Tag Archives: christmas

on leonard cohen’s “hallelujah”

I didn’t want to write this post. I thought I wouldn’t need to. I thought our collective listening comprehension was better. I should have known.

Let me be clear: I really like this song. All of its many verses. I like it a bit less when it’s belted by some aspiring diva who doesn’t understand subtlety, but it’s still a great song. It’s a song of profound heartbreak and honesty. It is beautiful in its strophic simplicity. It is not, however — as so many people apparently believe — a religious song. I know, I know. Hear me out on this.

It started last year when I heard several (mediocre) renditions on holiday radio. Even when any song even vaguely referencing holidays or winter qualifies as a “Christmas song” or “holiday song,” this references neither. I rhetorically wondered to a coworker why this song was so heavily featured in the radio station’s rotation, and he replied, “Well, isn’t ‘hallelujah’ something they say in church?”

I… wow. Sure, yes, but… really? First off, “hallelujah” is traditionally more associated with Easter than Christmas (please, please don’t get me started on the “Hallelujah Chorus”). But more importantly, that line of reasoning qualifies Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” for liturgical inclusion. And last I checked, Madonna (the singer, not the mother of Jesus) was still verboten in church. (Please do not correct me if I’m wrong.)

I figured this coming holiday season I’d have to write something on it. As you know, I have a special place in my heart for holiday songs of all kinds, from liturgical to super-secular. This is simply not one of them. So I had it on my brain’s back burner. Until this morning, when someone sang it in church.

I couldn’t believe it. Whoever decided it was okay for inclusion in a church service apparently fell for the same reasoning as my coworker and paid zero attention to the actual lyrics. Let’s review, shall we?

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord,
but you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth,
the minor fall, the major lift;
the baffled king composing Hallelujah!

Your faith was strong but you needed proof.
You saw her bathing on the roof;
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you.
She tied you to a kitchen chair,
she broke your throne and she cut your hair,
and from your lips she drew a Hallelujah.

Maybe there’s a God above
but all I ever learned from love
was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.
It’s not a cry that you hear at night,
it’s not somebody who’s seen the light,
it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

These were the three verses performed in church this morning, probably the most popular. And thank heaven for that, because the other two popular verses are much more suggestive. Here, we’ve got several historical biblical references — including to Samson, brought down by his love for a woman — but nothing that even remotely qualifies it for inclusion in any church service. Which made me seriously wonder how the performers didn’t realize this is completely inappropriate. Worse, the congregation didn’t notice either. They loved it.

I am not bashing this song. On the contrary, it’s one of the better pop tunes out there. But without getting into a screed regarding the theological soundness of modern worship music, I pray we can all agree that this does not belong in a church service. Ever. Sing it at home, sing it in the car, sing it at the talent show. Don’t sing it during church.


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Filed under guerrilla pop musicology, this actually happened


We just got the notification that class is cancelled until 11am tomorrow due to weather. This time it’s because of the cold. This morning it was the cold. Yesterday was snow. The first two days of classes were snow and frigid cold. Having grown up in Central New York and lived in Potsdam, copious snow and brutal cold don’t bother me much, but I can understand how Ohioans are not at all prepared for this. Heck, we’re on Kentucky’s border – officially The South.

For instance, yesterday morning a semi truck – yes, one with 18 wheels – was stuck on a slick patch right in front of my house, spinning his tires only feet from my car. It had been snowing for hours. Not a single plow came through, because it doesn’t snow enough to warrant having a whole fleet. And nobody around here is prepared for below zero windchills. Pea coats and scarves are usually plenty.

So naturally I’m always That Person who’s telling horror stories about the cold I suffered in Potsdam and the snow I grew up with in Mills. Yes, I know what -35 plus windchill feels like (it’s really, really painful). I’m sure they’ve all heard me say that my high school didn’t close until more than 18″ of snow had fallen. If it was 8″-18″ they just called a 90 minute delay so they could get the plows out. Under 12″ was business as usual more often than not. You don’t see grass from Halloween to Easter. It snows on Mother’s Day. Lake effect is a cruel mistress. I don’t know how many of my friends believe me and how many think I’m super exaggerating. Let me assure you: I don’t need to exaggerate 3 feet of snow between noon and 4pm on Christmas Day 2000, then another 2 feet on New Years Day.

So yes, I know we got a lot of snow. And sure, it’s a lot by pretty much the whole country’s standards, but I didn’t think it was in a league of its own. It was just a lot. Then on the drive to school today, I heard on the news that Cincinnati is already having one of the snowiest winters on record – the sixth snowiest, with 28″ already – and if we get just 6 more inches by March, it’ll be record breaking.

And I thought, alright, I know I’m used to it, and I know I’m still real close to the south, but… that’s not a lot of snow. In Utica that’s “lake effect starting Tuesday evening and tapering Wednesday morning, so get up early to shovel out your car.” So either it really isn’t a lot, and they’re even less used to it than I thought, or Utica gets waaay more than I am approximating and is in an entirely different category.

So I looked it up. And even I was floored. Cincinnati gets 22″ on average. Utica… gets 108“. 108″. That’s a lot. That’s nine feet. That’s the fourth snowiest in the country.  Behind Syracuse (down the street from us), Syracuse’s largest suburb, and Anchorage. THAT’S MORE THAN BUFFALO WITH THEIR FAMOUS 8′ LAKE EFFECT STORMS.

So now I feel completely justified in telling my war stories about driving in white outs and shoveling for hours. I kind of like being That Person. I do, however, always defer to my Canadian brethren. Because as battle-hardened as I may be, I know a champion when I meet one. Toques off to you.

(Also, I’m not unique: we take our snowfall very seriously.)
(Also, a special message for Buffalo: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.)

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Filed under story time, this actually happened

alas, poor pomegranate!

A few years ago, while I was home for Christmas break, I stopped at Hannaford to pick up groceries for one of our Christmas parties.

A mother and son entered the store in front of me. She was a Power Mother – a woman with a purpose, smartly dressed, well groomed – in short, she stood out of the Utica sweatshirt crowd. He was a young teenager, probably 12 or 13. He was just growing into being embarrassed by Mom, but hadn’t grown into doing anything about it yet. He couldn’t decide whether he wanted to stay by her side or try to sidle away.

I followed them into the produce department at a few paces. It seemed a slow day. They stopped at one of the first displays. As I skirted it to the right, in their sight-line, the mother picked up a pomegranate from the display, and proclaimed to her son as only a true orator can, “Now remember, we can’t celebrate the solstice without a good pomegranate!”

He was mortified. He wished a hole would open up and swallow him. His shoulders collapsed into his body. She could not have been more pleased with herself, so cleverly proclaiming her enlightened beliefs to the entire produce section without having to preach.

I glared at her with a look that can only be translated to “Bitch, please.” She saw me. She deflated a little. Lady, nobody cares. Nor does the rest of the produce section. I can’t celebrate the birth of Christ without a kielbasa and some pierogi, but you don’t see me proclaiming it to the bananas, do you? You’re ridiculous, and I’m going to go laugh at you. Get over yourself.

And Merry Christmas.

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pass on the gift

I don’t like asking people for things. However, this is a special case. I’m asking for your help – I’m asking for you to consider donating to a charity.

Back in high school, my best friend and I (as the President and VP of the Junior B-Sharp Club of Utica) organized a benefit concert for the Heifer Project. It has been my pet charity ever since. You can read all about them on their site, but in a nutshell (or in their case, maybe an eggshell), you sponsor an animal or set of animals, e.g. the poster critter: the heifer. They give the heifer to a family in need, domestic or international, provide them the training to care for the animal and use it to their benefit – how to milk it, use manure for fertilizer, and keep it healthy. They feed their own family on its milk, share and sell the rest. Its offspring are given to a neighboring family, actually helping to grow and enrich the community. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

I love this charity because it isn’t a charity of handouts. People are not given food, given money, given clothing. They are given the materials and the skills to create a new life for themselves, and their dignity is held in the highest regard. They are being helped to help themselves, which is perhaps one of the greatest respects we can pay each other as people – the respect of each person as a capable individual.

I just sponsored a flock of chicks. They eat scraps and insects, fertilize gardens, take up very little space, and their eggs provide much-needed protein. And of course, all offspring will be passed to neighbors.

In the spirit of the holidays, I am asking you to consider donating. If you are interested, perhaps join with me for something larger, like a sheep or a goat. It doesn’t have to be much, even $5 or $10. I will seed it with $30. I know most of you who read this are starving college students, but please consider those who really are starving around the world. Consider it a gift to humanity.

Please message me or email me ( liz [dot] remizowski [at] gmail [dot] com ) if you are interested. And on behalf of the recipients, thank you.

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all i want for christmas

My Christmas wish this year is that we stop being silly.

Hear me out. Classes ended last week, finals ended this past week. People are leaving for winter break. I have been wished “Merry Chr… er, Happy Holidays. I guess I should say that instead, huh?” by no fewer than three people. These people are my friends! And they look sheepish and embarrassed that they might have done something wrong and oh please don’t hold it against them. Guys! Come on!

We’re not corporations. We’re not public buildings. We’re people. Individuals with individual personalities. If you have it in you to wish me a Merry Christmas, do it! Happy Hanukkah? Sure! Happy Kwanzaa? Go ahead! A Most Blessed Solstice? By all means! If you’re going to go with the generically cheerful Happy Holidays, commit to it! Don’t use it as a replacement. Heck, you can even wish me a Go To Hell, if that’s what you want!

As for my part, you are not forcing me to do anything, so I PROMISE not to be offended. And, as I am also an individual with a personality, I will implement or decline your wish as I see fit! I might have a Christmas, but there might be nothing merry about it. I might have a mediocre Solstice. I might be happy but ignore Hanukkah completely. And I might go to hell if I feel like it that day! (And on the tiny, tiny chance that you say something which genuinely offends me – rest assured, I will let you know and offend you in kind. Probably simultaneously.)

So that is my wish. That we stop being silly because someone might not agree with our choice of winter greetings. Humbug, I say! Wish what you wish to wish. ‘Tis the season.

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My tree thinks it’s a real boy. Or, rather, my artificial pre-lit Christmas tree thinks it’s a formerly-live tree, judging by the way it’s shedding needles. It has Pinocchio Syndrome. I wish it would stop shedding, but as long as it doesn’t start telling lies and growing its nose, I guess we can get along.

I can’t really call this anthropomorphism, can I? Because I’m not ascribing to an inanimate thing the qualities of a living thing – I’m ascribing it the qualities of another inanimate thing that anthropomorphized itself. Is this secondary anthropomorphism? Meta-anthropomorphism? Inductive anthropomorphism?

If it hasn’t happened to you already, it has to me: the word “anthropomorphism” no longer has any meaning and is clearly not a real word. Another one bites the dust.

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