It’s the Christmas Eve Eve edition of Your Weekend Reader, so let’s try to focus on tales from around the interwebs that focus on this season of goodwill to men (and women) worldwide and on days that are merry and bright (and, well, white.)
So this week’s selections aren’t entirely completely downbeat — we’ll try to ignore, at least for a week, stories about the impending destruction of democracy. Let me punch up my Spotify playlist of Christmas classics, and let’s get going. I’ll try to ignore the Fred Meyer ads on Spotify, because I always end up pondering what could be “lower than low” — and wondering why they don’t just say “lowest.”
Oh, look: The very first song that popped up is Bing Crosby’s “Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter.” Let’s hope it’s not a sign.
Sources tell me that Christmas is Monday, and you can’t have Christmas without “Christ.” In that spirit, let me recommend this piece from New York Times columnist and occasional Oregon gubernatorial candidate Nicholas Kristof. It’s one of his conversations about Christianity aimed, he says, “at bridging America’s God gulf.” I guess somebody has to bridge “America’s God gulf,” and you might find his conversation with Beth Moore, the evangelical writer who broke with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2021, worthwhile.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without some sort of family-induced stress: The American Psychological Association estimates that 9 out of 10 Americans experience some sort of increased stress during the holidays, in part because they are “anticipating family conflict.” One way to blow off some of that steam, The Atlantic suggests, is to read about other screwed-up families, and so the magazine has compiled a helpful list of titles for your consideration. (This link is free, thanks to a new Atlantic feature, but it expires after 14 days.)
It’s possible that holiday stress might prompt you to reach for a drink. As it turns out, Oregon is a hard-drinking state any time of the year — but now the Oregon Health Authority has launched a campaign it calls “Rethink the Drink.” The idea, officials say, is not to persuade Oregonians against taking a drink or two, but rather is an effort to curb binge drinking. Lynne Terry of the Oregon Capital Chronicle has the story.
Meanwhile, a team of Times reporters larger than the staff at most newspapers these days analyzed 424 Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies in an attempt to break down just precisely how formulaic they are. (Or, as I like to ask Diane, “Is this the one where a high-powered female executive from the big city goes back to her small hometown to pave the way to build a pricey resort village that requires the destruction of a beloved local icon but meets up with an old flame and sparks fly?” The Times analysis shows that they’re not all like that, but this still is an amusing read, with a very impressive presentation.)
Speaking of movies, but on a considerably more downbeat note, here’s movie critic Lisa Schwarzbaum (whose work for Entertainment Weekly I much admired back in the day when EW was decent), with a new piece in the Times. Schwarzbaum writes that “as I’ve been looking to better comprehend the current moment in the Middle East, the best film I have found is one that came out on Dec. 23, 2005. I’m talking about “Munich,” one of Steven Spielberg’s bleakest, most adult dramas, which — despite five Oscar nominations — was largely considered a misfire when it was released. Today, though, “Munich” reverberates with deep meaning and gravitas.” And for those of you wondering why this qualifies as a Christmas item, remember that today marks the 18th anniversary of the movie’s release.
Well, there’s always “It’s a Wonderful Life,” The AP’s Mark Kennedy tracked down two of the surviving child actors featured in the movie for a retrospective as the classic marks its 75th anniversary. Kennedy also reports that Paramount has released a two-disc DVD set of the film that features the black-and-white version and a colorized version. No! No! No! Just as John Legend should not electronically create a “Christmas Song” duet with Nat King Cole, “It’s a Wonderful Life” should not be seen in color.
Here’s an Associated Press story about that Christmas staple, the poinsettia. But it’s not all holiday cheer: As the AP reports, “attention is once again turning to the poinsettia’s origins and the checkered history of its namesake, a slaveowner and lawmaker who played a part in the forced removal of Native Americans from their land.”
It’s not exactly Christmas for Oregon State University and Washington State University, but the Thursday announcement of a settlement between those schools and the departing members of the Pac-12 Conference at least lends some clarity to a cloudy situation.
As Jon Wilner, the dean of Pac-12 beat writers, explains, the deal calls for the departing schools to forfeit a portion of the $420 million the conference anticipates to make in revenue this competition season; the amount to be forfeited was not revealed, but Wilner’s sources tell him it could amount to $5 million to $10 million per departing school, so that could bring somewhere around $25 million to $50 million for both OSU and WSU. In addition, OSU and WSU will control $100 million in the conference’s long-term assets — and, perhaps just as important, the settlement offers “specific guarantees against potential future liabilities,” which could include a class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA that could carry billions of dollars in damages — and which names the Pac-12 as a defendant. (Also, as Wilner notes, if Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff is fired without cause, the conference might have to pay him $8 million to $9 million. But, really — hasn’t Kliavkoff offered more than enough cause to be fired?)
So the financial picture for OSU athletics is clearer as the school prepares to compete as a member of the Pac-2 for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. But it’s not all roses, so to speak: OSU President Jayathi Murthy wrote in a Thursday evening letter to the campus community that the “loss of the Pac-12 media rights deal means that our financial projections for 2025 and beyond remain the same, and conference revenues alone cannot make up the more than $40 million annual gap in OSU Athletics funding caused by the departing universities.”
Finally, on this holiday weekend, you need these. Here’s a collection of religion-themed photographs from 2023 from The Associated Press. And The Atlantic has pulled together a collection of 30 joyous year-end photos. They include a shot of a surfing dog — and, frankly, not much is as joyful as a surfing dog.
Merry Christmas. See you next weekend, as we bring 2023 to a close.