Before he left town for Christmas, Rick had rented Hero and asked me if I’d like to watch it before returning it to the store.  I wanted to see this movie when it was in theaters, so I gladly took it from him and watched it last night.

Originally called Ying xiong in Japan, Hero is a wonder-inspiring historical adventure set in pre-unified China.  This is truly one of the most achingly beautiful films I’ve seen.  It rivals Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (originally called Wo hu cang long) in the majestic beauty of its cinematography.  The fight scenes are a wonder to behold, the colors are breathtaking, and the cinematography is awe-inspiring.

The plot is built around a series of flashback accounts that shape the story of how one man defeated three assassins who sought to murder the most powerful warlord in pre-unified China.  Some critics of this film have suggested that the storyline is a bit plodding and portentous.  I found the movie to be neither but would have enjoyed it as much even if that had been the case.  This film is simply stunning, and I don’t just mean visually.

The tales and counter-tales which define the story may seem a bit confusing at first, but this is part of the movie’s allure.  The conspiracy and character dynamics wrapped inside the story are only best understood when all of the pieces have come together at the end, but it’s impossible to grasp the motivations of the characters without comprehending the intricacies of the stories which bind them together.

As a martial arts movie, Hero doesn’t disappoint.  The fight scenes are spectacular.  There is always that touch of metaphysical skill which gives the characters abilities beyond normal man, but these are not over-the-top fight scenes that cause us to laugh — they are instead fight scenes which draw us in and hold us breathless until the end.

If you enjoyed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you will surely enjoy Hero as well.  I assure you that this movie is well worth your time.  I’ll be adding this one to my collection.

Happy pagan holidays

I couldn't decide how best to wish everyone a happy holiday season.  Saying "Merry Christmas" is exclusionary since it doesn't include Chanukah (hanukkah for you heathens that can't spell correctly), Kwanzaa, the winter solstice (fondly referred to as Saturnalia by the Caesars among us), Ramadan and a large number of other religious and non-religious celebrations which take place at this time of year.  More importantly, saying "Merry Christmas" legitimizes the Christians' theft of this time of year (as well as many of the Christmas traditions) from their pagan brethren.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it's the Christians who are being exclusionary by demanding that we all celebrate Christmas.  What they don't admit is that Christmas is not a religious holiday at all but was instead stolen from pagan religions by Christianity (driven by jealousy over the great food and abundance of adult beverages, I'm sure).

Ancient Babylonians believed the son of the queen of heaven was born around this time of the year.

Ancient Egyptians believed the god-man and savior Osiris died and was entombed around this time of year and that his death gave life to the son of Isis who was born around — you guessed it — December 25 (the feast of the Son of Isis was celebrated on December 25).

Ancient Greece celebrated Lenaea at this time of year (note that Lenaea is "The Festival of Wild Women").

Ancient Rome celebrated a myriad of holidays during this time of year which were eventually consolidated by Emperor Aurelian into the Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, or "Birthday of the Unconquered Son," which was celebrated on — here's a shock! — December 25 (note that this new holiday was a combination of celebrations of various saviors including Appolo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus, and Theseus).

The winter solstice has been celebrated at this time of year since ancient days (including the Druids of Celtic origin who called it Alban Arthuan).  The Druids and other pagans of Northern Europe celebrated Yule at the winter solstice (Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born).

Buddhists celebrate the Rohatsu (Bodhi Day) at this time of year which has its origins in 596 BCE (BCE means before the common era and is used in place of BC; CE, or common era, is used in place of AD; both are preferable to the AD & BC connotations as those are based solely on Christianity).

The Incans celebrated a festival called Inti Raymi at the time of the winter solstice.

Iranians have celebrated Shab-e Yaldaa since before Islam became the state religion (Zoroastrianism was the state religion before Islam and is the origin of Shab-e Yaldaa).

Judaism celebrates Chanukah at this time of year as a celebration of the Maccabees' retaking of the Temple in Jerusalem three years after it was conquered by Antiochus, the king of Syria.

Islam celebrates Ramadan around this time of year (although Ramadan is not tied to the winter solstice but is instead tied to the first sighting of the crescent moon; because it's lunar-based, Ramadan occurs approximately 11 days earlier each year).

Many Native American tribes celebrated diverse festivals in honor of the winter solstice (e.g., the Pueblo tribe observed both the summer and winter solstices and the Hopi tribe celebrated the Soyal during the winter solstice).

Shall I go on?

The idea of Christmas trees was actually taken from the Celtic Druids of Northern Europe who decorated a tree at this time of year to celebrate the winter solstice.  The Puritans of early America actually banned Christmas trees because they were considered pagan (due to their origin).

Historians who believe that Jesus was a real man say that all records indicate he was born in autumn (around September).  Christians originally celebrated his birth in spring but moved it to December to compete with the pagan holidays and celebrations taking place at that time.

Yule means "wheel" and was part of the ancient Druid celebrations because the wheel was a pagan symbol of the sun.

Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant, and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual.

Hollyberries were thought to be a food of the gods.

I could of course continue to draw out all of the Christmas traditions and beliefs and align them with their pagan counterparts which predate the Christian traditions by, in some cases, many millennia, but I think I've made my point.

The fact is that saying "Merry Christmas" is exclusionary and gives credence to a religious holiday which has its foundation in the theft of celebrations and traditions from many religious and non-religious groups which existed long before Christianity.  The ranting and raving of Christians about the rest of us having to put up with "Merry Christmas" is laughable since none of them appear to have a clue about its origins.

Since the truth is inarguable, I'd like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season (regardless of which holiday, if any, that you celebrate).  May the spirit of the season, not the false religious propaganda, be reason enough to celebrate.

Tree decorating 101

Jenny sent this link to me the other day and I just had to share it with you.  It's the story (with photos) of two beautiful cats, Iris and Fern, who obviously find great joy in the Christmas season.  Actually, they find great joy in helping decorate the Christmas tree so they can play in it later.  There are some priceless photos of these two characters wallowing in the Christmas spirit (even to the dismay of their parents).  Their decorating skills are matched only by their un-decorating skills.


That’s more like winter

It's been so mild here that I thought for a while that winter would never come.  It was 65 yesterday and 75 the day before.  Not today, though.  Our high today was the low from last night (about 38, I think) and the temperature has been dropping since then.  It's 28 as I'm writing this post — at 4:45 in the afternoon.  Even more important is that it's been snowing since about 10 AM this morning.  It started as rain, then there was some sleet added in, then some snow, and eventually it all changed to snow.

It's been heavy at times but has for the majority of the time been light to moderate.  I think we've had about an inch at most.

I've tried to snap a few photos while working today.  Hopefully I'll have some gallery updates from this introduction to winter (regardless of how abrupt it was).

I hope they have a good Christmas

I went Christmas shopping for The Kids last week and, much to my surprise, spent much more than I normally did.  I was a little shocked by how much I spent and felt as though I had probably gone overboard.  I then realized this is the first year that I'm completely on my own so far as their Christmas is concerned.  Before this year Derek was always an active participant in spoiling The Kids for their birthdays and Christmas and, to be completely honest, the rest of the year.  Since we always shared the expense of their holiday goodies, the increased cost this year made more sense to me.

As with last year's Christmas, I'll be taking pictures and videos of The Kids while they're enjoying their Christmas morning surprises.  You can expect to see a new gallery shortly thereafter (well, as shortly thereafter as I can get to it).