Thursday, December 30, 2010

Do you believe in pure evil? For instance--is it possible for a human being to be purely, entirely evil?

The simple answer is that, no, I don't believe in pure evil--certainly not when applied to human beings.

I believe that all people may choose good. (It's kind of central to my religious faith.) And so I can't believe that no one is redeemable or worthy of hope.

Even the worst characters in history had the chance to be better people, if only they had taken that risk and accepted the challenge to make better choices. But everyone is given the free will to make up their own paths and those paths can be good, bad, or vacillating between the two on a frequent basis.

Anyway, that is my (very short) answer.

Thanks for asking.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Return of Mr. Mustachio

About a week before Christmas day, I got a package in the mail from my brother Andy. It was rectangular, wrapped in gold paper, and bearing a homemade card saying To: David a.k.a "The Forkmaster" From: Andy.

I was mystified. I knew that the title was a clue, but I couldn't figure out what it was referring to. Andy and Mike have called me many nicknames over the years, but I didn't remember The Forkmaster being one of them. I put the present under the tree and moved on with work and other things.

This morning, as we are plowing through our presents, the box circulates around to me and I am reminded of the mystery. The Forkmaster! What does it mean?

I tear open the package, open the box and find an object wrapped in paper, accompanied by a hand-written note. Obviously, I was expecting a fork or something related to eating. And still, it wasn't until I rolled the utensil out of the paper and into my hand that it all became clear.

Mr. Mustachio was back in my life again!


It was a stainless steel fork, a salad-sized fork to be more specific. And while you might not think it special to me it carried a great deal of childhood memories. Sitting around the dinner table with Mom and Dad, Mike, Andy, and Mary. Going camping in the summers in the North Georgia section of the Southern Appalachians. At various, unsuspecting times, Mr. Mustachio had been a part of it. He was a fork, but he had a particular design, with a bit of the tined area cut out in a Fleur-de-lis pattern that (to one of us) had looked like a mustache and tiny Van Dyke beard. And so, this fork was named Mustachio--but I particularly liked to formalize it to Mr. Mustachio.

I don't recall if Mr. M had similarly hirsute brethren. In my memory, he stood alone--the last swank soldier from some stylish era of dining in the distant past. I guess that Mom and Dad explained how he came to us, but I don't remember that either.

What I do remember is that Mr. Mustachio was special. Because we saw him as one-of-a-kind, it was a special event when he turned up. And whoever got to use him at any particular meal was honored in some mysterious way. (You can see that we had to find odd ways to entertain ourselves when cable wasn't prevalent, video games were rudimentary, and the best show on television was about a talking, super-intelligent car.) I remember him being a part of ordinary meals at home, but somewhere along the line, Mr. Mustachio got into our camping gear and that made him even more special. (As we usually camped once a year, so the opportunity to eat with him was lessened.)*

So, here was a family oddity. (Call it a tradition if you like, but it wasn't as set in stone and as regularized as what we usually think of as family traditions.) Some families try to catch each other unawares at the start of every month by saying the word "Rabbit." (True story, but not my family.) We had a special fork.

And well, it died off as we grew and moved away from home. I forgot all about Mr. Mustachio . . . mostly. Though I once explained the specialness of him to my kids once when we mixed in some different silverware to our regular set and a different set of fancily-engraved spoons became temporarily "special." But they didn't have the interest, or the pre-Internet focus, to turn it into something more than a momentary blip in their routine.

But today, they got to see Mustachio with their own eyes. They got to see how special he was and how jauntily his moustache cut-out made him a cut above the run-of-the-mill flatware. And he is MINE! Mine for a year.

For, you see, the letter explained that I am the keeper of Mustachio until next Christmas. And as The Forkbearer, I get to wield the special honor of Mustachio to whomever I want. After discussing it with Mary on the phone today, I think that Mustachio will be awarded around our family in the coming year to celebrate individual achievements or to acknowledge hard work. Or perhaps to brighten up a difficult day. And he will be well kept in Ohio during 2011. But as next year's holiday season arrives, I will have to pass on the role of Forkbearer to someone else in my family, where they can bask in Mr. Mustachio's glory for the next year.

How will I choose next year's recipient? I still haven't settled on a final criteria. (Feel free to contribute any suggestions you may have to help me with this the Comments.) Perhaps I will reward the person who is nicest to me during this year? Perhaps I will bestow it upon the person who needs cheering up the most? Or perhaps it's be whomever bribes me most effectively? Or maybe I'll just choose a name out of a hat. Only time and more thought can tell.

All I know is that I used Mr. Mustachio for the first time during our delicious Christmas Day afternoon feast. And it made the turkey that much more succulent, the stuffing that much more savory, and the fruit salad that much more fruity.

The year ahead is looking good, my friends.

*I verified most of these details with Mom and Dad earlier tonight in my Christmas phone call. There was only one. And we didn't use him all the time. (You're welcome.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

SURPRISE! "Collapse into Now"

Wait, what?

A new R.E.M. album is coming in March?

I didn't know I should get excited until right now.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Santa speculations

During dinner tonight I was discussing Santa Claus with the girls. Sarah has been gamely playing along and is doing a good job of convincing Grace that she once saw Santa Claus when she was seven-years-old and came down in the night to get a drink of water. (I'd blame How the Grinch Stole Christmas here, but I don't think Sarah's memory for that particular holiday tale is that good.)

Grace and I were trying to get more details out of Sarah on what Santa looked like, how much he weighed, etc. We were also discussing how many cookies he eats each year. I suggested that perhaps Santa doesn't eat each cookie he is presented with, but instead eats some and stores the rest in the bundle he has flung on his back. As the presents are removed, cookies fill the space. In this way, he can store up food for the lean Spring, Summer, and Autumn months . . . as I noted that it's not likely that Santa has a grocery store nearby at the North Pole.

Grace seemed to accept that, with a wink. (She's well used to my tall tales by now.)

But I probably went off the deep end a few minutes later when I made Sarah realize that she must have encountered Santa during his annual pre-Christmas visit to our house. (Because we have always been elsewhere on the actual Christmas Eve, her tale of coming downstairs for a glass of water could only take place PRIOR to our annual trip south.)

And this made some sense, as I speculated that during these pre-Christmas trips, Santa's guard is lessened and he is more likely to be caught unawares.  I then began to wonder how Santa was able to get his last-minute preparations for the global trip taken care of when he is constantly faced with the special requests from families like ours who insist on having multiple Christmases on different days.

Perhaps, I wondered, Santa has a contingency plan set up for families such as ours in which he beams the presents to the house from a remote location on whatever date is requested. And we don't notice them because they are hidden with a cloaking device of some sort that is automatically deactivated at the scheduled time?

The kids greeted this idea with the necessary skepticism, and wondered why they never stepped on them, invisible or not?

Well, then, I conjectured, maybe Santa places the gifts not in a cloaking field, but in a parallel dimension that mysteriously merges with ours when the family being serviced is all fast asleep?


(Such are the things we discuss when taking our mind off of leftovers.)

I welcome your comments, elaborations, and embellishments.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Long Awaited (1st) Post About Our Trip to Disney World

It's perhaps hard to believe that our family trip to Disney World occurred almost two months ago now. And it's more than likely that everyone who needs to hear about the details have already heard them. But, I'm going to try and capture some of the trip here anyway.

(And while were at it, does anyone out there want to troll back through my posts and see how many of them I start with an apologetic tone? I've gotta work on that.)

ANYWAY . . .

We were down in Georgia for my brother's wedding. It was because we were already (more than!) halfway to Orlando that we decided to tack the Disney World trip at the end of the established wedding trip.

And can I pause here to note my utter astonishment when I mapped the route from my home town to Orlando, FL and discovered that it was less than five hours south?! I immediately felt cheated! How could I have lived SO CLOSE to the Happiest Place on Earth my entire childhood . . . only to visit it once with my family? Clearly they didn't love us . . .

But, to be fair, I did get to go two other times--once with a friend when EPCOT was new (and still enticing, but more on that later) and a second time for Grad Night 1990. YEAH! Grad Night! I'll have to search back through my scrapbooks and find the picture taken of me at Grad Night '90. But more on that later.

So, after the wedding festivities, we packed ourselves back into the van and drove south for the (SHORT!!) trip to the Magic Kingdom.

We arrived in Orlando in the mid afternoon and drove into the park's vortex soon enough. But before we were sucked completely below the Event Horizon, we stopped at a grocery store and picked up some kitchen supplies and breakfast foods for our cabin kitchen. We were planning to stay at the Fort Wilderness campgrounds, eating our first dinner there that night and then each morning making our own breakfasts before heading off to the park for the day. Once we got into the campgrounds and registered for our cabin, we spent the rest of the day settling down in our rooms, unpacking, and preparing our dinner of spaghetti.

That night, our first planned Disney thing was to gather with other Ft. Wilderness residents for the Campfire Jamboree with Chip 'n' Dale. So, Lynda gave Hannah a bath and put her in her pajamas--figuring that she'd get tired and fall asleep before we got back to the cabin. (This was the first misinterpretation of what Hannah would do during this trip.) Then, rather than catch one of the buses that drove through the campground, we chose to walk--which we never chose to do again during the next several days we stayed there. It was a bit of a long walk from our cabin, situated near the the entrance to the campgrounds, to the central area where the Jamboree was to be help. But we didn't know that yet.

So we gathered together the chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows that we'd bought earlier today at the grocery store and set off into the dark night. Using a flashlight and a map of the grounds, we eventually found the area where the two campfires were already burning and smores were already being made. I bought 50 cent dowels to stick the marshmallows on and we got to having some fun. After jocking for position amongst all of the families, I put together enough for everyone to have one (or two) of the smores (if they liked). After that we found a spot in the crowd and were led in some sing-alongs with Cowboy Bob and Chip and Dale themselves. Everyone was having a good time and Hannah danced along to the songs in her PJs. After the singing was over, Chip and Dale circulated through the crowd, "saying" hello to each family in turn and signing autograph books.

Collecting autographs was a new development since I was first visiting Disney World years ago. Apparently it's the thing to do to get a small notebook and whenever you get the chance to see a character in costume, get your picture taken, and get an autograph. I'm not sure how the "characters" can see well enough to sign, but they are surprisingly good at it. For each day we were out and about, we were always on the look out for signing opportunities. We did quite well, actually.

After the visits from the chipmunks, the last event of the evening was an outdoor theater viewing of a Disney movie. That night it was Monsters Inc. We stuck around for the first thirty or forty-five minutes of it and then decided to walk back to the cabin to bed down for the night.

The next day . . . our first day in the Magic Kingdom . . . was going to start early. So, we needed our rest.