It would be a good place to start…

christinchristmas

Checking in with the 2014 Christmas light shows.

It seems that every year the number of folks doing synchronized Christmas light shows on their homes grows. So much so that there are a number of television shows on the air this year such as the Great Christmas Light Fight.

In fact, one of our first videos tonight is from a family that was on that show. The music is the Christmas Can Can by Straight No Chaser and is an impressive use of the lights they’ve put up including a row of spotlights along the apex of their roof. They’ve got another video featuring a melody of Star Wars songs worth watching too:

Next we go to El Paso where we find another entrant on ABC’s show that won this year:

Let’s swing over to Trinidad for a light show that wasn’t on TV, but still deserves a mention for its use of quotes from various Christmas movies. Not sure why, but Dubstep seems to work well with these sorts of displays. Bonus points for the confused dog that wander through about half-way through the show:

The Delaney family may not have the most lights in their display, but they make good use of what they’ve got with a melody of recent hits and dubstep remixes:

It’s not Christmas until you’ve watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Kremer Family in Minden, Nevada have put together an impressive display using a pixel tree and some projection mapping to honor that venerable animated special:

So many of these light shows seem to be in southern states or places with no snow to speak of. So it’s nice to find a family in a snowy area who are joining in on the fun. Christmas lights look best when they’re surrounded by real snow. Bonus points for the projection mapped Santa in one of the windows:

Let’s head out to Iowa and the obligatory light show using songs from Disney’s immensely popular Frozen:

One of the growing trends is to forego lights altogether in favor of doing full projection mapping on your home. This has become very popular for Halloween light shows, but not as much for Christmas so far. At least not outside of big productions by companies such as Macy’s in New York. Here’s one example I did find on a home if you can handle some more music from Frozen in addition to some Jesus torture video:

So how do you top that? By going bigger, of course. Which brings us to our final video this year. What it lacks in novel light patterns it makes up for in sheer size. This is what you get when you talk all your neighbors into letting you sync up their lights to music. A display so big you have to use a drone to film it:

You gotta admit, that’s damned impressive.

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.

Guy with portable mistletoe gets loads of kisses.

You wouldn’t think this would work, but it appears to work amazingly well:

I got an early Christmas present today.

My mom is an amazing listener. Back at Thanksgiving during the usual after dinner bullshitting every family engages in, my sister mentioned that she had gotten a new snowblower for her sidewalk because the power shovel she had been using just wasn’t up to the task.

I live in an apartment and my sidewalks are relatively short (back is maybe 10 or 12 feet, front is 6 at the most), but with all the snow we got last winter and the fact that I’m firmly in my middle age and out of shape, it was still a pain the ass to deal with. An electric power shovel sounded like just the thing and so I asked her about her experiences and she had much to say on the topic including a brand recommendation (Toro).

Fast forward to this morning when I got an email from my mom telling me to expect a surprise when I got home. I hadn’t a clue what it could be and was quite surprised when I walked in the apartment to find this waiting for me:

Toro Power Shovel

Click to embiggen.

That was indeed a nice surprise! I’m kinda sad we’re not set to get any snow anytime soon, but when we do I’m gonna be excited about clearing the sidewalk for a change. Oh yeah, I’m going to shovel the shit out of that snow! Figuratively speaking.

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.

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.

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.

The joy of cats at Christmas time.

ornament killer cat

We tossed our old artificial Christmas tree last year because it was looking pretty battle weary from years of being in the same house with cats. I had planned to buy a new one during the summer off-season, but it didn’t happen. Now it’s looking like we won’t have one this year at all which makes me sad, but not as sad as my cats who have noticed that the outdoor lights are up and glowing. That usually means the tree of shiny things that tinkle when you knock them down is usually not far behind. They are very confused by the lack of the tree of shiny things.