Category Archives: Pop Culture

I am Dragonborn; Hear Me Roar!

Ed. Note: Apparently I didn’t publish this. I thought I had. I wrote in on December 27th, for whatever that’s worth. Enjoy. 

So, yesterday I started a post on Skyrim, intending to explore why I can’t stop playing. Instead, I made a list of all the things that bug me in the game, but I didn’t want to leave it at that. I don’t want to give you the impression that I hate this game or that these flaws make the game unenjoyable in general–no game is perfect. In addition, it’s not as if Skyrim is the only game that does many of the things on the list; it’s just the game I’m playing right now. Many things on the list (such as fetch quests) are video game tropes that I wish didn’t exist. Anyway, it’s obvious that they’re not major hindrances as I continue to play the game; I put in four to five hours last night when I only intended to play one or two. In fact, I honestly thought I only played a couple of hours, so imagine my surprise when I looked at the clock and saw that it was one in the morning. I have never been able to play this game for under two hours at a time, but I don’t know just why that is.

Part of it is the soundtrack. I know that sounds silly, but it’s incredible. It’s so soaring and epic–it makes me feel like I’m the hero of a fantasy novel. Listen to it below and tell me you don’t get chills as it plays*. When the music starts as you’re traipsing around, you know you’re either going to find a Word of Power or about to mix it up with some jerkholes who don’t realize that you’re the chosen one. It’s a call to action most of the time, and it never fails to make me gird my loins in preparation of battle. This is the Lindsey Stirling (and Peter Hollens) on violin LARPing version, which is also pretty damn cool. Seriously, all I want to do when I hear this music is go out and slay some dragons–and I like dragons! I don’t know how Bethesda did it, but they came up with something really special musically.

The game is as epic in feeling as is the music, by the way. I said in yesterday’s post that the story is bog standard–you’re the chosen one, the only one able to save the land from imminent destruction, but Bethesda does it incredibly well. I’m as cynical as they come, but I get swept away as I’m playing with the lore and the grandiosity of the story. Who doesn’t want to be the hero who saves the day and gets the girl?** It’s hard to explain how epic the whole game feels, and yet, there are touches of the mundane, too. Sometimes, I just explore the environment with Barbas (my dog. Well, OK, not my dog, but I’m not finishing his quest until later so I can keep him as a follower) and Morgan, my horse. Or we just chat with people in various towns, picking up quests along the way. There’s little pressure to finish things in any particular order or in a certain time frame, which is exactly as I like it. I hate timed events with a passion, and so far, there aren’t any in Skyrim.

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PSA: When You’re Not Feeling Jolly at Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, despite the lack of snow. Everywhere I go, there are Christmas lights dotting the scenery, Christmas ads on the radio/television, and everyone is talking excitedly about their plans for Christmas. I’m sure if I went to the mall, which I wouldn’t do unless I was under the threat of being killed if I didn’t, it would be full of Christmas jingling and jangling as well. There is so much good cheer in the air, I am practically choking on it, and I can’t escape it online, either. FB pages and Twitter feeds are filled with it, and while I appreciate all the food posts, it can be a bit much. Now, if you’re one of those people who bakes ten dozen cookies for Christmas and put up a tree as soon as the last cranberry is eaten from your Thanksgiving feast, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the problem, Minna? That’s what I love about this time of year! It’s certainly not the cold, damn it. Why’s it gotta be so cold? But the eggnog and the lights and the presents, hell, YEAH! Bring it on.”

This post is not for you. Be on your merry way and enjoy ho ho ho’ing on Christmas. Enjoy the holidays, but please understand that some of us are less than enthusiastic about this time of year. We are not being irritable or depressed or grumpy to cramp your holiday style–we really just don’t like the festivities or all the hoopla surrounding them. It’s hard not to be a fan of Christmas and endure this season. Cut us some slack if we aren’t as holly or as jolly as you wish we’d be. We want you to enjoy the holidays, at least I do, but it’s just not the same for us. For those of you who hate Christmas as I once did, spiraling into depression the minute you hear the first Christmas carol of the year, or who are indifferent to it at best as I am this year, this post is for you. I’ve done a post on depression at Christmas time before, and while I think it’s still a solid piece, I wanted to write one that is more in tune with how I’m feeling now.

I don’t hate Christmas this year. Quite honestly, until this week, I didn’t give a fuck that it was happening. But, somehow, this week, I’ve started to become more irritated at the pervasiveness of Christmas, and I’m counting the days until it’s actually over. In addition, the depression is starting to creep back in as well. I start thinking about how shitty my family life was when I was a kid and how I wouldn’t go back to that time of my life for anything. I’m thinking about how I don’t have a family of my own and how, even though I know it’s not true, it feels like I’m the only person in that situation. To make matters worse (for me), there’s no snow on the ground, my one salvation during this time of year. It’s also that it’s close to the end of the year which means thinking of all the things I have not accomplished this year. I won’t do resolutions because I think they’re bullshit, but I will be thinking of things I intended to do this year, but never did. There are two times I think about the futility of my life, and this is one of them*. The world looks a bit grayer than it did last week, and despite my best efforts, I’m experiencing depression around Christmas. Again. It’s a myth that the number of suicides rise during the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t get extra-lonely and/or depressed around this time.

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Swimming Upstream

I recently wrote a post about being an older woman who plays video games, and one of the things I mentioned was how I felt indie game developers were caught in a bind between pleasing their core community and creating a game for a broader audience. I feel that sometimes, developers listen too much to their core community to the detriment of their game, and Nuclear Throne was the example that sprung to mind. I have to redefine that thought, though, because the game has been released and there are newbies who are terrible at it, but love it. Why am I so upset about the changes of that game and not as much about the changes The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (Afterbirth) experienced? I think part of the reason is because I played NT throughout Early Access and was in on the relative ground floor. When I first started playing, it was really hard, but I could at least reach and beat the throne. Then they started upping the difficulty to the point of ridiculousness, and my interest waned. I already couldn’t play the game past the first loop, and that’s where they were putting all the neat, cool items. Then, when they buffed Lil’ Hunter to the point where I simply could not kill him, I lost all interest. I think the reason it was so upsetting to me is because besides the fact that I loved that game and played it for hours every day* was because it was moving past me. It’s like a lover who’s broken up with me and has already hooked up with a new partner while I’m like Adele and calling it a hundred times a day. To put it simply, it hurt my feelings, and I stopped playing it.

Why didn’t I feel the same way about BoI:R(A)? Because by the time I started playing it, it was already a set thing. There were no updates or new content until the Afterbirth expansion was released. I already knew going in that I wouldn’t be able to play the Lost (a character who can’t take a single hit), and I was fine with it. I 100%’ed the game except for the Lost shit, and I was fine with never making Real Platinum God. (I’m only Platinum God). When the Afterbirth expansion came out, I started to feel a bit of that, “It’s moving away from me” feeling again. There are two new characters, and on of them is even worse than the Lost (the Keeper). How you unlock him is also bullshitty, although I have become quite adept at Greed Mode (a new mode). I do not like most of the changes to the main game itself, and I think I’m reaching the end of my time with it.

I want to stress that I’m not bitter about these games moving away from me. I’m not the core community, and that’s fine. But, it’s hard, especially with NT, because I feel as if I’m stuck in the middle somehow. I’m not a newbie at it, so I’m not quite as jazzed by the beginning areas. I’ve killed Mad Mike (Big Bandit) hundreds if not thousands of times, and until Lil’ Hunter was buffed, I didn’t have much of a problem with him. So, I’m not getting that dopamine hit of, “Hey, new stuff!” as I’m playing, but since I’m not good enough to loop, I’m also not getting to see the new cool shit, either. It’s starting to be the same with Afterbirth. I’ve done about all I can do with the game, and I’m not going to be able to do the truly elite stuff, which means it’s probably time to move on. I’ll still play Afterbirth once in a while as a vanilla run of it can be very soothing to me, but I’m guessing it’ll stop being a daily thing pretty soon.

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The Illusion of Safety

For a few decades of my life, I tried my damnedest to make sure that I felt safe because I never had that in my childhood. I shrank my world little by little until I was only leaving the house to go to the grocery store. Occasionally, I would go out with friends, but for the most part, I stuck to my house, feeling much like a doll in a glass cage*. I was very fragile, and I felt as if the slightest negative experience could crush me and/or reinforce my belief that my life was worthless. I sat alone in my glass tower until I was practically ossified. It felt safe, but as my last therapist said, “You can’t shrink your world enough to feel truly safe.” I hated her for saying it at the time, but she was right for two reasons. One, unless I never left my house at all and eschewed online communities completely, I was going to run into something/someone who made me uncomfortable/unhappy/angry/etc. Even if it was just a chance encounter at the grocery store, it could happen. Two, I couldn’t get away from the voices in my head. They were with me 24/7, and they were harsher than any external critic ever could be. The goal became making myself more comfortable in my own skin rather than trying to place myself in a bubble to keep out the negative influences.

It wasn’t easy. I can’t say I’ve succeeded completely or even mostly, but I’ve at least put the bubble away. Unfortunately, the tenor of social media, mostly Twitter, has started to put me back in that bubble because everything has become problematic for one reason or the other. I see liberals yelling on the daily about how other people are not as enlightened as they are or as progressive, and it’s not the usual emo prog suspects who are doing the shouting. The sad part is that they’ve taken a good idea, “Be kind to others” and morphed it into something that is, well, ugly. Be kind to others has become, “Be the way I want you to be which is purportedly for the benefit of others or you’re an evil person.” There’s a saying based on the Bible that I’ve always had issues with. It’s, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” On the surface, it seems like a fine saying. Treat other people the way you want to be treated–what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong is that what makes you feel good isn’t necessarily what makes other people feel good. In romantic relationships, for example, people experience love in different ways. Taking a heteronormative example, a woman feels loved when she’s being listened to or given little gifts randomly. Her boyfriend shows his love by making sure the gas is always filled in her car and fixing any computer issue she has. You can see where there might be problems here.

I think the saying should be, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them”, which is admittedly not as snappy, but it’s better advice. On the other hand, if you know that someone doesn’t show love in the same way you do, then try to accept the love they do show. My brother and I could not be more different, but I know he loves me because if there is anything broken in my house, he’ll fix it or walk me through it. He built my desktop computer for me, and he’s my go-to for all my computer needs. In return, I listen to his problems and help him with them, which is how I show love. Recently, he’s actually voiced his concerns for me and he asks how I’m doing, which is huge for him. I’m touched that he’s making the effort and impressed that he’s growing as a person. But, I don’t think it would have happened if I harangued him about it rather than just accepting him and appreciating him as he is.

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Daring to Disagree

It’s almost mid-December(!), and I’ve decided to take stock of where I am writing-wise. My goal for this month was to publish a blog post a day, and so far, I’ve made that goal. The posts are not as polished as I’d like them to be, but I didn’t want to get caught in the trap of endlessly editing them and letting them languish in my draft folder. So, while the posts aren’t great, I’m pleased that I’m back in the groove of writing one post a day. It gets easier with each post, and I can feel the rust falling off my brain every time I start typing. However, I’m frustrated because one of the reasons I decided to publish a post a day* was because of the reason I stopped blogging in general. That’s a convoluted sentence, but I think you get the gist of what I’m trying to say. In explaining it further, I’m going to have to go own a side road that may take some time, so bear with me.

Twitter has been a boon for many reasons, several of which I wrote about in a prior post. It’s also been a burden, and one of the reasons is because the shoutiest voices are the ones who get the most traction. Even as I’m tying this, there’s an almost physical force in my head squeezing my brain saying, “Don’t write that. Keep it to yourself”, and I phrased it in the most neutral way possible. I used to have that defensive wall around myself all the time, keeping everything in and everyone out. I thought that I was so toxic, I didn’t want to affect everyone around me. I’ve gotten better at letting down my defenses, but Twitter has made me put them right back up again. I see so many people scolding and lecturing on a daily basis about what other people should and shouldn’t think, it’s causing me to pull away from politics** completely and to hunker down back inside myself. I don’t like the terms political correctness and thought police, but I do feel both of them have a germ of truth on liberal Twitter. There are certain trends of thoughts that if you don’t one-hundred percent agree with, you’re considered a traitor. It’s nativism at its worse, and we’re almost as susceptible to it as are conservatives.

In addition, there’s a smug morality to the scolding that doesn’t sit well with me. If someone doesn’t think the way you do, then that person is lesser and worthy of contempt. I’m not saying there isn’t any validity to that as I definitely look down on Donald Trump and his followers*** and think his ideas are contemptible, but I’m seeing it being applied to almost every idea these days, and it’s one reason I don’t use Twitter to express my political beliefs very often any longer. In addition, there’s a piling on mentality that I find distasteful. For example, a celebrity says something that the left deems loathsome. They pile on this person for hours if not days, demanding s/he apologize or get fired. Then, when they’ve dragged this person up and down Twitter, they declare it a job well done and move on to the next poutrage of the day. It’s not even a celebrity, necessarily, it can be anyone who’s hapless enough to get caught in the net. At the same time, these are the same people who decried Martin Bashir getting fired from MSNBC for expressing his views on Sarah Palin. You can’t have it both ways. If you want others to hew to what you deem is correct thought and speech, then others have that same right as well. Me, I don’t believe in getting people fired for their thoughts with some exceptions.**** I hate the recent trend of someone ranting about a barista at their Starbucks doing something questionable and then that barista getting fired because of social media pressure. It feels good in the moment, but it’s ultimately meaningless. I have an analogy I use often that fits this situation. Back when smoking was first banned from public places in Minnesota, you’d see smokers huddling outside the door, miserable in the cold, smoking as the people walking by glared at them and lectured them on the evils of smoking. This, mind you, as there were cars surrounding them belching out exhaust smoke and smokestacks streaming out their effluvia as well. My explanation is that the mass problem (environmental pollution) is so vast, the mind can’t parse how to solve it, so it’s easier to latch on to something concrete and discrete–the individual smoker. You may not be able to stop cars and factories from polluting the air, but by god, you told that smoker off!

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A Little Positivity Goes a Long Way

I have many issues with the internet, social media in particular, and I’ll probably do an epic post about it once I can get past my inhibitions for doing so*. Right now, though, I want to discuss what I like about social media and why I spend so much time on it. Less and less so, granted, but still more than the average person, I’d wager. I was reluctant to join Facebook and Twitter for various reasons. One, I’m a loner by nature. I don’t like talking to people that much on a regular basis. Two, I have OCD traits that would probably suck me into being compulsive about checking both. Three, I’m very conflict-avoidant and don’t like telling people that they are wrong or that I disagree with them. I’m getting better at it, but it’s still something I don’t like to do. Four, I feel the need to talk to anyone who talks to me, which makes it hard for me to ignore people on Twitter or Facebook. Five, I think it’s a substitute for living life in the real world, and while it’s valuable for people who cannot leave the house for physical or emotional reasons.

I joined Facebook before I joined Twitter, and initially, I wanted to keep my friends list to ten. Then it was twenty. Then thirty, forty, and fifty, and then sixty-nine for very puerile reasons. Every time I added someone, I had to take someone off the list, but at some point, I gave up that weird personal tic and just added whomever I wanted. Which wasn’t many people. Early in my foray into Facebook, I had a bunch of people from high school wanting to friend me. For some unknown reason, I accepted. I hated high school. I have some fond memories of a few people, but other than that, it was a nightmare. So, I accepted, but then watched in horror as their true nature came out. This was right after Obama’s election, and one called for his impeachment a month after he was inaugurated, and another identified him as a proud Glenn Beck fan. These are both people I liked in high school, but I just could not stand what they were posting on a daily basis. Then, I got suspended from Facebook because someone reported that I was posting indecent posts, and I knew it was one of my ex-high school classmates and that it was probably for my political views. I managed to get my account reinstalled, but I mass dumped all but two of my high school classmates.

That’s part of what makes social media tolerable to me. I carefully curate my friends list on Facebook and my following list on Twitter because I don’t need that negativity in my life. it’s tricky because part of the beauty of the internet is the diversity of people found online, and it’s too easy to only listen to people just like you. You have to be open to different ideas and different experiences, but at the same time, you have to draw the line somewhere. That line is different for everyone, but I realized my line is people who are entrenched in their opinions. I don’t want to follow or friend anyone who isn’t interested in having a discussion, but only in haranguing his or her viewpoint (and this is on my side of the aisle, too. Demagoguery and ideology isn’t a partisan thing). I’m interested in debate and discussion, both which are difficult to achieve in social media because of the inherent limitations, and anyone who’s a Glenn Beck fan or wants Obama to be impeached a month into his presidency isn’t a rational human being.I have enough negativity in my head without adding exterior voices to the clatter.

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The Divinity of the Nocturnal Redux

So, in yesterday’s post, I did the big reveal of the one Christmas song I like, but I took my sweet time getting there. I barely scratched the surface of my love for O Holy Night, so I am now going to bombard you with at least a dozen more*. As I noted, I find most of the standard Christmas songs (and the newer ones) to be too something or the other for me (treacly, jolly, boring, etc.), but O Holy Night has always stirred my soul. I started posting favorite versions of it many years ago, partly as a joke, but partly as my way to combat the negativity that I felt during the holiday season (which I wrote about a few posts back).

Then, I did it in consequent years because of my OCD traits, but also sometimes because people requested it. It was fun to see what versions other people came up with and to hear about their favorite songs as well. By the way, I just thought of another Christmas song that I liked when I was younger. I listened to several versions on YouTube and discovered that it hasn’t aged well at all. It’s called My Grown Up Christmas List, written by David Foster for Natalie Cole. I first heard the Amy Grant version (she added a verse to it herself when she sang it, apparently), which is still one of the better version. I also think Michael Bublé does a decent job on it, but the song itself is just too syrupy for me now. For some reason, the song reminded me of another song I really liked in my youth (not a Christmas song), which is Dance With My Father by Luther Vandross. It also hasn’t aged that well, but it’s on Luther’s last album. How can you beat that? And the video is pretty touching, too, with personal photos from his life plus video of famous people with their families. Then, Luther Vandross reminded me of Barry White, and I had to listen to this song, which isn’t holiday-related at all except in that sex is good any time of the year.

Anyway, back to the purported reason for this post–my unholy love for O Holy Night and why I do a post about it most years. As I said above, it was my way to combat the intensely negative feelings I usually have at this time of year, but I don’t really have that this year. Yes, I hate all the forced goodwill and cheer, but it’s mostly background noise. I don’t let it personally get to me as it has in past years. The last few years I haven’t done a post mostly because I couldn’t be stuffed, but I thought I’d resurrect it this year because I really love the song. I’ve already found a stunning version of it I haven’t heard before (Jennifer Hudson in the first post) as well as several old favorites.

Let’s get started. First up is an old fave. The Dublin Gospel Choir does a spirited and warm version. They’ve done another version, but the original is my favorite because it’s more homey and less formal.

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The Top 10 Songs That Get Me in the *Mood

So, in yesterdays’s post, I bitched about my problems with Christmas and mentioned that there was one Christmas song that I really like. I neglected to mention that over the past few years, I’ve found a few other season-related songs that I enjoy for different reasons. Some I like because they are funny, and some I like because they are heartfelt. That’s a perfect summary of my personality, come to think of it. A friend of mine once said that I was an optimist. At the time, I was clinging to my belief that I was a tough, cynical chick who was a realist. I wasn’t any fucking soft, gooey optimist damn it. I was a fucking realist! Then he added, “You’re an optimist because you’re always disappointed when people don’t do the right thing.” I wanted to protest–believe me I did. But after I thought about it, I had to reluctantly agree with him. That’s also probably the basis of my cynicism–the unmet expectations.

Why am I telling you this seemingly pointless anecdote? Because it ties in nicely with my musical preferences. Well, besides the fact that I have terrible taste in music. I like funny, sarcastic music, but I also like sentimental songs. Some would even say saccharine. I was an 80s metal power ballad lover, damn it, and I’m not ashamed of it one whit.** That’s just a teaser to see if you can figure out what’s the one Christmas song I actually like.

One of my taiji classmates cracked at how she’s sure I’m going to go out caroling for Christmas. She said it again in another class, and it devolved into all of us going caroling and just singing whatever we want, starting and stopping whenever we want in true Taiji fashion. It tickled my funny bone hard because the idea of me going around spreading good cheer to my fellow (wo)man is ridiculous to the point of hilarity. I joked about me singing the one Christmas carol I like over and over again, and we all had a good chuckle over it.

Anyway, I’m going to start with the other season-appropriate songs that I enjoy, leading my way up to the One True Christmas Song. The first song is Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song. He has done several updates to the song, but here’s the original. He’s a shitty actor who makes shitty movies, but he can sing a ditty or two. I really wish he had stuck with that rather than go on to make Jack and Jill. Full disclosure: I’ve only seen The Wedding Singer, which I actually like. It’s not a great movie, but it’s humorous and has all my favorite pop songs from the 80s. Plus, Billy Idol! And Drew Barrymore! What’s not to love?

Other than that, though, none of his movies has ever appealed to me. I saw some of Happy Gilmore, which was OK, but not enough for me to finish watching. I still like Hanukkah Song, though, so it’s on this list.
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It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Chr–Shut Up!

I am not a big fan of Christmas, as is well known to the people nearest and dearest to me. I wrote an op-ed when I was in junior high about the crass consumerism of the holiday, and that was thirty years ago. The start to the Christmas season seems to come earlier and earlier, and in a few years, I expect it’ll be Christmas 24/7. If there’s a War on Christmas, we’re losing it, damn it. I saw my first Christmas commercial the day after Halloween, which is actually later than I’ve seen it in past years, and that started my decent into grumpiness.

Look, I was raised Christian, and we did the whole hang your stockings by the fireplace with care bullshit. We had a tree and Santa and all the secular trappings of a religious holiday* that went with it, so it’s not like I’ve been deprived in that area, thus leading me to resentment. I liked Christmas as a child, but who wouldn’t if they knew they were getting a ton of presents on one day? “Remember, kids. (Kids are eating the chocolate eggs.) Jesus died for your sins.” “Yeah, I know. It’s great!” “No, it’s bad. It’s bad!” “It’s bad! It’s very bad. It’s terrible. Whatever you want. I mean, just keep giving me these eggs.”

I love Eddie Izzard and will use any excuse to quote him. This was the perfect situation because his bit about Christmas and Easter is, well, hilarious first of all, but relevant to this discussion as well. Some rabid Christians get so upset when they’re wished a happy holiday as they’re shopping for their Christmas gifts, which is fucking weird to me. You’re doing a completely secular activity, one that Jesus probably wouldn’t have indulged in if he were still alive, and you’re pissy because someone didn’t say ‘Merry Christmas’. Someone please tell me why this is a thing because I just don’t get it.

Well, I do, actually. There are several things at play here. One is the persecution/martyr complex of some American Christians. Even though they are in the overwhelming majority in America (70.6% in 2014, which has actually dropped sharply from 78.4% in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center), they still act as if they’re not. Part of that is because no one wants to think they are part of the oppressive majority, and while it’s not fun being in the oppressed minority, it’s certainly morally preferable.

Another reason is because when your beliefs are the norm, it’s difficult to see how pervasive they are. The fact that we get time off for Christmas is a bias towards Christians. The fact that every fucking presidential speech ends with “God bless America”, also, too. Our pledge of allegiance is biased, as is our money. Christianity is everywhere, but again, it’s taken for granted. So, being forced to hear Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas seems like a big loss. It’s a loss of some sort, but given all the other ways Christianity is reinforced in our culture, it’s but a drop in the bucket. Incidentally, that’s the thing with privilege in general–you don’t often know when you have it, but you feel the loss of it keenly. You still can’t see your other privilege, though, which is why i t feels like you’re being oppressed.

Again, I can’t stress how silly it seems to me to be freaking out over vendors not saying Merry Christmas. If that’s your biggest problem in life, then you have it pretty good.

The third is that if you live in a bubble (FOX “News”, cough cough) that is persistently and aggressively telling you that you’re being oppressed, you’re going to be constantly aggrieved at every little damn thing.If all you’re hearing is how there’s a War on Christmas and everyone you talk with agrees that those damn heathens are trying to take away your Christmas trees, you’re getting your paranoid fantasies reinforced to the point where you’re picking fights over Starbucks not putting snowflakes on their goddamn coffee cups. Here’s Ellen to help out the people who are outraged that they can’t get Christmas with their overpriced Venti lattes.

Again, these people are just looking to be offended, and it’s probably best not to give them any attention, but it’s mind-boggling to me that people actually get worked up over this shit. Yes, I know I just gave several reasons why they have this mentality, but it’s still difficult for me to fathom going in a raving lather over something as asinine as Starbucks making their holiday cups plain red. In addition, everything that businesses do is with an eye towards the bottom line. So, while Starbucks talked about diversity in their statement over this ‘controversy’, I take that with a grain of salt. They must have some metrics that tell them it’s more monetarily beneficial to not have the winter scene than it is to have it. It’s the same with all those queer-friendly products now–it’s not because companies are suddenly the anti-Christ, but because they recognize that we queers are here to stay, and we have a lot of spending power.

The aggrieved Christians say ‘War on Christmas’; I say welcome to the 21st century. As I noted above, thirty percent of Americans are not Christians, so it’s nice for us to be included during the holiday season. Personally, I don’t care if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, but that’s because I’m inured to it, I think. But, I’m also fine with Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, or the more generic Happy Holidays. To me, if it’s a sincere greeting, I don’t much care about the actual words. Maybe it’s because I’m a filthy nonbeliever, but it’s all pretty much the same to me. Besides (and this is getting me back to the main point of this post), everything else during this holiday season is centered around Christmas, so why not be gracious on this small point?

The thing I dislike the most about this season, well, there are two, but they are related. The first is the plethora of Christmas commercials exhorting us to buy our friends’ and families’ love. Sure, it’s disguised as, “Doesn’t the person you love deserve the very best?”, but what it comes down to is, “If you want this person to love you, you better buy him/her this car/house/diamond ring.” I remember one car commercial that has a man giving his excited wife a new car, and then someone drives by in a nicer new car with a bow on it and a smug grin on her face, and the original recipient is upset with her new car. Needless to say, the commercial is for the second car, but think about the message it’s sending. It’s not enough to get your loved one a brand new fucking car–it has to be this more expensive car or you’re a piece of shit.

The commercials I hate the most, however, are Christmas-related jewelry commercials. Every time I see one, I want to throw something at my TV. It reinforces every heteronormative stereotype out there. Women are gold-diggers who are only interested in the rocks they can get from men. If you want to get the nookie, you better be ready to put a ring on it. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but only the expensive ones. The ones that children in South Africa died to obtain. Yeah, those. Every Kiss Begins with Kay? Kay’s a fucking ho! That’s where my mind goes when I see these infuriating commercials. Yes, they’re just commercials, but the message is constant–you have to buy my love with rocks, and the bigger, the better.

Hm. I feel I can understand the ‘War on Christmas’ folks a little better. I get incensed over things other people would find trivial as well, and it’s because of what I think is behind said triviality. So, while I may think their outrage at the ‘War on Christmas’ is stupid (and it is), they also think that they have sound reasons for it. The difference is that I’m right and they’re wrong, of course.

It’s the steady diet of the commercials, too, I only watch TV once a week–on Sundays. Gotta get my weekly intake of football, even though I’m less and less comfortable watching it.** Every other commercial is extolling the virtues of family and friends while pushing you to buy, buy, buy.*** Yes, I know that’s the purpose of commercials, but somehow, it’s more grating when what they are selling is love. There is enough pressure on us to have the perfect holiday without commercials adding the insult of implying that unless we purchase their products, we’re bad children/parents/friends/other relatives.

The general emphasis on doing kind things for your fellow human beings is irritating, too. i think we should treat each other with respect and kindness all-year round. Why cram it into a month at the end of the year? It’s a set-up for failure as well as letting you off the hook for the rest of the year. I know the flip side of the argument is that it doesn’t hurt to urge people to be nicer to each other, even if it’s season-specific, I can understand that, but I just chafe at the artificiality of it, and, it also makes the pressure to have a perfect holiday even worse. Many people have an unrealistic expectation as to how their holiday is going to go. Part of that is based on memories, either idealized ones of their childhood Christmases, making them wanting to replicate said experiences, or terrible ones that makes them want to have the perfect Christmas to erase the negative memories. People tie themselves up in knots thinking that if only they can get everything right for Christmas, life will be wonderful. It’s magical thinking at its most pathetic, and it’s one reason that so many people snap during the holiday season.****

Now. despite all my griping about Christmas and how much I hate the consumerism and false positive messages that are being propagated during the season, I am not dreading the day itself this year. In the past, i hated Christmas almost as much as I hated my birthday. I didn’t have terrible memories of Christmas from my childhood, but somewhere down the line, it started symbolizing everything I hate about our culture. I have listed several of those reasons, and I’ve had a few life experiences that only added to my dislike. A boyfriend broke up with me on a Christmas past, and I made matters worse by watching an Alan Rickman***** ‘comedy’ that in true British fashion, was as much tragedy as it was comedy. It’s called Truly, Deeply, Madly, and I loved it, but it made me sob my face off. On a more recent Christmas, I was in Taiwan on a family vacation that I very much didn’t want to take for several reasons I’m not going to get into right now. I remember standing on the edge of the Taroko Gorge and fighting the urge to jump off. I didn’t, obviously, but it was one more Christmas season memory to add to the negative pile.

Now, however, I don’t have the same struggles I’ve had with my family in the past. I also know myself well enough to have declined another trip to Taiwan this Christmas because I didn’t want a repeat of the last trip. I’m not jumping for joy that Christmas is coming, but I’m not cringing in anticipation, either. I am not celebrating it by choice as I haven’t for years, but for the first time, it doesn’t feel like a lesser position. I am not going to decorate my house or sing Christmas carols****** or give gifts to many people, and I don’t feel defensive about it. I’m not resentful of people who are celebrating, and I sincerely hope that everyone who does has a wonderful time. Me, I’m going to be doing what I do most days–sitting on my ass with my boys (my cats, Raven and Shadow) by my side, writing, surfing, maybe watching some sports, and not getting caught up in the frenzy. I know it doesn’t seem glitzy or glamorous, but it sure sounds good to me.


*Which was grafted over a pagan holiday, but why get into that?

**It reminds me too much of the gladiators with the football players brutalizing each other for our amusement. The concussion issue alone is enough to make me pause, but not quite enough to make me stop watching, unfortunately.

***The other commercials are so pro-NFL, it’s ridiculous. Pro-tip to the NFL: We’re already watching the damn game. You don’t need to give us the hard sell.

****I wrote holiday system first, which fits as well.

*****Because Alan Rickman makes everything better.

******I hate them. They are mostly treacly, gooey messes. There is one exception, and I’ve written a post about it many times over the past several years. I’ll probably do another post on it this year, so I’m not going to tell you what it is right now.