Thursday, December 6, 2012

This Year's Christmas Letter

I can feel it! This is the year my mom chooses my letter over her more boring and accurate latter!

Season's Greetings to all our friends and family. This year has seen the dawning of a new age of achievement for the Jarvis clan. While we've had our down times there have been more ups. And, so, we celebrate with this joyous message.

Wendy has enjoyed her solo career so far. She said that even though she enjoyed touring with the rest of the band and she loves them all very much they were getting to be creatively moribund and it was the right decision to break up. She calls from the road while her tour bus heads to the next venue but we still miss her. Being on the road eight months out of the year isn't easy but the music keeps her going. When the crowds cheer her on and seem to enjoy the newer songs it bevies her spirit and she feels the urge to crowd surf. When we asked her what she would miss the most if she gave up touring and just stayed in the studio she said "The studio's not Rock, man! I got to be free to feel the music."

Mike enjoys working in Costco's advanced cybernetics division but still harbors dreams of setting it all aside to ride the rails as a gentleman vagabond; telling stories to travelers in exchange for sponge baths. He recently shared with the family his extensive collection of hobo memorabilia like Old Blind Joe's bean pot and Crazy Larry's stabbing knife. He has taken to wandering down by the train tracks with a bindle and a wistful expression as he hears the trains whistle just over the horizon. He stares off into the middle distance and hums the tune to "Big Rock Candy Mountain" under his breath and mutters about how he would have been able to save Howie from that train. We keep trying to reassure him that Irene Hunt's book was just fiction but it doesn't make it any easier when he cradles his banjo and softly weeps. We're all a little worried about him.

Elizabeth, who has always been open about her hobby hunting the most dangerous game on her private island, secretly relishes the thought of kidnapping her dad from a rail yard somewhere and pitting her high powered rifle against his drifter's cunning. She also enjoys her efforts in our Nation's Capitol lobbying to increase funding for Sasquatch related research projects. "We will find him," she often exclaims assuredly at family events, "it's only a matter of time and resources." Through her efforts, she has gotten Senator Ron Wyden to co-sponsor a bill in the Senate with his colleague Maria Cantwell to re-purpose satellite and drone surveillance over the forests of the Pacific Northwest. We're all quite proud of her moxy.

Martin remains an elusive and enigmatic shadow presence in the backs of our minds and hearts. The Coast Guard assured us that there was no way anyone could have survived that tragic submarine fire but recent and cryptic messages posted as PM's to our facebook pages indicate that he had orchestrated the whole debacle and that he always had a plan for escape. What else could it mean when one receives the message: "You have been poked by a mysterious stranger"?

Matt has recently become acquainted with the cutthroat world of street corner shoe shining. He felt to try his hand at it after admiring how shiny the shoes were he followed to the corner one windy afternoon. A wizened dwarf sat poised with a cloth in hand on a tiny, three-legged stool next to a bench with a foot rest that put his customers' shoes within easy reach of his stubby fingers. Matt ignored the strong smell of cabbage and stood rapt for hours just watching scuffed foot wear become renewed and reborn with nothing more than spit and elbow grease, and a magic, black concoction the gnome kept in a tin at his feet. At day's end, while the dwarf stood knuckling his back before cleaning up his trade, Matt approached and gingerly sought to introduce himself. The dwarf moved like a flash and Matt found himself in the emergency room having his thumb reattached. Otherwise, his year was dull and uneventful.

Alice and the kids worry about Matt more than usual of late but they carry on despite their trepidation: Alice has begun training Henry much as she did Hannah when she reached nine years of age in the art of living statue busking. He hasn't gotten used to the silver paint but he is really catching on to the idea of standing still until his sudden movement can startle a Japanese tourist into dropping some change into his cup. Hannah will be glad of the company once he is fully trained and ready to join her at the bus depot down town. Alice is tough but fair as a coach. She is also training Hazel and Hailey with the goal of entering them in the rodeo sheep racing circuit. Hazel has quick hands and a firm grip; she is doing quite well. Hailey still requires a lot of duct tape to keep her from falling off even the dullest and slowest of sheep.

Amy believes that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your science and yells as much to every scientist she meets. She has been banned from every college campus within walking distance of the roadside petting zoo she and Michael opened this year. They live on the lot in an old trailer home. They like the spot because they get good reception on their mobile SETI array. Ever since Michael's abduction last year by clammy grey strangers from beyond the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt! He was out back, watering a bush late one night when suddenly a beam of light shined down on him, immobilizing him. He felt an eerie sense of weightlessness as his whole body stretched up and his toes left the ground. On the ship they demanded he play their equivalent of a board game much like our Chutes and Ladders he told me afterward. Amy found him that next day, unconscious with his pants around his ankles and smelling strongly of llama milk. They argued and Amy finally conceded that he would just have to prove it. So far, monitoring radio signals from space hasn't brought the desired proof but they're in it for the long haul.

We hope you have enjoyed sharing in our adventures this year past. It is also our hope that this letter finds you enjoying an equally accomplished year and that you are looking back in delight rather than despair. Next year is sure to be even better!

Merry Christmas from the Jarvis Family.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Everyman His Own Historian

We are apt to think of the past as dead, the future as nonexistent, the present alone as real; and prematurely wise or disillusioned counselors have urged us to burn always with "a hard, gemlike flame" in order to give "the highest quality to the moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake." This no doubt is what the glow-worm does; but I think that man, who alone is properly aware that the present moment passes, can for that very reason make no good of the present moment simply for its own sake. Strictly speaking, the present doesn't exist for us, or is at best no more than an infinitesimal point in time, gone before we can notice it as present. Nevertheless, we must have a present; and so we create one by robbing the past, by holding on to the most recent events and pretending that they all belong to our immediate perceptions. If, for example, I raise my arm, the total event is a series of occurrences of which the first are past before the last have taken place; and yet you perceive it as a single movement executed in one present instant. This telescoping of successive events into a single instant philosophers call the "specious present." Doubtless they would assign rather narrow limits to the specious present; but I will willfully make a free use of it, and say that we can extend the specious present as much as we like. In common speech we do so: we speak of the "present hour," the "present year," the "present generation." Perhaps all living creatures have a specious present; but man has this superiority, as Pascal says, that he is aware of himself and the universe, can as it were hold himself at arm's length and with some measure of objectivity watch himself and his fellows functioning in the world during a brief span of allotted years. Of all the creatures, man alone has a specious present that may be deliberately and purposefully enlarged and diversified and enriched.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

“We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.”

Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Hint

“…self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that very well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself; no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions. One shuffles flashily but in vain through one’s marked cards - the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one had been shamed. The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others - who are, after all, deceived easily enough…”
— Joan Didion, On Self-Respect.

It was Joan who gave me the idea in the first place. While bored one day last year, I picked up and started rifling through my mission journals. Frankly, what I had chosen to record and what I had chosen to omit surprised me and made me curious to see if it would be possible to fill in the blanks. The act of reading alone was enough to remind me of more than what was written. Memory is a tricky thing though and the task will no doubt be hopelessly biased toward the present me at the expense of past me. I am far more cynical now. What I wrote then seems naive and embarrassing but that is kind of the point of Didion's statement above: I am built on who that far away and silly missionary was way back then in Japan. Ignoring him isn't possible so I should learn from him instead.

The possibilities inherent in this exploration feel like a chance to consider how an incomplete past can be filled in. Twenty year old me was not a careful recorder of the events he experienced and acted in. Most often I read the repetition of trite phrases and platitudes. I'm glad he had so much "fun" doing certain things but he should have been clearer about why those things were fun or why they mattered to him. He was often insecure; often setting and resetting goals in an ongoing effort at self-improvement. But he was never very good at recording the results of all that goal-making. How well did he live up to the ideal he so continuously championed with pen and paper? I would like to know these things now but they are lost between the lines of the text. If he could change and grow then, I can do it today.

Another lack of these journal entries is descriptive. Japan was a wonderful, new, foreign environment full of new sights, sounds, tastes, smells: every sense. I wish he had been more detailed. The few passages that do not disappoint in this way are amazing to read now. They flood my memory and help me feel closer to that previous me. By immersing myself in transcribing all the entries, I hope to fill in the settings and the context of a time in my life when I was more open to the wonders and the eccentricities of another land and of a different way of life--the life of a missionary in Japan. It is a unique perspective that not many people get to share.

So, this is an opportunity to fill in these blanks before even more time goes by and more is lost. I will get to know the "me" I was so that I can reexamine the "me" I am today. This will consist of blog posts directly from my journals interposed with my commentary and reflections. Hopefully, it will be worth reading. Hopefully, it will be worth doing.

Friday, May 6, 2011

More to Come

I'm kicking around an idea for this blog that will soon result in actual posts again. Stay tuned...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Laura Marling is Awesome

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Yeah, 5 blades is nice and all:

uber 5-bladed razor of shave

but I’m waiting for the day they come out with the 800 blade razor in the shape of my beard-area so I can finally finish shaving in one easy stroke.  WHEN!  When will you finally listen to your customers and give them what they really want, oh Lords of the Shavery!