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Social Studies

Elbow Room

Emily Flake

By Vincent Williams | Posted 12/10/2008

Now that the holidays have hit, I am officially ready for 2008 to be over because, try as I might, there is nothing left to say about this past year. Barack Obama, the economy, race, class, gender, all of the arts--I think everyone has blogged, commentated, and, uh, columned as much as we can, and now we're just squeezing the figurative toothpaste tube trying to get out that last little bit of year-end stuff. And, damn it, between bloggers, fellow columnists and that friggin' "24 hour newscycle," we're all bumping into each other and it's annoying the hell out of me. I need the New Year to start so some more stuff can happen and I can get some friggin' subject-matter elbow room.

'Cause, lemme tell ya, this is my third go-around at this week's column. I had a lovely, do you hear me, lovely, column mentally written about Kanye West's new album, 808s and Heartbreak. I juxtaposed my analysis of it with Q-Tip's new album, and it featured keen insight into the communal nature of hip-hop and the back and forth of the freestyle cipher over the syncopation of the soul clap, and I used words like "interiority" and waxed poetic on the rarely acknowledged warmth of the urban landscape and the moving feast of summertime block parties and ethnic celebrations. Oh, it was brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! But, of course, between then and now, because I'm biweekly, everybody and their uncle has written about it. Now, if I had weekly slot, maybe, I would have been OK, but then that's Mr. Wrong's shtick, isn't it?

Speaking of which, then, then, I was going to use the Wal-Mart trampling to examine the holiday rush for material goods and how, in some ways, society is responsible for Jdimytai Damour's death. I had personal memories and cited a financial study I had seen, and I got to use "sturm und drang" in a sentence because nothing says Serious like German phrases! It was sensitive, yet funny, and self-deprecating but insightful in its commentary on Our Modern World. Of course, one of my fellow columnists--again, Joe "Mr. Wrong" MacLeod--already did the Wal-Mart thing in his last column. I swear, the one week I skip reading him . . . .

I've always found the holidays particularly hard to write about, or, rather, I've had trouble finding something new to say about them. We've all ironically mused about How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Frosty the Snowman as adults. We've all acknowledged the coolness of the Heat Miser song in The Year Without a Santa Claus, and it's been at least 15 years since the postmodern reading of Santa Claus as slave driver in Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been relevant. We've eaten the cookies and made our wish lists. Those of us with kids certainly take this time of year to write about them, much to the chagrin of those who don't have them, and, though I never get tired of it, I'm sure most people have read as many Christmas-music musing as they ever need to. (Although, my thing this year is, random artists with Christmas albums. Musiq Soulchild? Really? And was someone actually sitting around asking for a frigging Ledisi Christmas album? Hell, I barely know anyone asking for a Ledisi, uh, Ledisi album. Well, that and the whole concept of the new Christmas song. I wish I could collectively sit singers down and tell them that they're never going to be Donny Hathaway and they're never going to write a "This Christmas," so stop clogging up the airways with their new foolishness about their Christmas Boo.)

I actually had a writing teacher who once said that "Eloquence is always unprecedented," but I guess, alternatively, it can also come down to the manner in which we judge standards. Doesn't it? Sticking with the holiday theme, while I adore Hathaway's "This Christmas," I have special love for the Temptations' disco-tinged 1980 version from Give Love at Christmas. Both are singing the exact same song, but give two very different interpretations of it. Sometimes when artists--and writers--tackle the same subject matter, it becomes an opportunity for their individual voices to shine, right? Well, at least, I hope that what you're thinking when, two weeks from now, I regale you with my very unprecedented New Year's resolutions column.

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