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by Inlander Staff & r & Two Pageants, One Sentiment & r & Over the weekend, we caught perhaps the greatest Christmas pageant ever written, Act One of Handel's Messiah. (Act Two and Three were great, too, but Act One is especially pertinent, as it recounts the Nativity of Jesus.) Gunther Schuller led a hand-picked bunch of local singers and musicians through a heavenly version of the three-part classic at First Pres, with rousing highs and delectably soft lows. Old Georg would have loved it.

But the reason for the season was on display elsewhere, too, as one local elementary school gathered for its annual ode to the holidays. This pageant had lots of cute Kodak moments, nice multi-cultural songs and plenty of fireworks -- literally, as luminaria up on stage caught fire, eliciting shrieks from the kiddies, stomping feet from the songleader-turned-fireman and laughs from the parents. It was two ways of getting to the same warm, fuzzy feeling -- and both were, to say the least, memorable.

Do Monkey Around & r & Five years ago, some frat boys at Michigan State created Monkey Day (Dec. 14) as "a reprise from the traditional religious holidays permeating the month of December." Initially, the idea was just to put on the monkey suit and grunt at your mates. Then it developed into consciousness-raising about "social and ethical issues regarding monkeys and primates." Now it's mostly a party at Mac's Bar in Lansing.

Thus runs the progress of all Festivus-style faux holidays: first, anti-capitalist; second, pro-environmentalist; and third, besotted with Demon Rum.

Visit & lt;a href="" & Monkey Day & lt;/a & .

Not Only Its Own Reward & r & Daniel Orozco, assistant professor of English at UI, has been awarded a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Orozco, already famous for his story "Orientation," a satiric guide to life in Cubicle Hell, has now garnered praise from the likes of Joyce Carol Oates. In her introduction to The Best American Mystery Stories 2005, she writes that "Orozco's stylishly narrated 'Officers Weep' is a jigsaw puzzle of a story, requiring the kind of attentive reading usually associated with poetry (or postmodernist fiction)."

Besides, a fellowship worth $20,000 isn't merely a fictional award.

Governorcide & r & It happened a century ago, when Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg was murdered in a mining and labor dispute in 1905. Sculptor Scott Fife has created a series of busts commenting on the class conflicts of that era, and they'll be on display at the MAC from Dec. 15 through May 7.

Fife's Gallery Talk is at the MAC on Thursday, Dec. 15, at noon. Look for our story in next week's Inlander.

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