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Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

Random Christmas

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2012 at 10:21 pm

While this final week of working retail in the Christmas shopping season was a triumph of efficient execution by me and my co-workers, it still has me wrung out. I’ve begun my mornings with migraines almost every day this week, including today. So, instead of one coherent piece, here’s a bunch of random thoughts.

  • To get a sense of what it feels like to work retail during the Christmas shopping season, it’s very much like this Jonathon Coulton song but with fewer robots.
  • If you’re worried that last week’s apocalypse didn’t happen, don’t worry there’s another one predicted for May 19 of next year, although it’s just a rescheduling of one that didn’t happen last year. See last week’s blog and click the link in the body of the text for more info.
  • With the way we bring attention to prophesied apocalypses, I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually becomes a rotating holiday where we look forward to celebrating the end of the world. It would involve mostly dancing, partying, telling the people you love that you love them, indulging all the things that make us feel good about being alive, and feeling happy to have, yet again, avoided ultimate destruction.
  • But the thing that most people forgot about on Friday was that it wasn’t just the end of the Mayan calendar, but it was also Winter Solstice. It was the darkest day of the year. The pagans celebrated this day because  the days wouldn’t get any darker and the sun would now slowly return to us.  It’s widely believed early Christians co-opted the pagan celebrations around this time to commemorate the birth of Jesus. Whether it’s Solstice, Christmas, or failed Apocalypse, the celebration is about being happy that we’re still here.
  • Christmas film & special recommendations: Scrooge, a movie musical version of A Christmas Carol with Albert Finney as Scrooge and Alec Guinness as Marley’s ghost. It’s my favorite version of the story on screen. It has some wonderfully dark moments, some of which are intensely cynical, including Scrooge’s song “I Hate People”, and a scene of Scrooge in Hell being fitted with his chains.
  • Highly recommended Christmas Double feature: two classics directed by Bob Clark: A Christmas Story and Black Christmas. One is about the holiday season affects the deranged thoughts of a bitter soul and the other’s about a serial killer. Sort of a joke. People who haven’t seen Christmas Story in a while think it’s sentimental nostalgia, but, really, it’s anti-nostalgia. It’s about looking at all the crappy stuff that happened to you as a kid and laughing about it.

Next year, I’m going to see if I can convince my friends and family to not buy gifts for each otherand, instead, take the money we would have spent on gifts and give it to charity. There are people in the world who need help more than we need presents.

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Apocalyptic Thinking

In The Time Travel Project on December 17, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Time Travel Project Introduction

Dear younger version of myself,

I’ve come across 2 journal entries you wrote for Cheryl LaFlamme’s 8th Grade English class.

On September 18, 1984, you wrote:

“I think by the year 2004 there will probably be passenger flights on the Space Shuttle. I’ll be 33 then. We’ll have gone through 5 presidents also. I have terrible visions of the future. Overcrowding, wars, inflation, food shortages, fuel shortages and other not so pleasant things happening.”

(I remember that this last line was inspired by an HBO special I saw about the predictions of Nostradamus narrated by Orson Welles. Supposedly the psychic predicted all these things occurring and it terrified me that a horrendous cataclysm would occur within my lifetime. The “other not so pleasant things” involved cannibalism.)

And on October 9, 1984 you wrote:

“Buck did not read the newspapers or he would have known that there was trouble brewing. He walked outside and 7 creeps jumped him and took all of his clothes and threw a grenade at his house and it caught on fire. Then the school bully beat him up and blowtorched the entire city. Battered, bruised, and naked, he thought nothing else could happen. Just then the atom bomb went off. And if Buck had read the paper none of this would have happened. What a bummer!”

I know that the October journal write is meant to just be absurd, probably inspired by Douglas Adams, but it definitely demonstrates apocalyptic thinking. And while the September entry starts straightforward enough, it rapidly concludes with a concern over an inevitable global disaster. For what it’s worth, you were born into a culture that was obsessed with the idea of the end of the world. However, please, please, please, quit this habit. Rest assured that global catastrophe does not occur in 2004. Only your prediction that we’d go through 5 presidents is accurate.

I remember your fear about what would happen to you after graduation. In your more morose moments you became depressed feeling there was no point to school, or in finding work and starting a career, if the world was going to end in a few years. But it didn’t. We’re still here. Horrible tragedies have happened and continue to happen, but the world and its inhabitants are still here. I think that’s the nature of life. Tragedies occur and we wonder how we can possibly go on. But the wonder of it all is not how but that we do go on. It’s inevitable.

I write this to you now because a few days ago a violent tragedy occurred in Connecticut and this Friday it is predicted that the world will end. I’m writing to let you know that there is nothing to fret over. Since 1984 there have been over 40 predicted apocalypses that did not happen. Humans have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of the world. Go here and see list of absurd predictions.

However, I’m not just telling you that you should feel assured because The Apocalypse is a myth. I’m also here to tell you that apocalypses happen all the time and we live through them. I’m talking about the one’s we don’t predict, that don’t happen on a global scale but are still devastating to a school, a city, a family, a single relationship. We can and do live through this and I think that’s pretty miraculous.

So do not fret about the future. We can’t predict what will happen and even when the horrible stuff shows up, we will live through it.  Instead, live in the present with hope.

Panic in the Streets (or Shops Anyway)

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I can’t stop looking at goofy internet videos. A solid hour of clips of Conan O’Brien interviews, another of comedian Grace Helbig making a fool of herself over several clips (Crap, I just wasted another 15 minutes making sure her I spelled her name correctly and started watching more videos), and then about a half-hour just looking at whatever was in my YouTube subscription box that I hadn’t watched yet.

I am certain that I am viewing these entertaining but mindless distractions as a way to decompress from my week of stress over Christmas shopping – not my Christmas shopping – NO, everyone else’s Christmas shopping.

This is the 17th holiday shopping season I have worked in retail. I work in a bookstore and I consider myself a member of a noble, if possibly dying, profession.  I tell myself every year it isn’t really that stressful. Every year I tell myself it is hype and exaggeration, that the customers are actually quite nice and rarely argumentative, that I have the best gig amongst retail employees. Most of that is entirely true. It’s seldom rudeness or anger that is ever the problem. I have realized that the problem is customer panic.

Customers, in an attempt to rush through a shopping list as quickly as possible, will spray you with a fire hose of questions and requests, hoping you will snap to and jump to their aid immediately. I do not have a problem with this. I am in customer service. I am there to serve.  However, I can only fulfill one request at a time and sometimes I need more information from the customer in order to accurately find what they are looking for. For example, I’ll be bombarded with a list of book titles without authors or knowledge of the books’ genres. So, in order to give the best service I can, I need to diminish the force of pressure coursing through the customer’s information hose. Otherwise, I can’t swallow what they’re aiming at me without drowning. For example, there’s a reason why I’m asking if “The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing” is fiction or non-fiction. If I don’t know what genre something is, I could point the customer to the wrong book – and surprise, there’s a novel with that title. Also, the computer inventory can only give me information as quickly as it can process it, not as quickly as the customer asks for it. 

The problem is, it doesn’t matter how much information I can absorb or disperse. The customer still has a specific number of gift recipients they are shopping for and only so many hours to shop within. These are constants. And as a result they are not yet ready to leave their state of panic. To do so would mean to slow down and that’s not acceptable.  So, in an attempt to maintain rapport, I unconsciously end up in a state of panic with them.  They see I’m panicking and this just makes them panic further. We’re in a never-ending panic loop which stretches both of our capacities and drains us rather quickly. The difference is, the customer gets to leave. I have to deal immediately with another customer and start to loop over.

The solution to consumer panic, though, seems more offensive to most shoppers than enduring the stress this panic causes. Whenever shops try to increase the holiday shopping season, everyone cries fowl, yelling about rabid consumerism or sacrilege. “Christmas decorations in November? That should be against the law!” shoppers scream. And while there is undeniably a capitalist motive, is it really a crime to remind you that the inevitable holiday shopping season is coming, a shopping season that you will most likely participate in regardless of your emotional, economic, political, or religious stance? Wouldn’t it be better to be reminded early, get your shopping done early, and avoid the stress and hassle of consumer panic? This year, I answer with a resounding Yes! But it’s too late. The panic has already started and now all I can do is remember to breathe and ride it out hoping that next year it will somehow get better. That is if the world doesn’t end in a week or so.

No Blog, but Doctor Who essay

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2012 at 1:25 am

No blog this week. I am slowly adding content to the rest of the site, scouring hard drives, cabinet files, and publications that contain work that might best showcase my writing talent. So today I point you to the new entry on my Essay page within the Writing Archive titled Doctor Who: Outsider Hero, a piece I wrote in 2004 about the nature of my fandom for the classic BBC sci-fi series and my identification with its main hero when I was growing up.

Next week I plan to have an actual, real blog post up.