Monday, November 30, 2015

Why the Bible-verse scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas is my favorite (yes, seriously)

Anyone who knows me isn’t at all surprised that I love A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Peanuts characters were my favorites as a kid, and anytime my grandfather picked me up from the bus stop with news that a Charlie Brown special was on that night, it was Christmas no matter what time of year it actually was.

Peanuts resonated with me for two primary reasons: 1) I was a child born after 1950; and 2) I identified with Charlie Brown. Fully. I was the reasonably liked kid who nevertheless could be surrounded by friends shouting, “You blockhead!” when I messed up something — and I messed up lots of things. I was the victim of many a metaphorical Lucy yanking up that metaphorical football when I metaphorically tried to kick it and metaphorically landed on my not-so-metaphorical ass. “Everything I do turns into a disaster” is something I said often as a child (and also at 35). But still I keep pressing on, coming through the in clutch when it matters. Just like Charlie Brown.

I also loved Christmas for the presence of presents, but also because of the gatherings, the family and the music. So all in all, it’s no surprise that A Charlie Brown Christmas is still a special I make time for every year.

What might be more surprising is my favorite scene. It’s the one where Linus explains to an exasperated Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about. That scene never fails to move me.

No, this isn’t nostalgia talking; the scene didn’t strike me until I was older. Nor have I found religion; I remain an agnostic who is as uncertain about the truth of the universe as I am sure that the truth isn’t in sociopolitical dogma created by man. I try to live by the principles of peace and love taught by Jesus (and virtually all other religious figures) without the supernatural elements.

What I believe doesn’t matter anyway, because in the context of Christmas, Linus nails it, and that’s all that matters. Charlie Brown sees a holiday rife with excessive commercialization and with magnified pressure to get all the details just right, and in his frazzled state wonders how — and why — this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, because to him it just feels like yet another time to get belittled for trying and falling short. Linus cuts through the materialism and stress with a gentle reminder of how the holiday came to be in the first place. The idea of cutting through excess artifice to get back to basics is heartwarming in any context.

What helps this scene especially is Linus’ choices of Bible verses — Luke 2:8-14 — which spell out the announcement of Jesus’ birth. This passage tells a story, which makes it palatable even to non-Christians in a way that the more grandstanding verses aren’t. (As far as lord-and-savior talk goes, anyway.) Not everyone thinks of Christ as the divine light and the way, but everyone loves the birth of a new hope.

That’s what this scene is all about, and why I will always love it.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Saints-Texans analysis

In 2009, during the Saints' superb Super Bowl run, I often missed games as they happened. This was because I lived in Missouri with basic cable — and because our weekly flag-football game took place at 1 p.m. each Sunday. If we wanted to know scores during our game, we either had to look to our friend (possibly the first person among us to own a smartphone) and hope his ESPN app was working, or bring a radio. Because the drive home from the football field was so short, I usually didn't get the score over the airwaves and had to fire up my old laptop (which couldn't stay on, lest it overheated) and cross my fingers before popped up. Oh, and there was the one-month gap when I had no functioning laptop, in which case I'd wait eagerly for SportsCenter (even telling people to call me back if they called during the Saints segment). The point being that, more often than not, I had to wait for the score. And I would. Then I'd revel in the highlights. It was a weekly ritual.

Fast-forward six years later: Today, I woke up late and stayed at home, where I have two fully functional computers, an iPhone 6, NFL Network, NFL RedZone, Saints-stocked social media and a fan friend who texts me during every game. Nowadays, it's harder work avoiding the score. And yet, I did. I had zero interest in the game, and didn't even bother to find out the score until nearly three hours after the final gun. Oh, it was 24-6 Texans, and the Saints went without a touchdown for the first time since Christmas Eve 2005? Glad I missed not a thing

You know, I remember that loss in 2005, which was at the hands of the Lions. I recall remember enjoying my new handheld DVD player while thinking, "Jeez, the Lions just beat the Saints! Not that I care, because these guys are awful and the whole regime's about to change anyway."

It's just one of those years. Judging by my Facebook feed and the single text by my friend before the game, I'm apparently not the only one who's drifted away from hardcore fanhood for the time being. Maybe it's for the best. It is liberating in a sense. But, in another, empty.

Honestly, I feel that way about most things these days. This year has been a bumpy one in terms of my getting excited about most things, long before this season gave me one more reason not to be plugged into my usual hobbies and diversions. 

And that's my Saints-Texans analysis.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Snow photos from Reno

Snow blankets homes in a northwest Reno neighborhood on Wednesday.
Snow obscures a street sign at the intersection of Robb Drive and Archimedes Lane in northwest Reno on Wednesday.
Snow blankets a plant in front of Rollan Melton Elementary School in Northwest Reno on Wednesday.
Snow melts into a storm drain in front of Rollan Melton Elementary School in Northwest Reno on Wednesday. 
Snow blankets a soccer field across from Rollan Melton Elementary School in Northwest Reno on Wednesday.