All Lit Up

We’ve got our Christmas lights up, and they look very nice — so nice, in fact, that one of our neighbors came up to me and thanked us for making the street more festive.

The neighbor asked me if I had put up the lights.  I found this flattering, and funny.  My Christmas light-stringing days are well behind me, and there is no way I would flirt with  disaster and climb up a long ladder to get the lights up to the top of our tall tree.  I told the neighbor, without a hint of personal masculine embarrassment, that we had hired a service to put up the lights and were pleased with the job they had done.

In my book, if you want Christmas lights done right, hire a professional — one covered by the workers compensation laws.

Freedom To Brawl

It’s Black Friday.  Those who are in the grip of Black Friday mania have already been out at the stores for hours, tussling over the electronic gadgets and big screen TVs and kids’ toys that are the staples of Black Friday sales.  If you don’t already have somebody’s grandmother in a headlock in your efforts to get one of the last sale items at Walmart, you’re probably not going to be venturing to the stores today.  And, you’re probably feeling embarrassed about how the whole Black Friday spectacle reflects poorly on those of us who live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

artworks-000452007756-44zv8j-t500x500But, should you be embarrassed, really?  Or, should you, upon careful reflection, realize that Black Friday riots are instead a quintessential expression of American freedoms that, while not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights, are nevertheless core parts of the American experience?

I’m talking about things like freedom to shop for hours.  Freedom to demonstrate unseemly personal greed.  Freedom to make a complete horse’s ass of yourself in a public setting.  Freedom to go deeply into debt on credit cards.  And freedom to spoil your kids rotten with the stuff that you ultimately purchase on Black Friday and then give to them on Christmas.

The Spectator has published a defense of Black Friday brawling.  It provides some interesting information about Black Friday — like how it was invented in Philadelphia and initially called Big Friday before it was rebranded with the same name as a great Steely Dan song, and how there are places where you can actually make wagers on how many people will be killed in Black Friday fracases versus how many people will die in shark attacks.  Hey, why not?  It turns out that, by some counts, you’re more likely to die in a Black Friday fistfight with some turkey and stuffing-stoked Mom in the aisle of an electronics store than in the jaws of a Great White.

This year, instead of shaking my head in disbelief at the antics of crazed shoppers on Black Friday, I’m going to celebrate the mania>  But my personal celebration won’t involve heading out to the stores.  Instead, I’ll revel in the footage of shoppers throwing haymakers as just another thing that makes America great.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Every Thanksgiving, I tend to think of childhood celebrations and family members who are no longer with us.  Uncle Tony, for example, liked the heart and liver that used to come with the turkey (which struck us kids as pretty disgusting, incidentally), so they would be cooked and set out separately for him.  Dad had a cool bone-handled carving set which featured an enormous knife and knife sharpener, which he would scrape together to make sure that the knife was as sharp as possible for the crucial turkey carving step.  And Mom liked to put little wax candles at every place settings — pilgrim boys and girls in their pilgrim garb, and these little wax turkeys, which were my favorite.

I suppose Thanksgiving is all about enjoying family memories.  May you and yours create some fine new memories today!

When Do You Eat?

Most families have their own unique Thanksgiving Day traditions.  Sometimes the traditions come in the form of a special food — like Aunt Sue’s candied yams, or Uncle Frank’s oyster stuffing — but other traditions may involve who gives thanks, who sits in which seat at the table, and who carves the turkey.  One tradition that often differs from family to family is:  when do you eat the primary meal?

us-thanksgiving-me_3510533aI say “primary meal” because, in our household, Thanksgiving Day typically involved pretty much uninterrupted eating, from stem to stern.  There was the initial breakfast period, followed by the light grazing period, the heavy grazing period, the meal itself, and finally the irresistible post-meal, belt-loosened extra piece of pumpkin pie or leftover turkey sandwich while watching the last football game of the day.  So, just to clarify, here I’m talking about the table-groaning meal where you actually sit down together, eat the freshly carved turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and a few rolls, and take a slice of the cranberry relish that still is in the form of a can because somebody has to do it.

In our family the primary Thanksgiving meal came at roughly 4 p.m., depending on whether the turkey was done.  The meal was strategically positioned between the end of the first football game broadcast and when the next game started to get interesting.  At our house, that timing of the meal was so deeply engrained that it never occurred to me that you could eat your Thanksgiving meal in any other time slot.  When I later realized that some people ate at noon, or 2, or (horrors!) 6:30, it was an astonishing revelation.  And I often wondered how you could move the meal and still fit in the other parts of the Thanksgiving Day festivities, like watching the parades, the various grazing periods, the backyard touch football game, and the evening card games.

So, when do you eat?  And if you doubt that the timing of that primary Thanksgiving meal is a tradition, ask yourself why you eat when you do.  If your honest answer is a shrug and the response that you’ve always eaten at that time, that sounds like a family tradition to me.

A Sign Enough

The Third Street Secret Signer has struck again, but this time the resulting message is a bit more cryptic — thanks to some bad luck.

For the first time, the TSSS has used both sides of the bridge, east and west. (The east side, which has no sidewalk, was previously functionally inaccessible because of the constant flow of traffic speeding onto the 70/71 on ramp, but that ramp is now closed.) The east side sign reads “You Are Enough,” which is apparently the title of a recent book for women. On the west side, which is the TSSS’ previously preferred sign-posting location, the TSSS had put a sign reading “You Are Valuable,” but by the time I walked home last night that sign had fallen down and lay crumpled on the sidewalk. I’m hoping the sign was just blown down, rather than being pulled down by some Grinchy jerk who is messing with the public positivity campaign of a Good Samaritan.

Even with the west side sign fall, I’m sure I’m not alone in appreciating another nice gesture by the TSSS. Hopefully s/he will take the remaining sign to heart and realize that their single sign effort is “enough” to give us a holiday boost heading into Thanksgiving.

When Ad Campaigns Go Wrong

There’s a significant and growing methamphetamine problem in South Dakota, and the state is trying to deal with the many issues — crime, death, health care, and others — that are all part of the problem.  As is typical these days, one element of the state’s response is an ad campaign, to raise awareness and let the citizens of South Dakota know that their state government is addressing the crisis.

1515148b-2d9a-4751-b912-b612a4defb48-meth._were_on_it._images_1So, what ad campaign did South Dakota come up with?  One that features the tag line:  “Meth.  We’re on it.”

I’m serious — that’s really the key line in the ad campaign.

Of course, once the campaign appeared, the inevitable jokes started flowing, and South Dakota has become a bit of a laughingstock.  Newspapers in South Dakota have been weighing in on the campaign and resulting public relations debacle, and you can read some of their editorial reactions here and here.  The prevailing view seems to be that while the campaign may have achieved the goal of raising awareness of South Dakota’s meth problem — after all, it’s undoubtedly received far more national publicity than your average, run-of-the-mill “click it or ticket”-type public safety ad campaign — the embarrassment the state is experiencing due to the campaign probably  isn’t worth it.  And there’s the obvious lingering question:  couldn’t somebody in state government have recognized that this kind of reaction to the campaign was bound to happen?

There’s another, deeper question, too — why South Dakota felt that an ad campaign was needed in the first place.  The production of the ads cost $449,000, and when all of the ad spots are purchased, the total cost of the campaign will be about $1.4 million.  That’s a lot of money, and it’s entirely fair to ask whether it should have been spent on an any ad campaign — even a competently created one that didn’t make South Dakota the butt of jokes.  Wouldn’t the money have been far better spent on state programs that are specifically dealing with the meth problem, rather than ads featuring flinty-eyed ranchers and other South Dakotans?

South Dakota’s disastrous ad campaign may have raised awareness of the meth problem in an unexpected way, but maybe it also will raise awareness of the stupidity and waste caused by governmental TV ad campaigns generally.  Maybe the next time an ad campaign is suggested by a state agency in South Dakota or elsewhere, some thoughtful person will remember the “Meth.  We’re on it” flop, nix the ad campaign, and see that the money is spent instead on actually directly addressing the problem in question.