Right, I am actually still here, it’s more that between the ‘holiday season’ and attempting to find another temp position, things have gone a bit pear-shaped, as they say in Britain. And therefore there is quite a bit to blog on, including The Not Really War On Christmas, cooking both mulled wine and latkes, Ayun Halliday‘s brilliant Dirty Sugar Cookies, my contribution to HUHO #2, and my love-hate relationship with the author of the book I’m currently reading.

Since I’m in a slightly antagonistic mood, we’ll start with the first and the last, behind the cut. It’ll be clean, because after all, this blog is listed on my resume…

…and since my brother on occasion reads it. Hi Lane, if you’re watching.

I was annoyed to see, via Pandagon, that the NYT is jumping in on the whole War on Christmas blather this year. There’s just one message that I have for the fundies this year: AMERICA HAS NO PRESCRIBED STATE RELIGION.

I mean, really now, it’s in the Constitution. Check your local listings.

Now, I rather like displays, when they’re tasteful. Just, uh…not all of it. Which means that equal representation comes into play. So I’d like a menorah and a kinara along with that creché on public land (that I own, seeing as I pay taxes for its maintenance), and some pine boughs for Yule, and this year a mention of Eid would be great. Is that too much to ask? If so, we can just skip the whole thing and stick with garland and Happy New Year, that’s cool.

Every year at Christmas, I have to go to church. Lots. It drives me batty, because this whole ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ stuff isn’t even true, considering that it was all a Saturnalia thing thousands of years back, and that the Maccabees lived a century and a half before the birth of Christ. And considering the amount of churches I pass here in Milwaukee, and the support of various religion-backed initiatives here this past election, I can tell you this. Christianity is not going anywhere, or dying, or doomed, unless people accept the fact that evolution might not apply to dinosaurs, but it applies to concepts. Our world is changing, and if one doesn’t accept that, one is left by the wayside, kicking and screaming like Sam Brownback, or not.

Carrying on, a brief comment on Frances Mayes.  I’m currently plowing my way through her new book, A Year in the World, which is good reading on a literary level. The language is evocative and the descriptions interesting; she makes it clear that this is her viewpoint, though there’s so many issues in general with tourist cultural appropriation that I won’t even start here…and I haven’t yet got to the section on Scotland, on which I’m sure I’ll rant a little (as I did object to some of her comments about England and Wales).

That said, the big glaring thing that makes me blink every second this time around is money. In Under the Tuscan Sun, we’re made aware of her money concerns in buying/working on her house, though she’d be fine financially if she wasn’t, you know, remodeling an old Tuscan villa. At least there it’s a concern. Here…not so much. The truth of the matter is, only Frances Mayes or someone like her could write a book like this, and it’s not because she’s talented with words. It’s because she and her husband have the money to travel all over Europe and Northern Africa, and stay in these charming guesthouses and even cut her losses when they don’t suit and go find another one. It’s this unreal world that I’ve never been a part of and don’t know if I ever will, even if I do, for some reason, become wealthy.

Cultural experiences are fantastic, and I think that everyone should have the gift of extended travel in a foreign country. But that’s only available to a select few, and without even realising it, Mayes rubs that in.