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Christmas Day open thread

Only yesterday did I look at a piece of paper thumbtacked up behind the door from the house to the shed; it turned out to be a handwritten plan my father drew up for his 1998 garden. It's quite ambitious; he was planning to abolish the lawn, just as I have done.

But he died before he could plant it. So I think I'll adopt his plan for the coming season, especially since I need to do some rotation anyhow. Of course, my plantings are more extensive than his... And I have a grandmother's garden, so there's some thinking to be done about integration. Isn't there always!

Something to look forward to, as the days start to get longer!

UPDATE I forgot to add, I've only been in the house seven years, and have gone through that door multiple times a day during the heating season to bring in wood, and only yesterday did I stop to look at the paper....

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blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

While it is Christmas, I am too old and grumpy to really celebrate. To compensate, I just posted this little bit of subversive graffiti as a comment over at Portland Indymedia (in an article where someone felt the need to recall the awfulness of North Korea.) That was at:


Do You Wonder (Ever)?

Maybe I'm a little bit more skeptical than others, but I sometimes wonder if everything they told me is a total lie. Really: How, in fact, do you know that everything the North American Propaganda Machine has been indoctrinating you with since you were five years old is not 100% total bullmanure? Considering the control they have over every option you choose, how could that not be so? Did you design your own cloths, or did you settle for the uniforms that are sold at Target? Have you observed that the men's zippers always zip on the right, while women's always zip on the left? Or that women's pockets are always tiny? That fortune tellers in many places must pay $500.00 for license fees? That your computer has a "MAC address" that uniquely identifies it on the Internet (no it is not your easily changeable IP address, but you could change it by hacking if your ISP lets you). And consider this:

Tech-FAQ — ANI (Automatic Number Identification)

.... ANI [Automated Number Identification] is one of the core technologies behind the 911 emergency service.

ANI should not be confused with CID [Caller ID]. This service is similar, but there are certain differences. In ANI, the line type and the telephone number of a calling party are captured, even in situations when caller ID blocking is on. ANI serves a function similar to Caller-ID, but utilizes different underlying technology. In addition, although Caller-ID can be blocked by prefixing a call with *67, ANI is (usually) impossible to block.

In fact, whenever you call the police, all of the phone customer's commercial credit scores pop up on the dispatcher's screen. Remember the hissing "space noise" that was especially loud and made astronaut's voices hard to hear only a few years ago? That was fake noise dubbed in to make it sound dramatic; the ground controllers heard the astronauts in the finest high fidelity. Does satellite TV suffer from "space noise"? Think about it.

We live in a make-believe Disneyland! Here is an article about Korea I posted here back in August. Think again about it:


North Korea, a Land of Human Achievement, Love and Joy! Paradise on Earth! Really!

Apparently they lied to us once again. Everything you were indoctrinated in was a lie. We live in a totalitarian state. Full of lies and vermin. Your whole life is part of the Great Deception.

Global — August 04, 2013 — North Korea, a Land of Human Achievement, Love and Joy

As the plane - Russian-built Tupolev-204 - was taking off from Pyongyang Airport, I felt nothing, absolutely nothing. The morning fog was at first covering the runway, and then it began to lift. The engines roared. Right after the takeoff I could clearly distinguish green fields, neat villages and ribbons of ample and lazy rivers below the wing. It was undeniably a beautiful sight: melancholic, poetic, and truly dramatic. And yet I felt numb. I was feeling nothing, absolutely nothing.

Overhead monitors were beaming endless images of one parade after another, of endless celebrations and bombastic concerts. The volume was up, women and men on the screen were singing enthusiastically, soldiers were marching; roaring jets and helicopters were penetrating the blue sky. The conductor was waving his hands. The standing crowd was applauding. Emotions were brought to an absolute extreme; watering the eyes of the people, and omnipresent pride on their faces.

Suddenly I felt empty, scared of something.

After seeing more than 150 countries, all over the world, after covering wars and conflicts, some of unimaginable intensity and brutality, I was suddenly longing for some rest, even for total silence.

60 years ago North Korea won the war. But some 4 million people died many of them, civilians. Maybe it was more than 4 million, nobody knows exactly. The capital city Pyongyang was totally leveled to the ground. I did not want to hear loud music and long speeches. I wanted to pay tribute to those who lost their lives, by sitting quietly by the river covered by mist, listening to the tall grass. But during my 8 days in North Korea, I had very few moments of silence, almost no opportunity to reflect.

What have I seen in those 8 days in DPRK - in North Korea? I saw an enormous futuristic city, Pyongyang, the capital, built from the ashes. I saw enormous theatres and stadiums, a metro system deep below the ground (public transportation doubling as nuclear shelter, in case the city came under attack). I saw trolley buses and double-decker buses, wide avenues, unimaginably ample sidewalks, roller-skating rinks and playgrounds for children.

Statues and monuments were everywhere. The size of some boulevards and buildings were simply overwhelming. For more than a decade I lived in Manhattan, but this was very different grandeur. New York was growing towards the sky, while Pyongyang consisted of tremendous open spaces and massive eclectic buildings.

Outside the capital I saw green fields, and farmers walking home deep in the countryside. Clearly, there was no malnutrition among children, and despite the embargo, everyone was decently dressed.

I saw packed squares, with tens of thousands of people shouting slogans from the top of their lungs. I saw thousands of women in colorful traditional dresses waving their flags and ribbons, cheering when the command was given, welcoming us - international delegates. Marching next to me for peace, was a former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, and at my other side, the leader of one of the Indian Communist Parties. There were human rights lawyers from the United States and from all over the world, Turkish revolutionaries, and, for hard to understand reasons, several heads of the Ugandan military.

But I did not come here to march. I came here to film and to photograph, to see the faces of local people, to read what was written on those faces, to feel, to sense, and to try to understand.

Instead of loud cheers, I came to listen to the whispers, hoping to catch understated facial expressions, tiny signs of fear, of joy, of love and even of existentialist confusion.

The West, its policy makers and mass media, succeeded in creating an image of a dehumanized North Korea. They did it by blurring the faces. For decades North Koreans were being portrayed as inhabitants of some monstrous hermit empire where men, women and children all look alike, dress the same, behave like robots, never smile and do not look into each other's eyes.

Before I came here, before I agreed to come, I explained to the organizers that I was not interested in all those elaborate fireworks and packed stadiums. I wanted to see a mom taking her child to school. I was longing to capture the faces of lovers at dusk, sitting side by side on some remote bench, whispering to each other those urgent words, those pledges that make life worth living; the same words, the same pledges, uttered all over the world.

Paradoxically, I was discouraged to do so. Instead I was asked to march. From a storyteller and a man who is used to document the world, I was converted into a delegate. And whenever the crowd spotted me, it cheered, and then I felt embarrassed, I was longing desperately to become invisible, or to at least find some hiding place. Not because I was doing something wrong, but simply because I was unaccustomed to such naked outbursts of enthusiasm directed at me.

And so I marched, for peace and for the re-unification of the Korean nation. And while I marched, I kept filming and photographing. It must have looked awkward, I have to admit: a delegate who was filming a bunch of women who were dressed in their colorful traditional dresses, cheering him with their paper ribbons, and shouting at top of their lungs.

I soon discovered that I was fighting for every glimpse of reality, of common life. Instead I had been fed with an extravaganza.

I was taken to those stadiums with 100,000 people, where children change positions of their boards periodically, and the entire side of the tribune suddenly becomes like some colorful, living storyboard. I was witnessing huge events, with thousands of dancers, with fireworks and multiple bands.

Yet what impressed me the most was an ancient and tiny stone bridge in Kaesong City, near the Demilitarized Zone. And the scene around the bridge: a tiny girl, perhaps three years old, her sock torn, crying, while her mother caressed her hair in the most tender, warmest way imaginable.

My hosts, they did not seem to understand. I explained to them, again and again, but my words sounded too foreign to them.

As far as they were concerned, I was just 'some famous writer, filmmaker, and journalist'. They needed me to show great support for their revolution, and deep reverence for their suffering during the Western onslaught more than 60 years ago.

Naturally I felt reverence and grief, but that was all that I was expected to feel. I felt much more.

But I fell in love, instantly with the North Korean countryside, and the faces of North Korean farmers and city dwellers. These were pure faces, honest and expressive. What could I do? Love is subjective; it is irrational. The exaggerated greenery of the fields, children playing at the roadside, soldiers returning home to their villages for a short home-leave, women facing the sun at dusk: it was overwhelming; love at first sight, as I said.

I was photographing through the windshield; I was annoying the organizers, demanding that they stop in the middle of the road.

Then on July 26 I met, together with Ramsey Clark and few other delegates, Mr.Yang Hyong Sob, the Vice President of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Committee. He looked like a very kind man, and I was given a chance to exchange some ideas with him. I explained that the best way to combat Western propaganda is to show to the world the faces of North Korean people.

"It is their common tactic", I said. "They portray people of China, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Serbia, as heartless, as if they were some plastic androids. Then, subconsciously, compassion for the people of those nations vanishes from the hearts of the Western public. Suddenly it is fine to starve them, to bomb them, to murder thousands, even millions of those androids. But once the faces are shown, the Western public gets confused; many refuse to support mass murder."

The Vice-President nodded. He smiled at me. As we were leaving, he locked me in a bear hug, and said simply "Please come back!"


Submitted by lambert on

To old and grumpy to stay on topic, too, apparently. Something like that, make a post. this isn't a bbs.

blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

I've come to realize that I really do not enjoy Christmas. I appreciate the good cheer and spirit of it all, but it always made me feel depressed for some reason. At such times, I find much solace in nihilism; hence the "it's all bullmanure" comment above. But now, I think I've found the root of my problem.

I live in the Northern U.S., where:

"What you can’t thrive in is the freaking cold and its crappy rainy snowy weather and bad road conditions and whatnot. Food doesn’t grow, it runs and you have to chase it through mud and cold and blah, screw it all. Give me summer any day. The four seasons should be called Spring, Summer, Fall, and Hell." — Graham Bradley

And winter hell really begins in earnest on Dec 25th — Christmas Day. It just does. And it ends 82 days later, on March 17th — Saint Patrick's Day. So the half-way mark is 41 days. Well, Groundhog Day is 39 days later, on February 2nd, which is close enough. (Forget Valentine's Day, 51 days later; all that sugar is bad for you.) If the celebration of Groundhog Day was as important as Christmas, which it should be, the mid-winter hell would be far more bearable.

So it is most important to build up the celebration of Groundhog Day! (The groundhog is really a huge squirrel that burrows in the earth.) Take the day off. Scatter nuts and raisins out for the hungry critters. Sing groundhog chants at the town hall.

This would make everything so much better!

blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

Recipe for Groundhog Day "Dirt" Feast

1 3/4 cups water
1 cup BLACK rice (some black rice is sticky, and is thus said to be "glutinous," but it contains no actual gluten. It will blacken the other ingredients.)
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook together like rice until the rice is done. Easy.

Submitted by Dromaius on

UPDATE I forgot to add, I've only been in the house seven years, and have gone through that door multiple times during the heating season to bring in wood, and only yesterday did I stop to look at the paper....

Apparently it wasn't time to get your gift...until yesterday.

Awesome story. Thank you for sharing.

insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

For a real cool adaptation of the Grandmother's Garden, combine Ruth Stout's less work approach with John Jeavons bio-intensive planting ideas and add in Bill Mollison's permaculture revelations.

I too have discovered that gardening is a very natural process. Every human has the intuition to grow things. As you said your decisions usually turned out to be the right ones.

Submitted by lambert on

If you've applied that idea, I'd really like to hear about it!

Adapting Napoleon slightly:

The old gardeners die; they do not surrender!

Submitted by lambert on


insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

Ruth Stout is all about lazy gardening.
(I'm a big fan of that). Straw mulch ( or any mulch) is her multifaceted solution.
Mulch moderates soil moisture & temperature, suppresses weeds, and makes soil more friable and in the long term more fertile. It will can be an end to digging and tilling.

Companion plantings a la Jeavons, not single random plants will build a community of plants. Groups of plants that share a symbiotic relationship. Then round it out with the big picture... add in the insectiary plants. Stuff that makes the ladybugs want to lay eggs in your garden. Build a family of the pollinator plants. Grow stuff that the bug eating birds want to hang around.
Before you know it, you have a humming and buzzing self sustaining garden habitat. Get the neighbors involved. It takes a Village.

Submitted by lambert on

... and ended up with a cycle that went through the whole season, even though I didn't know what I was doing.

I'd love to attract lady bugs, how do you do that?

Also.... I got squash beetles for the first time last year, grey diamond things. Beat back one assault, and got busy/lazy with respect to garden priorities and they came back. Any suggestions for a beneficial insect that eats them, especially their eggs?

blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

Ah Yes, Ruth Stout

The love of my life (of course an Ayn Randian fool), but oh so beautiful, dragged me to Ruth Stout's little house. I did read the books, but was nonetheless totally unprepared for what I was about to be told!

The entire whole secret to gardening is SALT HAY! She kept repeating that!

I've never been able to find this "salt hay".

The entire concept is you plant simple, but stick biologically dead salt hay over it all, and everything just grows and your garden becomes a cornucopia.

Seems like your crop would need something like a cold frame head start?

And I have never been able to find salt hay.

Here is my formula:

Stick a bail of hay in a washing machine and add a couple cups of Clorox bleach. That will kill all the unwanted seeds and vermin. Then wash it again to get rid of most of the Clorox. Then stick it in the dryer. That should be pretty close to salt hay.

Then cover your garden with this. Mission accomplished.

Submitted by lambert on

This is a course outline!

Salt hay is virtually impervious to rot and it contains no weed seeds like other types of hay.

But I want my sheet mulch to rot -- layer after layer, year after year, like a forest floor, building up the soil. So it sound like she had a different purpose in mind. To avoid seeds, I get straw.

It would be interesting to hear more about salt hay, however. I could be wrong!