How Santa Works Now – A Brief History

There is a man who lives in the frozen arctic north.

Despite all reports regarding shrinking polar ice, his home remains standing in one of the most remote places on Earth.  Literally, no one – aside from he and his immediate associates – have ever traveled there.  It exists in a place which is scientifically proven to be the farthest point from civilization, above water, on the planet.

Originally, this man lived in a village far south of his current domicile.  During the early winter – the darkest days of the year – he would cheer people up by bringing hand-fashioned toys for the children and necessities for those with more responsibilities.  His tradition was beloved by the public and he was a very giving man.  His philosophy was that he should share the warmth in his heart with others in order to make the winter that much more bearable.

Seeing his success in the small snowy village, he thought about expanding his operation.  He used his sleigh and some of the indigenous reindeer to deliver his heart-warming goods to other nearby areas to help them through those dark, cold times.  As his delivery radius grew year after year, he found himself in need of help.  He recruited the people of his home village to help him fashion toys and gifts, enough that everyone in his region would get one thing they needed or wanted to help cure the winter blues.  He was himself a jack-of-all-trades but, by teaching his workers the basics, they became masters of their own.

As his workforce grew and his range continued to expand, he found himself creating a grand design.  If he could bring this kind of cheer to one region of the world, why not bring it to the entire world?  It remained a pipe dream until one night he spoke of his ambitions to one of the village elders.  The elder revealed that he was familiar with the Ars Arcanum of the older world and that there were ancient incantations which could help him achieve his goals.

Through the use of forgotten ley lines, the elder and the man cast a spell found in a dusty grimoire which would re-position their village to a hidden place of power – this most remote part of the world, away from the prying eyes of the ever-advancing world of man.  A place where their use of this magic could remain secret.  Their intentions were noble and they knew if any of these powers got into the wrong hands, they would be misused.

They enchanted his sleigh next.  As the distance was now vast between his home and those to whom he brought cheer, it made sense that his conveyance should fly.  The trick to the spell, however, was that the sleigh would need constant forward momentum in order to stay aloft, which meant the work of his already famous reindeer would continue.

With his village and workforce now operating in secret and the ability to range further than ever, he began to visit every village he could on the night of December 25th.  The cheer he brought helped to retain the magic he had been granted.  His gift giving was close to a holiday mentioned in the grimoire but far enough away to allay suspicion of any true magic being used.  It wasn’t until much later during the Reformation that this would, coincidentally, be officially recognized as the birthday of Jesus and therefore named Christmas.  That is another story altogether.

Though his range was larger than it had ever been, he still felt it wasn’t enough.  There were people out there who were in need.  There were those who required something to sustain them through the frigid winter to come.

He and the elder enchanted more sleighs.  They gathered more reindeer.  They trained some of the burlier men in his employ (he being a mountain of one himself) in his gifting procedures.  They broke the world up into regions for his self-made doppelgangers.

Over time, these gift-givers grew their own style, name, and reputation based on their region.  None of them would ever top the original who, despite having accrued quite an burgeoning empire over the years, still made his own rounds personally.  The idea of gift-giving grew so much that people began giving each other gifts and creating their own winter cheer.  His idea was spreading.  The time of year became the season for giving.

He liked this so much that he decided to add a bit more mystique to his routine and that of his compatriots.  They would only come while people were sleeping.  They could continue to give gifts, but their visits would no longer be the center of attention.  The holiday he had fashioned would become about celebration with family and friends – togetherness in the face of the bleak season to come – rather than concentrating on the arrival of him or one of his lieutenants.

Time pressed on and population expanded.  Considering the workload and the facts, he decided that adults were providing their own cheer through togetherness and the gifts they gave to each other.  He decided to turn his efforts fully to children and the village, which had now become nearly a factory, switched exclusively to toy production.

This was done for a secondary reason, as described by the grimoire.  While the magical energies of a younger world put the spells in place, belief in those magics was what kept them empowered.  Adults, with a more concrete and cynical view on the world, had no time for what came to be told as legends or fairy tales.  If he could retain the belief of at least the children – more powerful in its nature due to their innocence – he could continue his operation indefinitely.

This was important as he came to rely on magic.  An enchantment kept his camp hidden.  Spells kept himself, his workers, and his lieutenants from aging.  He possessed flying sleighs and what would become known by fantasy gamers everywhere as the original bag of holding.  Unless he was able to pay the upkeep through belief, everything he treasured would fall apart.

The legends used to spread belief in he and his cause began to homogenize and pool together.  He was starting to be recognized as one man with different names who circled the globe in one night, giving presents to all who deserved them.  Building on this, he decided to make his lieutenants a bit more uniform.  Belief would remain strong if it was in one entity.  He had no personal thirst for power or worship, it was done only to retain a strong belief in what he and his compatriots were doing.

As the centuries pushed on, things grew more difficult.  More lieutenants were required.  Different magics were scavenged from the grimoire allowing the gift-givers to enter through tight open spaces, mostly chimneys or other ventilation systems, to get where they needed to be.  These were feats of individual magic, however, and tended to exhaust the user.  Rumor was spread of this (and it spread fast), sparking a tradition of milk and cookies being left as a snack along with the occasional carrot for the well-known reindeer.

The legends continued to unify and eventually the most recognized name given to what was still believed to be the solitary gift-giver was Santa Claus.  The visage of the original had been seen and passed down through the ages for so long that, in the early decades of the 20th century, it was brought into prominence by a rather ambitious soft drink company via their advertisements.  This put belief at an all-time high.

This was both a blessing and a curse for the gift-givers.  They were now busier than ever.  Consumerism was kicking in.  Children were no longer happy with handcrafted toys and they wanted things which, logistically, couldn’t be made at Santa’s factory.  Things made from plastic and cardboard.  Things with motorization and circuitry and, eventually, advanced electronics.  Much to the dismay of the big man, if he wanted to maintain belief, he would have to buy into it.

He sent some of his best off to college to learn about marketing techniques and trend tracking among other business acumen.  His staff, once expert craftsmen, were being moved from manufacturing to import/export.  The icy village in the middle of nowhere became a business hub, the grimoire continuing to provide all the magic they needed to gain access to phone lines and internet connections without the need of bringing in people from the outside.  They would buy the toys they needed to meet demand.

Santa himself became less like the foreman of the holiday and more like the CEO of an idea.

He had since given up his personal sleigh route.  Mechanical forms of propulsion were now powering technologically upgraded sleighs bearing his trusted lieutenant.  They flew out at Christmas in droves of thousands, continuing his legacy.  His job was now an executive position.

Years prior, he had taken advantage of part of his legend created by his adoring public: the naughty/nice theorem.  While he originally felt that everyone should get something at Christmas, he could see the point parents were making by invoking his name to bring their children to order.  As all the other work was being done by his subordinates, he decided to make it a real thing and started a new department of his operation.

He didn’t use the ancient magics to accomplish this.  Instead, he created a spy network which rivals any currently in the world today.  His representatives are everywhere.  They watch the entire year.  A report is eventually given off to the Naughty/Nice Department for evaluation with Santa himself handling the cases under heaviest dispute.  The NND tends to keep their paperwork off his desk as much as possible, but there are some cases which require his personal touch.  He trusts his staff to make the right decisions most of the time.  After all, they’ve been with him for centuries thanks to magic.

He also trusts his marketing staff to do the right thing.  They’ve not been wrong once in targeting the hot toy of the season.  They use a combination of trend analytics and department store Santas (their ear to the ground) to make their determination.  They give an annual presentation to the big man himself, send the results to acquisitions, and they order as many units as they can,  To this day, this is how children wind up getting that impossible gift – the one that is constantly out of stock.

Sure, sometimes their parents battle it out with other people to get the last one on the shelf and lose yet, somehow, one still winds up under the tree.  This is thanks to the NND.  Upon naughty/nice determination, the NND can inform the warehouse who then places an item and contacts the parents regarding a pickup.

Strangely, these “it-toys” can be recursive.  Once acquisitions places a huge order before the season, it can cause a massive shortage in that particular item and, through media – both traditional and social – can cause a run on the market making Santa first the cause and then the solution of the big toy rush.  This is easily overlooked and forgiven as the warehouse is always emptied of the “it-toys” by the end of the season and the manufacturing backlash always guarantees that the kids who didn’t get a pass from the NND will get one after the holidays.

Perhaps the most interesting transition that has occurred within the last thirty or so years is that neither Santa nor his lieutenants make personal deliveries anymore.  With the advent of security devices and the rise in home defense, it was safer to allow himself to become a legend rather than remain a fact.  He and his staff continue to reinforce the myth with random acts of holiday magic here and there, just to let the world know that he is still around.  He leaves the spread of belief and the true perpetuation of his legacy up to parents.  Sometimes they don’t realize how real he actually is.  Still, every year he mounts up on his old-fashioned reindeer-driven sleigh and makes a few laps around the world.  You might spot him if you look closely.  When you’re the figurehead of an operation this big that has been going on for as long as it has, you have to make at least one real appearance.

In closing, remember the big man this Christmas.  He may have ancient magic at his disposal, but he can’t give you world peace or any other conceptual gift, as much as he would like to.  Ask him for something tactile, though, and chances are he’ll either make one available to someone you know or he’ll find a way to get you one himself.  Belief is down more and more every year and he needs that to keep things going so he’s willing to overlook the fact that you are a 35 year-old looking for a NES Retro (please help, Santa!) in exchange for a little extra help in the magic department.

You may not see him in person, kids, but that’s just because he has a pretty big corporation to run.

Also, if you’re looking for a couple of signed first editions under your tree, I know a guy.

The Dangers of Camping

May 21, 2011 passed just like the majority of the waking world thought it would: uneventfully.

Sure, there were events. There was a relatively harmless earthquake somewhere between Fiji and New Zealand. The Grungelfjordel Volcano (not the actual name, but close) in Iceland blows its stack with the potential to grind European air commerce to a halt, just like when the Sprungenfrugel Volcano (again, not the actual name) erupted not too long ago.

People were born, people died, but no more than usual.

The only thing odd about this particular day was that it was being marked by a particular Christian cult as the Day of Judgement. The Rapture. TEOTWAWKI.

Never mind the fact that this prediction set the internet ablaze with everything from cautious speculation to appalled anger to outright (and rather hysterical) mocking. I’m sure if you’re reading my blog, you knew that this was hanging out in the zeitgeist for much longer than just the week leading up to the big day. However, within that week, Harold Camping’s Rapture prediction finally got real press coverage enough for people with the proper access to start asking the proper questions; the questions I wanted to see answered before The Rapture became (and, pardon the emo-hipster term) too mainstream.

I first heard about the prediction months ago from my absolute favorite “news” aggregator, The Daily What. However, there was no information beyond the few web-capable followers of Harold Camping’s Family Radio, proclaiming that their fearless leader was 100% right, that they had followed his math, and that the Kingdom of God was, indeed, at hand.
Of course, hand-in-hand with these sites, obviously designed to trick the weak into thinking that there were more people than just the crazy Family Radio crowd who thought shit was going belly-up, there were the angry detractor sites. However, neither set of sites presented any facts. At least, not the facts that only a credentialed journalist would have the ability to dig up.

With baited breath, I waited until this week. I wanted to see what the kook-in-charge was up to behind closed doors.

I devoured articles from every conceivable source. A few, particularly from reputable Christian-specific news sites such as the Christian Science Monitor, angrily spewed vitriol back at Harold Camping’s Fun House, oft quoting the books of Mark and Matthew from the bible, giving an immediate counter to the mostly-bs-but-as-yet-unproven prediction, protecting their respective flocks from possibly being influenced by what more than one minister called “a dangerous man”.

How, I thought in something of a state of gullibility, could Harold Camping really be considered dangerous? Dude’s an 89 year-old living somewhere in California and all he’s doing is talking. If he’s wrong, he’s not dangerous. He wasn’t preaching any sort of mass suicide, he was just saying that The Rapture was coming. He didn’t seem like the type to be able to perpetrate it on his own, unless Family Radio was harboring some sort of uber-right-wing Christian version of al Qaeda.

No, it wasn’t until later in the week, when the knee-jerk Christian-based reactionaries sloughed off and the mainstream media started picking up steam that the real danger was revealed.

Articles interviewing Camping’s street preacher squads, which had amassed in most major cities in America, began to surface.

Stories of people leaving their homes, selling all of their worldly possessions, dumping off all of their money (some with very sizable donations to Family Radio, I might add), planning to have nothing left in the bank by precisely 6PM on May 21…

One particular story about a family – husband, wife, two kids – really jumped out at me. The parents had quit their jobs and uprooted everyone to NYC so that they could hit the streets, pamphlets and placards in hand, to “warn” the general public of their impending doom.
The kids, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with their crazy parents, citing them as an embarrassment. I sympathized. No one wants crazy parents when they’re in high school. The next complaint, however, from the elder of the siblings, really bothered me.

“My parents have stopped saving for college,” to paraphrase, “I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

My rant for the side of Mike Rowe and the oversaturation of secondary education is a topic for another day, however, I suddenly felt truly bad for these kids. Their parents had been lead like sheep right off the deep end. They had put the future of their family into something beyond jeopardy.

They weren’t the only ones. Another husband/wife tandem were dealing with the issue that they were pregnant, the wife described in tears as she thought about the fact that she would never get to know her baby as, once she ascended into heaven, she would cease to be pregnant. Not to mention the fact that the couple spent every penny they had, donating to the Family Radio cause through advertising and pamphlets. I mean, why buy baby food, or diapers, or a crib when the Rapture is coming? Wouldn’t you rather dump all of your money because some stupid old man pulled the wool over your eyes?

Camping’s followers, the ones who were mislead enough to drop everything they owned, will fall quickly into the welfare state. You can bet that Mr. Camping won’t be handing out refunds any time soon. These people made charitable donations to a non-profit religious organization to the tune of $120 Million or more. That’s not counting the people who didn’t think there was time enough to process a donation and went right out, spending their own money on everything from pamphlets to billboards to giant message-bearing RVs.

Yes, this is their bad. Yes, they might actually learn a very harsh lesson about stupidity from this. Yes, I almost have enough schadenfreude in me to point and bellow out a great big belly laugh at all the stupid people who now have to go about life disappointed; let down by the fact that Their Personal Lord and Savior did not descend from the clouds to take them away from the misery of a mortal existence. Some of these people didn’t have it that bad before all of this. Now, having quit their jobs for insane cultish reasons, they’re probably not going to get them back. They probably won’t be able to buy back that house after they dropped all they owned, planning to have that perfectly zeroed out bank account by the time Jesus would be taking them home.

I legitimately feel bad for the people in their families who are affected by this. The kids. The spouses. The “non-believers” who would have probably been left behind, according to their standards. For the thousands of Camping’s followers, the worst question follows a day like May 21: “What now?”

Camping has, just today, made a statement saying pretty much nothing. He’s been quoted as “flabbergasted” that the Rapture didn’t occur per his calculations. Family Radio’s website has lost all traces of May 21 reference and now looks only slightly less zealous. The jokes are getting stale and I’m soon all of this will, within two weeks or less, be just another busted meme in internet history.

Social networking and viral media are what Harold Camping used to panic thousands of his followers and, I’m sure, to convert hundreds more as that day drew closer. We have seen internet hoaxes before, but none so tangible and, as most of the legit Christian clergy have said, dangerous. Dangerous to the people who believed it, anyway. This should serve as a warning to the world of the true dangers of social media and the sort of panic that can be induced, even among a small portion of the populous, by one person who speaks with conviction and has a good PR team out there generating internet buzz.

Hopefully, if there’s one lesson these people can take from this instance, it would be that just because it’s on the internet – just because multiple websites make it look good – doesn’t mean that it’s true.

I suppose, to his people, Harold Camping may have been right. Instead of being taken in the Rapture, however, his people were, indeed, left behind to suffer on Earth. With no money, no jobs, and no homes, I’m sure that this is just the beginning of the real tribulation for the broken and disillusioned cultists of Family Radio.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Battle of Olympus: Vancouver 2010 Wrap-Up

The curtain has fallen over the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and I suddenly feel like my world is going to be emptier for it.

The Olympics, be they summer or winter, do so much more for the world than just bringing young athletes together to compete on the grandest stage of them all. They do more than elevating normal people to the pinnacle of sports stardom or bringing the well-known-in-the-sport competitor to the lime light for a brief moment, allowing them to get recognized for their obscure athletic pursuits.
For two weeks, I was wrapped up in the stories of the people involved, whether they were American, Canadian, Chinese, Japanese-defected-to-Russian, Canadian-defected-to-Australian or one of the many winter sports-dominating Nordic nations. For two weeks, it didn’t matter what was on TV. I was watching the Olympics. It didn’t even matter what event was on (though I did take a powder to crush Bioshock 2 while the Men’s Short and Long-Program Figure Skating was shown), I was watching. From curling to biathlon, nothing was too obscure for me to watch with intent.
The human interest stories which make the Olympics somehow more real than the modern world of the big ticket professional sports are part of the big draw for me. Also, the sort of one-and-done thrill of victory/agony of defeat thing does it. Every time someone jumps off the ramp in the moguls, your heart stands still waiting for them to land of beef it. Every time someone came around the Georgia Death Curve in the Luge or the 50/50 turn in the Bobsled, you wonder if they’re going to lose control. Every time a figure skater goes for that triple toe loop, you are held in suspense to see if they can land it.
Normally, none of these sports would concern me. But, because of the prestige of Olympic gold, I was drawn to it. All of those moments were tense ones because, if you were watching, you knew that one tiny mistake, one fall, one spill, one false move, and it was all over. There were no second chances. There were no do-overs. An athlete could potentially get their revenge at a World Cup of whatever their event was, but it would never replace their failure at the Olympics. True redemption is four long years away. Too long for some who may be too old or may not qualify next time.
I understand the plight of the US Men’s Hockey Team taking a crushing defeat on a soft goal off the stick of Pittsburgh’s own Sidney Crosby in overtime. I understand the sour taste in their mouths as the representative from the Olympic Committee put the silver around their neck and shook their hands. I understand why Ryan Miller cried like a baby, even as he was named MVP of the Tournament. It took four long years to get to this point and it will be four long years before there is another chance to gain that gold.
The US hockey team should take heart, though, considering many sports writers and hockey aficionados didn’t even expect them into the medal round and had no idea that they would be the tournament’s number-one seed. It stings to lose in the finals (especially to lose in overtime in the finals) but, in the Olympics unlike any other sporting event, you are always recognized for second and even third place. There is no runner-up Stanley Cup or Lombardi Trophy. The only reward given to prove that you made it all the way to the end before losing are conference trophies which, usually, are not touched, hoisted, carried, or kept. Olympic Medals, even those not made of gold, are forever.
It may be a “kick in the groin”, as Brian Burke (GM of the US team) put it, to go home with a silver medal after assembling possibly the best US hockey team in years, built out of the vast NHL roster of American-born players. Such is the agony of defeat. Someone in that game had to go home with the silver. Though they were two evenly-matched teams supported by outstanding goaltending, there could only be a happy ending for one country.

The thing is, when I went to work the next day, there was still a buzz about the previous night’s game. People who I know to actively dislike hockey were talking about what happened in that game before the pomp and circumstance of the Closing Ceremony. They remarked, as I did, of the pained expressions on the faces of the Americans. They talked about what a hard fought battle it was within the last five minutes and got goosebumps just as I did when referring to Zach Parise’s tying goal with less than thirty seconds left. What a game, what a moment. I’m sure once the sourness is rinsed from their mind, the US team will realize as a whole that they just participated in one of the greatest hockey games on record.

Over the Olympic span, I found myself talking about more obscure sports that I would never watch with people who I know are generally not interested in sports.
The Olympics are a different thing from the pro-sports spectacle. They have the ability to unite the world in discussion more than the best Super Bowl or World Series or Stanley Cup Final. Even if you’re not necessarily patriotic, you can still watch in amazement as athletes from all over the world, some of whom are, three out of four years, average Joes who spend their free time honing their skill in speed skating or shot-putting or cross-country skiing combined with rifle shooting. Summer, winter, doesn’t matter.
There are Olympians who are probably doing the same jobs as you right now, somewhere in the world. You may not know them to see them, but they’re out there. They may be gold medal winners but you won’t recognize them on the street. Not every sport gets their own Wheaties box for recognition. Somewhere, there’s a dude who won a gold medal in skeleton or pole vaulting and is back to being a wage slave just like you and me. I think that’s my favorite part of the whole deal.
There is a human angle to the Olympics that there isn’t in professional sports. These are not unapproachable Gods or media juggernauts. These are not people who are eating in unimaginably expensive restaurants or sitting in the VIP area of the club. These are probably people who would be right behind you at the end of the line on the wrong side of the velvet rope. Except, that is, for the “dream team” sports. Even then, if there’s one pro on a team of college kids and amateurs, that pro is providing these people with a taste of what it’s like in the bigs. Unless they’re a douche. I’m looking at you, Jaromir and Alex.
Real people play here. Real dedication is seen here. Stories were abound of first-time Olympians sleeping in the family car with their parents so that they could afford to train. Competing on this stage should, on it’s own, be an incredible thing. But, there must be no taste sweeter than gold. To know that the hours and hours of dedication to one thing could officially make you the best in the world, even if it’s by one hundredth of a second or point-zero-one points from the judges, must be the greatest feeling in the world.

At this point in my flabby, smoke-filled, and under-exercised life, the only way I’m going to make it in to the Olympics is if I can get really good at Curling over the next four years.

I’m forming a team. Sochi, here I come. Who’s with me?

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

This Post Blocked for Your Protection

Most of my day job is spent talking on the phone.

Occasionally, as with most phone calls, I get put on hold while I wait for people to get their shit together (I’m a ninja like that. People never expect a scheduled phone call to happen on time.).
Today, I happened to be sitting on hold and the client’s phone system was apparently jacked into right-wing ultra-conservative talk radio.
During my few moments waiting for them to get said shit together, I heard what sounded like a helicopter mom screaming about the internet. Apparently, this retard wrote a book about internet safety for kids. While I can’t really be opposed to internet safety for kids, it was the screaming, belligerent, paranoid attitude about her which really turned me on this woman. With the cautionary tone in which she spoke, you would have thought that every website in the universe was showing live abortions in streaming video.
“9 out of 10 kids will find pornography just while researching their homework!” the crazy bitch screamed.
Really? Really. So, 9 out of 10 kids looking up Abraham Lincoln will find the Abe Lincoln Cosplay Porn Extravaganza website? You know, the one where him and Grant double-team General Lee’s wife? Can they legally call it an Eiffel Tower if there was no actual Eiffel Tower yet? Maybe the kid should write a paper on that instead.

Sigh. Deep breaths, Bidula, deep breaths.

People, please. The internet may be for porn, according to Avenue Q, but seriously, not every single word in the English vocabulary is going to hit on thousands of porn sites before you get any kind of tangible, usable results.
Helicopter parents need to realize that people in the world, generally, are not that evil. There aren’t people out there linking porn sites to random search terms hoping that some fourth grader doing a report on photosynthesis is going to wind up looking at a gigantic cock. Now, if they’re doing a report on, say… I dunno… “Why I Love Megan Fox”, they’re going to turn up a lot more risqué coverage than tame biography.
If 9 out of 10 children are finding porn when they’re doing their homework, then 9 out of 10 parents better check in to whatever the fuck 9 out of 10 teachers are asking those 9 out of 10 children to look up on the internet. Either that, or 9 out of 10 parents should hide their downloaded porn for mommy-daddy time somewhere other than a folder on the desk top marked “Adults Only”. If that’s even the case for 1out of 10 parents, then 9 out of 10 parents think their kids are either completely brain dead or delusionally well-behaved.

“We have to take a stand against the internet,” she screamed, “We have to fight back!”
Yes. Let’s.
Let’s fight back against the first amendment, nay, let’s fight back against the world’s right to free speech, not just America’s. Let’s make this whole country like Singapore or China or North Korea, where the internet is watched over carefully by government employees and policed for anything which could potentially cause social deviance. I’m sure that limiting access to the global flow of information would sure as hell make it easier for me to sleep at night. Knowing that my civil liberties are being kept in a jar on someone’s mantle, far out of reach from me, is just like some cookies and a glass of warm milk, don’t you agree?
Exactly how the fuck are you going to fight the internet? Sure, buy a blocking program and install it if you don’t want your kids peeking at boobies and the like. That’s a parent’s prerogative. You don’t want your kids chatting with crazy middle-aged men who own a rusty white panel van? Don’t let them chat with strangers. Keep an eye on what they’re doing. WATCH YOUR DAMN CHILDREN INSTEAD OF HOPING THE WORLD WILL WATCH THEM FOR YOU!!!

The internet isn’t to blame. The same as video games, movies, television, music, or books aren’t to blame. Nothing in the pop-culture mainstream is actively working to corrupt your children into some sort of ultra-violent subspecies. Nothing is telling your children to rape and murder and pillage. There are no subliminal mind tricks subverting the status quo.
The world out there is safe, for the most part. By buying into the hype of people like this lady, people are buying into the sensationalism caused by the very media they’re hoping to police. So, this lady is all anti-internet, but what was she pushing along with her book? A website. Hopefully, someone tagged a shit-ton of nudie pics with this lady’s name (didn’t catch it to remember it, just took some short notes on a sticky while I was on hold) so that the first thing which pops up when you’re looking for her “expert” testimony on internet safety, the first thing that pops up is a giant floppy cock.

I realized, going over my back catalogue of blog entries, that I hadn’t done a really angry rant in a while. I do some of my best comedic writing when I do it. I’m actually glad I found something to get mad about. Yeah. This was a good workout.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Rise and Fall of the Great Pumpkin

This year, we had an insanely dismal turnout for Trick or Treating.

Two years ago, we bought two giant bags of candy and wound up going through a bag-and-a-half of it without giving much more than one or two pieces to each kid.
This year, we bought the same two bags of candy, expecting an onslaught. We got nothing. Rather than handing out a bag-and-a-half of candy, we are now sitting on a bag-and-a-half of candy. That was while being generous toward the end and just throwing small handfuls into kids bags.

I’m starting to wonder if Halloween is slowly dying.

While there are a bunch of us who keep the spirit alive, now grown into adulthood and certainly anxious to see our small babies and yet unborn children able to put on some fancy duds, be someone/thing else for the night, and collect a king’s ransom of candy. For some reason, this time-honored practice seems largely to be lost on this generation’s youth.
Yeah, we had trick-or-treaters. Yeah, most of them were young. Yeah, they all seemed to appreciate it and understood what was going on. It just seemed like there were so few of them. Like, aside from the colder weather, there was something holding them back. Parents, possibly. Lack of interest, maybe. Who knows?
We topped out at, conservatively speaking, 30 kids. At least one of my friends confessed only seeing 2. Some, from what I’ve heard, saw none at all.

If this bothers you or even scares you as much as it does me, especially if you’re a parent, then you’re not the people I’m talking about. Matter of fact, I’ve seen some incredible costumes this year, some of them in facebook pics. Tiny dinosaurs, little pumpkins, and even one particularly badass Danger Mouse costume which I appreciated the most, because it means that you’re teaching your children about what’s good. I’m talking to the people who are crazy.

I’m thinking that, as the paranoia of parenting grows, so must be the restrictions on trick-or-treating. Especially if the kid is of the age where he wants to separate from parents and walk on his own or with friends. Thoughts of abduction and poison candy sit at the top of their mind and simmer and, rather than let their kid out to play, they lock the doors and make sure that the porch light is off. Wouldn’t want the kid to see some of their friends outside having a good time and collecting tons of delicious candy for simply putting on a costume and taking a door-to-door route.

Another part of it would probably go along with the whole obesity “epidemic” which is “plaguing” the young.
You wouldn’t want to put the temptation of a giant pile of candy in front of a child. Especially not when he could get gigantically fat, or already is gigantically fat, or you’re worried about kids making fun of him because he’s fat.
I empathize to an extent. I’m fat and old now. Once, I was young and relatively thin. At least, when I was at prime trick-or-treating age. Did I devour my stash whole? No, I was regulated to one (maybe two) pieces a night by my mother in addition to one (maybe two) pieces packed in my lunch that day. My Halloween candy lasted until Christmas at least, Easter if it was a good enough haul. She kept the stash hidden from me so she could regulate my intake, as any good parent should. Candy wasn’t used as a pacifier back then the way it is now. Kids weren’t fat unless it was genetic.
Oh, and I was not poisoned, by the way. Never even found one razor blade or dirty syringe in my treat bag.

There is a contingent out there who thinks they’re fighting the candy plague. I know this because they manufacture things for them.
While shopping for candy at Costco, I came across a “pencil and notebook 60 pc. trick-or-treat pack”. Disney Princess variety.
Yeah, you hand out that crap, your shit is getting egged. Candy, man. Candy is what it’s all about.
We went out to find our treats Halloween morning. I spotted a bag of mixed goodies. Snickers, Milky Way, Crunch Bar, M&Ms (regular and peanut), Kit Kat, and, of course, the much-revered Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The bag cost a fair penny.
Success, for me, was measured in Reese’s Cups. The more Reese’s Cups you collected, the better your run must have been. That’s why I always buy assortments which include them.

Aside from the fat problem and the poison candy problem, I guess there’s the abduction problem. This, of course, has an easy solution. Walk with your damn kid if you don’t feel comfortable.
If you’re going to restrain your child from their costumed rights because you’re afraid some crazy perv is going to pull a snatch-and-grab, either on the street or at a house, that’s bullshit. Get up off your lazy ass or be a half-an-hour late to your Halloween Party and walk with your kid. No matter what your kid says, it’s not embarrassing. You can lag far enough behind on the sidewalk that your kid will forget you’re there.

If it’s a weather issue, bundle them up. Under or over the costume, doesn’t matter. It doesn’t negate the point if you wind up being in a jacket. Take the flasher approach and show people what’s under the jacket when you get to the door so that you can prove you’re in costume. Walk with an umbrella.
Just let the kids get out there. Put them in costumes and let them see how cool it is to wear a mask and trawl for candy. Halloween is one of the fun holidays. No pretension, no bullshit, no dinner with the family, just fun. Holding your kids back from this for any reason may leave a small scar, enough to get them to resent Halloween. When they’re your age, they may wind up being one of those houses whose porch light doesn’t come on when the fire siren sounds. They may feel all humbug about it and decline participation, making it that much worse for everyone else.

Don’t let them lose Halloween.

Oh, and, incidentally, get creative. Try to make something instead of buying it from the bag. Some of the best costumes are clever and homemade and usually much more appreciable than the junk they’ll sell you in the Halloween store. Like Danger Mouse.
I wonder if, when I finally have I kid, I can scrounge him up a Count Duckula costume.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Grave Desires

In a strange end to the Summer of Death (RIP Capt. Lou Albano, BTW), the crypt above Marilyn Monroe has gone back on the open market.

After an e-Bay listing resulting in a $4.6 Million high bid whose payment mysteriously fell through, bidding on the spot in the wall will resume at $500,000, starting Oct. 19 and ending Oct. 29.

That’s right, obsessive fans and retarded rich people looking for some form of post-mortem status! You too can be laid to rest above the rotting corpse of a famous superstar like Marilyn Monroe! Not only that, but you’ll be sharing the cemetery with such names as Dean Martin, Rodney Dangerfield, and the recently deceased Farrah Fawcett! Bid early, bid often, and you could be pseudo-famous for being shoved into a marble hole a mere 3 inches of stone, 6 inches of air, and 2 inches of wood away from the decaying body of one of the all-time most beautiful people in Hollywood!
Wonder in amazement as friends who come to visit you spend more time staring at and talking to the graves of the celebrities surrounding you than your actual grave! Sure, they’ll bring you flowers, but you know that really big bouquet is either for Marilyn or Deano or even Jack Lemmon. Be shocked by society as you realize that people you once thought as close to you are merely using your grave as an excuse to enter the cemetery and ogle dozens of dead celebrities!

Or, you could simply do things the way nature intended by doing nothing at all and realizing that YOU’RE DEAD and it doesn’t matter whose corpse you’re layered above in the mausoleum.

Standing next to someone famous doesn’t do anything special for you when you’re alive. I mean, you could say hi to that famous person and maybe even share a brief conversation, handshake, coffee, or whatever depending on the circumstances. In no way does this actually rub anything off on you. Sure, you might experience a sudden burst of popularity among your circle of friends because “oh my God, I shook hands with [celebrity]” or “I was standing behind [celebrity] while I was in line” or “I had this really cool moment with [celebrity]”. People will like it when you tell these stories because it makes you feel like you were there, like you experienced the real person, and it decreases your Bacon number (if anyone still uses that scale of measurement).
If nothing, no secret glowing power or shining halo of righteousness, is bequeathed by a chance meeting with a celebrity while you’re alive, what use is it to be interred above one when you’re dead? You don’t even get the luxury of being able to tell that cool story! If there’s an afterlife, maybe you could brag about being buried above Marilyn Monroe to your friends, but I still very much doubt that she’s going to talk to you in the hereafter. You’re not going to be able to put the ghostly moves on her just because you live (or, rather, remain dead) upstairs from her.

The owner of this crypt thinks that it will “fetch millions of dollars” according to the AP.

Sure, they’re probably right. It’s the ultimate collector’s item. It’s one of a kind and it’s absolutely permanent. The thing is, it won’t go to a collector of Marilyn memorabilia unless they’re a multi-millionaire. Chances are, it will probably go to someone rich who only cares about the status involved. I guess being slabbed over a famous corpse can be more validating for someone with not much more than a gigantic bank account. You know people will at least cruise near your grave because devotees of said celebrities more than likely haunt that place better than any ghost ever could.
It’s patently ridiculous to think that buying this crypt will make the prospective auction winner look like anything other than a flippant asshole. It’s not like they’re vying for some kind of place of honor, even though it may seem to many fame-obsessed people that it’s a Holy Grail of burial sites. It’s a marble slab in a rack full of dead people.
She WAS Marilyn Monroe. She IS mostly skeletal at this point.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking smack on cemeteries or mausoleums or any sort of conventional burial. I’m not even talking smack on the lady who wanted to be buried in her Corvette last week (look it up, she got it). I visit my Grandfather’s grave on as regular a basis as my schedule allows. I respect the dead and all of the customs associated with death in America. I’ve been known to have long conversations with my Grandfather’s headstone, as crazy as that may sound to some people.

My only problem comes with the auctioning of this cut-marble hole just because it happens to be located above someone (in)famous. It’s a random person’s blatant exploitation of someone else’s final resting place. I know, graves and mausoleum sites are considered private property and that they are well within their rights to sell said plot, but that doesn’t make the markup right. If anyone pays more than face value for a vault just because of who they’re being interred near, they should be quickly killed and placed there so they can start appreciating their purchase as soon as possible.
That money could have gone to a better cause rather than paying for your dumb ass to be bereft of life and lying above a rotten starlet.

If you really do want to spend that much money on your burial, hire some bagpipers, make them pour Krys at your wake, and get a master artisan to design your marker to be the most incredibly badass headstone in the entire cemetery.
Personally, I dig the angel collapsed and weeping over the headstone. When I die, I want something with my headstone to inspire an urban legend. Like, if you stare at the headstone that’s a life-sized carving of St. Michael beating down Satan, it looks like it’s moving. If you stare at it at midnight, they come to life and get you… or something.

But, who am I kidding? I can’t die.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

And Taxes

I read an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the other day talking about being a green parent.
I wasn’t reading it out of particular interest. I just happened to be in a position where I was, um, isolated and out of things to read, if you catch my drift.
One of the blurbs I caught in the article called for parents to spend the extra bank and buy an actual wooden crib rather than one made out of wooden composites. The reasoning behind it was that the faux-wood incorporates some sort of degrading something or another that releases a microscopically insignificant amount of a form of formaldehyde gas which can potentially harm the environment and (brace yourself) possibly your baby!!!

Cue the dramatic score.

Every day, something comes out in the news that’s good or bad for you. I realize that I’m certainly not the first to talk about this. I will admit it. In response to a newspaper article like this, I feel it necessary to have my opinion tossed on the pile.

We live in, as Hunter Thompson said, a Kingdom of Fear. It seems like every five minutes, there’s something else to be afraid of in this country stemming largely from the Western philosophy’s deeply instilled fear of death. Were it not for this looming dread, we would largely not care.
The paranoia of our society has some people tilting so hard at those windmills that they wind up walking around wearing surgical masks as if there’s going to be a pandemic-level outbreak at any given moment. These same people also fool themselves into thinking that it’s going to drastically increase their survivability if they wear a surgical mask everywhere they go.
We are so afraid of death that we have teams of scientists working around the clock to figure out the next big thing that could very well kill us all. The History Channel has been running specials pretty much every weekend regarding different methods of apocalypse, all of which end with the utter destruction of humanity with so-called “experts” touting that just about every one of them is right around the corner.

If you ask anyone from the World War II era, and there are quite a few still around, what things were like as far as health concerns, they’ll probably be able to tell you that four out of five doctors preferred Lucky Strike brand cigarettes. Some of the more gruff gentlemen, especially those that served, would tell you that if you smoked those cigarettes with a filter on them, you were a pussy.
We’ve come along way from there to the Truth campaign (which, incidentally, is sponsored by Big Tobacco).

To the modern generation, these old-timers must seem like cavemen.
They ate bacon and unprocessed red meat with reckless abandon, they drank like fish, they smoked like chimneys, their water was not necessarily purified, there were no airbags, they did not use Purel every five seconds, and they absolutely did not fist-bump. Even after all of that, it may shock some people to hear that they have survived. They lived well into their later years, most of them. Sure, some died at 60, but others are now over 90, my grandmother included.
These people are made of iron. Why? Certainly not from being overly careful as to what they ingested. There are some in their 90s who refuse to give up smoking. More power to them, I say. You’re fucking 90. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
I saw an advertisement that came out of the 30s proclaiming jar-kept tapeworms as a miracle diet. Not that this was necessarily a good thing, but this just illustrates how little they cared about what they put into their bodies back then. I’m sure everyone who took up the tapeworm diet was pretty well rotten in the ground before I was even a consideration in the eyes of the universe.

My real point here is this:
Are we, by being overprotective of ourselves due to an overlying fear of death, setting ourselves up for doom? There are enough people in the world who do not realize that washing your hands every five minutes with anti-bacterial soap, or pouring on the Purel after touching any surface, could be contributing to the mutation of dangerous strains of bacteria that may someday overcome these such antiseptic agents. That study is real. Look it up.
Are we, by processing our food and irradiating things to make sure that all we ingest is pure and 100% germ free, setting ourselves up for a plague by weakening our immune system to the common, everyday, here-to-fore disregarded germs we would have normally taken in on a regular basis eating older school food? It already happens when one of us from the world of processed foods (myself included) eats or drinks something considered “organic”. The lack of preservatives and other germ-preventing agents gives me a stomach ache just thinking about it. That’s not a disgust factor, that’s just real. It’s happened to me and it ain’t pretty. If you try to grow an apple tree after the apocalypse (if you happen to be a survivor) expect this pain.

Are we, by taking too many preventative measures against every conceivable cause of death, not just tempting fate to come up with something ultimately more sneaky and horrible with which to kill us all? Stop global warming and you’ll still have to worry about the giant asteroid. Stop the giant asteroid, you’ll have to worry about nuclear holocaust. Create world peace, you’ll wind up back at global warming again.
The more we fight, the more we attempt to preserve ourselves and try to stop the death train, the crazier the causes of death are going to become. Hear me out, here.
Once we get to the point where we can stop the potential world ending scenarios, the peace of mind is going to last a grand total of five minutes before someone else comes up with something to worry about on a global scale.

What’s the conclusion, then?
Stop worrying about dumb shit like what’s in your damn crib. It worked for you and you turned out ok. Your kid should be just fine if you can’t afford the extra hundred or so bones in this fucked up economy. The whatever microscopic gas released from its decomposition will not harm or kill you, your baby, your dog, the spiders that live in the corner of your room, or the ever-present microbes crawling on the rail of the crib itself.
When you die, you will die, and there won’t be much you can do about it. Kick and scream though you might, to die is to die. You can’t really object when it’s your time.
Scary as it sounds, it’s the flattest of all facts. Ben Franklin said the two constants in life are death and taxes. Well, you can dodge taxes forever if you’re smart, but death is completely unavoidable.
I’m not saying it’s a good thing, I’m just saying not to worry about it. Death is sad, yes. Death is scary, yes. But there’s no sense in letting it dominate your life. If all you worry about is injury and sickness and death, you are NEVER going to have a life. Ever.

Sorry to be such a downer on my third entry here, but it’s something I’m passionate about. Bear with me. I only hope to inspire the carpe diem philosophy. I promise, there will be a brighter and more fun entry ASAFP.

Keep fighting the good fight. Until you drop.

—end transmission—