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Thursday, December 23, 2010

After Winter Solstice

To make conversion as convenient as possible, early christians aimed to take over dates that were already holidays in the Roman calendar. So it is that christmas falls on the time of Saturnalia, the celebration of winter solstice. Even so, it was an obscure and barely acknowledged occasion until the 19th century, when it was romanticized into the homely and gift-exchange event that it's become. Nevertheless, in the spirit of renewal manifest when our sun, viewed from the northern hemisphere, reaches its lowest angle and the earth begins again to tilt southward, I send you my greetings and wish you all better nutrition and more exercise in the coming year. I leave you then with this thought:

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem

Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;

It's comforting to look up from this earth

And know that, while all changes, nothing's lost.

I recollect that in antiquity

The winter solstice fell in Capricorn

And that, in the Orion Nebula,

From swirling gas, new stars are being born.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

WHY THERE ARE SITCOMS


The 06 December 2010 New Yorker contains a profile of the sitcom writer and producer Chuck Lorre, by Tom Bissell. In closing, Bissell offers the following analysis:

"Films...show us who we want to be, and literature shows us who we actually are. Sitcoms...show us people we might like to know. Because of this, the sitcom is a medium designed to reassure... Most sitcoms are about families, and, for the millions who watch a sitcom, it becomes a kind of mental family. Week after week, your couch faces the couch of characters you feel you know, characters whose problems can never quite get solved.

A lot of sitcoms are [about loneliness, alienation, and self-hatred]. To laugh at these things with our mental families may allow us to cope with out own loneliness, alienation, and self-hatred. It may be that the sitcom’s constant avoidance of any final, dramatic catharsis is its accidental strength. If so, that would make this least lifelike form of entertainment the most comfortingly similar to real life."

Of course, devoting yourself to such reassurance and comfort means not addressing your expectations, and so never confronting the source of all human conflicts and fears. Comedy bestows upon us all a kind of solidarity, but at the cost of any change. Happy new year...