Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

So, many of you have been asking … where have you been for the past few months?

Well, The Jade Sphinx was on temporary sabbatical while I finished a (long-overdue) book on books-adapted into films with critic and historian Jim Nemeth. But since that undertaking is drawing to a close, we will be able to post more regularly in the months to come. In fact, in the weeks before Christmas, I hope to share with you multiple book reviews that reflect new and noteworthy releases. More to come!

But before that, let’s think for a moment about Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has always been our favorite holiday. It is solely predicated on the notion of giving thanks for the manifest blessings that we find around us, and for being mindful of the still, quiet miracle of our lives. Every day, wonders settle on my shoulders like so many snowflakes, and I feel deeply in touch with some greater mystery that lies beyond me.

Though uniquely American, Thanksgiving has always been our holiday least associated with ideology or creed.  The celebratory meal represents the bounty that is our lives; it is, simply, the holiday that is best shared with people we love.

I am delighted to report that as I coast through my 55th year, I am still as in love with my Better Half as I was when we first met, 27 years ago. In no time at all, we will have been together for half (and then more than half) of my life, and I wonder how we spent those early years apart.

I’m thankful for all the dear friends and family who have trekked out to Southern California to spend time with us, and to see us build a new life in a new clime.

I’m thankful that Southern California is the paradise that I suspected it to be, and for exceeding all of my expectations.

And last, but certainly not least, I’m thankful for the new addition to our lives, our dog Lucas. He is a four-and-a-half year old rescue that we adopted from nearby Seal Beach. I have long wanted a dog, and Lucas has been everything I could’ve wanted, and more. We spend an obscene amount of time just gazing at him; he makes us laugh simply by doing things as elementary as walking across the room or drinking from his water dish. He is a gift that has enriched us beyond measure.

It is important to point out that for the past few years, Americans have spent so much time over the Thanksgiving table arguing – over politics, over values, over questions of identity – that we have forgotten what this holiday is really about.

It seems as if we are always on the brink of disaster and things are always trending to ruin.  I’ll be jiggered if I’m going to haul that hoo-haw out again this year, because I think pointing out the negatives in our lives doesn’t do us a whole lot of good.  So, yeah, things are terrible, it seems no one is happy with our current condition, and the world as we know it is changing so fast, no one knows what to hold onto.  It was much the same last year and will be much the same next year.  Been there, wrote that.

But I have faith in America and Americans. Good heavens, we created this holiday, the first nation ever to create a secular day of thanks.  Patriotism was never popular among most of my friends; any positive sentiments towards the country are mostly met with ironic dismissal or sneering condescension. But I think we are a great people, or, at least, we try to be.  I don’t know the future of our land any more than you, but I do know that Americans are capable of great things, great kindness, and unity.  That last quality – unity – has been in fairly short supply in recent years, but I think it will make a remarkable resurgence in the months and years to come.  We can but hope, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This Thanksgiving, make it a point to greet your family, friends and neighbors as people, and not as units of some political philosophy.  Love and nurture each other, and remember to be kind and ethical.  And, finally, remember to be thankful.  Thankful for the many blessings in your life, the bounty of the world around you, and for the quiet, ineffable mystery of your own existence.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Halloween ... Already?

On Sale At Target!

I have been thinking much about the aesthetics of the Gothic as Halloween approaches.  As I coast into my 55th year, I continue to be amazed at how adults have successfully co-opted the holiday.  When I was a boy, Halloween was primarily a children’s holiday, and when most adults thought about it (if they did at all), it was as a nuisance.

All of that has changed.  For 2017, the National Retail Foundation (NRF) predicts that 69.1 percent of Americans will celebrate the Halloween holiday this year.  To do so, they will spend $8.4 billion (billion!) – with 44.4 percent of them starting their Halloween observance in the first two weeks of October.

This figure has been steadily increasing; for 2007, for instance, Halloween spending was “only” $5.1 billion.  This year, we will spend more than $350 million on costumes … for our pets.

People of my generation remember that Halloween was quite a big deal to us as children, but we were mostly on our own.  Halloween costumes from the Ben Cooper company arrived in October, along with some plastic pumpkin satchels and some cardboard window decorations – and that was it.  Today, each and every retail store (from card shops to food stores) has some kind of Halloween selection.  The broad array of choice and quality in Halloween products is remarkable.  These include candelabrum, snow globes, coffin-shaped jewelry boxes, plaster gargoyles and gnomes, monster bookends, dining and bedroom sundries, let alone more perishable items, like black plastic curtains and crepe paper wall coverings.  If anyone were seriously interested in spooky décor, one could furnish their home during the Halloween season and be set for the year.

We here at The Jade Sphinx love Halloween, of course. But the co-opting of the holiday by adults seems to hit a discordant note. Much like the vulgarization of classic children’s properties like Peter Rabbit, the infantilized adults we have become continue to pollute things ideally left for children.

It seems as if we are hell-bent on ruining all the great rituals of childhood because … we, as a culture, seem incapable of growing up ourselves.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cultural Decay: The Trailer for Peter Rabbit

Longtime readers of The Jade Sphinx know of our longstanding love for children’s literature. Now, Beatrix Potter’s classic tales of Peter Rabbit have been adapted into a new, animated film. Here is the trailer:

Since this simply beggars description, I will simply remain silent.