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December 26, 2008 | 7 Comments

Civil rights group files suit against TBS network to stop showing A Christmas Story

Controversial civil rights group ISEF yesterday filed suit in federal court against Turner Broadcasting and its cable affiliate TBS to cease airing the movie A Christmas Story. For several years, TBS has showed the popular movie non-stop over a twenty-four hour period on Christmas day.

“It is shocking in this day and age, given all we know about the horrors of gun ownership, that TBS can irresponsibly inundate the public with these images,” said ISEF spokesperson Martin Baumlot. “This appalling movie is a fetishization of weaponry and an attempt to instill in children the false idea that guns can be used for other things besides murder.”

According to court documents, ISEF claims that the movie A Christmas Story is “nothing but one child’s irrational obsession with a gun. In the movie, he even imagines himself using the gun to kill several people. There is a disturbing image of bodies stacked like cordwood that is chilling in its graphic intensity.”

Well known film expert Dr H. Harrister from the Institute for the Very Clever, said that “While the ISEF’s claim has some basis—the film’s protagonist Ralphie does dispatch several bad guys—that scene is nothing more than humorous dramatization of youthful fantasy.” The scene is one in which noted criminal “Black Bart” attempts an invasion of Ralphie’s home.

When asked about ISEF’s assertion that the film “goes beyond the obsessive mania for gun possession, and enters the realm of sick perversion as we actually see Ralphie go to bed with the weapon, lovingly caressing it as he drifts off the sleep, fantasizing once more about the brutal murder of our winged friends, the duck”, Dr Harrister was unable to provide a response as he choked on his hot dog.

Dr Harrister did later provide email commentary. “The people at ISEF have clearly lost their minds.”

A spokesman for TBS refused comment while this matter is being litigated.

The group It’s Somebody Else’s Fault was founded in 1984 by a group of Upper West Side Manhattan residents intent on proving that anything bad that happens is somebody else’s fault.

December 25, 2008 | 9 Comments

Merry Federally Recognized Holiday of December 25th That Shall Remain Nameless!

I remember when I was a kid living on the outskirts of Detroit, in Taylor in the early 1970s, in early December, aching for snow so badly that it hurt. My dad was fixing up the basement—the first of a lifetime of projects—and there was a dispute about which album to play on the phonograph.

My sister and I wanted Alvin and the Chipmunks, my ma and dad wanted Bing Crosby. I wanted to hear David Seville yell at Alvin in the 12 Days of Christmas. My ma wanted Mele Kalikimaka. I’m now grateful that they won the debate, but I wasn’t then.

But, it did start to snow. I was out before the first flakes hit the ground, ready to build a snowman. We only got a dusting, and so the snowman was half grass. I can still see the streaks of bare patches in the lawn where I rolled out the body.

A week before the Big Day, my grandma brought me to the Eagles, where I wasn’t supposed to know grandpa was dressed as Santa Claus. Even though I could see his familiar glasses, I was left with doubt: it could have been the real old man. After all, he did give me a glorious plastic mesh stocking full of suck candies, the kind that used to hang in the aisles of drug stores.

Some hokey movie was playing on TV, and I laid under the tree, watching the lights sparkle off the ornaments; it was endlessly fascinating. The next day my Aunt Ona came over for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and we had pepperoni pizza, a tradition I still keep. Later that night I could see searchlights out my bedroom window. It was probably for some car dealership, but I was convinced it was to guide Santa. It was oddly spooky.

My dad got me a giant, six-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton made of styrofoam that you had to put together. My sister got some sort of pink thing. We went to my both sets of grandparents afterwards, saw everybody is our enormous family. But it was at my grandma Johnston’s—she had glass doorknobs!—that I got to sneak some beer.

Greatest Christmas Ever.

Merry day everybody.

December 24, 2008 | 30 Comments

Almost Top 10 Christmas Songs: guest column

Everybody will recognize long-time contributer Mike D. of the Western Institute for Study of the Environment (a great site people should browse over to). He generously contributed the following list of his favorite holiday (you know the one I mean) songs.

The Ten Best Christmas Songs

Since the affable Dr. Briggs is engaging in lists (a somewhat prosaic though popular blog indulgence), I thought I would contribute by sending along this list of my favorite Christmas songs.

There are, of course, hundreds (at a minimum) in the genre, but some are better than others in my subjective opinion. The following are my six favorites, and why. Please add your own to the list, so as to fill it out to the magic number of ten. And please, tell us why they are your favorites.

  • 6. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing — words by Charles Wesley (1707–1788), music by Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)

    You can’t go wrong with a song that has hark! in it. But the real treasure is Mendelssohn’s tune, his “Festival Song”. It is early rock-and-roll. Best played with electric guitars and a heavy downbeat. By the way, Mendelssohn was a child prodigy and musical heir of Mozart.

  • 5. Away In A Manger — lyrics by James R. Murray (1841-1905), set to a tune called “St. Kilda,” credited to J.E. Clark (according to Wikipedia [here]; there is some apocrypha associated). Also known as “The Cradle Song”. Wikipedia link

    “Away In a Manger” is a lullaby waltz. The words are childish (appropriately) and the tune is loving and soothing (ditto). I especially like instrumental versions, such as violin/flute duets.

  • 4. White Christmas — lyrics and music by Irving Berlin (1888–1989)

    “White Christmas” was written in D-sharp minor (though often transposed to D-minor). Berlin liked the black keys and used the white ones sparingly. That strange minor key has a Gypsy flavor. Berlin was, as we all know, a Russian/American Jew (Mendelssohn was also Jewish) and he picked up Eastern European tonalities in the Jewish ghettos of New York City. Gypsy music is one of the historical underpinnings of jazz, which perhaps most people don’t know. The arpeggios in White Christmas are oriental, exotic, and they are what really make the song great. By the way, “Russian Lullaby” is another D-minor Gypsy masterpiece by Berlin.

  • 3. Joy To The World — lyrics by Isaac Watts (1674–1748) , music by Lowell Mason (1792-1872) adapted from George Frideric Handel’s (1685–1759) Messiah

    “Joy To The World” begins with a downward march through the octave (count the notes), and then springs back up to the first note. Linear arpeggios follow. It is so simple, so pure, and so powerful.

  • 2. Silent Night — lyrics by Josef Mohr (1792–1848), music Franz Xaver Gruber (1787–1863).

    The assistant pastor and the organist at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria, collaborated on a song for the Christmas celebration in 1818. It became what many consider to be the greatest Christmas song ever. “Silent Night” is meant to be sung, by a choir. It is all about reverence, and is hauntingly beautiful.

  • 1. O Holy Night (“Cantique de Noël”) — words by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877), music by Adolphe Charles Adam (1803–1856).

    Adam wrote operas and ballets, and is probably best remembered for the ballet Giselle (1841). My personal favorite Christmas song, “O Holy Night”, is operatic to say the least. It requires a well-trained soprano to hit the G above high-C in the musical climax (oh night di-VINE). I also like the pathos and beauty in the embedded transition to a minor key. “O Holy Night” weeps with hope and devotion. The finish shatters glass and your heart.

    Celtic Woman / Chloe Agnew – ”O Holy Night”

Those are my favorites. What are yours?