Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Post-Christmas Post: Cancel My Subscription to Christmas, Please

I remember when The Polar Express first came out. I was in Elementary school, probably 5th grade, maybe earlier. It won the Caldecott Medal Award in 1986, was a New York Times Best Seller as well as Best Illustrated Book of the Year.
It’s the story of a boy who begins to doubt Santa’s existence, boards a magical train to the North Pole, thrilling ride and adventure ensues, meets up with Claus, and reason to believe as well as the power of magic is instilled once again in the heart of the boy.

This great book was made into a rather disappointing movie years later, in 2004. I sat down to watch it recently. I had two thoughts: First, this sort of animation is bizarre. Kind of creepy, and the kids, well, they look like something is…well…you know, wrong with them. But maybe that’s just me.

Then I thought: What to do about Christmas? Should I continue to subscribe to it for the sake of my child, even though I have long since relinquished my personal subscription? Should I tell her about the abundantly Caucasian Santa Claus, as portrayed in The Polar Express and generally everywhere else?

I’d like to cancel my subscription entirely, though I would like, also, to think I am not that jaded.

I suppose I burned out on Christmas and all that goes with it years ago. Rightly so: between the rise of severe commercialism/consumerism and the 72 hour continuous showing of A Christmas Story on TNT with NO COMMERCIALS one year, I just had it. I was done with Christmas; done with the plethora of movies- The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? No thanks. It’s A Wonderful Life? No way. Home for the Holidays? Well, maybe.
Let’s not forget the year I saw all the characters from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a childhood holiday favorite, joyfully displayed in a department store: The Dentist action figures, plush Abominable Snowman toys. All of this shone as a shameful act of exploitation in my mind. There, in the department store, was a part of my childhood for sale.
I was done with the decorations-No Christmas tree, no Christmas lights, holly, boughs, creepy Santa Gnomes, reindeer antlers, etc, etc, etc. Not that I ever had a Santa Gnome….
The food, well, that stayed intact as the Christmas Dinner. That’s just too good to pass up. So were the presents-in moderation of course.
Oh, and the religious meaning behind it? Done with that too, in fact, never was into that aspect from the beginning.

It is reported by the NRF (National Retail Federation) in 2005 U.S. citizens spent $438.6 Billion on the holiday season, in the months of November and December alone. In just two months. This includes presents, cards, creepy Santa gnomes, Christmas trees, lights, and other Christmas paraphernalia. Amazing. For that amount, you could live in a fairly posh hotel for a year with room service and other amenities. You could go on a cruise, first class, around the world. You could probably even fly into space for that, these days.
Some people just gotta have their Santa gnomes.

So, here comes the question round again: What to Do about Christmas? Still shun commercialism and move towards Winter Solstice (the holiday that Christianity took over) as we have been doing for the past couple years now?
What about Santa? And Candy Canes?

I think I will introduce Santa Claus to my daughter. For a reason as simple as this: kids need that sort of magic in their lives. They need to believe there is power in magic. Besides, why instill such disbelief and cynical tendencies at a young age when they will have to deal with that later as they get older? Why take it away when there are fairies and elves to have tea with?

However, I still feel the need to shun commercialism and pack up most of the Christmas movies. I could settle for a tree with lovely lights. But please, let’s not go crazy with the decorations.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Bigger, Better, Faster




It's the American Way. We are the epitome of all three. It's part of our culture and becoming part of the world's culture (some parts of it, anyway).

Not everything needs to be bigger, better and faster.
Sometimes it's okay to be a little bit smaller, just as good and slower. You know, like eating-smaller portions, and taking your time to eat, slowly.
Taking the time to observe life-this does not require bigger, better or faster types of anything.
Besides, if you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chick-Lit and Mommy-Lit

Chick Lit: The Sequel, NYT

From Media Bistro

"My feeling about my own work is, I could be writing 'The Aeneid' and they would still have to call it chick lit or mommy lit or menopausal old hag lit," said Jennifer Weiner. "Crone lit - is that what's coming next?" Well, it sounds about as good as AARP lit, I suppose...

She has a good point.

Everything is a marketing strategy these days. Women and Mothers are now clumped into the somewhat unattractive group of 'Chick-and Mommy-Lit'. It, really, is almost another way to discredit the wisdom and words of Motherhood and, just generally, being a woman.

Yeah, I write stuff that is Mother-related, stuff that would probably be considered Chick and Mommy Lit. I don't write it because I know it'll be a good 'marketing strategy'. I write it because it's part of my life and you write what you know. Just as many other Mothers and women do, and have done, through the years: write what you know.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What I'm Reading These Days

I have taken to catching up on Poetry magazine's entire collection from 2006 lately. Just love that mag. They're having a great holiday sale on subscriptions, too-1/2 price-goody, goody.

Also, The Mother Trip, Ariel Gore
Collected Poems, Sylvia Plath and-
Anne Sexton, Self-Portrait In Letters

Friday, December 08, 2006

TRUCE: Toy Action Guide, 2006-7

The 2006-7 Toy Action Guide is up from TRUCE. Go check it out! Always an excellent resource.

Interesting (in a mild use of the word) that Sesame Street's Sesame Beginnings DVD Series is on the 'Toys to Avoid' list. (See the previous post I did about Sesame Street recently)

Happy to see, too, that Bratz product is on that list as well as LeapFrog and Baby Einstein.
I must say, though, Baby Einstein seemed like a good idea in the beginning, but it seems to be going the way of Disney. Not to mention, it got a little bit creepier as time went on, and the fact that there is something terribly wrong with marketing to babies (under a year, 18 months) that sort of stuff.

They also have the updated Media Violence and Children Guide.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Discovery of a Poet

I discovered Wislawa Szymborska awhile back-4 or 5 years ago. I love how she writes. I love her wit, irony and humor. I, somewhat recently, purchased her book of poems, new and collected, published back in '98. It's always interesting (to me, anyway) to see how a poet has evolved her craft in a collected edition spanning, in this case, four decades. A couple that caught my eye were "In Praise of Dreams" and "A Medieval Miniature".

Really, nobody(as a random reader) wants to hear about a random person and what they dreamed the other night. But, everything lies in the language with this poem. Not to mention humor and familiarity. A few favorite lines from "In Praise of Dreams":

I speak fluent Greek
and not just with the living.

A few years ago
I saw two suns.

Readers Are Dead

I found this via Kenyon Review blog.

"I don't think the novel is dead. I think readers are dead." Gore Vidal

Interesting, and true, I think.

Monday, December 04, 2006

What The Hell Happened To Sesame Street?

I may begin to sound 'old' here, so skip if you want, or not. Whatever.

I'm not sure what to think about Sesame Street these days.

What's Seth Green Doing on Sesame Street ?

ELMO. The Girl hates elmo. She won't tolerate elmo. At ALL. Telly looks like he's developed a crack habit. It's more screechy than I remember, definitely, in comparison to those old VHS tapes. I mean, the whole Elmo sketch alone is longer than it needs to be, too flashy. Although, I guess it reflects the times we live in.

The Girl loves the show-from the 70's/80's. There is a slew of old Sesame Street VHS tapes at the library that we check out on a regular basis. In love with it.
The new/recent Sesame Street has been on (and off) since we got cable. Mostly off.

Just saying- Sesame Street, for me, has gone down the tubes with its loud, screechy, flashy ways. Which is just too bad. I don't know, seems as if it all started with Jim Henson's death. (Much respect to him).