Category: Culture

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Who Really Did Steal Christmas from Lonaconing?

I’ve got some advice for Idea Grove, make your weblog more usable. It’s unclear when posts are made, other than the month, and the only RSS feeds I can see are for services. Hello! Earth to Idea Grove, if your goal is through your Media Orchard weblog “to cultivate fresh thinking about the media, marketing and public relations”, a little easier communications would go along way. I did get the feed, but I should have been able to easily subscribe without signing up for a RSS service.

OK, griping aside, now is the real topic of this post. Media Orchard has a great take on Lonaconing, Md.’s lightless Christmas. Local power company and Verizon pulled the plug on the town’s Christmas lights, which, in the past, strung from the companies’ polls. Townspeople responded by putting a giant Grinch nearby the local Verizon office with sign, ”Who really did steal Christmas from Lonaconing?”

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Why Be a Statistic?

For no particular reason, I looked at the Weddings page in today’s New York Times and all the happy faces there. Then I wondered how many of these marriages, sadly, would eventually end in bitter divorce. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the divorce rate is about half the marriage rate per 1,000 people.

As a teen, I read the humorous, sci-fi parody, Where Were You Last Pluterday?, by Paul Van Herck. For the main character, marriage was easy. But divorce was a complicated and expensive affair—and he had good reason! 

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Somewhere Between Dickey and Rivière-Bleue

I am in a storytelling mood, and so here comes another one. I swear, by all people precious to me, that this is a true story and not a tall tale. I have to say it, because you, the reader, might not believe the account or the accuracy of my memory.

My dad first took me camping when I was seven years old. Where I’m from, camping had nothing to do with RVs or tidy, civilized campgrounds, or at least when I was a kid. My dad, uncle and their crew—about 10 men—headed deep into the woods along the Crown of Maine, or Aroostook, west of an area better known as the St. John Valley.

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The Geography Lesson

I spent a good chunk of my twenties traveling, for reasons better explained some other time. One day—oh, winter 1985—I walked into a west Texas fast food place looking for cheap Mexican eats.

I’ve got to digress and talk about Texas towns and food, or what they were then. Pretty much any Texas town big enough to have a gas station has a Diary Queen. Rule goes: Every town in the Longhorn state has a Dairy Queen (It’s not true, I found one in southern Texas near the New Mexico border without a DQ. Of course, my last visit was years ago, and there might be one now). Restaurants are a good measure of just how many people live in a Texas town. First there’s the DQ (about 25 to 3,000-4,000 people) and next up is the Sonic (4,000-5,000 range or so). Pizza place means more people, etc. etc. 

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Army of the Stuffed

Today’s New York Times story, “They’re Soft and Cuddly, So Why Lash Them to the Front of a Truck“, is a delightful sociological study of why stuffed animals adorn some trucks. Reporter Andy Newman asks, “Why do a small percentage of trucks and vans have filthy plush toys lashed to their fronts, like prisoners at the mast?”

He describes the bunnies and other stuffed critters as “soldiers in the tattered, scattered army of the stuffed: mostly discarded toys plucked from the trash and given new if punishing lives on the prows of large motor vehicles, their fluffy white guts flapping from burst seams and going gray in the soot-stream of a thousand exhaust pipes”. 

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Apple Makes Good

With the tiniest of coaxing, my local Apple retail store replaced my wife’s ailing iPod mini. My daughter and I purchased it when the store grand opened, day before Mother’s Day, 2004. At the time, iPod minis couldn’t be purchased anywhere. But the store had a few in stock for the event.

Battery ran down over time, even though I took great care with the recharging. We’ve owned more than a half dozen iPods in the house; first one with battery problems. Few months back, when my wife eked out about two hours of playback, I took the iPod mini in to the store’s Genius Bar. The good folks there tested the device, which barely passed. Damn. 

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No Direction Forward

I recorded the PBS special on Bob Dylan, “No Direction Home” and finished the first part last night. The film left me with a sense of loss about the state of American culture.

Dylan started making music at a time of counterculture poetry and song, the Greenwich Village crowd, that still had some lifeblood even through the early 1980s. My question: Where is the interest in arts for arts sake today? I recognize this isn’t exactly a new problem. The term counterculture is explanation enough for a longstanding problem. 

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Math Racial Profiling

A few years ago, I was appalled to read a New York Times story about a proposed new math program for New York schools that would promote guessing as a means of doing math. Kids would learn a way of estimating answers. The rationale was to cater to minority students, many of them Hispanics.

I read in shock. The whole concept of estimation made no sense to me. Worse, it looked to me like the liberal school system was really doing racial profiling, essentially saying the minorities are too stupid to learn basic math. Geez, get a life. 

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The Green is Now About the Money

In a Saturday New York Times review, Jon Pareles writes about the parody Green Day has become. I totally agree with the headline, “Now a Band That It Once Parodied.” Green Day has gone mainstream, along with punk culture.

When I was a teenager, disco choked culture and music to near the point of death. Then along came New Wave and Punk—real Punk—bands pushing a harder sound and lifestyle. Spiked, died hair, black leather, tattoos, and piercings were as much statements as attire, as teens sought to throw of the yolk of their older, self-obsessive Baby Boomer siblings