Christmas Rules…(Ebenezer Drools!)

One of my biggest gripes about Christmas is people griping about Christmas.

Seriously!

This is a time of year when hearts are opened, and festivities are unloosed. We’re allowed to be in a good mood just because, and there are a lot of becauses. Because family is coming to visit that we haven’t seen in a long time. Because we’re going to make our favorite Christmas pie/cake/cookies/divinity/souffle/crab dip. Because we thought of a good gift for a Certain Someone. Because the office workers put those decorations up in the lobby that we could never afford in our own house but look so-o-o-o good.  As I deliver a couple of guidelines for the holidays, one guideline I would start with is the “be merry” part of Eat, Drink & Be Merry. The first rule of Christmas is let’s chill out about rules around Christmas.

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Ref: Tony van Renterghem, When Santa was a Shaman

The Real War on Christmas

It has been custom for the last several years for those who deem themselves more saintly than others to declare that there is a war on Christmas. This is, in part, because there are more people in the world, particularly in America and, over time, they celebrate a broader range of traditions. Not everybody celebrates Christmas in the same way; not everybody celebrates Christmas; but everybody likes holidays, don’t they? Continue reading “Christmas Rules…(Ebenezer Drools!)”

Under the Covers of Murder at the Orient Express

A lot of angst-filled snippets are filling social media over Kenneth Branagh’s new version of Agatha Christie’s classic, Murder on the Orient Express.  People don’t want to see it because no one could be a better Poirot than David Suchet. Or they loved the 1974 production with Albert Finney so much, what could surpass that? Branagh’s moustache looks silly. Who does he think he is? Why mess with the “original”….etc. etc.?

Time out. Let’s talk about covers.

poirot.jpg
From Justwatch.com

The Beatles Love It When Other People Do the Beatles

A cover is a remake.  It should be different but pay homage to the original. There’s an interesting side discussion about whether the word “cover” was specific to white bands covering black artists’ material which you can read here . Let’s bypass that issue; the notion of a cover is more generic in today’s vernacular. Mozart covered Bach. West Side Story covered Romeo and Juliet. Continue reading “Under the Covers of Murder at the Orient Express”

Wake Up and Smell the Cranberries

Savory? Sour?
Sweet? Mercy me! Please make up
Your mind, Thanksgiving.
–Cranberry haiku

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Last year, I shared a few thoughts about turkey in general at: Spatchcock?Gesundheit!   But cranberries have to get into the picture, too, because that tart little relish is just as much a part of the Thanksgiving tradition as stuffing. Are cranberries American? Are they a cure-all? Which version is better — sauce, jelly, or chutney? Figure it out fast because Turkey Day is tomorrow.

As American as Apple Pie

Actually cranberries are more American than apple pie, since Chaucer referred to a British apple pie recipe way back in the 14th century, and even Dutch apple pie was created before the Pennsylvania Dutch perfected it. Cranberries, native to north America, were in those Massachusetts bogs, wavings their viny flowers at the settlers who cruised in on the Mayflower. The settlers called them craneberries because the expanding head of their flowers resembled the marsh birds. The fruit was also called bearberries since you-know-whats would eat them and mossberries, which is still what they’re called in Canada and Britain. The Alonquin called them Sassamanash and infused the flavoring into pemmican, their variation of jerky, which may seem strange although not necessarily more than jalapeno or teriyaki. Although Sassamanash-juice cocktail doesn’t have quite the right ring to it. Continue reading “Wake Up and Smell the Cranberries”

I’ve Got You Under My Skin

I don’t know when we decided to give ourselves to the Nano-overlords, but I suspect it was a gradual process. There was no light switch I flipped saying, “Sure, I want to be digitally monitored all the time.” As I child, I adhered to the idea of “Don’t put foreign objects in your body” which now seems to have become “Honk! if you got chipped!” The Right to Privacy now has morphed into “Alexa, can you buy me some hemorrhoid cream?”

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How We Got Ourselves Here

A NY Times article this week described a digital pill that will alert doctors whether their patients have swallowed the medication (based on its interaction with stomach fluid). The FDA has approved it, even though the drug companies’ clinical trials hadn’t yet shown that the monitoring improved compliance. In theory, the monitoring would only be done with the patient’s consent, but since this particular pill is aimed at patients with mental health issues, how would consent be obtained? Suppose a schizophrenic pleads not guilty by reason of insanity to a crime and their plea bargain requires them to take their meds — requires them to agree to swallow this pill that alerts security when they don’t take it? Society might be better off, but at the price of civil liberty. Continue reading “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”

NaNoWriMo: Less Counting, More Dancing

The more people writing, the better! Really, writing should be encouraged. We can never have too many writers, artists, dancers, or musicians. But NaNoWriMo as a Thing To Do has always been kind of lost to me, and as people are posting their word counts on social media, I just can’t help but explain why.

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You Can’t Count your Way towards Better Art

NaNoWriMo is about writing 50,000 words by the end of the month of November, which means writing approximately 1667 words every day.  But 50,000 words doesn’t necessarily equal a novel. Some stories can be told effectively and be commercially successfully in a lot fewer words. Many stories take a lot more.

Honestly, 50,000 for a “novel” might be a little on the short side. Good for children’s books, or if you’re Vonnegut or Hemingway.  J.K. Rowling’s books started shorter (Sorcerer’s Stone was 77,000) and then, as they got interesting, became decent-sized. Four NaNoWriMo’s worth.

A great painting is not made better by having more paint strokes. A symphony isn’t better by having 50,000 notes as opposed to 35,522 or 272,395. But NaNoWriMo by nature is built around counting. It was started as a community project to help a handful of San Francisco writers practice their craft in miserable weather. It clearly struck a nerve, since so many people want to participate. But the participation effort is about writing a certain number. The helpers include several ways to count your words or build word count apps. That’s what apps do. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo: Less Counting, More Dancing”