The Dark Underbelly Of The Elf On A Shelf

Millions of American households with young children have an “elf on a shelf.”  As explained to me — because the elf didn’t become popular until well after Richard and Russell were out of their childhood years — the elf is a little figure that changes its position from time to time and moves from room to room, supposedly so he can keep an eye on things and report back to Santa Claus on whether the kids of the family are being naughty or nice.

Now a Canadian professor contends that there is more to the “elf on a shelf” than meets the eye.  Rather than an innocent yet tangible expression of the power of belief in Santa Claus, she contends that the “elf on a shelf” conditions children to uncritically accept existing power structures and norms and to get used to lack of privacy and being spied upon.

So . . . even if that questionable theory is true, what’s wrong with that?  Speaking as a parent, I wanted our kids to accept the existing power structure — namely, that Kish and I got to call the tune in the Webner household — and to think that if they were doing something bad, it would be discovered and reported.  Fortunately, our kids were little angels at all times.

Of course, the combination of Christmas and spying goes back to well before the “elf on a shelf” first made his appearance.  Santa Claus, of course, knows if you’ve been naughty or nice — so he’s not only spying on your kids, but he’s also judging them.  If we’re worried about the impact of naughty/nice spying on children’s psyches, maybe we also should ask what gives Santa the right to judge our kids?  Obviously, a guy who smokes a pipe, wears real furs, and has a gut that shakes “like a bowl full of jelly” when he laughs is not living a perfect, healthy, blameless lifestyle, so why should he be deciding whether a little kid is abiding by accepted societal norms?

Maybe there’s a deep, dark underbelly here — or maybe professors at the University of Toronto Institute of Technology need to relax and realize that kids trying desperately to control their inner demons for a few weeks each December in order to maximize their presents is part of the magic of the holiday season.

That Delightful Ramshackle Quality

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There’s lots to like about the Caribbean. The sun is hot, the native beers are cold, and the people are warm and friendly.

But one of the things I like the most is the ramshackle, what-the-hell approach to life that seems to be found throughout the islands. Consider this colorful derelict boat that looks like it met the same fate as the SS Minnow. It appears to have been at this location forever — and the location is a prime spot of waterfront right next to a hotel.

Well . . . why the hell not? It’s as good a place as any to store a boat that is falling apart. Say, do you know if that beachfront place has Banks on ice?

Back From The Bakery

Every year, the Ohio State roundballers may as well start out playing in a bakery, because their opponents typically are cupcakes as far as the eye can see.  The Buckeyes work out the kinks, figure out what kind of rotation they might use, and beat the living snot out of the directional schools, the acronym schools, and the schools with “St.” in their name.

IMG_3322All of that ends, though, when Ohio State plays in the annual Big Ten-ACC challenge.  Then, the Buckeyes play a real, live, major conference foe, often on the road, and don’t win just because they have better athletes.  Then, finally, the Buckeyes need to run an effective offense, need to close the passing lanes and keep their hands up on defense, and need to protect the ball when they are coming up-court.

This year the abrupt change from cupcake-land to ball-busting opponent is even more pronounced than normal, because Ohio State has drawn Louisville in the Big Ten-ACC challenge.  Wait a minute, you say — Louisville in the ACC?  You’re right, it’s weird — but not as weird as Maryland, a founding member of the ACC, competing in the Big Ten-ACC challenge for the Big Ten.

Anyway, this will be a very tough game for the Buckeyes.  Ohio State starts three seniors, but they really are fielding a young team that consists largely of freshman.  The newbies have never played in an atmosphere like Louisville — much less faced the kind of withering pressure the Cardinals typically bring to bear.  And while the Buckeyes have played ten deep, what kind of depth do they have, really, when they are matched up against other elite players who will try to run them ragged?

I don’t know how Ohio State will fare when the tip occurs at 9:30 tonight, but I do know this:  I’m glad to see the Buckeyes play a tough team that will challenge them for the whole 40 minutes.  This is the kind of game that will serve Ohio State well when the young Buckeyes go on the road in the always-tough Big Ten.  If the Buckeyes can represent and bring home a win for the Big Ten, so much the better.

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

I’ve always gone au naturel.  I figure the rest of the pack is entitled to see me in all my glory as I stretch out on the carpet, and I don’t want to be hindered by any dumb clothing when I go outside to do my business, either.

IMG_3685Kasey is different.  She is just a little, shivery dog.  When the weather is cold she hates to go outside.  The cold doesn’t bother me, but Kasey starts trembling in the cold air like a dog in an earthquake.

The Leader noticed this.  The Leader always does.  So the Leader went and got Kasey a coat, just like the ones the Leader and the old boring guy wear when they go outside during the winter.  Kasey likes it, and it seems to keep her warm.  At least, she doesn’t shiver as much as she used to.

I’m happy for Kasey, but that doesn’t mean I want to start wearing clothes.  I look good just the way I am, and when I go outside in the buff it stimulates my appetite.  Which reminds me — I am hungry!