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Friday, Dec 25, 2009 1:45 AM UTC2009-12-25T01:45:00Zl, M j, Y g:i A T

The best “Christmas Carol” ever

Forget Patrick Stewart, Alastair Sim and (please!) Jim Carrey. Nobody gets Dickens like George C. Scott

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Let’s see. America is pulling out of a recession. The military-industrial complex is humming along. Healthcare is far from being reformed. We might as well pretend it’s 1984.

And in that case, let’s pause and pay due homage to a movie that many of us either missed or overlooked the first time around. A television movie, of all things, that through some convergence of inspired casting, rich production values, and deep but unfussy textual fidelity became the definitive version of a beloved literary classic.

Only we’re just now figuring that out.

When you ask ardent Dickensians to name the best version of “A Christmas Carol,” they will invariably close ranks around the 1951 Alastair Sim adaptation. I was one of those partisans myself. I turned up my nose at Reginald Owen and Albert Finney, I scoffed at Michael Caine and Patrick Stewart, I rolled my eyes at the mere mention of Bill Murray and Kelsey Grammer, I resisted even the myopic charms of Mr. Magoo. It was Sim or nobody.

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Louis Bayard is a novelist and reviewer. His books include "Mr. Timothy" and "The Black Tower."   More Louis Bayard

Sunday, Dec 25, 2011 2:00 PM UTC2011-12-25T14:00:00Zl, M j, Y g:i A T

How to argue with right-wing relatives

Responding to common conservative talking points without losing your mind

argument

 (Credit: iStockphoto/RobMattingley)

There comes a time at most large family gatherings when a heated political argument breaks out. And by “heated political argument” what I mean is “someone just repeats something they heard on Hannity’s radio show that you know to be completely untrue.” You may be the lone liberal in a conservative family, or you may have one right-wing uncle in your left-wing family, but this will happen. What to do?

If you have a “smart phone,” just bookmark Snopes now. That’ll take care of the really weird stuff. (Well, not this level of weird, but “I read that airlines don’t pair Christian pilots and co-pilots in case The Rapture happens” weird.)

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Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene  More Alex Pareene

Saturday, Dec 24, 2011 9:00 PM UTC2011-12-24T21:00:00Zl, M j, Y g:i A T

#occupychristmas

Throughout much of history, the holiday was a celebration of rebellion against authority. It's time to reclaim it

17thcentxmas

Christmas has always been politicized. Since 2005, when Fox News commentator John Gibson published “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought,” the focus has mainly been on a supposed progressive agenda to, in the words of Bill O’Reilly, “get Christianity and spirituality out of the public square.” Last year the New York City YMCA drew criticism for replacing Santa Claus with Frosty the Snowman at a family event — children were forced, complained the New York Post, to “suffer the icy embrace of a talking snowman” instead of the warm hug of a fur-clad fat man. This year the American Family Association has once again called out retailers who favor the word “holidays,” placing them on its “Naughty” list.

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Thomas Christensen’s "1616: The World in Motion," an illustrated study of travel and cross-cultural connections in the early seventeenth century, will be published by Counterpoint Press in March 2012.  More Tom Christensen

Friday, Dec 23, 2011 1:00 PM UTC2011-12-23T13:00:00Zl, M j, Y g:i A T

The fake “War on Christmas” outrage

It's become as integral to the season as caroling and Black Friday -- but the sentiment is completely manufactured

war on christmas

One of the defining qualities of late December is the predictable and ritualized nature of America’s holiday season. Other than discovering what’s inside the wrapped gift boxes, there’s no mystery or suspense to it anymore. The Christmas music starts right before Thanksgiving. Then come the flickering lights, the red-and-green decor, Hollywood’s vacation movie blitz, and finally, with media charlatans turning the key, the fake outrage machine rumbles back to life.

Like a narcissist’s souped-up 4-by-4, this turbocharged colossus of self-righteous indignation makes a lot of noise and leaves a mess in its wake — but ultimately says a lot more about its drivers’ pitiable insecurities than anything else.

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David Sirota

David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.  More David Sirota

Friday, Dec 23, 2011 12:00 PM UTC2011-12-23T12:00:00Zl, M j, Y g:i A T

Christmas fading in the Holy Land

In birthplace of Jesus, the exodus of Christians continues

In Jerusalem Christmas isn't much of a holiday.

In Jerusalem Christmas isn't much of a holiday. (Credit: Wikipedia)

JERUSALEM — In the land that put Christ in Christmas, Christianity is shrinking.

Less than a century ago, Christians comprised nearly 10 percent of the population of Palestine (now Israel and the Palestinian territories). In 1946, the figure was around 8 percent. Today, Christians make up about 4 percent of the West Bank’s population, although there are still a few Christian-majority villages, such as Taybeh, whose skyline is dominated by church spires and whose businessmen produce the only Palestinian beer. In Israel, though Christians make up 10 percent of its Palestinian population, they only constitute 2.5 percent of the total population. In Gaza, the Christian minority is even smaller, representing just 1 percent of the population.

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Khaled Diab is an Egyptian journalist based in Jerusalem. His website is ChroniklerMore Khaled Diab

Thursday, Dec 22, 2011 1:33 PM UTC2011-12-22T13:33:00Zl, M j, Y g:i A T

Corporate America: No complaints considered

In the age of pepper-sprayed Black Friday shoppers, stores clearly no longer care what their customers think

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In the spirit of the season, I’d like to file a complaint — about complaints. Corporate America just doesn’t handle them the way they used to. As in, at all. I grew up in retail. My father owned a drugstore in upstate New York and was as old fashioned as the next guy when it came to the rules of doing business. As in, Rule #1: The customer is always right. Rule #2: See Rule #1.

Unless, of course, he caught a customer shoplifting, in which case all rules and rights were suspended, including habeas corpus. Make an attempt to sneak out of his establishment with a bottle of moisturizer or a pair of sunglasses and prepare for the thunder of God’s own drums. I never heard him yell at his own kids the way he yelled at any young, incipient Artful Dodger who tried to skip the joint with a purloined Snickers bar tucked under his shirt.

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Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos and a senior writer of the new series, Moyers & Company, airing on public television.   More Michael Winship

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