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Festivus felicitations to you all

Yesterday, winter arrived in Baltimore, with the sun shining and temperatures in the middle sixties. I really should have gone outside to rake up the remaining oak leaves from our neighbor’s trees and do something about all those damned Higgs bosons, but I had holiday preparations to do.

And today dawns Festivus.

The aluminum pole is up in the living room.

I am putting off the Feats of Strength, because later I will go to the paragraph factory to sit as the supervising editor on the news desk and shepherd through (and do a goodly amount of primary copy editing on) the Sunday Bulldog cover, the Arts & Entertainment section, the Saturday A section, the Sunday Business & Jobs section, and whatever loose pieces for the Sunday A section are lying about.

Beat that.

For the Rehearsal of Grievances, I point you to the 376 previous posts for this calendar year.

Add one daily grievance: The New York Times—how are the mighty fallen—has published PNC Bank’s accounting of the costs this year of the gifts enumerated in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I cannot begin to imagine what Elizabeth Olson must have done, or whom she must have cheesed off, to have been given this assignment. It is a fatuous non-story and a publicity stunt for a bank, and for any publication to run it is a signal failure of imagination.

And add one overall grievance for the year: It has been another year of the diminution of copy desks. The attrition of the War on Editing has left some publications without any copy desk at all, the editing being done at distant “hubs” by editors with little or no knowledge of the locality being written about.

Square this with the proclamations about the primacy of local, news, the distinctive franchise of newspapers, the commitment to extensive local coverage, and all the other little songs that the industry has been humming nasally for the past decade.

Besides, once you have eliminated the copy desk, where are you going to transfer employees who have fallen out of favor?

A blessed Festivus to you all.





Posted by John McIntyre at 10:09 AM | | Comments (6)


If you can't transfer those employees to the copy desk, I believe they get assigned to cover the city schools.


So finally, dear professor, it all comes out that you are actually a closet "Seinfeld" fan? Now I'm not implying here that you've come-out-of-the-closet here, but clearly your cherished family Festivus pole has. ("Not that there's anything wrong w/ that". HA!)

Definitely one of my favorite, and most memorable (of many) "Seinfeld" episodes. ("The Strike", airing Dec. 18th, '97)

"A Festivus for the rest of us" celebration, "Seinfeld"s Frank Costanza's (father of hapless George) holiday counter-Xmas invention represented, in his disturbed mind, a symbolic alternative to the over-commercialized excesses, blatant materialism, and annoying hypocrisies of the Christmas season.

For me Festivus was (and still is) kind of an unwitting paean to the highly dysfunctional American family. Any holiday that officially ends w/ having to successfully pin down the host of the Festivus gathering thru the mano-a-mano "Feats of Strength" contest, and includes "The Airing of Grievances Past"---basically a public dissing and humiliation of everyone at the Festivis meal----- is seriously warped. But, insanely funny......... appealing to the latent sadist in all of us.

Prof. McI, I'm confident you'll keep your Festivus celebrations PG-rated? Please, no aluminum pole dancers. Promise?

Hate to be a nitpicker here, but I believe astrophysicists are searching for a singular Higgs boson particle; what the popular media has coined, "The God particle". You cited "boson" in the plural. No biggie.

But good luck collecting a whole passel of these elusive nano bits of flotsam. (Although those egg-head scientists at the 17-mile Hadron 'track' outside Geneva, Switzerland claim to have just recently isolated the tiny 'Big Bang' particle.)

I imagine you'd have better odds w/ your neighbor's errant oak leaves that have strayed onto your property.

What's your Episcopalian Church's official position on this so-called God particle? Kind of rekindles the whole creationist/ evolutionist debate, no? A discussion for another day, I suppose.

Happy Festivus y'all !


Alex, boson are like bison: because of their wavelike properties, they are neither singular nor plural.

Dearest Ø,

Thanks for that clarification re/ "boson".

Who knew?(Clearly you did. Dah!)

Same sans "s" rule applies to "moose" and "geese".......... kinda. (Keeping w/ the animal theme.) Although there's no real ambiguity when it comes to a gaggle of geese, or a band(?) of moose. (As regards to plurality that is.)

Hmm........I'm starting to sound as odd as weirdo Sheldon on 'The Big Bang Theory'. Bazinga! (Giggle, giggle.)


P.S.: -----I like your online symbol/ moniker "Ø". It looks like a planet w/ an orbital ring, but like my boson miscue, I could be way off base here, as well. Oh well.

Before blogging became popular, digital communities took many forms, including Usenet , commercial online services such as GEnie , BiX and the early CompuServe , e-mail lists and Bulletin Board Systems (BBS).

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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