Friday, December 31, 2010

One last thought for 2010, and it's already about 2011

Will the coming year generally be pronounced "twenty-eleven"? Likely so (which, admittedly, is no different from what I speculated a year ago).

However, I think it might end up "twenty 'leven" because the last syllable of twenty and the first syllable of eleven are the same e sound, and thus we may almost inadvertently blur them together somewhat, because—of course—we've been having four-syllable years for the last decade, and five will seem just a bit too unwieldy.

I have a great amount of faith in our propensity for hints of laziness.


To say "two-thousand eleven" (all six syllables) will be how those who wish to seem erudite will do.


Happy Old Year's Day, gentle reader, no matter how what you plan to call next year. (Hurry up—you need to decide by tomorrow.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

One last Christmas thought: Looking toward the future of the past

When children of today look back with fond quasi-nostalgia thirty or forty years from now about the holiday TV specials they got, they'll be recalling computer-generated high-def fare, not the herky-jerky stop-action animation my generation had from the likes of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the like.

I'm sure there'll be ornaments of the characters from the specials of today like I see ornaments of those characters from those shows I recall, but likely they'll be 3-D holograms that hang off of virtual Christmas trees.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing up Christmas

Okay, kids--now that Christmas is over you can go back to being your unruly selves until next December when the holiday music starts and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" reminds you that someone is maintaining a vigil over your misdeeds and you feel compelled to shape up for those few weeks to ensure you don't screw up getting those presents (you know, the ones from yesterday you've already forgotten).

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Story dilemma

The trickiest part of watching A Christmas Story (during TBS's annual 24-hour marathon) is refraining from reciting the entire movie from memory as each scene comes on.

Maybe it's just me.


Merry Christmas to all, whether you're celebrating with the movie on or not.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Watch as I pretend no one has made this joke about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" before

We all have heard "The Twelve Days of Christmas," right? Over the course of the song your true love gives to you:
12 Drummers drumming
11 Pipers piping
10 Lords a-leaping
9 Ladies dancing
8 Maids a-milking
7 Swans a-swimming
6 Geese a-laying
5 Gold rings
4 Calling birds
3 French hens
2 Turtle doves
1 Partridge in a pear tree

Regarding all the birds and persons given, I have a question: Do you actually keep them, or are they just temporary? Because if it were me, I must admit I don't have that much room. And don't we have laws against human trafficking, even if it's as a gift?

What's the return policy with all this stuff anyway?


But seriously: Six kinds of birds, five groups of people doing things of questionable entertainment value, and the only gift you don't have to feed is gold.


I suppose we're just supposed to be impressed by the number of gifts. In the 21st century I suppose the reason we still listen to the song is to be reminded "it's the thought that counts."

And we must enjoy the game of trying to remember all the items. That probably keeps our minds off of what we're actually singing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Worst "Worst Christmas Songs" List... Ever!

Recently some part of Yahoo! posted a list of what they (whoever "they" are in this case) consider the 5 Worst Christmas Songs Ever. And although I didn't see it originally, I heard about it, and... well, that's why I have this post.

Their quintet of what they considered worst were:
5. Everclear's cover of "Santa Baby"
4. The Jackson 5's take on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
3. "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" (which they attribute to Dr. Elmo)
2. Donny Osmond taking on "Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas"
1. "Domenic the Donkey"

I don't believe I need to explain why this list sucks, but let's delve into it a bit.

So, we have three covers and two novelty songs. The list maker is not alleging that the covered songs are bad; it's suggesting the versions that are bad (even though, with the exception of Donny, they're not bad), and thus the title of the post is inaccurate. And putting novelty songs on the list is inapplicable; something has to try to be good and fail in order to be on any "worst" list.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Carols for All

On the Political Gabfest one of the panelists who is Jewish (but went to a Quaker school, she noted) expressed some distress over the fact that she really loved Christmas carols. Even though the spiritual message was not necessarily in line with her beliefs, per se, she thought them to be exquisitely beautiful as pieces of music. She wasn't sure if this was some level of hypocrisy on her part, or if it was perfectly okay to appreciate them outside of their specific religious context.

I'd say that despite "Christ" being right there in the name, the holiday and the traditions associated with it in our society can hardly be considered to be exclusively Christian; the ubiquity of all that is "Christmas"—starting with, but certainly not limited to, the fact it's a national holiday—makes it somewhat of an American thing (and I imagine there's an extent to which this may be applicable in other Western nations as well) where enjoying the trappings without actually getting "trapped" into adopting the ostensible reason for the season. (Besides, a rudimentary investigation of its origins suggests Jesus unlikely to have been born around the winter solstice, but the pagan celebrations around then were the easiest thing to co-opt in order to convert those people to the faith.) You combine that with the stories about Santa Claus where the Jesus angle has become essentially eschewed and "Christmas" is about as exclusive to Christians as pizza is exclusive to Italians.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Thinking about gift cards

With some major holiday coming up where there's bound to be a lot of gifts given by people who don't really know what the recipients would want a likely way that situation will be handled will involve the purchase and distribution of gift cards. Now, let's commence this with the requisite acknowledgment that any effort made to give a gift is laudable; by no means should any lack of gratitude by inferred, as none is implied. However, as the saying goes, it's the thought that counts, and there's a certain level where gift cards don't seem to connote much thought by the giver.

There's plenty of catches to using gift cards that the banks and issuers of the cards hid in the fine print—not the least of which tends to be fees that deduct from the amount available on the card if it's not used within a certain window of time—but that is getting unnecessarily nit-picky about this. After receiving and using—or, perhaps I should say, attempting to use—a number of gift cards over the years, I can distill the problems with them down to two obvious problems.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Responding to the lack of response by Congress to First Responders

Jon Stewart held a rally on the National Mall a couple months ago, as we well know. The theme was restoring sanity, a serious response to outrageous rhetoric by politicians and journalists presented in a tongue-in-cheek way.

Lately on The Daily Show Jon himself has been getting a little flustered over the way Congress continues to not vote to approve a bill to provide money for medical expenses of the first responders on 9/11. On last Thursday night's show he had four men who were down at Ground Zero that day, heroically trying to save those in the rubble, and who all now have serious medical issues. It's not even a subtle axe that Jon is grinding here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spirit of the season / Making the effort

As I walked to lunch today I passed a group of people on the sidewalk who had two banners and were handing out some literature. As I got closer I saw indication they were LaRouche supporters, and one of the banners had the slogan "Impeach Obama" over a picture of the President with a Hitler mustache.

Meanwhile, about two-hundred yards from them, on a stage a jazz combo played a midday concert in honor of Kwanzaa.

I guess everyone celebrates the holidays in their own way.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Giving a pass to the Pats

Perhaps the real benefit of sports may fall into the way that one team can play the role of hero to some while at the same time play the role of the villain, and that over time those roles can reverse even if the team itself doesn't change that much.

The same structure can be used to tell a story over and over, with the same cast of characters, but with vastly different stories. And those who like it will never tire of it as long as the structure does not change drastically from what it was when they came to like it.

And it doesn't have to make logical sense.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Get Jesus... or else!

From the train I spotted a van parked on the street where on the back doors appeared a message suggesting that the period of 2010 – 2017 was the Tribulation, and asking in the now hackneyed take on the milk commercials if the reader "Got Jesus?" The inference I drew was the message suggested we were bearing down on the end times and thus it was a veiled threat to the readers who had not accepted the Christian savior; they'd better hurry up and at least go through the motions of baptism and attending weekly services or else face some true misery over the next six years.

However, conceivably those who aren't churchgoers may not grasp what the Tribulation is supposed to entail, and by specifying the range of years it did seem to imply there wasn't a terrible urgency yet, as we weren't even out of the first year yet, and thus the power of the message seemed undercut.

Of course, I'm probably deconstructing this more than those who came up with the message were expecting would be done; presumably the idea was that this would be viewed by speeding motorists on the highway, and as such they needed to keep it succinct and appealing to the spiritually insecure. Or I should say, the undecided spiritually insecure. In short, they figure they might be able to scare some butts into the seats, and at least ostensibly save some souls.

Ah, the classics.

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Tis the season to chill the heck out

If you call your winter-based celebration a "Christmas" party (or parade, or whatever) rather than saddling it with the "Holiday" moniker, that is absolutely your right as an American.

Of course, should you decide to want to make a nod to inclusiveness and use the "Holiday" term, that is allowed as well.

And if you're not a Christian (or at least someone who merely celebrates the reasonably secular occasion of gift-giving occurring on December 25th) and you feel left out by someone choosing to brand their event with "Christmas" you are free to not shop there or support the owners or vote for those people at the next election. You can write a letter to note your disappointment over their decision. But let's keep the ACLU out of it, okay?


And to every city or shopping center that waited until after Thanksgiving to put up the "holiday" decorations, allow me to applaud that restraint.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Narcissism is not about me

Apparently in the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the manual for psychological diagnoses, will be dropping "narcissistic personality disorder" (in 2013). In a podcast discussion about this, ultimately it came down to the question of what's the difference between a narcissist and an asshole—and might the dismissal of the latter as a diagnosable condition render the distinction moot. (A suggested answer was that if the patient annoys a therapist, he's just an asshole.)

A side subtopic was the perception that ours is a narcissistic society, based on the proliferation of social media. That strikes me as inherently contradictory merely from a rhetorical standpoint. Narcissus, as I recall, was so taken with gazing at his reflection and being in love with himself that he didn't have interest in anyone else; he was, by that aspect of self-love, anti-social.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Shock of shocks

Every once in a while one encounters evidence that working hard and being competent pays off, without resorting to back-stabbing.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Monday, December 06, 2010

Confessions of the world's worst English major

Recently I heard a discussion about MFA programs for writing. The general topic was supposed to be whether those produce great writers of novels, short stories and poetry. They didn't really answer that question, but they did touch on the notion of whether these graduate-level periods of being essentially sequestered from the market results in writers who are producing work that is out of step with the "real world" (and thus less pertinent to the culture at large), or is that necessary to prevent those writers from turning out pulp that's not really contributing to the larger artistic development in our culture. Then they mentioned how difficult it is to be a member of both worlds at the same time, both because the market does not pay enough to support a family off of short stories and because the workaholic demands placed on those with day jobs do not really allow for having one foot in one and another in the other. And finally they digressed to experiences with creative writing classes.

This all, of course, spurred a certain reflection on my experiences.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

McCain needs to come out

The ending of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as the official military policy about openly homosexual men and women serving is supported by the top brass, and even surveys of the rank and file shows it generally acceptable. Nonetheless, John McCain continues to oppose it.

The way he's fumbling for excuses makes me want to say: Senator, you've served the country. That's absolutely commendable. Still, it's time to come out of the proverbial closet on this and get it over with. Really, everybody's going to be okay with it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The end of nostalgia, brought to you on-demand

On a pop culture podcast I heard recently they discussed how the availability of "everything" from the past (through DVDs, eBay, YouTube, etc.) makes nostalgia different than it used to be; what promotes nostalgic memories is the selective editing the mind does in its recollections, particularly from those childhood touchstones. The brain remembers the emotional component—the thrill a favorite TV show gave at the time is the source of that nostalgia, not the content of the show itself. And in order for that to develop properly, there had to be that period of a long time away from the show (or whatever it was), where there was no further input or contact with it for the mind to sift out the sour bits (so to speak) so the memory ferments with only the sweet.

One panelist cited the '70s children's show The Electric Company as something he and his brother adored at the time, quoted the bits even as pre-schoolers, and adoring the irreverence in a way they could not have appreciated at the time.

Then when the DVDs came out a few years ago he found that while there was everything he remembered, the parts that he had forgotten was not jewels to rediscover but the cheesy drek that filled the moments between those moments he revered.

I had a similar experience with a cartoon from my childhood. I remembered holding the '70s Saturday morning staple Hong Kong Phooey in high regard at the time; the slapstick tales of an incompetent martial artist dog who was secretly saved by his sidekick cat each time was something about which a strong nostalgia developed. In the '90s I even bought a t-shirt with the eponymous character on it, which I wore many times (in casual situations—which, for me in the '90s was often).