Very Well Then

Contradicting myself, always contradicting myself

Archive for December, 2008

Stuttering Into the New — Solstice, Christmas, New Year

Posted by verywellthen on December 16, 2008


Sunrise or Sunset (Library of Congress) Public Domain

Sunrise or Sunset (Library of Congress) Public Domain

In grade school catechism class I learned that the early Catholic Church placed Christmas on December 25th to counter the pagan holidays occurring at the Winter Solstice.  I repeat this with authority, because on matters such as this, I consider the source to be no less accurate than Wikipedia.
Whether this Fourth Century strategy of declaring December 25 to be Christmas was to co-opt the existing spiritual mindset or to use the wonderful symbolism of the savior born as the darkness begins receding, it is maddeningly inaccurate.  Christmas typically misses the solstice by 3 or 4 days, depending on the year.  
Equally annoying is the fact that New Year’s Day is not until a week later. Sixteenth Century powers that be set up an annual calendar that delineates “Before Christ” from “the Year of our Lord”.    But each year itself has a “Before Christ” period, followed by a “Few Days of our Lord.”
I know nobody believes that the calendar by a centuries-long committee got much right.  I’ve heard theories placing an actual date to Jesus’ birth based on which season the Shepherds would have been tending their flock at night and when an astrological event might have illuminated a celestial beacon to guide wise men to the Christ Child. As far as the year – prevailing thinking has Christ born several years Before Christ.
Now, I don’t expect leaders of the Middle Ages to be accurate, but couldn’t they have been a bit more consistent?  If you’re assigning an arbitrary birthday based on the solstice, why not place it on the solstice?  When you’re establishing a first year based on the birth of Christ, why not start it at your already-established date of the birth of Christ?
So, Year 1 A.D. is the year Jesus was born.  With the Little Lord Jesus arriving late in the year, under the established scheme, it was already Year Two of Our Lord by the time Jesus was a week old.
Which brings me to my biggest calendar peeve of all – that the calendar designers started the yearly odometer at 1 instead of 0. As one trained in computer programming – this drives me crazy.  Start your iterative loops at zero and you’ll avoid a lot of trouble – remember that whole debate whether 2000 or 2001 was the start of the millennium?  There are consecutive historical years of 1 B.C. and 1 A.D.  That’s counting from -1 to 1 while skipping over zero.
The season of annual rebirth ends up as a big old Western Calendar fudge factor.  This year’s winter solstice arrives on December 21 (Northern Hemisphere, GMT), giving us a twelve day period of renewal. Hold it, the Twelve Days of Christmas?  That sounds familiar. But, alas, those musical 12 days are based on the period from Christmas to the Epiphany, which is – get this – 13 days.   I guess in the fabulous game-show-eight-day-seven-night-vacation-package logic – you would only be charged for 12 days for the hotel room. Mr. True Love got lucky he didn’t have to buy Thirteen somethings somethinging.* 
It’s too late to do anything about it now, of course.  And, I guess, like all good fudge factors, this thing works okay in its own way.  The calendar gives us three distinct beginnings each winter season — the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and New Year’s Day – one natural, one spiritual, one secular.  I don’t know about you, but I could use all three.

In the litany of the “12 Days” gifts — note the interesting gift order.  For seven days, it’s birds, birds, birds – with just a day interlude for the golden rings.  Imagine the Eighth day:    

True Love:  Honey, guess what I’ve got for you today?  Close your eyes and don’t open them until I tell you.

Honey (to herself):  Oh, god.  Please not more birds.  How about some more of those golden rings.

True Love:  Okay, you can open your eyes.

Honey (opening eyes):  Who are the hayseeds?

True Love: Eight Maids A Milking, my love.

Honey:  Humans?  I get servants?  I’m going to need to hock those rings just to pay for their salaries. 

True Love:  Dear, just you wait for the rest of the week.

Honey:  Well, at least they’ve got an agriculture background.  Maybe they can help take care of all those damn birds.


Posted in The Junk Pile | Leave a Comment »

The Big Story In Baseball for 2008

Posted by verywellthen on December 10, 2008

There were the exorcized Rays and Philly getting a belated championship.  There were the Cubs looking like champions but (again) disappointing their increasingly demanding fans.  There was Roger Clemens trying to extricate himself from the allegations of his personal trainer and Barry Bonds sitting the whole year.  There was Pujols excellence and MannyBeingMannyInLA.  


But the biggest story in baseball in 2008 is the biggest story in the nation in 2008 and one that is just beginning to unfold — the It-Might-Be-Great-Yet Depression.  

I’m no economist, but I’ll play one on the internet and conjecture that baseball revenues are primarily tied to four things:

1)taxpayer subsidies, mostly in the form of all those new stadia, mostly financed through public bonds;

2) fans, either showing up at the gate or buying the cable and internet packages and licensed baseball;

3) uber-rich owners throwing money at their little trophy hobby (not technically revenue, but it can keep those salaries inflated),

4) corporations paying for the luxury suites and premium seating and advertising and naming rights.  

Oddly, I think the revenue source that will dip the least will be the from the fans.   Maybe I’m too big of a fan to objectively project my behavioral theory to apply to the casual fans or the family-of-five-on-a-sketchy salary fans, but I love the sport too much to look away.  

Regardless, baseball is about to get a financial fastball — high and tight.

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | 1 Comment »

You’re My Favorite Thing — Posterisks

Posted by verywellthen on December 10, 2008

Kansas City never hit my radar screen as a place to live.  But when I discovered Joe Posnanski’s baseball-ish blog, I wished I had been reading his Kansas City sports columns for years.   His tales of childhood in Cleveland make me nostalgic for it, though I’ve never even been in Ohio.  He isn’t old school, he respects the modern stats, yet he’s been around enough to anchor them with necessary caveats and a human basis.  His touch is light enough to stay well above the frequent baseball-blog tone of ridicule.

And damn he’s funny.  I get most of his references and his jokes seem just a more advance and adroit form of humor that I feel I’m almost capable of.

I don’t know if he pioneered his use of footnotes, but he’s self-promoted his style with the name Posterisk. when he’s lost on a subject that I don’t have much emotional involvement (such as writing about the KC Chiefs), I’ll scan what he’s dubbed the Posterisks.  It’s sort of like David Foster Wallace footnoting, except that you’re led to the footnote by an asterisk, the footnoted section is typed in italics and resides just below the paragraph that originates the asterisk*.    It’s easy to read in computer scroll text.   And nothing makes me smile like a good tangent.

* And he will even embed Posterisks**

** I need to think of something Posnanski-style funny to put here.  ***

*** Okay, here is the Posterisk that first pulled me into the almost daily musings of Joe — much to the loss of my professional productivity.  Scroll down to the third italic segment for his imagined pitch to the TV producer for Gilligan’s Island.

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball, You're My Favorite Thing | 2 Comments »