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“Happy New Year!” is a greeting that will be passed around the world as another new year begins just after the stroke of midnight on January 31st. However, it wasn’t always celebrated on January 1st, as we do now in the modern world. Historians tell us that the celebration of the New Year is one of (if not) the oldest of all holidays – first observed in ancient Babylon approximately 4,000 years ago.

Saay whaat maaan? Dint yo know dat sheeet? Fo shuuure dem Babylonians (who be our Rastas forefarders an de place dat Jah originate from) in as faar back as 2,000 years before da Lord be born, be celebratin dere New Year wit da first new moon after da first day of Spring (now we be callin it da Vernal Equinox). Dose cats, bein goverened more or less by natchural cycles, took da logical way – seein dat Spring be da time of regeneration, plantin new crops and rebirth – jus like us folk here in Sri Lanka do wit our Sinhala / Tamil New Year. An yo can see how dese modern dudes did dis arbitrary number an call January 1st da New Year – even tho it have no astronomical or nachural significance.

Java makes sense.

As the eons went by the Romans continued to observe the day in early March of each year, but their calendar was continually tampered with by many of the eccentric emperors that succeeded each other and in time the calendar evolved to being out of synchronization with the sun. Then finally, in 153 BC, the Roman Senate declared January 1st to be the beginning of the New Year. However, the tampering did not stop at that – it continued, until Julius Caesar established what is now known as the Julian Calendar in 46 BC. This retained January 1st as New Year’s Day, but in order to retain the calendar’s synchronization with the sun, Caesar let the previous year drag on for 445 days!

Although in the first centuries after Christ the Romans continued to celebrate the New Year, the early Catholic Church condemned the celebrations as ‘pagan’. However, as Christianity spread around the world, the Church started to observe its own religious beliefs concurrently with many of the earlier established ‘pagan’ celebrations, so that New Year’s Day was no different to what was in the past. Then, as we fast-forward to the Middle-Ages, we find the Church opposing the celebration of New Year’s Day. And ‘New Year’s Day’ as we know it, and as it has been celebrated by the ‘modern’ world, has only been so for the past 400 years – a relatively short period of time.

Heey maaan, yo know dat some Christian denominashuns observe New Year’s Day as da Feast of Christ’s Circumcision? Now aint dat somting!

Trust Java to come up with interesting trivia!

One of the traditional western additions to the celebrations has been the singing of the song, “Auld Lang Syne,” which is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to usher in the New Year. The song was (at least partially) written by the Scots poet, Robert Burns in the 1700’s and was first published in 1796 after Burns’ death. We are told that early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern version. “Auld Lang Syne” literally means “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days.”

And so we celebrate another New Year’s Day, hoping like hell that we in Sri Lanka will have even a semblance of a peaceful, prosperous and happy New Year. Too much to hope for?

All the best to you all from Java and yours truly.

Ever encountered the tragedy of unrequited love? No? Then how about having known someone who has? It’s got to be a major bummer! And the effects take many variant forms, each depending on the psyche of the individual affected, as well as the intensity of the desire. Some would suffer in silence and hope against hope, some would prefer to discuss the matter with close friends or family, some would go on a binge, some would allow the ‘love’ to slowly fester and metamorphose into hate, some would be so affected that they would determine never to love again and so on. Paul Simon writes of this condition in his song ‘I am a rock’ and one of the verses expresses his feelings succinctly:

Don’t talk of love
But I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island

That’s one way out, I guess, but does it solve the problem? ‘Love’ has so very many effects and curing a case of unrequited love can get to be pretty hairy for all concerned – depending, as always, on the affected individual.

So what is the cure for the depressing condition? The philosophers have a variety of answers, but this would be too considerable a subject to delve into sufficiently here. Instead, I’ll give you the complete lyrics to the song. And maybe we could get into this another time? Here goes:

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December
I am alone
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island

I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain
Its laughter and its loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island

Don’t talk of love
But I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

For those of us who are into cricket, Shane Warne, love him or loathe him, is a very special entity. Now, on the brink of retirement, he is going out with a bang – over 700 test wickets and 999 international wickets in the bag is no mean feat and is a ‘first’ for any cricketer anywhere on the planet.

His undistinguished Test debut against India in 1991 accounted for the wicket of Ravi Shastri and returned the figures of 1 for 228 off 45 overs and in his next Test – against Sri Lanka – his first innings figures were a sorry 0 for 107. However, his bowling in the second innings in Colombo accounted for 3 wickets for 11 runs, contributed immensely to what had seemed to be an unlikely Aussie win and surely must have solidified his place in the team. Not long after this was when he bowled Mike Gatting around his legs in the 1993 Ashes series with what was described as “the ball of the century” and his reputation as a champion bowler was well on its way.

As Warne’s cricketing excellence continued, his personal life was also the subject of intense scrutiny and made public by the press, as ever, voracious in its demand for salacious reading matter with which to titillate their readership. His ‘affairs’, sexually explicit text messages and phone calls to a variety of women were lapped up by the public and finally his use of a banned substance contributed to him being debarred from the game for one year. Many of us may feel that the private life of larger than life public figures should be their personal business and that exposure of personal matters should be more deserving of sympathy than censure. However, this is not the way the world works and the view that all ‘news’ must be part of the public domain has its merits as well.

However, Warne persevered, and return he did with his customary ‘attitude’ and also with his customary success. As he matured, his reputation as an ‘entertainer’ was also enhanced due to his on-field antics – the appealing ‘acts’, the intimidatory tactics, the expressions of dismay and disgust at umpires’ decisions, the glare at the batsmen and the celebrations at capturing wickets. He also developed an easy style when being interviewed and generally ‘mellowed out’. The relationship he had with our very own Murali in the aftermath of the tsunami, his visits to the devastated areas and pledges towards assistance also showed him up in a different light. He even ‘made up’ with Arjuna Ranatunge after the volatile relationship they had bad-mouthing each other during their times on the field and off. In general, he made himself a different character to what he was earlier on in his career.

Now, at the twilight of his illustrious career, he appears to be bowling as well as he ever did. Just a few minutes ago he had Kevin Pieterson flummoxed with a beauty and ended his penultimate Test match with a match-bag of 7 wickets, helping the Aussies on towards a whitewash of the English team in this Ashes series. And with one more match to go to end his unique career, he has 999 international wickets to his credit.

I’m sure that we will all miss this unique and incredibly talented individual – arguably the best spin bowler in the history of cricket and most certainly the best ever leg-spinner the world has ever known. So it’s one more match for Warnie and for sure it will be one to remember.

Here’s some information from Wikipedia for those interested:

Shane Keith Warne (born 13 September 1969 in Upper Ferntree Gully, Victoria, Australia), is an Australian cricketer, and captain of Hampshire. He is generally regarded to be the greatest leg-spin bowler in cricket history. [1]

In 2000, he was selected by a panel of cricket experts as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century. Warne despite being plagued by scandals off the field throughout his playing career, has — since October 2004 — held the record for the most wickets taken by any bowler in Test cricket. On 26 December 2006 he became the first bowler to take 700 Test wickets, making him the most successful bowler in the history of Test cricket.

On 21 December 2006, at a press conference at the MCG, he announced his retirement from all forms of cricket in Australia and will play his final match in the fifth Test of the 2006-07 Ashes series at the Sydney Cricket Ground. He will continue to play for Hampshire for another two years. [2]

• He was chosen as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year for 1994.

• In 2000, Warne was named by a 100-member panel of experts as the fourth of five Wisden Cricketers of the Century. Warne received 27 votes, behind Sir Donald Bradman (100 votes), Sir Garfield Sobers (90 votes), and Sir Jack Hobbs (30 votes). Sir Viv Richards took the fifth place, with 25 votes. He is the only Wisden Cricketer of the Century who has not been knighted.

• Warne is one of two Australian cricketers currently playing the game to have been named in “Richie Benaud’s Greatest XI” in 2004 (Adam Gilchrist was the other).

• In 2005 he was named as winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality for his performance in the 2005 Ashes.

• Warne appeared on the 6th and 7th July episode of the popular Australian soap Neighbours on behalf of his charitable foundation.

• In 2006 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Southampton Solent University for services to cricket.

• He is a huge fan of the St Kilda Football Club and wanted to play with them when he was younger (he played in their 2nd’s side).

• Former Australian Test Cricket captain Kim Hughes described Warne as the “Donald Bradman of bowling” following the announcement of Warne’s intention to retire. [10]
 

Seeing Christmas in at Nahorp’s and Gower’s is an annual event for close friends and families and, as usual, a swinging and high old time was had by all and when the last of the stragglers trickled out close to sunrise the early morning traffic and a few pedestrians were already starting their day.

Another Christmas day has dawned and kottu has already evinced the attitudes and views of quite a few bloggers with regard to Christmas through individual blogs and the responding comments. Some of the views have been quite radical and most informative of the respective author’s mind-set whilst others have sought to seriously debate contentious views and in the process enlightening readers with their erudite views, as well as with interesting bits and pieces from recognized sources.

What I found interesting was to see that there will always be the few that will find their own ‘rationale’ to denigrate just about anything on the basis of narrow and intolerant views relating to race, religion and other aspects about what ever it is  that is of immense value to whole sections of the populace. Never mind that a globally celebrated occasion that has religious connections and is associated with love, joy and good-will, particularly for children of the world – some folk can only think about associating it with any horror that they can imagine. Living and letting live is certainly not part of their collective consciousness and here’s where the social contract breaks down. And here’s how conflict and the resulting pain and sorrow and chaos is created. But this is the nature of the beast and as long as we have these entities that thrive on conflict and intolerance there can never be peace and harmony.

Anyway, we shall be attending another annual Christmas gathering tonight where the event is celebrated in the traditional style, with all the trimmings, caroling and plenty of good vibes, good-will and good cheer. It’s just too tragic to think that we will be a small minority in this country that have the opportunity to enjoy this special day in this special way, but then life must go on and being ‘here and now’ is what all the guru’s recommend, so that is how it will be.

Let’s hope that the next year will bring with it some way in which the assholes of the world will be either be enlightened or destroyed so that the rest of us could live in peace and harmony.

It’s Christmas Eve again and most of the required chores are completed. Parties are looming and all that is left to do now is to enjoy the festive season and spread a bit of love, joy and good-will. Let’s hope nothing untoward screws it up.

For some reason there’s this John Lennon song re-playing in my head and although it is most appropriate, I just can’t figure out how it got there. For sure it wasn’t played over the local radio or even on WorldSpace – oh well – must be some associative stimulus that triggered the impulse. Anyway, here it is – and it does give one food for thought. Lennon was so very good at pushing buttons and stimulating thought processes to go along with his catchy tunes and unique voice and style.

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now

Happy Christmas
 
The war isn’t over for us here in Sri Lanka, although, in the metaphorical sense, it all depends on how your mind works and where your head is at. Let’s just leave it at that for now.

Merry Christmas!

The drive back to the city was uneventful, except for the army personnel posted every 100 meters all the way from Bandarawela to just past Beragala. We were stopped three times in all and when Runa, our trusty navigator asked one of the young army guys that was checking ID, who it was that was being so heavily protected, he replied that they were not informed. Anyway, when we got home and unpacked, got that welcome cuppa down and checked mail, lo and behold (sorry – must be the Christmas vibe!), there was this message from – you guessed it – the Trishawmafia! It said:

Dear Mr. Jones,

Your slapdash posturing and feeble threats aside, the shirt will be delivered at 4.30pm today.

Please be advised your countermeasures have already been expunged and Trenchtown is rubble. The Sicilians have been bought off and even that big stick you keep by your ramshackle bed has been cut in half.

See you in the evening.

May the blessings of the Triple Wheel shine down upon you.

Trishawmafia

Java was quick to react.

Buuull sheeet maaan – I jus spoke wit my bros down in Trenchtown an dey be fine. Dis mah fuh be bluffin. But at least dey be prompt wit dere responses, now less see if dey be shootin da sheet or if M has dat tee shirt of da correc size.

So we attempt to call M, using the coded number for the public phone booth at the Boulevard that M pretty much controls. Someone who called himself I. Claudius spoke on the other side – in a distinct Italian accent. Then I flashed that this must be the guy that Java was trying to contact – one of his Sicilian contacts.

I asked for M. He asked me what for. I told him that I was Java’s friend and that we were trying to establish a meeting so that we could get this tee shirt that the Trishawmafia was screwing around with. The mention of Java caused a conspicuous change in his tone and he asked if he could have a word with Java. He was very polite and even called me ‘sir’! I hand Java the phone, telling him that I. Claudius wanted a word.

Heeey maaan, waaazup? Looong tiiimme! Say what? Sheeet! That mahfuh? Need a hand maaan? Yeeah, da fuckin shirt be too smaaal maaan, dey fucked up da size an den dey try to shift da blame, tellin me I mus have been stoned or somting. Know what? If dat fuggin shirt not be wit M tonight…. Yeeah! Tanks maaan. Say what? Yo know dese guys? I taut so too. Later, bro.

He hangs up and tells me that everything is under control.

Much later, the shirt safely in his clutches, correct size confirmed, Java lights up looking quite pleased that the deal has been done – albeit with more hassles than could ever have been imagined, but at least there was no blood spilled (Java’s actually quite a peaceful sort, in spite of his braggadocio) on the Boulevard.

The Trishawmafia is now a thing of the past, although I wouldn’t put it past these punks, trying like hell to impersonate Mafiosi, to try hocking their contraband using Java, Ephemeral and the Boulevard to promote their less than primo wares. We did try to point them in the right direction – that is to add quality to the finished product, but you know how it goes with these Trishaw types and their triple-wheel blessings – like pouring water on the proverbial duck’s ass! I’ll get into the substance of their product at a later date, but whatever you do, be warned. DO NOT ACCESS THEIR WEBSITE. There’s dangerous stuff in there – all sorts of alarming subliminal messages which they inveigle unsuspecting folk to wear on their chests.

Annnyway, Java’s pleased and I’m about ready to get myself together to enjoy the evening ahead as Leonard Cohen is wailing about Suzanne while the sun goes down over Colombo.

It’s already the Friday before Christmas – the day that the Trishawmafia have committed themselves to making that exchange so Java could get the tee shirt he ordered instead of the one he got. No word yet from them however, and Java has been getting restless. We‘re due to make the trip back from the hills to the city this morning, so there’s quite a bit of time before he has to make contact with M at the Boulevard to find out if the exchange has been made and we can make the pickup later in the evening. I’m just hoping that everything will go smoothly and that there will be no chance of Java getting pissed off and starting something.

Heeey maaan, know what? If dat raggedy-ass bunch of tree-wheeler hoods welch on dis deal ah jus be havin to get mah Sicilian connections from out of dat woodwork on da Boulevard and get mah Rasta brodders out of Trenchtown to neutralize dere asses. Dis aint bout territory or any of dat sheet, dis be bout honor an dat can’t be fucked wit, right? Even thieves have dis honor number going on – or so we be told, so less see what kind of propriety exist in dis Trishawmafiosi.

The last thing that I want to cope with during this time of goodwill and good-cheer, partying and generally having a good old time of it, is for Java to get embroiled in some feud that has all the potential of turning violent. In view of this, I thought it may be wise to give the Trishaw mafia a gentle reminder. I had the address from the last message they sent, so I dropped them a mail. It went like this:

Dear Trishawmafia,

This is to remind you that the Friday you said you would deliver the tee shirt by has now dawned. Mr. Jones is apprehensive, to say the least, so we do hope that all will go well and the exchange could be made sometime this evening – same place. I can not stress enough the importance of honoring your commitment, as Mr. Jones is indeed most particular in matters of this nature. I did hear him on the phone a little while ago, and although he was trying to be surreptitious, I did get the distinct impression he was in communication with his less than savory friends in Trenchtown. And then a while later he was trying to make contact with someone that sounded like Simonesi Claudius, who, I later learned is of Sicilian extraction and has considerable influence on the Boulevard.

I must inform you that Mr. Jones has been known to get off that beaten track on occasion, so in all sincerity I advise you to honor your word and have the tee shirt at the appointed place. Please inform us accordingly.

May the spirit of Christmas engulf you with goodness during this special time of year.

Sincerely

Java’s friend (name with-held for fear of repercussions)

That done, I get to packing while Java gets the music on – Diana Krall doing ‘Winter Wonderland’, and fondles the dogs – already depressed about the bags being packed. It’s a chilly morning, but there’s no sign of rain. The sky is not exactly clear, but the sun is just making it through the light cloud cover and if all goes well we should have a nice day. Neither of us is looking forward to the drive back – although these next few days should be full of happenings.

I’ll keep you informed of how this Trishawmafia thing with Java goes – keep tuned in.

The other day Rhythmic Diaspora listed some of the search engine terms used by folk to find his blog which made for interesting reading and got me looking at these terms in another light. So this morning I checked the terms used by others to find Ephemeral Ruminations and got the following:

What am I….my general walked around with
Malice in Wonderland
Nachural
Yellow mattered custard lyrics I am the
Lyrics + “she be grindin…”
Derrick Brodders

It was Java that turned me onto the possibilities of using these fragments, churned out by some search engine, to be creative and so we tried turning the fragments into something readable without altering the order or the words. Our first effort goes like this:
 

What am I?
….my general walked around with Malice in Wonderland
Nachural!
Yellow mattered custard lyrics
I am the Lyrics + “she be grindin…” Derrick Brodders

It didn’t seem to be too out of sync, nor did it not make a lot of sense, so Java goes one step further and suggests using this base to continue the story of “my general” and ‘Malice in Wonderland” – adding a few words, but maintaining the search engine’s continuity. And so:

What am I?
….my general walked around with Malice in Wonderland
Nachural!
Yellow mattered custard lyrics
I am the Lyrics + “she be grindin…” Derrick Brodders
Now dis Derrick Brodders
He be a no good sumabitch
He take mah yellow mattered custard lyrics
An he put it in a dead dogs eye
Jus like John Lennon
An Malice, she be da one
Steal dem lyrics
I am the lyrics but she be grindin
Derrick Brodders
Nachural?
In Wonderland?
What am I?

I know. It’s not much, but it did give us a few minutes to make up this post – for want of anything else that crawled out of our heads this early in the morning up here in the hills.

At least it isn’t raining today – so far, that is. And now Thelonius Monk comes on RIFF with Sophisticated Lady – verrry cool!

It’s been pissing with rain up here in the hills and from all reports it’s seems to be much the same pretty much all over the country. The ground outside oozes water like a sponge, so ‘inside’ seems like the best option. WorldSpace is on and the station is RIFF “best jazz on the planet twenty four hours a day”, as the DJ puts it. Dionne Warwick is doing ‘Say a little prayer for me”, one of her many Burt Bacharach / Hal David compositions – another hit! There’s a White Eye (Zosterops ceylonensis) on the Mulberry tree outside the window being very picky about the quality of the berry. He inspects carefully, rejecting the less ripe ones until he selects the best. John Coltrane has replaced Dionne with ‘Ole’ – too brilliant for words! I check kottu. Indi’s blog looks interesting, so I check it out. The obsessive compulsive drive has me zipping off a comment and then other distractions take over.

Much later in the afternoon – in between the mandatory mundane work ethic – I check kottu again to find a whole slew of comments directed at Indi’s post. Rez is on a trip about the Christians persecuting (and executing as well!!!) Buddhists all over the Island in the ‘old days’. The tone of his comment seemed to me to be full of hate towards ‘Christians’, ostensibly due to what he describes they did to the Buddhists a century or more ago. How this ‘rationale’ relates to the post was bewildering, to put it mildly. I doubt there was any indication in the post that warranted these statements:

And now, after persecuting Buddhists for centuries in the most vile of fashions, they are whining (through people like Indi) about how a religion followed by seven-percent of the Sri Lankan population isn’t accorded the biggest and best celebration in the country, and blaming it (surprise surprise!) on monks. Apparently according to Indi, ninety-three-percent of Sri Lankans who are not Christians just MUST celebrate Christmas and shop and sing gospel songs and listen to boring ass Christian programmes on Radio, the TV and all the streets in the whole entire country must sing the glories of Jesus Christ. Halleleujah! Praise the Lord!

Does it appear to be a bit ‘off the wall’ to you and perhaps an excuse for a platform? It sure did to me, but then, I’m known to be pretty much off the mark with a lot of my perceptions, so maybe I am this time too. In any event, it did seem to be rather on the extreme side! And speaking of extremists…..

So it’s back to WorldSpace – Pat Metheny is on – a true master! The dogs are asleep by me and the rain has ceased. Was that Java I just heard?
 

It’s that time of year again for a lot of folk. The Christmas season – with all its accoutrements – the dressed up shop windows beckoning shoppers to come in and splurge, the interiors with more tempting goodies, the shoppers with children in tow and the swelling Christmas crowds adding to the traffic snarls and pollution. Then there’s cards to get, ‘do’ and mail, gift lists to fulfill, get that tree sorted and then decorated appropriately and finally, figure out the arrangements for the traditional Christmas breakfast, lunch and dinner. For those that celebrate in the ‘Anglicized’ tradition, having young children always adds to the fun and sense of excitement and Santa Clause’s appearance is generally an experience that lives in children’s memories for the rest of their lives.

Of childhood memories, I remember well the excitement of Christmas Eve in particular. The tree would be decorated and flashing its colourful lights, the cotton wool ‘snow’ scattered on the branches, the glittering star at the top of the tree, the baubles and other glimmering bits and pieces hanging from the branches and of course the gifts that were wrapped in those very special Christmas gift-wraps with all those Christmassy designs on them carefully arranged at the base of the tree – even for the dogs! And of course the ritual of hanging up the pillow-cases on the bed-stead for Santa to fill with the gifts that had been requested by letter well in advance was very special.

As time went on, the memories changed to include the milk-wine that, for me, just entering my teens, was always something to look forward to with its very special flavour and resulting buzz. The traditional early morning Christmas service followed by the breakfast that had to include the Breudher, Edam cheese and Yule-log and then the visiting of friends and family and of course the reciprocal visits in turn were also regular features of the whole ritual.

Those were the days! No ethnic conflict to worry about or to feel guilty about enjoying this very consumer-oriented tradition when so many would be suffering severe deprivation of even the most basic necessities. No back-biting, scheming, midget-minded politicians, intent on using ‘alien’ traditions as an excuse to further their chauvinistic designs aiming to fragment our diverse social structure. In short, no bullshit to contaminate the spirit of giving and good-cheer.

And so here we are, getting ready for another Christmas in another era, another social structure, another world – and trying like hell to make it work – at least for the children to have an experience that will live in their memories as a time of giving, a time of love and a time of joy.

Have a good one!

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