Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jimmy's on crack, and I don't care.

Whence this practice of sending "holiday newsletters"? In fairness, I'm sure it all began some time ago, back in the era before people were in constant touch via Nextel or Twitter, when the arrival of the current newsletter each December represented a welcome way of catching up with important developments of the past year throughout the family and extended family. That said, I also sense that the practice has accelerated in recent times; certainly in this family, it has. And I have to see this as yet another outgrowth of the fulminating narcissism and "I celebrate myself!" movement that has hijacked American culture in recent decades. These things read like the self-congratulatory mini-memoirs teachers would encourage kids to write in the earliest days of self-esteem-based education. ("10 Reasons Why it's Great to be Me!") It's just that some kids never outgrew it, even now that they're in their mid-30s and have kids of their own.

One caveat, here. If you can write a comedy masterpiece, that's another story (bearing in mind that most folks who think they "write funny," well, don't. Corny is more like it.) My mother-in-law, who lives with us, has a cousin who sends just such a missive each Christmas, and we look forward to it. The woman is savvy and sly, and has perfect comedic timing, which is not easy to have in print. Above all, and this may be the key, she is self-deprecatory. In fact, the sarcastic genius of her presentation of legitimate news makes her newsletters read like parodies of the other kind, which only serves to amplify the humor.

Ahh yes, that "other kind." They are, in a word, insufferable. I ask the authors of such tedious documents why they think it's necessary for me to know that little Tommy passed his first fully formed stool, or that Debbie started school "and now eats green beans, and seems to really enjoy them! We're so excited!" Look, if something spectacular happened to you and/or yours
and I didn't already hear about itby all means send a little note. But please, spare me the news about how happy you (still) are at the job you've had for two decades, or that you survived another year of marriage, or that you're enrolled in a spinning class orGod help us allyou've taken up scrapbooking.

So let me put this in the form of an official request. Unless your newsletter reads something like so...

The parole hearing is next month, and we're optimistic this time; two of Bob's three victims mysteriously died, so there are fewer people to speak for the other side.... Little Lucy has graduated—from percodan to fentanyl... MaryAnne finally succeeded at fulfilling one of her life's goals. (She got a very nice thank-you note from the Birmingham football team, too.)... Meanwhile, the cops found one of the animals' heads, so Ted is going to have to be more careful about disposal...
...feel free to save a stamp and a tree by omitting me from your list. Merry Christmas and HO-HO-HO!


Alert readers will notice that an item has been deleted from the blog. I have my reasons, and they're good ones. To those of you who took the trouble to comment in response to that item, I apologize, and I urge you to resist feeling that those efforts were wasted. We'll come back to it again when the time is right.


Dimension Skipper said...

Yeah, I very much agree about such holiday letters, but generally I keep that opinion to myself lest I offend anyone or cause hurt feelings.

Yours reminds me of this one I read just the other day...

The Dysfunctional Holiday Letter

Steve Salerno said...

DS: Thanks, as always. I went there and did a little bit of shameless (SHAM-less?) self-promotion.

NormDPlume said...

Is it misogynistic of me to point out that 99% of these annoying holiday letters are penned by women? If so, I don't care. Unfunny women seem to have an insatiable desire to be heard, damnit!

Back in the pioneer days - out on the prairie, women would go months without seeing other families; and years without seeing relatives or friends. These women would spend time on sorrow quilts, with all sorts of patches detailing what had gone wrong in their lives "little Timmy took sick with fever; Alice fell down a well...". These quilts were like a country song made of fabric and stitches.

But today's modern women don't know sorrow on the scale of their counterparts from 150 years ago. So we get stuck with these damn year-end missives that aim for cute and funny; but strike insipid and annoying (the ones told from the kid's point of view are particularly gag-inducing). Why don't they just take up quilting again?

Elizabeth said...

OK, since Steve removed his previous post and comments with it (now, really), I have to write it here:

DimSkip, in my experience, you don't get that warm and fuzzy "we are all in this together" feeling below 12 inches. Sorry, that's the tradeoff. You wanna be blissed out with the love of humanity? Get your shovel ready.

Now on to holiday letters: to paraphrase Stephen Salerno's views on musicals -- I HATE THEM. There.

So if you know me personally and are reading it, don't send me any this year. Or the next. Or the one after. Respect my misanthropy, please. (Please?)

P.S. WV is dyings. Sigh.

Steve Salerno said...


RevRon's Rants said...

"in my experience, you don't get that warm and fuzzy "we are all in this together" feeling below 12 inches."

OMG, Elizabeth! You know me well enough by now to realize where my mind would go with a comment like this! You're intentionally putting my internal struggle 'twixt depraved opportunism and tasteful discretion to the ultimate evil test.

To borrow a quote from the Doc Holiday character in "Tombstone" ...
"Yes, you are a good woman. But then again, you just might be the Antichrist!" :-)

As to the annual missives: Please consolidate the newsletters into a once-per-decade journal and mail them to someone@mightgiveas**t.com. Of course, those newsletters that are accompanied by significant checks may be sent in the customary fashion (no Amazon gift certificates or tickets to sweat lodges, please).

Thanks for your support.

VW = logalens (I kid you not)

Dimension Skipper said...

On that dysfunctional holiday letter, I liked the part about the cat best.

DimSkip, in my experience, you don't get that warm and fuzzy "we are all in this together" feeling below 12 inches. Sorry, that's the tradeoff. You wanna be blissed out with the love of humanity? Get your shovel ready.—Eliz

I know what you mean, but I was talking not so much in a general "we're in this together" sense, more a specific "I know these neighbors/friends/family need help and I can provide it" sense. (And I rarely get blissed out on anything, even this scenario.)

The more general sense might also depend on where you live, the type of snow (6" of wet & heavy can be just as bad as 24" of light & fluffy), and also on whom you're helping...

Like elderly neighbors who couldn't do it otherwise and would either be stuck in for a week or have to pay a pro (who will get there "when he can" because he's so busy all at once). And all with various serious life issues being dealt with at the moment too.

Additionally, let me say just because one has a plow doesn't mean it's easy work. There's a lot of technique and even some body english involved when trying to plow as much as we got with my little lawn tractor. And that's even after accounting for plowing several times while it's still coming down and blowing in your face and it's predicted to snow heavily for hours and hours more. But if you don't do in-progress plows (especially with four driveways to tend to, one of them long—4 telephone poles, so 3 gap-lengths between'em) you just get hopelessly behind and end up not being able to do much of anything in the end.

Since I do hate snow so much, please allow me this one silver lining. Call it my own moment of angling for some + thinking.

P.S. I guess the whole blizzard experience is too fresh yet, 'cause I didn't even grasp the deviant alternative interpretation of the comment until RevRon pointed it out whilst I was composing myself.

WV: bikerias. RevRon gets a bikerias thrill outta Liz's phrasing...


(Sorry, Steve, that's the last I'll speak off-topic of the Great Blizzard of '09. Of course, you're welcome to steer the next several up your way if you like, but I'm sure you'll get your share in the months to come.)

Happy holiday(s) to Steve and all the SHAMbloggees no matter which holiday(s) you may claim as your own (and no offense intended if you actually don't observe any).

Peace, good will, kindness, and even love need not, and should not, be confined to any one ethnicity, denomination, or belief system, nor should they be restricted to only one (or several) particular day(s) of the year. I wish you all that and much more.

There... consider that my holiday letter.

littleplanet said...

One might get a little bedazzled by all that faux literary effort at year's end....but then again, perhaps not.
Isn't it just another version of the 15 minutes of fame? Everybody's the star of their own life?
The self-importance inflates with the size of the Infinity, the McCastle/Palace, the student loan yet to be paid back, the household debt in general, the plateloads of uni-priced smorgasborded all you can eat til you drop........(I could go on, but then again, no.)

I always kinda regarded them like Hallmark cards....stinky washroom residuals, one of life's unfortunate droppings.
If that was all there was too it, I'd be up to me eyeballs in humbuggery.
Thankfully, I'm surrounded mostly by folks who haven't the least interest in celebrating the blahs, bleats and boredoms of the previous twevemonth.


Dimension Skipper said...

First and very tangentially on-topic...

Thinking about it, there's another holiday-related greeting that I find so much more annoying than those family letters. At least those are personal and you know the folks even though you may find them, their "news," or their writing style to be not so enthralling.

What I absolutely cannot stand is when businesses send out generic holiday greeting cards. I think most people couldn't give a reindeer's backside if they get a card from their accountant or broker or bank, whatever.

I may be particularly biased because after my Dad passed away December 12th a few years ago, our accountant sent a card addressed to him and family the following year (obviously I understood getting one addressed that way the same month he died) AFTER having done his tax returns the prior spring and dealing with official death notices and such.

I called them and told them I didn't appreciate getting a card addressed that way when they dealt with Dad personally and should have been well aware he'd died the year before after having done his return. They apologized and promised to correct the issue.

So NEXT Christmas the card came STILL addressed to my Dad and family! I called then and told them to remove both my Dad AND me from their holiday card list and to do it right then and there while I was on the phone.

These sorts of business practices are supposed to present customers with a warm personal touch to show that they know you, care about you, and appreciate your business. Which would be perfectly acceptable if they could then also somehow manage to keep track of a few little details, like which of their valued clients are actually still breathing. Sheesh!

Sorry, I rant. But as I say I find that practice to be much more abhorrent than the family holiday letter. To me it's just blatant commercialism and empty marketing dressed up and posing as sincere caring and appreciation. (Though I'd be willing to grant the occasional exception here and there.)

Or maybe my one bad experience colors my perception too much.

Second, just one more thing on snow, but not technically on MY blizzard experience, so... I just found this new Language Log item amusing:

Snow word comprehension

Steve Salerno said...

DS: You are too much. Seriously. And I mean that in a good way.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, Stephen. What? No...?

Rev, sigh. You are incorrigible, m'dear. And that's the way we like you. (big grin)

DimSkip, happy holidays to you too. (And whatever you do, stay away from Twitter. I will too. :))

WV: lownet. (How do they know?!)

Dimension Skipper said...

Eliz, I couldn't tweet even if I wanted to. Keep posts to 140 characters? I have trouble keeping things to 140 paragraphs! No way could I tw

Steve Salerno said...

DS: Ibid.

RevRon's Rants said...

I signed onto Twitter months ago, and deleted my account in a week. Simply couldn't fathom the usefulness or entertainment value of 140-character posts, most of which were self-serving beyond irrelevance.

I signed on again a couple of weeks ago - anonymously this time - for the express purpose of getting links to discussions about the latest sweat lodge / Vitale foolishness. As it turns out, the entertainment value hasn't improved.

And I'll second the good wishes for the holiday season. Though I'm not a Christian, I acknowledge that the warmth and caring that is inspired by the holiday actually transcends belief systems. And that's a good thing, IMO. A VERY good thing.

Eliz - Numerous people have attempted to "corrige" me throughout my life, but their efforts were doomed. Too many lovelies, dancing about in a frequently idle (addled?) mind. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: When you corrige someone, is that a little bit like sheveling them? Or does it not feel quite as pleasurable...?

Steve Salerno said...

What's the other term that people sometimes use in that fashion, by detaching it from its customary prefix? Is it "peccable," as a corruption of "impeccable"?

RevRon's Rants said...

Hmmm... I've not been shevelled since my Navy days (well, there were a few stints in corporate clone-dom where I had to remain somewhat shevelled). Based purely upon those periods in my life, I'd have to state unequivocally that being shevelled rates right up there with being corriged, pleasure-wise. Alas, I prefer a career spent in a pair of cargo shorts and a t-shirt, my lovely lady at my side, with far-away lovelies tantalizing to the point of frequent distraction.

Kinda obvious that we're all winding down to the holidays, isn't it?

OMT - Wouldn't the word Twitter describe one who twits? I think that the original pronoun-ness is infinitely more accurate, rendering the definitions inverted. IE : Is one who Twitters a twit? (Not that all twitters are twits, of course. Just read their tweets and judge for yourself!) :-)

littleplanet said...

corrige / rhymes with porridge / cruelly gruelish and gruesome stewy somewhat sticky substance of socially acceptable coagulation.
To corrige is to look quick to the right, to the left, and copy exactly what everyone else is doing.
Commonly and historically formulated in kindergarden, but recently noted that, as everything has, a decidedly noticeable acceleration of due process: can now be spotted distinctly in Einsteined babies.

toon in next year for the shevel report. (unless resolutions nix the remix.)

Elizabeth said...

So... does sheveling after being corriged lead to peccable behavior?

Or is it the other way around?

RevRon's Rants said...

I would surmise that the effectively corriged would, by their very nature, tend to be sheveled at all times. It's part of that peccable behavior, you see...

Methinks I've inhaled a bit too much sawdust & glue vapor today, as evidenced in this latest comment.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: To be honest, I couldn't tell the difference between that and the usual you...

Karl said...

This American tradition of end-of-year missives doesn't seem to have cottoned on over here in Oz.
The Saints be praised.
And twittering is as inane as the constant need to be either sending text messages or checking to see if you'v re received one.

Matt Dick said...

Around these parts we call them "Gee, We're Great Gazettes"

LizaJane said...

Re: "Holiday Update Letters." I like them. Yeah, some folks prattle on about stuff no one but real friends and relatives would give a hoot about -- hey wait, the people receiving the letters are friends and relatives. If not, then maybe you should excuse yourself from the card list, not just the update?

So call me an idiot, but I really don't mind the letters. I don't see them as self-indulgent, but more as "Hey, we wish you were closer and knew all this stuff because you were more involved in the stuff of our daily lives, and us in yours."

Sure, some of the letters are saccharine. Some are "written" by the cat or the baby. Not everyone -- or rather, almost no one -- can write (thus, those who can can get paid to do it). But the letters I receive tend to be "here's what's been going on with us. wish you'd been here to share it with us." And what's wrong with that?

As it so happens, I actually have some rather famous friends, some tremendously rich friends, some truly infamous friends. They tend not to send cards. Most card-sending friends are just normal people with normal lives. I figure if I want thrills and chills, or belly laughs, I'll turn to the professionals. From my holiday card folks, I don't expect more than a show of concern for me and mine, and to hear about them and theirs.

I also much prefer photo greetings to standard-issue cards, because I like to see the changes in friends' and relatives' kids (and in friends and relatives).

Maybe I'm just not misanthropic and jaded enough for this blog? Oh, and guess what? -- I scrapbook.

Steve Salerno said...

LZJ: You haven't gotten some of the ones I've gotten. Seriously. It's not just a question of "we wish you were closer and knew all this stuff because you were more involved in our daily lives." It's people prattling on about ridiculous mundane things that everybody does ("tonight is garbage night, and we have three full pails instead of the usual two..."; OK, I exaggerate, but not by much) or the moonlight walks they have with their sweeties or the rowdy laugh they shared over breakfast the other day (which they don't even describe the cause of, so we have to take their word for it. Didn't these people ever hear about "Show, don't tell"?) Put that stuff in a Hallmark card and give it to your beloved, if you want to memorialize such moments. Don't inflict it on the rest of us and expect us to go all gooey, too.