The Work of Christmas.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
                                                                   –Howard Thurman

Continue reading The Work of Christmas.

Darkness into Light.

Much is said and written about the Yin/Yang of Solstice, the world in balance between darkness and light.  Such a balance does not exist.

Every year, as the sun dips below the horizon in  Utqiaġvik (Barrow), headlines around the nation talk about how residents there won’t see the sun for 65 days.  As sure as clockwork, 65 days later, some bored writer with pages to fill and a deadline to meet tells us how the residents of Utqiaġvik will finally see the sun.

But, the world is not a sphere, and things are not equal.  There are many, many fewer headlines about the sun being above the horizon for 80 straight days.  Even when you have column inches to fill, daylight is not as good of a story as darkness.

This week, we’ve had the longest night of the year*, the songs and poetry surrounding it stretch back to the beginning of human history.  But sometimes it’s just worth remembering that the longest night of the year is much, much shorter than the longest day.

Happy Solstice.


*In my hometown of Eagle River, the longest day is 19 hours and 21 minutes long.  The longest night night is 12 hours and 40 minutes.

The hand of Franklin.

HMS Terror has been found well preserved in 11 meters of water.  It appears her crew had taken time while abandoning her, so perhaps she was caught in the ice, and the crew then removed useful items and tried to make for home on HMS Erebus.

The discovery of the two ships has been a mix of science and story.  Research vessels had been following Inuit oral tradition, and the first sighting was made by an Inut fisherman who later crewed on the research vessel that confirmed the find.  Some 150 years after the expedition, the Terror was still sitting proud on the ocean floor, with her mast above the water for Sammy Kogvik to find when he was fishing.  6 years later, that find is confirmed.

I wonder how the passengers and crew of the Crystal Serenity are taking the news of this find.  She entered Bar Harbor, Maine yesterday after cruising the Northwest Passage this summer.

/my post on the rediscovery of the HMS Erebus

The Greatness of the Past

There are several emails circulating that remember how much better things were.  They shows kids playing outdoors without cell phones.  They show dads and sons fishing, or teenagers dancing in a soda-shop, all clean, neat and protected.  They show kids riding to school on bikes without helmets and playing on equipment that would “drive safety-lawyers crazy.”

The thing is, if you look at those emails, all the people in them are white.

Sociologists started looking at the commodification of nostalgia in 1979, with Fred Davis’s piece Yearning for Yesterday: A Sociology of Nostalgia.  In it, Davis noted that nostalgia was nothing new, but creation of group nostalgia, mostly through advertising, was.  With nationwide media shared in common, regional memories became less powerful than national ones, and the national memories were being created by the advertisers of that same media.

Advertisers created a memory of a simpler past, where things made sense.  An image of Eden that we, as consumers, could buy into simply by buying their products.

It’s an easy pitch to make, most things make sense in hindsight.  To make that pitch, however, much of history needs to be omitted.  Salespeople are not hired to tell the whole truth, they are sell a product.   Frequently, they do so with allusion to a simpler past, which only works if the storybook past actually appears simpler.

So, we got a version of the past without strife.  We see middle-class kids playing, and the the kids with the luxury of being middle class in the 50’s are white.

The result of this advertising is that we now have a collective nostalgia that  merged with collective amnesia.  We look to a simpler time that we understand (in retrospect) by looking at, and idolizing, the lives of middle-classed children.  Lost in that picture is the grown up world of Mutually Assured Destruction, school de-segregation, or class and social unrest.

The ultimate nostalgia trip is the idea of the fall from Eden.  The tale predates modern media, but has similar common elements.  Art from thought Abrahamic history depicts Adam and Eve being cast out of paradise, never to return.   The sin for which they were cast out was none other than that of understanding Good and evil.  Before they knew that, things were simpler and more idealistic.  A paradise to be sure, but a paradise ultimately made possible by ignorance.  Most of the religious artwork that depicts the scene shows Adam and Eve looking back, longing for what they lost.  Like us, the garden seems ideal, but with our experience in the garden predating our understanding of good and evil, how could we know?

When we talk about making America great “again,” we are panting our own picture, with us gazing back at paradise and longing for ignorance.  We dream, not of President Eisenhower putting a Christmas message into space on the back of a modified ICBM, but of a little girl picking a daisy in a field.  When I look back, I can’t help but hear the count-down voice-over, and shudder at how complicated life really was.

I much prefer to look forward to the greatness ahead.


My cohort has reached a new milestone in life.  As I was driving home yesterday I realized that every song I heard was on the radio when I was in college.  This would not be a big deal, but I was listening to the oldies station.

Well, my friends, we’ve made it.  The nation’s advertisers have coalesced around us as a prime demographic.  They are showing us the sort of interest that we have not seen since before we got our mortgages.  We are in the sweet spot now.  Next, we will be loosing some of our stations to the younger wave of music and disk jockeys that tell the kids it’s all about them, but for now, the radio is OURS!


Apropos, disk jockey is an amazingly resilient moniker.  It worked for both acetate and vinyl disks, compact disks and hard disks.  Really, it’s only now that we are using solid state drives that DJ’s are no longer spinning disks in any way shape or forum.