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DEAR JON LETTERS
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Apocalypse Not Yet: You Should Still Shop for Christmas

by Dear Jon
October 7, 2008

Dear Readers,

Keep the mail-bag full! Today's is a two-letter day, one from a guy who fears the end of the world and another from a guy who fears that Christmas shopping is not what it used to be.

ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

Which is a clearer sign of the Apocalypse, the crashing of America's financial institutions, or that both of Chicago's baseball teams are in the playoffs for the first time in 102 years?

Worried Man

Dear Worried,

Have no fear. God showed us that life is normal with a three-game sweep that knocked the Cubs out of the play-offs. I have said it before and I will say it again: God likes to pick on everyone who lives south of Kenosha and north of the Hancock Building.

By the way, the crashing of global finance is not a sign of the Apocalypse either. It is a sign that lending practices which are based on fantasy and consumer borrowing practices which are based on avarice rather than common sense, lead to actual consequences. The apocalypse will feature events beyond human capability to create; such as collisions with massive extra-terrestrial objects (described in The Apocalypse of John chapter 6 if I recall correctly. I'm not looking this up). This financial crisis is strictly the invention of humanity. For more information on that, read James Leroy Wilson.

Since the subject of the apocalypse is sort of religious (as is the subject of Chicago sports for some people) I am going to risk a  nod to religious sources.

Ancient sages of the Middle East wrote that "the borrower is servant to the lender." This is a "proverb," which is why it appears in a book called "Proverbs," which is usually bound together with other ancient writings from the same general region, with lots of mention of "apocalypse." In fact, one of those ancient writings often included in "The Apocalypse of John."

This "proverb" about indebted serfdom should make us think twice about government bail-outs and about our individual desires to purchase lifestyles before we can afford them. Now the kind of people who say stuff like this on the radio, are not doing their talking on Sports call-in shows or even News networks. Sports Talk guys around Chicago were all about this being the Cubs year after a century and blah blah blah, which only makes a little more sense than the "bi-partisan" confusion of both Republicans and Democrats about what makes for long-term solvency.

The radio stations which talk about firm economic principles, stuff like "saving" for a purchase and other novel ideas that are dying off with the Greatest Generation, are the religious ones that treat "Proverbs" and "Apocalypse of John" books as descriptions of timeless truths. I'm not going to give call numbers because they are different across the nation. Try spinning the dial. You'll find them.

P.S. Is there still such a thing as "spinning the dial" for HD radio?

ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

With Christmas just around the corner (yes, I know we haven't even had Halloween, but try telling the retail stores that!), I have begun thinking about presents for my children. Like many, I am on a tight budget, but I also want to give my kids the fond memories of Christmas that I had. This has led me to my dilemma.

Being a child of the 70's, I have fond memories of playing with Lincoln Logs and Hot Wheels racetracks (not necessarily together, but that was also fun!). The problem is, new Lincoln Log and Hot Wheels sets are a lot more expensive, and not a lot like I remember them. Also, I heard with the new Lincoln Logs, the die rubs off into carpets and like everything else, are probably made in China (how more un-American can you get??).

I have thought of buying older sets off eBay, which would be cheaper, and more like I remember them, but they are also used, and what kid wants used toys for Christmas?

So, do I go cheap and vintage or modern, expensive, and (in my opinion) inferior? Or do I just realize kids don't play with toys anymore and buy them a Wii?

Dad with a dilemma

Dear Dil,

First of all, Christmas is not right around the corner. Enjoy October. If you are living in a place that experiences fall colors, enjoy them. Remember that after Hallowe'en, there is Thanksgiving (in the USA).

Second, I have not noticed any problem with Lincoln Log dye. My collection of Lincoln Logs spans several generations. They are all compatible.

Third, I tried the internet for Hot Wheels accessories and got frustrated with what was available. Meanwhile Hot Wheels (which we have known for decades are made overseas) continue to come out with cool concept cars sold individually in drug stores for a dollar. All things considered, that is still a pretty good deal for what is always a cool toy. I like to pick up a new one for my daughter as an extra treat for her birthday, and at Christmas as a "stocking" gift. Now she is legally old enough to play with most Hot Wheels and their accessories, at least according to the warnings splashed all over the packaging. I don't think I would have been arrested for allowing an under-age toddler to play, supervised, with Mattel toys. Maybe I'd be arrested in Canada.

Other pre-schoolers might be getting cell phones in their stockings, but I draw the line at the madness.

Anyway, as far as those toys are concerned go ahead and do your shopping in the stores, and, do your shopping after Thanksgiving. There is always too much to go around, so why start early?

Fourth, there is no such thing as recapturing the Christmas of the 1970's. In the 70's, grown-ups fondly remembered the Christmas seasons of the 30's and 40's (remember The Walton's premiere episode, the "Homecoming" movie?)

The best way to recapture the atmosphere of a 1970's Christmas has nothing to do with the gifts you buy. Instead, you have to declare a techno black-out: No computers (or internet), no cable, no game consoles, no cell phones or pods or pilots or Blackberries (unless they are ground up into a dessert topping), and the television must be limited to the "Big Three" networks plus PBS. You cannot even tune into FOX, unless you have to make an exception for football, which is not covered by the same network deals that ruled in the 1970's. Another way to look at it is to treat FOX like a UHF public access station.

If you don't have a record player (we do, by the way) you may use the CD player in your family's central entertainment system to play Christmas music. No individual listening (or anti-family "tuning OUT" devices like those portable MP3 players with the ear-plugs) can be allowed. Make the black-out effective starting December 23rd and lasting until New Year's Day. (Your kids are home from school during that period.)

With the black-out in effect, pull out board games and jigsaw puzzles. Make your own egg-nog and apple cider. If you are in the right setting, block out long chunks of time for winter games and playing in the snow. Bake pies from scratch. Then you will have the kind of Christmas you remember.

Yah, right. Having the kids riot over the black-out rule would not be half the battle on your hands as when you suggest to your wife that the baking should happen from scratch this year. The "pie" idea was the last straw, wasn't it. You're already budgeting for the Wii, aren't you.




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