The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America." -- CW 

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody." -- CW 

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings." -- CW 

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- CW ...

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

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December 22 & Etc.

Here's a short post on celebrations of the Winter Solstice. And how will you be celebrating Yule?

Update: let's continue. Besides, I would not want readers to miss yesterday's responses, which were quite beautiful. It is not, however, necessary to try to match them or follow in the same vein. Whatever interests you will be fine.

BTW, my column for the New York Times eXaminer just went up. It's on Part 2 of Brooks' list of best magazine essays -- so the boxed set made in out in time for Christmas. I'd like to box Brooks' ears. Ho ho ho.

Update 2: okay, we've found a place where we all differ. I thought maybe this year, since a number of you had suggested some good Christmas songs, I'd also do a post on the good ones. I listened to several of your suggestions -- they would definitely have fit well into my Worst Songs scheme! There's no accounting for taste, especially in music. So here's one I like (and so do almost 36 million other people):

Then there's this from the 1998 Olympics. I was living in Italy at the time & I watched it live on a little 15" TV with lousy audio. It still gave me chills. As it does today:

Reader Comments (6)

Amid all those terrifying images of police state gifts, I hesitated to talk about the gift I have already been given by the littlest one in the family. About a week ago, he announced that he could read. He can. He has been going around reading everything with an aggression no different from how he approaches the soccer ball on the field. While he sees reading as Power in relation to the larger people in the family, I see this as immunization against the plague of agitated aggressive police state technological propaganda.
What a gift: I will definitely celebrate this on the Yule. Hope for tomorrow. Maybe.

December 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

@Today's Assignment;
Thank you Marie. For the first time this year I felt The Spirit as I read the Wiccan piece on the Yule.
Blessed Be.
As for myself I'll hope to find some time to work. "Good" days are rare things these days and if I get one for Christmas I'll use it to get something done.
I'll be sure to count my many blessings.
I am truly thankful for Reality Chex.
I hope you have an Awesome Winter Solstice Marie.
Blessed Be To All Indeed.

December 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

A large part of this Yule season is spent remembering past events, many from childhood, which shaped my feeling about these holidays and taking stock in the fact that I have been truly blessed with family and friends.

. . . making hard rock candy, divinity, fudge, sugar cookies, stringing popcorn and cranberries, and decorating the tree.

. . . being warm and snuggly on Christmas Eve in the back of the 1956 Dodge under blankets with my younger brother and sister, knowing that the gifts you just opened at grandma’s house on Christmas Eve were in the trunk.

. . . driving home in a blizzard to the farm after the one of these celebrations at grandma’s and hearing the chained tires fight to bust the last drift as the car went forward and backward just before you did finally bust through that drift and make it home.

. . . running inside to beat your little brother to plug in the bubble lights on the tree while knowing they would probably not light because one of them had cooled and gone out not to light again and the entire string was dark.

. . . feeling the patience of your dad while you helped him change out each single one until you found the culprit. Sometimes hitting the lottery when the bad light was among the first of the string, and learning the patience to continue the process even though it probably was among the last on the string.

. . . learning that yes, you had to go to bed or else the “Santa” visit would not happen. There was still unquestioned magic about that. Knowing you would never go to sleep and then

. . . waking and running out to the living room to see what big present you had under the tree.

. . . going to the other grandma’s small, small house and having a Christmas dinner with so many people in the house that it was really elbow to elbow. Aunts and uncles and cousins, cousins, cousins racing around and being sent outside by the adults even though it could be quite cold and we did not care.

. . . making snow angels.

. . . trying to give our own children some of the feeling about Christmas which we felt as children.

. . . eventually figuring out that a Chautauqua with simple poems, stories, piano pieces, playing the bells, singing "Shalom to You, My Friend," and just being together was a better substitute for the physical gifts and commercialism of the Holiday.

. . . thinking back on it now with years and years of perspective and realizing that I do not remember one gift, but remembering the people and the relationships and the excitement of the trip to and from and not the objects received or the destination itself, but the journey. Remembering the journeys with the people!

So, I will cherish the journey, love my friends and family, give a good really big hug to each and every one, and start a new year! The journey continues.


December 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFrom-the-Heartland

To me, Yule and Christmas are synonymous. (After all, Christianity, like many religions before and after it, borrowed liberally from earlier traditions! The timing is no coincidence!)

So how will I be celebrating them?

Right now I am looking out at howling winds and blowing snow on the streets of Albuquerque. This is the third powerful winter storm that has blown through since our return from the tropics. I think of how wonderfully warm I was during that vacation that only a few people can afford these days, and I think of how wonderfully comfortable I am now in the shelter of my home, looking out on the growing blizzard. And I think how blessed I am, and I give thanks.

Today, as on Christmas day, I will be praying that those without homes, those who are hungry, and those whose homes offer shelter less extravagant than mine, will be finding the safety offered by the charitable institutions that I try to support, and which I will be trying to support even more in the coming year either with money or by volunteering my time.

I am—and will be—praying that compassion can be “re-learned” by those like myself who have somehow lost the ability to fully empathize with their fellow human beings.

@The Doktor today has given thanks for Reality Chex. Well, I’d like to second that, too. As I have said before, there are aspects of my personality and politics that you Progressive participants will be unable to change. And perhaps someday I will even be able to persuade some of you that some of my values actually do have their virtues.

But leaving that aside for today, you have all had a profound influence on me over the past half-year by providing me with links and references to news, op/ed pieces and books that I might otherwise never have found, and thereby persuading me that I have been listening to, at best, half the story.

Whether by flaming me mercilessly when I deserved it, or through calm and considered reasoning--which I much prefer--you have persuaded me that there is far more suffering in this nation than I had deigned to recognize, and that there is far more that I can and should do about it, without, perhaps, sacrificing my core beliefs. I will try to follow through on this new realization in the New Year with both time and treasure, as we Christians put it. ("Talent" fits in there someplace, too, but I don't have much of that.)

Doubtless, I will forget some names but:

Thank you, @Marie Burns for allowing me to participate, and for even giving air time to some of my thoughts to an extent far beyond my hopes or expectations.

Thank you, @Valerie Long Tweedie and @The Doktor for your patience and encouragement, and, Dok, especially for your boundless optimism in the face of pain and adversity.

Thank you @Kat for the books that you have pointed me to. I’ve finished Free Lunch, and will be picking up a copy of Perfectly Legal as my budget—and shelf space—allow. I think I’m going to need to buy a Kindle.

Thank you @JJG(08) for your unique sense of humor and wonderful perspective on all things.

Thank you @Haley Simon, @Carlyle(145), @James Singer, @Forrest Morris, @Fred Drumlevitch, @Akhilleus, @Karl Thompson and many others for your insights on numerous topics, all of which have given me pause to think.

@Victoria and @From-the-Heartland, thank you for your thoughts on Yule/Christmas today. I will be trying to keep in mind the simple and profound pleasures of family and friends at Christmas, instead of the transient joys of gifts received and then soon forgotten. (Except, of course, for that Kindle that I'd desperately like to find under the tree.)

Merry Christmas to all of you, and may we soon have “Peace on Earth and good will towards [all] men [and all women].”

December 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZee

When snow fell and buried the evergreens that were strung with colored Christmas tree lights. The different hues of each light glowing under the white, white fresh snow. Knowing that the naughty and nice list was as real as Santa and all past transgressions would be forgiven. (Except for the year when the fully decorated tree got knocked over due to roughhousing by my brothers and the cat. I still maintain my innocence in the matter and I still say a cat can and does make an excellent top-out ornament.)
The first Christmas in Southern California. Palm trees and the gold orange glow of winter sunsets. It's the saddest most wonderful time of the year.
Being alone and being taken in by ex-pats for Christmas in the Peace Corp. There was more of the true spirit in that little tin-roofed shack full of strangers then any where on earth that night. After dinner we stayed up drinking black rum and watched the fire turn to dawn. Feliz Navidad!
Walking with one of my seldom seen sisters on Christmas eve night during a blizzard in NYC. A silent blanket of white falling in the canyons of the city. We walked past all the landmarks, right down the center of the avenues. History Museum, Carnegie Hall, Metro Art; all in a strange silence of white. One or two taxis stranded in the snow, tail lights a slash of red in otherwise a mono-chrome world. It was as if the two of us were in a giant snow globe. It was the most beautiful and wonderful cityscape I have ever experienced.
So to all Merry Solstice and to all health in the new year.

December 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@Marie; Great column again. You got one thing wrong about Mr. Brooks place in Galt's heaven. He'll be honored guest on the menu when food runs a little short. Hum... Kobe Brooks, so ribboned with fat; so tender. Let's eat!

December 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG
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