The holiday season is officially underway, and along with festive family dinners and joyous gift giving comes the annual debate: Merry Christmas or happy holidays?
Every year, the debate grows and grows, with viewpoints from both sides becoming increasingly emphatic. This year, there is at least one organization that has intensified its argument.
The American Family Association has amped up its tradition of naming companies “Naughty or Nice” based on how “Christmas-friendly” they are with their advertising. Using a four-tier ranking system in addition to the two categories, the AFA is calling out companies that use inclusive language — such as references to the holiday season or winter season in lieu of Christmas.
“If a company has items associated with Christmas, but did not use the word ‘Christmas,’ then the company is considered as censoring ‘Christmas,’ ” the AFA website explains.
AFA’s “Christmas-friendly” rankings range in color from blue to red: A blue-rated company is applauded for promoting Christmas on “an exceptional basis,” whereas a red-rated company is admonished for using “ ‘Christmas’ sparingly in a single or unique product description.”
In defending the list, AFA President Tim Wildmon said, “We’ve become a society that is overly concerned that something we say, even when true or right, might offend someone.” But it seems Wildmon has it backwards.
As a non-Christian and someone who has never celebrated what many claim is “the meaning of Christmas,” I’m never offended when someone tells me “Merry Christmas.” So why, exactly, are others offended by a more general, inclusive and still accurate “Happy holidays” or “Season’s greetings”?
While it’s often dubbed the “War on Christmas” by these Christian groups and organizations, I feel it’s more precise to call it the “War Against Inclusion.”
One of the many facets of this debate concerns the phrase “Reason for the season.” Those on the Keep-the-Christ-in-Christmas side argue that it’s because of Jesus that we celebrate in December. Dissenters rebut that the winter solstice, the mark of winter that’s been celebrated since ancient times, is what came first and is more factual.
I can’t help but think how silly it is to claim that Christmas is what it’s all about. To me, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, the winter solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the new year all comprise the holiday season. So why not be inclusive and celebrate all there is to celebrate?
Of course, consumers have every right to shop where they want, and they are free to make whatever qualifications they’d like about their choice of retailer. But to suggest that companies that are more inclusive are somehow “against” Christmas is absurd and unfair. As one blogger put it, it’s “confusing neutrality for persecution.”
November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. I wrote my column this week about the staggering difference in funding between epilepsy and breast cancer. A similar number of people suffer from both each year (though more die from epilepsy), yet on average $215.25 is spent on research per breast cancer patient (both current and survivor) while $76.50 is spent per person with epilepsy.
One in 26 people - that’s one person per average K-12 classroom - will develop epilepsy in their lifetime. More than 2 million people in the US and 65 million people worldwide have epilepsy and that number will continue to grow as traumatic brain injuries from sports and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan become more common.
What follows is my personal story of how I was diagnosed and have lived with epilepsy.
My story with epilepsy began when I had a seizure in front of Mrs. McGuffey’s talented and gifted class at Flenniken Elementary School in South Knoxville. I was eight years old and, it will shock no one who knows me, I was in the middle of being sassy to my friend Jerome when my first tonic-clonic hit me like a freight train.
It took about 20 years to remember that much.
I awoke in the nurse’s room - a bleak white room with a creaky metal institutional-type twin size bed - with Mrs. McGuffey by my side.
She was always put together, that lady. Not one hair was out of place in her dark brown June Cleaver hairstyle and her hands were calmly clasped in the navy blue lap of her dress.
“What happened?” I asked.
“You fell,” she answered. “We’re just going to wait here until your mother arrives.”
My column this Sunday is about all the older folks in my family and their latest obsession: tablets. My father and stepmother both have Kindle Fires. My Uncle Terry is getting an iPad for his 70th birthday this weekend (Happy birthday, Terry!) and ever since my in-laws arrived for their visit from New Mexico last Friday, my mother-in-law has been grilling me about the devices.
After some research and talking with her about her needs (email, browsing, maybe some reading and entertainment), I suggested she buy a Kindle Fire HDX 7” tablet. The big selling point for this is the “Mayday” button that will let her speak with a live person whenever she has a question about how to work her device. Living on top of a mountain with only a Wal-Mart nearby makes tech support extremely important.
With all these seniors in my life leaping into the 21st century with their new-fangled technogadgets, I started looking at apps that might make their lives a little easier or more enjoyable.
Discovery.com put together a decent top 10 list. My only gripe is that they didn’t link out to any of the apps, so if you want to find more information or go ahead and download it, you have to do all the searching yourself. (Yes, I know how lazy that sounds.)
The in-laws usually argue over who gets to play solitaire on the desktop computer, so I looked up my favorite game: Free Flow. This is a puzzle-type game that requires you to connect the same colored dots without crossing another colored line.
Lumosity is great for keeping the mind sharp, but is only offered on iTunes (for iPads and iPhones).
I’m not putting this out there for my MiL — she’s taken, gentlemen. This is for all you single seniors out there. If you’re looking for a companion, there are plenty of dating apps geared toward 65+ folks in your area.
For the most part, anything you might be interested in probably has an app. I’ve found hiking apps, pedometer apps, GPS and restaurant apps. There are apps to diagnose your latest health issues (but please don’t be that person) and apps that will help you cook dinner.
I received a call this afternoon from Andy Wallace, a veteran, small business owner and resident of Seymour.
From time to time, people call me with story ideas that I forward on to members of the newsroom who may be better equipped to tell them. However, this story had an immediacy that only a Web person could handle.
Wallace is one of 10 finalists in the IceBorn Franchise Giveaway for Veterans. The winner will receive an IceBorn vending franchise worth $118,000 as well as a year of free marketing and royalty fees. His main competition is Chad Shields from Washburn, TN who has consistently stayed a few votes ahead.
Should he win, Wallace has said he would donate a percentage of his earnings to the Wounded Warrior Project.
All anyone needs to do to cast a vote is visit the IceBorn contest page on Facebook, like it and choose which veteran you wish to vote for.
Andy Wallace talks about his past and what he would like to do should he win the IceBorn contest:
(Photo by Adam Brimer/News Sentinel)
The countdown has begun — and it’s now less than a week until Bonnaroo 2013 commences.
Bonnaroo, of course, is a music festival that takes place in Manchester, Tenn., on a 700-acre farm. About 80,000 campers congregate to listen to more than 150 musical performances on more than 10 stages. There’s music, art, comedy — and lots more.
Social media is an essential part of the Bonnaroo experience, whether you’re on the farm or watching from afar.
One of the quintessential go-to places for keeping tabs on ’Roo is the Bonnaroo team. Aside from their official website, they have a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Instagram and Tumblr. They do it all, and they do it well.
Spotify is one of the newer tools the Bonnaroo staff has embraced, and it’s the perfect medium. It’s a digital music service that gives users on-demand access to millions of tracks. For those wanting to get in the Bonnaroo spirit, the team has compiled a playlist featuring the 2013 lineup.
The team will also be continuing its recent tradition of livestreaming some of the performances for those who can’t attend this year. The ‘Roo webcast will broadcast live on Ustream starting Friday, June 14.
(Photo by Adam Brimer/News Sentinel)
But when it comes down to Bonnaroo and social media, there is a clear winner — and it’s Twitter. According to data released by the social network after last year’s festival wrapped up, there were a total of 32,000 mentions of Bonnaroo. And across all social sites, Twitter accounted for 91 percent of all mentions of ‘Roo.
This year, the official hashtag for the event is simple — #bonnaroo. There are bound to be other versions and sub-hashtags, but for a steady stream of ‘Roo-related posts, that’s the safest bet.
The reality is Bonnaroo serves as an annual check-up on the state of social media. New and old tools alike are put to the test, and we learn a lot in the process.
One of those new tools that will likely change the game this year is Vine, which some call a mix between YouTube and Instagram. It’s a new app that allows users to capture and share short, looping videos — almost like animated GIFs with audio.
(LiL iFFy. Photo by Rachel Wise)
Vine also happens to be a favorite among the members of rap act LiL iFFy, the only Knoxville artist invited to this year’s Bonnaroo.
“I like how easy it is to use and the ability to crudely edit together tiny, six-second films,” said Thomas Thibus, producer for LiL iFFy. “It’s super simple and super effective.”
Hip-hop acts and Bonnaroo might not seem like a natural pair, but you’d be surprised.
A couple of years ago, VH1 analyzed data culled from social media and found that hip-hop and rap artists crushed the competition on social media.
It may seem surprising that hip-hop would dominate anything at Bonnaroo, the giant music festival (and party) that began in Tennessee a decade ago with hippie-ish jam bands and roots rock. But this is what we discovered when using Next Big Sound to gather social media stats on all 150 or so acts on the lineup.
At knoxville.com, we’ve found similar results. I compiled a list of the top 10 most-watched Bonnaroo performance videos that we’ve posted over the years, and the top 2? Eminem and Lil Wayne. In fact, hip-hop artists comprise 4 of the total top 10.
It’s fitting, then, that this year, we have chosen to team up with LiL iFFy. Members of the Harry Potter rap group will be sharing content and allowing our readers to see the festival from a unique point of view.
(Photo by AP/Keystone, Martial Trezzini)
“We’ll share (posts) of various acts and behind-the-scenes stuff,” said Thibus, who performs under the name DJ Tom Ato. “It would be awesome to get some Vines of us with other artists.”
My column this past Sunday was on apps which can lead you to volunteering opportunities in your area. Granted, it wasn’t a very sexy piece, but from time to time I try to show people how technology actually can put you back in touch with some basics in life: learning a craft, planning your meals and now helping your community. I promised (to the three people who read it) to post an update here on my experience.
Short version: It was fun, educational and I worked muscles I had forgotten about.
Matt Callo, volunteer coordinator for the community farm, said they average about 1-2 volunteers per week from VolunteerMatch which has both an online and iPhone presence. The day I was there, one of the local Montessori schools helped out through the lunch hour and three other adult volunteers (aside from myself) were there for most of the day.
Duties included weeding and harvesting various beds - some of which were slightly flooded due to the heavy rainfall Knoxville had seen in the preceding days. Since I wore my Wellies, the wet beds were mine.
The most strenuous task was separating raspberry bushes so they would have room to grow. The beds were packed with plants that we had to dig out - trying to preserve the roots so some could be potted and given away or donated. While my shoe choice helped me out in the flooded beds, I quickly learned they were not the right choice for spade work.
If you’ve a mind to get your hands dirty and do some good work for a great cause, contact Beardsley Community Farm and tell them you’d like to donate some time. You won’t be sorry!
The latest blog to go viral is one that sounds a lot less funny than it is.
I saw friends on Facebook linking to this Tumblr called “Reasons My Son Is Crying.”
By the name of it, I thought it must be some kind of parenting blog, which, frankly, sounded less than interesting to me. But the more and more links I saw, the more inclined I was to check it out.
I’m glad I did.
The blog doesn’t give an explicit explanation of what it is, but the entries make it pretty clear. The author posts photos of his toddler son crying in various scenarios, each seemingly more absurd than the last.
"I wouldn’t let him drown in this pond." (My personal favorite.)
"I closed the refrigerator door."
"I asked that he not wipe his muddy shoes off on my car seats."
"It took me longer than 0 seconds to take his shirt off."
The accompanying photos show the child crying over that particular event, which pulls at your heartstrings while simultaneously tickling your funny bone.
Maybe we shouldn’t be laughing at the fate of this teary-eyed youngster, but it’s just too hard not to.
Check it out here.