Thursday, December 15, 2011

The 12 Worst Things About Xmas, and the 12 Best Ways To Fix Them. (The Best Of Things That Don't Really Fit...)

This is part of Grumpy Bulldog's Bah, Humbug Blahgfest.

For over two weeks now, I have been making a SUPERbig deal over Xmas! And I've done that for years now -- at the end of this post is a collection of all the "Best" things I've ever posted about Christmas here on this blog; looking it over, you can tell I've got a problem.

I make such a big deal about Xmas because I love Christmas. I love the food and the songs and the decorations and the movies and I'm even so nuts that I like Christmas shopping.

On Black Friday.

At the malls.

I make a special trip out of going Black Friday shopping. I've referred to that day as my second-favorite holiday. (The first being National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day, which is always on April 2 and which by God ought to be a day off.)

I am Crazy for Christmas. Xrazy for Xmas, you might say, if you were lame like I am.

So when challenged by Grumpy Bulldog's Bah, Humbug Blahgfest to come up with not one, not two, not i number of things, but twelve whole things that I hate about Christmas -- or, as I've been calling it this year, Xmas-- you'd think that'd be hard for me, since I'm practically a Xmas Superhero by now.*

*(Xmasman! With the powers of... tinsel?)
**(Well, that was a letdown. When I started typing that sentence I had high hopes my brain would finish strong. But tinsel? Really, brain? That's all you've got? Thanks for nothing.)

But it's not hard at all, because for all its good points... Xmas has lots of good points, remember, including but not limited to:

1. Egg nog.

2. Presents

3. More and more Xmas-shaped Snickers' bars.

And probably other good things, too, but those will have to suffice, since my brain has not yet punched in for work today.

For all its good points, Xmas has lots of bad points, too. Bad points which I will in this post list for you, in handy list form, which I've found to be the best form for listing things. (I used to use more exotic forms for listing things, like this form:

That's the ryu zin origami, and it's said to be the hardest form of origami, a form so hard that it posed a challenge when I just wanted to make, say, a grocery list, so I eventually stopped using origami forms to list things and started just using list forms, which is actually kind of unlucky for you because imagine if I had done this post in brilliant origami shapes and mailed them out to people who would then get a little Christmas-y themed essay shaped in some fancy origami-esque way. That would be phenomenal! What a great heartwarming story! In fact, it could be a Xmas story: something about people getting origami shapes, throw in a subplot where the guy has a troubled marriage and the woman's dad's business is failing, and then the shape they get is made of hundred dollar bills so they have a kid and save the business and fall in love and decorate a tree.

A Folding Paper Xmas, next year on Hallmark. It'll write itself.*3

*3 It better, because again, brain, What the H? "Something about people getting origami shapes?" Really? Are you even awake in there?

On with the list! Which you'll note, from the title, is not just complaining about stuff, but is also presenting fixes for that stuff. There's a reason for that, and the reason is:

I think I'm better than everyone else and know how to fix things way better than you, plus I make fun of you behind your back.

No, wait, I wasn't supposed to admit that. Lemme try again. There's a reason for that, and the reason is:

Why don't you just be honest with them?

I am going to have to take a lot less Nyquil before writing stuff like this. Or a lot more.

One more time: There's a reason for that, and the reason is:

I'm not a complainer?

Sure, let's go with that, my own personal Jiminy $#(#%&$ Cricket. I'll pretend I'm not a complainer, and will then complain about stuff while suggesting ways to fix it, because as everyone knows, the best way complain about things is to pretend you're not complaining about something but that you're actually okay with it but, you know, it could be better, so, just saying.... Try that on your own, with your boss' ideas, or your friend's apartment decorating, or your wife's personal grooming habits.*4

*4 It's okay, I've checked: That latter one is not actually grounds for divorce, so flame on!

So in the spirit of the season, I'm not going to just complain, I'm going to also propose a fix, or "solution", in science-y talk, for each of the Twelve Worst Things About Xmas!

Hey, how about that list, finally?

I'll get you later, brain.

The List!

1. The spirit of the season and other crap like that.

Problem Number One, or numero uno, in science-y talk, with Christmas is just what I started with here (that's why lists are so great!): The spirit of the season, which is a fancy way of saying "I'm just going to justify this by saying "It's Xmas, so here goes with whatever I want to do."

This has been an growing problem for a long time -- part of the reason for it being that Christmas, as a holiday, tends to swell larger each year like a hideous boil that's just waiting to be lanced but nobody has the guts.*5

*5 We'll see who gets who. Enjoy your imagery. Signed, your brain (a/k/a "Jiminy $#(#%&$ Cricket")

That constant growth of Xmas allows people to just cram any old thing they want into the season, as I pointed out the other day when I mentioned that Love, Actually announced that "Christmas is when you tell the truth."

"Love, Actually" seemed to actually (ha!) be making fun of that trend with the story line about the singer and his song "Christmas Is All Around Us" but the joke was on them, because that song actually (ha!) became a Christmas staple; it got played, apparently unironically, on my Pandora station the other day, just sitting there amongst all the Run Run Rudolphs I have to keep thumbsdowning (which is a verb now, because everything is a verb now.)

(Verbs are the Xmas of words.)

(Adverbs are the Arbor Day of words, which is weird because Arbor Day is actually the gerund of holidays.)

(There's no justice in the world.)

Christmas has become the ultimate enabler. Want another snack? It's Xmas, I might as well have a cookie. Need to spend more than you make? I have to buy Xmas gifts! Thinking it might not be a bad idea to do that fifth shot in front of your boss? It is. It's a terrible idea. But it's the Xmas party! Wearing a Santa hat while you drive to work? It's Xmas! Have a sense of humor!

Whatever it is, we can justify it with Xmas! Heck, Christine O'Donnell just endorsed Mitt Romney -- and that, I'm almost certain, was brought on by Christmas. Or a need to stay in the public eye. Which is pretty much the same thing.

Who should we blame for this? No good fix-it-up plan would be a good fix-it-up plan without first doing the most important part of fixing something: blaming someone else. That's our God-given right as Americans. USA! USA! USA!

This exists.

And nothing is more American, and nothing is more in the keeping of the Xmas spirit, than blaming Hollywood, which has repeatedly, over the years, shown us that Xmas is about everything in the entire world. Xmas is about not just such traditional stuff as family or God or peace, which things, let's face it, are a little outdated. (Have you noticed how old-fashioned God is? I mean, the guy's been around for longer than time has been around.)

Hollywood, not content to let the world live in peace with its families and make fun of God, Hollywood has crammed everything possible into Christmas, which by now includes, as its meaning, not just telling Keira Knightley the truth about your inexplicable crush on her since she's not that hot, but also includes curing alcoholism and chronic criminality with the help of a practically-orphaned kid, making sure your kids' adventures in New York City don't result in their deaths, keeping Santa from taking the year off because he's got a cold, and even just plain cash, as shown by the beloved holiday special "A Charlie Brown Christmas With An Overtly Religious Theme That Would Never, Ever, Be Able To Be Broadcast These Days Because We've All Completely Lost Our Ability To Place Things In Perspective":

Sally: [dictating her letter to Santa Claus as Charlie Brown writes it for her] Dear Santa Claus, How have you been? Did you have a nice summer?

[Charlie Brown looks at her]

Sally: How is your wife? I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want.

Charlie Brown: Oh brother.

Sally: Please note the size and color of each item, and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself: just send money. How about tens and twenties?

Charlie Brown: TENS AND TWENTIES? Oh, even my baby sister!

Sally: All I want is what I... I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.

The Fix: You know how people who want to lose weight trick themselves into thinking that they can lose weight by doing something really easy and fun, like eating lots of bacon and calling that a diet, or ordering the Abdomenizer and swearing they'll use it because you can look like a Navy Seal in just three minutes per week? Aren't those people funny?

NO! Because they're you! In the immortal words of Pogo, we have seen the enemy and he is us! (I think Pogo said that. But it should be the Republican Party motto.)

There's no easy cure for this one; it is the top thing on the list, after all. So I'm afraid the cure is going to be drastic -- more drastic, even, than admitting that a diet that is premised primarily on "shakes" is not actually a diet.

(I see what you're doing here, brain. I'm on to you.)

The cure is to take Modern Xmas back to its roots and start all over again. We've got to cut off all the dreck and re-grow Modern Xmas from scratch, or something science-y like that. Which means getting back to basics, basics being What Xmas was before we got all manic about it.

As every good scientist knows, our Modern Xmas is based completely on "A Christmas Carol," which, just as Star Wars does for Western Culture, serves as the foundation for every single thing we think, do, say, feel, or wear. From A Christmas Carol, we get our "traditions" of "loving people" and "shopping" (Scrooge literally threw money out the window!) and "not letting children die," which, as I think of it, is a tradition we probably want to keep. But the rest? Begone! Out with ye! Avast!

Why am I talking like a pirate? I don't know. Here is how Charles Dickens described the pre-Scroogeified Xmas spirit:

Out upon merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer...? If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' upon his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!" -- Ebeneezer Scrooge

So it's time you were part of the solution, rather than the problem. This year, make sure that on Christmas Eve, you pay some bills and reflect that you are a year older, but not an hour richer. Do not, though, attempt to stake someone through the heart with holly, because that's murder. Unless the person is a Christmas Vampire, which, don't laugh, because that already exists.

Next year: Patriotic Christmas Vampires In Love
With Keira Knightley.

2. Candy canes. Every holiday's got to have it's own candy, right? Halloween has candy corns, Easter has chocolate rabbits (which, okay, just chocolate in a different shape, but bear with me here) Arbor Day has bark, which is what the pilgrims ate instead of candy because back then people figured the quickest route to Heaven was never having fun ever, which makes you wonder how religion stuck around as long as it did.

And Christmas has "candy canes."

We use mint primarily as a flavor in two things: 1. Toothpaste, and 2. Foods that are 'mint-flavored' and therefore inedible because they taste like toothpaste. Candy canes are the latter category with the added bonus of sticking to your teeth like Jolly Ranchers used to.

Why do we eat candy canes at Christmas? Sounds like a google question! To the internets!
Legend -- okay, Yahoo! Answers-- has it that in 1670 a choirmaster bent the "sugar sticks" into a cane shape to represent the shepherd's staff. But before you go off filling the kids' heads full of nonsense about "sugar sticks," consider that Yahoo! answers also picked as a potential answer to this question:
cause they are yummy and good for your tummy, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Which is, I think, a direct quote of what the Angel said to those shepherds watching their flocks at night.

This site, on the other hand, says that the red in the candy cane represents the blood of Jesus, which is improbable given that Xmas Inc.'s religious subsidiary ("A Verrye Merrye Christmase, LLC") celebrates the birth of Jesus (four to six months too late, but still). Still, if there is a way to make a candy cane less appetizing, it's to make it into a fishookesque crucifix reminder, so let's go with that.

(The white in the candy cane, that site says, represents your purity after Jesus died on the cross for you, so eating the candy cane is, I suppose, a form of penance.) (And with that explanation, we're back to how did religion ever catch on? If I were going to start a religion, it wouldn't begin with "Everything you like to do is evil," it would begin with "Joining this religion will help you lose weight without exercising" and end on "Plus, we'll never raise your prices on your DVD by mail rental.")(I would still have a Pope, but he'd be a cool Pope, and he'd have a Segway, and he would fight crime, primarily focusing on Nigerian mail order scams, because no superheroes are taking those on.)

Who should we blame for this? The natural target would be Jesus, but He's got a lot of people after Him already, and while Jesus can probably handle his enemies just fine, I'd rather not add to His troubles, especially when we all need Him to make sure Tebow makes the Super Bowl, because that would be awesome.

So let's blame, instead, that person who said they were good for your tummy and claim without any basis whatsoever that candy canes never get digested and instead line the walls of your liver until you die. We could start an Internet rumor that one kid who ate too many candy canes was found dead by New Year's and when they autopsied him his liver was red-and-white striped.

Whoa. I went to kind of a dark place there. Looks like things just got real, brain.

The fix: I probably need antidepressants. Also: why not steal a candy from Halloween? They've got lots. Plus, Peeps! I just remembered that! Easter has Peeps! So all holidays do have their own candy and I'm not crazy.

Me and you, brain, we're gonna make it.

3. Decorating the Xmas Tree:

God, how I hate this. Oh, man, do I hate decorating the Xmas tree.

When we were kids, decorating the tree was possibly the least fun aspect of Christmas -- or, if anything was worse than that, it was having to play piano for my relatives on Christmas Eve, but that's something I only share with the team of specialists who are helping me unpack my psyche.

My parents had rules for decorating the tree, and subrules, and subsubrules, rules like "ornaments can't touch the branches" and "two similar ornaments can't be in the same area of the tree" and some ornaments had to go inside and others outside and ornaments couldn't be blue and lights had to be colored and if your Christmas tree lights blinked you were extremely low class and all of it was nightmarish in the end.

As an adult, I have at times tried to decorate my tree in the way an adult is supposed to -- i.e., good-- and those times, too, have been miserable. Once, Sweetie and I strung popcorn. Have you ever strung popcorn? Don't. Popped popcorn kernels are, if you are lucky, about a half-inch in diameter, which means you need about 24 of them to make a foot.

To cover your tree in a popcorn strand, you will need about 20 feet of popcorn.

You do the math. I only just reconciled with my brain and I'm not going to mess that up.

Putting on ornaments takes forever, even if you chuck all those rules and let the kids put them whereever the heck they want, as we did one year. Putting on lights is worse -- especially if you do it the way my dad taught me to do it, the so-called "right way" which I now refer to as "not just more or less draping the lights on the branches because this is stupid and taking forever" the latter method being what I do now, but it still doesn't save much time and you scratch up your arms and get fake-tree-pine-sap in them, which I swear is a real thing that happens to me.

That's right: I believe that my artificial tree has real sap and you won't convince me otherwise.

And for what do I do all that? I put my tree up about a week before Xmas. I take it down the 26th because nothing is more sad than a Christmas tree after Christmas, it's like looking at an orphan starving in the street while you eat a sumptuous meal of whatever it is people who are vague stand-ins for Scrooge metaphors eat when they are embodying those metaphors.

If you google "man eating while
starving orphan looks on" this is
the first image that comes up.

That kind of makes me paranoid, for
some reason.

Scratched arms, shocks from poorly-insulated lights, the tree always leans one way or the other no matter how many "Cosmopolitan" magazines I stack under one side of the stand, all so that I can sit and look at that little dinosaur ornament I bought one year because I was at Target (TM) and saw a dinosaur Christmas ornament and had this conversation with my brain:

Me: Who would want a dinosaur ornament?

Brain: As of this moment, you do.

Me: That's true. I do.

And so we hang a triceratops on the tree when we decorate it with our box of ornaments, which we don't do anymore because we have Mr F and Mr Bunches and so we don't want to hang a bunch of actual, expensive ornaments on the tree in case they break them, so each year we come up with a new, unbreakable, easy-to-do theme for our tree. Last year was "candy canes," and we hung nothing but a variety of candy canes (and lights) on the tree -- hence their inclusion on this list this year -- and the year before was "pictures of the family" and this year it will be something completely different but I'm not going to reveal it yet.

Who should we blame: My parents. They told me that you have to have a Christmas tree, but they also told me you have to do it right if you're going to have one, and so each year I try to have one but each year I fail at the latter part (doing it right, according to their rules) and each year I think next year, I am not doing this, but I do.

The fix: Holographic trees. Wouldn't that be incredible? Just set up your projector and you get a 3-dimensional tree fully decorated in one of 12 different holiday themes, like "Traditional Christmas," "Charlie Brown Christmas" "The Stars & Stripes Forever" or "Women of NASCAR."

4. A Christmas Carol, in whatever #$(#($%&$# form you're stuffing it down my throat.

I mentioned the other day that there's a Batman version of A Christmas Carol and that... is... enough already.

It's a nice little story. Got it. Man is mean, man learns a lesson, Tiny Tim blesses us, shut up.

There are other Christmas stories that you can retell. There are, in fact, people (like me, or almost anyone who reads this blog because if you read blogs you're probably a writer of some sort) who would happily whip you up a new Christmas story, and do it for cheap and it would be pretty good. You can make something Christmas-y just by putting the word Christmas in it, as in:

The Dukes Of Hazzard.

The Dukes Of Christmas.

See what I did there? (I was still sort of thinking of NASCAR. Hey, um, brain? I hate to rock the boat...)

There's simply no need for another version of A Christmas Carol. We have the original. We have the Bill Murray version. All other versions of this story need to be packed into the same vaults where they're keeping all those unwanted Sacajawea coins. Or perhaps the vaults in the caves where they store the government cheese.

Why does our government have so many vaults and caves?

Who should we blame? Not Charles Dickens. All he did was rattle off a crowd-pleasing story to make a little extra money, something he frequently did because Dickens was as fame-and-money-craving as anybody on Jersey Shore, so keep that in mind when you rip on Stephanie Meyers and claim she's just in it to make a buck.

Instead, let's blame every hack writer ever who couldn't come up with an original premise, and let's in particular blame Diablo Cody because I don't like her but I'm going to have to see that Young Adult movie because it looks good, damn her eyes.

The fix: Diablo Cody should use a pen name. And people should continue writing and producing their own books and movies because the publishing machine is crumbling and someday we'll all be our own publishers and we can republish A Christmas Carol verbatim as part of our "Indie Classics" line because it's in the public domain, so it's there for the taking.

Also, this came up when I googled A Sexy Christmas Carol:

5. People who get bugged by saying "Xmas"

As you've seen in this post, I am interchanging Christmas, and Xmas, more or less on a whim. That is because I'm lazy and realized too late that I was doing that, and so now I'm going to claim it's symbolic, that I was trying to make a point...

...Ex post facto claims of symbolism being the only claims of symbolism that are true, in that writers never intend to create symbols. That's not me talking. That's Ray Bradbury, who said that all good symbolism is purely unintentional and when writers try to make something symbolic they screw it up, which proves one thing:

Ray Bradbury reads my blog!

because I said that same thing a while back.

What does this have to do with people who hate the use of Xmas? Nothing. It's just filler. Unless it's symbolic. Which it definitely is. Let's see: Ray Bradbury is the European Central Bank, and symbolism itself is symbolic of man's desire to...

I'll get back to you on that.

Who should we blame? People who hate the use of the word Xmas.

The fix: We should start saying it the way it is written. Today, I want you to go wish someone a Merry Ecksmas.

And then reflect on how similar that is to my son Mr F's use of guck in my post Merry Guckmas! and wonder if I meant to do that all along. Symbolism?

6. Movies/TV shows that try to explain the magic of Santa.

I watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation last night, as I traditionally do this time of year, and noticed that in the cartoon beginning, Rudolph's nose is a radio/beacon of sorts. I watched Disney's Prep & Landing a few years back and saw that they used elves to prep the landing strip for Santa on each rooftop. I watched The Family Guy Xmas Special or whatever it's called and was horrified, but whatever.

Elf showed the elves learning to do computer chips and had Santa's jet-sleigh, with its explanation of Xmas cheer coming from singing or something. Other shows presumably did other things, too, but I can't remember them off the top of my head.

Here's the thing: The less explanation, the better when it comes to things magical. Did J.R.R. Tolkien explain how Gandalf did his "magic," which I put in quotes because Gandalf really did so little magic, didn't he?

J.R.R. Tolkien did not, though, explain how the not-very-magical Gandalf's so-called "magic" (fireworks!) worked.

And did J.K. Rowling explain how Harry Potter did his "magic," which, again, not really doing much of anything. Harry knew, like, three spells, and wasn't very good at those, so The Boy Who Lived was also The Boy Who Was Really Overrated, since in the end Harry's chief power was not dying, which actually makes him a Jesus metaphor, as Harry's death and resurrection made the world safe, so what are those Christians all upset about? In my new religion, you will be free to tell whatever stories you want.

Also: Now, when you eat candy canes, remember that the red is for Harry Potter's blood.

When Tolkien and Rowling did explain magic, it always sucked, didn't it? Why would Sauron put all his power into a ring? What did that gain? And then lose it? He couldn't see that happening? Has anyone ever owned a ring and not immediately lost it, as I said to my wife each time I lost my wedding ring? (It was just the one time, and we were inner-tubing on a river, and there was this scary part where we had to float on inner tubes past an actual biker rally... but I digress.)

'Twas The Night Before Christmas is not a Tom Clancy novel. We don't need technical explanations of how the bag works and whether reindeer's horns follow the Bernoulli principal.

Who To Blame: I'd say Tom Clancy, because if I blame J.K. Rowling she'll sue. She sues everybody. She's sued more people this morning than I will in my lifetime, and I'm the most litigious guy I know.

6. Stupid lists that play on "The 12 Days of Christmas".

Which is why I'm ending here. You don't own me.


The Best Christmas Song.

The Best Christmas Movie.

The Best Holiday That Eventually We Won't Celebrate At All.

The Best Jazzy, Swingin' Hepcat Christmas Song...

The Best Indie Rocker Christmas Song...

The Best Character Who Is Somehow Associated With Christmas But Who Ultimately Has Nothing To Do With Christmas At All.

The Best Christmas Song That Has Nothing To Do With Christmas...

The Best Christmas Song That Is The Product of 10,000 Hours Of Practice...

The Best Gift In The Twelve Days Of Christmas

The Best Christmas Song That Has Not Yet Been Made Into A Movie But Should...

The Best Christmas Album
(Reader Submission!)

The Best Christmas Song That Is Not Even A Christmas Song But Which I Am Just Going To Declare, Unilaterally, IS In Fact A Christmas Song (2008)

The Best Christmas Songs (With No Longwinded Explanations), One.

The Best Christmas Songs (With No Longwinded Explanations), Two

The Best Absolutely True (Well, Almost) Celebrity Stories That Should Be Made Into Christmas Movies.

The Best Christmas Songs (With No Longwinded Explanations), Three.

Song One Of The 8 Best Traditional Christmas Songs That Have Nothing To Do With Christmas.

Song Two Of The 8 Best Traditional Christmas Songs That Have Nothing To Do With Christmas

Song Three Of The 8 Best Traditional Christmas Songs That Have Nothing To Do With Christmas

Song Four Of The 8 Best Traditional Christmas Songs That Have Nothing To Do With Christmas

Song Five Of The 8 Best Traditional Christmas Songs That Have Nothing To Do With Christmas

Song Six Of The 8 Best Traditional Christmas Songs That Have Nothing To Do With Christmas

Song Seven Of The 8 Best Traditional Christmas Songs That Have Nothing To Do With Christmas


Jay Noel said...

That was like 6 posts in one. Wow.

Xmas is really just the use of the Greek letter X (or Chi). So it's a true abbreviation for Christos - Christ. I was in a fraternity, so I had to learn the Greek alphabet or get hazed.

And candy canes were shaped like to copy the shape of a shepherd's cane. But I had no idea about the whole red/blood thing. Ew.

Grumpy Bulldog, Secret Agent said...

I was originally going to just do like 3 things because I'm lazy but then I decided I should go with the traditional 12, despite that like Bob & Doug Mackenzie I have no idea what the 12 days of Christmas actually are, nor do I care because I don't want a bunch of lords a leaping and maids a milking and partridges and shit.

But I think I'll have to DQ you from prize consideration for not completing the assignment.

Grumpy Bulldog, Secret Agent said...

And thanks for participating (somewhat at least)!

Briane P said...

Grumpy: How about this:

I also hate:

7. The song "Run Run Rudolph."
8. Any Xmas story featuring Dom Deluise.
9. McDonald's Egg Nog shakes with whip cream because the whip cream dilutes the Nog flavor.
10. People who use real eggs in egg nog. Get over yourself!
11. Not knowing whether "tinsel" and "garland" are actually two different things.

AND, the final thing I hate about Xmas...

12. Being disqualified from blog fests for not following the rules.

Chippy said...

There are only 3 versions of A Christmas Carol that I will watch - Scrooge (1951) starring Alastair Sim, Scrooge (The Musical) starring Albert Finney and, of course, The Muppet's Christmas Carol!

I've never tasted egg nog - I'm not sure I want to though. It doesn't sound particularly appetising to me

Christine Rains said...

HA! What? Um, I got stuck on the candy cane picture.

David P. King said...

#6 - unexpected and totally had me laughing. Considering the spirit of this blahgfest, I say it's fitting. Awesome 1/2 of a list! :)

Andrew Leon said...

Well, I think you win. I'm not even going to do mine, now.