It’s A Wonderful Question

I realize this post is a few days late, but (a) it’s been a busy week for me, and (b) it’s the only blog idea I’ve had that’s just been gnawing away at me. Forgive me as I discuss one of my favorite topics…

As I have mentioned here previously, I am a certified fanatic of It’s A Wonderful Life. I will never tire of this film. It’s not as densely packed with rich layers as Casablanca, but there is enough there to allow me to find new nuances that I hadn’t noticed before. I love how dark it is, specifically for a 1940s film. I’m not a classic film expert, but I don’t really think too many movies or TV shows from that era (not counting mysteries, of course) are as dark. I mean, George Bailey yells at his children and makes them cry, angrily asks his wife, “why do we have to have so many kids?!?,” gets drunk alone on Christmas Eve, and then gets punched out by the husband of a woman he yelled at.

I realize not too many of you out there are familiar with IAWL. It was about 10 years or so ago that the world changed and you couldn’t find this movie spread across the dial at any time night or day. NBC bought the rights (not sure if this includes international rights) and airs it once or twice in December. Before then, since its rights had lapsed into the public domain (meaning that no one owned it), it could be aired for free. And it was. Oh boy, it was.

Here’s the question I alluded to in the title: what did George end up doing with all that money at the end? His Uncle Billy accidentally gave $8,000 to Mr. Potter (do we ever find out his first name?) at that bank on Christmas Eve and then Mary Bailey went around Bedford Falls alerting everyone that George was in trouble. She must have spoken to Uncle Billy, because there’s no other way she would have known that it was a money issue that got George so upset. So we see all of our favorite Bedford Falls residents pour into the Bailey home with money to help George and the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan.

It’s possible, but not probable that the town contributed the sum of $8,000 to get George off the hook. But then Ernie reads a telegram from Sam Wainright in London instructing his company to wire George “up to $25,000.” So, what happens if George ends up with $30,000 – $32,000. Does he get to keep the balance after paying back the $8,000 that Uncle Billy lost? When Harry Bailey toasts his brother as “the richest man in town” we’re sort of led to believe that George will get to keep all that money, right?

When I was younger, I never gave it a second thought that George would get to keep all that money and truly become rich. But now I’m not so sure. This will have to be added to my list of questions for the afterlife. Paging Frank Capra…

Remembering New Years Past

One of our favorite games to play each New Years Eve is to look back to recall the New Years celebrations of ‘ole. As I had mentioned in a post earlier this week, this is going to be the first time in several years that I will not be spending New Years with Mrs. Larby, et al.

So, let me take a moment and play the game.. taking a trip back through the years and recount my New Years festivities for as far back as I can remember. If I am forgetting anything, please chime in.
Continue reading Remembering New Years Past

Christmas with LTJ

This was the first Christmas that LTJ and I spent together and I have to say, for someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, LTJ sure had some concerns about the lack of Christmas spirit in our house.

Christmas weekend LTJ complained to me that “it doesn’t really feel like Christmas.” We didn’t have any decorations out, because all of mine are for a Christmas tree which he is pretty opposed to. I was beginning to feel there was a double standard going on.

The next comment was that he wanted it to smell like Christmas in the house and wouldn’t it be great if we had some Christmas cookies. I made some yummy sugar cookies which helped fill the house with the holiday scents.

He also wanted Christmas music going. Now this was something that really blew me away, because so many Christmas songs have a direct religious tie to Christianity and as a Jew I wouldn’t think LTJ would want to listen to someone ringing the praises of the birth of Jesus. Of course, he believes Jesus was born and was a great leader, just not that he was the son of God. I think it’s a minor point of difference, but one that seems to have caused so much hoopla and conflict around the world.

LTJ found a special channel on TV that was just a burning log with Christmas music on. He was especially impressed by the fact that occasionally you would see a hand reach in and add a log or poke the fire. For the entire weekend, every time I switched the channel and came back into the living room, this log channel was back on again. LTJ was really psyched when he found a high-def version of the log, because what’s better than a burning yule log in HD? And I swear, the crystal clarity of the burning embers and flames really made it feel like there was a fireplace in our living room…

A persistent issue over the weekend was that I hadn’t wrapped his presents yet. I don’t know why it was of such concern to him as of course I was going to wrap them. But he was really concerned that I wouldn’t wrap them in time and he really wanted to open his presents. To be fair, I was dilly dallying on this, but there was a lot going on with our new puppy Bogart.

This hyper-concern over the holiday spirit and Christmas was all rather comical to me since he seemed to care more about celebrating Christmas than I did! Growing up LTJ and his family would go to their neighbors on Christmas eve and it was always filled with the scents, sights, and sounds of the holidays… I guess that’s where the holiday spirit got engrained into his psyche.

So while he doesn’t want us to get a Christmas tree, for all intents and purposes he is celebrating Christmas in every other way than the religious aspect. And really I don’t think a tree has any religious ties, so maybe next year I can convince him to get one and then it really will feel like Christmas in our house.

Top posts of 2006

It seems like everyone in the Blogosphere is writing various 2006-related posts.. “My music of 2006″,”My cities of 2006″,”My Favorite Movies of 2006”, etc. Unfortunately I have a hard time separating one year from the next.. it’s all one big blur for me.

With that in mind, I give you the top ten most trafficked posts to the Diatribe of 2006:

1. Learning how to Run
2. Face Recognition
3. Lost Experience – Related Sites perhaps?
4. Never trust a ‘geek’ with your iPod
5. Pop goes the Question
6. Detecting Pop-up Blockers with JavaScript
7. Nineteen Eighty Six
8. Birthday Wishes
9. This town needs an Enema – The Joker
10. Feeling the Christmas Spirit Yet?

I can’t help but notice that the majority of the top trafficked posts are posts that I actually spent some time trying to proliferate on the web. For instance, the top five posts I went out to related sites and commented on blogs with related topics and linked back to my original post. Cross-linking is a great way to help boost traffic.

Also, I use the technorati tags field that I’ve added to the Diatribe Edit Page (for authors only), which is a space-seperated list of “tags” or topics that the post covers. This helps drive traffic from the site Technorati, which is a blog search engine. I encourage my fellow authors to do the same, as it’s obviously helped promote some of my posts outside the realm of the diatribe.

Side Note: I think this is the first time since 2001 that I’ve not spent New Years Eve with Mrs. Larby. Happy 2007 Everyone!

Christmas is Cancelled.

Christmas is Cancelled.
Originally uploaded by brandonjs.

I saw this sad looking tree last night while taking out the trash. I couldn’t help but think of the story behind it. The note reads:

Free Tree. Have a Merry Christmas.
(Written in Green and Red Marker)

I can remember the days of my childhood when my parents would threaten me about cancelling Christmas, if I did not behave. [Aside: Yes, I did celebrate Christmas even though I’m Jewish. And I still do.] I can only think that some poor kid misbehaved and his parents cancelled Christmas on him. His father swiftly un-decorating the holiday symbol and bringing it to the trash all the while the child screams incessantly.

The note is the only thing that throws me off, as it’s written in a very festive format. The handwriting does appear to be that of a child, but it alternates green and red lettering — something a child would typically do.

I guess I’ll never know the story of the Christmas Tree that didn’t even make it to the 23rd of December.

A big change

So, for those of you that don’t know, MP and I have a new arrival coming this evening to our household. We’ve decided to get a new Shih Tzu pup that we’re picking up from a breeder out in . I’ve got a few breeder photos of him, but I’ll wait to post something until we get him home.

In terms of names, we’re leaning towards Bogart. Again, we’re going to need to wait to see how things play out this weekend to see if this name is appropriate. The amount of preparation that we’ve had to do is a lot more than I recall.. but then again I was twelve the last time I had a puppy in the house. Also, there’s so much involved to actually raising it in order to ensure that it turns out correctly. So much more than feed it twice a day and take it for walks. It’ll be excellent practice for having kids, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.

I think the most amazing thing is that our lives, from this day forward, are going to completely change. We’re going to have someone else to think about whenever we decide to do something. Be it go to the movies or make a trip to the East Coast (EC) and even my morning routine. Better yet, when I think about the average life span of the typical Shih Tzu, it’s about 15 years or so.. tacking 15 years onto my life right now, knowing that this little guy is going to be here throughout this whole period is just mind-blowing.

In a nutshell, we’re so very excited about the new member of the family and I’ll be sure to post pics as soon as I get them. My digital camera is currently in the shop, but we bought a few disposables to captures the exciting moments of the next week or so.

Catching you up on my Christmas

* This is the very first time ever that I have a Christmas tree of my own. I will admit that I was being rather Scroogelike and it took continued prodding from Swedish Girl to make it happen. Still, it looks great and I love just sitting down at night with only those Christmas tree lights on and admiring it. I’m soaking it all in while it lasts.

* I’m completely flummoxed about the spelling of Hanukkah/Chanukkah. I’ve even seen it spelled Hannukah and maybe Channukah. With a “C,” or without? With two k’s or two n’s? Will somebody please pick a spelling and stick with it!!!

* I may have outdone myself this year. I think I may have picked up all the gifts I need to buy, except one, in one day of mall shopping. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t easy. My arms were sore. But this has been my modus operandi for as long as I can remember. And the fact that I did this on December 16 was a bonus. In certain years, I try to add a degree of difficulty by waiting until December 20-something. I will have one or two gifts to shop for on December 22, but that doesn’t count, since all the heavy shopping is over.

* God bless Fox Family Channel’s 25 Days of Christmas. Not everything it shows is a winner, but that channel earned its keep by showing the 1974 animated classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” This gem used to be shown every year on network TV, but I haven’t noticed it in years and I cannot remember the last time I watched it. Seeing it again the other night instantly made me feel five years-old again. Good times.

* I’m feeling pretty good about getting in the Christmas spirit. The wildly unseasonably warm weather, while nice, hasn’t helped make this December feel like Christmas time. Trimming the tree has really kickstarted the season. Sending/receiving cards has been key. Watching the classic TV specials and Christmas movies probably does the trick the best, though.

* I finally own It’s A Wonderful Life on DVD. This might be my favorite movie ever. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched it over the years. Back when I was younger and it was on every TV channel around the clock, I used to watch it whenever I could find it. Then I got it on tape and would watch it every day after school. There were times I’d watch it twice in the same day. I may have watched it at least 100 times by now. But adult life is trickier these days. Free time is harder to come by. My viewings have diminished over the last several years, mostly because I didn’t own a copy and because NBC only aired it twice a season. But I channeled the 13 year-old Cool Jesus and stayed up past 2am the other night to watch it. I think I’ve rediscovered that this film is instrumental in turning on my Christmas spirit.

The bottom line is that rekindling childhood memories from when times were simpler is what Christmas is all about.

Christmas Card Chronology

I haven’t always been good about sending Christmas cards. I think the first year I actually sat down to send a whole bunch of them was my sophomore year of college when I wasn’t able to go home and see family and friends for more than a few hours. That was 10 years ago and I have probably missed a year or two in that span. The thing that kept me going was when I would still receive Christmas cards even during the years that I hadn’t sent out any or from people who weren’t on my list. It was a great feeling to know that my friends and family were still thinking of me, even if I had been too busy, too lazy, or too forgetful to think of them.

I’ve been on a roll over the last few years, however. I love sending out cards just as much as I love receiving them. I tend to send out my cards a little earlier than most people. That means that most cards start trickling in to me after all of my recipients have received their cards from me. I often wonder if I would have still received a Christmas card from person X if I hadn’t sent him/her a card. So my question to you is, does such a thing matter to you? Does it matter at all to most people? I certainly don’t want person X thinking, ‘Oh, Cool Jesus sent me a card. Great, now I have to blow thirty-nine cents and send him one, too.’

The bottom line is that it’s a nice gesture for these people to send me a card, but that doesn’t quite extinguish the wondering about whether they were coerced to send me a card after having received my card. Okay, I’ll go lay down now.

Snowclone (A phrase must die)

Over the past year I’ve noticed that one phrase in particular has grown out of control. I’ll admit I’ve used it, I enjoyed it, but now it’s time to put it to rest. While the actual phrase itself may vary, it bears the same meaning.

The phrase is:

X is the new Y.

Or more commonly:
X is the new black.

Doing a quick search on , I found the phrase’s origins:

The phrase is commonly attributed to Gloria Vanderbilt, who upon visiting India in the 1960s noted the prevalence of pink in the native garb. She declared that “Pink is the new black”, meaning that the color pink seemed to be the foundation of the attire there, much like black was the base color of most ensembles in New York.

This led me to find out that this specific phrase is also known as a “:”

Snowclone is a neologism used to describe a type of formula-based cliché which uses an old idiom in a new context. The term emphasizes the use of a familiar (and often particular) formula and previous cultural knowledge of the reader to express information about an idea. The idea being discussed is usually contextually different in meaning from the original use of that formula, but can be understood using the same trope as the original formulation.[citation needed]
A common example of a snowclone is “X is the new Y

I don’t quite grasp what this means, and I never intended for this diatribe to become a hodgepodge of technical terms. I just wanted to discuss a cease and desist order for a specific phrase in the English language.

What did it in for me was something I saw on the ‘Today Show’ this past Monday. It was a fluff piece called ’10 is the new 15,’ discussing how girls are starting to act like teenagers at a much younger age. At this point, I thought to myself that there is no end in sight for this phrase, unless it be stopped immediately. Therefore at 8:17 a.m. on Monday, December 10, 2006 December 11, 2006, I officially announced that this phrase has died.

Now let’s all rally around and stop this ridiculous phrase before it spirals out of control, if it’s not too late. Who’s with me?

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