It’s beginning to look a lot like a Satanic Christmas in Michigan.

Here’s a prime example of the old maxim “be careful what you wish for” from my home state.

whycelebratechristmasFor reasons I’ve never been able to understand, Christians are always trying to get their religious displays on Government property around this time of year. They claim it’s not because they’re trying to foist their religion on everyone else or to imply that the Government favors their particular religion and everyone knows they’re lying and that’s totally what they want.

They have a problem, however, with that damned pesky Constitution amendment saying that the government is supposed to be neutral about religion resulting in various court rulings over the years that have basically said: Sure, you can put your nativity scene on the lawn of your state capitol/courthouse/city hall/other random government building so long as you allow other religions to offer up displays if they want to. To their great luck for many, many years the only other group that would ask were the Jews so they could slap up a menorah and pretend they were complying with the law. Hell, half the time they’d slap one up even if the Jews didn’t ask because they thought it was fooling everyone into thinking they were being all diverse and shit.

Recently, however, there’s been an increasing tendency for people with other, yucky, religions — or, GASP, no religion at all — of asking to put up their own displays alongside the Christian ones. Needless to say this has caused all manner of hand wringing with some state and local governments deciding they should probably get out of the whole religious display business and banning them from government property (as they should). This came to a head this year as The Satanic Temple has been particularly active in getting permission for displays in Oklahoma (since put on hold due to the destruction of the Christian Ten Commandments display it was meant to offset) and in Florida’s Capitol holiday display.

Here in Michigan we’ve been stuck under a Republican led state congress (both houses) and governorship for several years now thanks to the gerrymandering they managed to get in place during the last census. They like to think they’re pretty smart for having pulled that off so they put their thinking caps on and tried to come up with a way to allow a nativity scene in our capitol while keeping those other, yucky, religions out. What they came up with was a new requirement of no permanent displays. More specifically, any display you put up in the Michigan State Capitol has to be torn down at the end of the day and then put back up the next morning. Surely a rule this tedious would keep out all but the most devout Christians, right?

Satanic holiday display is coming to Capitol

The display, which depicts a snake wrapped around the Satanic cross presenting a book as a holiday gift, will be featured on the northeast lawn at the Capitol Dec. 21 to 23, said Jex Blackmore, a member of the Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple. The cross reads, “The greatest gift is knowledge.”

“Encouraging families to have important discussions and to learn from each other and to spend the holidays promoting knowledge … is just something we think is important,” Blackmore, whose phone number begins with the digits 666, said today.

[…] Blackmore said her group requested the display after the Capitol Commission last month received a request for a Christian Nativity to be displayed at the Capitol. With lame-duck lawmakers debating a controversial religious freedom bill, Blackmore said the Satanist display “provides some poignant commentary about the diversity of beliefs represented by Michigan citizens.”

Oops. The folks at the Detroit chapter of The Satanic Temple have someone who is more than willing to comply by the rule of putting it up in the morning and taking it down at night and repeating the process the next day.

Here's what it will look like.

Here’s what it will look like. What a horrible message to convey! They want you to be smart!

That’s not the best part of this story, though. This is:

The Nativity, meanwhile, has been scrapped. Truscott said today the Nativity was approved but the out-of-state person backing it couldn’t find someone to put up and tear down the display each day. That’s necessary because Capitol rules forbid permanent displays.

Truscott said the person behind the Nativity, who hasn’t been named, is still trying to find someone to manage the display.

Cue the outrage from the government flunky who had to approve it:

John Truscott, a member of the Michigan State Capitol Commission, which approved the display, said the commission had to OK it because members were “constrained by the Constitution” and must “recognize everybody’s First Amendment rights.”

But Truscott added, “Personally, I think this is absolutely repulsive and I’m very frustrated by it. I don’t appreciate a group trying to hijack a Christian holiday.”

Fuck you, John Truscott. I don’t appreciate Christians trying to hijack my government to promote themselves. Don’t want a Satanic holiday display at the capitol? Then don’t allow any religious displays at the fucking capitol. It’s really very simple. If you allow one then you have to allow them all and if your prefered group is too fucking lazy to follow the rules you put in place to try and prevent others from participating, well, that’s their fucking problem. Besides, it’s not like the Christians didn’t hijack this holiday from the Pagans to begin with.

Here’s the cherry on top of this cake. Hemant Mehta over at The Friendly Atheist reached out to The Satanic Temple spokesperson about this news story and got the following awesome comment from them:

When Jex first reached out to the Capitol Commission to learn how she could submit our display, she refrained from mentioning that she is a representative of the dreaded Satanic Temple.

Jex was told at that time that the new requirement for holiday displays (that they be taken down each evening and replaced again in the morning) was a result of trying to deter “that group from Florida” — clearly a reference to The Satanic Temple — winning the right to exhibit our holiday display in the Florida Capitol Rotunda.

That’s right. The rule that makes this delicious bit of schadenfreude possible was specifically meant to keep The Satanic Temple out of the Michigan capitol. It’s a mistake to assume your followers are less lazy than any other religion’s followers.

I’m guessing that as this story goes viral the out-of-state asshole who wants to put a nativity at the state capitol will find someone willing to put it up and take it down every day if for no other reason than to ensure the Satanic display isn’t the only one there. Christians get mad when they have to share with other religions as it is. They sure as hell aren’t going to sit by and let some other group, especially Satanists, have the spotlight to themselves. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the rules change again next year.

Looking for gift ideas? Why not Laurel Moon Jewelry?

I don’t normally do posts that are straight-up advertisements, but Lauren is an old friend of mine and she’s been hand making some pretty damned nifty jewelry for a long time. She just recently got a new website up and running and I thought there may be some among you who would like to check it out.

If you’re so inclined, swing by Laurel Moon Jewelry and take a look around. She’s got bracelets and earrings and necklaces and stuff with different themes and even some steampunky stuff. Definitely worth checking out especially if you’re looking for something unique for someone this holiday.

Laurel Moon Jewelry

All manner of bangles and baubles.

How to make a hit Christmas Pop Song.

Brett Domino is a musical genius. I am now fully prepared for making my own hit Christmas Pop Song despite a total lack of talent in the songwriting or the instrument playing normally associated with music creation. That’s how amazing this instructional video is.

Check it:

That song is going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the day now.

Happy Thanksgiving 2014 from SEB!

There’s a lot to be thankful for in my life, but some of the greatest things are just the opportunity to spend time with the ones I love. Like this guy:

We don't call him Cuddles for no reason.

We don’t call him Cuddles for nothing.

They say cats don’t love their humans the way dogs do, but you’d be hard pressed to convince me of that in this case.

What we did instead of Halloween this weekend.

The wife and I didn’t do Halloween this year and that’s a first for us. The reason why was a combination of the fact that we rarely — if ever — see more than a handful of kids and are left with tons of candy, the fact that the weather was crappier than usual (37°F with snow showers), and the fact that I just wasn’t feeling it this year. I didn’t even unpack my plastic jack o’lantern and fog machine this year.

The cold weather has put me into a different mood and, with Sunday being a relatively balmy 48°F I decided to do some decorating for the other upcoming holiday. No, not Thanksgiving. The other upcoming holiday. Why? Because the last time I waited until after Turkey Day it snowed. On Sunday I got most of the outdoor lights up making what amounts to our backyard at the apartment look like this:

I had to repair my snowflakes this year as one of them wasn’t lighting up thanks to a broken bulb. I’ve also got two strings of C9 style LED lights that aren’t working and I’m not sure if it’s because they need new fuses because the damned things are so tiny that even with my reading glasses I can’t tell if they’re blown or not. Not that I need two more strings to add to the outside, but I’d like to get them working. Not in the picture is the string of 8 giant light bulbs to line the sidewalk with because they didn’t come with stakes to put them in the ground and I’m not sure if they were supposed to or if that’s a separate purchase, but either way I’ll have to figure that out before I can put them in place.

We don’t have an outdoor electrical outlet in the front of the apartment so we bought four solar powered pathway lights in green and red  to line the sidewalk with. We’ll also be putting lights in the upstairs and kitchen windows so there’s some festiveness there. We did buy a small shepherd’s hook and a couple of holiday related flags to hang from it. My mother is getting ready to move from her home up in Otisville and so she gave us her pre-lit Christmas tree which we’re going to assemble in the spare bedroom (which faces the front of the apartment) to add a bit more lights to the upstairs window. We won’t be putting ornaments on it, but we thought it would be some nice extra lights.

We haven’t assembled our tree in its usual spot in front of the doorwall yet, but we’ll probably get to that this week.  We’ve got a couple of extra light sets that we’ll probably use inside the apartment to brighten things up a bit, but we’re already pretty far along. One of the side benefits is that it motivated us to do things we’d been meaning to do for a long time like start clearing up the jumble of stuff in the spare bedroom that got shoved in there when we got our new bedroom furniture set a few months back. Also cleaned out the bottom of our bedroom closet so we could put our shoes where they belong instead of having them all piled near the front door.

So, yeah, we’re early this year, but we’ve been pretty late with doing this stuff the past couple of years and we’re both in the holiday mood so we may as well enjoy it. I’ll post more pics once we get more of it done.

Time for this year’s Halloween light shows.

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are approaching and as such the holiday light shows have started up again. Originally a trend that started with Christmas displays it has since spread to Halloween. So let’s see what folks have come up with this year.

Mark H. kicks things off with a light show that features a 15 foot singing killer clown as the centerpiece:

The Thomas family in Naperville, IL have overstuffed their yard with figures this year and a light show featuring Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which is at least somewhat Halloween-ish:

We’re seeing an increasing incorporation of projection mapping into displays this year as is the case with Tyler D.’s light show that also features an original soundtrack:

Few things are scarier than dubstep so here’s one from a4luther in St. Louis that makes good use of it:

Of course, you could save a lot of time by foregoing the stringing of lights and just using projection mapping to do your whole house like the folks at Clover Shriek Haunt did:

These keep getting better with each year and I have to admire the time and dedication these folks are investing. They also must have some extremely patient neighbors.

If you can’t get enough of this sort of thing then there’s a ton more of these videos on YouTube including additional ones featuring different songs by the folks I’ve listed here as well as efforts from years past.

Happy July 4th, 2014!

The mighty Mackinac Bridge.

The mighty Mackinac Bridge. Click to embiggen.

I haven’t posted anything in awhile so I thought I’d at least throw up a small entry hoping everyone has a safe and enjoyable July 4th celebration. That’s for my fellow Americans, obviously. You folks in other lands probably don’t join in on this most gratuitous excuse to light off tons of sky explosives. Or maybe you do. I’m always up for a good excuse to set off explosives.

I’m on vacation and Anne and I just got back from a couple of days up at Mackinac Island. I’d not been there since my early teens and she, despite being a life-long Michigander, had never been so we decided to head up and stay at a very expensive hotel on the island proper: The Stonecliffe. We got a package deal that included round trip ferry tickets, one round trip horse-drawn shuttle to and from the hotel, complimentary breakfasts, and the room itself which had a very nice view of the Mackinac Bridge from our third floor window. We were supposed to take a boat tour of local lighthouses when we got to Mackinaw City, but it was canceled due to high winds. Which, considering how green around the gills Anne was looking after the very bumpy ferry ride over, is probably for the best. It was akin to riding a good log flume and Anne had forgotten her Dramamine.

Just a few of the zillion or so bikes moving through downtown at any given time. Click to embiggen.

Just a few of the zillion or so bikes moving through downtown at any given time. Click to embiggen.

The island is interesting in part because there are no automobiles allowed other than a handful for emergency services (fire, ambulance, etc.). If you want to get around the island you either walk, employ a horse of some fashion, or ride a bicycle. Anne and I are still working on getting into the habit of walking and our hotel was a couple of miles further into the island from the downtown area near the shore so we took the hotel shuttle back and forth rather than trying to walk it as we didn’t want to be unable to walk once we got there. I’d guess the stretch of shops and attractions is at least a mile or so long and we walked up and down it a couple of times over the day and a half we were there so we definitely got our exercise in.

It was fascinating seeing all the horse drawn carriages and flatbed service vehicles. The island’s UPS person had his own wagon that he pulled around with the items he had to deliver, but he was still dressed in his traditional brown uniform. It definitely gives you a good idea of a time period before cars became ubiquitous and how much slower life was as a result. The trip to and from the hotel into town was 25 to 35 minutes depending on how many folks the horses had to haul. It was much quicker if you used a bicycle.

Random tourists and more bikes outside of Doud's Market.

Random tourists and more bikes outside of Doud’s Market. Click to embiggen!

Speaking of which, this island would be paradise for bike enthusiasts like George Wiman. The number of people on bicycles is just amazing once you get into mid-morning and beyond. The amount of horeshit all over the place is pretty amazing too, though the teams of people who clean it up do a surprisingly good job at it. Still, if we ever have to go back to a car-less society, I vote we stick to bicycles and not horses. You can bring your own bike to the island (we saw a number of folks in far better shape than we doing  just that) or you can rent them from any of a dozen vendors at fairly reasonable prices. The island is quite hilly so you’ll want something with at least three gears to make going up those hills a bit easier. They had every kind of bike you can imagine for rent including tandems and those third-wheel extensions that allowed a child to sit behind an adult and contribute to the effort. We didn’t rent bikes this time out, but we’re planning on going back and doing so next time.

So that’s a small update on what I’ve been doing over the past few days. Needless to say, my legs are very sore from all the walking. Not to mention being on the third floor of the mansion/hotel we stayed in that doesn’t have an elevator. We had a good time and if you’ve never been to Mackinac Island then I would highly recommend it. One thing I was fascinated with is the idea of living there year-round which there’s about 500 people who do just that. They had a DVD on sale about living there during the winter which made it seem very idyllic, but the handful of folks we talked to said it could be pretty rough. There’s a period of time where there’s too much ice for the ferries to make the trip, but the ice bridge hasn’t quite formed yet so unless you fly out (there’s a small airport on the island) you’re pretty isolated. Oh, but what a place to be stranded! The homes are amazing and the view is wonderful.

Here’s a few more photos to close this entry out:

Have a very Merry Christmas!

My favorite day of the year has arrived once more. Here’s hoping your day is full of good memories and lots of love. Merry Christmas from all of us here at SEB!

Have you ever seen a jollier old bastard? No, you haven't.

Have you ever seen a jollier old bastard? No, you haven’t.

Happy day before Christmas!

When I was a kid this was the longest day of the year. The promise the next morning held was enough to make one hold his or her breath in anticipation. My whole body tingled with excitement… or perhaps it was one too many bowls of sugary cereal. Memories can be fuzzy.

The site of the tree with all the wrapped presents made me giddy, which only got worse when thoughts of the additional packages that would appear the next morning after Santa had dropped by. There was also a little anxiety once I was old enough to start picking out gifts for my brother and sister and parents. Would they like what I had gotten for them? This was in the days before Amazon wish lists. The closest analog we had was the annual Sears Christmas Wish Book catalog. Here’s one from 1977 when I was 10 years old. I spent hours digging through it and circling the items I desperately wanted.

I think 1977 was the year we got the Sears Video Arcade System, which was a rebranded Atari 2600 that Sears sold. Another year my dad bought us kids Pachinko machines and I have no idea why. I had never heard of these Japanese spins on pinball machines until that Christmas morning, but we played the hell out of them anyway. Considering that none of the electronics of the machines were intact the fact that they still worked was pretty impressive. Then there was the year I got my ultimate Christmas wish: A minibike. I never thought in a million years it would actually happen, but there it was standing next to the tree one Christmas morning.

These days the excitement level is much lower, but we’re a lot busier. We’re all grown and have extended families of one sort or another so there’s a lot more travel. Today will be spent at my parent’s house where we will have a nice Christmas Eve dinner and exchange gifts with my family members. This tradition has been going on since us kids became adults. It’s one of the few — if not the only — times of the year that all three of us kids are together in the same place with my folks. My nephew, who has just become a Navy medic, will be there this year with his fiance. Also present will be my niece, who is an amazing photographer that I’m hoping to be able to afford to hire someday for some nice pics of myself because I’m a narcissist. My daughter Courtney will arrive with us. It’s one of the few years that all the grandkids will be present in quite some time. Budgets being tight there will be far fewer gifts exchanged, but there’s still some of that old tingle as I look forward to seeing family I’ve not seen in awhile.

I can be a pretty materialistic guy, but I’ve been trying to move away from that as I’ve grown older. My siblings and I aren’t particularly close (literally or figuratively) so I tend to look forward to the few times we do manage to get together. Christmas still holds a lot of magic for me, just a different kind these days. I think that’s a good thing.

Let’s check in on the 2013 Christmas Light Shows.

We’re just a few days away from Christmas and I realized I hadn’t done a post on this year’s crop of over-the-top Christmas light music shows.

Here’s a damned impressive one out of El Paso featuring a melody of songs, most of them holiday related, synced to 300,000 lights spread over at least a couple of homes:

This one out of Wall Township, NJ makes up for a smaller number of lights by including GOUTS OF FLAME!!!

Here’s one featuring a crapload of lights spread over a small mansion featuring a techno version of Carol of the Bells:

Of course, the hot stuff these days is full 3D projections on the sides of buildings:

And to wrap things up here’s a light show from the Johnson Family out of Texas who decided to go a little dubstep this year:

Of course there are tons more of these videos on YouTube if you haven’t had enough yet.