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Wishing you all the best on this special day, throughout the holidays

and in the New Year!  May all your wishes come true —

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IMG_0075Greater Christmasville, Central, West Hollywood

Edward Tice

Jeffrey SwisherGreater Christmasville, Phoenix
Greater Christmasville, Indianapolis

Join Edward and Jeffrey and The Dinner Party Show’s Christmas Without Borders. Post your photos of your little corner of Greater Christmasville at http://www.facebook.com/TheDinnerPartyShow and help deck the Dinner Party Show’s Halls and our Facebook page. And remember, “Greater Christmasville” is without borders so it also includes the Hanukah Hills, Kwanza Acres and whatever holiday makes your season bright, so think outside the tree and post your additions and season’s greetings on the page.

Ho, ho, ho!

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Greater Christmasville rises from the glitter snow again!!

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A special holiday gift from http://www.Eric Shaw Quinn.com and all the residents of Greater Christmasville.

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The Colosseum and me from the porch of Hadrian's Temple to Venus.

My list of what I want to see in Rome is now much longer than it was before I arrived.

It was impossible for me to fully realize Rome in absentia in much the same way I could not have understood the American desert southwest before regarding it face to face.  I had seen pictures and Roadrunner cartoons featuring the buttes and canyons of the big square US states.  But not until I stood flatfooted on the high desert plain and saw mountain ranges hundreds and hundreds of miles away as clearly as houses across the street, could I begin to comprehend the vastness and the immense privacy of that awesomely desolate place.

So too was my experience of Rome.

I have seen pictures and paintings of the Coliseum so often in my life that, like Devil’s Tower to the characters in Close Encounters, I could probably have reproduced il Colosseo in some detail before I ever actually climbed into the stands of that most storied stadium.  But, as I made my way onto the Palatine – the hill on which the city began – I found myself experiencing the oddly familiar surroundings of this eternally famous place in a wholly unexpected way.

It is inexplicable to me that such a wonder as Rome could have sprung up in a time when most people were living under hides stretched over sticks.  I can see how those who are so disposed, could easily make a case for the intervention of some extraterrestrial or interdimensional  intelligence intervening to alter the course of humankind forever by creating the anomaly that is Rome.  In context, the achievement, is as alien and unexpected as such an outlandish explanation might suggest.

Dazed, I wandered through rubble still so monumental in its ruin as to impress and amaze a man who had actually flown across the world in less than a day for a glimpse.

The ruins of the Roman Forum still nicer than many of the neighborhoods where I've lived.

My day on the Palatine and in the Forum was too long without food or water.  Unlike most of Rome, there was not a cafe on every corner.  In these places of ancient sanctuary the very stones are accorded protected and endangered status  and are unblemished by Cafe Romulus or any such blasphemy.  So, by the time we’d made our way through Severus’ palace, Domitian’s Stadium, Augustus’ living room, Trajan’s Market, Saturn’s temple and the Basilica of Constantine, I was in a kind of dehydrated, creatively hallucinatory state.  Since Xanadu had already been written – the poem not the musical – I turned my unfettered thoughts to the improbability of the city around me.

We took refuge at a cafe in the Piazza Novona.   I sat sipping limone te and contemplating the plashing waters of the Fontana dei Quatro Fiumi– calling it the Fountain of Four Rivers is like singing Puccini in English, just not the same in translation somehow.

The Fontana dei Quatro Fiumi and company in the Piazza Navona.

Hundreds milled about me.  Some idiot woman was desecrating the site singing whiney-American-lady-pop-music.  I tried to avoid eye contact with any of a roaming band of mimes for fear they would endeavor to “entertain” me.  I wondered at the place.  I tried to imagine the cheering multitudes and the thundering hooves of the horses orbiting the circus of the hippodrome that had once stood where I now sat dipping indescribably good bread into drinkably fresh olive oil.

Suddenly, I saw it.

I understood Rome.  Perhaps it was just that it was nearly five in the evening and I had yet to have lunch.  Or maybe it was a little belated jet lag.  Possibly it was just a little too much science fantasy  and SimCity over the years.  But I don’t think so.

Rome is a trap for the smartest animals in the world.

I hate to use the world trap because it sounds so negative, but there it is.  Unlike the more innocent creatures of the wilderness, a cage or a pit wouldn’t hold us for long.  Many simpler creatures in fact simply stay, never thinking to leave.  But people are tricky.  You have to make them want to say, fight to stay, work to stay.

This bit of Serverus' Palace plumbing was around 200 years old when Christ was born -- I was much younger then, too.

First, you have to get them there.  Well, they say all roads lead to Rome, but that’s not quite true.  The fact was all the roads started in Rome, so they had the effect of leading there, but really served as much as an enticement as mere transportation.  The roads of Rome were among the greatest, if not the greatest, technological achievement of their day.  They were the equivalent of today’s telecommunication in their effect on the world they connected for the first time.  Christianity owes as much to Roman roads and the common language of Greek as to the words of Jesus himself.  Without the Greek lingua franca and Roman roads to carry those words, Christianity might be a small middle eastern Jewish sect.

Okay, so now the Roman roads have led the “prey” into the city.  How do they keep them there?

This is where the 40 ft statue of Constantine stood in 308 AD and where I stood in April 2011 A

Like any seduction, Rome is at once attractive and illusive.   For thousands of years there’s been so much to see and to do in Rome, but it has been and remains, very hard to stay.  So our trap draws people in, “captivates” them and then makes remaining in the delicious snare a personal achievement that one might work a lifetime to maintain.

That’s a pretty brilliant trap.

The Pyramids are great – new and old world.  The Parthenon and its environs are the seat of philosophy and forms of governance that we are still debating and perfecting without, as yet, much improving – though women are allowed to vote now and we have dispensed with the whole hideous slavery aspect of ancient democracy.  But no place represents the same kind of achievement as that of Rome.  There are cities/traps modeled after it, but there’s no debate about the source of their form.  We’re still building coliseums and filling them with gladiators.  Many new roads surround us.  Our prey arrive in cars and ships and planes.  People pour in and then work themselves literally to death in order, not only to stay but, to pay for the care and maintenance of the trap.

I don’t think that it was aliens or that the Roman’s ever thought about the building of Rome in such terms, but the effect is undeniable.

I try to imagine the world then — not as myself, who will not walk on the grass in front of my own house or go outside if it can be avoided, but — as a noble savage.  It was a green and abundant world unspoiled by the civilization for which Rome is the ultimate blueprint.  My savage self might spend his days wondering through this simple world, tasked only with my survival, plucking olives from the trees, making fires for warmth and cooking, living out a brief but uncomplicated life as free as the birds of the air or the other creatures in the forest.  Or I could go to this violent, foul smelling crowded heap of stones and waste called Rome.  There I could fight and claw for enough shiny metal to buy the very fruits and flesh I might have plucked or hunted for myself for free so that I might live out my short and dark life surrounded by and in the company and close proximity of the most vicious and dangerous creatures on the planet.

All that's left of 40 ft Constantine and a lot of extra me -- thanks pasta!!

Intended or not, that’s a pretty awesome, impressive and fearsome achievement.

And then Cafe Navona brought my lunch.  A perfect, pizza caprese, a bottle of still water and te caldo and I was ensnared, as content and as captivated as the other simple savages who’d come before me, charmed by the most beautiful and successful trap in the world.

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Shame

Basic cable wannbe Colton Haynes kissed a boy and tried to “Big-Homophobic-Brother” the evidence. Ashton Kutcher made out with Sean William Scott in a movie and will be making 750K an episode on 2 1/2 Men this fall. Who’s sorry now?

Never do anything you wouldn’t want to read about on the front page of the newspaper.  Admittedly, today the front page of a newspaper might be a good place to keep a secret, but you get the idea.  Those are words that I try to live by.

I don’t mean live your life like you’re in a PTA meeting or on the Mouseketeer’s Club or as a living saint.

I mean if my life was being reported in the paper or on-line or in a continuous series of YouTube posts, I wouldn’t alter my behavior to suit others.  I try to suit myself.  If I want to send out pictures of my junk on Twitter or sleep with my secretary or sell senate seats in Illinois, it only needs to be okay with me.  If I’d be ashamed for other people to find out about what I’m up to, then I shouldn’t be doing it.  But if I’m gonna do it, I own it.

No one can gossip about my behavior if I’m okay with it –Warts-and-Sunday-School – all of it.  It’s not gossip if it’s true.  So, if someone’s making stuff up about me or hacking my Twitter account to make me look bad, then that’s on them and I can deny it with confidence.  But if I’m sending dirty pictures of myself to people I met online and people find out and post it on their blog, we’ll then I’d best state proudly and in a good loud voice:  “And damn fine pictures they are.”

Insofar as I can tell, the only thing Representative Weiner’s has done that concerns anyone other than Mrs. Weiner is that he lied about the pictures when he got caught.  If he has holy hell to pay for that with his wife, that’s between them.

I feel the same way about that Senator who was screwing his married staffer, or that idiot South Carolina Governor or that guy in the airport bathroom stall or President Clinton.  It’s none of my business.  Usually they only get into trouble when they try to cover it up.

I guess it all comes down to that most useless of all human emotions – Shame.  I can’t think of a single purpose for this one.  A little guilt helps keep me on the right road, but being ashamed of my choices in life? That means I’m more concerned with what you think than how I feel.  That just seems a complete waste to me.  Especially if I’m feeling ashamed of what people only pretend to think.

It is not possible, in this age of E-Harmony and Girls Gone Wild, for us to continue to pretend to this ridiculous Victorian-at-best shock, horror and moral-blush-inducing-alarm.  I’d be willing to wager that the majority of men out there have or have had a picture of their junk on their phone and/or hard drives in the process of dating, adolescence and simply being male.  There is just too much online hooking up going on for that not to be true.  Sex is our most powerful and most sustaining drive and we will apply whatever technological means at hand in its pursuit.  I’d also plunk down good money on a bet that the second movie ever made was porn.  Maybe it was just a kiss or a woman’s ankle but, in context, still porn.

What’s more, our continued pretense around the penis seems to me to a form of sexism that surely we can begin to grow past.  Boobs are EVERYWHERE.  We are inundated with this most visible of the female sexual arsenal and, with the rather inexplicable exception of Janet Jackson’s left nipple, impervious to literally having boobs thrust in our face.

There is an entire industry built around the design and manufacture of foundation garments that make breasts more visible, noticeable and unavoidable.  I don’t think that’s a good or a bad thing, but it is an undeniable fact.  Imagine garments that made the penis stick straight out and pants cut so low that you could see all but the tip.  I think it would be incredibly uncomfortable, but then I’ve no idea how it feels to walk around with your boobs half-exposed and pointing the way.  We are surrounded by women’s breasts all the time yet we have no reaction.  But, apparently, even a glimpse of penis through thick, decidedly-unsexy-gray-underpants turns us into a pack of grade school simps.  By this standard, the Sears Catalog, if it still exists, is more shocking than Representative Weiner’s pictorial but there has literally been nothing else on the news for going on two weeks!!

My point is this I think.  We’re only pretending to be shocked.  No one cares, save a very few very silly, probably very old people.  MoveOn.org was originally founded to get the House and Senate to GET OVER and MOVE ON from Bill Clinton’s cigar interlude with that horrid little opportunist who saved her dress for the DNA.

The number of under-and-unemployed in this country is holding around 25% and all we can talk about is how you can kind of see this representative’s junk through his underpants? Really?

But more than that, we have got to stop telling public figures and particularly politicians that they should lie to us.  We’re a big, grown up country now and we need to start acting like one.

When a football player sends pictures of his erection to some woman, we should be thankful that he’s not accused of raping her after she came up to his room drunk at two in the morning.  If some Freshman Republican House of Representatives guy is all excited about what he and his new trainer have done with his chest and he posts it on Craig’s List, we should turn the photo over to Mrs. Freshman Republican and close the door.  That way, when some little hottie gets a gig on the basic cable channel that brought us Gay-Porn-Star-VJ Simon Rex and the ambi-sexual bed hopping of The Real World he might not feel so much shame over an old picture taken of him kissing some boy for a magazine that he hires lawyers to help him pretend it didn’t happen by claiming it was porn.  (Winner Worst Defense EVER!!)

In fact, it might even be possible that when horrible old Newt tells the truth about Paul Ryan’s death-to-grandma-coupon-healthcare he can actually scrape together enough character to own his own words.

I think we live in an age of cynicism where politicians pretend that we can skip paying taxes and maintain the highest standard of living in world, closet cases pretend they’re the Family Research Council and racists pretend that it’s the about the birth certificate.  We don’t believe any of it, but we pretend we do, because we’re just as ashamed of what we really think as they are.  Shame, it would seem, leads us to that still more Victorian practice: hypocrisy.

So, in the end, the building is on fire and we’re all too embarrassed to admit that we smell smoke?  Now that’s a shame.

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