Thursday, December 23, 2010

Clear and Present Damon: Its the most wonderful time of the year?: Part 2

Didn't Thanksgiving go by fast? Oh well, now its time to break out the Christmas lights and deck the halls because Christmastime is here again.

But it seems like more and more as the years go by, this holiday becomes more and more commercial and less and less secular. So an appropriate place to begin this column is where it all began in the little town of Bethlehem. But how do we know that Jesus was actually born in December. Actually, nobody knows at what exact time of the year when he was born, but to adhere to pagan winter solstice celebrations across the world, the church decided it was the appropriate time to put the savoirs birthday at this time. After all, there were no other holidays in that timeslot yet(besides Chaunakah, but thats another story).

Christmas was a widely adopted as a secular holiday by the Catholic church, but not all Christmas festivities were religous. Christmas festivities across Europe involved drinking and dancing, a lot of citizens went about the streets drinking and the church thought it was getting out of hand. Surprisingly, this is where we get many of our festive Christmas carols from. And you thought Christmas wasn't a big drinking holiday.

When the puritans came to the new world, they banned Christmas saying that it was too pagan along with many beloved holidays of today. Of course we know how much of a killjoy the puritans were and America soon grew out of the whole anti-Christmas thing. And America would give birth to the defining character of the holiday. The jolly Santa Claus.

There was an actual guy called St. Nicholas who lived in what now is modern day Turkey. An old legend says that in order to save three impoverished girls from selling themselves into prostitution, St. Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down there chimney. In time Santa would downgrade from bags of gold due to budget cuts at the north pole. Hey, even he is feeling the effects of the economy. Another legend is that of Sinterklaas, a European variant of Santa. Sinterklaas also delivers toys but also has another person come with him that was lost in the American version of the Santa legend. A devil figure that comes with Sinterklaas to scare naughty children. Also due to budget cuts, the devil companion was laid off and Santa resorted giving coal to the naughty children. Don't worry about our devil friend here. I here he's open to doing the next Exorcist move.

The American version of Santa was epitomized in Clement Clarke Moores poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas." You know, the one that goes "Twas the night before Christmas and all through the etc..." Also new to the Santa legend is the reindeer. Actually their described as eight tiny reindeer, which is necessary, because regular sized reindeer are huge.

As Football is Thanksgivings must watch event, Christmas is packed with specials. As a kid I used to love these. Now there all sort of humdrum to me. The most sucessful special of them all is 1965's "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Why it is so sucessful i have no idea. It has no reindeer with a glowing nose, or a talking snowman. The Charlie Brown catoons normally have him taking a lot of verbal abuse and i'm surprised he is not in a mental institution as of today, I guess because it talks more about the secular part of Christmas more tha the commercial side is what has made this special last as long as it has.

As I spend my Christmas break relaxing at home and anticipating the "Doctor Who" Christmas special, by the way, this is the first time that it will be aired on Christmas in the U.S. Usually we have to wait till spring in order for the BBC to let us see it. Anyway I wish you a merry Christmas and try to avoid last minute shopping. It's a madhouse out there. I'll see you at New Years.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Clearly Claire: Taken advantage of by my childhood

My friends and I walked into the theatre, sat down and got ready to watch some inappropriate teen movie. We sat through the trailers and at the end, there was one for "Toy Story 3." I sat feeling a strange feeling, not sadness, not joy, but something different. My friend, Sarinna, whispered in my ear, "Don't you feel so nostalgic?" Nostalgic. That was the word. I was instantly brought back to childhood and my first time watching "Toy Story."

It had been a good ten years since I had last seen "Toy Story." I had long since reserved myself from all of that. Then my littlest cousin, Santiago wanted to see "Toy Story 3." He had been begging for months and even though it looked good, I didn't really want to see it. It looked like something that would further ruin the happy image I had of my favorite toys. There is nothing worst than watching a sequel to a movie you once loved and finding it awful.

Finally, a few days ago, I broke down and saw it. I have to say, I was almost in tears. Tears from the movie, yes, but also from remembering the good times I had watching the first two with my dad. This was all before the age of 3-D and super high-tech computer animation. It was all about the art. Yet, that day and days later when I rewatched the trailers, I realized that that is what Pixar does. They play on our heart strings. They remind us of simpler childhoods times when we all believed toys were real and that we would see them if we opened our doors and surprised them quickly. Or at least, that's what I believed.

Pixar has a way of making us feel like we are home. Even the new Pixars, the "WALL-E's" and "Ups" of the bunch, really hit our heart strings. I dare anyone to watch Up without crying. This is all part of a master plan that none of us can get out of. No matter how old we get, we still feel like we are kids. I look at my cousin's youthful innocence and realize that that was once me, sitting in the theatre cheering as Woody popped onto the screen with Jessie and Buzz.

But maybe being taken advantage of by these corporate executive who know how to get us isn't a bad thing. For an hour or two you get to escape to a simpler time, a younger time, when there were no deadlines, no jobs, no homework, no essays, and you were allowed to dream.

So I would recommend watching this movie, not because it is awesome, which it was. Not because it was funny, which it was. And not because it had heart, which it did. But because it will make you believe again, even if just for an hour. --Claire Scheffer