Monday, November 29, 2010

Let the Traditions Begin!

There are Christmas traditions with which I grew up that have not translated well into adulthood. The cardboard fireplace, for example. Absolutely the hokiest decoration ever. I have no idea where on earth Mom picked it up, and after the first year I suspect I was the primary reason it got assembled every subsequent year until the poor thing itself became a fire hazard. But I loved it. Since I was the one to assemble it, I guess I took on a pride of ownership sentiment; it was one of the few things that I could actually build year after year that didn't look like a really bad shop project in junior high. I can remember sitting for hours and staring at the cheap little tin propeller that spun over the red light bulb and simulated "fire" glowing in the fireplace. Growing up in Simi Valley it was the closest to a real fireplace that I'd ever seen. Not much call for them except for two or three weeks out of the year, really.

By the time the fireplace became fodder for the recycling bin, I'd moved on to bigger and, arguably, better traditions.

Most of those traditions revolved around Christmas music. Not any particular song, necessarily. Just the joy of singing wonderful music centered around this unique blend of the spiritual and the secular that result in just about the most fun a musician can have and still be considered legal.

By the time I'd entered high school, my internal calendar pretty much revolved around a standard concert season. Most concert seasons seem to be based on the standard school calendar, beginning in fall and ending either in spring or early summer. After an all-too brief hiatus in the summer, it's back to the rehearsal grind and the arrival of the first octavos of...


In high school we occasionally had a reprieve of a few weeks before the good stuff showed up, whilst our director dithered over whether to bother with a fall concert. When working with kids, that's not a lot of time to slam together a concert of any length with two or more of your active groups, only to turn around and have them begin to memorize the Christmas repertoire. More typically we'd keep a few generic pieces that could be performed at the drop of a hat at, say, the Knights of Columbus hall, or the VFW, and spend most of our fall rehearsal time working on the holiday tunes.

My life has chugged along in this pattern, year after year, whenever I've been fortunate enough to work in an active choir.

For the last seven years, though, our actual holiday "season" hasn't officially gotten underway until our annual Messiah Sing-Along. The Yorba Linda Arts Alliance was looking for a really, really cheap tenor soloists that first year who would work for the right price (FREE) and I was recommended by a mutual acquaintance. I've been the tenor soloist for this event every year since. (Proof here.)

So there are two things that make this a wonderful way to begin our season. First, the family gets to listen to Daddy do a not-bad job on a mildly challenging solo ("Every valley shall be exalted"). Even better, we begin our celebrations with a recitation of some of the more significant prophecies surrounding the birth and mission of the Savior by listening to a setting that comes nearer to celestial music (in my mind) than practically anything written before or since.

Musically, "Messiah" (I will NOT entertain the whole "The Messiah" vs. "Messiah" debate here... Schirmer wrote "THE MESSIAH" bold as brass on my 1912 edition of the score that I use every year, and I have to continually remind myself that many music snobs get VERY UPSET when you use "The" in front of "Messiah." Phooey, I say!) may quote extensively from Handel's earlier works, but what musician doesn't borrow from their own work when they live and die by the commission? We love the music, and find it a perfect companion to our festive spirit.

All this by way of saying that our traditional holiday season has begun here at Hacienda Woody. May yours be every bit as celestial as you can possibly make it this year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flying the Flag

My dear spouse yesterday reminded me that we had utterly failed to fly the flag for Veterans Day. I was deeply chagrined, as I enjoy flying the colors for every appropriate holiday so long as we are in town. We fly the flag because it represents our feelings towards this country we call home. We are truly grateful to be citizens of the United States of America, and flying the flag is an appropriate expression of that citizenship.

That's why this particular story raises my blood pressure a few notches.

Understand, however, that it is not the actions of the school administrators involved with this incident that have me seeing red. They acted on information that they possessed and experiences that they had recently had with the flying of a Mexican flag during Cinco de Mayo (according to at least one account), and decided to ban the adornment out of safety concerns for their students. It was probably a reflexive reaction to a situation and driven at least partially by a desire to not have any child's blood on their hands. I can understand the sentiment.

What leaves me short of breath in this case is the need for making such a decision in the first place.

If you read my post from yesterday, wherein I honored my Dad as part of my Veterans Day celebration, then you understand how I feel about this country. Displaying an American flag on American soil is fundamentally no different from displaying any given nation's flag on their own soil. It is, in fact, encouraged in most countries to display the banner of their homeland, often in ways far more aggressive and ostentatious than we do here in the United States. Certainly it was that way in Guatemala, and I have seen plenty of photographic evidence from other countries as well.

Citizenship 101 would also indicate that, even if you choose to honor the country of your birth and fly a flag from any other nation, say, Mexico as an example, then that flag should always be flown underneath the Stars and Stripes to demonstrate that you recognize the United States as your country of choice and the nation to which you owe your circumstances, including the opportunity to earn a living and provide for your needs and those of your family.

I myself come from a background that is heavily English and German in origin. I do not, however, feel any overwhelming urge to fly the flags of either nation here at home. I am grateful for the heritage, and may even try to emulate certain of their traditions in my own life, but I owe them no other allegiance whatsoever.

My feelings can best be summed up thus: Flying any other nation's flag above the Stars and Stripes indicates to me that you do not belong in this country, or, at the very least, do not appreciate being here. And for those who simply hate the United States, the exits are clearly marked and always open.

It really is that simple.

I try to be a tolerant man. I have no ingrained or deep-rooted prejudices against any race or nationality of which I am aware. If I have a lack of tolerance, it is mostly reserved for those people who lay claim to living and working in this country, while clearly despising everything else that this country represents, including those most basic of rights wherein we may freely express our thoughts and opinions, and worship as we see fit. If these things make you uncomfortable, you ought not to be here.

So the next time you see a kid riding a bike with an American flag attached, remind yourself to not only be grateful that we have such a privilege, but that we should jealously defend that privilege when suffering the mockery and scorn that so many other nations level at us when displaying such patriotism.

Don't just tell me you want to live here.

Prove it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring a Veteran

He was a double veteran, actually. Served twice, in two different services.

Timing was everything. He joined the Army just at the end of World War II when everything was winding down. Just couldn't graduate high school quite fast enough, it seems. No matter; he joined the band. Did his stint and accepted the thanks of a grateful nation.

Then came the Korean "conflict." He decided to join up again, but this time opted for the Air Force, and once again served in the band. Did time in Alaska. Made, I believe, Staff Sgt.

He told exactly two stories about his time in the military. To me, at least. One had to do with lips freezing to the mouthpiece of his horn in Alaska. The other was a story with a moral. Something about having "borrowed" a superior officer's Jeep, but under orders from his own superior. When the offended officer called him on it, his response was, "Guilty with an explanation, SIR!" I always got a kick out of that one.

At some point, probably in his military career, he got a tattoo. He pointedly refused to ever discuss it. No idea what the circumstances may have been. Certainly at that point he would have been considered a man of the world, and in my imagination could well have been out on furlough with some buddies, imbibed somewhat more than would be considered legally safe these days, and got the tattoo. But we'll never know that story now, at least not in this life.

This veteran is, of course, my father. Dad passed away about a decade ago. There's a marker at his grave denoting his two branches of service. I've not been back to see it since the funeral. I've meant to, of course. In fact, the one time I tried during one of our family excursions the cemetery was closed. It doesn't trouble me that I've not been back. We'll get there one of these days, and the desire to see it hasn't fled. But I'm comfortable that my memories of Dad are still fresh enough that I find comfort in them.

Dad was loyal to his country. I don't say patriotic, because that smacks of more overt acts of flag-waving and pontificating that were never Dad's style. His was a quiet patriotism. But he understood, as well as or better than most, just how important this country was in the wide scheme of things throughout the world. Why else join two branches of service only to suffer through two different boot camp experiences and never see combat? It was because he saw it as being important. A duty that he would not shirk.

I would venture to guess that none of these thoughts were terribly profound to Dad. He had been brought up to love and support his country, and he took his citizenship seriously. According to his mother, who all but declared that the man walked on water, he was just built that way. More likely Dad took a pragmatic view of his service at the time. Certainly he never bragged about it in later years. It was just a fact of his life up to that point. Something that added to his world view and his luggage full of experience.

That his oldest son would be somewhat more openly patriotic would not have surprised Dad. While I have a lot of Dad in me, I also represent Mom and her expressiveness. This is where my desire to write comes from. Dad was never that expressive. While serving my mission he wrote me exactly two letters. One encouraging me to stick to the work. The other giving me a few details of his wipeout on his Vespa (long story). Those represent the only two letters I received from my father ever. At some point he kept a journal, but mostly because it was on a computer and he loved to tinker with computers.

I appreciate two things about Dad's service in the Army and the Air Force. First and foremost is an appreciation of all things we love about our veterans. Their willingness to serve and protect our nation from enemies of freedom. It is, however, his love of and devotion to this country that I appreciate most. It is that characteristic that I have adopted in my own life, and I treasure it. I was never brave enough to volunteer for service; the draft ended by the time I was old enough to enlist, and the mandatory registration requirements weren't reinstated until I had just passed that age limit. Probably would have gone Navy if anything, but Dad would have been cool with that. But even without having served directly, I have long supported our military by helping in a small way to build the materials that they need to be able to carry that fight wherever duty may require. It is a work that I cherish beyond simply bringing home the bacon.

So we honor our veterans (Mrs. Woody's Dad also served) on this day. May their devotion to duty never be counted against them, and may God protect them, one and all.

Rest in peace, Dad.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Aftermath

While not a bad night overall for Republicans (control of the House, gains in the Senate), here in California we have proven that, no matter how bad things are, it can always get worse.

First, the Propositions. Uncle Woody did about as well as expected, but is still sore about the whole redistricting commission thing. See my summary of results in the Curmudgeon's Guide.

As far as candidates go, I always do better with local and county slates just because we still live in a predominantly conservative section of California, but one that is quickly becoming a conservative oasis in an otherwise progressive wasteland. My picks for Anaheim mayor and city council came through. We'll see how long before Disney Appeasement Syndrome kicks in (characterized by an overwhelming urge to plant lips on Disney's fanny).

Races for things like local school boards really don't pique my interest as I have no dog in the hunt. Likewise court positions. Since I try to live such that I won't need to avail myself of their services, I don't tend to keep an eye on them. (That said, the one fellow I voted against in this election made it handily anyway. More power to him.)

It is, of course, at the state level where the sting is most sharply felt. Republicans were, once again, pathologically incapable of fronting any candidates serious enough to challenge the oppressive Bay Area progressive junta. The closest we came to a victory was Steve Cooley, and as of now it looks too close to call but is leaning toward the Democrat.

I can't really claim to be surprised that Boxer won. Fiorina had her points, but not enough of them to overcome the liberal's ultra-left Darling in the Senate. The wrench, though, is Jerry Brown re-entering the Governor's office. (One immediately wonders whether he'll avail himself of the Governor's mansion this time around, now that he's, you know, married and everything.)

The only thing I can figure is that enough voters were young enough this time around to have no memory of Brown's first attempt to destroy the state of California. As I told a friend of mine last night, the next sound you hear may very well be helicopters loaded with more malathion to dump on your families trees.

Oh, well. I have high hopes that Cooley may still pull off a miracle so we can watch the dynamic between a Governor who has no regard for California law, and an Attorney General who would actually work to enforce it. Still, we can look for ol' Moonbeam to make for plenty of late-night comedy fodder over the next several years.

Utah is looking better all the time.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day Reminder


It is the most basic responsibility of citizenship in this country. Our ability (and right) to vote separates us from so many nations, we should consider this right to be both precious and significant.

I voted absentee this year for the first time in many elections, and it still feels good today. I know that I have participated. I hold no delusions that my choices will agree with everyone else, but I am certain that my voice has been heard. Above all, I can (and often do) speak volumes about the foibles of our elected officials, knowing that if I disagreed with them I did so at the ballot box.


Monday, November 01, 2010

Woody Is a Doll

In the run-up to tomorrow's big election, I've been monitoring site activity to watch how many hits the Curmudgeon's Guide gets (which, by the way, see, if it's not too late!). Usually folks come here having looked for some form of the search string "conservative voters guide," and manage to find the Woundup in the process. Some folks even stick around for a bit and actually read the Guide. I thank you for even considering my opinion while forming your own.

Every once in awhile, though, this blog is visited due to some rather, oh, peculiar search strings that have little or nothing to do with politics. I do still get searches for "montebello hoax," meaning that school teachers are still assigning students to write about the incident wherein a Mexican flag was flown over an inverted American flag during a protest at Montebello High School a few years ago. Sorry, teachers, it really happened. That fact has simply been too well documented to insist on calling it a "hoax." Blame for that incident is still widely disputed, but not the incident itself. Back to your social engineering blackboards with you.

The search that caught my eye today, though, was "how to fix Woody's head." It is a question that has, I confess, triggered a primordial response deep within my psyche.

First, of course, there's the obvious fact that I was completely unaware that my head was in need of fixing. Not that various liberals and alternative religionists haven't gently suggested such a thing in the past. My comments section is chock-full of folks who somehow question my intelligence. But even when they do, they never imply that my head needs fixing. Re-educating, yes. They universally seem to agree that I need serious re-educating. But not fixing.

Then I looked to the source of the question. The chap (we'll assume a male of the species for strictly generic purposes) is based in India, or at least was using the India version of Google, so there may be something of a language barrier at play. I spent time in Guatemala some thirty years ago, and the local Mayan dialect used the question "is your face good?" to ask whether you were, in fact, feeling fine. "Good my face," I would reply (although not, obviously, in English) which seemed to satisfy local custom. Perhaps "fix head" is, in one of the Indian dialects, an indicator of bad taste, as in "you would better appreciate this snake stew if your head weren't broken."

But, no, I have long known about my blog's title and its uncomfortable similarity to "Woody's Round-up" which figured so prominently in "Toy Story II." Now, I have every admiration for Pixar and their writing teams, and I picked the name "Woody's Woundup" as (I thought) a clever play on my long-standing nickname and the allusion to Toy Story, but which could also be interpreted as my being constantly "wound up" about something or other (meaning politics). Hence I get visited by numerous folks — primarily in Japan for some reason — who are looking for information on the Round-up. Google's infamous search engine uses that fabulous proximity logic of theirs and sends them here. Thanks, Google!

Hence, in the final analysis I'm forced to conclude that this individual was actually concerned with the state of Woody's head, meaning that he has a Woody doll from the movie, and has somehow broken the poor thing's melon. It is a tragedy, to be sure, and one for which I hope this person finds immediate relief. After all, a cow may be sacred in India, but who knows what significance a Woody doll may have?