Rudolph, the other reindeer don’t really love you

Things 1 and 2 watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” this weekend, and before I say anything else, let me say that “Rudolph” is a classic. It’s become deeply embedded in the culture. When you mention the island of misfit toys, in any context, everyone knows what you’re talking about. It’s like calling a mangy-looking Christmas tree a Charlie Brown Christmas tree or walking into a new situation and realizing, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

“Rudolph” is beloved. I watch it every year — there’s even a Sam the Snowman ornament on our tree — but watching it this weekend, I was reminded what a bad lesson it sends to children.

Let’s start with Santa.

Santa should be jolly, but in “Rudolph,” he’s a bully who crushes his employees’ self-esteem. He’s a seagull manager who poops all over everything then flies away and lets someone else clean up the mess.

For example, when the elves sing, “We Are Santa’s Elves” — a song all about him, mind you — he dismisses it with a vague, “It needs work.” 

When he discovers Rudolph’s glowing nose, he scolds Donner and writes off Rudolph as a potential member of his team, no matter how well he flies. 

“Donner, you should be ashamed of yourself,” Santa says. “What a pity. He had a nice take-off, too.”

Of course, Rudolph’s family isn’t much better.

His father is Donner (which bugs me, because the reindeer’s name is really “Donder”), while his mother is “Mrs. Donner.” She doesn’t have a first name. “Rudolph” was made in the early-1960s. She doesn’t need an actual name. She doesn’t have an identify other than being Donner’s wife and Rudolph’s mother.

Donner is deeply embarrassed by his son’s glowing nose and hides it under a clump of dirt.

Rudolph — who, let’s remember, hasn’t done anything wrong, who simply is different because of some genetic mutation or recessive gene — complains that the false nose is really uncomfortable.

“There are more important things than comfort: self-respect!” his father tells him. “Santa can’t object to you now,” because that’s the most important thing, impressing your dad’s jerk of a boss who thinks you’re a failure because of what you happen to look like.

Then, one foggy Christmas eve, Santa decides to cancel Christmas.

Santa isn’t much of a doer. He’s not a problem-solver. Rather than scramble to find a work-around, he cavalierly decides to crush the spirits of millions of children — until he’s distracted by Rudolph’s glowing nose.

Santa has an epiphany. He asks Rudolph with his nose so bright to guide his sleigh, and Rudolph, being a good reindeer but also a reindeer with low self-esteem, agrees.

Only now do the other reindeer love him and shout out his name with glee, but, Rudolph, remember this:

They don’t really love you. They love that you can help them.

Beloit, here’s a mindset list to help students understand their teachers

Every summer, Beloit College gets a fair amount earned media (what we’re calling free publicity these days) by releasing a “mindset list” on each year’s freshman class. [UPDATE: This year’s list came out Aug. 23 and is available here.]

It serves 2 purposes: to draw attention to Beloit College and to help faculty understand the point of view of a more-or-less typical 18-year-old.

Students in this year’s freshman class, the class of 2015, were born in 1993, meaning they’ve always had Comedy Central and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Faculty should be aware of this.

But students need to understand their professors, too.

I’m here to help.

Wikipedia says the median age for a full professor in the United States is about 55, so, class of 2015, this means there’s a chance your professors:

  • Can and do write cursive.
  • Don’t need a calculator to do basic math.
  • Still pay by check.
  • Send actual birthday and Christmas cards made of paper.
  • Send thank-you notes, also on paper.
  • Use cell phones, not smartphones.
  • Email but don’t text.
  • Have landlines.
  • With answering machines.
  • That save messages on cassette tapes.
  • Can’t use a gamepad.
  • Could barely use a joystick with 1 button.
  • Watch TV shows when they’re on instead of streaming them later.
  • Buy CDs.
  • Still use AltaVista.
  • Voted for Dukakis.
  • Mondale, too.
  • Don’t recognize the “celebrities” on the cover of People.
  • Don’t recognize the “celebrities” who host “Saturday Night Live.”
  • Don’t know any of the bands, either.
  • Are asleep before SNL comes on, anyway.
  • Gave up watching late-night TV after Carson quit.
  • Johnny Carson.
  • They don’t know Carson Daly.
  • Remembers when “Seinfeld,” “All in the Family” and “The Andy Griffith Show” weren’t in reruns.
  • Think they’re cool because they’re into bands like Green Day and No Doubt — the members of which are old enough to have children in the class of 2015.
  • Think they’re young because they’re younger than the hosts of “60 Minutes.” (Median age of the 4 hosts: 67).
  • Hate being older than the president of the United States. (Obama just turned 50.)
  • Resent you and your youthful looks and health.
  • Would just as soon flunk you as look at you.

Something my 5-year-old won’t remember: Video stores

My 5-year-old knows Redbox and Netflix, and he gets movies sometimes at the library, but he’s probably not going to remember video stores.

Image via Wikipedia

Over the past couple of years, our video stores have closed, one by one. Last night, I noticed that the Blockbuster by Kroger has closed, too. I don’t know when it closed, but it’s gone, and I’m pretty sure there aren’t any more video stores in town.

And that’s OK. Really.

When I was a kid, my dad would get these catalogs in the mail where you could buy excerpts of feature films on Super 8. I can’t remember how much a 20-minute version of “Jaws” cost, but I remember you paid extra if you wanted color and sound.

So, when video stores came along, that was really something. You could rent the entire movie, in color and with sound, for a couple bucks.

But I can’t remember the last time I went to Blockbuster or any other video store. Once the novelty wore off (which was sometime during the Reagan administration) video stores just weren’t a lot of fun.

You’d go for a new movie, but it would be checked out, all 20 copies. So, you’d wander the aisles for 20, 30 minutes, looking for something else. If you went on a Friday or Saturday night, forget it. Everything good was gone, so you’d end up with something old or something awful — you couldn’t go home empty handed, because you’d already spent a big chunk of the evening at the video store, and leaving would have meant you’d wasted your time — and if you didn’t bring the movie back by noon, they charged you a late fee.

Video stores, by and large, treated their customers badly. Once, we got to the store 2 minutes past deadline. Didn’t matter. We had to pay. And when DVDs came along, Blockbuster initially refused to stock widescreen movies, which most people probably didn’t mind, but which really bugged people who actually like movies. (Check out this abandoned website from the early-2000’s, if you don’t believe me.)

So, when Netflix came along, and then Redbox, people dropped video stores in a heartbeat.

My 5-year-old loves Netflix. Somehow, we’ve ended up with more gadgets that stream Netflix than we have TV’s, and the 5-year-old has no trouble using any of them to watch Scoobie-Doo or “Phineas and Ferb” or, for some reason, “The Sandlot 2.”

If there’s a movie that’s not available for streaming, we’ll order the disc or, if we’re in a hurry, we’ll pay a buck to rent it for a night from Redbox or, if we’re really lazy, we’ll pay $4 and stream it from Amazon.

I guess it was inevitable that video stores would fade to black. Just as video stores made Super 8 excerpts of feature films obsolete, technology has made video stores a hassle we don’t really need.

I think video stores will be around a little while longer. I know there are lots of people who can’t or don’t know how to stream — for example, my parents. I think it varies by market, but I think there’s still a demand for video stores.

But there aren’t any around here, and as far as the 5-year-old is concerned, video stores will be like full-service gas stations and TV stations signing off at night, just something Dad talks about when he talks about what things were like when he was a kid.