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Hyperion December 16, 2002

the Hyperion Chronicles
“Still carrying a torch for Kelly Kapowski”

#83 Potpourri, Volume IX

For several years now I’ve been thinking about this, and finally my friend Bear implored me to say something about it. Every year at Christmas time, several well-meaning (giving them the benefit of the doubt) people rant and rave about how the abbreviation “Xmas” is taking the Christ out of Christmas. Well, anyone who has talked to me knows that you’ll get no argument here that Christmas is virtually a secular holiday now, but, for what it’s worth: Xmas is not a contributor to your secular fears. The “X” in Xmas is not an X at all, but rather the Greek letter “chi,” which in early days stood for Christ. Chi was the first letter of Christos, the Greek word for Jesus, and the cross-shape seemed to import a double meaning. It is also likely that this symbol was used for camouflage in times when being a Christian was bad for staying alive. So, Xmas has a proud and noble tradition, and is at least one thing not be co-opted by Santa.

This one is just for the guys, boring “manly” stuff that women wouldn’t find appealing, so if you ladies could go down to the next paragraph. {Pause} Okay, guys, I don’t want to cause panic here, but we have a problem: women are stealing our names. A look at the top 25 names for 2002 shows the following traditional guys’ names being co-opted by the “other” sex: Madison, Bailey, Jordan, Mackenzie, Taylor, Jaden, Riley, Tyler, and Morgan. And this is just in the top 25! Actually, this trend has been going on for years, with Kerry and Casey just holding their own and Ashley almost completely over to the other side. Women claim it’s an empowerment thing, left over from the ‘70s when many moms of today first got their taste of politics. I think it’s something more sinister: they are trying to destroy us all. Now, I don’t know if the answer is naming our boys Molly and Sue, but we have to act fast.

Welcome back, ladies! I have a question for you: What could a guy do or say or know that would make you want to marry him right on the spot? What the heck, I want to know from guys too. This question has fascinated me since I heard Bear grousing about finding his perfect woman. He said (and I quote), “If she has read the Wheel of Time and can beat me at a game of Madden NFL 2003, then I'm putting the damn rock on her finger.” Chivalry dies hard. Let me know what some guy or gal can do to win you over on the spot, and maybe I can make a whole column out of it (but you’re not getting paid).

Government Mandated Community Service Portion of the Column—from Jerome Foxworthy: “If your child likes stamp collecting, don’t jump all over him because he doesn’t play the clarinet. Check out the stamps, man! Check out the stamps!”

There is this really insipid program on Bravo called Inside the Actor’s Studio, hosted by James Lipton—a sycophant of Elizabethan proportions—who coddles up to the actors featured like they were gods. And of course, like much good bad television, I often can’t help but watch. One question Lipton asks that I do like, though, is what the actors’ favorite and least favorite words are. Robert DeNiro replied with refinement and boorish. I asked some people this question and got this: Koz gave me Vis a Vis and synergy, while my friend Tito gave me panocha and AIDS. My XGF (ex-girlfriend) came up with superfluous and preggers, and when queried, I managed phantasmagoric and meds. It’s a fun little break-the-ice question at an office party or on a date. Try it and see what people say.

Maybe you’ve heard of the show Crossing Over, where the host John Edwards helps people communicate with dead relatives. In case you weren’t sure (or have ever lived in Mississippi), the program is just this side of Pro Wrestling for being completely staged. I was initially upset watching the show, and thinking about all those poor duped people, but then synergy struck (sorry Koz), and I came up with a better solution. I think Crossing Over should combine with Jerry Springer. We already know these people are entertaining and gullible, and I’d be willing to bet their dead relatives are too. I can just see exciting episodes like “Which Uncle is my Pa?” and “Where did Granpappy bury the Confederate gold?” This could truly be a monster hit. Anyone who can get word to these shows, I’ll split the take with you.

Recently, the Ship of Theseus has come up in my life several times (I lead a strange life), and I thought that my Loyal Readers (that’s you) would be interested in the story. Plutarch writes about the Ship of Theseus, which leaves Athens and comes back after many years. The question the Athenians have is whether the ship is the same one that left, because every plank, every oar; every piece of that ship has been replaced during the journey. After arguing about this for some time (they are Greeks, after all), the Athenians decide that yes, the Ship of Theseus is one and the same, because the crew is the same, the purpose the ship left with is the same, and the ship has a sense of history for the journey taken that has been imbued in the very fabric of the ship, and survives wood and nails. Something to consider in your life.
And speaking of something to consider, the time has come to name you guys. I used Loyal Readers in the last paragraph, and Salivating Masses and Swarming Horde have been suggested too. What do you think? Pick one of those or come up with your own name, and if yours is selected you’ll get a gift pack of prizes.

Roone Arledge died recently, at age 71. While that name may not mean much to you, Arledge was the creative force that created much of what we take for granted on TV today. He brought the Olympics and Monday Night Football to prime time television, and later moved to news and invented the show Nightline. Many innovations, from instant replays to slow motion to the way we get news to ESPN is here today as a result of Arledge’s work. Tony Kornheiser, a sports reporter, said of the three most influential shows in television history, Monday Night Football, Nightline, and 60 Minutes, Arledge had created two. That might have been overstating it a bit, but it got me to thinking: what are the three most influential television shows in history? I could go with MNF and 60 Minutes, but I’d have to take a sitcom in there too, in light of its importance to society. I’d probably split my vote between I Love Lucy and The Simpsons. (For more on this see my column #66 The Great Sitcom Debate)

Quote of the day: “Never stand in the way of your enemy when he’s trying to destroy himself.”

There exists something called the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is basically where well-meaning people do something without completely thinking it through, and the result is often worse than before. These people are counterparts to the Xmas haters from above, also well-meaning folks and similarly without a clue. There are so many instances of this I think I will devote an entire column to it, but for now, an example: Content Ratings. Several years ago some politicians’ wives with nothing better to do got together and decided to put warning labels on music. Soon the trend moved to television, and now every program, from the least offensive (like Mr. Rogers) to the most offensive (like Full House) get a rating for what age should be watching and any objectionable material. In the case of the music warnings, the policy was a complete disaster, as the Explicit Lyrics Warning served as a beacon to kids that this was a record they needed, whereas they otherwise might not be interested. Television has been more of a mixed bag, because by and large people ignore the ratings altogether, although I suspect there are some of you out there (you know who you are) who use the labels as a barometer to whether a bad cable movie at 2 in the morning is worth the investment of time. (“Let’s see: Ebert gave it negative two stars and Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down the main part, but there appears to be nudity somewhere, and much like Waldo, it is my job to find it!”) The main problem here is that society went for a quick fix, but as long as parents abdicate their responsibility to monitor what their children are watching and listening to, no amount of warning labels are going to make a bit of difference, unless it’s negative. Just ask the Surgeon General about that.

Finally, I was pondering the other day, and I think the three things I miss the most from the ‘90s are Seinfeld, The Far Side, and Calvin and Hobbes. Those three artistic creations brought me joy each week, and gave me something to laugh at, something to savor, and something to share in this global village we call home {cue violin music}. I don’t think it would be too much to ask that they come back, and I for one am willing to make sacrifices to see it happen. If Bill Watterson will start drawing Calvin and Hobbes again, and Gary Larson will crank up The Far Side, I promise to buy each and every book they put out, no matter how much unoriginal material is included. And, if Jerry Seinfeld and his motley crew will recreate Thursday night magic, I swear on all that is holy not to change the channel through any of the commercials—Even the Old Navy ones! —no matter how much my remote finger itches. I think if each of us could make small steps like this, we could heal the world and make it a better place for you and me.

Warmly and getting rather choked up,
December 16, 2002


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