Spread the Word, Shake the Interweb

Today started as one of those days that was bound to be memorable.  The sun was shining, the leaves were turning, and the air was not quite to cold.  The world smells of briskness and new life, even if it is just a last flash in the pan before winter.  The world is waiting for all of us to scamper about, flinging limbs, in some final furious effort to enjoy ourselves before winter hibernation.  And I myself am ready to fling.

But there are other vibrations about as well.  Thanksgiving is coming up, the first marker of the holiday season, which is supposed to be all about gratitude, love, and sharing.  And what better way to begin the early edge of that season than with Blog Action Day, a day to really educate others on a single topic and hopefully do something about it. This year, the focus is on poverty.

And what can we say about it?  We are, after all, going through a financial crisis.  Many of those who were not feeling the bite of poverty now are.  And how are we, on the whole, responding?  Many of us are looking to the government for support.  Some of us are looking to each other, which is a start.  But I personally haven’t felt the bite too much.  And what have I been doing about it?  Very little.

I can remember first moving to Boston and being completely strapped for cash.  And yet, every week, I would put a little something aside to give away to people who might need it.  It might have been a small donation to a food pantry or a shelter.  It might have been just paying for a friend’s lunch.  But I remember those small expenses as something I couldn’t really afford, that I gave anyway.

Now that I’ve been steadily employed for several years, the savings all go somewhere else.  Sure, I make a much more sizable charitable donation every month, and I do still set aside some time to volunteer.  But by percentage, it’s nowhere near the same amount.  When you’re making ends meet, you don’t worry about setting aside money for health care or as savings.  Now that I actually have money and can afford nice things, I feel I’ve become much more materialistic and scroogy.

So where is the line drawn?  At what point do I stop spending for myself and start spending for others, or vice versa?  And how much do I try to save, even if in trust for those who will need it later?

The Fourth

I love the Fourth of July.  Not because of the fireworks, or the barbecues, or because one of my good friends has a birthday then.  Certainly not because of the crowds and traffic and drunk people.  Not even because I’m a true patriot glorying in American independence.  But all of these things are unquestionably part of the holiday.

It has more to do with memory that I can’t escape.  I can remember sitting and waiting in endless boredom for the world to grow dark enough.  I can still see the afterimage of sparklers circling and spelling my name, and the occasional prick of a sparkle that comes too close to flesh.  I can remember setting off fountains in the driveway, the short catch of my breath anticipating the first spark.  I can remember blankets and food enough for an army spread to watch the explosions shot from the tallest deck of the highest skyscraper in Indianapolis.  I can remember the shivering intensity of waiting for the next big bang, my nerves as thick with crackle as in a thunderstorm.  I certainly can remember leaving early, before the crowds, looking back with longing at every next flash.  For all these memories  there must be a certain excitement surrounding the Fourth of July.

Last night I didn’t bring a camera to the rooftop barbecue I attended with friends.  I knew it would be dark and crowded and full of faces I have countless good pictures of – why waste the effort?  But at that moment of wonder when the fireworks started going off, I wanted to capture everything: The sense of joy and wonder and focus in everyone around me.  The colors burned into your eyes by thousands of tiny explosions.  The music of the Pops blaring as loudly as  possible through a 1980s clock radio that had seen better days. The scent of grill and citronella.  The sound of aimless voices singing along to patriotic songs they hear only once  a year, trying to recall childhood words.  The clapping and oohs for the ‘good’ ones.

The results are less than extraordinary:

Still, the feeling remains with me, and I am grateful enough for that.

Patriot’s Day

There are few holidays in the US that are celebrated only at a state level.  Of course there are always local and municipal celebrations, but rarely do businesses close for them, especially in larger cities.  The only semi-local holiday I know of is the Massachusetts-wide celebration of Patriot’s Day, which corresponds to the Boston marathon.  It is for this holiday that I am typing at home today.

Other than allowing those thin little champions of the marathon a day to run, what is this holiday for?  Are there more patriots in Mass than other places?  Does the history of the area, in particular in relationship to its history during the Revolutionary War, give it the special status of an additional holiday that other less historical regions do not deserve?

According to Wikipedia, the holiday is a celebration of the start of the Revolutionary War in the battles of Lexington and Concord.  It is also celebrated in Maine, because Maine was once part of Massachusetts.  I suppose that’s a valid celebration of history, even though the actual battles took place considerably further south.  However, no explanation is given for the fact that public schools in Wisconsin also take this day as a holiday.  Perhaps it’s another name for teacher’s in-service there, or the public school students are just unusually cheesy.  Yum.

Anyway, regardless of the reason, I plan on holding this holiday of mine in style and cheer.

St. Patrick’s Day

There are many famous myths about Saint Patrick.  There are stories of him driving the snakes out of Ireland, of him getting rid of the last monsters, and of him proselytizing so long to one particularly stubborn group of Irish that his ash walking stick rooted itself and grew into a giant tree.  While these stories are amusing, and may have fit with early are subsequent understandings of how stories should be told, they further distort the truth of the life and works of one of the patron saints of Ireland.  Acutally, there are pretty popular theories that the patron saint as celebrated later was actually the combination of the lives and works of two individuals, niether of which was Irish.  Go figure.

The questions that really come to mind to me today, on ‘his day’, really come from traditions and celebrations associated with him.  Why the green?  Just because of the shamrock and its three-in-one illustration of the Trinity?  Why lepruchans and booze?  Just cause it’s Ireland?  There’s no heavily boozy celebrations worldwide for St. Brigid who, unlike Patrick, was actually canonized by the Pope.

Despite my questions on the randomness of the holiday and all the commercialism that has sprung up around it (when else am I going to wear shamrock sunglasses and a green feather boa?) , I still had a good time yesterday at the parade in South Boston.  Besides, who wouldn’t applaud a man who gets kidnapped and is made a slave at the age of six and then doesn’t hold a grudge?  I’m not sure I could go back to help people who took me from my family as a child, even if i did manage to escape on my own.  That’s more the sort of heart I want to have – the kind that always helps people – no matter the possible political and religious implications of St. Patrick’s actions.

Calling all linguaphiles

I was recently made aware of an international holiday at this blog.  It is the International Day of Awesomeness, which is celebrated today, world-wide.  it is a day devoted to something I do very well – being awesome.  Because of this, I feel the holiday should really be celebrated on my birthday instead of March 10, but Chuck Norris was born first, so I guess I lose.  In this one instance only.

If you are interested in more information, details can be found here.  The reason I wish to share the wonder of this day with you all goes beyond just celebrating awesomeness in this case.  There’s a need.  The need is in part to spread the awesomeness around a little – the main website contains a plea for translation of the main page.  I  figure we’ve got Leo for the Japanese, Shelly could do French, Corina’s got the Spanish (if she ever has time to read my blog again) and maybe some miscellaneous people would help me with the Chinese?  That’s a pretty good spread, at least to start.  Let’s take up the torch!

I would like to awesomely suggest that this whole ‘international’ thing could be parlayed into a map with photo and video and text comment, similar to ‘Twittervision’.  Also, if anyone would like to document or suggest feats of awesomeness for today, I’m all ears.  Or rather, all eyes, since this is a blog, and I’ve moved past the age of reading out loud.  We hope.

Christmas Card Woes

This year was my first year to send out the big big list of Christmas cards with letters. It wasn’t that big of a deal – there were several addresses I ended up needing to get from people, but all in all the experience was pleasant. In general, I like talking about myself, which I guess is partly why I’m starting this blog.

The problem comes later, as it always does, with the people I’ve forgotten. I was at a wedding in Texas for New Year’s and realized I’d only sent cards to half of my college friends. Oops. Then the people who’d gotten the play-by-play of my past year of life start discussing it in detail. Limberly insert foot into mouth here.

So, here’s my very public apology to everyone I forgot. You’ll be getting a Christmas card from me in 2008 with many happy returns and a few apologies, just as soon as I remember who each of you are.