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Friday, December 19, 2014

Yule be sorry.

Marvin (my personal robot assistant)! Can you come in here for a few minutes and vacuum up all these fragments? No, not with your mouth! Use your upholstery attachment. Silly robot.

I don't know about this, Lincoln.Lots to do around the holidays, as you well know. Some tasks are more challenging than others. I've always found bending candy canes particularly difficult. A lot of breakage. There's got to be a better way! (Matt is thinking about taking a correspondence course in pretzel-bending, so maybe some of those skills will be transferable. We shall see.)

As I was saying last week, we have some holiday traditions that we try to observe on a yearly basis. Some of them could be described as strange; others, just a little off the beaten path. Occasionally we try out a new "tradition" and see if it sticks, like that year we put the man-sized tuber on an upside-down wash basin and decorated him like a Christmas tree. I think that was Anti-Lincoln's idea. Anyway, it lacked that kind of stickiness I was referring to earlier. (Tubey still isn't talking to Anti-Lincoln ... not that tubey talks all that much ordinarily.)

Probably our best-known tradition is writing, recording, and releasing a parcel of Christmas songs - that is, Christmas-themed pop songs. That stretches way back to the late 1980s when brother Matt used to hand out cassette tapes to all and sundry on Christmas eve. Our first album, 2000 Years to Christmas, was a collection of some of our favorites from those ancient tapes - 13 songs drawn from what was easily a catalog of about 60 to 75 songs in total over eight years or so. (That was a large component of Matt's musical output, though by far not the majority of songs he wrote over that period.)

Now we put them out on our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. Some of the ones we've put out in recent years are additional selections from Matt's cassette tape holiday basket, re-recorded in our basement studio. Others are more recent concoctions.

So, look under your tree this Christmas for another parcel of holiday cheer from Big Green. Got a laptop and wi-fi? Plunk it under the tree and point your browser to big-green.net/pod. It's that simple. Santa works in mysterious ways.

Big week.

This has been one of those weeks, to be sure. A lot has happened and very quickly, so let me take these one at a time.

Cuba. President Obama announced a reset of relations with Cuba this past Wednesday, an initiative that includes establishment of an American embassy in Havana and the release of the remaining members of the Cuban Five, as well as the return of Alan Gross. This somewhat surprising announcement was, of course, met with flaming hair by the conservative majority in Congress and by other longtime critics of the Cuban revolution. Marco Rubio, for instance, bemoaned the fact that the maximalist goals of conservatives were not realized on the first day of the new relationship.

Patience, Marco! The cause of neoliberalism is not yet lost. To listen to Obama's defense of his decision, you would think the prime motivation for improved ties between the two countries is for the joys of capitalism to rain down on the hapless Cubans. God help them. Still, a pretty momentous day, to be sure.

What North Koreans find hard to forgetNorth Korea. When you produce a movie that makes a joke out of the assassination of the leader of a garrison state, its back against the wall for decades, you should respect a negative reaction. Agents purportedly working for North Korea have threatened violence against theaters running "The Interview", promising 9/11 type attacks, somewhat incredibly. SONY Pictures pulled the film, generating a mountain of criticism. An AP article suggested that SONY feared hostilities against Japan by a nuclear-armed North Korea.

This is pretty overblown. Rhetoric is one thing; credible threats are something else entirely. Pyongyang's rants against the United States and its allies are delivered in the absence of any capability to act upon them. On the other hand, when our government states that "all options are on the table" with regard to North Korea, and when we conduct massive joint maneuvers with South Korea (including mock invasions of the North), we do so in the context of overwhelming power that has been exercised against the North Koreans in the past. Best to remember that their section of the peninsula was utterly destroyed by our military in 1950-53; not a single standing structure remaining by the time we were done, and deaths in the millions. That leaves a lasting impression.

Our media-driven culture emphasizes the crazy when it focuses on North Korea. And sure, they seem particularly crazy when you ignore the history. History doesn't excuse malevolent behavior, but it does render it more comprehensible. At the very least, it enables you to understand why a comedy about assassinating their leader might, well, make them angry.

luv u,

jp