Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas From The Dept. Of Nance

It's time, Dept. readers, to take a Long Winter's Nap and spend that Quality Time with family and loved ones dear. I plan to rest, recharge, and make a Real Effort to think about What's Really Important.

As a very smart person who happened to be a minister said in the paper the other day, Christmas should be more about presence than presents. I hope to remember that.

Thank you for your presence here: your spirited comments, your emails, and your support at Stuff on Our List and at The Brian Williams Tie Report Archives.

The vast majority of you, I've never met--yet I feel like we're old friends. And that's so very nice.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Have a Very Nice Rest

from Nance, Rick, Jared & Sam at
Dept. of Nance

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just Because It's Christmas Doesn't Mean I Have To Be Jolly (Although I Am Trying)

Christmas shopping this year was brutal for--oh, so many reasons--and at one point, I just wanted to go buy one of those electronic bullhorns and stand in the middle of the mall and yell the old Susan Powter mantra Stop The Insanity, but I knew that while everyone would hear me, no one would listen.

The item that really sent me over the edge was this, the Digital Photo Watch. Holy crap, you're thinking, in an age of thong underwear in the little girls' department, this is what sent Nance over the edge?

Yes. And here is why.

I'm becoming increasingly irritated by the mania our society has for Multi-tasking Items. It's bordering on the insane. Just look at cell phones. It's not enough for you to be able to just place and receive telephone calls. Good heavens, how archaic! Cell phones must also have keyboards so that you can type inane messages like idk, cu l8r @ moms, k? . They must also be Internet browsers, email centers, messengers, mp3 players, high resolution digital cameras and video recorders, sound recorders, and GPS devices. For the record, I have had the same phone for 6 years; it does none of those things, and I am fine with that. Pretty soon, cell phones will devolve to the point where the advertisements will read: This technological breakthrough comes with an optional telephonic voicer that can plug into your cellular device so that you can both make and receive calls!

You read it here first.

The Digital Photo Watch is plain stupid. Really, what is it for? Who the hell is going to say, "Want to see some photos of my grandchildren? Here, look at my watch. The pictures are only an inch and a half square, and they have, of course, those annoying hour and minute markers and hands on them, but you'll get the idea. And there are 60 of them, so I'll hold my arm up here for about 4 minutes, no problem." How horrid. For everyone concerned. A watch is a portable time device. It can be a fashion accessory, sort of. But to think that you're going to use it to effectively haul around a stack of pictures of anything is just idiotic.

People need to stop making me think I have to be doing eleventy billion things at once. I am never going to watch a movie on my computer. (That, to me, is just silly. A big, epic film on my little tiny computer screen. Sometimes I don't even like watching them on my large-ish television at home. I feel like I'm missing the experience.) I'm never going to type on my phone. EVER. I'm never going to look at photos on my watch. I'm never going to show a movie in my automobile. I'm not even going to use my microwave to disinfect a sponge! I'm never going to do those things. Period. There's just a lot of really distracted, unfocused people wandering around doing half-assed stuff, and they think they're multi-tasking effectively. They're not.
They're inventing silly, random crap that other people are buying because they're too busy doing ten things at once, probably gabbing on their cell phones, to notice what goofy gifty they're loading into their shopping bags.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Theme For This Christmas: Focus On The Family (Whaddya Mean "That's Taken"?)

We finally got The Tree up at the Dept., and let me tell you--there is nothing that makes a bigger Scrooge out of me anymore than that job. I know, I know, how horrid does that make me sound as a Person and as a Mother and as a Woman and, by default therefore, The Holiday Bringer? But, holy crap, when it's just two grownups wrangling a seven-foot spruce and eleventy billion strings of mini-lights, the Jolly goes out of the task really fast.

(Interjection here by Rick: Whaddya mean "two grownups?" You are a lightweight and can't even stand near the door while I bring the damn thing in because you will get cold. The stand weighs more than you do. I do all the lights while you dress up the mantel. Now go ahead. )


After all the grunt work is done, the decorating begins, and that part is pretty okay. I mean, I try very hard not to be a real martinet about which ornaments hang where; it's just that some ornaments are front-of-the-tree ornaments, and some...well, they just don't make the cut. They're not First-Stringers, if you know what I mean. Now, ornaments I inherited from my dad's childhood tree? Front and center. Those have sentimental value. Plastic ornament I can't remember the origin of? Back of the tree. Handpainted likenesses of the dear departed TravisCat and EmilyCat? Hanging together in the front, right next to the sweater-head girl ornaments that Emily used to sneak off the tree while we were asleep or at work and we'd later find in her water dish. All the ornaments have a hierarchy, and almost all have a memory attached to them of some kind.

That's why I just don't get The Themed Christmas Tree. Really, what the heck is that all about? I mean, I understand them in stores, all decorated in a Circus Theme or a Teddy Bear Theme or a Color Theme, but that's to sell ornaments and lights. Why would you have that in your home at Christmas?

I look at the Family Christmas Tree as an eclectic celebration of the family. The ornaments are things that you've collected, things your kids or you have made, things that reflect your lives. Each year, Jared and Sam and I would take a day and go to breakfast and then go and look at all the decorated trees at the department stores. Each of them could pick out a special ornament of his own. To this day, each remembers which ornaments belong to whom. For a while there, they were stuck on foods: we have a kiwi, a pear, a pickle, a slice of watermelon. Then it was animals. Then sports. But the point is, those decorations personalize our tree. And when those boys leave my home to start one of their own, they can take those ornaments with them.

A theme tree doesn't have any of that. It matches a room. Or an idea. It could be anyone's tree. It could be in Pier One or Pottery Barn or Macy's just as well as in your home.

I think the absolute worst theme tree I ever saw was in a garden center in 1997. That was the year that Titanic hit the big screen. This garden center had a Titanic theme tree. I almost threw up. It had a continuous loop of the Celine Dion theme playing, and it actually had a few replicas of the ship stuck in it here and there. The ornaments were all rather Edwardian looking--lace, muslin, flowers, some baby's breath, all that crap, and some blue plastic gemstone hearts. But what a horrific idea. I leaned in to my husband and said, "Where are the life preservers and the bluish, lifeless bodies? How about a few chunks of polar ice?" Good heavens, how tasteless. And the Cleveland television station came to do a story on it! Why do I live here? Aaarrrrggghhh!

Every year there is a story about The War on Christmas. Every year I think that's a bunch of bullshit. What we really should be fighting against is The Theme Christmas Tree. It's destroying the very fiber of The American Family. So, right now--go get some pipecleaners and some Cheerios and make a wreath to hang on your Christmas tree! Make a Rudolph out of popsicle sticks and cotton balls! To paraphrase Charlie Brown: "It's not such a bad little tree. All it needs is a little love."

(Oh, and here's a Classic Dept. of Nance Post about Christmas Trees Past.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sex And Gay Marriage In The School Library

"Mrs. D., why is it that all everyone talks about is sex?"

I turned to face Alex, one of my juniors doing research in the library. I heard the scrape of chairs as half the kids at computers pushed back to see what my reaction would be. Patti, one of the librarians, smiled behind him. Quickly, I scanned Alex's expression: his face was open and inquisitive. He wasn't trying to start something.

"Well, are you referring to the research topics in class, Alex? Remember, everyone in here chose a controversial issue, so topics like gay marriage, whether or not homosexuality is genetic and things like that are issues that your colleagues chose to research. That's why they're being discussed," I said.

"No, I didn't mean in here," he said. "I mean, like, everywhere. On tv, in the news, in commercials. It's sex, sex, sex. There's just a lot of it being debated everyplace. Why is that?"

Allow me to state here, for the record, that for the first time in many days, I had everyone's full and undivided attention. And believe me, I paused and thought before I answered. A. Lot.

"Well, Alex, first of all, let me say that I think you're right," I told him. "There is a lot of yammering about sex on television and everywhere else. And I think part of the reason for that is the same reason every single one of you is listening to me right now--and way more than when I talk about commas or symbolism or how to do a citation. Because sex is very interesting to pretty much everyone. Right? Sex sells. So if a show is about sex, people will watch it and then advertisers will buy spots so products make money. Sex is now the lowest common denominator. It's like, not everyone will get a political joke, but a sex joke? Everyone gets that. It's sad, really. At least, I think so."

Another student, Brittany, chimed in. "I think it's sad that some people think that someone else's sexuality is their business. I mean, my topic is gay marriage. Who cares if gay people want to get married? It's not like someone is forcing someone to be gay and get married."

Alex said, "This is what I'm talking about. I'm uncomfortable with this discussion. I don't want to think about it."

"You brought it up, dude," said Tyler, amiably from his computer in the corner where he was researching whether or not minorities are unfairly represented in textbooks. "I'm all for live and let live. My people have been persecuted throughout history. I'm not about to do it to someone else just because they happen to want to marry someone who has the same plumbing."

"Exactly!" said Brittany. "My godfather is gay. I love him. If he wanted to get married, I'd be the first person at his wedding!"

"Hmmm," said Alex. "What did you wish for?"

"What in the hell are you talking about?" asked Brittany, looking at Alex as if he had just landed from another planet.

"I just figured, if you had a fairy godfather..."

please note, photo credit

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Santa's Not The Only One With An Interesting List Around Here

So I'm going through my "Blogbits" folder on my computer. This is the folder where I save all the things I read online and think, "Hey! This might make a good blogpost someday." Let me tell you, just reading the titles makes me more than a little concerned if, for some odd reason, someone had reason to confiscate my hard drive and poke around. "Yikes," he or she would say, "what the hell is wrong with this chick?"

Half of the articles lead to a 404 Error, or page not found, so I'm out of luck on those. And, I figure--just like the clothes closet rule--if I haven't used them in the past 6 months to a year, I should just toss them. But, before I do, I feel the need to at least get some use out of them. So, I'm offering up the best ones here, in a list. Here are:

The Best Headlines Of Real Stories I've Read On The Interwebs
1. Toadzilla Captured in Australia
2. Coyote Caught at Downtown Quizno's
3. Kids Take on Lunch Lady--and Win!
4. Police Boss Kills Workers Who Asked for Raise
5. California Carpenter Can Work in the Buff
6. Woman Has Yard Full of Snapping Turtles
7. Monkey Crackdown no Funny Business for City
8. Ton of Snakes Seized on Plane
9. Put Those Polar Bears on a Diet!
10. Urine Trouble--Whizzinator Makers Plead Guilty

(That last one has a great first paragraph that still makes me chuckle.)

And, actually, you can still read the Toadzilla story. Go ahead. You'll thank me for it, especially when you get to the quote that includes the phrase "rampant male." It's damn good. But I did just kill 10 possible blogposts in one fell swoop. Oh, well.

But, speaking of lists, I'll sneak in a plug for Stuff On Our List. I know readers here will remember Jared, who appears often in my posts here at the Dept. He and I have collaborated on this new blog, which we've just started for fun and a way to do something together even though he's away. Click over if you have the time and inclination.
But watch out for snakes. And toads. And really, really, fat polar bears.
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