Friday, November 25, 2005

Why I Love Santa Cruz

I have a love/hate relationship with my current hometown but today I was reminded of why I like it here so much. Two days ago the local newspaper printed an article warning residents that because of an offshore storm waves were expected to be dangerously high the day after Thanksgiving and through the weekend. The article suggested that people stay away from the beach. So what did half the people who live on the westside of Santa Cruz do this weekend? We went to the beach and half the people there brought surfboards!

Yes, the waves were gloriously high -- some splashing as high as the top of the lighthouse at Steamer Lane. But I've never seen the Lane as full of surfers as I did today. There were people lined up all along the shore laughing and shouting and applauding for the riders who managed to ride the longest, people were grinning ear to ear, and life felt like a carnival. Such an antidote for those of us who take life too seriously. Sometimes you just have to get out there and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More on the Upside Down Christmas Tree Thing

I was mad! I was upset and so were a lot of you! (See my previous article entitled "Don't Believe Everything You Read.") But Craig Wilson from USA Today contacted me to respond to my letter to the newspaper. My comments were edited down in a way that left room for misinterpretation but he says that wasn't their intention and they're trying to figure out how to address it.

Unfortunately, I DO know how this happens. Back when I was a journalist my articles would get trimmed down to fit into the space available and more than once the original meaning of what I wrote was altered. And so it is again. All the news that's fit to print? Or just the number of words that fit? I hated that experience then -- even though I understand how it happens and believe it usually isn't done with detrimental intent -- but I still hate it. When you subtract whole paragraphs of meaning in a quote it may not be "intentional misquoting" but it's still inaccurate.

To make a long story short -- I said that the origin of the Christmas Tree was pagan -- not that upside down trees are pagan. I said that the original meaning had to do with eternal life and that the tree symbolically points to Heaven so that inverting the tree could (I agreed with Craig) be seen as sinister if one thought about it too much. But the honest truth, according to my readers is that the practice of hanging a Christmas Tree from the ceiling had practical benefits -- it saved space, it keep it safe from running children and pets and as a chandelier it could be made to look very beautiful and festive. One reader wrote to say she had heard it represented the Holy Trinity when placed upside down. I don't know why that would be but who am I to comment on that anyway?

I think the whole article was meant mostly in jest and I hope this explanation will lay the whole matter to rest. Your comments are much appreciated.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Don't Believe Everything You Read!

I am more than a bit annoyed. I was quoted in an article in USA Today (do I really want to create a link to this? -- here it is) [FYI: That article has since been "corrected"] about fake upside down Christmas Trees as saying " She doesn't want to put a damper on the holidays, but she suspects "there's something sinister, almost bad, about it....It's a pagan thing. If they thought about it, they wouldn't turn it upside down."

It makes it sound like I'm saying that the upside down tree is a pagan practice and I think that makes it sinister. I've been getting calls and emails about this quote all day, some from some very insulted pagan people. That's especially upsetting to me because I actually said that the original practice of celebrating around a tree at Christmas time was a pagan practice and that they held the tree in such high regard (it was a symbol of eternal life and it pointed to Heaven among other things) that they would never have turned it upside down!

The reporter who interviewed me seems to have had a bit of an agenda. He said to me that at the meeting where they discussed this idea he expressed the opinion that he thought it was kind of sinister looking and did I agree? He also used a fair bit of my time because I tried to be helpful and even looked something up in my book to help him create something that would be more "accurate." Oh, pitifully naive me.

I used to be a journalist and majored in Communications Media as an undergrad at Simmons College. I had a wonderful professor, Alden Poole, who made me believe that journalism was a high profession and only people with great integrity would enter it. That's a myth. Now it's all about the "sound bite", the quick hit. Heaven forbid, anyone should do some legitimate research. There's no time for that! And if it's not sensational enough, just forget about it.

Rant and rave....yuck, but that's how it is today.