Thursday, November 27, 2008

"It Ought to Be a Law to Start Christmas Before December"

Watch CBS Videos Online

I am very much a traditionalist--I like my holidays to have the same foods and rituals as they always have, with no interlopers, no drastic alterations. But recently I've wondered why the meanings surrounding these holidays have increasingly meant little to me.

I cannot remember the last time I had real holiday spirit. I try to get into it every year, and occasionally there's a glimpse, but I feel it's been sucked out of me just by the relentless commercialism. Like Easter in March, I find Christmas before December--even early December--distasteful. It's just too soon. Christmas becomes all about presents--what do you want? What does everyone else what? When will you have time to get it? Is it too much? Ahh! Enough with the hassle! Rarely does anything seem worth it; even with the best of intentions it's just another check on a list. I tend to think of the best gifts in March for people who have birthdays in October, and of course I have no clue by the time December rolls around. I should just get gifts whenever I think of them.

Presents, like many of the things surrounding Christmas, have become oppressive. The saccharine, omnipresent music that only passes muster because of the season, the constant wonderings of what to buy, what to wear, what to give obscure nearly any meaning attached to what makes the holidays special and just makes it a month to get through.

Dragging out Christmas only intensifies the antipathy. Instead of eager anticipation, the days become merely rote, banal—plain ol’ January, February or March, another dark winter day with tacky decorations and music. Thanksgiving is a holiday that gets bypassed between Halloween and Thanksgiving, lumped in as another food-heavy day that dieters should be careful of. The decorations are warmer, the break a respite. Christmas is all-empowering, suffocation.

I hate being asked what I want for Christmas. I hate not being surprised, and going, “Yep, that’s exactly what I said,” because I rarely truly, truly want something, and even then it’s usually not material goods. I want people, as silly and unrealistic as it sounds, to just know that I like something and get it for me, because they know I’d never buy it for myself. I want Christmas to feel special again, to make it really exciting and worth looking forward to, instead of just another chore.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quote of the Day

“What Valerie developed is the art of telling people to go to hell and making them look forward to the trip,” said Mr. Jordan, who advised his wife’s cousin throughout the campaign.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Television and Happiness

I miss television.

And yet, I don’t.

I miss the passion of watching television, of interacting in a community that cares and loves its television.

I hear all the time that I care too much about “stupid” stuff—the stuff no one else thinks about. But I seriously doubt that most people I come in contact with spend their days thinking about ways to reverse the economic crisis, how to eradicate poverty or to lessen our grip on gasoline on any wide-ranging scale. They worry about their own petty concerns, about boyfriends and girlfriends and their annoying neighbor or boss.

And then they come home and pass out in front of the television.

A study came out in Social Indicators Research that happy people tend to not watch a lot of TV. They’re too busy socializing to watch television.

Now, socializing and television go together like milk and cookies: they complement each other nicely, but one is not necessary for the other to be enjoyed. Truth is, often when socializing with television the television eventually fades into the background, overtaken by thoughts of the show or just general topics.

There was a recent study that purported that churchgoers tend to be happier than atheists or agnostics, and a lot of that is based around the church community. Church communities are powerful forces, and a comparable network for those who are not into religion doesn’t really exist. Many people hide their true religious feelings to be part of the fold of a church community.

Happiness, for many people, also derives from a passion, a purpose to life, also filled with good friends (and I’d add, good books and good food). A church community often has these things in abundance (well, minus the good food).

So why do unhappy people watch more TV? A few theories:

1) TV is easy. Socializing with others takes effort, time and work. Sometimes, it’s just hard to schedule it in. Sometimes people, even your friends, are annoying. But television is always there, waiting for you to pick up the remote. It’s the path of least resistance. TV can be on in the background while cleaning, getting dressed, or eating.

2) Because it lends itself so easily to these properties, unhappy people can easily drown out their unhappiness by lounging in front of the TV, absorbed in a story or documentary. There’s always something on, even if it’s not remotely interesting.

3) It’s a cycle. Watch a lot of television, eat a lot, gain weight, feel like crap = not seeing friends because you feel like crap, so stay in and watch more television.

4) When there are other options, TV usually loses. Especially now that we can catch many things online, if we have the opportunity to go to a bar with friends, go to the gym, or just hang out with others, sitting alone in your room watching TV just doesn’t seem that much fun. You can catch up on it later.

I’ve always been of the mind that if you watch too much TV, you have too much time on your hands. (Yet, curiously, I have never applied that same logic to the Internet/computers. Probably because you can do so much more online.) It's far too easy in this world to be insular, especially now that we can conceivably meet all our needs without ever leaving the house (as was showcased in a recent episode of House). We need connection to live. That's something that television tells us far too often; we're just usually not paying attention.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Watch Now

Even I think they're adorable:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Please don't miss Andy Rooney's segment at the end on the death of newspapers. It's why I've always vastly preferred print journalism to any of the schlock of TV news.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We could have elected a pin-up model...

My favorite fact on this list: He applied to appear in a black pin-up calendar while at Harvard but was rejected by the all-female committee.


Thursday, November 6, 2008


Obama was very good for the media.

Many newspapers sold out yesterday. My parents emailed me late in the afternoon asking if I could get a copy of the Times, since my dad was unable to find any in Manhattan. It never even occurred to me that this would happen, though it seems so obvious.

Though I knew it was a long shot, I drove around my neighborhood for an hour, stopping in several convenience stores, delis, drugstores, even a Shop-Rite and a Starbucks. A few Daily Newses and Records, but picked clean. I was told that by early morning everything was gone. Felled by fatigue and hunger, I returned home with the Record
and the Daily News
in hand.

I get chided for keeping so many newspapers and magazines, but they really are great (and cheap) mementos. Most of the keepsakes from my trip to Europe this summer were publications in other languages. Why buy an overpriced shot glass that was made in China anyway when you can get an authentic piece of the moment? I looked at all the magazines strewn on my floor before I went to bed Tuesday night, knowing Obama won, and I knew they were history now--all the speculation, all the wonder, it was answered affirmatively. They were no longer current.

Here's the Times' simple cover:

(The Newseum's site has images of practically every newspaper in the world.)