While other people suffer the woes and bristles of a harsh Midwestern U.S. winter—the kind where older people actually expire in the shining, blue-cold elements—we’ve been basking in the warm post–An Inconvenient Truth weather of the carbon emission-rich East Coast. Shirtsleeves and Tevas, ladies and gentlemen—that’s the been the uniform during early morning outdoor calisthenics here in Disquieting Modern Trends Plaza, all done to the live strum of Jimmy Buffett, who we’ve recently hired as our lobby security and corporate greeter, mainly on the condition that he stop writing mystery books set in the Caribbean and featuring thinly cloaked characters who drink many margaritas while unraveling murders.1 The truly wealthy still jet off to St. Bart’s for January, but we just rev the engines of our Hummers a little more if we want to go swimming on a particular January afternoon. 2
But even with the weather queerly toasty, it has been undeniable that we were in the throes of The Holiday Season. Much has been written, of course, about how the Great U.S. Selling Machine starts cranking up for Christmas (via Thanksgiving) pretty much the day after Halloween, with Perry Como decking the halls from mid-November through 12/25, and we’re not here to repeat all that.3Rather, what we’ve been noticing is how the “holiday season” now extends not just further back into the year but out into the new year, virally bleeding toward March like the bird flu that we’ve all forgotten about for a while.
New Year’s Day, of course. Then Martin Luther King’s birthday lurks just a couple weeks around the corner, projecting a general atmosphere of three-day-weekendness. Each weekend offers testosterone-taming playoff football that mesmerizes with excessive consumption of onion dip, nachos and Budweiser, which leads directly to the actual secular Christmas of the year, Super Bowl Sunday—a day on which patriotic folk get themselves a good six-hour dose of Madden/Buck/Aikman/Theisman/Bradshaw/etc., even though the game does not start until well after sundown, causing the barrage of post-S.B. TV show premières to begin in the vicinity of 11 p.m. The point of all which is just to say: Super Bowl Monday might as well be a national holiday for most workers, whether they show up to the office or not, what with the man-hours obviously spent napping, popping aspirins, or just pretending to talk about the commercials in the coffee room.
By the dawn of February, of course, you’re welcome to fix your eyes on a Valentine’s Day date, and then maybe Presidents’ Day for another long weekend. Interspersed with all this are the kinds of celebrations that Americans are best at—awards shows: The Golden Globes on January 15th; The Grammys on February 11th; The Oscars on February 25th. Each event is another reason for partying, betting, drinking, and thinking less well of the great American experiment.
The point being: from October 31 until at least the end of February, the U.S. public is subject to a single gigantic celebration. The mega-holiday we favor. But small details of what increasingly happens during these raging four months of joy—ouch.
The Growing Preponderance of Gift Cards
They’re cute, they’re shiny, they often have funny little pictures on them. And they’re not cash. The gift card is everyone’s favorite solution to the gift-giving problem. But, as everyone now knows, 4 a huge percentage of gift cards are never redeemed. Mainly, it seems, by us. (They’re small, friends. We’re pretty sure we lose most of them before we even leave your house at the end of that holiday party. You might want to check the cushions of your couch.) Folks buy them because: (a) they do not know what to get their friends and family in a world increasingly characterized by immediate gratification of all urges such that no desire goes unfulfilled for more than a week if at all possible, and (b) cash seems too crass and impersonal. But, people, we’re telling you—a couple twenties may not express your intimate connection to what makes us tick, but they do mean that we’re eating, like, five Wendy’s Jalapeño Double Cheddar melts before the week is out.5Talk about some “happy returns.”
The Increasing Mainstreaming of the Golden Globe Award
We think the essential moral / aesthetic bankruptcy of the Golden Globe Awards has been pretty well documented: they’re voted on by about 17 goofballs who write about American movies and TV for papers like The Budapest Sun or Buenos Aires Herald6. But what really gets us is the fact that the G.G.s are now taken super-seriously by everyone except the people who are actually involved. The statues look like they are made of papier-mâché, the venue looks sort of like the ballroom at a Ramada Inn somewhere outside of Pittsburgh, and they don’t even have Bill Conti conducting one of those cool awards show orchestras in the pit. 7 But there it is—in primetime on one of the networks. Then there’s the fact that the Globes are the awards show equivalent of interspecies mating: what with Actual Movie Stars hobnobbing with TV chuckleheads like that My Name Is Earl guy.8 Stick to your own kind, stay with your own kind, Maria. Until the day comes when this unnatural collision of classes produces something startling (we’re thinking, like: Rainn Wilson [Dwight from NBC’s The Office] making out with Angelina Jolie on camera while Brad Pitt is up on stage accepting an award for yet another complicated movie that no one goes to see, set in some foreign land and involving the drug trade or maybe issues of economic development), we’d just as well see our celebrities separated into their appropriate cages like the orangutans and marmosets that they properly are.
The Frightening Collision of Rival New Year’s Eve Shows Now That THE BIG DOG’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve Is Very Nearly (Merely) Mortal
O.K., listen: as much as we’d like to be the kind of people who spend New Year’s Eve on a party ship in the South Pacific with our Monte Carlo–based bankers or dancing naked, champagne-soaked, in Jay-Z’s penthouse suite, the truth is we’re just like you—hanging around some party thrown by a coworker’s brother-in-law, staring at the insufficiently cooled bottles of Korbel and wondering if anyone will notice when we sneak off to the guest room with one all to ourselves. And, ‘fcourse, watching breathless TV coverage of “America’s Greatest Party” in Times Square.9
But just a few years ago, you could watch this dumbass coverage the only way it was meant to be watch—as anchored by America’s Oldest Teenager, the robotic yet cheerfully soulful American Bandstand-erific Dick Clark. As long as Mr. Clark still ruled the night with perfectly coifed hair and a resonant baritone, the other networks dared not challenge him. Who would? But now that Dick has ceded his anchor spot to—?!???—American Idol’s pencil-weenied doofus, Ryan Seacrest, every network is trotting out its own low-def imitation of the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. The pathetic attempts to recreate Dick Clark’s timelessly dated enthusiasm collide in the airwaves like ping-pong balls flying down a bowling lane. The truth remains: Dick Clark continues to have his thumb on the pulse of America’s youth, and we will brook no shit w/r/t him. Respect will be paid—to him, and to Little Richard, and to James Brown above all. 10 Which is why we—more than ever—wanted to just give Ryan Seacrest the biggest wedgie when he headed up to Dick’s booth a little after midnight for what, we are sure, was supposed to be the passing of the mantle. Never has Ryan looked so awkward. Where-oh-where was the glibness, the sure-tongued-ness we assume still must be the D.J.’s stock-in-trade even in this era of digital punch-in? We cringed at his awkward smile and pregnant pause, his refusal to understand what the moment called for: a big hug. Give Dick Clark a hug, Ryan. Thank him for creating the market that has given you a career. Kiss the ring, but more than that: give him a hug. Shed a genuine tear of humility and joy. And say thank you. But NO, he would not render; he was all wooden prose, hollow laughs, and shifty eyes looking for the card that tell him what to do next. For SHAME. We could so do Seacrest’s job. We could do it TONIGHT. Better than him. What a wanker. 11
People Talking About How College Football Bowl System Should Be Different
Here’s how much we know about college football: Thhhhfffffffppppt. Zippy. Conference rivalries, Big Ten, Pac Twelve, who cares? During the holidays, it’s nice to put on The Tube and see some big oafs tossing around the ol’ pigskin. We kinda like those teams where the players have varying numbers of stars or asterisks or whatever on their helmets, kind of like WWII pilots putting checkmarks on their fuselages for every Nip Zero they downed Yeah, man—football is war, and pass us another beer. But listening to people who actually care about this stuff—and listening to them argue about the “B.C.S. System” or about whether Boise State should have gotten a chance to play Ohio State … shoot us now. College football used to be a local concern, the kind of charming sport that no longer existed at the pro level. You had some uncle who always rooted for Notre Dame even though he’d never been to Indiana. But now … . We know it’s too late to stop these “schools” from turning these “student”-athletes into chattel with future knee injuries, but we’ve been hoping to at least not have to care.
And frankly, we see too much interest in college football as kind of unseemly and distracting from the greater gridiron goal: that of watching Tom Brady get that shell-shocked Marine look he had when the Colts were spanking up on the Patriots the other night. THAT was drama. Where the pro game is concerned, We Are Ready For Some Football.
And just in time. See you at the Super Bowl. Go Colts!12
Next Installment: We break down the Super Bowl for you. And we don’t mean the game.