CSotD: Nitpickers and other unpopular types

As we pull within two weeks of Christmas, Ben (MWAM) threatens his wife, and us, with a series of excruciating puns to fill the days, and I hope he follows through. The funny pages are so flooded with bad takeoffs on Christmas carols each year that it’s a relief when one of them confesses to such horror up front.

The Twelve Days of Christmas brings up a number of questions as well, beginning with the fundamental one of whether the singer is enumerating each day’s gifts or recapitulating the total from the two weeks. That is, does the lover end up with 12 partridges in pear trees, or is the initial partridge simply catalogued again each day?

The larger matter is that the 12 days begin not now but upon Christmas and extend through the Epiphany when the Magi visited and gave gifts.

In some countries, all gifts come with the Kings on January 6, which makes sense, and it’s quite a festival in Spain, for instance.

Though analyzing the timing leads only to confusion: Jesus had his bris in Jerusalem on January 1, before the Three Kings visited, and so all those nativity sets with the Magi huddled around the manger seem unlikely, since we can assume that the Holy Family was back in Nazareth after the Circumcision.

Or en route to Egypt. There is no certain thread to the whole thing, since Matthew and Luke’s nativity stories are not only folkloric but come from two different cultures. Matthew’s version is Israel-based Jewish folklore and Luke was a Hellenized Jew and so his is more Greek.

Doesn’t matter. I don’t think you have to believe that Noah had kangaroos and penguins on the ark either.

I particularly don’t think it makes anyone clever to poke holes in Biblical folklore, but that’s a losing battle because the Internet is flooded with folks who clearly believe otherwise.


This Cornered (AMS) conflates the term “grace” in the hymn with “grace,” the prayer of pre-meal thanksgiving when they’re not so far apart in the first place. At Camp Lord O’ The Flies, we used to sing “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” before Sunday dinner, and I’m sure we weren’t the only place where hymns fulfill the task.

The joke here being that someone playing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes would ruin everyone’s appetites, and that’s true whether they are Sassenachs who hate the instrument or Gaels who hate the song.

“Amazing Grace” is to the bagpipes as “Heart and Soul” is to the piano: A perfectly good song, but a necessary choice of those for whom it is the only song they can play.

Like Nativity folktales, however, it tends to come up in contexts where criticizing it would be churlish.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Joel Pett)

(Clay Jones)

Speaking of poking holes in things for no particular reason, Clay Jones admits in his blog that he only trashed the late Mike Nesmith for something to do on a Sunday, and I suspect he was anticipating — and planning to enjoy — the objections that erupted on social media.

Many of those outraged people said they’d grown up with the Beatles and/or the Monkees, which sent me scrambling to the Internets to find out how old Joel Pett is, and it turns out he’s three years younger than I am, which is a little too young to have truly grown up with the Beatles, though he could claim to have grown up with the Monkees, which he does not.

And he’s quite correct that, while the times were hardly utopian, they had not yet become apocalyptic.

A strange sort of progress indeed.

Clay Jones was born the year the Monkees were formed, and the year the Beatles released “Revolver,” but he admits to having no particular affinity for either.


I, however, had the great good luck to have grown up with the Beatles, a claim I base on the rule laid out by Tom The Dancing Bug in 2007: I was 12 years old when they charted their first hit and I was 19 when they broke up and you can’t cut it any finer than that.

I’m of an age to know that the Monkees were not a musical knock-off of the Beatles. They were a sitcom imitation of Richard Lester’s Beatles movies, with their songs simply a marketing arm of the effort.

My little sisters adored them, but they also liked Bobby Sherman. As it happened, the Monkees produced better pop music than Bobby Sherman, often rising to the level of Paul Revere and the Raiders though not quite the Turtles.

Indeed, you had to have been there.

Anyway, Nesmith was a good musician who went on to do some remarkable things. Remembering him just for that TV show is like remembering Tom Hanks only for “Bosom Buddies,” which also aired for a mere two seasons.



Returning to the impending holiday, Wallace the Brave (AMS) seems to be sparking a story arc worth following and I suspect Spud might have done well to not suggest anything, but it’s too late now.

I also suspect that the desk on stage implies a production of “A Christmas Carol,” because it’s not the right set for “The Nutcracker” and why else would Wallace’s parents have brought the kids out to a show?

One of the benefits of retirement is that I no longer have to assign kids to attend and critique holiday productions of “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker.” It was an impossible task to instruct them to bring anything new to either, mostly because the production companies didn’t bring anything new to either, which is called “tradition.”

I did, one year, manage to arrange for a young reporter who had done a fair amount of ballet herself to attend a rehearsal of the Nutcracker and then interview the prima donna, which I guess is opera but you know who I mean. Not only was it a good story, but getting her there before opening night solved our annual deadline issues.

Besides, nobody wants an actual critical review of either production, any more than they want some wiseass to poke holes in the Nativity story.

Such things don’t have to be factual to be true.


9 thoughts on “CSotD: Nitpickers and other unpopular types

  1. The “Wallace” arc started last Friday, and it is indeed “A Christmas Carol” that they are attending.

  2. I was 12 through most of 1974. We had the classic ’73-74 line-up on Saturday night on CBS (the only one I couldn’t watch was M*A*S*H, until the following season). There were Euell Gibbons jokes, The Tonight Show starring Johnny (couldn’t stay up that late), the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, and Match Game ’74. Also parodies of Kung Fu and The Exorcist. Loved the Wacky Page stickers! Oh, and Watergate jokes (didn’t get into that topic until 1975).

    The music was silly, a lot of it, but I still like those songs anyway. Only got into the Beatles slowly throughout 1980. Perfect example of bad timing.

  3. I’ve heard that the best music is that which you heard between 15 and 25- for me that would be from 1975 to 1985. When I experienced the music first hand I thought little of it and preferred the music from a decade earlier. Only when I grew older did I better appreciate some of the music from that era, but mostly genres and bands I was not exposed to at that time. When I was 12?- pop culture really reeked!

  4. There’s no substitute for being at the center of things. You really did have to be there. I asked Arlo about it in a 1989 interview, and he said:
    “I think it was a fabulous time to be alive and it was a fabulous time to be a teen-ager. It was great; there’s no doubt about it.”

    But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing interesting going on right now, he noted: “It just isn’t going on in the United States. For other young people, in other places, this may be the generation their children wax romantic over.

    “I think what’s going on in the Soviet Union right now, and what’s going on in China right now, and what’s going on in Poland, for those young people, this is that time,” he said.
    Today, it’s the kids crossing our borders and the kids in Myanmar and the kids in Gaza who are piling up the memories. I’m afraid my granddaughters may get the chance, too.

    (Rest of the interview is at https://nellieblogs.blogspot.com/2009/06/its-not-like-its-dead-and-its-not-like.html)

  5. For the longest time I believed the best year for music was when you were 15 years of age. Considering that, for me, that was 1967, I have always agreed with that assessment! After all, how can one argue with “The Summer Of Love!”

  6. Re: “does the lover end up with 12 partridges in pear trees …?”

    Several years ago Games Magazine had a nice math puzzle in the December issue. The back story was that the recipient isn’t interested in the attentions of the “true love” nor his/her/their gifts. Assuming that the lover will indeed receive 12 partridges, 22 turtle doves, 30 french hens, and so on, and that the post office only delivers one item per day (keeping the excess in storage), and that the true love returns each item the following day, on what date will the lover return the final item?

    The puzzle would just be tedious counting if it weren’t for an aha realization at the end.

  7. I was 12 in 1979. While I’ll admit the Bee Gees have grown on me over the years, I somehow don’t think they compare to the 60’s, when all the best music was written. You just have to watch the Minions movie to realize that.

  8. “…since we can assume that the Holy Family was back in Nazareth after the Circumcision.”

    Nope. Luke says that they go to the Temple for the rites of purification, which would be completed 33 days after Jesus’ birth. Then they went back to Nazareth. Or were half-way to Egypt.

    Just another smart-ass poking holes in the Nativity story.

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