Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tidings of comfort and joy.

I had an epiphany on my way to work today. My moments of clarity come without warning, and I'd prefer that they occur behind a keyboard rather than in my car, but the brain is a funny thing - at least mine is. This one: Christmas is a miserable time of the year for me. I don't understand it and I don't enjoy it, so why do I participate? It's a classic example of "it was like that when I got here."
We do a lot of things without thinking about why we do them. Sociologists call them traditions, and the more complicated and deep-rooted the tradition, the more dedicated we are to it and we are less inclined to ask why we do it. Some of the new, stupid ones like Boss's Day are short-lived. We see it on the calendar or a TV ad and wonder, "What the fuck?"
We carry on the Christmas tradition with nary a "what the fuck." Our parents, their parents and generations before all did it, and it gets more ingrained and complex with each passing generation. We're in deep now, and the top of the hole is above our head.
Why do we willingly walk into this ring of fire whose "season" begins earlier with each passing year? What's with all these gifts? Why is it such a big deal?
The retail industry has us by the short hairs because they know how weak-willed we are and how we equate love with things. Shopping centers are packed with sheep who have almost endless lists ... Buying for their brother, their brother's kids, their friend and their friend's kids, their co-workers ... on and on, like the world's largest gift chain-letter. Buying for one qualifies the next in line, lest evil befall you - or the guilt of omission.
It's the common refrain, "Oh, I didn't get you anything," as though receiving a gift automatically requires you to give one. You gotta love our culture.
I think the retail industry relies on our short memories. We forget, after nearly a year, how much of a nuisance Christmas is. The song says "it's the most wonderful time of the year," but I stopped listening to songs when my parents told me to put my Black Sabbath records away. Besides, if it was such a wonderful time of the year, it wouldn't be 25 degrees and windy. If you really wanted to plan a legal holiday of consumption, you would do so in the summer when we have the energy to go outdoors.
The religious types would tell you that it's Jesus' birthday. Not only is that a fallacy, but it also requires that you believe that Jesus was the son of God. I don't have the time to explain it, so read this and pass it along. Meanwhile, ask your religious friends this question:
If your God had wished us to observe his son's birthday, wouldn't we know exactly when it was? December 25 is an arbitrary date and none of you know why. Jesus was born about 6 weeks after Passover, nearer to September than now. Those "Let's Keep Christ in Christmas" people are severely misguided, since Christ has nothing to do with Christmas. They should be dancing around their Pagan tree with their other Christian friends and praying to Santa Claus.
Mostly, we observe Christmas for two reasons (1) People tell us to and (2) We like getting stuff. The gravitational pull of Jupiter isn't as strong as peer pressure and greed. It's a great basis for a holiday.
It's tough to get out. It's harder than throwing a trash can away. (It keeps getting returned to you because you can't possibly have meant to leave it in the trash.) There is no network or formal pronouncement you can make. It's more likely that they'll buy you junk anyway, so you have to make a pronouncement around Thanksgiving (the former beginning of the Christmas marketing season) and hope that people take you as seriously as they take people who quit smoking or decide to lose weight.
All sorts of people are committed to one lifestyle or another. They're vegetarians, sports fans, non-drinkers and non-smokers, among other things. Nobody bugs the sports fans or non-smokers because they chose to opt out of a particular lifestyle, yet you'll probably be questioned severely when you proclaim your aversion to Christmas. Somebody once told me that "because I don't want to" is the best reason for not doing something, and the only one you need.
So, I don't want to, and I'm done with it. I'm just sorry it took this long for me to figure it out. Why should I participate in self-induced stress and misery if I don't have to? Peer pressure is a bad reason for kids to start smoking, but it's an acceptable way for them to start a silly tradition like Christmas. That makes good nonsense. You can't blame peer pressure and embrace it too. It's either good or bad. So, let you kids smoke if you think peer pressure is OK.
If going through this Christ-mess makes you feel better, have at it. But if you're stressed-out and wondering why you do all of this, then ask yourself why and make an effort to stop - just like you would stop eating too much if being 300 pounds could make your heart explode.
Get out. It will be easier than you think. If you want to lose weight, you have to change your life. To get out of this Christmas scheme, all you have to do is make it through a month.
Then, you'll have amassed valuable experience that you can use to work on Valentine's Day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm feeling better about my mundane life.

One of the more curious spectacles on television is the MTV show 16 & Pregnant, where high school-aged girls are paraded around in front of a camera extolling the virtues of their teen pregnancy. It was part of a marathon of shows, followed by its apparent spin-off Teen Mom. Seriously.
Tonight's episode featured a hick and her boyfriend who live at her parents' house "because we can't afford a place of our own" [duh - you're 16] and her baby shower. I guess when you're a kid and pregnant, you may as well get as much stuff from people while you can, and no matter that you might want to embrace the shame rather than the joys of motherhood. The mother's cake featured a John Deere tractor. I didn't see the whole show, so I'm guessing that's where the little bastard was conceived.
I could only make it through one segment, and turned it off in disgust. Shows like this are just another example of television programs that exploit the oddities and dregs of society. Bad singing, obesity, arguing homosexuals, people with a house full of junk and other such anti-social segments of society are now featured entertainment. How great it must be for nature's misfits to now have a creative outlet. Why hide your pregnant, obese, no-talent ass in shame when you can flaunt your disabilities in front of millions of television viewers?
I think the producers figured out that the best way to make large numbers of people tune in is to make them feel better about themselves. And there's no better way to make people feel better about themselves than to show us how fucked up other people are. That's why The Jerry Springer Show was so popular. It's why people watch Cheaters. It's a concept that goes back to carnival side shows.
"Wow, I'm a mess, but at least I don't have a little arm coming out of the top of my head."
"My wife is ugly, but at least she doesn't have to borrow my moustache comb."
It's in that vein. And even if you are a dumbass that cheats on your wife, you can watch a show about some other dumbass getting caught and think, "Hey, just like me."
So, it's a win-win.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You'd better check your list at least twice.

"iPad is here!" proclaims Best Buy, in their latest e-mail solicitation received this afternoon. Wow, 500 bucks for an iPad? Sounds interesting enough to at least open the ad and see what all the fuss is about.
As it turns out, "here" means something different to the folks at Best Buy than it does to the rest of us. If you're looking to pick one up for yourself or the kiddies in time for the blessed holiday on Saturday, you'll likely be disappointed. The gang at Best Buy is pulling the old bait and switch on you. The $499 iPad's are on backorder, as I saw when I clicked on the ad.
There are, however, plenty of 64 gigabyte and 3G iPad's available for $829 and $729 respectively. Relative bargains when you consider presenting an empty package under your pagan Christmas tree on Saturday. Even the $599 32 gigabyte iPad is backordered.
My guess is that the marketing people at Best Buy figure that you'll be so worked up over getting a "cheap" iPad that your disappointment at seeing that it's backordered will lead you to quickly jump on the more expensive $729 model so that you won't have to wait until mid-January for your toy to arrive.
They make a point of saying "starting at $499," which is as good as saying "starting at $4." If there aren't any $499 products available, what difference does it make what you say your starting price is? However, the ad also says "Available online..." so maybe a red challenge flag is in order? Or, backorder.
The whole thing is either borderline illegal or genius marketing. Tis the season.