Santa is kind of like FedEx

Thing 2 (who’s 7 now) is having doubts and asked me the other day whether Santa Claus is real.

I asked him what he thought, and he said he wasn’t sure but that he didn’t see any way that one man on one sleigh could deliver all those toys to every kid on the planet in just one night.

I said that’s not how it works.

I explained that Santa used to deliver all those toys personally. back in the old days, when the population was a lot smaller, but that he uses a lot of helpers these days.

Santa is kind of like FedEx, I said. One truck couldn’t possibly deliver all those packages to all those homes and businesses in all those countries in one 24-hour period, I said, but a fleet of trucks and planes certainly could.

I said Santa runs the operation. He’s like the CEO. The toys are made by the toy companies, not elves. These days, the elves run the warehouse and oversee distribution.

The toys are delivered first to Santa’s headquarters at the North Pole and then, on Christmas Eve, they’re flown on big cargo planes from the central warehouse to regional distribution centers all over the world and then to local distribution centers, where the toys are placed on trucks and driven to people’s homes.

That’s a lot easier and a lot more efficient than trying to pile all those toys on just one sleigh, I said. The delivery truck drivers drink the milk and cookies and send any leftovers to the North Pole, where Santa shares them with the elves.

Thing 2 thought about it for a moment or two. “I don’t get it,” he said.

That’s OK, I said.

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In this 1927 photo, Santa Claus (left) receives his pilot’s license from William P. MacCracken (seated) and Clarence M. Young of the U.S. Department of Commerce. PHOTO: Library of Congress

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘Star Wars’ are basically the same movie

English: Screenshot of Jimmy Stewart and Donna...
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I posted something the other day about how much I like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and over the past 18 months, I’ve posted several things about “Star Wars,” and last night I realized something:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Star Wars” are basically the same movie:

It’s a Wonderful Life: George Bailey is a small-town boy who can’t wait to leave home and travel around the world.
Star Wars: Luke Skywalker is a small-town boy who can’t wait to leave home and travel throughout the galaxy.

It’s a Wonderful Life: George postpones college to help his father with the family’s building and loan.
Star Wars: Luke postpones going to the academy to help his uncle with the family farm.

It’s a Wonderful Life: When it’s time for George to finally leave, George’s father asks him to stay a while longer.
Star Wars: When it’s time for Luke to finally leave, Luke’s uncle asks him to stay a while longer.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Soon after talking with George about leaving home, George’s father dies of a heart attack.
Star Wars: Soon after talking with Luke about leaving home, Luke’s aunt and uncle are killed in a stormtrooper attack.

It’s a Wonderful Life: With his father gone, George has no choice but to run a building and loan, like his father.
Star Wars: With his aunt and uncle gone, Luke has no choice but to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi Knight, like his father.

The three lead protagonists of Star Wars, from...
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It’s a Wonderful Life: George’s family business is threatened Potter, whose haranguing helped drive George’s father to the grave.
Star Wars: Luke’s friends in the rebellion are threatened by Vader, who betrayed and murdered Luke’s father (kind of).

It’s a Wonderful Life: George is jealous of his friend, Sam Wainwright, who used to date George’s wife, Mary.
Star Wars: Luke his jealous of his friend, Han Solo, who’d like to, um, “date” Princess Leia.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Potter tries to destroy the Bailey Building and Loan Association by hiring George away.
Star Wars: Vader tries to destroy the Jedi Knights by turning Luke to the Dark Side of the Force.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Uncle Bill accidentally gives Potter $8,000 in cash. Potter hopes the mistake will finally crush the building and loan.
Star Wars: Vader tracks the Millennium Falcon to the Rebels’ secret base, where he hopes to finally crush the rebellion.

It’s a Wonderful Life: As the bank examiner and sheriff prepare to arrest George, George receives a telegram: “Mr. Gower cables you need cash. Stop. My office instructed to advance you up to $25,000. Stop. Hee-haw and merry Christmas, Sam Wainwright.”
Star Wars: “Yee-haw, now let’s blow this thing so we can go home!”

In the earlier post about “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I mentioned Roger Ebert’s review where he calls the movie “ageless,” and I think what makes it work as well now as it did when it was release 65 years ago is that George Bailey’s story is the essentially same as every hero’s story:

George Bailey might not save the galaxy, but he gives up a life of travel and adventure to raise a family and make his hometown a better place to live, and if that’s not heroic, I don’t know what is.

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.