O Christmas Tree!

We have a real Christmas tree every year. It’s a tradition. For both of us here, it brings back Christmas memories going all the way back to early childhood. And some of our ornaments, handed down by grandparents, are older than that.

But in recent years, most people have gone for artificial trees.

Until this year.

This year the word is that the demand for real trees is higher than it’s been for years (https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2020/11/27/christmas-tree-more-americans-flocking-to-fresh-cut-evergreens). In fact, sales reached a new high even before Thanksgiving.

They’re trying to chalk this up to King COVID somehow, but I think the truth is more profound than that. And simpler.

This year, more than other years, we need Christmas. We need the family and the Christmas tree, and we need it all to be real, we need the carols; and above all, we need our Savior, Jesus Christ. We’ve been trying to get buy on fake stuff longer than is good for us. Our souls are starving. We need Christ to be born in us, in our hearts.

We don’t need any more fake nooze, fake elections, fake celebrities, fake science, phony world leaders–we’ve had enough, and we’re choking on it.

We need the Baby in the Manger–and His Father, the God who has blessed everything that is wholesome, sane, and decent.

Memory Lane: The Sears Christmas Catalog

1959 Sears Christmas Book | Christmas books, Christmas catalogs, Vintage  christmas

What kid growing up in the 50s or 60s didn’t love this–the annual Sears, Roebuck Christmas catalog?

I spent hours and hours with these. I mean, come on–what’s better than a day off from school because it’s snowing too hard, curled up on the sitting room couch with the Sears catalog?

Everything was in there! Even guns. But my favorite was the section devoted to assorted play sets–the farm, Cape Canaveral, the circus, dinosaurs, Wild West: wow, they had everything!

Animal World Farm Playset (12 Medium size animals in a bag) - Curious Kids

I do wish I still had some of those rubber-nosed rockets and spring-powered launchers from the Cape Canaveral play set. I still have farm animals, circus animals, and jungle animals–and dinosaurs, of course–from other sets. Reminders of sweet Christmas Past. Priceless now.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen a Sears Christmas catalog. Do they still publish them?

But my box of animals is still here, to bring to mind the people that I loved, and family Christmas at my grandpa’s house, and early, early Christmas morning, and my first sight of the decorated tree, the job my father did after he packed his kids off to sleep…

Memory Lane: Chia Pets

Chia Bull | Chia pet, Garden gifts, Pets

Back in the 1970s, when cable TV was in its infancy, regular broadcast TV was chock-full of commercials for these–Chia Pets. You had these clay figurines and you coated them with Chia seeds, and voila–you had a lamb with a woolly green coat, or some guy with a big green afro.

At least that was what was supposed to happen. We gave one to Grammy and Uncle Bernie for Christmas, but try as they might, they couldn’t get the Chia seeds to sprout. And my mother said, “Oh, well! Nothing ever works for them.” Not entirely fair, I thought: but all they ever got out of it was a bare clay sheep.

I don’t know how many of these were sold, but given the sheer number of commercials, they must have been successful somewhere. Did any of you have Chia Pets that sprouted?

And then the commercials stopped and that was that. Chia Pets are still available online, but it’s hardly the fad it once was.

Imagine if you could accurately predict what was going to become a fad. But who saw the hula hoop coming? Or pet rocks? Or those shoes with springs on them so you could boing-boing down the sidewalk like a kangaroo? Some of my friends had those, but all they got out of them was a series of prat falls.

Pop culture: go figure!

Memory Lane: ‘Astro Boy’

I was shocked to discover that this goofy cartoon, which aired on American TV in 1963-64, is one of the most popular cartoons ever created. There was an Astro Boy book, of 112 chapters, that sold over 100 million copies worldwide. And although it dropped off American TV after 1964, it continued in Japan and is still being expanded to this day.

Astro Boy was a super-robot with human emotions whose job was, according to the theme song, “fighting monsters high in the sky.” I knew a kid in Sunday school who used to sing that theme song at the slightest provocation.

Yeesh, I was in high school when I watched this! Was I really that hard up for entertainment? It had a catchy theme song, though, you’ve got to give ’em that. And you also have to credit Astro Boy with making Japanese manga cartoons popular all over the world.

But I still can’t explain why I watched it.

Memory Lane: Roller Derby

I am aware that roller derby still exists; that indeed it has staged a sort of comeback worldwide, albeit mostly at an amateur level.

Roller Derby and TV grew up together. The first roller derby broadcast was in 1948. It blossomed into a huge hit and a cultural phenomenon. This is hard to explain. The clip will give you some idea of the sublime awfulness of 1950s roller derby. I think the hook was the display of “un-ladylike behavior” at a time when women were expected to be “ladies.” Please don’t ask me to define those terms. I’m just sayin’ I think the contrast was a big selling point for roller derby.

At a friend’s house, his mother and aunt watched roller derby every chance they got, well into the Sixties (even though it had already faded severely and was going quickly out of style). No matter how many times I was exposed to it, the rules of roller derby remained a mystery to me; nor was I ever able to perceive the object of the game. It just looked like a lot of bodies flying around, plus some fisticuffs.

TV survived, but roller derby shrank almost into oblivion–I think because oafish, churlish behavior has become practically an expectation for both men and women. Roller derby can’t compete with an Antifa riot.

For ugliness to have any value, there has to be beauty present, too.

Memory Lane: ‘Zorro’ (1957)

Was this a hit when I was eight years old, or what? Walt Disney’s Zorro–and you can bet there was a whole lot of swordfightin’ goin’ on in our neighborhood!

Now hardly anybody had color TV back then, but we knew from Zorro bubblegum cards that the show was filmed in color. And of course Zorro had a lot of adventures at night, wearing a black mask and cape and riding a black horse–so how much color did you need?

This show generated pulse-pounding excitement among us kids. I don’t think TV shows can generate that kind of excitement anymore. Maybe because there are so many of them. Maybe because Walt Disney’s dead and the company he founded has gone over to the dark side.

Anyhow, Zorro was way cool–and so was his alter ego, Don Diego–and we all wanted to grow up to be like him. And how was that bad?

Memory Lane: The Sandbox

See the source image

Summer has just ended (*sigh*). Something about the quality of the sunshine on this beautiful September Sunday brought me back to playing in the sandbox. We lived next door to the playground, and it was a big sandbox.

Sure, I played in the sandbox when I was a toddler, but I really got into it when I was older. If the sand was a little bit wet from recent rain, you could really go to town with it. Bring along a bag of toy animals, dinosaurs, cowboys, cavemen, army men (of course!), and build the terrain of their adventures. Forts that had to be taken. Pits to be avoided. Mazes that had to be escaped before the Tyrannosaurus ate you. King Arthur’s castle.

Wow, that was fun! So what if we weren’t toddlers anymore? My friends and I had endless fun, putting our soldiers and knights and horses and elephants through one tight spot after another. True, this kind of play required an imagination; but we all had one, back then. Probably because we weren’t constantly spoon-fed “entertainment” that misguided adults thought we should have.

Occasionally we would lose a caveman in the sandbox. Maybe he got lost in a labyrinthine cavern that we never knew was there. I wonder how those lost cavemen made out…

Defending My Thesis

Vikings' Sequel Series Set at Netflix From Michael Hirst, Jeb ...

I may be the only person in America who can say this–but defending my thesis was fun!

Say what? Well, back in college, I was chosen for the Henry Rutgers honors program, which gave me lot of credits but for which I had to produce a thesis–just as if I were going for a master’s degree, or a Ph. D. Spend a whole year researching it, then write it up, present it to the Political Science Dept., and defend it before a panel of professors. And by the way, it was in the age of carbon paper, a technology which many of you have never seen or heard of. But I am not going to get nostalgic for carbon paper.

Now, I had a big advantage over the panel of professors: none of them had any knowledge of the subject! Anytime you can swing that, go for it. My title was “A Systems Analysis of the Viking Age,” featuring the likes of Harald Bluetooth, Eric Bloodaxe, Ragnar Hairy-Pants (I try not to think of Spongebob), and a cast of colorful supporting characters. The professors sat there marveling. Well, we were in New Jersey. People in New Jersey have a certain fascination for men with funny nicknames whose enemies wind up face-down in a landfill.

Once I freely admitted that of course you could study the Viking Age just using plain old history, but that the “systems” part would work very well with history, they’d complement each other–having done that, I was home free. Most of it was me telling Viking stories to the profs. All we needed was beer and pretzels. Everybody had a very pleasant time.

College used to offer experiences like this. It was called scholarship. You didn’t have to worry about pronouns. You didn’t have to be woke.

There is something to be said for scholarship as an end in itself. It can preserve the collectively accumulated knowledge of mankind. Deciding that everybody has to go to college has just about destroyed scholarship, even as it has virtually destroyed the university itself.

Someday we’ll realize what we’ve lost. But I don’t know that we can ever get it back.

‘Memory Lane: One Summer Night’ (2016)

See the source image

Grandma Moses, we need you!

Sometimes I look back on how different things used to be, and can hardly believe I’m still on the same planet.

Memory Lane: One Summer Night

Yes, they had block dances on the school blacktop in the evening. Nothing could be more harmless. The three of us kids watching from the upstairs window. Ray Bradbury got a lot of mileage out of scenes like this. So did Grandma Moses. How wise they were!

Can you imagine such a scene today? It would turn into a riot.

Culture rot has advanced very far indeed.

Memory Lane: ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’

I was surprised yesterday when one of my friends said she’d never heard this song, nor heard of it. Written back in 1928, Big Rock Candy Mountain was a hit song when I was a little boy. The great Burl Ives made it a hit. It was on one of those childrens’ record albums that my mother had for us, and I’ve seen it published in any number of folk songbooks.

True, some of it sounds a lot like Democrat campaign promises. Try to ignore that. And enjoy how beautifully Burl Ives hits the high note.