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Volume 4, No. 47
Sunday, November 27, 2011
BAH HUMBUG, REVISITED AND REVISED
Hi again, from the shores of the Salish Sea. Well, ‘tis the season to be jolly and I just know that’s going to cause me problems. I happen to optimistic. I am unabashedly sentimental. There is no need for me to have a second childhood because I never totally left my first. I believe in a spiritual world and I’ve seen too many “miracles” not to believe in those either.
As a pragmatic journalist, I’ve researched the etymology of many of the characters and traditions of holidays associated with the fourth quarter of the Western calendar. And in that regard, I can be just about as pedantic and emotionally sterile as the writer of an email recently forwarded to me by a colleague who really should have known better.
This essay “exploded” many of the “myths” associated with American Thanksgiving. As I read it, I thought, well, okay. I’m learning stuff that has nothing to do with the spirit of this particular celebration. And do I really care if the Pilgrims were actually the first colonists? Or what research shows they had to eat?
That’s like asking me if it bothers me that 60-million American turkeys die each year so we can pay homage to some very gutsy folks who sailed across an ocean and basically started life from scratch. Yes, the information is important to know and yes, it bothers me that the bird Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the national symbol, is also a very hot item on holiday menu.
But I don’t want to hear that stuff on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not about, “I’ll take holidays for five hundred, Alex.” It’s about the end of harvest and being grateful sometimes if you’ve still got the land and enough laid by until spring. It is about appreciating good neighbors.
I’m the same way about Christmas. I believe in Santa Claus and the psychic. It is no leap at all for me to believe that this slender-challenged guy Thomas Nast saw in a dream once can, in a single long night, bring toys to every kid in the world. I mean, on a scale of miracles which include parting a sea, making it rain frogs and turning two cities and everybody in them to salt, this is not that big a deal.
I don’t want some academically erudite but emotionally challenged aesthetic telling me that by the known laws of physics, there is no way. Or that even if it could be done, it would probably be resource intensive. I don’t want to hear about the risks a sleigh pulled by a protected species might cause air controllers, NORAD and the DEW line problems. I don’t want to hear a revered saint called a palliative of the masses and I am most definitely not interested in what toy-making elves to in their spare time.
I want as schmaltzy a holiday season as I can make. I want to hear dead crooners wishing me a White Christmas. I want some barber in a nice sweater telling me about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. I want that Canadian Sir Lancelot summoning the faithful. I want to listen to my favourite group of all time sing to me of a silent and holy night. And then tell me about this little drummer boy who played for a real special little boy born in a manger.
Bring on the Hallmark, Folgers and Campbell Soup commercials whose mini-dramas are an art form unto themselves. I want to see a miracle on 34th Street and hear that little bell that tinkles when angels get their wings. I want to watch Schroeder playing jazz Christmas carols with Snoopy dancing on the piano. I want to fall asleep dreaming of a frosty snowman and dancing polar bears. I want to wish my neighbors good holiday and sincerely hope they’re having one.
If all that bothers you, I’m sorry, sue me. But wait until after the first of the New Year to serve the notice. I’ll be too busy celebrating and to paraphrase my favorite Streisand song, nobody gave you permission to rain on my parade.
IN OTHER NEWS
Aptly named Curiosity, the big kid brother of two rovers already there, is headed for Mars and will take about nine months to complete a voyage of 354 million miles. In case you missed the launch, go here to NASA TV’s website. And nice going,America.
It was really validating to note that greed apparently overruled civility on one of the most dubiously named holidays of the year. If you really need to know what lengths some people will go through for a bargain, check out a video of two pepper-spraying incidents. It’ll make you real proud to be a member of the human family. Sigh.
Scientists have come up with a Planetary Habitability Index which ranks planets, moons and other heavenly bodies by their possibility of containing life. It was with a bit of a chuckle that we noticed that earth apparently has a 96% chance in this regard. In my mind, that explains a lot.
Canadians are paying attention to the Mars rover Curiosity because they’ve got a special stake in it. It is carrying a very sophisticated detection instrument invented by a University of Guelph physicist, the APXS (alpha particle X-ray spectrometer). It was made inRichmond,BC and it is a very advanced chemical analyzer. It will be sampling the soil as Curiosity lumbers about the big red planet.
As if Ottawa didn’t have enough to do already, a dozen environmental groups are threatening to sue the federal government if something isn’t done to stop the apparently imminent extinction of the sage grouse in Alberta. Sometimes it is not hard to understand why Prime Minister Harper refuses to involveCanada in solvingEurope’s economic problems. It is very apparent the money is needed closer to home.
The bad news is that for the last two years or so, someone has been trying to hack into Prince Edward Island’s provincial government. The good news is they haven’t succeeded. Is it because they lack the expertise or is it, perhaps, because they realise that such tactics are not necessary to win the hearts and minds of the electorate and they’re just making a good show for their rather unenlightened bosses?
The Australians are proposing to create the largest marine reserve in the world in the Coral Sea. It’s about one and a half times the size ofFrance. It is located off theQueensland (northeast coast). It is also the site of three US Navy warships sunk during World War II in theBattle of theCoral Sea.
Seattle joins San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC in requiring that commercial landlords report how much energy their properties use. The other three cities mandate full disclosure. Seattle makes it accessible to the general public upon request, thus also respecting the privacy of commercial property owners in these regards.
When she spoke recently to a group of Canadian school children, Lady Gaga just made my A List. She wants to make bullying a hate crime. For more and the video that goes with it, please go here.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, NATURE & EXPLORATION
Free public charging stations are slow to catch on as the first wave of electric cars hitsPacific Northwest streets and highways. A recently released report noted that 80 percent of the charges still occurred at home.
What is it that makes this news Mars rover different, aside from the fact that it is King Kong to the prototype’s Bonzo the chimp? For an absolutely fascinating answer to this question and a stellar video, please go here.
Irish and American researchers working together have apparently answered a question which has puzzled scientists for centuries.
Autumn is over in Seattleand, we suspect, where you live as well. So from our friends at RealAge, here are five foods to fight off a cold or flu.
And since the holiday season is ~ for some ~ also a time of absolute “oink out,” here are ten top foods to lower cholesterol.
RESOURCES AND RELATED LINKS: Center For Disease Control Disease FAQs Index Tips and Tools For Staying Young Weight Watchers: Calculate Your Body Mass Index ON THE CANCER FRONT We most heartily applaud Brazil’s decision to ban smoking in public places. For a list of other nations who do so as well, please go here. RESOURCES AND RELATED LINKS: Cancer: What You Need to Know American Cancer Society Canadian Cancer Society Cancer Research Journal National Cancer Institute (American) Fighting Breast Cancer: Breast Cancer Survivor Stories Science Daily: Health & Medicine News
DEFINITELY SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Ever since Christmas cards appeared in London in 1843, millions of trees have given their lives so that we might wish one another a good holiday season. Thousand of people have been employed in the logging, milling, transport, manufacture, creation and delivery of them. Governments have collected millions in revenue from the stamps involved. But this is the 21st Century so are traditional (paper) cards really the most appropriate way to go? To weigh in on this Yule controversial discussion and to cast your vote, please go here.
TAKE A BREAK ON NORTHSTAR
BEST OF NET VIDEO THIS WEEK
The season considered? Amazing Grace, by Celtic Woman, from a castle in Ireland. What makes this so special to me this time of year is more than being half Irish. It’s an appreciation of what Irish women have been through. And their amazing ability to sing like this in spite of it. I know they are not alone in this regard. I’m just glad we share the same gene pool.
NORTHSTAR EDITOR’S NET VIDEO FAVORITES
Animal Tracks is msnbc.com’s Critter Stuff. They feature stories of every facet of the creature kingdom from the domestic to the primordial. This is a great stress buster for me and a profound pick-me-up if I’m having a “poor me” day.
FREE VIDEO is for those of us who in whom the Inner Child is still alive and well. It’s a joyful romp with totally ingenuous music and outstanding video footage, including scenes of trolley cars inSan Francisco. This one gets fives stars from us.
NASA Probe To Explore Jupiter is a National Geographic video whose production values I found outstanding. This is one you might enjoy sharing with the family.
OH AMERICA – Celtic Woman expresses my love forAmerica far better than I have thus far ever been able.
Winter, A Dolphin’s Tale is the Flipper of this generation and is the true story of a dolphin so snarled in commercial crab trap that her fluke had to be amputated in order to free her. She was adopted by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she was fitted with a prosthetic. The film, starring Kris Kristopherson and Morgan Freeman, is out now and I highly recommend it.
GAMES & PUZZLES
Daily Crossword: This one from Universal has two levels. It is extremely easy to use and it has some features like music and clues that we thought were pretty cool.
National Geographic Kids Page: If you enjoy learning about the places, people and things which make life on this planet such a unique experience?
Vocabulary Quiz: Take this 10-word daily test and see how you rank with people your age, younger and older.
Word Games: Merriam Webster has a totally creative menu.
HOSTILE FEELINGS RELEASE GAME
Tank Hunter – This puts you behind the controls of a tank on a vast battlefield in which everything from small tanks to big ones to invisible ones is shooting at you. Definitely the best game play of its type I have personally encountered.
Celtic Woman is The Northstar Journal’s favourite musical performance group. When it is inspiration in a song we seek, they invariably provide it and they look as good as they sound. The production values of their performances, whether at the Helix in Dublin or on a television stage in Adelaide, are flawless. Perhaps most endearing for me is that these Irish ladies are totally ingenuous, and totally free of pretense or posturing. They have a global following and for a sampling of why, please go here.
(The) Clearwater Marine Aquarium inFlorida is the home of Winter, the rescued dolphin who was fitted with a prosthetic fluke and continues to amaze marine lovers the world over by her recovery. The CMA is in the marine mammal rescue business for real, both as a public amusement site at which they also take care of a variety of species, and on the web as well. Their videos and other information also make for a nice “educational” experience to share with others.
IrishCentral is absolutely the best commercial source of news, entertainment, politics and all things Irish and hyphenated Irish.
Irish Newsletter is an outstanding pocket source of Irish life, politics and times. Particularly well written are their news snaps (shorts) which ~ according to friends of mine inErin ~ literally tell it like it is. While theRepublic ofIreland’s population is only about 4.5-million, there are an estimated 80 million people of Irish descent worldwide and email version of this reached 50,000 of them.
(The) Legacy Project was originally designed as a course teaching students to make appropriate life choices personal and particular to them. Its exercises have kids answering such questions as what they would like to learn, how would they like to make a living and what they can I do for their community. What I found remarkable about these exercise is that so many adults these days are addressing these issues as well in order to survive hard times and stabilize in spite of them.
Liberty’s Kids is an animated half-hour series on America’s War of Independence. It features a regular cast, including the voice of Walter Cronkite as Benjamin Franklin, and top Hollywood actors and actresses in guest roles. What also works so well for younger audiences is the theme song, which is American Revolution rap. To watch an episode online, please go here.
Safercar.gov is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (HTSA) website. It contains a wealth of safety and reliability information on motor vehicles. You can also, as have we, subscribe to an email newsletter which informs its subscribers of all vehicle recalls and the reason for them.
Sightline Daily is the bestPacific Northwest source of environmentally friendly news we’ve encountered yet. They draw from newspapers and National Public Radio sources throughout the American west, northwest,Western Canada andAlaska.
USA.gov has a comprehensive email directory of American federal and state elected officials and government agencies. You fill in two or three blanks, hit Enter and you’ve got what you need to offer support or air a grievance.
Yes magazine is the editorial hammer of the Green Movement and the most deeply rooted, informative, insightful and magazine on the Net.
AVAILABLE FROM NORTHSTAR
The Northstar General Store is a truly unique online shopping experience and reflects what you, the readers, have said interests you the most. Whether it’s a specialty food item for that proverbial someone who has everything else or just to browse with some discretionary capital to spend on a whim, you’ll find everything from quality camping gear to interesting CDs, DVDs and books to totally fun and otherwise useless toys, women and men’s apparel and a wide variety of other items and wares you simply will not find under a single roof anywhere else on the Net. And by shopping here, you help us pay our bills. To enter and check it out, please click the picture of the store above.
The Northstar Photo Gallery features photography ofSeattle available as postcards, computer wallpaper and workspace art.
Sponsorship ads are another way begin at $5.00 a week for a simple small logo and web page link. Ads more elaborate than that are negotiated and charged on an individual basis. For more details, email us at email@example.com.
Writer/Editor For Hire for everything from business letters to data entry to editing and proofing, to speech writing and special projects, you’ll find it here at negotiable rates. I don’t consider any request too small and I don’t take on any that are too large. For a full list of services and more information, please go here.
They’ve been called the great white whales of the Cascades and once, they towered at the top of the food chain. They remained there until they were hunted and trapped into apparent extinction in this range. There is now, however, substantial reason to believe grizzly bears still exist in the remotest part of these Northwest peaks.
For a totally ingenuous and fun story about how the folks in Clearwater, Floridarescued an injured river otter and for a really cute photo, as well, please go here.RELATED LINKS: Animal Tracks is msnbc.com’s Critter Stuff. They feature stories of every facet of the creature kingdom from the domestic to the primordial. Oceana: The National Geographic of the World’s Oceans How to Behave Around Bears Seattle/Lake Washington Eagle Camera National Wildlife Magazine Go Northwest: Northwest Wildlife Websites BBC’s wildlife finder National Geographic Daily News – Animals
Take care, stay well and God Bless.