Got home from work, and there was a present under the tree:

These days you're happy that's the only present left.

Put up the ornaments tonight. Turned on the Seasonal Channel on the DVR for that confounding blend of old standards and insincere remakes done in LA in July by stars whose vogue has faded, leaving “Holiday” records lodged permanently in the playlists of the guys who program automated festivity. At least you hear something different.

“Who’s singing?” my wife asked of the 19,824th Rudolph recording. “Sounds like Homer Simpson.”

I was shocked. “That’s Fats Domino.”

I couldn’t even hear the resemblance. Particularly since our animatronic Santa Homer has started slurring his speech, horribly; either the batteries are low or something is wrong with the chip. He starts out fine, but then starts screeching and croaking like a doll in the first act of a Stephen King story. The one who presages some unnamed dark spirit that found a crack in our world. I mean, it’s possible that’s what happened. It used to sit downstairs on a shelf, greeting you when you came in from the garage. It had a motion-activation feature, but this frightened people.

Last night when I turned off the lights to the basement, it said “D’OH!” in response. In my tired state I figured, well, the negative photons activated the motion sensor or something. Tonight my wife said that when she left for work it said “D’OH!” and she almost leapt out of her skin, until she remembered: ’tis the season to have a Homer Simpsons robot in Santa clothing by the back door.

I’m sure there’s a “Simpsons Christmas” album out there, and I’ve no need to hear it. The Golden Era of Christmas Music ended around 1968, I think - it lived on for a while in Mantovani and 101 Strings albums, which kept alive the holiday tradition of reverb-soaked orchestral ensembles trembling with piety and bursting forth with Joy, or playing a traditional number with enough languor to make you look ahead to that point on Christmas Eve when everything’s done, and you’re sitting by the fire with sweet drowsy gratitude, drawing out the last sweet hour.

I suppose it depends when your memories are forged and burned, but even people who grew up later find something in the old songs that’s lacking in the latter work. The only improvement in modern years was the artisanal plucking in Windham Hill albums, which seem to hold the songs as if they’re fragile items they’re terrified of breaking.

Anyway. Put all the ornaments up, recalled the stories behind each, where we got them. Noted the absence of the Fat Monk Who Had a Flute, as well as a look of lecherous amusement that’s somehow okay on a porty friar. an object I got at the Macy’s by the Pentagon, as thanks for opining a charge account. Never liked him much, but hey, Tradition. Last year I must have decided I would not be a slave to the accumulated weight of these items - bringing up the crates of ornaments makes you feel less like happy Crachet than Jacob Marley trailing his cashboxes - so out he went. This year I have permission to purge more unused ornaments, and I know the first to go: Nutcracker soldiers with their horrible lipless mouths.

All teeth.

There’s also the matter of the small Santa that sits on the woodpile. My wife said, for the first time ever, that she found his realistic features somewhat unnerving. I examined him closely, and pulled down his beard. There were not only tiny lips but tiny teeth.

A few hours later I asked: “where did he come from? The small unnerving Santa.” I really expected her to say “You bought it.” And then I would ask myself if I’d forgotten, or had the memory blanked by the creature itself.

“My mother,” she said.

Whew. I think. Mother-in-law is coming for Christmas. If she comes in and sees it and shrieks and shouts I CAST YOU OUT and kicks it across the room I know this will be a different Christmas.

But not too different.Twenty years now, this mouse has been enjoying a refreshment.

There was another mouse, but he got snapped off along the way.

Which leads to this tiresome fellow at Gawker (no link, because that's what they want)

We're all adults here. Which is why, unless you have children, you should not have a Christmas tree.

Christmas trees are hassles. They're expensive. They're difficult to move around, particularly if you don't have a car. If you're doing it right and buying real trees, they get needles and sap all over the goddamn place. Then, after a few weeks, you throw them out on the street just like so many other things we've learned to own briefly and then dispose of in America. In short, Christmas trees are a messy pain in the ass, but they're a messy pain in the ass you deal with to please children, who are themselves messy pains in the ass everyone deals with in order to continue the species.

Why would anyone care at all what he thinks about Christmas trees - or children, for that matter? Well, it's just amusing to watch someone put pencil to mouth, make the pursey face, and decide to give Christmas what for, and unload:

It's not the trees' fault, really. The reason Christmas trees are for children is because Christmas itself is a holiday for children. Spare me your Miracle on 34th Street schmaltz, lamenting the loss of the Christmas Spirit under grinding adulthood (though I do like that movie). Spare me, also, your assertion that your Christmas tree is in any way related to your devotion to Jesus Christ. That train left decades ago. The "Christmas Spirit" is a marketing gimmick, and Christmas trees in contemporary society are for putting presents under.

There are two possibilities: he has absolutely no convictions about anything of substance, which is unlikely although possible, or he has his own pieties, and if you call them fashionable solipstic nullties you're probably a hater who watches Fox news while the dog cowers in the corner because he's tired of getting kicked when your knee jerks.

Oh and Jesus wouldn't approve:

If Jesus were to come back he'd probably ask why the hell you spent so much on presents instead of giving your money away to the poor. "And why are churches locked at night while thousands of people sleep on the streets in the freezing cold?" Jesus would ask. "Well, those churches are private property, Jesus," you'd say. And he'd probably be so confused and maybe a little mad.

He actually believes this is a novel thought. Stand back and consider that one for a moment. He thinks this is a revelatory insight. Next up from the author: say, that Vatican big chuch-place has a lot of gold they could scrape off and give to the poor, doesn't it?

Also: should churches be public property? Should the state be responsible for maintaining them, paying the staff? No? Of course not. "Private property" is supposed to carry some innate negative connotation, I guess.

Just remember, it's Christians who are self-righteous and unaccepting of other people's tradition.

Oh! Why, would you look at this: people are disagreeing with him in the comments.

People who like trees are now reactionaries.



More Hemo-glee:

Well, how old is he? The average lifespan of a bull is 15 years. Elmer is obviously early-middle-age, which would make him six or seven. Remember, these are intelligent, tool-using cows in a human world - either they are unique, and have carved out their own niche in which they are left alone in exchange for Elsie’s Borden work (Elmer, in that case, would have some token no-show job; he goes off every day carrying a briefcase, but just spends his time in a vacant lot, grazing) or they are part of an integrated human-cow world that nevertheless has hamburgers and steaks. If Elmer is 6, then he would surely be depressed to learn that the high point for his physical vitality was four years ago, and it’s all downhill from here.

Unless he keeps slamming the Hemo.


The Bosco article has been cited for “Cleanup,” although “No cleanup reason has been specified.” Could be the pulse-pounding prose after the product is described:

Bulk materials are added via automatic measuring devices into stainless steel cooking vats. Minor ingredients and flavorings are blended into the batch separately, through a custom blender device, following product handling and quality assurance codes.

Lands sake, that’s as racy as Forever Amber. Gives you the palpitations. Among the cultural references cited:

In the comedy series Laverne & Shirley, the characters Lenny and Squiggy are both lovers of Bosco, Squiggy parroting the contemporary commercials that it's not just a chocolate syrup, "it'a a milk amplifier.”

Three ancient ads:

The voices should sound familiar. I imagine the 3rd one would make Mom, and some point, SNAP, because it’s been a long day and it’s cold out and she still hasn’t gone to the market and there are toys EVERYWHERE.

Anyway, this site says the name comes from Boscul Coffee, another product distributed by William S. Scull Co, which distributed both. There may be more to the story, but the site is the biggest pain I’ve met today: the question is answered in slideshow format, with new ads for each slide. What gall.

At least there’s a list of relevant answers, laid over clip-art people:


It’s an old favorite, scarce today - but you can tell it had something of an uphill battle here. The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval AND a note from the doctors. Approved by the magazine, merely accepted by the AMA - sounds like “well, it won’t kill you, but can’t say as I’d spend an afternoon working through that box.”

there wasn’t any Bureau of Foods, Sanitation, and Health. Not in the official governmental sense, anyway. Sounds official enough, and in a way, it almost was: the first head was Dr. Harvey Wiley, who was known as “The Father of the Pure Food and Drug Act,” and was the FDA’s first commish. But that ended poorly:

On March 15th of 1912 Dr. Wiley resigned because from nearly the beginning he had been antagonized in the enforcement of the Pure Food And Drugs Act, and had seen the fundamental principles of that act either paralzyed or discredited.

He went straight over to Good Housekeeping, where he did things like this:

His disapprobation of “drugged” products included cola drinks: he warned against the caffeine in them as vehemently as he would have against the cocaine they had once contained. In a famous action brought against the Coca-Cola company in 1911, he contended that it was illegal to use the name Coca-Cola when there was no actual cocaine in the drink, and also that it was illegal for it to contain caffeine as an additive. Perversely, this was as much as to say that the product ought to have contained cocaine and not caffeine. Still, the case was a landmark in developing standards for truth in labelling.

He also served in the Civil War as a young man. No idea what he thought of dates.


Done this brand before, and don’t recall learning much; included it here because it’s one of those holiday displays that demonstrate the visual vernacular of the five and dime, and also for its motto.

Bonus points for nifty product name. We've eliminated a T and passed along the savings to you!

More Holiday MENNEN:

As you might tell: it's the wartime edition.



Another holiday package - give soap! Soap in bar form with some Aqua Velva - which was originally a mouthwash, by the way.

J.B. Williams was a Glastonbury company started by, well, J. B. Williams. Strict feller:

Good Friday and Thanksgiving were the only weekday holidays of the year. Christmas Day and the Fourth of July were regular work days for everyone. By the turn of the century, a dynamo had been hitched up to the plant's steam engine and electric lights installed in the factory and the nearby Williams houses. The lights went off at 10 p.m., however, so the families either had to retire early or scramble to fire up their old kerosene lamps.

The firm would grow and add products - one of them, Ivorine, was sold to another company, which renamed it Ivory Soap, and the rest is marketing history. Many ads here, with a note about the company’s foray into portable talc, so women could apply talc outside of the house. Shameless harlots! Primping in public, flashing their ankles - is this America, or Sodom?

Note: the idea that people once frowned upon the public application of makeup as a sign of loosening morals is, of course, directly analogous to any sort of contemporary wailing about slipping standards, because the fact that people once disapproved of something we find harmless means that anything we disapprove of today must also, in the long run, be equally harmless. Twerk away, Miley!

They also made this:

This identified the soap as the possessor of classic American virtues seen in the popular woodcuts. A good time. A strong time, before modern doubt and the pell-mell pace of life. It might surprise some to think they felt that way in the 40s - hell, they felt that way even more in the 20s.


Sounds like some kind of British Commonwealth vegetable spread, but it’s a mid-century image-capture / memory-amberizing device.

Here's a commercial. The elegance of the camera-enabled lifestyle!


That's it for today - see you around the usual places.









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