December 23, 2006


Goat Rope is pleased to offer a special Christmas edition of the canine film critic. In this holiday feature, Goat Rope Farm film critic Sandor Sege (pronounced Shandor Shegg-AY) will discuss the perennial seasonal favorite, "A Christmas Story."

Once again, we must remind our readers that Mr. Sege suffered a head injury from crashing into a wall whilst chasing a squeaky toy. As a result, he has on occasion been known to transpose the plots of the films he discusses. Nevertheless, we believe that his insights into the world of cinema more than compensate for this regrettable shortcoming.

It is our hope that features such as these will elevate the level of public discourse and contribute to a greater appreciation of both the humanities and the animalities.

And finally, the human and animal staff of Goat Rope, with the possible exception of the goats, join in wishing a happy whatever-ticks-off-Bill-O'Reilly-day to one and all.

(Production note: regular publication of Goat Rope will resume on Dec. 26.)


OK, so this movie is awesome. Some people may not think this movie needs explaining by a film critic but there's a lot going on there that you might not get at first.

First, there's this kid who wants a BB gun for Christmas so bad it's driving him nuts. But everybody keeps telling him he'll put his eye out with it.

What they don't know is that he really needs this BB gun because this evil robot from the future who looks like some kind of muscle governor is coming back and trying to kill him.

The evil robot catches the kid and puts him in a prison down south where he makes friends with everybody by eating 50 eggs.

I could probably eat 50 eggs if Moomus and Doodus would let me...

The 50 eggs is sort of a symbol for the 12 days of Christmas.

Anyway, he escapes from New York and these Christmas ghosts show him what's going to happen to him if he doesn't straighten up. So then he trades in his BB gun and buys Christmas presents for everybody, even the evil robot whose name is Tiny Tim, who gets the girl that works at the fashion magazine.
It's awesome, especially if you eat eggs and popcorn while you watch it.

December 22, 2006


Caption: Venus volunteered to help Santa deliver toys in a car. Warning: don't try this at home. Only professionally trained goats should operate motor vehicles.

This is the fourth and final installment on the
bogus "war on Christmas," which El Cabrero stoutly maintains is a diabolically clever distraction in the merciless war of extermination on Groundhog Day.

If this is your first visit, please scroll down to earlier entries.

It was encouraging last year to read a thoughtful letter to the editor about Christmas in the Huntington West Virginia paper where it was suggested that we make it unacceptable to “use this holy day as a means of profit monetarily.”

Instead, the writer recommended that “If you want to give, give your time and talents to those who truly are in need, not greed. Give to your church and the poor, the homeless, the sick and inform, the lonely and downtrodden and all others who otherwise may be or have been forgotten.”

If people took that advice, they’d be too busy to get their undergarments in a knot over holiday greetings. We really don’t need any more jihads.

I’m already starting my wish list for next Christmas. I’m asking St. Nicholas, the 4th century bishop of Myra who somehow got morphed into Santa Claus, to help the Christmas jihad crew find something better to do next holiday season.

Or, failing that, to find them a different religion to disgrace.

And, by the way, y'all have a good one.


December 21, 2006


Caption: There's no need to bug out about the holidays.

This is the third post in a series about the bogus "War on Christmas," which in El Cabrero's mind is a diabolical conspiracy to distract the masses from the real assault on Father's Day.

If this is your first visit, please scroll down to the earlier posts

At the historical level, no one knows exactly when Jesus was born, although most scholars would put their money on any day but Dec. 25. The earliest church didn’t mark the holiday. By the year 200, the church father Clement of Alexandria found that the people who tried to mark the exact day did so “overly curiously.” Early dates from around that period set the birth in March, April or June.

The Dec. 25 date didn’t catch on in the western church until the 4th century of the Christian era. This time of year was already celebrated in pagan customs honoring Saturn, Mithras, and the return of the sun after the winter solstice. A lot of other Christmas customs, including trees, Yule logs, and the exchange of gifts were adapted from Mediterranean, Germanic or Celtic paganism. In other words, there are a lot of reasons for things done at that season.

I think the decision of the ancient church to fill the calendar with sacred days marking key events in the life of Jesus, the early church and the saints was a wise one, even if the days don’t match up exactly. Maybe one reason some people get so weird about Christmas is that they have an impoverished sense of the sacred year. Making do just on Christmas and Easter from this perspective is kind of like playing cards with just two in the deck.

When I buy gas on Jan. 1, for example, I don’t get worked up if the person says “Happy New Year” instead of “Happy Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord.” I don’t tell the people I’m taking my business elsewhere if they don’t say “Happy Epiphany” on January 6. I’m even OK if folks don’t wish me a happy Nativity of John the Baptist on June 24th.

These are things you just deal with...

December 20, 2006


Caption: Christmas or not, I'd avoid any manger these guys hang out in.
(Note: please excuse any weirdness of format and spacing. The "improved" version of blogger is turning out to be a, well, goat rope.")
This is the second post in a series on the bogus "War on Christmas," which is in El Cabrero's opinion merely a cynical diversionary movement in the long term war of attrition against Mardi Gras.
If this is your first visit, please scroll down to the previous entry.
You may have noticed that some people work themselves into a frenzy of imagined martyrdom when someone says "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."
That's pretty jacked.
At a moral level, there is something pretty perverse going on when a person claiming to be a follow of Jesus walks into a big box store where the products were made by women and children in sweatshops who live in miserable conditions, is waited on by a person who probably doesn’t earn a living wage or have health insurance, and only manages to get mad if the worker says something other than “Merry Christmas.”

This is the kind of thing the real Jesus—remember him?—called “straining at gnats and allowing camels.” In fact, I don’t think any of the gospels quotes Jesus as saying “Thou shalt get royally ticked off if the occasion of my birth is not marked by everyone exactly according to your liking.”
Maybe I missed that part.

At a religious level, there is something pretty blasphemous about thinking that the current annual Saturnalia of materialism, greed, commercialism, and over-consumption in a world where billions of people are desperately poor has anything to do with the person or birth of Jesus. As I recall, when Jesus himself was exposed to the commercialization of sacred things in the Temple, he started overturning tables and raising a ruckus.

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was probably onto something when he said that true impiety consisted of “attributing to the gods the ideas of the crowd.”

At a semantic level, there seems to be some confusion about persecution and how to deal with it. Jesus was literally persecuted to death. When he warned his followers to expect the same and told them to bless and pray for their persecutors, he probably didn’t have the greeting “Happy holidays” in mind.

Maybe a real example of persecution would help clear things up. About 25 years ago, three American nuns and a church worker went to El Salvador to stand with oppressed people. They did this because they took Jesus’ teachings about justice for the poor seriously. (Apparently these teachings have been excised from some versions of the New Testament.) They were kidnapped by the Salvadoran National Guard and were raped, tortured, shot, and buried in an unmarked grave precisely for being faithful to the Gospel.

That was persecution.

Equating a generic holiday greeting with persecution is an insult to thousands of authentic Christian martyrs from the stoning of Stephen to the present day.
Next time: history.

December 19, 2006


Caption: I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills...

(Once again, please excuse the weirdness of spacing etc. as Goat Rope tries to deal with a change in software.)

One of the loonier cultural moments in the last few years--and the competition has been fierce--has been the whole "war on Christmas" jihad, (which in El Cabrero's opinion is just a distraction from the real war on Arbor Day).

I haven't heard a lot about it lately, which is probably one advantage of living too far out in the sticks to get cable.

Anyhow, the next few posts will share a version of a rant on the subject that appeared in an op-ed of mine in the Charleston Gazette last holiday season.

Here's the first installment:

I usually enjoy customs and rituals, especially when they are sanctioned by age and tradition. Some of the newer ones, however, get on my last nerve.

A case in point is the recent holiday ritual of the annual Christmas jihad, a feeding frenzy of pretended persecution and pseudo-martyrdom the coming of which is heralded not by the singing of angels but by the braying of jackasses.

The jackasses in question summon the faithful via the airwaves to a veritable hissy fit of outrage over the fact that some people have the gall to say “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” This apparently is seen to be the latter day equivalent of being being fed to the lions in the Roman coliseum.

As a practicing although not entirely successful Christian who celebrates Christmas, this seems bizarre. I don’t personally care how I’m greeted at that season, having learned as a child that it’s rude to get angry when someone wishes you well, however they express it. But there is more to this than bad manners.

Which will be the subject of the next installment...


December 18, 2006


Caption: Ferdinand likes to watch the people channel. This is how it starts.

(First, an apology: Goat Rope was recently switched to a new form of software which is getting on El Cabrero's last nerve. Please excuse weirdness in spacing and format.)

El Cabrero is having more and more postmodern moments lately. These are those times when the current cultural shift from things to images of things to images of images is particularly striking.

Here are some examples:

*Two perfectly healthy kids playing a video game version of basketball on a fine day when a real basketball court is a minute away;

*The political switch from substance to soundbite and policy to photo op;

*Cyber-dating and related virtual activities;

*Movies about making movies, and movies about the breakdown of the distinction between images and "reality" like Blade Runner or The Matrix, etc.

But the one that takes the cake is the booming market in virtual reality. According to the Dec. 18th Business Week,

"In 2006 the fast-rising virtual world, Second Life, became the hottest commercial (un)real estate online. It resembles a video game, but here people create avatars, or graphic representations of themselves, and proceed to build everything from buildings to businesses. Thousands of people make at least $20,000 a year from selling virtual clothing, houses, shopping malls, games, and more."

More and more business are spending real money buying virtual real estate with real money as a way of reaching more (presumably real) customers.

It is virtually the understatement of the year to say that things are starting to get really weird.

By the way, for as good a definition of postmodernism as you are likely to get, check out this talking animal blast from the Goat Rope past.


In the same issue of Business Week, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who recently tried and failed to buy the state legislature, had the dubious distinction of being cited in an item on CEOs who offer the best and worst bang for the corporate buck. He wound up on the "Worst Value" list, "earning" $32.6 million himself while the company's return on investment was -27.1 percent.