Chum of Ages, Hear Our Song

Tonight’s the first night of Chanukah. So, as my present to you, here are a few stories that might brighten your holidays.

  • From the “Did you ever think of the impact on the Goose industry?” Department: The LA Times has an interesting article on why Dickens was so dedicated to A Christmas Carol. He needed the money. As the Times article notes, Dickens in crisis around the time of “Carol.” At 31, though he had successful books behind him — among them “Sketches by Boz,” “The Pickwick Papers” and “Oliver Twist” — fresher works like “Barnaby Rudge” and “Martin Chuzzlewit” were dark, morose and failed to draw the sales that enabled his family to live in high London style at Devonshire Terrace. Worse than that, the novelist’s pay was docked by his publishers for the resulting lower readership! Dickens even had to pay to publish Carol. Oh, and as for the goose? In Dickens time, the traditional bird on English tables was the goose. Scrooge’s gesture of sending a turkey to the Cratchits sent the nation’s goose-raising industry to near ruin.
  • From the “How We’ll Remember Him” Department: And speaking of unintended consequences… betcha (I’m trying to sound like Sarah Palin here) you thought that GWB would be remembers for the war in Iraq? Well, that may have had positive effects, although it didn’t find Bin Laden. According to CNN, they’re celebrating Christmas publically in Iraq without violence. That’s a step forward in the country (although Chabad celebrating Chanukah would be an even bigger step). So what will be GWB’s legacy? Probably our economic woes. The NYTimes has a nice article on how White House philosphy since the early days of GWB’s administration may have encouraged the bad loans. From his earliest days in office, GWB paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own home with his conviction that markets do best when let alone.
  • From the “Not That Conspiracy Canard Again” Department: One of the most popular articles in the LA Times of late has been one titled “How Jewish is Hollywood”. This piece has bothered me, for it has asserted that it is good that the leaders of most studios are Jewish. The comments are also a problem. So with that in mind, I was worried when I saw this piece in the Times. It notes that a number of religious groups are overrepresentated in Congress when compared to the proportion in the overall population. Catholics make up 30% of Congress, better than their population percentage of just under 25%. Baptists are next largest at 12.4% of members when they make up 17.2% of the adult population. Methodists are at 10.7% of the members when they’re only 6.2% of the population. Jews make up only 1.7% of the U.S. adult population but 8.4% of congressional members, including 13% of senators. Mormons are 1.7% of the population (including Harry Reid of NV) and 2.6% of members. Episcopalians, 1.5% population and 7.1% members. Presbyterians, 2.7% population, 8.1% members. Two Muslims, two Buddhists, one Quaker, no Hindus. Only one person of “no faith”.
  • From the “Burn Candles, Not Porn” Department: Lastly, tonight is the first night of Chanukah. We set things, preferably candles on a Chanukiah, on fire. Thus, I was pleased to see no connection between candles and a fire in Canoga Park that destroyed 20% of a porn set. It was started by a heating element.