mortal every bought for himself -- gaudy and useless gadgets, 'novelties' because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?

4. The nuisance. for after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it.

We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don't know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I'd sooner give them money for nothing and write if off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.


Xmas And Christmas
A Lost Chapter From Herodotus

And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and the north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, and though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from other barbarians who occupy the north- western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas, and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card . But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival, guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the market-place is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest and the most miserable of citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk in the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchasers become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think that some great calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas , which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, It is not lawful, O Stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left. And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, It is, O Stranger, a racket; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For the first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.

Bah humbug, you say? Amen, I say. Merry Christmas, kids. I leave you with the words to a great Christmas carol that I've grown to love in the past couple years, thanks to Pedro The Lion. You can listen to the song by following this link.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor does He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Merry Christmas from Sufjan Stevens!

If you haven't heard and loved Sufjan Stevens, I will maim you. I found out about some guy that has all of Sufjan's Christmas albums hosted on his site. You can go there by clicking on the links here and here and here. Yes, they're all the same.

Thanks to Opus for the heads-up about some live Sufjan from Belgium! You can download the fifteen track performance for free! The sound quality is pretty decent too. Do it now before this guy's bandwidth is destroyed.

I'm out to do a last home inspection on our new house (oh yeah, we bought that house we were looking at!) before we drop the conditions on the sale. I can give you more details later. Enjoy your free music!

If it weren't for you, I could be anywhere

You were hoping for a nice long update akin to the one this past week, right? Well, keep hoping. I'm in the midst of cleaning out my old e-mail account (long live 'hcjoel@hwcn.org') because it's Lynx-based (I only saw text, never graphics) and it cost $32 a year. Hotmail is free. Gmail is free. I'm with Hotmail for the time being. Anyhow, I had quite a few messages saved from over the years. Some were heartfelt, some were silly and I appreciate them all. I thought I'd share two of the good ones with you, my friend. Keep in mind, it's me we're talking about so if it's stupid, you know who to direct your scorn toward.


[This one isn't old. It's new. Last month, in fact. Within days of returning home from Cuba, Josh got a message from Alfredo, who was a good dude that worked in the gym at the El Senador. Josh sent him a message to say 'hi'. This is what Josh got in return. I don't know which is funnier, Alfredo's broken English or Josh's sarcastic commentary.]

Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005 21:48:20 +0000
From: joshua boettger
To: hcjoel@hwcn.org
Subject: cuba alfredo

i emailed alfredo. this is what he emailed me back. what the
hell does this mean? why doesn't everyone just forget their
culture and speak english to make life easier for me.

>From: Alfredo Espinoza
>To: joshua boettger
>Subject: alfred
>Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005 15:41:18 -0600 (CST)
> Hola dear friends Thank you for writing itself I
> remember(remind) them with a lot of sharm take
> care greatly his(its) friend
> Alfred


[Everybody LOVES e-mail surveys, right? And by 'love', of course I mean 'loathe'. Here's one I filled out late one night in August of 2003. I'm hilarious. Every time I read my answer to question 13, I laugh. A lot. I have always told Melanie that everyone is their own favourite comedian. I am most definitely my favourite comedian.]

Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2003 01:45:49 -0400 (EDT)
From: Joel
To: Undisclosed recipients: ;
Subject: Do you have 30 minutes you can waste? I do!

Whitney sent this out as a joke. Really, these are just a joke. Most people must respond while at work and bored. Who would answer all these ridiculous questions on their own time? Especially if they're up at 1:17AM! Oh yeah, that's me. Here's some fun spam.

Joel Jon Gregory Martin. I don't know what possessed my parents to give me the middle name 'Jon'. That's the dork spelling.

Beige. Maybe light brown would be a better descriptor.

The hum of my computer. It's frickin' late and the people upstairs would be seriously ticked if I threw on the tunes. I was, however, listening to the new album, 'Whispermoon', by one of my new favourite MCs, The Listener.


9609. To the author of this question, I would ask, 'Which single digit
represents your I.Q.?'

Some salt and vinegar chips, provided by the Taxman, Eric Tomlinson. Always trying to fatten me up.

Probably black to represent the colour of my soul. What? I don't know.

I haven't the foggiest idea. There's no rush for that. It really doesn't matter because I intend on being too tired to see any of the sights outside of the hotel room, if you know what I'm saying. If you don't know what I'm saying, I mean that I'll be having sex constantly for a week and am not interested in sightseeing when I can be doing it.

It's not unwell.

Do answering machines count? If so, Josh. If not, Melanie.

I honestly can't say. Physical traits like their smile and eyes sound hokey but it's probably true. I don't know that any one thing is the first thing I notice. I like to think I take in the whole package - smile, eyes, lips, hips, booty, boobies, hair, posture, clothing.

Yeah, Whitney is ok. She just doesn't call enough.

Like the weather, I am not unwell. I would say I am relatively okay.

Cherry Coke. Or chocolate milk. I know the question was singular but I can do whatever I damn well please. I could have said my favourite drink was 'laundromat' or 'car' and you couldn't do a thing about it.

The kind that I don't have to drink. I honestly do not enjoy alcohol. It's not a moral qualm, I just don't appreciate the flavour. It's not for me.

With my ass. I crush it with a hammer and stick it in my bum. You happy? With my mouth, of course.

Basketball, hockey, running, rugby, volleyball and anything else that is
just fun to pick up and play.

Light brown?



Holly (23)

Probably April or June.

Chicken wings, gyros (or donairs), Quizno's subs, street meat, most of the baked goods Melanie makes up, Charcoal Pit burgers.

Dumb and Dumber.

Every Saturday.

Directly, yes. Indirectly, yes.

Probably 'happy ending' movies. I'm not easily scared by movies. Suspense gets to me more than horror.

Summer, without hesitation. I'd move somewhere warm year-round if Canada wasn't the kick-ass country that it is.

Call me a wuss but I'm probably a bigger fan of hugs. I do enjoy my cuddling and snuggling. Of course, there is something to be said for a hot chick's tongue in my mouth as well...

Relationships. I don't get the 'one night stand' dealie in real life. Maybe a freaky, pretend, bizarro world but not here. Dammit.

Both are ok. I prefer different flavours (such as chocolate/peanut butter).

Friends?!? I have friends?!?! Yes, yes, yes! Write me back! Oh, please, write me back! I swear, I'll be your best friend ever! We'll ride bikes, buy Slurpees and hang out. I'll give you my best baseball cards!

No one. I'm the lamest person I know. Everyone else has a life and better things to do.

Cal and Jon Belanger. These sort of things just make them really, really bitter. I know, you didn't think it was possible for them to become MORE bitter. It is. Just watch.

Basement dweller in Mark & Summer's house. It's a decent setup.

'An American Childhood' by Annie Dillard.

My mouse. What the hell is on your mouse pad??!?

Probably Scattergories or Balderdash. Good ol' Kenny Bunker.

Went to Chaps with Melanie and Christina Vandermark for some good lovin' food. Then watched Paradise Hotel with Melanie. That show is so frickin' stupid - and I can't stop watching it.

BBQ, some nice ladies perfume and Irish Spring soap (any of its scents).

Music, friends, learning, God - those all mixed up together.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I saw three ships come sailing in

Yes, my friends, it's been a while. I apologize. Life has been hectic in the Martin household. I shall attempt to give you brief yet entertaining updates of what the hell has been going on. There's a fair bit so I hope you have more than one minute free and a better attention span than the average unmedicated North American child.

CUBA! The big trip that you missed out on. I don't think anyone that went actually reads this so that is a safe statement. We had a great time. The weather was scorching. The beach was beautiful. There was an endless supply of pizza and poutine. We got a killer picture of me in front of a sign painted on the fence of a local airport's runway that says, 'Socialismo O Muerte', which, I believe, means 'socialism or death'. That's my kinda country! Of course, the people that live there don't seem to embrace such a strong ideology. When planes take off, there is a motorcyle and sidecart that follow the planes and another dude in a makeshift watchtower down the runway to make sure that people don't charge out of the bushes, jump on the planes' wheels and get taken up into the wheel's compartment in order to get the heck out of Cuba. LOVELY! We had a marvelous time hanging out with Katie, Darren, Josh and Amanda. Travelling with friends is a blast. Here's some quick pics...

I'm excited to be eating dinner in Cuba! The food was pretty good. Darren always seemed to get the wrong thing after ordering. They were out of hot dogs, which was a real bummer. I love hot dogs.

It is customary in Cuba to have a swordfight with your dinner companions. Whoever was not killed or maimed was declared the victor and allowed to eat their meal. Darren bested me on this night. We both ordered the same meal that had large, delicious selections of different meats on these large sword-shaped skewers. That was probably the best meal I had all week. The seafood place left a lot to be desired, such as having the shrimp peeled FOR me rather than fumbling through it and doing a terrible job myself. Amanda makes wonderful shrimp finger puppets. If you are offered the seafood cocktail, politely decline. It was gross. Granted, I only like some seafood. Or, alternately, if your name is Darren and you order anything at all, know you will not get what you asked for. Instead, you will get the seafood cocktail. Consider this your warning...

These ladies enjoyed their mixed drinks and cappucinos. I think Cuba had run out of the latter by the time we left. The caffeine intake by these women was pretty incredible. My beverage choices were limited to water, juice and pop. Oh, and they had these marvelous slushies (lemonade and, once, strawberry). Sadly, Cuba does not have diet pop. We met a man who was our waiter in the buffet on our first night (I think) named Javier. Javier presented with the manners of a goat. He was gruff (get it?). Katie asked for Diet Coke (known in Mexico as 'Coca-Cola Lite' so we figured it would be the same in this Latin country) and Javier responded by stating, 'Coke'. Katie replied that she was asking for Diet Coke and Javier barked back, 'Coke'. From there on, Javier was our joke. You know the card game that is politely called 'Asshole'? Oh, if you grew up in a conservative Christian environment, you might have called it 'Bumhole' or 'Janitor'. That one. Anyhow, we changed it from 'Asshole' to 'Javier'. If you were a step above 'Javier', you were in the position of 'Javier's mom'. It was freaking hilarious and I ruled that game for most of the week. I was 'El Senador' (also the name of the resort where we stayed).

Each restaurant had musical entertainment during your visit. There was a group of ladies that we saw twice at the steakhouse who were excellent (Josh & Amanda bought their CD). There was a killer jazz band in the cigar bar, where Josh, Darren and I played pool one evening. I sucked. However, on the night that Darren left, we went back there and I beat Josh once. I was (and am) quite proud. Josh was the king of cheating at billiards when we were in high school (balls would mysteriously disappear from the table when he was walking around it).

Josh didn't send me any other pictures thus far so I can't show you more. When I get some, I'll post them. So, all in all, it was awesome. I hope you and I might get the chance to travel together sometime in the future. You won't regret it.

We made it to our first anniversary! Not bad, eh? Pretty damn good, if you ask me. It feels paradoxical, like it hasn't been very long but also that it could be more than a year. Thanks for all your best wishes (if you didn't send any, screw you). Does anyone know if you're no longer considered a newlywed once you reach your first anniversary? I've had conflicting reports.

David Blondel becomes a man. But not just any man. A bearded man. A very bearded man, in fact. That thing is insanely thick and long. Check out the pin on his sweater. Bottle Breaker, for life!

I am so irritated with work now. Remember I got turned down for the supervisor positions I desperately wanted? I got high praise for my interview and that I should apply for the new 'supervisory intern' position when it was posted? Well, I did that. But then I was told I couldn't apply because I didn't have experience in the other department (on-going services). WHAT?!?! So they were very impressed by my interview and presentation but then deny me the opportunity to get experience (which is what I was lacking). And they're considering people who did not even apply for the previous positions. Egads. I don't know what I'm going to do. It's so frustrating. There are two other supervisors in that department that had NO experience in there either but they got jobs (one wasn't even interviewed in person, just on the phone). It's inconsistency like that that drives me crazy.

Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer. Yes, boys and girls, we're getting close to two important birthday celebrations - Melanie and Jesus. My two favourites. We might be decorating the house today. We're almost finished gift-purchasing, and have been for a week or so. Just one thing for Melanie's sister and then her brother. We know what we're getting already, it's just a matter of picking it up. Buying presents for Melanie is fun yet challenging. Her birthday is one week before Christmas so it requires a lot of planning and ideas to have adequate presents. Fortunately, I try to buy things throughout the year. I've also given in to buying some items when she tells me directly that she likes them and we're somewhere I will not be able to access after we leave (e.g. Barry's Bay). Wow, did I buy a lot this year! There's a ton of stuff, some of which I may save for Valentine's Day or next year! Hahaha. She won't want me to do that.

You may one day be visiting us at this place. You may have heard that we were looking to buy a house. We will be making an offer on this place later today. Melanie has spent several hours visiting various houses in the areas closeby to see if there was anything that would suit us. Our good friend, Len has been accompanying us on our search and has been incredibly valuable to us. Thanks, Len! The one picture on the site makes it look like an average house. Inside, it's really nice. Very open between the living room, dining room and kitchen, which Melanie adores. Two bathrooms, though none on the second floor (it's one-and-a-half-storey) which I hope won't suck too bad. If it does, I'll just get used to using a bed pan. The basement is completely finished with a fruit cellar (I like that). Only things that need repairs are the kitchen faucet and the chimney. Other than that, it's in mint condition like my Kelly Gruber rookie card!

Lots of cool things going on with our friends. Scott & Janice had a baby girl a week ago (or was it two now?). Jenn Moreton got a full-time position at work (911). I ran into Ken Brill and he is doign well, also buying his own home and moving in last week. Yesterday was Summer's THIRTIETH birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SUMMER! Whitney and Jon-than are leaving Portland on December 16th to be home for Christmas. Whitney told me that Laurie might already be back here but I haven't heard from her. Steve Ertl & Karen Golledge got engaged the day we got back from Cuba. Congratulations to them!

A pretty bad thing that happened, though, was Sandi's parents' house burned down. Yeah, pretty scary and terrible. A crazy story that raises some questions about divine intervention. All the people are safe and no one was injured. Their dog did die, though, and they lost everything. Pray for them.

I think that largely brings you up to speed. It's 1:30PM on Sunday afternoon and I'm hungry. I haven't eaten an actual meal since Friday morning. No kidding. I had a couple small rolls with tuna on them Friday afternoon (lunch on the run), no dinner (just lots of chips while playing poker and ping pong at the home of Rod, Patti & Justin Tombs with a lot of friends - it was great!), no breakfast or lunch or dinner on Saturday (a fair amount of chip nuts, though) and a quick meal replacement shake this morning. I wonder if that's why I couldn't sleep and I had a headache. I'll do an experiment. I'll eat and see if that helps. I'll be sure to document the results. The scientific consequences of this experiment could be tremendous. I appreciate your support. PEACE!