December 24, 2012


For a few days now, I've been trying to summon the strength to write a cheery Christmas post, but this just doesn't seem like a good year for cheery.

My wife did whip up one of her clever alternative Christmas trees, which I've blogged about before and before.

I think this Christmas Guy looks kind of cheery and jaunty in an alternative kind of way.

And we took our usual stroll through one of Sacramento's established neighborhoods, where the affluent owners dress their fine old homes in a style that reminds me of how Christmas used to look before it was digitally enhanced and brought to life by Disney animatronics. There was hardly an inflatable, dancing Santa or computer-controlled flashing light display anywhere.

I took some photos and set them to some cheery music as you can see in the video at the end of this post.

But I'm still not really cheery.

I think the 700-pound grinch in most of our living rooms this Christmas is the grim memory of some school kids who won't be celebrating Christmas ever again.

The talking heads on our televisions drone on about what must be fixed to prevent future tragedies. They hardly mention that the ultimate tragedy was a human mind that broke in a way no laws or politicians will ever be able to fix.

At Christmas, I'm reminded that, as humans, we need other people in our lives to survive. Not to feed us or buy us iPads, but just to care that we are alive.

Christmas is mostly about getting off our usual treadmills and stopping to connect with the people in our lives whom we may have neglected all the rest of the year.

Remember to tell the people you love that you love them. Even if they piss you off some of the time. It could turn out to be the most important thing you ever do.

Now, let's go out there and make the best of what has been a pretty scary Christmas.

Cheers, from O Dock.

(And please, to keep all of the extra high definition pixels in this video from escaping, click the little gear thingy once the video starts, switch to HD, and then click the 'full-screen' doodad.)


  1. Awe jeeze Edith (as Archy used to say) we'll have to fire up another coal plant to run this thing.

    Why can't you people just be happy with lighting a candle for Christ's sake?

  2. I think the first candles weren't lit for Christ's sake, Panda.

    Folks were putting up trees and lighting candles on the longest night of the year way before the Christians got involved.

    And being only human, if Friedrich had two candles on his tree, then Wolfgang wanted three candles.

    Give the idea a few hundred years to percolate, and you end up with what we've got today.

    I think one of the best things to come of all this is that you can now buy candles for half off if you wait until after New Year's.

  3. I have nothing snarky to say, great post. Have a Merry Christmas!

  4. Thanks, Joe. There'll be plenty of time for snark after the holidays.

    And if you wait until after New Year's, snark is half off.

  5. Have a holly jolly Christmas, Mitch. But watch out for Bumbles.

  6. Merry Christmas, even if not the merriest ever.

    Love the alternative Christmas tree - think this one's my favorite yet! Please pass along my compliments to the extremely creative creator.

    And nice to see you're back. You & Carol Anne - great week for my favorite blogs reappearing!

    Off to TX in the AM!

    1. Thanks for the good words. Compliments passed.

      It's good to blog again, I think, but this is seriously cutting into my power naps.

  7. I agree with Bonnie about the alterna-tree. Tres chic.

    Meanwhile, that's a stunning slideshow. Those light displays prove that you can have a great display without getting garish. Perhaps that's why I like the display at the Mormon temple in Mesa -- much drama, no schlock.

    Something else I noticed -- all of those houses have prominently displayed address numbers, at least 6 inches high. Now that Gerald's gotten EMT certification and is working with emergency services people, one of his pet peeves is houses with either no number, or a number so hard to see that it's useless. Does the city or the neighborhood have a regulation requiring legible numbers?

  8. Thanks for the kind words, Carol Anne.

    There are homes in this area with a lot more lights, but somehow, the ones with fewer are often more impressive. Some have no lights on the house at all, but only in the landscaping.

    I think the size of the house numbers is indirectly related to the age of the neighborhood. These lots were drawn up in the 1930s - 40s, I think, when land cost a lot less than today. By today's standards, the lots are deep and the houses set farther back from the street. So a larger number is required to be visible from the street.

    This was also a time before the Levitt brothers taught us how to design neighborhoods. It's nice walking down a street where every house was designed by a different architect.

  9. I like the video; nicely done.

    As far as the grinch is concerned, more and more I've taken to getting my news in text form rather than radio, TV or video (think Marshall McLuhan, a focus of several of my design school classes). And when the media is in full-on melt-down mode, I switch over to my classical guitar collection. Works for me.

    1. Thanks about the video.

      My news is coming mainly from online sources now, too. I seem to watch TV news clips only if they've been linked to elsewhere.

      I think what bothered me most about the grinch is that pundits - broadcast or online - hammered away relentlessly about laws and regulations they think would fix things. But I feel our problems are more cultural than legal and would require a lot more than legislation to fix.

      Maybe working on a video that evokes a simpler, more perfect time was a means of escape for me.

      The bottle of Zinfandel that my wife and I polished off certainly was.

  10. Very nice video! Puts my little tree to shame. So what was that about a war on Christmas, Roland Hedley?

    Remember that 2013 is a brand new year, potential full of good things. Look at London: in 2011 we had riots and looters but in 2012 a golden summer of wonder (official)

    1. Thanks, JP.

      I think the war is being gradually countered by a growing concern for the needs of our Spanish-speaking population here in the States.

      There's a heart-warming grassroots campaign to put the mas back in Christmas.

    2. Feliz Navimas, Amigos!!!

  11. How can grass roots warm your heart? Do you eat the roots or stuff them inside your shirt?

    1. Neither.

      You ferment them.

    2. I didn't think about my reply too much, but figured the British must have found a way to make a tasty drink out of fermented grass roots, as they've done with just about everything else that grows on those sodden islands.

      Maybe that's what they make Marmite from.