Friday, November 29, 2013

Why I don't make oaths and Black Friday

There was a trend on my Facebook feed of people swearing oaths to not shop on Black Friday. In some cases it was in solidarity of retail workers, in some cases it was a moral choice, in one case I think it was done to impress a girl.

Someone asked me why, if I'm a nice person, I didn't agree to not shop on Black Friday.

That's because I will be shopping today.

First, we're going to a little hardware store up the road that has a really good sale on artificial Christmas trees. We really need a new one. They were open the day after the Thanksgiving last year and the year before and generally always are. Failing to go get this tree will have no effect on their business.

Incidentally, I'm willing to bet that it will either be Alan or Owen who'll ring up my purchase. Alan is a younger guy, maybe in his late twenties, working his way through school at the Tech for computer design, but he really likes robotics and rocketry. His dream job is working for NASA. Owen is old and curmudgeondly, built like a scarecrow - like half of a Wilford Brimley. He's also amazingly helpful and kind to people who're trying to fix a leaky faucet.

We'll also be going to Myriad Games. They have three stores in New Hampshire, all with common ownership. They have every board game, card game, dice game and RPG you can imagine, and a few you can't. They're amazing, the kind of business I really want to see prosper. They sent out a newsletter to their loyal customers asking them to come in today.

What with it being Christmas season, I'm happy to oblige.* They're good people.

So, this is why I don't make oaths. They seem like a good idea at the time. They're comforting and give one a sense of moral rightness, but in the end, for us it would mean a year with a decrepit tree and paying more Christmas presents.

* Yes, that means that if I know you and you're reading this, I might be buying you a game for Christmas. But you know me - this shouldn't surprise you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Doctor

In a blue box, somewhere in the universe, there's a madman. He's the right sort of madman, though, the kind who's constantly thinking, plotting, planning, running from one disaster to the next and saving lives. Not everyone - well, hardly ever everyone - but a lot of people.
He doesn't have a gun, the closest he's come to armour is a wool coast and though he's more scientist than soldier, with his intellect and ingenuity, he has saved countless lives. Whole planets - better than three dozen in a single episode, in one case - saved.
It's not just that he's clever, though. Clever only gets him so far. He cares. He wants the universe to work and move, and he wants to see life throughout the whole thing.
See, to the madman in the blue box, life is the most precious thing is real. His archenemies, the Daleks are, quite literally, anti-life and against them every chance he can.
This is the Doctor.
When I was a kid, a very young kid, I didn't really understand what the show was about. I just knew that the Doctor defeated monsters and ran around a lot and, this being the fourth Doctor, that he had a fascinating scarf and floppy hat.

I have no recollection of the exact episode, but I recall the scene. In some grotty cave, a lumpy green man is lurching toward the Doctor. We've seen this thing kill before, although its victim shot at it several times, screaming in terror. The Doctor, though, has no idea what this thing is. He starts, just a little jump back, then smiles that great, toothy grin, reaches into his pocket and holds out a raggedy paper bag.
"Jelly baby?" he asks in a deep, resonating register. The monster stops.
I have no memory of how the scene ends, but that scene has stuck with me ever since.
Monsters are real. They are, any child knows that. But just because something appears monstrous isn't enough to make it a monster. It was this lesson that stuck with me. There were bullies, and they were monstrous, but they weren't monsters. There were people who talked badly about me behind my back, and they were monstrous, but they weren't monsters. They were just people, making bad choices.
Thank you for that lesson, Doctor.

On the 23rd is the 50th anniversary special and, I'll be frank, it's probably a terrible place to start watching if you never have before, but you never know. There will be explosions, and running and times that will make the little child in you feel like hiding behind the couch. And who knows, I might even learn something.