Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Deck the Halls

    I read a lot of newspapers - or at least their online equivalents - and one theme that I constantly notice is this unfound overreaction to just about everything.  For instance, someone nails a sign to a post that says "road closed" even though the road is clearly open, and the authorities jump down on them with two feet.  Pretty soon the prankster is in court and then jail or a stiff fine.  That kind of stuff.  Or like out in Portland where those kids got in hot water for selling lemonade from some government types before sanity prevailed.  Well up in Boston there is a little bit of a situation that is going on that had the potential to become the same thing, but ended up the way it should have.
    I am going to lay this out for you in a little bit of an awkward way today, Company, because I think it merits it.  Usually I would give you the story and then some thoughts, but I want to sort of reveal my thoughts to you as they came to me as I read this article which originated in the Boston Globe.  I first read the headline "Christmas message at Boston subway stop makes riders smile, but transit bosses not amused" and I groaned out loud.  Immediately upon seeing that I went to this thought: I bet someone saw a Christmas message on the subway and got all bent out of shape because there is a separation of church and state and that violates it and someone will be offended because they don't celebrate Christmas and choose to celebrate some other holiday and how could the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority allow such a thing and only choose to promote one religion over another and I need to raise a big stink about this RIGHT NOW!
     So that is why I was groaning, because from reading that headline it seemed to me that this situation was ripe for overreaction.  Either some rider on the subway would flip out or the higher ups at the Transportation Authority would overreact because someone might take offense, even if most of the riders seemed to like it.  In fact, a paragraph or two in said that officials with the Transportation Authority had initially said that the dispatcher who programmed an electronic message board to display the lyrics of the song "Deck the Halls" could be severely punished.  And he could have been.  And, unfortunately in a lot of instances he would have been because people tend to get a little crazy when things like this happen.
      But fortunately this was not like a lot of instances.  On December 27, Massachusetts State Transportation Secretary Richard Davey told the Globe that any punishment would be light, possible even as light as a reminder that signs must only be used for their intended purpose.  He went on to say that the purpetrator is good employee and has worked for the Transit Authority for a long time, and that he meant well.  Usually those sorts of things don't really matter in an issue like this, but they should.  And in this case it seems they did.
     The guy who did this will get a slap on the wrist, as well he should, because it was essentially a victimless prank.  Unless of course the victim is the fact that the No. 7 train is running 4 mins late.  It is really refreshing to me to see a situation where the authorities have responded with the appropriate amount of reaction for the situation.  It really is a magical season, isn't it?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Black Friday Reduex

     I know that it is not Friday, Company.  I understand that.  I can see very plainly on the calendar that it is Monday, and a little earlier today it was Monday morning.  But now it is afternoon.  Anyway, the reason that it matters that it is Monday as opposed to Friday is because today really should be a Friday, because right now it is Black Friday all over again at all sorts of stores.
     Sort of.  It is missing all the hype that the Black Friday that is right after Thanksgiving gets, and all the stores aren't opening at some unGodly time of the morning.  But the deals are all there, and in some cases there are deals that eclipse what was going on about a month ago or so.  And all the craziness is there too, believe me.
This is what today is becoming all about.
     There are people out there in the world who - despite being Western Christians - have not celebrated Christmas yet.  They have not done it because the members of the family are scattered across the country.  They have not done it because they have an old calendar.  They have not done it because they are waiting until the after Christmas sales in order to save a lot of money on Christmas presents.  And no, I am not joking.
     So as you can see the craziness is out there in full bloom with this particular shopping phenomenon, despite the fact that the reasons for the event are far different.  In November, the stores are all trying to make a buck in advance of the holiday season, and give people are reason to go outside when it is really cloudy and no one wants to leave the house.  But the day after Christmas is a totally different ball of wax.  Remember all that shit that the stores brought in for you to buy on Black Friday?  Well they had to buy it, and you didn't buy all of what they forked over for, so today they are trying to get rid of it all while simultaneously squeezing every available penny out of your pocketbook.  They also know that you just got a check for $50 from your grandmother for the holidays.
     So go out and spend it, because in this case everybody wins.  You get great deals on some shit that you didn't really want in the first place because otherwise you would have bought it sometime in the last month, and they get rid of their surplus inventory that is stacking up in the back.  They make a little extra money and you suddenly have an ice scraper in your garage even though you live in southern Missouri and the ice usually melts the next day.  In this case you get stuff you don't need, instead of on Black Friday when you bought stuff for other people.  But it is just as bad.  'Tis the season.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

     Well it is Christmas morning and we just want to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas.  If you don't celebrate Christmas well then that is just fine.  In that case, please go ahead and disregard the previous salutation and happy whatever it is you celebrate.  All of us here at the Worldwide Headquarters (and that isn't many of us, since this is one of the few holidays in which we let the Unpaid Interns out to see their families or contact the authorities) hope that you are in the process of having a wonderful holiday.  We are just getting ready to sit down to a large, multi-course Christmas feast under the mistletoe and right next to the tree, so we will see you again tomorrow. Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Movies They Should Have Made

     So I am lying here on the couch watching a movie titled Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and it be blunt...terrible.  No wait, super terrible.  But it has sort of inspired me to think of some other awesome Christmas movies that should have been made:

Santa Claus vs. the Devil - Santa fights the Devil with the help of some earnest young children, thereby saving Christmas and putting everyone on his "nice" list.

KISS Saves Santa - This is the movie that Peter Griffin loves to watch in Family Guy, in which KISS saves Santa from some sort of dinosaur.  I sort of wish they would actually make this movie some day.

KISS Saves Santa and the Martians from the Devil - Sort of a hybrid of the three movies that we have already talked about.  Santa has expanded his toy-giving mission to the children of Mars, except he has cleverly chosen for their Christmas Day to fall in late June.  He is there delivering his presents when a terrible race of dinosaurs - angry about being beamed to Mars from Earth by the Martians million of years ago just to be places in zoos - erupts from Olympus Mons and begins to terrorize the whole planet.  KISS comes to the rescue and is able to defeat the evil dinosaurs with nothing more than the power of Gene Simmons' tongue.  They then send in the KISS Army to help rebuild Santa's workshop and manufacture all the toys for the Martian Christmas in one night.

Rush Hour 4: Christmas Rush - Santa teams up with Chris Tucker to defeat the Russian mafia, who are holding Jackie Chan hostage on a monestary island in Kowloon Harbor.  Unlike Tucker, Santa can perfectly understand the words that are coming out of Jackie Chan's mouth.  Tucker shoots people, Jackie Chan uses martial arts, and Santa throws toy soldiers through peoples faces.  He also chokes a guy with the zip cord on his toy sack.

Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods - Set in the late 1930s, Indiana Jones discovers that the body of Christ has been preserved for all eternity deep under a pyramid that rises from a plain in India, which is also Santa's original workshop.  It is being guarded by Nazis intent on exploiting the body by using Jesus' DNA to help purify the Nordic German race.  Tired of years of working at the North Pole, Santa teams up with Indiana Jones to defeat the Nazis by tricking them into not covering their ears when God speaks so their heads explode.  He then gives coal to all of their children.

Field of Dreams 2 - Children build a football field in the middle of a Christmas tree farm because some narrator from upon high has told them that if they build a giant stadium the NFL will award their city the Super Bowl in 2016.  Once they build the basic field, football players from the past begin to emerge from the trees to take part in some sort of ghostly game.  Right before game time Santa arrives in his sleigh to play quaterback for the home team.  He throws for 426 yards, 3 touchdown, and 1 interception, but still needs a last minute drive to win.  Barry Sanders scores the winning touchdown for the home team and when he spikes the ball all the thousands of Christmas trees in the farm around the field instantly become lit with Christmas lights. 

Church of Santatology - Santa and Samuel L. Jackson work together to infiltrate the Church of Scientology and teach all of the celebrities the true meaning of Christmas.  The epic scene occurs at the end when Santa has to defeat the embalmed zombie body of L. Ron Hubbard using nothing but hand-to-hand combat.  He ultimately defeats the zombie Hubbard by stuffing his Santa hat down the zombie's throat then stabbing him with the sharpened femur of zombie Joseph Smith, who has been killed in a vicious knife fight with Samuel L. Jackson.  This film will have to rated R.  For ridiculous.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Lite

     So, Company, I got a phone call from one Officer Butt Hansen the other day, and he acutely informed me that he hadn't heard from any of us here at the Worldwide Headquarters for some time.  A quick check of the facts showed us all that he was - as always - totally correct.  It has been exactly two weeks since we have taken the time out of our busy schedules to sit down and write a little bit of something to you.  And that is just wrong. (This sounds a lot like us apologizing to you two weeks ago, doesn't it?)  Anyway, we were out of commission because of some renovations in the WWHQ, but now we are back, and getting ready for the Christmas season.
       And I am a little worried about the Christmas season, Company.  I really am.  This is going to sound really confused and sort of warped because I have spent so much time railing against Christmas and its commercialization, but this year it seems that people have taken a step back from the overwhelming nature of Christmas, and it is sort of creeping me out.
     I know, I know, I know.  "That's messed up" you are saying, because I am always bitching about Christmas.  But this is one of those situations where I am sort of glad something is missing but it unnerves me.  For instance: Let's just say that since you bought your home your neighbor has had a 1984 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta sitting up on blocks half covered with a sheet on the side of his house.  And over time he has been piling shit on top of it, and you hate it.  It is ugly, it is an eyesore, and you seriously doubt that he is ever going to get it running again because he is too busy drinking Coors Light and watching the NFL Network while eating Buffalo Wings.  So it goes.  Then, one day you came back from a long weekend in the Poconos and it is gone.  You are glad to have it out of your life, but it is a little disconcerting because over the years it sort of became a part of the landscape.  So it's gone and you are happy but it's just a little strange.  Well that is how I am feeling today because there are some usual parts of Christmas that are just sort of missing.
     First of all is the music.  I flipped on the friendly local radio station today that normally is in full Christmas music mode by this time of the year, and they were playing...not Christmas music.  unless you consider "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in your Hair)" Christmas music, which I guess I really don't.  Then I sort of thought about it and I realized that while I was shopping the other day I didn't hear a whole lot in the way of Christmas music either.  I was wandering around Kohl's and they were playing their usual strange pup music.  Nothing Christmas-y at all, and to be honest there wasn't a lot of Christmas stuff represented in the store at all beyond the tons and tons of employees working checkouts and the wrapping paper display in the middle of an isle.
Unfortunately this type of display seems to be rare this
year - thank God.
     The other thing that seems to me to be missing are Christmas lights.  Yeah, Christmas lights.  Our town put up its usual Christmas lights display back around Halloween time, and some of the other smaller towns have their decorations up on the light and flag poles.  But there seems to be a real dearth of Christmas lights on normal, everyday homes.  I understand that every year there are a fair number of homes that have no decoration or anything, and there are still many homes with trees lit up in their windows, but I am sort of used to seeing a few homes with an obnoxoius amount of Christmas lights up and then a lot of homes with small but tasteful displays.  Maybe just a string or two run along the eaves.  Those types of displays are conspicuously absent from the scene this year and I am not sure why.  Especially since we had a rather mild November in this part of the world.
      So what is the deal with all of that?  I know it sounds like I am but I am really not complaining.  Christmas hasn't been oppressive this year like it often is, and it is sort of refreshing.  But it is noticable in its lack of ridiculousness.  I don't know if the state of affairs have people out of the Christmas spirit, or maybe if it just became too much to bear.  I just don't know.  But it is almost like Christmas lite out there, and I kind of like it.  And I hope that you do too.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Sound of Music

      Hello there, Company.  I know that it has been a criminally long time and for that I apologize, but I haven't forgotten about you.  I am here today to talk about musicals.  You know musicals, those plays in which everyone busts out into song at random times.  I always thought that plays were supposed to be about real life situations, but I don't know many real life situations in which people walking around downtown or in a giant office full of cubicles just spontaniously bust into song for no reason.  It is not like the office is going to break into a song-and-dance routine because Becky just went into the office with Mr. Harrison and they closed the doors.  Gossip and heresay is done with whispers, not songs - everybody knows that.
     And then there's Cats.  Thank God that piece of crap isn't around anymore.  That was a musical, right?  And that is super unrealistic too.  I know cats, there are cats in my home, and I can tell you that they don't sing at all.  The one is mostly silent and the other one walks around making sounds like someone plucking a rusty banjo.  Either that or she sort of sounds like the sound board from Super Mario Brothers or something.  But whatever cats sound like, I can assure you that they do not sound like singing and dancing, okay?
     But on to the point.  The point today is that I heard an ad on the radio this morning on my way into the Worldwide Headquarters for A Christmas Story: The Musical and I thought to myself...they will turn anything into a musical these days, won't they?
     Really?  A Christmas Story?  What is with that?  How is that going to work?  How do you sing a song when your tongue is frozen to a flagpole?  That just doesn't work - the word will come out all mumbled and jumbled up.  It is ridiculous.  And the actors will get all sweaty wearing all those winter coats under those hot stage lights.  And how are you going to light the entire stage with just that one leg lamp?  There are all sorts of logistical issues with this.  And I know that lots of people love that movie and that it is a holiday classic, but that is because you can sit bundled up in your house on a cold winter day and watch it on continuous loop on TBS while drinking cocoa.  I am not sure that it would have the same charm if you have to bundle up, scrape the car, drive downtown, go into the theater, be packed in like sardines, pay an arm and a leg, etc. etc. in order to see it.  Some things are loved as classics because they haven't changed in years, and A Christmas Story is one of those things.  At least in my opinion it is.
     One of the friendly local high schools around here did a musical version of the movie Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels and that sort of threw me for a loop.  Out of all the movies made since about 1980 that I had on my list as potential musicals, that was pretty far down there right near Uncle Buck and Schindler's List and Biodome and anything with a Wayans brother in it.  But there it was, with all the characters spelled out and a list of high school kids who were going to be in it (Marilla and Lindsey L and Linsdey M and Heidi and Brittany and Morgan and Cheyenne and Kayla and Rainee and Keedra and Dylan) plain out there for everyone to see.  I almost went to see it just out of sheer morbid curiosity, not so much because I thought it would be good.
      So there it is, apparently somewhere along the way everything went up for grabs and can now be turned into a musical.  Next weekend I am going to see A&P: The Musial about a grocery store and all the foods found there, and Tuesday premiers House: The Musical based on the hit show on Fox.  I bet you didn't even know High Laurie could sing, did you?  And he has to dance with that cane.  Listen, Company and world, here is the deal: Just because Disney and now Fox has successfully turned high school into a series of musicals, doesn't mean everything works.  Or maybe it does.  Rocky: The Musical comes out next month. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Annviersary of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor

     Today is the 70th Anniversary of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, which was THE defining event of that generation.  For those of you who are a little younger and reading this, it would be to them what 9/11 has become for us.  The folks who were stationed in that tropical paradise in the early morning hours of December 7, 1941 had no idea the hell that was about to descend upon them, and even when the invading planes were picked up on radar they failed to identify them for what they really were.  And even as the first bombs began to drop, I am sure that on one in the immediate vicinity realized where the events of that day would lead the nation.
     What was born of that day, that place, and that event, aside from the ravages of World War II, were countless and unbelieveable acts of heroism and selflessness, many that have been documented over the years, and many that were known only to those involved.  And so even though every year the group that gathers to remember on at the memorial that is perched on top of the USS Arizona gets a little smaller and a little older, the significance of the event does not and should not ever fade.  Take a moment today to reflect on what it must have been like, and to honor those who gave their lives in that very first of the battles of one of the greatest wars of all time.  Happy Anniversary to Pearl Harbor, and thank you to all those who were there.