Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Anti-Christmas, Everyone (Or Is That Merry Crassmas?)

Fittingly, this entry will hit the virtual presses as soon as the holiday has almost wound down -- wouldn't be an anti-Christmas if it ran on time, right?  Well, our West Coast and Australian/New Zealand readers still have few hours of celebration left, I its namesake holiday, one suspects that an anti-Christmas is in the eye of the beholder, which suits The Squawker and myself perfectly.

Today's lead image from Crass's infamous Merry Crassmas EP (1981) sums up our long-running ambivalence about the whole Yule business. As releases go, it's surely among the strangest ever put on vinyl. Each side featured a medley of Crass favorites, played instrumentally on a rinky-dink-sounding organ, after which Santa himself re-entered the proceedings to wish us some holiday cheer -- but not the sort that turkey lovers might have expected!

If you figured out all the relevant song titles, you could win a) bath salts, b) one Exploited single or c) two Exploited singles from the band (if memory serves me correctly). Amazingly, the whole business proved enticing enough to earn a #2 UK indie chart placing at the time.

On one hand, you're constantly reminded to feel cheery and merry, even if those sentiments aren't reflected in your take-home pay, work schedule or personal situation.  If you're among the 7.7 million Americans forced by circumstances to work part-time -- according the latest figures released on December 6, by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) -- you might not be blamed for feeling a bit less merry than your brethren.

The airwaves get equally cloying, as the FM arteries clog with the same perennial 45 rpm showcases spun into the ground for the umpteenth time -- "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," anyone? -- and the boob tube offers the same lack of respite. The Squawker and myself opted for the Sundance Channel's Mel Brooks marathon. As I write this entry, I'm watching "The Producers," and feeling thankful for the option.

Honestly, who wants to eyeball "A Christmas Story," "A Christmas Carol" (in all its infinite guises) or "It's A Wonderful Life" for the millionth-bloody-umpteenth holiday cycle? As good as all those films are, they've run so often that you feel like you're counting sheep...thus, robbing the stories of their emotional impact.

And that's before we get the adverts -- if I have to see those bland yuppie drones blathering one more time about how the Trojan Vibrating Twister has inspired them to bonk like rabbits when they're home from work ("We...kick off our shoes...and go straight to bed...y'know. Same thing."), I think I'm going to reach for my hatchet...or my sick bag...or my gas mask...or some combination of the above.

Even the mundane side of the Yuletide tradition is no less perplexing and confusing. Last night, I had to rush around -- like all the other faces in the crowd -- to grab some last-minute items for the hearth (specifically, our turkey dinner). At 7:40 p.m.-ish (or so), I dashed through the entrance of the last store in town still greedy enough to stay open on Christmas Eve. It was the third one I'd visited.

As the greeter helpfully reminded me, "We're closing in 15 minutes," I slipped and fell on my left knee. I scraped myself off the floor, grabbed a cart and joined the same undignified scramble as my fellow shoppers, amid announcements that broke my concentration every five minutes to tell us exactly when the store was shutting down ("At this time, shoppers, I need you to make your way to the registers...they're going down at eight o'clock...and if you're won't be able to complete your shopping").

Against all odds, I managed to find myself in a never-ending line by 7:55 p.m. -- no mean feat, since the physical layout of most American groceries puts them on a par with walking across the U.S.S. Saratoga, or an equally imposing aircraft carrier -- and took a moment to glance around, trying to read the glances around me, wondering if they felt reminded of family members that they didn't want to see, the office parties they were trying to forget, the accumulated mountain of debt they'd be staring down in the new year.

I wondered if the BLS still considered these folks unemployed, or bumped them down into the categories of discouraged worker (762,000), or marginally attached to the labor force (2.1 million -- who don't figure in the jobless count, because they hadn't looked for work in the four week run-up to the latest survey). Perhaps you're among the roughly 1.3 million Americans losing extended jobless benefits this month, because the political classes want you to party like it's 1893...the only problem is, it's 2013, although I often have a hard time convincing myself of that fact.

Oh, wait a minute -- you don't fancy yourself a vegetarian? Well, if you're among the 2.8 million who'll be booted out of the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) next year, you'll get a chance to emulate the meatless anarchistic lifestyle a bit sooner than you think. Or maybe you're among the 140,000 estimated low-income families losing rental assistance vouchers -- a move that Congress's accounting masterminds anticipate will save $2 billion (the same ones, presumably, who low-balled the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts, right?) .

Are you a low-income senior? Don't worry, you haven't been left out of the budget meat cleaver that's whistling everybody's way. Meals on Wheels program cuts will mean roughly four to 18 million less meals for shiftless scroungers like yourself next year, of what seems likely to signal a new round of federal bloodletting. Given all those challenges that many of us face next year, it's tempting to see why "Bah, humbug!" might be a more sane and rational political response than the perennial Pollyanas might have you believe.

In that spirit, visit the link to Merry Crassmas below, find a can of Foster's lager (or two), and crank it up accordingly...oh, and while we're at it...have an anti-Christmas, and an anti-New Year. Or a merry Crassmas, perhaps. Really, it's on us... --The Reckoner

Merry Crassmas EP On Soundclound:

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Employment Report For November 2013:

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