Tag Archives: holidays

Empty Head

That’ me. I have an empty head. Well, not completely. It has a brain, devoid of any pertinent thoughts right now. And it has a mucous production factory, that if it were oil, could solve the world’s resource problems. Courtesy of course, of a cold. And really, as colds go, it’s not so bad. Not the 3-box of tissues wonder I had last year. My neck muscles have only grown a bit sore from blowing my nose and the chafing from the rough toilet paper is already starting to heal.

But, between the cold and being incredibly busy at work, and the seasonal craziness (I just got my tree decorated and hope to take pictures of some of the antique ornaments and post them here.), which includes shopping and baking and cleaning, well, I’m just running out of time to write.

The next few weeks will probably see sporadic posts as I go off to do things or party too much or don’t party enough. Oddly though, this weekend involves two turkey dinners and a third dinner, then I know of nothing for the next while. Things sort themselves out and I’ll bake some cookies next week.

I’m also going to decide if I should keep writing daily on the blog. Although I do minimal research as I’m not paid for this, it can still take time and it’s sometimes hard to fit it in a day. But that’s for the new year. Right now, look for sporadic posts in the next two weeks.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, life, people, Writing

Ho Ho Ho Ain’t Just For Prostitutes

One of the stupidest things I’ve heard in recent years in regards to Christmas was that Australia banned their department store Santas from saying, “Ho ho ho,” because it was derogatory. Who made this decision; a twelve-year-old? That’s a fine example of political correctness taken to extreme idiocy. It’s like saying, you can’t say Merry Christmas but can still celebrate it.

Granted there are other religious celebrations at this time of year but if someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah and another wishes me Merry Christmas and a third wishes me a Cool Yule, I get the sentiment. I don’t have to push my religious beliefs or superiority down anyone’s throat. I take it in the spirit of the sentiment.

I was also told by one co-worker once that her children (at their school) were told to say Merry Xmas not Merry Christmas because Xmas wasn’t making it Christian. WTF? There are so many things wrong with this statement (and I don’t know if it was this woman’s or the school’s). One, Christmas is, well…Christian. Duh! X is an old symbol for cross, as in crisscross, the crossroads, railroad Xing. It’s not because trains make X’s at that spot; it’s because they cross the road at that spot. The pronunciation of Christ in Christmas is “kris” and hence the X is a shortened form of writing “Christmas”. Really, how dumb can people get?

But Santa, he’s as Christmas as a shopping frenzy. When I was a kid, we of course had the obligatory trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap. I can’t remember any of those visits really, nor what I asked for. My childhood greed and wants changed every year I’m sure. The only Santa visit I truly remember was the last one.

(Spoiler alert on Santa’s existence.) I had already figured out that Santa wasn’t real and really was my mother storing gifts in her closet. Not yet at the stage of wanting to preserve the magic and the harmless lie, I said I didn’t want to go because Santa wasn’t real. My mother made me go because my little brother, two years younger, still was starry-eyed over the white-bearded gnome. Of course, somewhere along the line I blurted out to my brother that Santa didn’t exist and my mother was not pleased with me.

But she shouldn’t have made me go to see the fake. I think if a picture still exists of me on Santa’s lap it shows a sullen child. My little brother probably went first and then me. As I’m sitting on Santa’s lap and he asks me what I want for Christmas I notice the fake beard, and sticking out of it near his lip is a tag that says “Made in Hong Kong.” That cemented the truth for me, that Santa was an impostor.

Coca-Cola's first Santa

Many years later, Santa has morphed. He was of course a very Victorian image (though versions of Kris Kringle, Sinter Klaus, Pere Noel, etc. existed before that) and was hugely popularized in North America by that American institution Coca-Cola. He was first commercialized (and fattened up) in 1931, and he’s never looked back since.  Santa keeps changing and just as there is the summer flash mob that forms around a zombie walk, there are the winter flash mobs of Santas that swarm the streets, sometimes passing out candy and kisses and stopping in every alcoholic watering hole they can find.

I once ran into the flashmob Santas, from skinny to fat, tall to short, male and female. A few elves were along as well. It was fun and just brought a smile to my face. Unfortunately this year I had a previous engagement; otherwise I would have been romping with the Santas. And these days, do I believe in Santa? Well, I think I believe in the spirit of giving, for joy and fun but not because you must or it’s expected. And certainly not with a price tag that says, oh you didn’t love me enough because you only spent $20 not $80 on me. If I could I would give more including donations to charity as I found it gave me a profound sense of goodwill when I did.

But as for ho ho ho, Australia and all you other politically correct Nazis, loosen up. Ho ho ho could be ha ha ha or hee hee hee or even hardy har har. It’s the sound of laughter, which obviously those places in Australia forgot.

3 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, family, history, home, life, memories, people

Holiday Fever: How To Tame It

Every year, and it seems, earlier every year, merchandisers and stores whip the public up into a fine shopping froth. Maybe calling that day after Thanksgiving in the US “Black Friday” is a good way to put it. When I hear of Black Friday (or any day for that matter) I think of a massacre or some other dire happening. And it seems to be the beginning of when people take leave of their senses and massacre their pocketbooks.

Christmas (or pick your other seasonal holiday that involves gift giving) used to be around Dec. 25th (the actual celebration) and involved a gift given to represent the gifts that the wise men brought at Jesus’s birth. But even for those of minimal or no Christian belief, there was Santa Claus who brought gifts to girls and boys. And there are many festivals of light (for that is really what Christmas and Jesus represent) that involve food and celebratory gifts.

But in North America this got distorted along the way. Now retailers see it as a way to make more more more and holiday decorations

Creative Commons--http://ballstonarts-craftsmarket.blogspot.com/

go up sometimes before Hallowe’en, which is good for buying food and costumes but not for buying stuff. Thanksgiving in Canada happens before Hallowe’en and in the US it happens after, being the last big holiday (good for buying food) before the mega merchandise shopapalooza blowout greedfest.

I guess you can tell how I feel about having decorations shoved down my throat for two months and holiday carols ringing out from every store speaker from Dec. 1st or earlier. When I was a kid it was tradition to get into the holiday spirit some time around Dec. 12, two weeks before the big event. For some people whose culture involves Epiphany, New Year’s or Twelfth Night, it would start later and go to January 6th.

Now I have friends going gaga over Christmas by Dec. 1 at least. They think I’m a Scrooge but really I just get grumpy with hearing the same songs over and over for weeks on end and I’m sick of them by the time I should be enjoying them. The long, drawn out state of such great festive fun ends up making it like every day and just losing any aspects of being special and magical. There are also those people who have their tree down by Dec. 26th which seems just odd to me.

But since I do like the holidays (Kwanzaa, Christmas, Solstice, Yule, you name it) as a time of getting together with people and enjoying company, here are a few things to remember and a few to forget. First, forget that gifts matter. It’s how people treat you and that they care for you that matters most. It shouldn’t be shown in material objects and is a cheap facsimile for truly caring. I used to exchange Christmas stockings with a few friends. We would buy cheap, little dollar store items that weren’t much of anything but just fun, and wrap them individually. It was one of the best parts of Christmas when I was a kid. My friends and I would exchange these and unwrap the tiny gifts and enjoy each other’s company. If you have little money, this still encompasses the spirit without getting into a huge cost that bankrupts people for a year.

Don’t go elaborate on wrapping because it’s on the gift for only a short time and is a waste of trees. I started making cloth sacks that could be reused. I also save old calendars and use them to wrap gifts throughout the year. Or you can make the wrapping actually part of the gift. Reusing containers like baskets and tins is also a great way to wrap.

Make things. Whether it’s nuts, cookies, jams, liqueurs, jewelery, potholders, mitts or potted plants; these may take a bit more time but can save money. I’m one person who is quite happy to receive food or tiny little home-made items and appreciate the work that went into them. And as many of us grow older we have a ton of “stuff.” Also if you give something, give it with the caveat that if the person doesn’t like it they can either re-gift it or let you know and trade for something else. Some people feel uncomfortable doing this but I would rather a person enjoy their gift than hide it on a back shelf.

And don’t buy into having to buy buy buy. If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it and many people can’t even though the government (in Canada) likes to say the recession is over. In Canada, Boxing Day happens on Dec. 26th but I have already seen signs for those “Boxing Day” sales for this last weekend. Sales all the time, really means the items are just regularly priced and not on sale.

The biggest thing to remember is that the holidays are about community: that means spending time enjoying being with someone, not fighting over all the things that bubble up in families. And it means charity, giving if you can and remembering that others have it worse. It’s funny how at this time people get stressed and get nastier (especially when shopping) than they do at other times. So, even though I won’t have a tree for a week or two yet, I hope I can remain stress free and hope to be making some gifts this year.

Leave a comment

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, family, food, history, home, people, religion, shopping

Cruise Ship Comparison: Norwegian and Carnivale

I have now had the opportunity to take two four-day cruises; one to the Bahamas and one repositioning cruise up the coast from LA to Vancouver. These cruises have confirmed that I am not in any way a cruise person.There is just way too much time on a boat than out seeing the sites. If you like doing things in a hotel, that’s what a cruise ship is; a grand hotel with shows, casino, bars and restaurants, and a small pool/hot tub.

The two cruise ships were Carnivale and Norwegian for the Bahamas and North American coast respectively. The Carnivale ship was older and as one of my friends said about the decor, “It looks as if a gay fashion designer took acid and threw up all over the place.” The decor was very date and garish with green, yellow and gold decorations (and then tacky Christmas decorations on top of that). Chairs and design overall were date. Norwegian’s cruise ship (the Sun) is only ten years old and is fairly tasteful with wood accents.

Both ships have small outdoor pools and hot tubs (I think). Carnivale had assigned seating for dinners. The problem with this was that you were always sat with the same people and whether you got along or not, you didn’t get a chance to meet new people. However, the meals were excellent and definitely top of the line in desserts and in flavors. The other choice was the ongoing buffet for late night munchies or fast food stuff, which was mediocre.

Norwegian boasted thirteen restaurants, freestyle dining (you sit when you want to) and lobster. The reality turned out to be five restaurants that had an extra cover charge ($10-$25) and then on top of that there was often an extra $10 for any food of quality on the menu. Three restaurants seemed to be the same buffet, which was mediocre, with two (the Four Seasons and the Seven Seas) having the same menu. There was a pasta/pizzeria buffet (with dinners in the evening) and a Mexican tapas bar with only light items. When you count up the restaurants available without spooning out more money, the number goes way down. Oh, and lobster, well yes, they did have it at the other main restaurant. I had to send mine back because it was mushy (and half a tail). Other meals were dry or bland, with a shrimp bisque being so salty it was inedible. Desserts were kind of what you’d expect Mom to cook. Overall, Norwegian’s food was disappointing and middle of the road.

Extra costs are something cruise lines don’t always tell you about up front. Norwegian certainly did not advertise they had restaurants asking extra charges on their website. They also charge $12/day per person for gratuities to the staff while Carnivale charged $10/day (that cruise was about three years ago so prices may have changed). Booze is never included but Norwegian also added in an “autogratuity.”

Carnivale’s entertainment contained a song and dance number and maybe other things I don’t remember. All their bars had the same 70/80’s music and nothing but rap being played in the one disco every single night. Most of their “socials” saw no one going to them and the music was not that good.

Norwegian had a preview night of a comedian, some music and a woman gymnast doing a nautical number using the silks (two long pieces of fabric suspended from the ceiling in which various moves, spins and drops are done). It was beautiful, well executed and worth watching again. On the second night they had a musical adaptation of Peter Pan (called “Pan”) which had few words and was very well done in dance. I enjoyed it a lot. The following night had a guy from Vegas (George Solomon) who had a great voice but it was very old style Vegas, and a magician from Montreal, Jean-Paul (not sure if that’s his last name or not) who mixed comedy with his tricks. He was good even if he played up the creepy stalker jokes just a bit too much.

The musicians in the various bars, including a lovely Observation Deck (enclosed) with views of the ocean, were good and varied, compared to Carnivale’s mediocre music. Norwegian did seem to have better success in social gatherings, including people in the disco. This included having the comedian in there one night and having the dancers come in to kick off another party, mostly to sell more alcohol.

The staterooms weren’t bad in either ship. However the beds were more spacious in Norwegian but uncomfortable. I tend to have back issues and though my back had been okay before the trip I was definitely in pain afterwards. Both ships had casinos, duty frees and art galleries. Having been duped into the free piece of art in the Carnivale cruise (which meant I couldn’t carry it away but they had to ship it for an exorbitant cost of $40–I told them to keep it) I steered away from Norwegian’s, especially after they said they were the originators. Nothing, truly, is free.

All in all, it wasn’t anything I’d do again. I’d rather fly to the place and stay in a land hotel where I can get out when I want. And if I want a casino I’ll just go to one. I can see how it would be good for families and for elderly people who may get tired faster. For some people, they loved the games, and the whole gestalt water hotel experience, but for me it was being stuck in one place too long.

2 Comments

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, entertainment, food, life, people, shopping, travel

A Case of Indulgence

This was the last of the Fearsmag articles that I wrote. I thought of putting it out tomorrow but I could be nursing a hangover, or more likely sleeping in. That’s one of my indulgences.

In whatever stage of abstinence or feeding our appetites that we managed to survive through the holiday season, we now suffer the aftermath. A new year has begun and in many cultures it becomes a time of reckoning, of cleaning our mental houses, of taking stock and changing or honing up on our past year’s progress.

Often January is a time of making too many promises and setting stakes too high. You might say it’s the time of atonement, whether you’re religious or not, for our past sins, be it laziness, overindulgence, taking on too much, doing too little, not changing, lacking stability, clinging to the past or not planning the future. We try to set past abuses or mistakes right with New Year’s resolutions. If we can whitewash the slate, perhaps we can start fresh and ignore all that’s gone before.

Or not.

Not too many years ago, I decided to stop making resolutions. After all, why set yourself up for a fall? We resolve to make these changes in our lives, often drastic ones, and wonder why we then fail to change. In January, because there’s no planning for holidays, we’re broke from spending too much and have already saturated our flesh with sugar, alcohol, salt and fat; we heroically battle our faults. Start a new year, start a new plan, start right.

And time, which is really just a big wound-up clock that we imagine, unwinds the wheel of the year as well as our plans, which fizzle by March if not earlier.

I guess I learned the lesson. Don’t overindulge through the holidays, then you won’t have to diet yourself down to the right size again. Of course, many people control themselves throughout the year and feel that this is the one time to let loose, to balance the scales even if those scales can be tipped to one side rather quickly and it takes the whole year to get back there again. To indulge or not—the fear to let go, to take the plunge.

We have set ourselves a tricky quest in this new century, as in the old. We want to have it all but we don’t want to wallow in it. Gourmet chocolate shops, delectable world-select coffee bars, elite watering holes holding alcohol from every exotic locale, and the finest clothes made of wondrous fabrics not seen since the Egyptians wove cotton, abound in many countries. We surround ourselves with splendor, covet what we don’t have and continue to search for the most expensive, exquisite or unique of today’s fads.

Well, what’s wrong with having the best, of rewarding ourselves for what we’ve accomplished? Nothing, but those that have too much, who can acquire whatever they desire, who have sailed to the highest pinnacle and hover there, are watched by the heaving millions with envy, jealousy and ridicule.

Like Icarus and his fateful flight toward the sun, we view movie stars, singers, politicians, the famous, the rich and the powerful as those who try for godhood and will fall back to the earth. And like scavenging vultures, we wait to pull them down or help them on their descent. Each and every person wants what is rightfully theirs, perhaps more than a fair share and will seek it out. All of us would like to indulge. Those that do are loved at first. We hold them like beacons in the darkness of our obscurity. They shine as examples of what can be done, of what-ifs made real and that some people can have it all. Yet, if they stay too long in the flame, we burn them with our scorn. We hold their lives up to that oh-so-bright light and examine every pore, every crack, every flaw.

Michael Jackson is no longer a rising star. His comet is falling and he receives as much ridicule as adoration, not for his music but for his life that, like any one of ours, cannot stand the polished gleam of godhood for long. Let’s face it, people are hypocrites. It’s all right if I have it, if my loved ones and friends have it, but if others have it and I have to watch for too long, well that’s just not right. Just like the dog that’s done his business in the wrong spot, eventually he gets his nose rubbed in it. Those who have and indulge end up rubbing our noses in it. Not the same as the dog. It’s not necessarily intentional, but many people see this material flaunting as the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. And perhaps there are the unspoken messages that we really don’t like to hear: Could I have done more? Am I doing anything with my life? Will I amount to anything? Does anything I do matter? Will I be remembered after I die? Why have I failed when others have succeeded?

So it is that to indulge, in more than one culture or religion, is seen as a sin, a luring to the dark side, a vice. Indulgence in itself is not necessarily bad. You can indulge someone, let him or her cry, or rant or be a little crazy once in a while. It makes you look magnanimous, open-minded, loving. Having a little chocolate or getting looped or dancing the dawn into being is okay, once in a while. But do it all the time and you become a pig, a dilettante, a bohemian, a hedonist, a self-centered creature. The names abound.

In the end, our indulgences are our own but it’s our society that really let’s us know what’s not right and what is considered overindulgence. So, don’t make a resolution, until you’re ready to, whether it’s January 1st, March 19th or November 23rd. In the end, it matters only to you, and society, your friends or other forces like your body will tell you when to change. Indulge a little but don’t parade it in front of others. And before you indulge, ask yourself, with just a little fear lacing your veins, am I ready for what it will do to me and how others will see me?

Happy New Year. May your indulgences keep you healthy.

Leave a comment

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, entertainment, fashion, food, life, people, relationships, security, shopping, Writing

Holiday Memories: The Good Ones

I grew up in a fairly dysfunctional family. Every Christmas usually involved one huge fight between my mother and father and my mother carting us off to a movie or for Chinese food or to a friend’s. When my father was gone, the fights still continued but they were transferred to us. My mother usually threatened to not get a Christmas tree or something else.

Every year my mother put us to polishing the silver and brass, stripping the linoleum floors (all of them) with ammonia and wax and polishing them. The floor waxing was a little draconian but I didn’t mind the polishing of rows on rows of collector spoons, the silver dinnerware only used at Christmas, New Years and Thanksgiving, and the myriad other metal items. My younger brother devised a form of electrolysis to dip the things in and clean them; any thing to get out of the work.

But those are not the good memories. We always baked: sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, butter tarts, fruitcake and sundry other types. My mother had this giant ceramic crock, about 18 inches high in which she would pour the molasses, sugar, dried chopped fruit and cherries in dayglow, not made by nature, colors, the currents and almonds and whatever else goes into the fruitcake. We would stir with long wooden spoons as this was far too much for any set of beaters.

There were three graduated square pans and three round with the punch-out bottoms. In would go the brown and sweet batter (yummier that way than cooked). Once they were baked my mother would wrap them in cotton tea towels soaked in brandy, then she’d sprinkle them with more brandy, put in a slice of apple, wrap them in wax paper and store them in the crock. There was enough for a year or more. I never cared for fruit cake because I don’t like dessicated fruit.

The best part was the tree. It was usually 10-12 feet tall and went right to the roof. We had a little plastic angel (about 8″) with a light inside of her. Her best pale feature was the silken white angel hair, probably made from fiberglass for all I know but it was real. On would go the angel and the lights first, carefully strung by my older brother (or father at one point) with the bubble light set in the right spots after, and the weird little round snowball lights.

Then would come the placing of the balls, the many balls and ornaments–two large boxes about three feet high and 18 square inches wide, stacked to the top with balls. Even as a child some of those ornaments were venerable and I wasn’t allowed to place them until I grew a bit older. There was the silver smoking pipe and the violin, the trumpets and other horns that you could blow into and they’d honk…for the first while anyways, until the cheap noisemaker bust.

There were the glass birds, peacocks and swans and others with long fake, stiff fiberglass tails, which clipped on the branches. There were the balls with their indented crinkled interiors that gathered light and threw it back throughout the tree. These were often round or stretched like double-ended teardrops. There were a few hand painted balls. There were the teakettles and coffee pots, the old style hurricane lamps that always had a place nearer the top of the tree because of their delicate and venerated stature.

Then there was my ball. As long as I remembered it, it already had a hole in it, in one of those indentations. Some times my siblings would tease me that it had broken because I insisted on putting it in its special place every year. It was unique in shape and color. The top was like a ball with two (maybe three) indentations. It may have had a slim stemlike neck that was very short and then a slight dome that slid into a slow growing bell shape. The bottom gently curved the other way (convex) and joined up with a little nub hanging down. I believe the bottom was  silvery pink matching the painted flower on the side. The rest was a deep teal (I loved turquoise even then). In retrospect it resembled a glass bell about six inches long.

I loved that ball. It summed up in ways I can’t really describe, all the good things of Christmas; my family being together and happy (when they weren’t squabbling), gift giving, cooking and decorating the tree, and possibly having a few people over. The last parts to trimming that tree were adding the glass garlands; balls and bells, and the tinsel. We draped tinsel carefully over every single branch so that it shimmered and danced. We stopped putting it on the bottom branches because the cats kept eating it and it wasn’t a pretty sight at the other end. The lights bubbled, a few blinked but most shone a steady blue, red, yellow and green, carefully arranged so that the colors didn’t clump.

My mother pretty much stopped with a tree as the family went its own way, not always amiably, and she gave me many of the ornaments that she still had. One year, when I was out visiting I asked her, “Hey, where’s my ball?” I hadn’t asked in years or seen it but she knew exactly which one it was. She said, “Oh, it broke years ago.”

I was devastated. It was like that fragile glass had held all the good aspects of love, and Christmas and generosity. Like those emotions, like our relationships, it was something to be cherished, to handle gently, to respect. It was delicate and beautiful. I felt such a hollow and sorrow within me that I hadn’t even realized what it had meant to me.

This year I didn’t put up a tree, but I have several special ornaments and I recently found a ball with as unique a shape, very individual. Perhaps I didn’t do the tree this year because it’s been a tough year and I want the memories going into those ornaments to be good ones. Perhaps it’s a breather and remembering my friend Bear who died last year on Dec. 18th. I’ll have memories of all these things to hold close.

May your Christmas, or Hannukah, or Solstice or Kwanzaa, when they fall, bring you joy, warmth, friendship, love and family. And most of all may they give you good memories to hold close and cherish.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, family, food, life, memories, people, relationships

Martha Stewart Move Over: Holiday Gift Wrapping

Every year, we fall into the gift giving, shopping frenzy. Then the gifts need to be wrapped to pass on to the recipient, or sit beneath a tree or other seasonally symbolic item. Stores are rife with wrapping paper and bows and boxes and bags.

It started to bother me that I would often wrap a gift five minutes before giving it to someone and it would be unwrapped as quickly, the beautiful paper being discarded. The worst culprits threw out everything, whether paper, bow, or ribbon. Nothing was re-used because they were too lazy to deal with it.

The other end was my mother who saved every scrap of paper. When I was visiting a few years back I went through her hoard. She had paper filling two boxes, each three feet high and two feet square. There were bits of paper so crumpled and small that they couldn’t be used for anything. My mother had enough paper to wrap gifts for the next hundred years. Once I sorted her wrapping paper, there was a little pile about six inches deep.

Still, there is the issue of buying paper, wasting trees for something that won’t be used for long and really serves no utilitarian purpose but to decorate another gift. I vowed not to buy wrapping paper about ten years ago now. That’s for any gifts, whether Christmas, Hanukkah or birthday, or anything in between. I still have enough regular gift paper that I haven’t needed to buy any. Plus, people give me gifts and I save the paper and bows as much as possible.

Something else I started doing was keeping the calendars from the year before. Many of them had pictures of art or nature and I found these worked well for wrapping gifts. They’re of a more set size but I put one calendar page on one side and a different one on the other side of the gift. The paper is thicker and harder to handle. Lightly scoring it with a blade makes it bend around corners better and the gift won’t poke through the paper.

Sometimes items are just the wrong shape for the paper you have on hand. And some shapes aren’t an easy rectangle or sphere. For the holidays, I make cloth bags. Buying cheap Christmas/seasonally imprinted cotton and stitching on a string is the easiest way. If I don’t leave wrapping to the last minute, I can even put in a drawstring. The bags can then be used in other years to put gifts into or for carrying shoes, laundry, food, whatever. People have used them for different things. If I know someone is a sewer, I’ll just buy a piece of cool fabric and wrap it around the gift, making it part of the giving.

There are many alternatives to using up wrapping paper for gifts. A cookie tin, a jar, a wooden box can all be included as part of the gift and lessen the wastage on paper materials. Recycling is always there but if you don’t use the paper to begin with, then it doesn’t have to be recycled.

Leave a comment

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, environment, people, shopping

T’is the Season…

…for gross consumerism. Once upon a time it used to be that Christmas began in December and actually meant something spiritual. (I’m picking on the Christian, sort of, holiday because I don’t know if other faiths go mass market this time of year.) Then stores decided it was best to put out all the seasonally afflicted merchandise at the beginning of the month. Soon, it seemed like a smart thing to put out the holiday decorations right after US Thanksgiving. Get all the turkey, fall and feasting goods done with, then there is room on the shelves for the next festivity. But someone decided that Thanksgiving wasn’t big enough or didn’t dent the shelves with related crap, so Christmas decorations and lights and cards started coming out after Hallowe’en. We’re now two months before Christmas and that hasn’t been enough. This year, I saw Christmas related crapola in stores in September. Soon, we’ll have it year round.

This frantic marketing makes me less seasonally cheerful and downright grumpy. A festive occasion is just that, an occasion, not a year-long extravaganza. It takes the specialness of the time away when one is inundated with the same driveling songs for months, though I notice that the stores do hold off on the tunes or their employees would go postal. But seeing the ho ho ho bits and garlands and cards and hats and stockings and lights etc. really kills the feeling for me.

But what is at the root of all this? Obviously it’s greed, and probably the whole fear around the economy has whipped store execs into a froth where they’re pushing everything onto shelves early. Buy buy buy, more more more. Make it super duper very bright, large and festive and red and green. It’s enough to make all the reindeer drink until their noses are red.

The problem is that our society is based on a consumerism that is supposed to always grow. Sell more cars, sell more clothes, sell more everything or we can’t get bonuses and more money to buy more stuff. What happens when the quantity stays the same in consumer purchases? Take cars for example. You can’t price them out of everyone’s pocketbook, but there’s another way around it. Make them so they don’t last as long. A Model T Ford could run for fifty years but we’re lucky now if we get cars that make it to ten years. Planned obsolescence. Printers are the same. They cost less than a hundred bucks to buy but the ink cartridges that you have to keep using (and therefore should be cheaper because of mass consumption) are $60-$80. Not because ink is that expensive but because the company has to make money. Some printers are designed to eat ink every time you turn them on so feasibly you could use up a cartridge without printing a page (I got rid of that one fairly quickly.)

What happens when we have enough, when growth stays the same? Or what happens when the baby boomers stop buying and the next gen buys less? Panic. Maybe the economy fireworks didn’t have to happen right now but it was bound to happen sooner or later. I thankfully, have only worked for one company where “grow grow grow” was their motto mixed with a lack of understanding people. People left on stress leave and others were walked out the door almost regularly. I hear this company was bought by a company wich was bought by a company and that more changes are happening. I’d rather slide down razor blades into a vat of vinegar than work there again.

So be prepared. Those Boxing Day sales have become Boxing week sales and pre-Christmas/Boxing week sales. They’re about to become Christmas month sales and yet there will be more and more and more stuff. Costco has mass Santa suits that you can buy for cheap. Now every little Santa will look the same. How sweet. And if you think that Santa at the North Pole is kept busy with all his elves working over time because of the mass merchandising, think again. The little fellas have been laid off to cut costs and because everything was farmed out to a third world nation where the kids get to toil for twenty hours a day. Ho ho ho, enjoy the consumerism.

Leave a comment

Filed under cars, consumer affairs, Culture, entertainment, life, people, religion, shopping