I just had another hypnogogic hallucination. This time with birds.

I was taking a nap, and having weird dreams about Athena growing up to be a mountain lion. That she was a mountain lion did not surprise me at all, but I was horrified because now I had to find a home for an adult mountain lion before she went into heat and amorous male pumas started showing up on the porch.

I woke up and thought groggily “Oh, thank god, Athena’s a housecat,” but then promptly embarked on the heavy-lidded false-wakings that characterize my variety of sleep paralysis.

In one of the false-wakings, I got up, and went to the sliding glass door (this characterizes virtually all of my hypnogogic hallucinations, since I only get these when taking a nap on the couch) and looked out. There was snow on the ground, and my backyard had a fence made of logs and wire, and there were birds everywhere. The birds were the shockingly day-glo colors of reef fish–a pair of bright blue-violet and black sparrow-like things, one deep-purple and black that looked like a grosbeak but flew like a hummingbird, and one enormous fish/goose waddling thing that was also blue-violet and black, but had wet red lips.

“Aha!” I thought. “Birds are not this color, therefore I am dreaming. I should try to remember these!”

The purple and black groshummingbeak flew to a fence post and hovered, opening and shutting its thick black bill. The fish/goose waddled along and made kissing noises with its lips. (“Must be a kissing gourami,” I thought.)

A blazing, glowing scarlet shape trundled into sight between the trees, fire-engine red and glowing like a campfire. “Wait a minute!” I said, “that’s a DASCHUND! Daschunds aren’t birds! What the hell!?” and woke up, still paralyzed, but now indignant.

I took a deep breath–breathing deeply seems to release me for some reason–and was mostly awake, and then the phone rang.

Merry Dies Natalis Solis Invicti!

Everybody from here to the planet Krypton has already talked about the War on Christmas, or perhaps more accurately, the “I’m claiming to be persecuted because it makes me feel special, so I’m throwing a hissy fit,” on Christmas. But that sort of thing never stops me.

I am not, as some of you may have had the teensiest of inklings, a Christian, nor Muslim, nor Jew. I am a sort of generalized agnostic under most circumstances, unless there’s an aggravating religious type in the room, whereupon I become a really devout atheist out of sheer contrariness. (The “room” in this case includes virtual rooms, forums, and a ten mile radius around my body in any direction, including up.) I suspect I’m not alone in this quality.

I do not, however, get bent wildly out of shape if somebody says “Merry Christmas” to me. I do not feel that this is shoving religion down my throat. I also don’t particularly care if there are angels topping trees (although there’s a rubber chicken topping the one at my parent’s place.) Nor do I mind menorahs or whatever the hell they do for Kwanzaa. If I get a card that says “Seasons Greetings” I do not wail. (For awhile I was addressing all my cards with “Merry Dies Natalis Solis Invicti!” that being the birth of the unconquered sun, celebrating the birth of the god Mithras, but god, that’s a lot to write just to prove you’re cool and obscure to people who don’t remotely care.)

I am, if anything, an inclusionist. I figure it’s the holiday season for practically everybody and we should shove EVERYTHING up the collective decorating rectum of mankind. You want Baby Jesus? Fine! Wonderful! I want Baby Mithras. Bring me a white bull calf without blemish! I want the Yule log and the Solstice chicken and the Kwanzaa something or other. I want a billboard celebrating Atheist Children Get Presents day and Father Christmas and Mommy New Year and Baby Boxing Day. Put it ALL up. Let us all wallow in tacky pseudo-religious excess!

I firmly believe that every single religion, and the total lack thereof, has the right to have cheapass plastic light-up crap that can be wedged in the front yard. It’s Isaac Newton’s birthday, that’s a holiday I can get behind, let’s make a plastic light-up Newton bearing presents. I draw the line at sacrificing a bull for Mithras, because I am squeamish and he’s a very fraternal god and probably wouldn’t appreciate women doin’ that sorta thing,* but a plastic light up bull with strings of red Christmas lights wrapped tightly around its throat and spilling in gory streamers onto the lawn strikes me as fabulous. Bring it all!

See, I can see the arguments for Freedom FROM religion pretty easily. I think they’re valid. But I also think that in the long run, we’re better served by making religions commonplace and comprehensible and Not Scary. People wouldn’t live in terror of Islam if they had Mohammed waving in a stately fashion from the neighbor’s lawn (perhaps with animatronic mountain-moving action.) Those wacky pagans become a lot less alarming when you find out just how many of them are raving flakes who want you to call them “Moonvegetable” and have baked you carob cookies.** (Yes, yes, there are good sane pagans out there. I was a pagan once, I get to make fun of them.) The ideal of those damn godless atheists bent on bringing down the establishment with their secular humanist horrors will have a hard time holding up when you’re both commiserating about how you shopped for hours for the kids and they play with the damn bubble wrap instead.

I think we should dump it all in together, take it to stupidly tacky excess, and realize that, as the man said, “We’re chained to the world and we all gotta pull.” Then we can all bitch about how the holidays don’t mean what they used to, and all get the history of our holiday completely and totally wrong, and we’ll be unified in a glorious morass of holiday angst.

Because if we can’t freakin’ make fun of Christmas, what good is it?

Thank you. That is all.

*Despite this, I still have a fondness for Mithras. It’s like cats, I expect. They love the people who hate them the most.

**Okay, carob cookies should be banned. I’ll get behind that.

My allergies have been killing me for the last two days. I’m not sure why–something to do with the furnace running, I imagine, kicking up dust and sending me into a frenzy of snorfling. Allegra doesn’t stop it. At last, in despair, I picked up a couple of face masks and have been wearing them around the house. This seems to help.

It’s somewhat problematic, however, because I keep forgetting it’s there and whanging my coffee cup into it.

And then there’s my eyes. The allergies and the extreme dryness of the winter air have conspired to turn my eyeballs to curry. They burn. The face mask doesn’t help there, because air escaping the mask is forced to flow up the sides of my nose, past my tormented eyes. The end result is that I am as grimly red-eyed as I ever was during my stoner youth. If this continues, I will have to get eye drops, and believe me, there are few things in this world that I hate more than dropping stuff into my eyes. My blink reflex is muscular and firmly intact. At the first blurry sign of something enroute, the lids close up like Fort Knox. (James, sufferer of poor vision and contact wearer for many years, wouldn’t blink if you jammed a sharpened stick in his eye, of course. It’s a good thing he wears glasses–they serve as protective goggles against a cruel eye-poking world.)

So yesterday, the Fed Ex guy tromped up to my door with a package from my father, something from an optics place, as my father’s gifts this year are birdwatching related. The doorbell rang. I was taking a nap, but of course the doorbell caused me to levitate from the couch, rush to the door, and fling it open.

Wild-haired, scarlet-eyed, wearing a face mask–the FedEx guy probably thought he’d accidentally disturbed the Surgeon From The Black Lagoon. He certainly fled quickly. But then again, I assume home delivery people are used to seeing a cross-section of humanity at their most vulnerable and bizarre, so I didn’t worry about it much.

I am jazzed about the birdwatching equipment. One of the items still en route is a bit of family history, a monocular owned by my grandfather, who won it in a poker game while working in Alaska. (I don’t know where in Alaska, or under what circumstances, but I am imagining a smoky bar in the Yukon, sort’ve Arctic Old West style, with parka-clad floozies, a piano playing ragtime and gimlet-eyed men stomping in from the outside, kicking snow from their boots, and inquiring in a hard drawl “That yer dogsled out there, pardner?” This is almost certainly not how it happened, but I can dream, damnit.)

Once, long ago, I had a screw up on my W-2s, and I had to get it sorted out. A friend had just come over at the time.

“I’ll be just a minute,” I said from the kitchen. “I just gotta call the IRS and get my taxes straightened out.”

There was a pause from the other room, and then, with infinite sadness, my friend said, “Virginia…there is no Santa Claus.”

I did manage to get things sorted out–there’d been a typo–in good time, but nevertheless, my friend’s eloquent commentary on my faith in the system vs. the reality of existence stuck with me. I thought of it again yesterday when I picked up the large envelope with the clear plastic window that said “IRS” and discovered a Notice of Intent to Levy.

This came as something of a surprise, since I have been paying off my taxes with clockwork regularity. In times of financial strife, some bills do occasionally slide–cable’s not a neccessity, and you can string the phone company along for a few months on partial payments–but it’s an article of faith with me that you Don’t Screw With The I.R.S. (It’s worth noting that I haven’t been in those sort of financial straits for close to a decade, mind you.) It’s like not poking the bear and not tickling the wolverine. Certainly, ethically one should pay one’s taxes and one should not torment large vicious mammals, but the ethics are not really the primary cause. The I.R.S. can Mess You Up.

So I got on the phone. As I punched my social security number in, I heard, ringing through my head, still in the slow, sad tones of a friend watching a friend plummet towards destruction, “Virginia…”

I got a very nice woman who looked at my history and began making the small, mumbling sentence fragments of someone studying something intently and discovering it makes No Sense Whatsoever. “They took the fee…but then…but it didn’t…and here they…and it’s $47…but here’s a…on the 25th…but then… but where is…?” After awhile, I was put on hold. After awhile I was taken off hold and informed that this was completely baffling and made no sense. I went back on hold. I came off hold to be transferred somewhere else. I went back on hold. I came off hold to be told that the people who could might know what had happened had left for the day. At last, however, the words that I had been longing to hear came down the line–“Well, this certainly isn’t your fault…”

Hallelujah. Choirs of angels sporting Schedule C’s descended from the heavens and circled my head.

In the end, it did not get sorted out yet, but I was reassured that it would be thirty days before the IRS came and broke my kneecaps and reposessed my cat, and surely it would be sorted out by then, and to call back by such and such if they didn’t get ahold of me. Well, but the computers were going down for three weeks in January, but surely they’d fix it before then. Or after. Well, anyway, it wasn’t my fault. Keep sending money. They’d sort it out.

And I believed them.

Oh, Virginia…

I make no promises as to the quality of this.

Really. It took two days, so there are limits to how great it’s gonna be. The story is less of a story-with-a-plot and more of a random vignette. It is unpolished. It may be emotionally unsatisfying. The writing may be overly twee or overly gross or overly both. The art is occasionally rough.

Nevertheless, I offer an illustrated short story, “Little Creature and the Dream Deer” to anybody who might feel like reading it.

http://www.webcomicsnation.com/uvernon/littlecreature/series.php?view=archive&chapter=4602&mpe=1&step=1

God help us all.

Went and saw King Kong.

I confess, I expected it to suck. When I heard Peter Jackson was going from LOTR to freakin’ King Kong, I was horrified. What the heck? Giant gorillas? Come ON.

I cried when he died. *sniffle*

Also, major props for best brontosaurus stampede ending badly scene yet.

Having Dreamhost problems.

Apparently we’re using too much CPU time. We haven’t done anything to cause this, our traffic is no more than usual and less than sometimes, we’re not using anywhere near our total bandwidth, and yet suddenly we’re taking up more than our allotted share of CPU. (This was evidentally in the fine print somewhere. It’s really kind of a gyp, because it’s not possible to use anywhere near all the bandwidth they sell you without going over the CPU time that gets mentioned somewhere way down in the user agreement and nowhere in the sales pitch.)

It’s also impossible to fix for two people who only know the barest amount about php, and the instructions from Dreamhost are completely incomprehensible to a non-software engineer. James is a very smart guy, and managed to put the site together using PhPNuke, but this is light-years ahead of what he can possibly do, even if he wasn’t in crunch time for a game that needs to be done next month.

So if these keeps up (and since we don’t know what suddenly caused it to use more time, we have no idea if it’ll stop as suddenly as it came, or continue indefinitely) we have to either take the site down or move it, or fix the problem. We can’t take the site down, as that’s my major income source, moving it’s a royal pain in the ass, and fixing it seems improbable. I suppose we could go back to the old clunky site which doesn’t use PHP, but my heart breaks at the notion.

I am more than a little miffed at Dreamhost, since they keep mention moving to a dedicated server for only $99 a month, which A) Ain’t Gonna Happen, and B) makes the whole thing seem like a bait-and-switch sales device.

Grrrr.

I’m sorry. Really, I am. You’re so patient with my doodlemania, and I’ve really exceeded the limit of Cute Sketches Every Five Minutes this weekend.

Still, have some more, as the nameless cute-evil-thingy engages in nameless cute-evil activities. With captions! Don’t worry, it can’t last. I have to mine out my inner angst to do anything with blood, and believe me, that mine’s about six inches deep and runs less a yard. Digger could have it excavated in two hours, with a stop for a beer.

http://www.deviantart.com/view/26532437/

The best part is the tongue sticking out on the dead crow.