Friday, December 30, 2011

Merry Christmas 12/30/11

As I write this post on December 30, I haven't seen any evidence anywhere that Christmas decorations have been taken down. Then again, it's hard to necessarily identify what is absent--it's easier to notice what is still present. And while driving through the Wisconsin countryside last night, I could see that houses were still illuminated throughout the horizon. Driving through towns, city decorations are still prominent. Stopping at a Subway restaurant,a fully ornamented tree was on display.

I imagine that at this time next week these sights will have faded into memory. I've never really payed attention to the exact day that the holiday season has transitioned. The traditional Epiphany holiday is not celebrated by stores, so the notion of 12 days of Christmas is probably known to younger generations as a concept only expressed in the words of an eccentric song.

From my understanding of the ancient world, there was really no such thing as a single-day holiday. Festivals had to be worth the logistical efforts involved in their staging, which naturally would have been rather more arduous in those days than what we are accustomed to. So the pay-off would have to be grander, the narrative of celebration more prolonged. Of course, our holidays too tend to be prolonged, particularly the Christmas holiday, it's just that the narrative has been frontloaded. Largely because of commercial interests, the buildup has become the emphasis, the climax relegated to the status of a coda, the falling action truncated.

But beyond sequences of celebration, I find this phenomena to be a troublesome element pervasive in our contemporary times. The media news cycle has also contributed to a climate of rapid obsolescence. Anything we consume is packaged with an expiration date, even intellectual considerations that may actually benefit from a longer period of digestion.

I speak from experience, having once worked in talk radio. One example that comes to mind: part of my job responsibilities involved lining up guests to discuss supposedly relevant topics. A week prior to the opening of the new Soldier Field in Chicago, an architecture critic wrote a review in one of the Chicago papers. I contacted him to see if he would be willing to discuss his review on our radio station, and when he proved agreeable, I suggested we line something up for the morning after the first Bears game. He was a bit surprised by this proposal, wondering if I wouldn't prefer to have him on prior to the game. I noted that it would be nice for people to have first seen the stadium on TV to have a better frame of reference for his expert opinion. He agreed and the interview was scheduled...then I had to repeat my thought process to the announcers who would be conducting the interview, who thought it would be better to talk about something before it happened, rather than run the risk of dwelling on "old news."

But I'm of the opinion that there is no such thing as "old news." I think it would be just as relevant to have that critic on a sports radio station today, given that the stadium still stands and nothing has really changed in its architecture. Anything that is worthy of conversation isn't worthy just because of the calendar (and things that are "current" aren't always worthy of conversation).

I'm not suggesting that Christmas trees be displayed year round. But on the other hand, on a cold, desolate February night, I don't think I would mind seeing houses illuminated throughout the Wisconsin countryside.


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