Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hating Christmas (or at least what you put on your lawn)

Bah Humbug.....

Or so it seems.   Perhaps it's the more eco-maniacal tendencies of some of the staff over at NPR  that spawned an entire article by Linda Holmes attacking the content of ABC's "Christmas Light Fight" programming.

With quotes like:

"Christmas: volume is everything, taste is discouraged, you never use one lighted reindeer when you can use eight, and it's unnecessary to think about the planet because electricity is apparently made by elves for you to use."

Of course this is coming from an author that was compelled to spend 9620 words regurgitating an episode of "Bachelor Pad"  

You'd be excused if after reading the piece you were led to believe that the show was about a bunch of self-serving egomaniacal nut jobs whose only purpose was to bring attention to themselves.

Taste is a subjective thing and like everything else is colored by our experiences.  It's a woefully inadequate term to describe anything outside of your own context.   In fact the very definition of taste includes "individual inclination." as one of the possible meanings of the word.  That's why most reputable news organizations don't use it. 

In other words, choose your nouns carefully, the use of "taste" in this context invalidates your message.

But I digress...

The real problem with such a point of view is myopia.  For example, Should I choose to spend the rest of this post  focusing on nothing but one word that undeniably imparts a personal bias I'd be guilty of  the same sin.  That being ignoring evidence that contradicted my own point of view.

"They are Tim Taylor from Home Improvement come to life, celebrating the season by shrieking at the tops of their figurative lungs that they love Christmas more than you do"

Yes, the participants on "The Great Christmas Light Fight" may indeed be a bit overly enthusiastic about the holiday but what Holmes chooses to ignore is why.

Using one of the show's winners as an example, the author mentions, " El Paso family who said they would give the $50,000 to charity." 

Then follows it up with:

"(Presumably, they're keeping the hilariously cheap-looking trophy.)"

Yes, the light display was over the top but what wasn't mentioned was why El Paso businessman, Fred Loya, did it.  

Loya remarked on the show that he felt gratitude to El paso and wanted to "give back for all El Paso had did for him"  On winning the contest he was quoted in the El Paso Times as saying...

"It's a humbling honor because the underlying goal is to bring honor that reflects on the families of El Paso," Loya said. "It means a lot to us. We've always maintained that (our Christmas light) show belongs to El Paso."

Almost all the contestants had similar motivations such as:  Giving back to the community, a tribute to a cherished loved one or a reverence for the holiday they wanted to share.

But rather than investigate, instead we make references to Coco Chanel quotes and Disney's intellectual property not to mention the suffering of the "planet" because of all the electricity used.  

Never mind that Coco Chanel was talking about fashion sense not taste and that most displays are only on for a few hours a night and use LED's which consume a fraction of the electricity.  I'd wager some of the show contestant light displays use less power than the author's vacuum cleaner!

But it's far more interesting to ridicule and attack what we don't agree with than to dig deeper isn't it.  It's astonishing that NPR would allow an article born out of such biased and mediocre journalism.  Where is the balance?  Where is the journalistic integrity?  Should we infer that anyone who chooses to express their holiday cheer with more than a wreath on the door is a prime target for a hit piece?

You've missed the point Linda Holmes or should I say, Scrooge!

Monday, December 8, 2014

A walk with Jesse

A close friend of mine recently told me a story from his childhood that upon hearing, I felt needed to be shared.

It's a story about race relations but instead of tearing at the nation's fabric like the sad events in Ferguson or New York it inspires hope. 

It's about the clarity of  innocence and embracing instead of fearing our differences.  

It's about a child meeting a hero that he'd never heard of before who looked different than anyone he'd ever known.  

It's a story about how we should be and not what we are. In his own words, I bring you a story from my friend Thomas...

 My most awesome early memory: meeting Jessie Owens.

My name is Thomas and I have lived, for most of my life, in Phoenix, Arizona. I was originally born in Illinois, but our family moved to Phoenix in 1969. I had been only a little over 1 year old when we moved.

According to this website:, Jessie Owens settled in at Heritage Heights, a subdivision of northeast Phoenix. Our house had been at 32nd street and Cortez which is a little north of Heritage Heights.

I thought it important to note where he had lived to try to correlate the location. My parents had said that he lived in the area, but didn’t know exactly where.

The events I can remember are nebulous at best because I was so young when it happened. None of this could ever hold up in court, but I’m convinced it was him.

I’d been walking around the neighborhood in what seemed to me to be late-afternoon. I don’t remember it being cold, and I had been walking alone. I’d walked to the corner of 30th street and Sierra, and I believe I’d decided it was time to go home. I must have been a little bit on Sierra street because I remember turning around to get back to the corner. The route back to my house had been 1 block south on 30th street to Cortez. When I turned around to get back to 30th street, I saw him.

I had been so young that nothing like fear or panic or anything like that ever entered my mind. The best guess of my age would have to be about 4 or 5 years old, and my concern at the time was just to get home. I know I began to walk towards the corner, and we started talking. I think I was curious more than anything else because he was African-American. I’m a white as can be Caucasian. The concept of skin color hadn’t registered yet.

I can’t say he had been the first African-American I’d ever seen, but he’s the first one I remember. I’m unable to remember how the conversation began, but I might have asked him about what he did. I had been familiar with the concept of work since my dad went there every day.

So the first thing I can remember is that he said that he ran very fast. He said he received a medal. I know he talked a little about running, but I can’t, for the life of me, remember much about that part. But, I asked how he did that. And, he said he drank a lot of milk. I then rather quizzically asked if it had been chocolate milk. It made sense to me that his skin color must have been from drinking a lot of chocolate milk. He laughed pretty good on that one. He then asked me if he had been the first black man I’d ever seen. (He actually did use the term black and not African-American.) I’m not sure what I may have said; I’m sure I was terribly confused. He said that was the color of his skin. He stretched out his long arm, and let me look at his hand.

I grabbed on to his huge hand, and he rotated it around a bit. Naturally, his palms were a lighter color than most of the rest of him. He said, “See? This is just how my skin is.” And, again, a lighter colored palm meant, to me, that it got lighter from washing his hands. So, I asked if he could just wash it off. And, again, he just smiled and laughed some more. He just said in a soft voice that it doesn’t wash off and that the color of his skin was natural.

I think it pretty much ended there. This might be in error, but I thought I heard him say he was going to see some friends. Although I wish I had been old enough to figure out what he had meant at the time. Back then, he made no real impression on me. I didn’t know he was Jessie Owens, and won gold in the Berlin summer Olympics. I’m sure I just went on home, ate dinner, and forgot all about it. The memory of that day didn’t come up again until my parents had said he’d lived near our area in my teenage years. I told them what I remembered though I’m not sure they believed me.

Now, forty years later, what I do know is that he was very gentle, smiled and laughed at what I said, and wanted me to drink milk. I think he also figured out, right quick, that I wasn’t going to get down the idea of skin color no matter how much he tried to explain. It is one of the earliest memories I have, and it most certainly is truly awesome. He had been truly an ambassador of goodwill because that sums up, exactly, how I feel about my memory of him.