Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Red Cup mania

Rembrandt tulips
Back when I ran bookstores for a living, there was a very successful paperback reprint of Charles Mackay's 1841 opus, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds". One of the chapters examined the tulip mania of the 1640's. Basically, a plant virus struck the Netherlands and caused breaks in the colors of tulips. The desire to possess the affected bulbs built into a frenzy. Fortunes were quickly amassed, and spent, investing in their acquisition. Prices for just one bulb reached to such heights that a well off merchant's lifetime earnings could not afford the purchase of one single bulb. Although the term would not come into use for a number of years, the "economic bubble" burst, destroying both fortunes and lives. The descendants of these tulips still exist: they are usually sold under the name "Rembrandt".

Just one portion of the Solar Hill gardens last June. The entire space,
including my garden, would comprise about eight squares of this size,
including all of the area around the tree center left.
When I last posted, I had just finished planting the tulips. I'm in the process of shutting the gardens down for the winter.  It is a large task (I've also been tending Solar Hill's gardens.) As plants go into their dormancy,  it's a good time for many of them to be transplanted. Several peonies, asters, a daylily, etc. were either being overgrown by their neighbors, or were getting less sunlight due to tree growth, etc. For good garden culture, plants should be cut back, leaves cut off and disposed of to prevent overwintering of diseases, and so on and so forth. I've accomplished most of it, but am still in the final stages of getting it all done.

Generally, I've been in the garden four to five days a week recently. Today was going to be a long garden day, as there weren't a lot of other things which couldn't be put off - I want to finish putting the garden to bed this week. Now, last night there was a meeting of our all volunteer community radio station's Board. This was our first meeting after our annual bash, so yearly Board elections had to be held. I've been returned to the position of Board President/Station Manager. This morning, about 7am or so, I sat down to fire off a few emails based on discussions from last night. Then the phone rang with a DJ's questions. The man calling is learning disabled, and calls several times a week, often asking the same question he asked the day before. He hasn't finished his training, but wants to fill in time slots which other DJs have posted that they won't be able to make. He has a case of radio fever, which often affects new DJs. I've repeatedly told him he has to finish his training, and must have the person who helps him present when he does a show. But he still calls and tries to get me to say something different. There is a DJ doing her last show today, so there needed to be posts to the station's email list, the station's Facebook page, etc. The upshot is that I finally stopped working on station business at 3pm. (By the way, an 8 year old, who has been doing a show with her mother since she was old enough to talk, just did her first 'by herself' show at 2pm. She put many of our adult DJs to shame. There were almost no children's songs that would have been heard on the show she does with her mother. Nope, this kid is into Spearhead, and jam bands.)
The station is another sort of garden.

I did spend about a half an hour of personal time on Facebook, checking responses to posts for my radio show, what a few of my friends and family were up to, etc. There were several Facebook sessions, sending messages to people about station business and etc. It was therefore impossible to escape the issue/outrage of the moment: the Red Cup. It would seem that all of Facebookland is obsessed with the red cup. Folks are posting impassioned diatribes about the issue. Memes, images with a slogan which are easy to repost allowing the poster to avoid having to think through what one might say, are spreading like soft butter on a hot skillet. There is a veritable red cup mania.

What happened is this: some church (or church official) that no one ever heard of called for a boycott of the Starbucks coffee chain. The problem started when Starbucks began using their holiday themed coffee cup. It is red, with a Starbucks logo in green and white. The church was offended, nay, outraged, that there was no "Merry Christmas!" scrawled across the cup. No "Season's Greetings" (which would have caused more of a "War on Christmas" fervor). No pictures of Santa Claus, the Christ child in the manger, nothing. Why, it is another example of the persecution of Christians! This little bit of idiocy has become a target for everyone who wants to outdo their friends by posting an ever more incisive meme (which I still unintentionally read as 'me me') in a frenzy of self righteousness equaled only by the original call for the boycott.

Warning: this being the year 2015, and social media being what it is, one of the examples of the red cup memes contains expressions of common vulgarity.

" ...whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first."
                                                                       - Charles Mackay, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds"

Of course, my own cynicism leads me to wonder if the church and its representative actually exist. The large coffee corporation could have hired someone to start all of this just to get themselves a lot of free publicity.
Another object of mass intoxication is the once wonderful holiday of Halloween, which has been built into a merchandising bonanza. The madness now begins in August when "pumpkin spice" English muffins hit the shelves of the supermarkets. Of course, there are no pumpkin spice muffins to be had anywhere near Halloween itself. This past September, in a Halloween products commercial I saw on television, the Halloween goods were displayed in front of a group of fir trees, which were decorated with colored lights. Holiday creep is upon us. At any rate, I never got my radio show of October 31st, Halloween,  posted - so here's that show, mostly big band Halloween songs. I know it seems odd to be posting it over a week late, but I'd like all my shows to be here for friends and family from away who might have some crazy interest in just what I've been up to these last few years.

Well, I thought I might go on about nothing in particular (there a whole 'nother mess o' memes being posted about a Republican Presidential candidate who has been playing fast and loose with the truth, and expressing somewhat surprising opinions such as his belief that the pyramids were built by the Jewish patriarch Joseph to store grain. He is the current Republican frontrunner in the reality show contest for the Presidency of the United States. Instead of continuing in this vein (by the way, I swear I'm not making this stuff up), I think I'll go sample the pumpkin bread I baked while composing this missive.

Herewith, my radio show from this past Saturday, November the 7th, in which we listen to excerpts from the radio, as well as a few of the songs on the jukebox, around early November, 1944. The featured broadcast at the end of the show is one of the Eddie Condon Jazz Concerts, with guest stars Lee Wiley and Red McKenzie.

As always, I hope any listeners enjoy the show(s).

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