Friday, December 26, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: After-Christmas Special

All week folks have been expressing their regret that I’ve had to work, and all week I’ve been at pains to explain to them that there’s no reason for them to feel bad for me.  chose to take two weeks off in August to go to Maine.  Truth is, I’d much rather take my vacation time when the weather’s warm and I’m missing actual work, not when it’s crappy outside and half the office is out.  Granted, I’m off today, but still Christmas has never been my favorite holiday.  
Now that it’s over, I’m beyond ready to get on with my life.
Don’t get me wrong: I hope that you and yours had a great Christmas.  For all that I can be a bit of a Scrooge, we had a fine day here.  I just don’t much care for what Christmas has become, nor do I have a lot of family whom I never get to see except at the holidays.  Christmas isn’t a particularly “special” time of year for me.  Instead, it feels more like the time of year that brings out the very worst in people.  As I get older, it gets harder for me to make my peace with the insanity of it.  But what can you do?   Our kids like Christmas, so I try to engage with it on their behalf.  It takes effort, though, and even then, Sally and I both refuse to overdo the commercialism of it.  
We took the commercialism out of Christmas by requiring everyone in our family to make a gift for everyone else in our family.  This was our third year with that tradition, and it’s totally changed the way our kids see the idea of giving and receiving gifts.  Yeah, they still want to see what they’re going to get on Christmas morning just like other kids, but as people, their love goes where their efforts go.  Our kids are invested in the Christmas gifts that they give because they spent their own precious time and energy making those gifts.  They care about giving those gifts in a way they can never care about the gifts that they simply receive.  
This is, thankfully, the good side of human nature.
A trend barely acknowledged in polite company less than a decade ago, “self-gifting” is now a major part of our seasonal splurge. The National Retail Federation claims we will spend just under $127 of our holiday spending on ourselves. True, that’s only 15 percent of our total $804 bill.
One of the things I like least about Christmas is the economics of gift-giving.  Yeah, it’s great to give and receive little gifts, but Christmas gift giving has a tendency to get completely out of hand.  For every great, totally unexpected gift that we give or receive, there are hundreds more that we don’t understand, that show exactly how much the people in our lives either don’t understand us or refuse to take the time to even try.  Gift cards are the worst, I think, because giving someone a gift card is like handing over name-brand cash.  Plus, if you and your friend both give equal gift cards, then the retailers profit on an economic exchange that nets exactly zero.  How does that help anyone but the retailers?  We could argue that “it’s the thought that counts,” but how much thought goes into a gift card?  None.  That’s the whole point!  “I didn’t know what to get you, so I got you a gift card.”  The sentiment expressed in the exchange of gift cards is as simple as it is embarrassing.
I didn’t care about you enough to put any actual thought into your gift.
Bad gifts are wasted economics, and yet, they are also a staple of retail sales.  I think people understand this at some ineffable level, which is why self-gifting at the holidays is on the rise.  I personally don’t wait until the holidays to self-gift, and I encourage my wife not to as well, which is a HUGE part of why neither of us gives a fig about the retail aspects of Christmas.  But I understand that others take a less pragmatic approach.
It's called Singles Day—as in, the opposite of Valentine's Day—and it generates more e-commerce sales than the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
Singles Day was started in the early 1990s by students at Nanjing University who wanted to celebrate their single status. The date, Nov. 11, was christened "bachelors' day" for the four "singles" (i.e., 11/11) it contains. It remained something of a niche holiday until e-commerce giant Alibaba took note in 2009 and rebranded Singles Day as a huge online sales event with steep discounts. Since then, Alibaba's business on Singles Day has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2013, Alibaba did $5.8 billion worth of transactions on Singles Day; this year, it's expected to top $8 billion. Cyber Monday, by comparison, accounted for just $1.7 billion in sales last year.
This was an interesting article, but thinking about a billion people celebrating their aloneness is sad beyond belief.  I suppose if the sales are good, then there’s no reason not to shop of the date in question, but the idea of going crazy on a specific day because you have to buy something for yourself is very strange.

3.  Hair Metal Interlude: House of Broken Love

“The Interview,” the raucous comedy that became the center of a dispute over cybersecurity between the United States and North Korea, will be released in a small number of theaters on Christmas Day after all, Sony Pictures said on Tuesday. The development gave new life to a film that Sony had pulled from distribution last week, after hackers threatened violence against any theater that played it.
Sony also left open the door to video-on-demand availability of the movie, either simultaneously with its debut in theaters, or nearly so. In announcing the new plan on Tuesday, Michael Lynton, Sony Pictures’ chairman, said his studio was continuing efforts “to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.”
If The Interview does well as an art-house film
released straight-to-video, it'll change the movie
business forever.
They also released it online via Google Play, YouTube, and via the Xbox network.  Sally and I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but we’re hoping to before the weekend is out.  We were going to watch it last night, but we wound up watching movies with the kids instead.  

It'll be interesting to see how the movie does with this style distribution.  If it makes money, I expect we'll start having the option to see more movies in our homes on the day that they're released.  In that sense, theater owners took a big risk allowing this movie to go out to the public without them.

Navy Football finished 8-5 and has now won bowl games two years in a row.  It was a sloppy one-point win, possible only because San Diego State missed a last-second field goal that would have seen them claim victory rather than the Midshipmen, but still.  
Army is rebuilding, yes, and they seem to be in the midst of a pretty good recruiting year, but breaking the streak will not be easy.  Navy has a good program.  They have had a down year, but they still won six of their last seven, and they still won a bowl game.  They have had sustained success over time.  It’s not easy to overcome that.
That said, the team that finally does will become an Army Football legend.  I suspect that very lure is part of what’s driving some top recruits.  It would drive me, I think.
Final note: Air Force also won its bowl game, defeating Western Michigan 38-24 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.  They looked really good in the game, too.
That's all I've got.  On to New Years!

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