Saturday, 29 January 2011

colourfast or ghost of laundry future

From the balcony, I have noticed that one of my favourite sweaters, zebra-striped that maybe makes me look like a mime or the Hamburgler, has a strange optical effect reflected in the window. The equally-sized black and white stripes become half as thick and are boarded by grey ones. The photograph is a little bleary but the effect is visible, I think.  Perhaps this is a form of polarization caused by the double panes of glass or my dousing the windows with Windex and calling them spotless. Weird quantum characteristics of light and shadow are shaken out when one starts to meddling with the whole business with refraction.
One experiment, which I always found maddening and counter-intuitive but I do not think others are so easily impressed, is that two polarized lenses never fully cancel one another out, as I’d expect: each only lets 50% of light through and rotating the other around, even when the filter is at a right angle, perpendicular to the other, still lets 25% of the light to sneak through in as a particle-wave prankster.

Friday, 28 January 2011

dromedary

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the US response to the revolt in Egypt is mild, cordial to the old despot, as if in these past three decades, he could most heinously be called the Grinch who stole Twitter. The sympathy is creeping although, and however shameful the lack of support and commitment may be for revolution, it is perhaps more telling of America’s dwindling relevance.

The US and the West have supported this and similar regimes with billions of dollars in aid and resources in the interest of preserving the status quo, idealized and reflexive banana republics to American eyes and perhaps models for their own civil aspirations. There has not been any esteemed revolutions that America could not equivocally claim it managed for quite some time—those of the greatest pitch and moment being the dissolution of the Soviet Union and various influence peddling in the Middle East and Central America. The West, overall, is left speechless when it comes to unmanaged change, because, like the Grand Inquisitor of Dostoyevsky, rapture, democratic reform, is unwanted. There is too much profit to be made in encouraging freedom with one hand and maintaining this friendly arrangement with the other. There is fear, whether genuine or not, of what will fill the power vacuum, dangerous radicals or other despots not of their choosing. No one remembers, it seems, that real reform is difficult but can turn out well in the end. These matters are serious and persecution should cease, no longer suffering the grace-and-favour tyrants. Another important lesson, though masses are mobilized all the same, is in that a very sizable country, with the population of Germany, could completely censor all forms of communication. The American government, for one, wanted to invest itself with such martial powers, over some uncomfortable disclosures. This should be a cue for all peoples to scrutinize broadening authority, especially as that government’s intimacy with the media has made the incriminating, suspicious and otherwise undesirable transparent and instantly discoverable. Enough rope—even if the outlets and the conduits are not closed off, it is becoming possible to monitor and prevent civil unrest before it has a chance to organize and express itself.

spectral analysis or pink is like red but not quite

Wired! magazine has an excellent eulogy for the US Department of Homeland Security's colour-coded scheme for threat and terror alerts, which will be phased out in the Spring. Apparently, the bad guys have finally managed to crack the code. Although rivaled and much criticized and generally useless, it is a bit endearing, like losing the Time and Temperature service or replacing McGruff the Crime Dog or Woodsy the Owl with trendier, modern mascots. Instead of panic-inducing swatches of colour, a newly refined level of bureaucracy, the National Terror Advisory System, will now be able to manage the appropriate level of fear on a local level. I wonder what magical palette and brush will be able to address that. Given that the danger level, across the US, has not been relaxed in the past four years, I suppose yellow (amber, rather) fits all.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

der zauberberg oder table, donkey and stick

The gathering of the World Economic Forum annually in the alpine retreat, exclusive and guarded, is a very strange, ornamented ritual, and I wonder if Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg), set in a sanitorium in the same village, is required reading for any and all attendees.

I would almost expect that the audience indulges this all too apt quirk of literature leeched into reality as a wonderful honorific, bestowing some of the big personalities present with epithets from the book. Economic civilities brokered is likewise nursing, cloddeling a sickness. I wonder if the Swiss appreciate the irony. In recent years, I think it was gotten to be a dull challenge to match characters with their assembled ministers and handlers. Peripatically, France in Davos has pontificated about the importance of maintaining a monetary union, which may be true and sound but the asides used to merit the argument were inscrutible and big reaches: embroiled in barbaric wars that are still within living memory, forever seeming the lastterrible gasp in violence and not counting the Cold War that evaporated a scant two decades ago or all the war-making that went before and since, but Europeans are not at each others throats for the time being and economic cooperation is a surrogate peace. Some are saying that the rise and prosperty of the Western world is an anomoly, and for most of history Asia has enjoyed the dominant reign. I am not quite sure what that means. It seems arrogant to weigh the two and to force one's ideas of god and kingdom upon another, and calling it commiserate. The long peace in Europe and stability, hopefully not premature or anomolous, are outstanding things, but to proffer money has the binding factor, no matter what the venue, only cheapens how far we all have come.

no sugar tonight/new mother nature

The company store here at work, which business nee social-hour revolves around, apparently was a little slap-happy with orders and inventory and as a consequence, is unloading palettes of a sugary-sweet caffeinated beverage in a can, something of the voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir) moco choco latte variety, for free, since they surpass their sell-by-date, for which co-workers are of two camps, either ignoring that recommendation entirely since the little organic content is bolstered by preservatives and artificial flavours, or are generally adverse to the transgression but take it as a mild recommendation. Anything free, people will lug away with abandon. Coffee confection.  As a result, all the offices are wired and jittery like Mario when he gets the Invincibility Star and the music goes double-quick time, and it makes doing the budget revisions even more urgent and manic, along with everything else.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

rosinenbomber or fishmonger

Since the shuttering of the stunning Tempelhof city airport of Berlin in 2008, a rather sad winding down of a historic place--built on lands owned originally by the Knights Templar and witnessed the Airlift of Berlin during the Cold War when the Western exclave was blockaded by the Soviets, people have been trying to come up with good ideas for use of this massive space.

Though I am not able to discover much else about this one, intriguing proposal, it seems that a major German grocery store (Lebensmittel) chain is sponsoring one plan: to turn the area into a grand co-op for bread-baking and fish-farm, where locals could process and sell their produce. I think it would be a great thing to go further and plant a giant victory garden, too, and perhaps lessen the way people have become estranged from what they eat. Albeit, in Germany, local food is not such a boutique item and there is not such a disconnect between produce and consumption. There is a farmers' market around the corner from our house that sells stupendous fruits and vegetables from local sources--whose shop tagline is "mehr als Rüben und Kraut"--more than beets and cabbage. That always made me think about the variety of vegetables that are of new world origin--staples like tomatoes, potatoes, corn. I suppose there was mostly just beets and cabbage beforehand.
Certainly the variety is available but it isn't grown overseas, and while it may come from the fields of Spain sometimes, a lot, greens less hearty and less suited to Germanic climate, is grown here in hothouses and with a modicum of coaxing in nicer weather. With food prices rising out of proportion, there is a lot of talk of sustainability and feeding an exploding population and doing so more efficiently through vegetarianism (yay!)--all of which are certainly pressing and deserving of attention and serious thought, but maybe realigning one's attitude towards food begins with growing one's and bringing it to market.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

noblesse oblige

To again reaffirm that there is always something new to discover here, whether traveling a long distance or just around the corner, H and I went out--the bright sun though low on the horizon was deceptive, as it is still very cold, and explored the grounds of this little moated-castle (Wasserburg), and one of the ancestral homes of one of the German noble houses, though I think for a minor cadet branch, which still resides there.  The surrounding village still possessed some of its original character but the fancy castle looked rather out of place.
 I wondered what the neighbours thought of this abdicated royalty.  It reminded me of when we were house-hunting and seriously entertained the idea of renting another nearby castle of another famous personage (the count corrected us: it isn't a castle but a fortress, Veste).   The owner of the Wasserschloss returned while we were looking around and greeted us politely.  There was a sign on the bridge stating that visitors were welcome, and we certainly were not trespassing, although the reception was a little different once before when we were visiting the grounds of the residence of a noble family who became local banking magnates centuries past. 
We were walking around the stately manor and gardens when I presume the lord of land, current pretender to the throne, emerged from ye royal woodshed and alighted his horseless carriage.  He seemed rather disappointed that we did not kneel before him, or at least bow graciously.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

my name is blue canary; one note: spelled l-i-t-e

Our beautiful, ultra-modern bird-feeder hangs rather neglected on the balcony.  I believe that the birds in this neighbourhood have an embarrassment of choices when it comes to dining options--even in the dead of winter, and they seem to prefer to poke around in the rain gutter just above, rather than visit this bird-house
Perhaps part of their hesitation, however, rests in the fact that I once brought home this other accomodation, which I later realized was purely ornamental: (as Admiral Akbar would proclaim, "It's a trap!") there is no floor, no levels, only a steep drop to the bottom for any unlucky visitor, but with an escape hatch in the back.  Hopefully, eventually, the birds will discover that this is here for them. 
Speaking of architectural idylls, I came across a very elegant website that showcases the strange and innovative in design spaces, with recent stories featuring plans for a nuclear-powered garrison-town under the ice of Greenland, a London underground map that reflected climate change and the sea level rise, and council-housing for London's future working-class robot population.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

proper 80s degredation or shake up the picture, the lizard mixture with your dance on the eventide

Having just be enraptured by an authetic and verified soundtrack set firmly in the year 1983 (a merman I will be), I wanted, after acknowleding the historical accuracy of the score, to see the full theatrical music video to Duran Duran's masterpiece New Moon on Monday.  With some persistence, I found it and enjoyed it very much, however, I was beforehand denied several times.


Not wanting to see just a tribute, kareoke cover, I kept on and discovered that one is offered a rather incongruous and pregnant explanation, offered to learn more, which seemed a bit more apt than for all its emptiness and evasiveness, given what all can be delivered and what little cannot. Even doling out this rather insincere though mostly harmless excuse was a bit ironic since the music video has the backdrop of a vaguely European, totalitarian regime. The art work is from Patrick Nagel, who also graced the album cover for Rio (like the Wolf) and also from haircut catalog fame, which harks something of art deco but is at the same time a significant point of departure, prefiguring the minimalism of Anime and Manga. I spent the cold day with a lonely satillite.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

re-post or ark of taste

The Goethe Institute, whose mission is to foster German language arts, has an engrossing interview with the founders of the Slow Media movement. Its blog (bilingual, but fully manifested in the original German) aims to promote sustainability in online missives, opera that are not merely timely but enduring and engaging and with enough quality and depth of substance to be worthy of archiving and reference. Their tenets parallel the slow food and related movements, and is certainly advocating reflection and polish. The internet, redundant by nature with multiple levels of fail-safes and permanent, is not only best utilized as a periodical for ephemera and false starts, never forgetting. Some venues and forums are made to celebrate what is best documented and merits discovery and a second look. I really like how the interview cites science journals as outstanding examples of the movement, and how former critics, realizing that the viral is not the most sustaining message, are coming around to the intersection of journalism and legacy.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

agitprop

Still latching on to the common-denominator, and perhaps boogey-man, of the cable-dumps that left government the world around shame-faced, some in the media are attributing the recent, seminal and unfolding actions in Tunisia to the same phenomena.  While this publicity and focus is welcome--since most only vaguely know the country as the filming location for Tatooine where the cantina at Mos Eisley still stands, but specious, as if their woes were caused by Tusken Raiders, the Hutt mafia or the Sarlacc Pit.  The people of Tunisia did not need to be disabused to the source of their suffering, a corrupt regime supported by the French and the Americans in a sort of perverse beggar-thy-neighbour game, though the rest of the world is obligated to know now.  Transparency in the media is important because it affords no shelter to the corrupt and the attention it draws can be broad and coordinated and the blowback when dissidents discover what forces backed their oppression and frustration can be mighty, but should not diminish the acts of desperation the were symbols and catalysts in a revolution that is not just the next in the spectrum of flavours and colours and was as deep and evolved as storming the Bastille.

Monday, 17 January 2011

wayback machine

Our latest electronic help-mate is a pretty clever little device that backs up one's data, passively--parasitically almost, over one's local, WiFi network.  The external hard-drive--a little monolith that completes the henge in the office--can accomodate an incomprehensibly large though what is now a standard metric of information from up to three different sources, computers, and is sensible enough to save only what has been changed or added since the last session.  Keeping one's history and memories safe is quite different than one's indelible footprints on social networking sites.  Seeing the manufacturer's logo, instantly made me recall that I have an antique pair of silver cufflinks with nearly the same design, although I believe that the cufflinks show an amber wave of grain rather than a ocean swell.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

free agent or blonde ambition tour

Special effects artists are able to do amazing and pretty imaginative things, though computer-generated animation still fails to live up to sets and scale models, but there are ambitious plans to digitally resurrect actors and actresses to ensure cinematic continuity.  The executor of the estate of Marilyn Monroe is in negotiations to license her likeness, not just for movie royalties and icon's image on merchandise, but her potential screen-presence for future movies when the technology is perfected.  Contemporary stars may be appearing along side or in competing auditions with such immortals, first as post-production edits, holograms, Marilyn-Monroe-Bots, zombies, clones and gholas.  It is far different than continuing one's career quietly, meditatively as a brain in a vat.  Living actors could further just start calling it in--lending their likeness and let animators do the work, like with promotions and celebrity fragrances.
The potential for strangeness is a bit overwhelming, with legal wranglings, discrimination against the real and the living, piracy and copyrights, and the digital screen-actors' guild.  Instead, I rather enjoy the ideas behind these brilliant movie posters from alternate realities from Sean Hartter.   What fantasy casts would you bring together?

Friday, 14 January 2011

rope-charmer or snake oil

Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and all the other visionaries knew about the progression of the celestial sphere through the heavens, cycling season by season, and epoch by epoch. The constellations, originally serviceable as an aid to navigation and the herald the changing of the seasons and were both derivatives and forerunners of the calendar, more meaningful than just a fixed count of days, familiar in zodiacal circles and a sort of birthmark and personality-avatar were set out at least three-thousand years ago, as known in the West. A group of astronomers are advocating a significant realignment of the Signs: this shift of the fimbriation from one constellation to the next recognizes the wobble and imperfections (again, made by calendars that are a count of days, where a day is a count of hours, ad absurdum) of the Earth's transit is a departure of the classical division, the sphere of the heavens, having 360 degrees, parsed into twelve equal thirty degree houses.
There are not thirteen months now, but Scorpio--in a bit of an unfair turn of events--has been nearly edged out, in favour of the now more prominent Ophiuchus, the snake-handler and identified with the Father of Medicine, Aesculapius. None of this is new or novel, and there have always been purists and different schools of astrology. Incidentally, mythological, it is the Scorpion that crouches at the foot of Orion, as he embarks on his Great Hunt. While sporting with the other safari gods, Orion threatened to hunt down every last animal on Earth, but Mother Nature (Gaia) sent the Scorpion to sting Orion and stop the violence. According to some versions of the legend, it was Aesculapius (Ophiucus) who was able to heal Orion, though the party was called off. I guess that is why all these figures were banished to the night skies to chase each other forever. It seems especially unfair, though, considering Scorpios' ruling planet, Pluto, was demoted not too long ago.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

ebb tide or compound words

Though the rushing, roiling water in our little stream rages like a mighter river, the water level (Pegelstand) seems to be leveling off and sinking back within its banks.  During this process, however, we were introduced to a very useful and by turns reassuring and anxious-making government website, der Deutschehochwassernachtrichtendienst--you know, hnd
We have been monitoring it quite closely but its united and scientific front for information is much better than impeachingly staring at the American Weather Channel or competing broadcasters' weather-copters and Doppler radar sweeps for disaster news.  US emergency management could decidedly take a cue from this.  The landscape looks strange, mostly denuded from snow except where it has been smudged and packed, and the temperature is too balmy for this time of year, and we'll keep watching the waters for some time to come.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

klaxon or a bird that swims, a fish that sings

Arriving home from work, I found stuffed in our mailbox along with other advertising circulars and the local weeklies, a paper from the Rathaus of Bad Karma issuing a flood-warning to all residents.  Persistant rains and melting snow posed a risk for rising waters.  I proceeded to do as the paper advised and trundled a few items I thought were prone to damage, though no one wants to find a soggy and dank basement, out of the cellar and raised the rest, a few boxes of forgotten miscellany on stools and chairs.  One thing I grabbed were posters rolled in tubes.  Though not presently displayed in our house, I know one was of this concert poster from the Blow Monkeys, during their 1987 European tour.  One many not think that they know the band, but in fact nearly everyone does as they performed a few of the cover songs in the movie soundtrack of Dirty Dancing.  Advisements like this are something definitely to make one anxious, though I strongly suspect we will be fine, but it is a terrible thought to entertain, that the strata of random things that one does not see everyday might be ruined.  I hope everyone is faring well and weathering the neep tide, hale and healthy and with their basement-collections intact.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

flotsam and mackintoshes

The gradual warming trend here is melting the accumulated snow and the cold, cold ground and rivers cannot accommodate much more of the water. It is strange to think that the chief weapon against flooding the world-around is the humble sandbag and neighbours helping neighbours, and not something novel, unwieldy and dangerous like Ice-9, especially considering the weather-weirding factors that are most likely contributing to the extremes.
European communities along major rivers, particularly where the waters have been straightened and manicured for shipping and are more prone to flooding because of these alterations, are equipped, however, with impressive retractable retaining walls, steel panels that rise out of the harbour automatically and as articulated as the sluices of the canals that they guard. It is potentially tragic and certainly nerve-wracking but always handled with poise and steadfastness, and not the same breed of stubborn prospectors on eroding beach-front property.  Venice and Amsterdam have endured below sea level for centuries, recognizing that the constructs and artifices encroaching on the environment bring the floods regularly, and even harnessing the power of the waters wanting to be untamed.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

atchison, topeka and the santa fe

My mother gave H and I a fantastic Atchison Fox print, for which we’ve found the perfect spot on the wall though we have not hung it yet because of the Sunday proscriptions against work here—or at least polluting the neighbours’ conscience and that accounts a little for the wonky snap-shot. This scene was always famous to me growing up with it in the house, and while one can easily find information on illustrators and graphic artists who were contemporaries of Fox, like Maxfield Parrish, Audrey Beardsley and Alphons Mucha, there’s very little to be found on the internet for him—at least not what’s fast-tracked and in the forefront.
A picture like this, of course, can be appreciated without knowing its context, and should be enjoyed regardless, but I am wondering what is relegated to oblivion, never to be rediscovered, when it cannot be easily researched and sought out.   UPDATE: I suppose getting the name right would facilitate matters, and R. Atkinson Fox’s Dawn is a bit better known than the undiscovered Atchison.

Friday, 7 January 2011

you can pop a lot of trouble on the pop-o-matic bubble

The other night, I listened to an infomercial to its conclusion, or at least its unabashed sales push, regarding the precarious situation that the US and world economy is still in. The report was not terribly original and a bit pandering, underestimating the devious and willful intent of the rich and the allure of joining the rich.

Market fundamentals are being undermined by the burden of debt, governments leveraged in excess of the aggregate total income of their citizens, and new debt creation is being enabled by America's unique and unilateral ability and penchant to print more money, quantitative easing, when debts outstrip income. Other countries and monetary unions have the prerogative to do so as well, although the EU charter and other conventions in other cases confounds the process, and do not fold to temptation. Finances on all scales are still in shambles, and though other countries, like the UK and Yugoslavia, in recent times, have taken this course with devastating effect, the US has been thus far allowed to continue this hucksters' game of three-card Monte for so long because of the dollar's equally privileged position as the world's reserve currency. Though Russia, China, India and others are gaining independence from this hegemony, historically anyone not American became indentured to a middle man for international transactions. Ounces of gold, barrels of oil, fortnights and furlongs are all denominated in dollars, and a merchant from anywhere else in the world, buying a foreign commodity has to pay up a fee for the medium of exchange, and then to render it back to his or her home currency. Only Americans do not lose out in the translation, since not only does their endless money supply keep the international marketplaces lubricated, cheapening the dollar has also allowed Americans to acquire without offering anything more than fiat in exchange for quite some time. The economic collapse, I agree with the infomercial, will come quickly once more countries abandon the dollar as exchange-media and no one is willing to buy or hold more money itself in arrears and obligations go unmet. You sank my Battleship!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

bird of prey

After a succession of rather mysterious occurrences of birds dropping dead out of the sky in the south eastern United States, it seems that such plagues have unleashed the hounds of augury and conspiracy. Poor birds, and now fish--but no one would question such disturbing behaviour from lemmings. Speculation is ranging from the residuum of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, to the intense cold--which would exact a high toll on sea life, more accustomed to a regulated span of temperature--to New Year's fireworks, emerging disease, escaped vaccines, the bird-rapture, and to secret government testing programs, weather control, acoustic weapons, ionospheric modification to mitigate disruptions from solar flares. Maybe the US military is developing Klingon-style cloaking technology and the unfortunate flocks of birds are slamming against an invisible jet--or the schools of fish (ghotl) the propeller of an invisible submarine. Earthquakes and other natural disasters have likewise garnered these usual suspects, even at the expense of facing the more mundane and equally sinister culprits.
Being in a speculative mood, like the mounting legal footraces big banks are running to minimize damage, from snatching up domain names that could be potential outlet for disgruntled and outraged customers, what could the next big shocker be? From bypassing real estate registrars, instituted centuries ago to prevent kings from easily seizing the lands of his subjects, gambling with the money of others, squandering public treasure, and bald thievery, what could possibly be the gasping news that might make these great houses blush? Months ago, a major credit card company, was shown to practice discriminatory rate hikes based on customers' shopping habits: if a card-holder frequented an establishment that demographically suggested poor credit-worthiness, like discount stores, the card-holder might see his or her interest rates rise. Maybe the banks are doing the same, but taking it a step further and selling one's shopping lists to marketing departments, captured through ubiquitous bank cards. What other depravity and betrayal could be put on full display?

Monday, 3 January 2011

and i would fall out into the night, can't live a minute without your love

The Norwegian press, just as Germany is poised to begin its two year term on the United Nations' security council, has revealed that the country's aerospace administration has been working secretly with the US to develop a network of ultra hi-resolution spy satellites, which can also perform the nifty trick of night time surveillance with infra-red cameras and transmit data faster. Due to protests from neighbouring countries and partners, including France, US and German authorities decided to front the collaboration as a civilian environmental study. That Germany would engage in such a project seems strange, especially considering public sentiment for privacy and an abiding attitude that nebulous threats should not undermine the liberties or tolerances of a democracy country. This news also serves to remind viewers that less than 1% of the cable-dump has yet been processed and published.

emphasis added

Alternet hosts a excellent article from the younger son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, where he faces surely a lifelong demon in the Espionage Act of 1917, a blatant beast that has mostly been a "dormant Sword of Damocles" but could also prove very plastic and serviceable, thanks to an array of wounded egos laid bare and selective reading. What an awful burden for anyone to be yoked with--that one's parents were executed as traitors, especially considering that Americans do not believe such things happen in America. With so much constitutional steerage and political fundamentalism, recourse to original sources seems often frustrated and arbitrary, though in its argument that the Espionage Act violates the principles of America's founders, the article highlights the Constitution's own reckoning of what could be traitorous:

"'Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort' (Article III, section 3). The framers felt this narrow definition was necessary to prevent treason from becoming what some called 'the weapon of a political faction.' Furthermore, in their discussions at the Constitutional Convention they agreed that spoken opposition was protected by the First Amendment and could never be considered treason."

History is littered with countless examples of despotic regimes wielding high treason, unilaterally defined and investigated, as an effective political tool to remove inconvenient people and inopportune laws, and the people who drafted the founding documents did not want their republic to devolve in that manner. Let us hope that America never again goes down this path, and if already committed to that course, can at least be turned. Apparently, the incoming US Congress, led by those same fundamentalists and literalists, wants to open their session with an unprecedented reading of the US Constitution in chambers. I wonder how much of more choice parts will be mumbled over, or what amendments, including the Bill of Rights, will be skipped to reinforce the myth that their constitution is eternal, sacred and infallible, especially if construed to one's own ends.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

shampanskykh or apres ski

H and I spent a very nice New Year's eve celebration at home, launching fireworks in the street and enjoying televised calvacades of various dance music genres, the networks opening up their archives of party chart-toppers and in-studio performances, rarely-seen vignettes that predated the venue known as the music-video where the audience is allowed to engage the band fully and songs that became standards for all types of fests.  We also toasted in the new year with a very good Russian white sparkling wine, Krimskoye.  Champagne and its imitators, though I imagine that's attributed rather than aspired for through the insecure opinions of faux-connoisseurs, are afforded a strange array of protections as well as a sacrosanct place in for seasonal and other other celebrations.  I suppose that one reason its drunk on such occasions is that it is a new wine, fresh and not aged, which not only symbolizes the new year and untainted beginnings but also allows it to be produced and delivered to market just in time. 
Before modern day cola-wars and the ubiquitous branding campaigns of today's non-adult beverages, champagne was aggressively marketed, touted as a tonic and cure-all--think of all of those vintage, elegant advertisements for one's common cola as well as the more exotic additives that helped boost its initial popularity--and it was gradually installed as a an indispensable party-favour.  One certainly does not want to think of one's party plans as having anything to do with logos, labels and product-placement, but I guess that the success of that marketing venture is demonstrated at minimum every time the calendar turns.  Toasting or otherwise christening one's special occasions does not feel obligatory nor a product of consumer-culture, and I guess that is one of the true hallmarks of intelligent marketing, when labels and corporate influences can be stripped away, and the handiwork of some shrewd and hard working vintner families can join in the fun.