Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Talk Smart and Influence People

Whenever I read John Updike or Joyce Carol Oates, I feel a gnawing sense of inadequacy when I come across words that A) I've never seen before, or 2) I've looked up at least once before and forgotten the definitions. Here are some examples from my recent reading:

exiguous: excessively scanty

exigency: that which is required in a particular situation or a state of affairs that makes urgent demands

desultory: marked by lack of a definite plan or not connected to the main subject or disappointing in progress, performance, or quality

cynosure: one who serves to direct or guide, or the center of attention

sinecure: an office or position that requires little or no work but that usually provides an income

Words like this are beautiful, but, at least among the people I interact with every day, aren't going to come up in conversation very often, even if I could remember them for more than 6 hours.

If you like this sort of thing, check out Wordsmith.org and their Word a Day section.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Putting the X back in Christmas

A recent news item reinforced my feeling that Christmas in America has become a pagan holiday celebrating consumerism. I wrote a poem on that theme which was published approximately a hundred years ago in the newspaper, which I think was called Smoke Signals, at Wawasee High School. I don't recall the exact wording, but it went, as a lounge singer at the Holiday Inn might say, something like this:

A long time ago
wise men
followed a star
to a manger

Today
shoppers
follow a blue light
saying
"I got to find a pair of size 46 boxers for uncle Harry."

The blue light referred to the way K-Mart marked special sales within the store. I'm not sure blue light specials or K-Marts even exist anymore.

But I digress. The news item I saw was (those last two words are a palindrome [but I digress further {and become increasingly parenthetic}])that the Marines' Toys for Tots program had rejected a donation of 4000 talking Jesus dolls, on the basis that they don't know the religion of the tots getting the toys. They didn't want an unsuspecting Muslim or Jew pulling the cord and being offended by such dogma as "Love your neighbor as yourself." That's the spirit! Keep Jesus out of this holiday! Alas, my faith in American consumerism has been shaken, as the Marines have now reversed their decision and will find appropriate homes for the Jesus dolls. One can only hope that all this publicity results in more sales of religious action figures this season.

I think Kinky Friedman hit it spot-on in this lyric from his song, "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore:"

They oughta send you back to russia, boy, or New York City one
You just want to doodle a Christian girl and you killed God's only son.

I said, has it occurred to you, you nerd, that that's not very nice,
We Jews believe it was Santa Claus that killed Jesus Christ.


A column in the local paper the other day discussed "Christmas Creep." The display of Christmas merchandise and the appearance of Chrismas-themed commercials on TV occur earlier and earlier every year. Thanksgiving used to mark the beginning of the avaricious shopping season, but now it's closer to Halloweeen. I believe it was the first week in November when I heard the noxious "Little Drummer Boy" on the radio for the first time this year.

So perhaps there is hope that America will succeed in keeping the focus of Christmas where it belongs. BUY! BUY! BUY!

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