+++*

Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts tagged with ‘Yuletide’

Strange Loop

In which things get into a circular reference

Things go around in circles. This site has been quiet for a while in the past, more than once, and it will probably happen again in the future at some point. I can’t tell when, but it will probably happen.

Still, a new year is as good a time for a new start as any, even though I try not to believe in arbitrary starting-points. It’s hard to avoid it at this time of year, though: forced to stay away from work, expected to visit the family, exchange gifts, rest for a week and recover ready for the new year’s start. I’ve been staying in and reading one of the books I received for Christmas: Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter. It’s a long book, a complex book, and I haven’t finished it yet: but its essence is in loops, looping, and self-referentiality. How self-referentiality is necessary, as a minimum, before self-awareness can occur. It seems like an ideal thing to talk about on a blog which has always been highly aware that it’s a blog, but I’m not sure if I’ve taken in enough of the book to write about it yet. “It’s got a lot of equations in it,” said The Mother, giving it to me. It does have, true; it also has some truly awful puns, intertwined and nested ideas, and dialogues between fictional and/or appropriated characters who butt into the discussion on a regular basis.

Funnily enough, a letter came the other day from regular reader E. Shrdlu of Clacton-on-Sea…

The Plain People Of The Internet: Hurrah! We were wondering when that chap would pop up again. We were worried he’d got stuck putting shapes into boxes, or analysing what kind of linoleum he has in his kitchen.

Hush, you. As I was saying, a letter came, from semi-regular reader E. Shrdlu of Clacton-on-Sea:

“Gödel, Escher, Bach” is quite a work to try to emulate, isn’t it? Maybe you should try something simpler. Never mind the parallels between human consciousness, a baroque composer and a 20th-century artist: have you thought about the links between something simpler, like TV ghost stories and the British railway preservation movement? Or maybe: the parallels between the work of Robert Graves and books like “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”. Something nice and straightforward like that.

It’s an interesting idea there. Maybe I should indeed be starting off along those lines. Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be writing a critique of a piece of writing I read for the first time a few days ago. It starts like this:

Things go around in circles. This site has been quiet for a while in the past, more than once, and it will probably happen again in the future at some point. I can’t tell when, but it will probably happen.

Still, a new year is as good a time for a new start as any, even though I try not to believe in arbitrary starting-points…

Somehow, I think I might be onto something.

The turn of the year

In which I consider the seasonal cycle

The night is drawing in, as I draft this post.* The sky is darkening, and the lamps are lit, to brighten the house and drive back the winter darkness. It’s a time to light candles, and fires, and stare into their hearts. We still have a visceral response to fire, glowing embers and flickering, crackling flames.

As we stare at it, though, the world turns. The world turns, and after today, ice gives way to fire again. It might take time for the darkness to lift and long days to return; but the world will turn, and everything will come around in its cycle. As it does every year. That doesn’t mean, though, that today isn’t time to light a candle and huddle round it, fighting back the dark.

* which was a few days ago, now; and when this post appeared online it was morning. But it’s a better way to open than: “The night is drawing in … well, it was at 4pm on Friday”

Yuletide

In which we feel like cancelling Christmas but bringing back Yule

There’s five days to go, and I already feel like I want to cancel Christmas. I haven’t written a single card. I haven’t bought many presents, and I have no idea what The Parents actually want. To be fair, neither do they. I try to go look for something on my lunch break, and everyone else has had the same idea. The roads into town are gridlocked; as soon as I’ve found a parking space, it’s time to head out back to the office again.

But then, I look out at the night sky, and I remember what the Yuletide season is really about. I feel the crisp air, watch the frost, and think about the turning seasons. On Saturday,* the daytime stops shrinking and slowly starts to get longer again; and there is winter itself to enjoy. As this year starts to turn over into the next, I know I’m older, wiser, learning more about who I am and what I enjoy in life; and becoming happier with it, too. And I’m looking forward to life with excitement, and wondering just what we’re going to do next.

* Pedants might point out that the solstice is on the 21st, and Saturday is the 22nd. However, the solstice isn’t always on the same date. This December it’s on the 22nd, unless you’re in the Far East.

Festive Music

In which we ponder the potential Christmas Number One

As it’s the week before Christmas: it’s time for the most pointless contest in music: the Christmas Number One Single. It may be slightly meaningless, and it may well end up being won by some talent-show contestant with nothing interesting about him whatsoever; but at least it gets people buying and listening to music. I hope.

The Last.FM website is campaigning to get “Lips are Unhappy” by Lucky Soul to the top of the charts. They have a lot of users, but I’m not sure they’re going to make it. Radio One, on the other hand, is apparently backing “We’re All Going To Die” by Malcolm Middleton. Now, “We’re All Going To Die” is a wonderful song. It’s the opening track to Middleton‘s last album, the one with the David Shrigley artwork, and it’s a lively, exciting, life-affirming piece of music, a wonderful thing to play at this time of year.* I’d be completely behind it, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s Radio One supporting the damn thing. Admittedly, one of their better DJs, and someone who works hard to broaden the range of what the station plays; but still, I feel slightly odd about the idea of agreeing with a Radio One-related campaign.

* Never mind what the title says, and never mind it being by someone out of Arab Strap, it’s not actually depressing at all.

That time of the year

Or, time to start planning next Yule

Next year, and in future, I’m going to make my own Yuletide and/or Christmas cards, pretending to come from intriguing-sounding fictitious organisations.

Blessed Yule from the Chocolate Digestive Research Association

Or, if I feel really energetic, invent complete round-robin letters in a similar vein

2007 was a busy year for everyone at the Calderdale Explorers And Adventurers Society. In January, Sir Reginald Outhwaite (membership no. 207) discovered an entirely new and unmapped area of wilderness near Denholm Clough, but was soon overshadowed by Col. Andrew Davidson-Spong’s discovery of a lost Andean civilisation in the hills just outside Todmordon. February was quiet, but March brought our annual big-game hunting expedition, this year in a part of the world our members rarely visit – Scarborough.

Seasonal tidings to anyone who has come online today. I’m off now, to throw balled-up wrapping paper for the cat to play fetch with.

The fog

In which it’s the season of the new year

The fog is thick all over the country at the moment, but it’s only now it is affecting The South that it makes it into the news. Up here in The Forest we’ve had thick fog all week, but it hasn’t troubled the press at all. I’ve been driving the Town route home rather than the normal Country route,* because a fog-bump at 30mph is a lot safer, to my mind, than one at 70.

I’ve recently been rereading The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper, for the nth time. And with the weather gripping the country, I couldn’t help thinking about that book. It’s set at this time of year, between Yuletide and Epiphany, and as the great force of evil, the Dark, rises and attacks the land, it brings on a great freeze and blizzards, stopping anyone from leaving their home. A great freeze is rather more dramatic than all-consuming freezing fog, but the fog has the same effect, muffling us all and slowing us to a standstill.

But now it’s the 21st of December, the time the festive season really starts. The solstice is tomorrow, I believe, and the year will have turned over. The solstice is the proper new year – it’s not an arbitrary date, it’s a measurable point in the turning sky. From tonight, everything will get lighter and brighter and on its way into spring. This is the time of year for flame and warmth and remembering that sunlight will come back into our lives.

* which is longer but a lot quicker

Miscellany

In which various things happen, and we listen to Thought For The Day

First Christmas present bought already, but I’m still going to have to devote the weekend to running around the county hoping desperately to find something inspirational. I’m not saying what I’ve already bought. It’s for my dad, and I don’t think he reads this place, but you never know.

When I get up in the morning, I have Radio 4 on in the background. I like Radio 4, but I normally try very hard to avoid listening to Thought For The Day, in case of the very real risk that it will make me want to throw the radio through the kitchen window.* Today though, I caught a quick flash of it. I can’t remember the exact phrase I heard, but it was something along the lines of “lots of Christians use phrases like ‘God willing’ and ‘if God wishes it’ all the time”. Which left me rather puzzled, because even though I’ve known a large number of devout Christians over the years, none of them have ever said any such thing in normal conversation. Maybe one of the good aspects of Thought For The Day is that it makes you realise there are people out there whose view of the world is so partial and skewed, that they really do believe they are standard conversational phrases, just because that’s what all their friends say.

I was talking to someone last night about the next Book I Haven’t Read that I’m going to write about: House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. “Oh, I don’t think anyone’s read that all the way through,” she said. “I don’t think you can.” So maybe I should invite additional contributions to the next Book I Haven’t Read post – if you have read House Of Leaves all the way through without cheating, let me know.

Big Dave says he’s found a flat now. A “one-bed studio flat”, or what people Up North** still call a bedsit. At least this means he has the weekend to do his Christmas shopping in, rather than worrying about property-hunting trips down to Barking and Beckton.

* especially if Anne Atkins is the writer/presenter.

** apart from if you’re a property developer, of course. Or you live in Leeds, probably.

Ideas wanted

In which we ponder Christmas presents

It’s not quite the Christmas season for a while yet, but it’s getting near the time when I’m starting to think about what presents to buy. And, particularly, what to buy for the parents. I never know. I always try to think of something unusual, different and interesting, and I usually end up buying the same old books and DVDs for them.

Last year, the mother received a fossilised fish, because Colleague M Emily* had bought something very similar for her mother, so that gave me the idea. On paper it was a terrible present for my mother, because she hates ornaments. Everyone else at the office said “a fish? Why are you getting your mother a fish?” As it turned out, though, she loved it.

This year, though, I haven’t spotted anything equally unusual; and I have to think of things for my dad, too. Any suggestions?

* she asked I use her real name, in case you were feeling confused. Her mother’s present was a pair of polished stone bookends; I bought my mother’s fish-slab from the same shop.