Saturday, December 25, 2004

Homemade X-mas Card

We’re having a nice Christmas here. Santa Claus is still a big, big deal in our house, and thankfully the girls asked for presents that weren‘t too extravagant or hard to find. So parents and kids are all pretty satisfied. No snow, which takes some explaining (my youngest has been brainwashed by the TV specials to think that a white Christmas is automatic), but it’s quite cold outside, so a couple of the presents (a Razor scooter, for one) won’t get tried out until tomorrow.

One odd thing--my friends the Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped by. These guys first knocked on our door one Saturday over two years ago, and for better or worse I was polite and attentive to them. (I don’t agree with what they preach, but I respect their dedication, if for no other reason than having been a field canvasser at one time myself.) They’ve stopped by regularly ever since then, one Saturday a month or so, just for a couple of minutes, to give me a little magazine and a short Bible lesson. You wonder how productive it is for these folks going around knocking on doors on Christmas Day, in the freezing cold. But Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate Christmas like most churches to begin with, so maybe that‘s part of the point.

One of the girls got the Crayola crayons 120-color set. Crayon color technology has almost doubled in a generation. I wonder if there is some corollary to Moore’s Law that accounts for this. Anyhow, I whiled away some time today looking at the colors and the names Crayola assigns to them. Most of the great ones from my childhood are still there: Cornflower and Periwinkle and Bittersweet. The new colors, I give mixed reviews. Crayola does do some innovative things in the way of fluorescents. But some of these colors, frankly, are mostly hype and not much character. Entrants like Shocking Pink and Outrageous Orange and Unmellow Yellow--it’s obvious what’s going on there, right? Just adding a clever or trendy modifier to the same old color. There are some cheap sentimental nature/ecology allusions. There’s a Rain Forest Green, a Mountain Meadow. There’s a color called Outer Space. There are colors called Manatee and Timberwolf. Also, there are some nods to cultural Americana (Denim, Tumbleweed, Purple Mountain’s Majesty, Wild Blue Yonder), some of which verge on nationalism or militarism. Navy Blue is a cliché by now rather than a military tribute, but there is a Cadet Blue and, most striking, a Purple Heart.

Obviously, the eight or ten basic colors are a given, but it’s interesting how much editorializing goes on in The Big Box. The Crayola Company of Easton, Pennsylvania, is one of the unacknowledged legislators of our mental universe. They’re at least as important as any museum or school in fundamentally shaping American children’s imaginations and use of senses. Kvetching aside, the company fulfills this role fairly responsibly. Foods and flowers represent the membrane between the wild and the domestic, the natural and the artificial. Like many children’s songs and stories, Crayola dwells quite a bit on the table and the garden. Granny Smith Apple. Asparagus. Macaroni and Cheese. Orchid. Wisteria. Inch Worm. Robin’s Egg Blue.

I thought of commenting on this story about the soul-negating tyranny of "Season's Greetings" (there is a Raleigh connection after all, and isn't it my function on the WWW to blog about national news stories that originate in my geographical area? Isn't it? Hello?) but I won't. 'Tis the season for peace on earth, good will to ALL men, and I think the angel was including big fat crybabies in that injunction.

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