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Posts Tagged ‘materialism’

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It doesn't have to be that way. The choice is all yours.

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Q: What’s 9 miles long and eats turkey?
A:
The line outside Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

*Dodges assorted fruits and vegetables*

Okay, I admit it. I made it up. But, then, I’m no comedian. Keith Deltano, on the other hand, is a comedian, and he puts on a whiz-bang holiday show entitled “I’m Dreaming of a Stress-Free Christmas,” where he “takes on the marketing, promotions, the malls, the parking and the must-have, must-buy gifts….”

Comedy has a way of stripping away the veneer of that which is patently ludicrous, of exposing the silliness for all to see. Like the jester’s wand at a great banquet, it rises above the crowd, showing that grinning jester’s face to all. And there is scarcely any silliness that is not vulnerable to it, including the silliness of pursuing a stress-laden, wholly commercialized Christmas to your own detriment and the detriment of your family, year after year after year…

Check out Keith Deltano’s website and while you’re there, be sure to check out his tips for Simplifying your Christmas.

Take on Christmas with Comedy

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The real Bad Santa

To many individuals, the sentiment expressed in this poster is Christmas. Maybe they dislike it, maybe they resent it, maybe they regret it, maybe they long for something different. Or maybe they buy into it. Both literally and figuratively.

The old saying goes, “Time is money.” It’s not true. Beyond estimation, time is worth more than money. This Christmas and all throughout the year, spend time with those you love. With your wife, your husband, your children, your friends. No gift(s), no matter how lavish, can take the place of that.

And as for love: tell them so. Look them in the eye, and say, “I love you.” Almost nothing says it better than that. Since time immemorial.

Time stand still
I’m not looking back, but I
Want to look around me, now.
Time stand still
See more of the people and the
Places that surround me, now.

Neil Peart, “Time Stand Still”

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A poem, by yours truly:

Black Friday

Alderwood, Thanksgiving midnight,
20,000 came to score.
Maybe half of them wonder
(in retrospect) just what for.
Considering the three-hour checkout
At the Disney store,
And the swell of humanity
Out on the floor.

But it was okay, Black Friday rocks!
She got two hundred pairs of
Men’s tube socks
(and saved 200 dollars).
Then, while lamenting the demise of
Mandarin collars and
Beige Nehru jackets,
She paused, and snacked on
Pop tarts she bought, in
Shiny foil packets.

To Marysville, he drove 60-odd miles.
All indigestion and smiles.
But couldn’t find parking at the regional mall,
Not a spare stall, at all, forgot the
Damned cell phone, to call and complain.
It could have been worse,
There could have been rain.
Better clear and frosty,
To numb the brain.

Look at the tour bus, imagine that!
A Canadian charter, because their dollar is fat.
Fat and fancy, at a-dollar-seven.
All good children go to heaven.
Where’s Kevin?
Dear God – left home alone!
Do you have a dog, and does he bury his bone?
Like a good dog should, and someday I’d like to
Move up to Hollywood.

– R. Dean Brock, 2007

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I’d like to share something with you: for the first 18 years of my life, I went without Christmas. No tree, no presents, no Christmas dinner. Nada, zip, zero.

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness – a profoundly repressive religion which doesn’t observe Christmas, or any other “worldly” holidays, secular or otherwise. To a child, this can be deeply damaging, because one grows up with a sense of being excluded, of not belonging, of being cheated.

There are, however, certain things that even the most repressive religion can’t always control. Thoughts, for example, or stopping the neighbor from putting up Christmas lights, or preventing the local television station from running the old Alistair Sims “A Christmas Carol,” over and over.

Accordingly, the only parts of Christmas that were available to me were sights, sounds, and smells. Brightly colored lights on the darkest days of the year. The smell of freshly cut trees outside the grocery store. The smell of a hollyberry candle burning in a local shop. The sound of Christmas music on the radio. And now I realize that these things still mean the most to me, although it took years to come to that epiphany.

I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses upon becoming a legal adult, and suddenly Christmas was open to me. Several years later I married into a family which made a very big deal about Christmas – on the same material level that drives people to rise in the wee hours after Thanksgiving Day and endure a shopping crush, amongst the swell of humanity….

Below is the sight at the Alderwood Mall, last night, at midnight. 20,000 people, all vying for the best buys; trying to get their kid the proverbial “GI Joe with the Kung-Fu Grip,” which Eddie Murphy spoke of in the movie Trading Places.

Look at them. Shoulder to shoulder, strangers, all.

Alderwood Mall, Midnight, Thanksgiving 2007

Photo credit: KOMO TV

I divorced nearly a decade ago, and examining Christmas, in retrospect, it was simply a kind of hell I endured every year, even as I tried to do things to make it better – ostensibly “more enjoyable.” My wife’s family actually gave each other long lists of the presents they wanted, and not only did they have expensive tastes, but they sulked if they didn’t get exactly what they wanted. One year I decided to bypass the bread machine someone wanted, knowing that she would use it once and then it would gather dust in her garage.

Boy, was that ever a mistake – it was the iciest Christmas table ever I sat at.

So, the following year, she got her bread machine, and I rushed around in a painful frenzy of buying, watching the checking account shrink and the credit card climb higher. In the end, she-who-coveted-the-bread-machine was happy that year, even though I wasn’t, and exactly as I had surmised, she used the bread-machine once, and after that it gathered dust in her garage. In fact, I think it was ruined in a river flood.

This is a scene that gets repeated across the nation every Christmas. And I’ve got to ask: why do we do this to ourselves? I knew an old German woman who reminisced about how all she got for Christmas was long underwear, an orange, and if she was lucky, a dolly. How material things were hard to come by in those days, and so Christmas was, for the most part, about experiences. This story is pretty much the same, historically, no matter what ethnicity you query, so, how did we get here, from there?

“Experiences” is the key word. In the past few years I’ve realized why Christmas felt so empty to me, for so long, even though I had pined away for it, growing up without it. Back when Christmas was denied me, all I had were the sights, sounds, smells, and stories of Christmas. And I grew to love them.

When I was married, I think Christmas died for me at a very specific moment, and after that I quit trying to “make it better.” It was Christmas Eve, and the whole family was gathered at our house to celebrate. After the meal, and exchanging gifts, I had decided that a neat thing to do would be to read my young niece and nephew The Polar Express. I was about two pages into it, when an old Aunt, a chatterbox and gossip who simply cannot be silent, said:

“Why are we doing this?”

But circumstances can change, and people can change. Probably not the old aunt: I saw her recently, and she was the oldest, tiredest thing I’ve ever seen, with a permanent frown line etched deeply into her face. However, I’ve realized in the last few years, that for me, Christmas can change. It doesn’t have to be about that orgiastic frenzy of present-shopping and opening, with none of the orgiastic payoff, except perhaps the post-orgy blues and a hefty credit card payment.

But to change anything, you almost always have to do something.

This applies to you who reads this, whoever you might be, unless you happen to be perfectly happy with things the way they are (or if you pretend to be). If you want to change things for the better, you have to do something, or it’s going to play out just like last year. I speak from experience.

Have a Merry Christmas!

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