'Tis indeed the season to be jolly, a discipline that requires a single abstinence, which is any thought given to Iraq. It is a good time to encourage lurking thoughts or diversions that can be important but are not driven by the day's tides.
The "Critics' Choice" merchandiser for movies offers 1,000 video and DVD selections, touching on everything. Including -- not to say saturated by -- explorations as gross as "The West Wing." You can have the whole of all seven seasons -- 45 DVDs -- which can be viewed before Christmas, though permitting you no time left over for Santa Claus. One hundred and twelve hours for $254.96.
I stared down sadly at "Edward R. Murrow: The Best of 'Person to Person,'" 7 hours, $33.96. The jacket photo is the famous one: Ed is smiling, a lighted cigarette in hand. Some will recall last year's "Good Night, and Good Luck," in which one saw, primarily, smoke -- Ed's, and that of his team. You get the crazy idea, Are we collecting carcinogenic materials that led to Murrow's death?
Moving on, a few weeks ago I recorded in this space that The New York Times had listed 88 percent of the Jewish vote as going for Democratic candidates on Nov. 7. Now Jason Maoz, senior editor of The Jewish Press, is prompted to recall that "no fewer than seven Jews ... were members of William F. Buckley's inner circle when Buckley launched National Review, his groundbreaking conservative magazine, in 1955. ... It remained for the next generation of Jewish conservatives -- or more precisely those one-time liberal Democrats like Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol who in the 1970s became known as neoconservatives (and whose political heirs would reach their pinnacle of power and influence during George W. Bush's first term as president) -- to bring a more affirmative Jewishness to their conservative politics." Though the preponderant Democratic bias among Jewish voters at large remains unexplained.
John Derbyshire, the author and columnist (and my confederate at National Review Online), lets everything hang out, in this season of mutual confidences exchanged. He struggles for a category in which his devilments would naturally fall, but does not succeed -- he just says that he is a "dilettante." He lists a few dozen of his idiosyncrasies. They include: "Never passed one year without consuming a tobacco product of some kind." "Never seen a complete episode of 'The Simpsons,' or a complete between-ad-breaks segment of 'Larry King Live,' or more than 15 seconds of 'American Idol.'" "Never set foot in Africa, Australasia, Oceania, Central or South America." "Never responded to any of William F. Buckley Jr.'s spoken opinions with: 'I'm afraid you're totally out to lunch on this one, Bill.'"
He wisely illuminates his enterprise by recalling Dr. Johnson's line, "Depend upon it that if a man talks of his misfortunes, there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him." As always, Johnson has the last word.
I end by acknowledging that the season is open to entirely unexplained, let alone systematically examined, teasers. To display my own: How about a national drive to buy a chair for Wolf Blitzer when he appears on CNN?
Now, since we all know that CNN could come up with a chair for Wolf using its own resources, what we are really complaining about is something else. Look for the larger meaning, since there has to be a larger meaning. Somebody said to the producer, or else the producer said to somebody, "There is too affluent a feel to CNN. We must inject it with something that suggests the relevance of speed, the deliquescence of mere events, the electricity we bring to the ... whole ... global scene!"
Pause. One after another, the company are beginning to nod their heads. "We'll have Wolf standing when he makes his commentary! That will confirm our psychological ... qui-viveness--"
"Qui what?" Marjorie removed her glasses, looking up.
"Ya want that in Latin, Marjorie? What you need is a cigarette."
But all of them had now made notes, and Wolf is chairless.