Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
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Blogging the Snowpocalypse

Today's Lesson: What to do when you're likely to be stuck at home for several days in the worst snowstorm since 1922.

If you're buried under the accumulated snow and wondering what to do with yourself, don't leave the house! If you're like me, cleaning is a priority. So is calling the oil company twice to request an oil drop so your heat doesn't go out, and cooking some serious comfort food (Chez Grantham is making chicken 'n' dumplings and shortbread Christmas cookies). Consider digging out all those unread books, crocheting or knitting some new longjohns to keep you busy. Finish wrapping and decorating for the holidays. (Got your New Year's Eve groove on?) Even consider holding Christmas a week early, so everyone can keep busy with their toys. After all, isn't avoiding boredom more important than holding to the calendar date?

But if you're a techie like Jon, it just makes sense to start a new website. SnowPanic.com has been up and running since the flakes started falling last night. If you're panicking in the Mid-atlantic, or are enjoying watching others panic, consider becoming a stringer; send your story, photos, news clips or transcripts, or funny stories and if you are chosen we'll credit you!

(This is a non-paying gig.)

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Hark! The SNL Freebie Song

I'm Catholic. I'm not much of one; I gave up even palms and poinsettias a while back. Somewhere deep down, though, I still harbor the respect drilled into me by nuns for Catholic dogma and Christian icons. For example, I cannot write "Xmas", but must write the whole, cumbersome, 9-letter word, because I still respond to the idea that "Xmas" is like "Crossing the Christ out of Christmas," as one nun told me.

After all, no matter what your upbringing, if you celebrate Christmas you must at a minimum acknowledge it's source in Christ's birthday, and the result: Christianity. Christmas is NOT a secular holiday, though it seems used by secularists as often as it's forbidden; for every atheist that puts up a tree, somewhere a government employee is forced to disassemble their tabletop display. For every secular song played on the radio, somewhere a church is overflowing with snowy-weather faithful singing traditional hymns.

I know I should be more jaded, more able to acknowledge the increasing secularization of Christmas. But I was shocked this morning when I rewatched the opening for last week's SNL. Now, I love SNL, and have watched it since I was an under-supervised nine-year-old. And I really liked the opening with Blake Lively (SPOILERS AHEAD) and an assortment of Muppet characters from Animal (Bill Hader) to Beaker (Kristen Wiig, I think); Gonzo, Fozzie, and others were well-represented by the cast. The Swedish chef (Andy Sandberg) started off by "smorgy-ing" with the hostess, and soon the ensemble of man-muppets began clamoring for a song

Gonzo: (Bobby Moinihan): Why don't we kick off the holiday season with a holiday song?
Blake: I don't know if we have time guys.
Chef: Smorg, smorgy, smorgy smorg, smorgy (to the tune of "White Christmas")
Blake: No, stop please.
Fozzy (Jason Sudeikis): Yea, she's right. We can't get the rights to that.
Beaker: Meme mi mi mimimi mimi
Blake: Maybe we should just skip the song and get on with the show

A few jokes later...

Gonzo: C'mon guys, she doesn't like us...
Blake: No guys, wait. I'm sorry. In fact, I know one we can sing
snow falls....
and the group sings the first verse of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

Now, HtHAS is a very religious song, probably most popular for ending the movie It's a Wonderful Life. Here are the original lyrics from the first verse:

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

But when SNL's motley group of man-muppets sang it with Blake, they used Animal, Chef, and Beaker (who normally don't speak) to voice some of the lines. What I noticed this morning on my second viewing was that the wordless muppets sang the lines of religious fervor which make the song a very, very Christian hymn.

Hark the herald angels sing
(Animal) Da ya ya da ya ya ya ya
Peace on earth and mercy mild
(Chef) Smorgy borgy, di borgy smorg
(Beaker, surprisingly coherent)Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Mi mi mimi, mi mi mi mi"
(Chef) Smorgy, borg.....
(All) Smorg smorgy.... smorg.

Why sing a Christian song, then take all Christian references out? Why choose a religious song and butcher it to secularize it?

Why not get the rights to a secular song, or invent a new one (as Adam Sandler famously did)? Or use a secular song in the public domain such as "Jingle Bells"?

The little Catholic girl in me was offended by this misappropriation of a beautiful religious hymn.

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Witches' Brew

Here are Aunt Sally and I, in front of Chez Grantham East.

From Drop Box

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Brava, Little Old Lady

This is the funniest video I've seen in a long time.

I wonder if this jagoff can be charged with vehicular assault. Listen closely for the revving of his engine.

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The Web: Stringing Us Along

CNN's Rick Sanchez tweets: "i'm interviewing sheriff joe arpaio today; plz tell me what i should ask him." Later he repeats: "questions for arpio?"

Now, I'm not above telling others how to do their job, but here it seems I just have to tell him to DO his job. He's purportedly a journalist, despite his inability to spell even in text-speak (as evidenced by his later tweet). Do we need to tell him that it is his most basic skill to come up with interview questions? Aside from knowing how to read off a teleprompter and applying stage makeup, I mean.

I'm getting kinda sick of all this tweeting. John Hodgman, a man whose work I generally respect (but are PC's really all that nerdy?), tweets the most boring items imaginable. I'm almost ready to unfollow him, especially if he details one more Scrabble game. (I like Scrabble as much as the next language wonk, probably more as it's the one game I'm 99.7% sure I can win against my husband, but I think there's a reason that we don't see televised Scrabble competitions complete with play-by-play; it's fun to play live, but more boring to watch than chess, or fishing, or any other non-contact sport. Of course, if we were to televise Scrabble games, I'm sure John Hodgman would be the perfect announcer.)

That Twitter's exploitation of our tendency towards sound bites exacerbates our already too-short attention spans doesn’t seem to be in dispute. But by feeding our "need" for fast information from onsite "reporters" and “I-witness” accounts worldwide, the WWW invites any all to become a stringer (or a blogger, or a tweeter), no experience, talent, or training required. This touches on an age-old problem facing writers since the dawn of anti-illiteracy campaigns; just because you can write, doesn't indicate that you have the talent to be, ahem, an artiste of the word. But mass literacy (which I'm in favor of) coupled with mass production produced many many bad writers (romance novels are commonly referred to as the worst offenders, though I've read some good ones with glee). Now, free press has been extended to the paper-free domains on the web, exponentially increasing the rates at which people who can write want to be writers.

Clearly, too, anyone can become a "journalist", whether or not they believe in the fourth estate's responsibilities and roles, whether or not they possess the creativity to come up with interesting questions for guests someone else booked, or whether or not they have any talent or feel for language, style, and voice. These tidbits of information provided by the new stringers (tweeters, bloggers, and other webophiles) are fed upstream to the dwindling news sources, amalgamated, repackaged, and reissued as "news." In essence, we are relearning that which we already know, compiled.

Now, I tweet and blog irregularly, when the mood strikes me, and hope that anyone who is interested pipes up, or ignores me, as the case may be. But this tendency toward over-informing is wearing thin even with me. It seems a fad destined either to fade, or to cause humanity to fade from view, retreating as we are into our avatars and other psychological masks; we may be destined to live out our lives in this shadowy ether of public and private, this netherworld where we are simultaneously observed and observing from the privacy of our homes without really being known. The 'Net facilitates our inexplicable need to connect and withdraw, to connect while maintaining our anonymity. It is a shadowland of camaraderie and isolation, and we should still be wary of what we are losing.

Here are a few losses that pop to mind:
true companionship and connections with others

independent, creative thought
respect for others
research skills

professional stringers and writers

Perhaps I'll rant about those in my next post.

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Is that Cheering?

Because I was born in Texas, and because my dad's family all rooted for the Houston Oilers, I was a moderate Oilers fan right up until they became the Tennessee Oilers (later Titans).

It was a mild shock, one that didn't affect me much at the time because I didn't follow football. It wasn't until Jon asked if I would give up rooting for the Cowboys (at the time, the only Texan team), that I gave it any thought at all. Love and negotiation won: he agreed to boycott Exxon with me because of their horrid environmental record, and I became a 'Skins fan by marriage. (FYI the Cowboys and Redskins have a long rivalry.) At the time it seemed a small sacrifice, and I had only a small regret in giving up my only remaining home-state team in favor of a happy marriage.

Now, though, I'm glad I kicked Dallas to the curb. After seeing several seasons of the 'Skins, and watching the so-called First "Ladies" of Professional Football increase their hip rotations while downsizing their uniform, it's obvious that Dallas began a "cheerleading" debacle which has degraded into an autumn-weekend spectacle. At the most recent 'Skins game, I tweeted about how the Redskins Cheerleaders danced as if they wanted a pole, and dressed as if they had one. Does anyone think these women are cheering, or inciting cheers from their crowd? Judging by the number of 'Skins fans booing their own team at the last game, I'd say the cheerleaders have zero effect.

Today's NFL cheerleaders are more dance troupes than cheerleaders. The cheerleaders I knew in high school and university were dedicated athletes who risk more danger than the players on the field. (I recently saw a Myth Busters episode where they proved a fall from a basket toss to the ground hit the athlete with greater pressure than a player getting tackled on the field.) These men and women are gymnasts, dancers, and entertainers, plus they wear moderately modest clothing. I'm unclear if NFL cheerleaders can do an aerial or splits; certainly not in those outfits, which appear to have been erroneously ordered from a lingerie catalog. I seriously think even a cartwheel would be beyond the capacity of those halter-bras and Daisy Dukes. Look around the NFL, and all the home-team cheerleaders are in similarly styled clothing. Dallas' Cheerleaders, who started it all, have recently been out-sassed if not outclassed by every other team's cheerleaders.

But today I heard something stupendous, which puts the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleading squad back in a leadership position for the degradation of women in professional sports arenas. The owners have certainly upped the game in the new Dallas stadium, which reportedly includes "cage dancers" to entertain the SRO crowds in the nosebleeds.

Now, these women are not in literal cages; they are contained in what appear more like a ship's crow's nest, if you ask me. But placing these scantily clad women among the drunken hordes of "real fans" opens the door to a strip-club mentality. What's next? Drunk "fans" stuffing dollars down the dancers G's while they gyrate?

One of the greatest regrets I recall hearing from my cheering friends is how they would have to give it up -- the tumbling, the excitement, the crowds, the exercise, the camaraderie -- once they graduated. There is no place for them to continue their sport into their 20's. I'd love to see an NFL or NBA team field a truly professional squad of 50 experienced cheerleaders who know how to build a human pyramid and rally a crowd, rather than hiring women whose sole athletic talent appears to be their ability to shake it without busting through their costumes. Perhaps the overly wealthy NFL could create more family-friendly entertainment by spending some of its billions to hire full-time, professional cheerleaders from some of the winning university squads.

I've wondered why they don't, about 10 times per year for the last 6 years.

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