E.J. Graff

Friday Miscellany, Year-End 2011

Herewith a few things to think about before you disappear into 2012:

  • Sweeties. On Wednesday, the Virginian-Pilot ran what I thought was an adorable story about a Navy first. Apparently, when ships come in, someone gets the honor of disembarking for the first official welcome-home kiss with their beloved.

It's been three months since the dock landing ship left home for Central America, and all of the usual fanfare is waiting to greet its crew: crowds of cheering families, toddlers dressed in sailor suits, and the lucky, excited woman who's been chosen to take part in a time-honored Navy tradition - the first homecoming kiss.

Dear Santa

ICMYI: Didn't you always want to ask Santa a few things? He's answering, over at the Hairpin. Some great answers to the tough questions, like: Why didn't I get that Atari? Why don't you deliver to Jewish kids? Will there ever be a female Santa? and more.

Forget "Stranger Danger"

I'm a silver lining kind of gal. Ever since the media storm over allegations that former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky raped and molested children, I've been waiting to hear about many other such cases in the sports world. After all, that's what happened in 2002, when the Boston Globe first exposed that the local Catholic Church archdiocese had covered for dozens of area priests who had abused children. After the initial exposé, hundreds of victims who had endured similar abuse came forward around the country and across the world. With the tidal wave of Penn State news coverage, I expected a similar wave of coaches' victims to find the courage to tell their stories.

More Holiday Lights!

HuffPo has a fabulous slide show of the tackiest holiday lights ever. Numbers 11, 13, and 15 alone are responsible for the demand for the Keystone Pipeline.

Living next to some of the others would "make me grunch my teeth," as our young'un puts it. I send condolences to their neighbors. Enjoy!

Language in Exile

As long as we are speaking of cultures that have simmered in exile, let's turn to Tibetans, whose leaders have consulted with Jewish and Israeli leaders about what it takes to keep a diaspora culture alive. One of the answers: keep alive the language. Hebrew was essentially a language on ice, used primarily in religious services but not to communicate, rich with symbolism but lacking words for anything related to post-exile life—until early Zionists performed CPR and turned it into a living vehicle, actually spoken daily (usually very, very quickly and disputatiously) (#joking).

Vaclav Havel on Kim Jong-Il

Via @beingbrina, here is the Velvet Revolutionary's comment on Dear Leader, in the Globe and Mail, 2004.

Good vs. Evil

Former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, died Sunday at 75 years of age. AP Photo/Peter David Josek

Vaclav Havel helped to bring down a totalitarian regime; Kim Jong-Il ran one. One was imprisoned repeatedly for refusing to conform to even the smallest of the lies foisted upon him by communism—and in doing so, inspired his fellow citizens to join him in throwing it off.

Friday Miscellany

A little bit of this, a little bit of that:

Meta-Commentary on End-of-Year Lists

Over at NPR's website, Linda Holmes had herself some meta-fun in a post called The 20 Unhappiest People You Meet In The Comments Sections Of Year-End Lists. For instance,

6. The Read A Book Guy. "Not one of these movies is as good as reading a book." On a list of books, by the way, he will say none of the books is as good as books used to be. He also hates Kindles, which he may or may not mention.

Your Brain Is Racist

ICYMI: ProPublica and the Washington Post took a look at whether people of any particular race are more likely to receive presidential pardons. You'll be shocked, I'm sure, by what they found:

White criminals seeking presidential pardons over the past decade have been nearly four times as likely to succeed as minorities...

Blacks have had the poorest chance of receiving the president's ultimate act of mercy, according to an analysis of previously unreleased records and related data.

My Favorite Holiday Lights, Ever

Do you believe in science?

Spotted on a house nearby. Does someone work at, say, MIT?

E.J. Graff

Holiday lights got scientific in Boston with this double-helix display.

Identical Twins: One Boy, One Girl

In July 1984, three high school kids tossed Charlie Howard off a Bangor, Maine, bridge, to his death, for being gay. The boys spent some time in juvenile detention; one later wrote a book called Penitence and spoke about accepting diversity to ease his remorse. (When I started dating the woman who is now my wife, she found that book on my shelves and turned ghostly white. In her history class at Bangor High, she told me, she sat behind one of the killers. She was out at the time.

Romney Meets Veteran

Stop me if you've heard this one before. So Mitt Romney sits down next to a grizzled, flannel-shirt-wearing Vietnam vet in hyper-conservative Manchester, New Hampshire, and asks him about his service. It's a softball, right, made for the TV cameras?

Wrong:

But 63-year-old Bob Garon wanted to talk about gays in the military—because he is a gay veteran. Garon was sitting in a booth across from his husband, Bob Lemire, at Chez Vachon, a must-stop diner for politicians looking for votes in the New Hampshire primary.

Occupy This!

ICYMI: The thoughtful Ruth Rosen outlines how the Occupy movement has changed the national consciousness and conversation here, giving us important new language for the yawning wealth divide. Meanwhile, Berkeley labor economist Sylvia Allegreto picks up the new terminology to point out that six Waltons = the bottom 30 percent. Ouch.

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