December 24, 2014

No Megyn, Santa doesn't have to be white


by Clark Brooks



A few weeks ago, a Fox News correspondent exclaimed a 'War on Christmas' was on.

After a Slate article by Aisha Harris, suggested that Santa and the "imagery of a pale seasonal visitor" had become an outdated and confusing symbol, especially to children of color, Fox News talking head Megyn Kelly reassured her audience that no confusion was necessary. With faux authority she pronounced: "... for all the kids watching at home, Santa just is white ...."

So what was Harris' alternate suggestion that drew the ire of the conservative conclave?

She wrote that a gift-giving penguin should replace Jolly old St. Nicholas, the symbol millions have grown up with generations. Her mission and motivation is to remove the perception in what she calls today's more ethnically diverse America that Christmas is a white holiday. Harris' piece humorously, tongue firmly embedded in cheek, riffed on how the commercial image of Santa - the plump white version with a long beard dressed in red velvet - is an outdated image.


Firing Santa would be devastating for the local economy at the North Pole.... The number of elves and support staff that would be laid off would be catastrophic.

Great. Besides giving up the poster boy of generosity, joy and gifting, depending on which border the Kringles' operations lies, it means another American job, and possibly a whole industry, outsourced from our continent, to somewhere overseas. That in my opinion is far more disturbing than color of man's skin that has dropped of packages at my house annually for my last 50 odd years.

Firing Santa would be devastating for the local economy at the North Pole because manufacturing operations, logistics and corporate offices would have relocate to the southern hemisphere where penguins happen to thrive. The number of elves and support staff that would be laid off would be catastrophic.

Even if Ms. Harris' overall plan calls for the holiday home of the Present Penguin to be on top of Mount Kibo, the financial burden of relocating the Christmas operation would mean fewer gifts or lower quality presents distributed to millions around the world. The only consolation and unaffected would be the staff in India and the Philippines who operate the customer support call centers.

Ms. Kelly pointed out during her original broadcast that Ms. Harris certainly had issues with the jolly fat man rocking the red tuque. It was really the only sentence, an observation taken from Harris' article that made any sense. "And, she seems to have real pain, at having grown up with this image of a white Santa," fired Kelly during her diatribe.

Admittedly, Harris did.

"I remember feeling slightly ashamed that our black Santa wasn't the "real thing," she confessed in her original article in which she related her personal experience about the holiday imagery of a dark-skinned man in a Santa costume her parents had displayed when she was young child. "Because when you're a kid and you're inundated with the imagery of a pale seasonal visitor - and you notice that even some black families decorate their houses with white Santas - you're likely to accept the consensus view, despite your parents' noble intentions."

Ladies, there should be just one official Santa. Period.

In my opinion, this whole Santa Claus thing should be run like the Dread Pirate Roberts in William Goldman's Princess Bride. Similar to Roberts' dynasty, every four years a succession would take place with a new Santa grabbing the reins, his likeness used worldwide until the next transition. The new St. Nick would also pick a staff of 12 to 20 "elves" to help oversee Christmas operations worldwide.


The Parade of Santas could be a huge commercial cash cow if promoted properly.

The easiest and most cost effective method to pick the successor and ensure diversity would be to award the honor to the country that wins the most number of medals during the Winter Olympics. His ethnicity can change every four years simply by a country competing and winning at the highest level. The winter games makes sense simply because Santa is winter weather sorta guy.

Taking a cue from the Miss Universe pageant, Santa Claus could be picked from a pool of candidates from around the world. Each country would select and send a representative to the International Santa Pageant. There, the contestants compete in a series of challenges requisite to the job description.

For example, there would be a timed race around the world with the winner determined by visiting the most number of countries in the shortest amount of time. In addition to oratory and letter writing challenges, there would be a battery of assembly tests with prospective Santas are given ten items, from bicycles to computers, to put together correctly in the shortest amount of time.

Skip the swimsuit competition. The pageant would not be complete without a Santa suit competition where contestants ride a sleigh and judged by a panel of experts on the all important wave and jovial appearance. The Parade of Santas could be a huge commercial cash cow if promoted properly.

Finally, given today's love for reality shows, the third concept that could be employed to pick the next Santa might be a Survivor North Pole Adventure or Survivor Santa.

A year before the succession, finalists would live at the Arctic Circle and travel the world performing humanitarian work, providing relief efforts and competing in physical challenges to become the one and only Santa. Each week, one competitor is voted off while people from around the world can view the show voting to save the most popular candidate each week until the pool is left with just one person to succeed the current Claus.

I thought about a Hunger Games format with Jennifer Lawrence as the host, but decided it was probably would get the needed PG rating for kids 12 an under to watch.

You have to find it rather ironic that two adults, both who well know that Santa, a modern representation - poster adult have you - has the sole purpose of propagating an annual global economic phenomenon, is a fictional character. And, let's face it, kids, especially those who still believe in the magic of Santa, could care less about the color of his skin, shape of his eyes or the sexual preference of his reindeer (as discussed on Saturday Night Live's skit by Keenan Thompson as the real Kris Kringle).

The most important thing - the only thing that really matters to children of all ages, around the world, is the big guy (or even gal) will be leaving a sleigh full of presents under their tree for them on Christmas Eve.



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DISCLAIMER: This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of PhotoNews Media. We welcome comments and views from our readers.
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July 28, 2014

Wedding vendors counter negative online comments with non-disparagement clauses


by Clark Brooks


The devil is in the details; read your wedding contract carefully, especially the fine print. Before seal the deal with that wedding planner who had great reviews on two or three websites or that photographer who rocked your world with their stunning photography, you might want take a real close look at some of the terms, conditions and yes, penalties hidden in their service agreement.

With their online persona exposed to the world, more and more wedding vendors are including language to their service agreement that will forbid you to post negative comments and reviews about the inferior service they may have provided. Any comments you post could subject you to fines or a lawsuit for thousands of dollars.

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Photographers, reception halls, mobile disc jockeys and cake designers are following in the footsteps of other independent professionals by adding "Non-Disparagement" clauses to their service contracts. The sole purpose of this clause is to keep clients from damaging, warranted or not, their business reputation online.

Jeff Guyer penned an article on the DIY Photography website describing a meeting with a potential client, a bride seeking his services for her upcoming wedding. A former attorney, Guyer was shocked when she showed him a contract from another photographer that stated:

"Client further agrees that they will not disparage Photographer, or post any negative comments, reviews, feedback, complaints, insults, or other counter-productive content about Photographer or services provided in any online forum, chat room, or message board, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and The Knot."

In this day and age of online reviews, one can bet their sweet bippy that any company or service provider that includes this language in their contract either has had issues in the past or expects them in the future. A vendor that is attentive, provides gold standard service and takes pride in their reputation will likely omit such language from their contractual agreements.

Before signing a vendor contract, look for the words confidentiality, non-review, non-disparagement. If you find these words, read the paragraph carefully. You might want to do additional research on the vendor before making a commitment to use their services.

"Before you sign, start by asking the potential vendor to remove it. At this point, the terms of contract are negotiable. After you sign it, you could be on the hook for a large payout, expensive legal fees or the inability to post honest reviews of the service you receive."
In some cases, vendors are just looking for a legal means and deterrent to justifiably protect their online reputation from the rants of the occasional revenge-seeking, hard to please species of bridezillas known exist.

If search long and hard enough with Google, you will find multiple cases of wedding vendors, in addition to cosmetic surgeons, building contractors, watch repair shops, dentists and websites zealously pursuing former clients for damages upwards of $10,000 or more.

When a vendor or business owner resolves to go after a client for breaching the clause, it is known as "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation", or SLAPP in the legal arena. The goal is to burden the offending client with court and legal fees forcing them into submission. Some vendors will be satisfied when the client to remove the offending post or modifies it to their liking. Others service providers may very well use the clause as an additional revenue stream by collecting a substantial fine which is usually buried in the fine print.

Illinois and 29 other states have anti-SLAPP legislation on the books that makes it easier for judges to dismiss cases against brides who speak up. According to Digital Trends, the Supreme Court has made several favorable rulings to slap SLAPP cases down.

There are some things you can do if run across this language in your contract.

Before you sign, start by asking the potential vendor to remove it. At this point, the terms of contract are negotiable. After you sign it, you could be on the hook for a large payout, expensive legal fees or the inability to post honest reviews of the service you receive. Have the vendor produce a fresh contract without the offensive clause in it to sign.

If the vendor hesitates or refuses to strike the sentences from our agreement, common sense suggests - especially in the case of a once in a lifetime event like a wedding, the most significant day in your life - you might want to reconsider your decision to rely on that vendor.

While chances are everything will workout just peachy, you will probably have less to fear if you are working with a business offering services for seven years or longer. It would be a good idea to solicit comments within a Facebook wedding group or fan page catering to local brides for wedding supplies and services.

If this is a vendor you really want to provide services to you and your guests, you can ignore the clause and sign the agreement.

Can you still post an other than honest review of your experience using that vendor? The answer to that question is it depends. When in doubt, consult a lawyer in your state if it is really important for readers to know how poorly you were treated or that the vendor provided. He or she can suggest various ways to communicate your negative experience properly.

While only a few cases have gone through the court system, settling the issue in court is highly complex and the outcome, depending on the jurisdiction your case is filed, is highly unpredictable at this point. If you have an endless supply of cash in your purse - likely not considering the money you spent on the wedding, reception and honeymoon - and confine your comments to the truth, it might be worth it to warn other brides of the pitfalls or poor service you were provided.

When it comes to writing a review, websites like Digital Trends, Offbeat Bride and Forbes offer some thoughts on the matter.

The mutual caution is to avoid defaming the vendor. You must be 100% factual in any statement you make. Documenting problems at the time they occur either via collaborating statements, photos/video or audio will go along way in protecting your review. Making false statements, facts known or that can be proven not true, will get you in hot water.

Second, offer opinions. Make it clear at the beginning or end of the post that you are stating your opinion. Keep them subjective and honest. Avoid long rants and hyperbolas.

Do not make accusations. Making allegations on a person's character or that they committed a criminal offense will get you in hot water pretty quick. Avoid name-calling and threats as well.

With a membership well over 14,00, we posted a message on the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International group page on Facebook asking photographers if they included non-review or non-disparagement language in their contracts and if so why they added it. As of today, we have yet to receive a comment from professionals who are members of the online community.

July 21, 2014

Leave Your Swagger At Home


by Tasha Shadden, Guest Commentator

In this day and age, men have somehow ingrained it in their minds that if they simply buy a woman a shot at a bar he's simultaneously purchased a one-way ticket home with her. News flash, the world doesn't work that way.

Truth is the only thing you are entitled to if you buy a woman a beverage is a "Thank You". You aren't entitled to a dance, a conversation, or realistically, her name. I'm not saying you can't use a nice gesture like buying her a drink to open the door to a conversation, but you need to erase it from your mind that the door is also open to her bedroom. Yes, sometimes women do go home with men after enough drinks are bought, but that is generally the exception not the rule.

"Nearly every girl you approach, providing she has not consumed enough alcohol fail a field sobriety test, will immediately sense if you have genuine interest in her or not."
You need to change your mind set when you are prowling the bar and throwing free drinks toward every attractive woman you see. If you are sick of wasting money and "getting nothing in return", stop buying women drinks! Most of us are perfectly able and willing to provide ourselves with alcohol, as we generally don't tend to enjoy feeling like we are being bought in return for that free beer. Try a different route. It is called being a gentleman. Try it and see where it gets you; you might just be surprised.

There are many ways to improve your odds of actually meeting a wonderful girl at a bar and holding her interest in you for more than a night. The first tip is to find a girl you are realistically attracted to beyond her physical appearance.

Stop going after the bombshells with sky-high stilettos in a mini dress three sizes too small wearing more make-up than a circus clown. These girls may satisfy your needs for a night, but in the long run you are just wasting your time.

Nearly every girl you approach, providing she has not consumed enough alcohol fail a field sobriety test, will immediately sense if you have genuine interest in her or not. If you are sincere about getting to know her, she will be able to tell and will be more willing to have a conversation with you. The quickest way to get shut down is to radiate the vibe that you are just looking for any girl to bring home. I can tell. She can tell before the first two words spill pass beer moistened lips.

The second tip is to be yourself! Do no not swagger over with false bravado and drop some disgusting pick-up line that is dripping with sexual innuendo.

I have no idea when guys got the idea that this tactic was a good one, but I can personally attest to the fact that it isn't. It doesn't work. On the other hand, a cute, cheesy pick-up line with the sole purpose of making the target of your affection to laugh will get you a lot farther than any crude sex laced joke. Nothing makes a woman more uncomfortable than a strange man making lewd comments. The key to success is building up a comfortable rapport.

My final tip for you guys who have made it this far reading my column is use genuine compliments.

Do not, I repeat do not walk to a woman and tell her that she looks sexy. The word "sexy" is made up in large part of the word "SEX" and will absolutely, without a doubt, clue the woman across from you that your one track mind is complimenting her to just to get laid. Stick to compliments that are sincere and that you truly mean.

If you think her blouse or dress looks nice, tell her so. In case you weren't listening above, resist the urge to follow up with how nice it would look on the floor next to your bed. You will ruin the moment. If she is wearing jewelry that you find interesting, tell her that! Ask here where it came from. If she has pretty eyes or a gorgeous smile, tell her that! Sincere compliments win every time.

Being honest and genuine is the quickest way to get the girl to relax and let her guard down. You need more game than a Natty Light or a Jell-O shot to catch the good ones. Believe me when I say you will have much better luck finding a woman and keeping her attention with compliments and a charming smile.

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About Tasha
Tasha is a student at an Illinois institution of higher education. She loves wine and her puppy, Opie. The list of things she hates is too long to include here, but topping the list would be guys with no game and people who do stupid things. If you fall into the just mentioned categories, you will most likely be wrote about.

May 31, 2014

Hooker leads Spartans at state track with two medals

May 30, 2014 - Charleston, IL - Sycamore's Dion Hooker runs to a first place in his heat of the 100-Meter Dash during the IHSA State Track and Field preliminaries on Friday on his way to Saturday's finals in the event.

Hooker, favored to win the race, eventually took second place after running a 10.84 in the title race on Saturday. The junior also placed fourth in the 200-Meter Dash for a second state medal.

The Spartans finished sixth in the overall team standings at this year's meet thanks to top finishes from senior Evan Short in the shot put, Adam Millburg in 3,200-Meter Run, and Logan Schneider's 14.47 time in the 110-Meter High Hurdles, good for a silver medal, in the Class 2A division. Millburg finished his two-mile race in 16th place with at time of 9:51.40 and Short made the throwers' podium with a sixth place finish.

(Photo: PhotoNews/Clark Brooks)