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I Believe In Father Christmas

I was listening to some festive Holiday music tonight, when a thought struck me to look on the Web for info about Emerson, Lake & Palmer‘s classic Christmas song, I Believe In Father Christmas. I was rather surprised by what I found. It isn’t an “ELP” song after all! This song was actually a solo effort by founding member Greg Lake. And…he made a video of it–several different edits are available on YouTube and other sites. But the gist of what I found out was…Greg Lake, with the help of his Lyricist friend, composed this song as a protest of the commercialization of Christmas, particularly in the United States.

Now, Wikipedia has very good information about the song, including quotes from Greg Lake and others; but I also looked up the song on Songfacts…this is often an excellent site to find obscure facts about a song, it’s history, and maybe what it was intended to be about. It’s also fun to browse through user comments, as people are often touched by certain songs in certain ways, and many of us have unique and interesting interpretations of a song–often quite different from what the author(s) intended or thought they were saying.

What struck me as notable–and the reason I am posting this entry–is that several people commented (or implied) that either Lake himself or this song is Anti-Christian. On the contrary, in interviews he has asserted that this song is NOT anti-Religious at all. Instead, Lake stated that this song was a protest against the Commercialization of Christmas.

In the United States, especially, we are bombarded with deceptive advertisements, television shows, and motion pictures that “inform” us that “Santa Claus” and big Uncle Macy at the Department Store are the ones we should REALLY be worshiping…and serving with our Almighty Dollars (Which, themselves, have become a False God in my country, by the way.) Jesus Himself said that a man cannot serve two masters, and yet I personally do not know of a single Christian who is not also a slave to the power of the Almighty American Greenback Dollar! This is wrong! Very, very wrong!

I’ll even throw in my own bit, that December 25th was NOT the true date of Christ’s birth to begin with; the early Christians celebrated it somewhere around January 6th–and that was on the old Julian calender besides; today’s Gregorian calender would put it around Jan 16th. And that’s only if older Greek historical sources are not correct; as some of those put the actual time of Jesus birth somewhere during the months of May-July. The actual celebration of Christmas we observe on Dec 25 originated with the old Germanic ritual of Yuletide–which, by the way, was a Pagan Fertility Rite.  Yes, you knew sex had to come into Christmas somewhere, didn’t you?

The church, in the 4th-10th Centuries AD polluted itself even further by re-inventing and absorbing Pagan celebrations into “holy” rituals…this practice culminated in nothing less than the Inquisition and the Bloody Dark Ages! Have you ever wondered why Jesus, in the Book of Revelations, refers to the Church of Rome as “The Great Whore of Babylon“? Trust me…the description is very clear. It’s talking about ROME!

Now…all of this certainly contributes to the “Great Lie”/”Fairy Tale” that is Christmas in Europe and America. But, oddly enough, “Santa” is not a lie! At least, not entirely. Reindeer were an invention…as was the North Pole, Elves, and his apparent Omniscience about children being good. The man whom our “beloved Church” perverted into this Comic Book-grade joke was actually a real person. His name was Nikolas, and he was a priest in the Greco-Roman province of Lycia, which is now a part of Turkey. He was known to be a very generous man–having come from a rich family–and he performed so many miracles during his lifetime, he earned the title “The Wonder-worker”. His service during the 4th Century actually pre-dated the church’s bogus adoption of December 25th as “Christ’s Mass”. He is known as a patron of Sailors, Merchants, Archers, Thieves oddly enough, Children, and Students. He’s considered the Patron Saint of Greece, too.

Now, like many other saints, angels, ghosts, and sundry other “things that go bump”–night, OR day, in this case–Nicholas has never been content to just be “Dead“. Nearly every “Saint” in the Catholic Church’s repertoire of Venerable Beings has made appearances. I can cite the repeated, and widely reported sightings of Saint Mary, for example, in Lourdes, Guadalupe, Fatima, and most astonishingly, in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia–an event that was televised by CNN and other news organizations, and is apparently still going on. Well, “Jolly Old St. Nick” was up to his old miraculous tricks very quickly after his bodily “Death”, and I have actually, PERSONALLY met him! The Nikolas of history and supernatural reality bears VERY LITTLE resemblance to the red-suited icon of the American “Christmas Scene”. The reality is, he is down-to-earth, he encourages others to love one another (the very message Jesus taught us, BTW), and…where no other hero or miracle is available, he arranges to have unlikely benefactors do things that ultimately help those who are poor and downtrodden. Yes, this sometimes includes charitable gifts from the rich, like R. H. Macy and Andrew Carnegie…but I’ve also seen incidental events, such as when the construction of a bridge in my hometown hit a snag; and as a result of the necessary redesign, several thousand square feet of land suddenly became available to become the new home for the Union Gospel Mission, a shelter for the homeless. Nor can I discount the haunting similarity of voices on emergency 911 calls played back on Reality shows like “Cops” and “Homicide: Life n the Street” to that of the gentle old man I met those many years go. In each case, a life was saved because of that anonymous 911 call. Yes, ghosts CAN AND DO use modern technology–there are numerous case studies on TV, the Internet, and in print. Of course, I can’t be sure those stories are Nikolas’s handiwork…but that is the spirit of Saint Nicholas, the “real” man behind the “Santa Claus” myth.

So, here, in “I Believe In Father Christmas”, we have Greg Lake’s reaction to the deceitful commercialization of the Christmas Holiday. I mean…there is so little that is actually “Honest” about Christmas presents, lights on the tree and our houses, and even the Nativity itself. Not even the day we celebrate Christmas is true to its origins! What we have is a magical Fairy-Tale, that one day can and must come crashing down around us in a hail of debt, anxiety, and a shortage of parking, that we faithfully endure for the sake of our children. What can I say? Growing up in the Cult of Christmas SUCKS! In the end, no wonder so many of us become depressed, disenfranchised, and detached from the true spirit of Christmas. What we need, is to step back, and take a look at what really started it all:

Somewhere, at some unconfirmed date, in a stable in Israel, a child was born to a young girl who had never had sex with a man. That child grew up to be a great teacher, miracle-worker, and leader. He was murdered by his own people for his unconventional beliefs; and three days later, he THREW OFF THE CHAINS OF DEATH to prove Himself to be not only the Son of Almighty GOD, but to have been the perfect, and final sacrifice, for all of the Evil that we humans have learned to commit.

Oh, and a few centuries later, a wise and humble priest espoused the ideals of this Christ, and was remembered for it.

That’s it! The Truth of Christmas…this is all there is left! No wonder Greg Lake calls it all a Fairy Tale. Buried in literally centuries of fables and falsified ritual and doctrine, the Christmas “Holiday” bears almost no resemblance whatsoever to what is true and holy in honoring the birth and life of Jesus Christ. And so it may have been, that with no small measure of Disgust, Greg Lake bids us “Hallelujah Noel, be it Heaven or Hell“. And, as I have seen so many times myself, we really do get the kind of Christmas that we have earned for ourselves. Perhaps we deserve even worse. As the years progress since Lake wrote this song, I certainly believe our country is getting worse.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you all, on this…by most accounts, the “TRUE” birthday of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

SASS has Spoken. Goodnight.


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The Ultimate Spam-Filter Avoidance Technique

I’ve finally seen it: the Ultimate Spam-Filter Avoidance Technique.  Today, I got a message in my in-box, big as life, amd it wasn’t even marked as spam.  It read:

gb    dy  lz                                        onfy     je       zhmd     dw 
wk    ou                                           jsiudj  ecyi      hs  kp  sqwf 
 fq  qv                                            hxmu      kn          xc    wm 
 jk  jl   eb   ethz    hjlgt  hwpn   hrmi          ptll      fx          lw    dk 
 bk  df   rl      kh  qp  bl  xby       fg          nxye     ig         ud     mv 
  gdxn    rs   rtmjm  ci  ip  rs     objfx  opzoq    yeov    oi        vh      gu 
  ltmo    co  ur  by  kv  he  ch    qx  ic           hspf    fv       gi       mh 
   wc     cb  ep  sw  lr  rz  cd    yl  sp         hxyjxz    hf      wd        qq 
   ei     oc   mcnwk   wdziz  le     jmkpx          gjko     bx  mn  ehqupf    dd 
                          df                         xb 

Now,  don’t get me wrong, but…if your eyes can see what I can see, you probably already understand the problem.  Spam filters are designed to search through text looking for key words – like viagra, porn and big financial deals – and shuffle the messages off into oblivion.  And, if you look real closely, there’s plenty of text there–lots of it, in fact–all random letters layed out in a nice formatted grid courtessy of “Courier New,” Microsoft’s default Monospaced font.

But what the span filter WON’T see is what your eyes tell you: that this is a sales pitch for that miracle drug that lets men function even when older, failing hardware won’t let them.  And this, of course, is just the start.  I dropped the part that encoded their website address in the same fashion, as well as the snippet from some story or blog post entry that followed it (in a normal font and text size, of course) in order to fool the filter into thinking this was real.

Now, I should tell you, I filter my own spam.  Yes, I have filters on my server(s) mark the spam, but before I get rid of the crap, I like to check it.  It wasn’t from someone I knew, but that wouldn’t have mattered.  I often get messages from people I meet online, or from friends who’ve changed internet providers and so on.  Also, I can generally tell the ones from scammers in South Africa who claim to be needing to use my American bank account(s) to transfer $50,000 to €50 Million out of some defunct corrupt official’s accaounts.  Those people just want an account number so that they can rob my US checking account.  I just forwarded three of those to SPAM@UCE.GOV, the Federal Trade Commission‘s Span Reporting address.

But this … this has to go.  I mean, it’s cool and all … As a geek, I get to point and laugh about how the creative Human Mind can overcome “this Technological Terror they’ve constructed” – one more bit of proof that the computer, while logical and fast, will NEVER be crazier (or better) than us.

But why does it always have to be spammers that figure this stuff out?

 bgjy   jh      lz    rc     qs 
wk  ou  js            dj    ekox 
fq      hx          knthwp  smrn 
 jk     ebthz   hj    lg    okbq 
  jk    rl  kh  qp    bl     wf 
   dx   rs  jm  ci    ip     pl 
    mo  co  by  kv    he     gc 
zf  wc  cb  sw  lr    rz 
 sgul   bw  we  op     mzz   un

SASS has Spoken.

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Something You Don’t See Everyday

“The boss said to change the sign – so I did”

So read a sign on Northwest Boulevard in Spokane – one of those signs with the individual plastic letters that have to be changed by hand. It seemed, at first glance, to be about the dumbest thing to put on a sign meant for public display; but it started me thinking. And, it made me remember that sign, and the garage and coffee stand that shared that particular parking area on the route from the outskirts into Downtown Spokane.

I actually remember seeing that same message before, on other signs at various locations through the years in this city of some 200,000. Four other times, if memory serves. And it’s not that the message was anything special – it wasn’t. It wasn’t even unique. But, it was surprising, unexpected. It falls securely into the category of “something you don’t see everyday.”

That’s what a good Marketing plan will do – it captures the attention and plants an idea in the mind, usually without the viewer even aware it’s happening. Take the example of recent commercials for Fanta. In them, we see a group of dancers arrayed in brightly-coloured dresses touting the multi-flavored drink. Afterward, we associate the colors on the cans with those girls – orange, and yellow, and red, and purple, and green … the color of orange flavor, grapefruit, strawberry, grape and lemon-lime. If the marketing has done its job, you taste the hint of grape whenever you see a purple dress.

Of course, they’re just ads, right? Well, actually, advertisement is just one part – and often an unnecessary part – of a good marketing plan. There’s much more to marketing than ads. Branding is equally important, and sometimes much more important. The special lettering used in the Coca-Cola brand is far more recognizable than any particular advertising campaign – even the 1970’s “Id Like To Buy The World A Coke” campaign. Many of us remember the song. But it’s only that logo that is exclusively tied to the product.

On the flip side, quality service and trust can often be more valuble than hundreds of ads. There’s a furniture store, for example, called “National Furniture” that has sat quietly in the same place on Spokane’s Division street for nearly a hundred years.  Just within my lifetime, a dozen furniture stores have come into existence – huge, nationwide chains, often spending hundreds of thousands on advertising.  And then, one by one, they die.

The trusted local guys continue on, and that is the power of marketing. Marketing doesn’t just make you want to buy a product, here…now…anywhere.  Marketing makes you remember a product, or a brand, or a name…permanently.  Once you’ve come to associate a certain idea with another–whatever the relationship–it’s very hard to break that connection; and that’s the function of marketing.

Here, for example, is a song that I will forever associate with a specific set of images. It’s called “Black Coffee” by The Commitments. Fact & Fable Productions made it into an advertisement for Fair Trade Coffee. See it here on YouTube:

Or, check out “Autumn Leaves”, sung by Eva Cassidy. Fact & Fable turned it into an unforgettable Music Video:

And finally, here’s one Fact & Fable Productions did for the Spokane Dance Company. They taught a broom to dance! See for yourself! (I’ll never look at a dust broom the same way again…):

Marketing is a far more complete and far-reaching concept than advertising. Advertising just scratches the surface of a broad field of business-building tools. It gives the marketer an overview strategy in building a company or a product, and ultimately a much more permanent one.

It gives you something you just don’t see anywhere else every day.

SASS has Spoken

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