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16 December 1970 /Christmas

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Here it is Christmas time again. My special Christmas present to all of you faithful ERGO readers will be a longer than usual column, since we are putting out a longer than usual issue this time, a sizzling spectacular of 12 pages filled with the spirit of Christmas selling, brought to you by the people whose money has made this all possible.

Come to think of it, faithful C.O.T. readers might be more appropriate a greeting than ERGO readers, since I understand that the two sets are not always the same. Some people just do not know what they are missing.

So, here it is Christmas time again. It-is one of those things of life that never seem to fail you. Like death and taxes, except that death only comes to you once, whereas taxes come every year to those who pay them; so Christmas is like taxes. Just like so many other religious events, it happens whether you are ready or not, with a regularity that many find disturbing.

"What? You mean it's Christmas again already?"

"Oh, Christ", say some others, in obvious reference to the historical origin of the occasion: the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Of course, most Americans today realize and concede that in this country, the Christmas season has come to mean so much more than "just religion". As a matter of fact, to most it means anything but religion.

In the spirit which has made this country great, a simple religious holiday has become the Mercantile Celebration of the Winter Solstice. This is a time of great feasting and celebration among the merchants about our plentiful land of the free and home of the credit card. During this period, they harvest the fruits of a year's labor. For some, over 50% of their annual take occurs during just this one time period (Thanksgiving to Christmas, although there is a movement afoot to have the opening moved back to Halloween, which is in itself another fine example of an American religious holiday); but that is actually a good thing. As Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president once remarked: "The business of America is business. Then the time is good for the sellers of goods in the U.S., the time is also good for most of the employees of our land. Thus, they are able to buy many nice products to give as presents, which makes the times good, which makes the employee more money...

But we have degenerated in this discussion from the real point. If this were a normal discussion in a normal column, you would anticipate that at this point, I would state " All of the above is a terrible indication of the decline in the moral strength of our people and the true spirit of Christmas." HOWEVER, THAT IS NOT MY CONCLUSION AT ALL.

Christmas, in my opinion, is what you make of it. There is still ample opportunity for you to enjoy it as a religious holiday if you so desire. But if you enjoy giving and receiving gifts; if you like the stories of Santa Claus, Rudolph, and Charlie Brown; if you like tinsel and Christmas trees; JOIN THE CROWD. And try not to pay too much heed to the messages which will, as usual, proliferate around Christmas time about "Getting Back to the REAL Christmas." YOUR Christmas is the real Christmas; make it a very merry one.

Even M.I.T. qets into some sort of spirit for the duration of the season. Some little patches of institute grey (here and there) are covered by plastic symbols of the time: little Christmas bells, holly, mistletoe. The bright reds and greens really stand out from their surroundings, as though to remind that Christmas penetrates even here.

So, 'neath our plastic tree, we look past our plastic gifts and over the top of the plastic Santa on our lawn to wish you and yours the most Merry of Christmases and a Happy New Year. Turning to doings around M.I.T. as we come down to the Christmas wire...

The MIT Community Players are to be commended for a job well done on the play, The Firebugs, A Morality without a Moral, written by Max Frisch. The Friday performance of last week leads me to suggest that you make it a point to see the play. There are performances tonight through Saturday night.

My reviewer's ticket was the best money I never spent to see a play. The acting was smooth, and the whole thing flowed very well. It seems that some of the politics that you can interpret from the play are not in complete sympathy with ERGO, but this does not diminish the fact that the play is good theatre.

In particular, the principals Paul Epstein, David Lang, and Mark Zweifach seemed to stand out. The lighting was also effective, showing the good job done by Steven Liss (there was some trite strobe lighting at one point, but just at one point). See it.

9 December 1970 / About PSACOT

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If you look very closely at the top of this column, you may note that the title is "A Column on Things." The title was chosen after a great deal of deliberation, because it promises nothing and everything at once. When I came to ERGO, I intended to write a generalized column of offbeat information. In recent weeks many people seem to have ignored title and premise. I have been asked:

"Why isn't your column more serious?"

"What is it doing in ERGO?"

"Your article on New York City made you sound like a country boy dazzled by the City Lights."

Any 'real" newspaper contains personal journalism, the quality of which is a highly subjective judgment. ERGO is a "real" newspaper, or is, at least, becoming one, and as such it is spreading its horizon to encompass a broader scope of comment, news, and opinion. This column is part of that trend. That's what it's doing in ERGO-- that's why Steve Wright is here too.

My column is a function of my personality. I am not by nature a dour, serious person. Life is too short--and since I firmly believe that happiness is a state of mind, it's not necessarily related to what's happening around and about you. You make your own happiness by the way you react to stimuli.

I was a "small-town" boy looking at the City light when I wrote about New York. I come from Portland, Oregon, and that city just doesn't stack up to the world's largest.

Changing Gears:

Perhaps it is beating an old horse to death. Perhaps. But it seems to me that, on a random basis, the language one chooses to use is a function of the institution of learning he attends. I can think of N occasions plus or minus epsilon (for very small values of epsilon) on which I have heard MIT students, most often upper classmen, use the language of math in general and calculus in particular in everyday situations.

"The ability to study is a function of your personality."

"Let's charge $45 plus epsilon where epsilon is some small number."

"Some random shithead"--Baker lobby conversation, in ERGO last issue.

One explanation has been offered for the frequent use of the words random and the phrase by definition.

"Everything at MIT is either so vast and confused as to seem entire1v random or so simple-minded as to seem obvious by definition."

It seems intuitively obvious that the above is true, at least as far as the MIT campus is concerned. I have checked with 2 people for very large values of 2, and they agree with my analysis. Besides which, the time I have to finish this article is ∞ for very small values of infinity. The proof of this article is trivial, and is left as an exercise to the reader.

Zomarr was better than almost ever on Mike Davis (9 p.m.-12 m) over WTBS (88.1 FM). The captain will sing out on a Christmas Special, Over the same program , at 10 pm. On Dec. 19  

2 December 1970 / Paul in NYC

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(NEW YORK CITY) November 26. This is...THE city. It may well be the only place in the country worthy of the name. Anyplace else just doesn't measure up.

Come to think of it, New York City is a state of mind. 10 million people living within 50 miles of one another. Polluting the blazes out of the air. Crapping in the Hudson River. Drinking Water from 100 miles away. And generally leeching off the world.

New York City is a very big place, geographically as well as population-wise. I've been there three times, and I admit freely that I have only scratched the surface.

As a matter of fact, for example, I have been driven through Harlem twice: once by Greyhound, and once by Penn Central. They tell me that a lot of people live there, and in other places like it. But that's not the New York City I saw, so it isn't the New York City I can write about.

N.Y.C.= Manhattan= that part of the island of Manhattan located north of 42nd street and south of 60th street, between 1st and 8th avenues. That is: Broadway, parts of the upper east side (swank residences), the U.N., the 42nd street theatre district, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, NBC, CBS, ABC.

What else is there to NYC? Quite a bit. I've seen some of it: Wall Street, Staten Island (what you can see from the ferry slip), Co-op City, the Bronx, Queens, JFK and LaGuardia airports... but they just seem like names. No pazzaz. They just don't grab you.

What's so spectacular about midtown Manhattan? It's hard to tell. It glitters, it glows: sometimes, it rather seemed alive to me. Maybe the Theatre is part of it: New York is the only place in the world where you can really call it the Theatre Capital T).

Whatever it is, Manhattan has it. And Manhattan is the Center of New York City. And New York City is the center of America's folklore as a place where dreams are made and broken for every resident of the town, day in and day out. Madison Avenue makes dreams for a living. Broadway's living is making dreams. And the entire city makes dreams as a hobby. Even for the visitor of 1 day, or 1 week. It’s a feeling that you probably would not get if:

  1. You lived there
  2. You didn't know what NYC was.

As far as I am concerned, New York is probably as close as you can get to the center of the free world. In trade, commerce, art, science, publishing (book), magazines, newspapers, transportation and opinion-making, it has no real rival. When you're there- you're where it's at, where it's happening. It's really far away. Right off!

In closing, the reports of the city's imminent demise are premature. Most seem to feel that there are many years of robust good health left in those concrete canyons, and I am among them. Why, from personal experience I can state that it is possible to walk from Broadway to 1st on 53rd at 11 pm on Thursday night, without even being mugged.

Ahhhhh..... New York.

Last time when we left you, you may recall that our hero, Captain Zommarr whose name I cannot spell either correctly or consistently) was planning to be on Mike Davis' Radio Programme, this Saturday around 10 pm. That's still true. Maybe.

That is to say, Mike Davis has been told that Zommarr will be on. Since it is his program, you might imagine that he would have some say in the matter. You would have quite an imagination. Just call Mike and Ask Him. 868-WTBS, ext4969, dl. 0-731, Saturday.