Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Santa Claus

It's quite possible that I have no idea what is going on here:

Or it might be just what I think it is. A study by the Swedish consulting firm SWECO late last year determined that for Kris Kringle to maximize his gift-delivering to all the billions of young people across the world, he should be based in Kyrgyzstan.

The rest is at the BBC. What it boils down to is that the Kyrgyz government hosted a big celebration full of Santa Clauses and Ayaz Atas (Snow Father) and Ded Morozes (Grandfather Frost) and planned to name a mountain between the Osh and Naryn Oblasts as Santa's "new" home. RFE/RL also ran a big story about it.

While discussing the story with a friend in Kyrgyzstan, he lamented that this was just the sort of problem that the Central Asian Republics are trying to deal with: the question of identity in the wake of the collapse of the USSR. I suspect that the celebration and the naming of the mountain, just like the study that preceded them both, was slightly more benign than that, but the thought was now officially out. That friend and I, as well as two other people, are collaborating to research questions of identity just like this. We feel that it is important for some reason. Watch this space.

For me, though, the story illustrated an important point about religious identity, which just happens to be one of my research interests. In a nation whose population is probably 75% Muslim, this seems to be a cute little interfaith excursion. Of course, Kyrgyzstan is close to 20% Orthodox Christian, too, and even the Muslims there are mostly adherents of the Hanafi school, which distinguishes them from other, more strict denominations. Still, that Father Christmas can be revered in a Central Asian country is a good indicator that all hope is not lost, and that there are still options for getting along.

Or something slightly less sappy, but equally useful.

Par for the Course

These discs are just begging to get thrown in a lake

If there is most assuredly one thing that is missing in this Colorado life, it would be disc golf. Yes, it’s golf, but with Frisbees. Now granted, these Frisbees (or discs, as we call them) weigh upwards of 170 grams and can seriously bust you up if you get hit by them, but the basic premise is the same. Naturally, you can understand more by following this link to a ridiculously underdeveloped Wikipedia page about the sport. DISC GOLF

There was a time where multiple hours every day were spent out on the disc golf course in Aurora, IL. It was usually Jason and I heading out there after work. It presented a perfect opportunity to blow off steam about the day or week, and to plan things like our newspaper. Or, for that matter, all the millions of other outrageous plans that we discussed.

When Captain Ahab was around, he’d come out, too, and we’d laugh and laugh and have REALLY HIGH-LEVEL CONVERSATIONS. I remember the last time that I disced with Ahab, as well as the last time that Jason and I went out to the Lake to throw. It was a week or two before he took off for Central Asia. On both occasions, my game sucked. My discs must have known that they would soon be “put up” for a while. With Jason and Ahab gone, I didn’t have many folks to disc with. I was working for the university, and I knew a bunch of undergrads who played, but of course, they were undergrads.

There was no discing at all during the fall semester; I was actually very busy, so it’s understandable. Drew convinced me to come out a handful of times in the spring, though, and they were mucho rewarding. Again, the golf course served its purpose as a fertile ground for discussion. In those days, it was trying to figure out what would happen in August. (In case you haven’t caught on, I moved to Denver.) And of course there was the blowing off of steam. The course that Drew took me to was in the suburbs a few minutes north along Randall. It was basically cut out of a forest. It did look like they had designed it to do the least amount of damage to the local FOLIAGE, but it must suck to be a tree on a disc golf course. You tend to get smacked...a lot!

Those were great times out there. Sadly, the nearest courses out here are quite far away, even by bike. Once the weather heats up a bit and the ground dries, I’ll make an expedition out to a nearby course. It will be good to get back out there. Maybe I’ll be alone, maybe I’ll have someone to share my thoughts with; it doesn’t matter. I’ll pull out my Champion Firebird chartreuse disc, wind up, and let fly.

I’m expecting to double-bogey every damn hole. And that’s just fine by me.