Thursday, December 20, 2012

All icing - where's the cake?

Every Christmas, my family would make carrot pudding -- similar to carrot cake and plum pudding -- and there would be hard sauce on the side. The carrot pudding is actually quite nutritious: carrots and raisins and flour and eggs and a bunch of other good stuff -- the hard sauce is a garnish. Quick recipe for hard sauce: butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract, all to taste. Method of eating the carrot pudding with hard sauce: a spoon of pudding, then slide the pudding through the sauce.

I would always leave some of the hard sauce for the end, to have some "straight" -- without the pudding. But there was always a rule that I set for myself: I had to finish the pudding before I could have the hard sauce straight.

Last night, I watched The Polar Express, the movie with a bizarre animation technology that looks almost human the same way you sometimes think your cat is speaking English when it meows a certain way. Anyway, TPE is a "nice" story, if rather predictable: cynical child has up-close-and-personal encounter with Santa Claus and has his life changed as a result. A bunch of have-not kids get presents on Christmas. Formerly friendless kids make friends. The main character is advised to "BELIEVE".

As I say, it's a nice story. So why did I come through it with a grieved spirit? Because it's a lot of hard sauce, and I haven't seen much real carrot pudding over the Christmas season. Let's see: earlier this week, Fox TV aired a triple-play of three shows I'd never heard of before, billed as "three Holiday Classics". The first two had something to do with Santa Claus and the third was a Peanuts special ... except it wasn't A Charlie Brown Christmas, but "Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown", which was little more than a bunch of comic strips knitted together and animated with no reference to the true meaning of Christmas and CERTAINLY no sign of Chris Shea's* halting but sincere rendition of Luke 2 as Linus in ACBC. ACBC did air during the Christmas season, but it usually has a "don't blink or you'll miss it" schedule, as if the network executives are eager to get this "Jesus" malarkey out of the way and get on with the real holiday.

Last night's TV offering included something described as "The two sons of Mother Nature argue over Christmas."

Unclear on the concept?

Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and others that don't necessarily refer to the true meaning of Christmas, the same way that I enjoy hearing Bruce Springsteen's version of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" and Tom Petty's "Christmas All Over Again". But it feels, more and more, like we're getting force-fed a bowl of hard sauce without the carrot pudding -- with the same stomach-turning results.

(I actually have a personal issue with Rudolph. I like the story behind the recording of the song -- that Gene Autry's wife rather liked it, but he didn't think it would amount to much; but they had a few minutes left in a recording session, so they laid it down rather than send the musicians home early. But the more I think about the story line, the more I realize it's kinda cynical. I mean, look: here's someone with a physical aberration, who gets teased and bullied about it, and he only gains favor with the others because his "aberration" happens to be useful under certain circumstances. If it hadn't been foggy that one particular night, he would still have been teased and bullied. Moral of the story: if you can't prove your aberration is useful, suck it up, Prince Mishkin, 'cause they're still going to bully and tease you. At least the song doesn't take the tack the TV show does: that they'd have to "cancel Christmas" because Santa can't get fly in the fog. As if.)


*Sadly, I just learned through a Google search that Chris Shea passed away just over 2 years ago at the age of 52. Would have loved to have told him how much that little reading of his affected my life.