Christmas in Heaven

Merry Christmas, friends. I'm sitting here in my La-Z-Boy couch with a mug of rather potent eggnog that Lisa has made. The rum in the eggnog is speaking to me in a manner that disinclines me to write a lengthy post. Yet it is Christmas Eve, and I must say something. I am tired of the political correctness in this country that insists on squelching what Christmas is and has always been about: a celebration of the birth of Jesus. I have no issue with recognizing and respecting people's right to practice non-Christian traditions, though I do not subscribe to them. But our thin-skinned culture of today attempts to patronize all faiths simultaneously with a naive and stifling syncretism that respects none of them for what they really are. This is Christmas. And in honor of what Christmas is about, I thought I'd share with you a poem by the wonderful British author Adrian Plass. I find it honest, eloquent, moving, and beautiful, and I hope you will too. Christmas in Heaven By Adrian Plass When I’m in heaven Tell me there’ll be kites to fly, The kind they say you can control, Although I never did for long. The kind that spin and spin and spin and spin, Then sulk and dive and die, And rise again and spin again, And dive and die and rise up yet again. I love those kites. When I’m in heaven Tell me there’ll be friends to meet In ancient oak-beamed Sussex pubs Enfolded by the wanton Downs, And summer evenings lapping lazily against the shore Of sweet, familiar little lands Inhabited by silence or by nonsenses, The things you cannot safely say in any other place. I love those times. When I’m in heaven Tell me there’ll be seasons when the colors fly, Poppies splashing flame Through dying yellow, living green, And autumn’s burning sadness that has always made me cry For things that have to end. For winter fires that blaze like captive suns, But look so cold when morning comes. I love the way the seasons change. When I’m in heaven Tell me there’ll be peace at last, That in some meadow filled with sunshine, Filled with buttercups and filled with friends, You’ll chew a straw and fill us in on how things really are. And if there is some harm at laying earthly hope at heaven’s door, Or in this saying so, Have mercy on my foolishness, dear Lord. I love this world you made—it’s all I know. When I’m in heaven Tell me there’ll be Christmases without the pain, No memories that will not fade, No chilled and sullen sense of loss That cannot face the festive flame Nor breathe excitement from the ice-cream air. Tell me how the things that Christmas should have been Will be there for eternity in one long, shining dawn For all of us to share. I love the promises of Christmas.

The Ultimate Michigan Potato

What's the big deal about Idaho potatoes? Michigan potatoes are by no means also-rans. Potatoes-R-Us, to the extent that the communities of Edmore, Munger, and Posen all host an annual potato festival celebrating your favorite tuber and mine. Presumably each town has a Potato Queen, a potato parade, potato cookoffs, a potato dance, and probably a lot of people on high-starch diets who resemble potatoes wandering the streets, browsing the fabulous array of potato-related arts and crafts. Questions arise: Does the Potato Queen ride on a float that looks like a giant potato? Does she wear a costume that resembles a large spud? Are blue ribbons awarded for the biggest potato, the ugliest potato, and the best potato, and if so, what criteria are used? Do food fights occur that involve massive quantities of mashed potatoes? Does the fire department break them up by hosing down the combatants with chicken gravy? People naturally wonder. I, for one, would like to know what makes one potato uglier than all the rest, as I have yet to come across a potato that would win any beauty contests. I have, however, seen one that looked like state of Michigan--specifically, the Lower Peninsula mitten--and it was right here in my apartment. Lisa, who loves potatoes, was preparing a batch in the kitchen when she discovered the anomaly and brought it into the living room to show me. "No way!" I said. Nevertheless, there it was before my eyes: the Ultimate Michigan Potato. I doubt that Idaho can produce anything like it. For their sake, I hope not. Here are some pics to prove that here in my humble abode, the Ultimate Michigan Potato paid a call. Too bad for it, because it got eaten. However, the photos are still available. Edmore, Posen, and Munger, I'm taking bids.

Copywriting Quick-Tip: Handle Pronouns with Care (or, What Does It Mean When It Says “It”?)

Marketing copy is not the stuff of great literature or even popular writing. It's normally more colloquial, bouncier, prone to pushing the confines of grammar in order to achieve its ends. Yet even in copywriting, there's a difference between casual and slovenly. Good copy may wear blue jeans and a T-shirt, but it does so judiciously and properly. It doesn't show up at work wearing its underwear on its head and its pants on backwards. All of the above to say, watch how you handle your pronouns. My latest editing project has reminded me how frequently pronouns crop up without a clear antecedent. The result is confusion. For instance ...

Rachel's whole family loved the outdoors. Mom and Dad often took the kids camping, Josh enjoyed fishing, and Rachel herself was keen on bird-watching. More than anything else, it drew the family together.

We're fine until the last sentence. What does "it" refer to? Grammatically, the answer is Rachel's bird-watching. But logically? Most likely the outdoors, but we're not sure. We're left scratching our heads, wondering what the writer meant. The above example might not create any waves in a conversation, where other factors beside grammar help to clarify meaning. But while good writing has a conversational feel to it, it is not conversation. Rules apply. And one of those rules is, When you say it (or he, or that, or they, and so on), make sure you're clear about what it refers to. If your meaning could seem ambiguous to your readers, then don't use a pronoun; instead, specify what you mean, thus:

More than anything else, the outdoor world [instead of "it"] drew the family together.

Again, effective copy is usually casual in tone. It's loose, not stuffy, and by no means is it hidebound. Good copy is, however, clear in its meaning. So vet your use of pronouns. Are your antecedents obvious? Is it plain what it means when it says "it"? If not, fix it. Huh? Wha'd he just say? Exactly. ’Nuff sed.