Category Archives: Christmas

God Bless Us Every One….

Last night, I found myself watching an episode of Sliders on the tube.  This time, Our Heroes found themselves in a world where the commercial aspects of Christmas had taken over, and people were enticed by subliminal advertising into a lifetime of literal debt peonage.

The episode aired for the first time in 1996: not that long ago, but the world has changed so much since then!  We don’t have literal debt peonage, but we’ve come awfully close.  The desperate characters that stood out in the 1990s seem to reflect all of our lives now.  And while subliminal advertising is still illegal (at least I think it is), that’s hardly a problem as we have so much overt advertising coming at us nonstop.  In 1996, the Internet was still mostly a curiosity, something that you experienced while sitting at a designated machine, typically over a telephone line.  (Remember them?)  Today, we have Web sites and blogs and e-mail, all laden with the message to buy! buy! buy!!!!

I had missed the first part of the episode and wanted to watch it again.  It’s available, on Hulu Plus, for the low low price of $8/month, along with piles of other videos.  I know the racket: yes, you can cancel any time, but somehow you never get around to it.  And I have little enough time to watch videos in any case.

I mostly missed Christmas this year, trying to meet deadlines in the face of constant interruptions.  The decorations are up in my office building and in the lobby of my apartment building, but I didn’t have time to clear out the junk and set up a Christmas tree.  The weather hasn’t helped: with lows in the 40s for most of December, it hasn’t felt like Christmas.  And last week I had a nasty head cold.

Still, I should count my blessings: I’m employed, able to keep the lights on and a roof over our heads, and fix a nice Christmas dinner.   My wife keeps me company and puts up with my bad moods.  Tonight, she insisted that we go out for a walk: it felt good to get the blood moving.

Is this what I thought my life would be like in 1996?

Alas, no.

In any case, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night….

Killing the Magic

When I was a kid, I didn’t really believe in Santa Claus.  I did write letters to him, and somehow most 0f what I asked for actually showed up on Christmas morning.  I figured that, most probably, my parents bought the presents, but still thought the Santa Claus story was charming.  I enjoyed the Tim Allen picture, The Santa Clause, when it came out a few years ago, as an interesting vision of the story.

Let’s consider, for a moment, what Santa Claus has to do:

  • Compile a list of all of the children of the world;
  • Determine whether each child is ‘naughty’ or ‘nice;’
  • Identify one or more appropriate presents for each child, possibly taking into account the child’s own wishes;
  • Build all of the presents, although this part could be outsourced;
  • Deliver all of the  presents, across the entire world, in one night.

When I was a kid, accomplishing all of these tasks seemed beyond what the people or organizations around me could do, but I imagined that it might be possible for someone to do it.  And since the presents did arrive on Christmas morning, and my parents swore up and down that the presents really came from Santa, I contemplated Christmas with a sense of wonder.  Maybe that Santa stuff was true, after all.

But now, not only does Santa Claus have a Web site, but he also has an iPhone application that supposedly determines, in real time, whether one is naughty or nice.  The wonder is gone: Santa lives on the Internet, where it is obviously possible to keep track of everyone.  And if we track a parcel from California on its way to New York, tracking Santa on his Christmas Eve travels should be trivial.

When I was a kid, what was charming about Santa Claus was that the details of the process were left to our fertile childhood imaginations.  But now the process of Santa is now available for all to see, and it has become about as charming as, well, FedEx.

And as a result, it has become that much easier to realize that it isn’t real, after all.