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December 2, 2005

Today, your Christmas stamps; tomorrow, your children’s hearts and minds
Posted by Patrick at 03:47 PM * 88 comments

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on those persistent rumors that the United States Postal Service, in thrall to the orbital mind control lasers of the secular conspiracy, plans to discontinue traditional Christmas stamps:

Patrons looking for a new religiously themed stamp this year are getting leftover Madonna printings from last year, touching off a wave of reports that the Postal Service was planning to discontinue religiously themed Christmas stamps.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Diana Svoboda, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh district. Next year’s printing will include a new Madonna and the price stamped over her left shoulder will explain why a new one wasn’t printed this year: Rates are going up to 39 cents per letter Jan. 8. […]

The time being the cyber era, and the culture being skittish, the theory of the vanishing Christmas stamp has taken deep root in the American imagination, alongside complaints about school pageants with new words to “Silent Night,” possibly sung under a “unity tree.” […]

One [web site], called “Darleen’s Place,” carried a vivid account on Nov. 24 in which the author’s mother asks for the Madonna stamps, and the clerk pulls out the previous year’s issue and tells her, “These are all I have and they’ll be the last you ever see.”

“Mom asks, ‘What do you mean?’ He explains the USPS will not be issuing any more ‘religious’ stamps.”

The encounter also has the clerk informing Darleen’s mom that he is not permitted to say “Merry Christmas.” […]

A similar story turned up on a Web site run by right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin. A reader there reported calling the postal service’s public line and being told that religiously themed stamps were being discontinued “to avoid any legal constitutional issues.”

This was startling news to Mark Saunders, a postal service spokesman in Washington. He’d just finished mailing a news release that announced the design for next year’s Madonna stamp.

Mind you, the dark forces behind the Post Office do plan to pollute America’s precious bodily fluids next year with DC Comics stamps. You know it’s all downhill from there and in 2007 and 2008 we’ll be franking our postal mail with images of Michel Foucault and Lou Reed.

Comments on Today, your Christmas stamps; tomorrow, your children's hearts and minds:
#1 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:13 PM:

Andrew Rilstone's "War on Christmas" posts are fabulous; see here, here, here.

Even if the paranoid right-wingers had it right, you're in a pretty darned enviable situation when the worst religious persecution you can expect is not finding your chosen icons on stamps.

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:18 PM:

I've got my unity tree all lit up in the living room.

#3 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:25 PM:

We have to deal with this kind of Big Lie, and on the next thread over people are wondering whether the Democrats should give Jean Schmidt her words to eat? aauugghh....

(Meanwhile, the local news is that somebody in Halifax wants the world to know he's Righteously Furious that the tree the city gives Boston each year might be referred to as a holiday tree instead of a Christmas tree. One of these years I'm going to stage a tag-team no-holds-barred wrestling match between the people who insist on sacred labels and the people who insist on barring "pagan" symbols -- cf the recent foofaraw about canceling a Halloween party at a local school rather than deal with a couple of nutjobs threatening to picket.)

#4 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:28 PM:

You know what the world needs?

A War On Christmas military simulation.

Hex map of Santa's Workshop and Environs.

Counters representing Saint Nick, the Missus, and elf minions. Plus Bill O'Reilly and other nitwits. And Jesus! Maybe several Jesuses: Baby Jesus, Weepy Sad Jesus, and two-fisted Fighting Jesus. Minutemen.

Other counters representing The Enemy. George Soros, or course. The guy who runs the 7-11. ACLU Lawyers. Leftist academics. Cowardly, greedy department store owners.

Who else?

#5 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:28 PM:

Memo

from: Night Manager, Secular Conspiracy ET-IT division
to: Laser Targeting C&C Coders, 14th floor
re: Patrick Nielsen Hayden's blog post of 2 December

Hi guys.
Looks like you've got some gaps in Brookyn coverage. We have an info security breach in the above-referenced blog post. Can you re-beam Southeastern New York State over the weekend? I'll get the gray-ops gals on rewriting the Google caches, AGAIN. I think they should be able to get this reference to the lasers wiped before Bob from Division sees it.

TGIF, huh?

Don't forget: you guys drew the Kwanstice Party liquor duty in this year's rotation. See you there. Should be fun. I understand Melanie from UN Expeditionary Force Traffic Sign Comm is making that casserole again.

#6 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:32 PM:

If we wild eyed secularists are banning Christmas, then why have I had to listen to nausiating Christmas music since the week before Halloween? We need to call a meating of the Left and hash this out, because obviously, someone dropped the ball.

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:36 PM:

Where can I get a two-fisted Fighting Jesus? I want to put him under the tree right next to my George W. Bush action figure.

#8 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:39 PM:

We need to call a meating of the Left

Is this to counteract the Left all being tree-hugging vegetarian eco-feminazis?

#9 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:41 PM:

I knew nothing about those DC Comics stamps. My geeky heart just sang a little song.

#10 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 05:17 PM:

Remember the protests about the US issuing a stamp celebrating the Muslim Eid holidays? "They don't even believe in Christ and they're getting their own Christmas stamp?"

Add "and they're discontinuing our Christmas stamps" to that and we can watch a lot of heads explode.

I love the DC stamps. Marvel will get their sheet in 2007. (But I'm a DC guy; I'll actually spend the $7.80 to keep a sheet.)

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 05:21 PM:

I hear Chris Ware has been asked to submit a design for a 1-cent Jimmy Corrigan stamp, featuring the doughy sadsack staring all forlorn at a Sparkle Season Fir.

#12 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 05:25 PM:

I think they should make ecumenical stamps with symbols from multiple religions on them. I think it's wrong to either force religion on people OR to deny that it exists.

#13 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 05:28 PM:

Chris Clarke - I hope you'll be collecting the keys to all the black helicopters before the party starts. We don't need any more embarrasing "tourist chopper" crashes in NYC this year.

#14 ::: Lea ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 06:52 PM:

I would be an extremely happy little geek if I could send mail with Foucault stamps. Even if I'm taking issue with him in my dissertation.

#15 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 07:02 PM:

I won't sully ML with a link to Faux News -
but you know how their Bill O'Reilly clown has been raging about the "War on Christmas"?

Well, the Faux News store sells a "Bill O'Reilly Show" holiday ornament. Even the Faux News Store itself is part of the liberal conspiracy that refuses to acknowledge Christmas.

#16 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:06 PM:

Apropos Bill O'Reilly, I hear he recently nominated George Soros as the equivalent of the Antichrist, on a show which tipped seriously into antiSemitism, i.e., "land-grabbing Yids." No. I mean it. Really.

#17 ::: Captain Marvel ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:07 PM:

The Marvel Jihad will not stand for this. The blood of the DC Comics infidels will run in the streets!

#18 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:20 PM:

Plastic Man will be fun to stick on my envelopes, but how did Hawkman make the pantheon? I don't think I've ever read a Hawkman comic.

Ditto for Green Arrow.

They should have tightened up the set, or put in more interesting DC heroes.

(I see the Wonder Woman portrait was drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. How about some Metal Men stamps?)

#19 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:05 PM:

I appear to have slandered Bill O'Reilly. The "land-grabbing Yids" quote is from Tim LaHaye's website. LaHaye is one of the authors of the Left Behind series. But the George Soros stuff is accurate.

#20 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:01 PM:

I'd probabaly pass out if I ever saw a Pagan stamp. (celebrating Samhain/Yule/whatever...), due to overload. My partner Margene says if they teach one religion in school, they MUST teach all the Ways....I just want to see that happen here in the Middle west.

I don't mind all the Christmas carp, even if they did appropriate a lot of the pagan symbols. I just want to know what part of celebrating the Christ's birth has to do with snow-blowing, inflatable snow globe/snowman tableaux lawn ornaments. (Appaently air inflated lawn ornaments are The Thing this year, and the snow globe things are popping up everywhere in town.)

I did feel badly for the family that set up it's Santa/sleigh/reindeer inflatable because they set it up the day before a large windstorm, and the reindeer ended up 180 deg. from the sleigh/santa...

#21 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:14 PM:

What? They're raising postage rates? Why haven't I heard about this?

(In case I haven't mentioned it lately, I work for the Postal Service.)

(And I actually have heard about the postage increase, but only a few days ago, and from one of my own customers. You'd think postal management would tell the carriers, maybe even give them a printed sheet with the new rates on it, so we could tell our customers, instead of vice versa, but no-o-o-o-o....)

#22 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:44 PM:

The local Catholic school board [1] has been told they have to have a Seasonal concert. I dunno, the schools all have crosses on the front and they get an hour or two a week of religion, and they can't celebrate Christmas?

As for stamps, Canadians can have stamps made from their own pictures. A quick check of the rules says you have to own the rights to the picture and have permission from anyone appearing in it, but nothing about appropriate or inappropriate or religious or anything. Doesn't even say it has to follow the rules of Canada. That ... could get interesting.


[1] Yes, thanks to ancient happenings, Ontario Catholics, about half the population, have the right to educate themselves. None of my Catholic friends think I'm gonna fry, so I suspect they're pretty moderate. And you don't have to be Catholic to go, though I suspect they'd object if you were rude in religion class.

#23 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:19 AM:

Paula Helm Murray : I don't mind all the Christmas carp

I know a woman who every year in late December insists that all her friends come to her place for a traditional Czech Christmas meal of carp and potato salad. Personally, I don't mind the Christmas carp, but many people are in revolt and have persuaded her of recent years to let them bring roast duck.

#24 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:26 AM:

Catholics have Purgatory, Sandy. If I remember the catechism of my youth, the idea here is that the non-Catholic won't automatically fry after death. If that person has been good overall, he/she will spend time in Purgatory then go thru the selection process again. Or something like that. It's been a very long time since nuns rapped me on the knuckles.

#25 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:27 AM:

As for stamps, Canadians can have stamps made from their own pictures. A quick check of the rules says you have to own the rights to the picture and have permission from anyone appearing in it, but nothing about appropriate or inappropriate or religious or anything. Doesn't even say it has to follow the rules of Canada. That ... could get interesting.

This is possible in the USA as well. I shudder to announce that I recently received a bar mitzvah invitation with the kid's picture as the stamp...and the kid's baby picture as the stamp that was already stuck on the reply envelope.

#26 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:55 AM:

Jonathan I forgot that somewhere people EAT carp (here they're horribly muddy and no one has the patience to catch them, put them into a holding tank and feed them into cornmeal until they taste clean....)

I've et carp once, will never do again. I use that word for another thing that should NEVER be on the menu (crap).

#27 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 01:20 AM:

DonBoy

IIRC (from an NPR radio report) it is still possible for the random public to create stamps using uploaded images. However, the company via whom the stamps are purchased now employs a medium-sized staff of persons with excellent memory for faces to screen the images before printing the stamps.

My understanding is that prior to the new safety precautions a number of legitimate U.S. postage stamps were printed that featured the images of Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, ...

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 01:33 AM:

I still have an unused sheet of those Nixon stamps that were released about 10 years ago. I remember the late Herb Caen, columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle, quoting one of his readers who had actually used the stamps: there was something appropriate about the postmark's bars being printed over Dick's face like a cell's bars.

#29 ::: Per C. Jorgensen ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 08:52 AM:

I remember visiting Prague some years back and passing the carp section of some Christmas market. Quite huge tanks, occasional splashing. I haven't eaten that kind of carp. I remember getting one of the smaller kinds of carp in Russia. Really fine-looking meat, but a somewhat mud-like taint. On the other hand, I was the only one who seemed to mind of the Norwegian guest. I'm not usually know to be picky, but people of course react differently.

When it comes to Christmas and pre-Christmas fare, I'll now have the West Norway special of salted and smoked mutton ribs at some friends' house, and maybe a little lutefisk next weekend...

#30 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 10:30 AM:

The whole "war on Christmas" meme boggles me more than a little bit, seeing as how it was the Puritan colonists who first banned Christmas as being pagan Saturnalia and thus unholy -- between 1659 and 1681, celebrating Christmas in Boston carried a five shilling fine.

You'd think the likes of Malkin and Falwell would be all over themselves to paint abolishing Christmas as a good and pure thing, casting the taint of over-commercial paganism into the outer darkness and all that.

Let 'em celebrate Hogmanay instead!

#31 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 10:54 AM:

Bruce Arthurs said:
What? They're raising postage rates? Why haven't I heard about this? (In case I haven't mentioned it lately, I work for the Postal Service.)

They're raising stamp prices AGAIN? Why didn't someone tell me this BEFORE I bought a whole bunch of stamps. I write a lot of letters, but I don't think even I will be able go through all these stamps before Jan 8.

Bah humbug.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 10:56 AM:

Charlie, do the British Isles have people who also think there is a War against Xmas? Of course we're assuming that the likes of O'Reilly actually mean what they say and aren't in it for the publicity benefits.

No matter what, I don't really get it. Referring to the 'Holidays' makes perfect sense as there is more than one Christian Holiday at that time of the year. And a few non-Christian ones too. Heck, that's how the overwhelmingly Catholic population I grew up in called the whole thing. It's certainly quicker to wish someone Happy Holidays than say Merry-Christmas-Happy-New-Year-and-what's-the-name-of-the-third-one?-oh-yeah-the Epipahny.

Well, here's to hoping that some TV station broadcasts the old Saturday Night Live skit about Hanukah Harry taking Kris Kringle's place on Xmas night because the latter came down with food poisoning.

#33 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 11:31 AM:

as to whether or not o'reilly believes it some of his viewers must.

#34 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:20 PM:

The local paper is having a campaign against schools and local authorities that stand accused of not organising or allowing or actually cancelling Christmas pageants, nativity plays, carol-singing etcetera on the grounds of multiculturalism and not wishing to offend non-Christians. They're having real trouble finding an actual instance, mind you.

The argument here is the cultural one, not the religious one, though.

#35 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:51 PM:

Serge, I haven't noticed anyone around here whining about how there's a war on Christmas. Frankly, I wish there was one, so I could support it enthusiastically -- but then, I have Grinch-like tendencies.

#36 ::: Harry Payne ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 01:22 PM:

Re. Serge's question and Charlie's reply, we do get the occasional scare piece in the tabloids about something pig-related being banned in case it offends Muslims. Each and every time it's either turned out to be untrue or has been instigated by non-Muslims on their behalf and much to their bemusement. The last one in our area was the alleged banning of cuddly pig toys from work (don't ask)...

#37 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 02:54 PM:

More than occasional, alas. Newspapers like the Daily Mail and the Daily Express seem to have a habit of lurid headlines in which "Santa Banned" turns out to mean that, because of safety concerned, he's had to move around the corner.

It's pretty well described by Andrew Rilstone, in the posts referenced up there in the first comment.

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 03:07 PM:

So, not too much whining about the War against Xmas, Charlie? Does England have the equivalent of Fox News? If not, maybe that's why.

About "...the alleged banning of cuddly pig toys from work (don't ask)..." Sorry, Harry, but inquiring minds want to know.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 03:13 PM:

By the way, Charlie, I remember your saying you had cropped your beard down quite a bit when it was time to get a new passport. Has your pilosity recovered its former magnificence?

#40 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 03:46 PM:

Serge: I'm re-growing the full Jerry Garcia head-full.

I may be some time ...

#41 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 04:04 PM:

Serge, according to this, Rupert Murdoch has been busy Saving Christmas on both sides of the pond for several years now.

("CRIMBO" is the Sun's cute riff on "ASBOs" or Anti-Social Behavior Ordinances, themselves a touchy topic in the UK and the subject of a debate consisting of alternate Giulaniesque shouts of "Decline & Fall of Western Civ starts with Bad Manners!" and "A bas Big Brother!")

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 04:12 PM:

The full Jerry Garcia, eh, Charlie? That plus the kilt you're seen wearing in that Locus report about the recent worldcon should make for quite a sight. Me, I try to keep the Connery-as-Quartermain look.

#43 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 04:14 PM:

I'm not surprised, bellatrys. In fact, the moment I asked about a British equivalent of Faux News, I thought - doesn't Murdoch come from over there?

#44 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 04:16 PM:

Serge - I thought Murdoch was Australia's gift to wingnuts everywhere.

#45 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 04:22 PM:

Lea:
There were times
I'm sure you knew
When there was fook
Fook, Foucalt else to do...

(Sid Vicious, "My Way")

#46 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 04:26 PM:

I was musing on my LJ on the stated fear that the dread secularists were writing versions of Christmas songs shorn of their godly connotations, to be sung under Holiday trees. What would these sound like? My first two tries:

Silent night, secular night,
Holiday trees shining bright
Low-lying cloud cover may hide the moon
Flurries expected tomorrow til noon
Santa is coming tonight --
Santa is coming tonight.

(segue)

Please rest ye merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember that your place of work
Is closed for holiday
So you can drink and sleep in late
And watch your sports teams play
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy!
All that matters is our comfort and joy!

Of course, it won't be long before these turn up on religious alarmist sites and news reports, retailed as fact.

#47 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 04:52 PM:

Kip: if they do, you can nail the perpetrators for patent infringement.

#48 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 05:25 PM:

This seems to be the place to note that on a number of occasions in the past that I know of, members of ISKCON (aka the Hare Krishnas) have dressed up in Santa outfits, driven out to suburban shopping malls, and peddled copies of Bhagavad Gita as It Is to unsuspecting shoppers. 'Cause what minimum-wage security guard wants to be seen putting the cuffs on Santa? Unless, I guess, he's played by Billy Bob Thornton.

If the "War on Christmas" can cut down on the number of times I hear Johnny Mathis singing "Sleigh Ride," Josť Feliciano doing "Feliz Navidad," and various versions of "Silver Bells," I'm all for it. Maybe we need a "limited war" on Christmas. Mr. Rumsfeld...?

#49 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 05:50 PM:

Robert L - You forgot about the barking dogs "singing" Jingle Bells.

That said, I've just been playing the Charlie Brown Christmas album - always puts a smile on my face. Carpet bomb the warehouses full of Jose Felicano, but leave young Master Brown and the Vince Guaraldi Trio alone.

#50 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 06:15 PM:

Larry, Sir Rupert the Bad Bart does indeed claim Australia as his native turf, but his long-term involvment with the Mother Country goes back at least to helping prop up Iron Maggie's regime by quashing uppity newspaper workers, a mutual backscratching situation.

At present, he owns in the UK, The Sun, and iirc The Times too (covering the lowbrow and highbrow conservative markets), and SkyTV, and Tony Blair. Seriously, he had Tony slamming the Beeb for him not long ago, while his Times editors were pointing out all the BBC's sins - neither outfit pointing out that they were competing directly for marketshare...

#51 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 06:23 PM:

This song would probably drive the loonies right over the edge. It's a Hawaii pidgin version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Day Three:

Numbah Tree day of Christmas,
my tutu give to me
Tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

#52 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 09:21 PM:

Oh,that Hawaiian one is great. Here everyone knows Pukeko in a Ponga Tree and more recently and commercially "Kiwi in a Kauri Tree" but they aren't a patch on that.

#53 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 09:32 PM:

Well, way back when I was a misguided engineering school student, my friends and I came up with Starfleet Battles inspired carols including:

On the first day of killing
My captain gave to me
A Kzinti in a pear tree.

It went downhill from there, and thankfully that's all I can remember without more cogitation than I'm willing to give it.

#54 ::: Elyse ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 09:49 PM:

Robert L wrote:
If the "War on Christmas" can cut down on the number of times I hear Johnny Mathis singing "Sleigh Ride," Josť Feliciano doing "Feliz Navidad," and various versions of "Silver Bells," I'm all for it. Maybe we need a "limited war" on Christmas. Mr. Rumsfeld...?

Frankly, I will listen to those songs every day of the dang-blasted holiday season so long as I NEVER have to hear "Christmas Shoes" ever, ever again.

#55 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 10:45 PM:

Mr Murdoch is indeed a gift. We gave him away. For free, as it turns out, which is somewhat more than he is worth. But we're generous that way. Can't help ourselves. He's an American now, having for that purpose actually renounced Australian citizenship, that being the condition then. A very good thing, too.

#56 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 11:21 PM:

Plastic Man will be fun to stick on my envelopes, but how did Hawkman make the pantheon? I don't think I've ever read a Hawkman comic.

Where my first thought was to wonder when they took that Flash part-time back-ender and give him his own book? Probably shows you how long it's been since I read comics. (I do remember reading Hawkman, not long after the Silver Age.)

Larry, re Vince Guaraldi: yes! I'm learning which buttons on the car radio have will be radioactive for the next month, but could almost forgive the soupy commercial Xmas music when one of them ran "Linus and Lucy" (I \think/ that's the title of the piece with the wonderful running bass line...).

#57 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 11:28 PM:

Ever see the "Bit of Fry and Laurie" version of "It's a Wonderful Life" in which Clarence shows Rupert Murdoch what Britain would be like if he'd never been born? It's firmly established that it's an improvement, and I think Clarence pushes him off the bridge at the end.

#58 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 11:29 PM:

CHiP, we have at least TWO stations here that play All Xmas music all the time. They started a week BEFORE FARKING THANKSGIVING too, thank you too farking very much.

We have NO classical FM (that channel was sent to AM hell by ENTRECOM several years ago to be replaced by a duplicate personality talk (let's see how dirty we can talk without being fined)/'pop' station.)) And in one of the birthplaces of jazz, the only channels it can occasionally be found on is our local NPR station and KKFI, our one true community radio station (NOT NPR).

#59 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 11:41 PM:

When I went thru the last steps of becoming an American in 1994, I was asked by Immigration if I wanted to keep my Canadian citizenship too, but I passed on that. Nothing against the land of my birth. I just wanted to go all the way.

Cut to September 2004... I'm on the East Coast and the Boston worldcon just ended and it's been 9 years since I visited my family so I rent a car to drive up to Quebec City. At the border, the Canadian official asks the usual questions, like my citizenship. He gives me this weird look like he must not have had many Americans cross the border who also have an accent - and it ain't Scottish. And he announces that, if I wanted, I could easily get my Canadian citizenship back.

All this to say that, should Australia so desire, it could welcome its son back.

#60 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 12:22 AM:

The crazy thing about the "war on Christmas" rhetoric is that so much of the drive to make this the "holiday season" is simple laissez-faire economics. Retailers want to sell stuff to everybody, therefore it behooves them to have their employees wish people "happy holidays," and to secularize and denature Christmas as much as possible. But I doubt that O'Reilly or Malkin will be pointing that out any time soon.

Lifelong atheist and secularist that I am, I have to say that the thing that bothers me most about the Christmas retail soundtrack is how cheesy it is. It's all pop music now -- you rarely even hear any of the Victorian "standards." My favorites are the old, earthy, bloody medieval carols, the ones with some mystery and some bite. A good Christmas carol should send chills down your spine.

#61 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 12:33 AM:


Dave Luckett: Mr Murdoch is indeed a gift. We gave him away. For free, as it turns out, which is somewhat more than he is worth. But we're generous that way. Can't help ourselves. He's an American now, having for that purpose actually renounced Australian citizenship, that being the condition then. A very good thing, too.

So if he gets kicked out here, made persona non grata for trying to subvert the govt with bribes etc, and stripped of his citizenship, he'd be The Man Without a Country?

Hmmm....imagining him wandering from port to port on his yacht, vainly seeking for someone to take him in after his fall from glory, with Sir Mark leaning forlornly on the rail next to him after the national housecleaning. (Trying to be optimistic here "for the sake of the kiddies, it's christmas" spirit)

#62 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 01:07 AM:

For your Rupert - I use the second person possessive with relish - there would be no problem finding some country to take him in. There are many in his price range.

#63 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 06:22 AM:

Write in Murdoch for the Mid-Pacific Fan Fund.

Is Michelle Malkin the nonrevered Moon in dressed in drag? Crackpots from Korea.... why don;'t they and the LaHayes got for a boat ride off Somalia, is it, where there are pirate rings operating?

(A friend knows a woman who was involved in successfully fighting off one of those pirate attacks. Malkin and Moon and the LaHayes are different people than that, though, I suspect).

A few days ago in a supermarket in which "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" was blaring out, and I had been doing the make-up-your-own-lyrics in defense thing, I truncated, "Santa Clause Is Coming to Town" to "Santa Claus Is Coming." I didn't snort or giggle or snigger or laugh of such out loud....

#64 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 10:25 AM:

Santa Claus Is Coming.

Paula, Paula, Paula... Must we on the Left take everything that's good and wholesome and make it dirty?

Heh heh heh...

#65 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 11:16 AM:

Did anybody else notice that 1999's Olive the Other Reindeer, under the guise of a TV special celebrating Xmas, was actually waging war against it? If you look closely - or maybe not that closely - you will notice that the fence in front of Santa's workshop has a menorah on it.

Somebody get a bonfire ready for Matt Groening. And one for co-producer Drew Barrymore. And one for Ed Asner, who did Santa's voice.

#66 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 01:39 PM:

Ever see the "Bit of Fry and Laurie" version of "It's a Wonderful Life" in which Clarence shows Rupert Murdoch what Britain would be like if he'd never been born?

...and once again I wish "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" were available on DVD. Or even VHS, for less than $46 per tape. Aargh. I've found the collected scripts online, which is lovely, but still.

My vote for worst of the pop-Xmas songs...I'll even put up with "Feliz Navidad" if I can never, never hear "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" again. Somehow I always get sucked in to trying to make sense of the lyrics. There'll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for roasting... I would've thought roasted marshmallows are just about the only sweet you don't eat at Christmas... "There'll be scary ghost stories..." Sounds more like a sleepover than Christmas. Unless we're talking "A Christmas Carol," in which case I count one ghost story with a jillion scary productions. ...and tales of the glories of Christmases long long ago. Okay, so it's pretty obvious the lyrics are just in service to the painful rhymes. And yet they still manage to get in the reminder of the story of How Andie Cooked The Turkey Without Defrosting It Or Taking Out the Plastic Giblet Bag...as if I won't be hearing it for the fiftieth time anyway on the actual day.

Will have to watch Love, Actually again just for Bill Nighy's sneering, wobbly-hipped old rock star, cornering the pop X-mas market through self-mockery.

#67 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 05:31 AM:

They should have tightened up the set, or put in more interesting DC heroes.

That would be Batman (+ sidekicks), John Constantine, The Sandman cast (definitely including the Lucifer spinoff) and ... ?

#68 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 07:16 AM:

well, The Legion of Super Heroes ... one member for each stamp on the sheet.

#69 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 09:21 AM:

The Legion of Super Heroes

I said interesting super heroes...

#70 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 10:28 AM:

You aren't wishing for a Bouncing Boy stamp?

#71 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 11:16 AM:

Christmas Ghost Stories may be more of an English tradition. I remember the BBC doing a sort of performed reading of M.R. James stories -- Robert Powell telling the story dressed as if he might be the author.

#72 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 02:42 PM:

Janet L -- if you want some earthy Xmas carols with bite, I just read a really good review of The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (no, I'm not kidding -- think Songs From the Wood, not Aqualung) over at Green Man Reviews. Some good strong lyrics quoted in the review: http://www.greenmanreview.com/cd/cd_tull_christmasalbum.html. Sounds tempting, but I already bought my Christmas album for this year (the above-mentioned Charlie Brown Christmas, absolutely wonderful...)

Janet C

#73 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 04:11 PM:

Sandy, Catholic schools exist everywhere. Religious schools of all typoes exist in the US, pretty much unmonitored as to the quality of their curriculum, the conditions of their school buildings, the treatment of their staff. And untaxed because we don't tax religious institutions in the US. There are, in spite of all these invitations to be hellholes of misery and ignorance, many actually good religious schools.

And (I don't know who I'm answeriung with this)we do teach about religions in public school. It's part of the human experience. And we do have holiday things. We just aren't supposed to present them as if all the students are expected to embrace them or be shut out. We can teach Christmas carols -- but they're part of exploring and sharing human cultures, not the ticket to belonging.

If you have Jehovah's Witness children in your class, their parents will send you a little book explaining why they don't do holidays oir birthdays at all and giving suggestions for how to excuse the kids from suspect activities without exiling them.

And then the kids will insist, most likely, on doing the holidays thing up to the hilt, any holidays at all, just give me that damned symbol and that songsheet and don't bug me you're not my mother, okay?

#74 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 04:27 PM:

The Catholic schools in Ontario are a little different from the US ones.

One of the compromises built into the Constitution in the mid-Nineteenth Century was the establishment of two school boards for each district -- one Protestant and one Catholic. The first one established would be the "Public" board, the other, the "Separate" board. (This was the Protestant board everywhere except in Tiny Township, where the Catholics were/are the Public board.)

There was partial public funding of the Separate schools until the 1980's, when it became equal (full) funding to the end of high school; these used to be supported out of local taxes but are now supported via provincial taxation (long story, from the late 1990's). Both school systems must conform to the provincial standards and are quite distinct from the various religious and non-religious private schools.

The Protestant schools eventually morphed into fully secular schools, especially after the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This situation has led in the past to some rather odd decisions about what Catholic boards could/could not do (e.g. in terms of conditions for hiring staff, or holding school functions) where Catholic teaching differs from the general cultural norms. Sandy is referring to one such instance (which I haven't heard anything about).

#75 ::: Merideth ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 06:55 PM:

I love the "War on Christmas"

You see, I am a non-specific goddess worshiper. Married to a converted Jew, who was raised Methodist.
Raised by a Catholic who married and excommunicated Mormon.
Who has a 4 year old who celebrates the Holidays with her grandparents and her gay Buddhist uncle and his African-American baptist boyfriend, who invited the whole clan to a Kwanzaa party.

Sometimes, I really enjoy being part of the problem.

#76 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 07:27 PM:

Here's another wrinkle on the "Christmas v. Holiday" controversy.

Apparently "the orbital mind control lasers of the secular conspiracy" has chalked up another convert, even more unlikely than the Post Office: churches!

According to this AP article (found via GetReligion.com) some churches are going to be closed on Christmas Day (which furthermore this year is on Sunday) "to allow staff members and volunteers to spend the holiday with their families."

Most of these are churches of the "megachurch" variety, mainly in the South (though one that's mentioned is in Michigan), and will "will hold multiple Christmas Eve services instead".

#77 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 09:11 PM:

And what do you say to someone like me, agnostic - I honestly don't know - but certain that Yeshua bin Yusuf was not what the Christian church has for seventeen hundred years said he was, but who loves Christmas to distraction anyway? And I mean the whole thing, the tree, the family party, the traditional feast, the gift-giving, the carols, the peace on Earth, the kids (about time our kids had kids, I say), the ceremonial reading - I can actually recite it - of the second chapter of Luke, the whole hokey bit.

#78 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 09:50 PM:

There is in fact a growing tendency among Anglican churches to skip the Christmas morning service and to do only Midnight Mass instead. This is a reversal of a generation ago, when the Christmas morning service was the service and Midnight Mass (which is, properly speaking, "Christmas Day at Midnight", not "Christmas Eve", which is a vigil mass said earlier in the day) was held only at a few High and Anglo-Catholic parishes. (Those parishes also, however, treated the mass at midnight and the mass of the dawn as secondary to the mass of the day.)

The reason for this seems to be that people are less ready to get up and go out on Christmas morning. It may very well be a result of a more secular approach to the holy-day.

#79 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 09:59 PM:

Dave Luckett:
I say Bravo, and I second the motion.

#80 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 11:03 PM:

Janet L: My favorites are the old, earthy, bloody medieval carols, the ones with some mystery and some bite. A good Christmas carol should send chills down your spine.

I grew up partly with those, thanks to Jack Langstaff; do you have Revels in your area? They mix in a handful of familiar ones for singalongs, but usually come up with some good ancient ones.

#81 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2005, 12:23 AM:

There is a war on Christmas!

Here's the Declaration of War!

#82 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2005, 02:09 AM:

Paula: Sounds like you've been watching Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa, too.

Oh, there are lots of even worse Christmas songs than the ones I mentioned. I don't even want to think about them, because then I won't be able to get them out of my head.

On the other hand, I'm a great fan of "bummer Christmas" songs such as Charles Brown's "Miserable Christmas" and Miles Davis's "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)" ("It's the time when the greedy/Give a dime to the needy")...

#83 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2005, 01:46 PM:

Bah! I love the Green Arrow, and I'm glad he's a stamp! Admittedly my love is heavily influenced by the recent animated series "Justice League Unlimited."

In the last season, which was an extended take on Watchmen, he's a self-proclaimed "Lefty" and he was convinced to join the League because Batman thought they needed a hero with a real conscience on the rolls.

He's a classic member of the League, which is likely how Hawkman got in there, but he's also a great character. Yay Green Arrow!

#84 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:50 PM:

Might I recommend the book The Battle for Christmas (Stephen Nissenbaum)? It traces the history of the American-style Christmas back to colonial times. How "Christmas" was supposed to be celebrated, and what it signifies has changed dramatically over the years.

#85 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:12 PM:

Janet L.: any store that played religious Christmas carols "with bite" would not have my business at all at this time of year.

I feel that the holiday is shoved down my throat quite enough in the secular version without having the religious aspects pounded upon my head as well.

Of course, I'm feeling a bit sensitive about this these days, having been told last week on another webite that 1) if I exchange gifts with anyone in December for any reason, I am de facto celebrating Christmas and 2) _everyone_ celebrates Christmas because it's secular, you know, and 3) so what if you feel marginalized? There's more of us than there are of you so lighten up.

Oh, and being accused of being a Scrooge.

Yeah, it's a pleasant season.

#86 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:33 PM:

One of my cousins was born on December 25. He says it's a downer because people give him one gift, usually for Christmas, and leave out the other occasion.

#87 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 01:48 PM:

Michelle, check with your local post office, but you can probably still use your old stamps. Just buy a bunch of 1, 2 or 5 cent stamps and stick them on beside the old one. The post office cares about the total, not about how it's reached.

Serge, Canada is quite happy to share you with other countries, but some are more possessive.

My son's class is doing Hanukkah for the concert. (Each class does a different celebration.) They're doing a song about a dreidel, and one of them will mumble a bit about not enough oil for the lamp. He wants to convert because they get presents on each of eight days.

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 01:57 PM:

Immigration gave me the choice, Sandy. It was really my own decision to go solely for an American citizenship for various reasons. What if I were offered to work on some government projects where being a non-citizen would be a problem? Not likely, but who knows? Besides, I wanted to give my all to America.

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