December 6, 2002
The Ebeneezer Road

miles to go: 89.31 [YTD: 1,912.69]

It's only the first week of December, and I'm already sick to death of Stevie Wonder.

His holiday commercials for Target this year -- featuring a jazzy, uptempo version of "The Christmas Song," sung as a duet with India Arie -- have been in more or less constant rotation on our television airwaves since shortly after Easter. I have nothing against Mr. Wonder personally: I think he's brilliant. And I understand what Target is going for here: light, happy, hip, festive. But to me, this music is everything I hate the most about the holidays: frantic, false, irritating, relentlessly cheery, frighteningly soulless. Whenever I hear this commercial I immediately point the remote control at the television set and hit *Mute.*

I've got your chestnuts roasting on an open fire right here, Pal.

On the other hand, I LOVE the TV commercials this year. (Yeah, I know: it's a real love/hate relationship I've got going with the Amazon folks this year, isn't it?) All of the commercials in the series follow the same basic formula: they're all thirty-second vignettes depicting various types of holiday shopping misery ... they all feature cheesy holiday pop songs from the 50's and 60's ... they all promote the message that online shopping is the way to survive the insanity of the holiday season. 

My favorite is the one where the frazzled young mother is standing in the middle of the toy department, with a couple of rambunctious tots climbing up her ankles and a lumpy baby slung over her shoulder. She's clearly doing her Christmas shopping at the very last minute, and she's clearly running on little more than fumes at this point. To the strains of Nat King Cole's unapologetically stoopid "Mrs. Santa Claus," you can see her telling the tots No, I'm not buying you anything ... please put that back on the shelf where you found it ... we're DONE now, I MEAN it, let's GO. The tots are ignoring her completely. As Mom begins to push the shopping cart down the aisle, one of the tots suddenly turns around and pulls a toy from the middle of the shelf, inadvertently seting off an avalanche of overpriced plastic and overblown packaging. The last thing we see is Mom hanging her head in defeat as toys rain down from the shelves like Fisher-Price Missiles. (This is followed by the logo, and the words " ... and you're done.")

The first time I saw this commercial, I laughed so hard I woke David out of a sound sleep. I still think it's funny, even after repeated viewings. Obviously I identify with the young mother: I've been that woman, a couple of past lives ago. And obviously I believe in the product. and I may have our occasional differences -- I still think they should make the 800 number more readily accessible to their most loyal customers, i.e. *me* -- and I still think they should offer a permanent 75% discount to all customers who shop in their pajamas, i.e. *me* -- but all things considered, I love lots more than I hate it. So far, this is my favorite TV commercial of the 2002 holiday season.

Believe me: I need to have a favorite TV commercial of the 2002 holiday season.

Every year it gets a little bit harder to keep myself from wandering down The Ebeneezer Road. You'd think it would get easier, the further I move away from that frazzled mother in the toy store ... but it doesn't. Every year, in fact, it becomes a little bit harder to remember what it is that I ever liked about the holidays in the first place. (The noise? The stress? The expense? The barrage of temptations? The 43,897,621 different varities of maternal guilt?)  If I'm not very, very careful, I know I could easily morph into a fullblown Scrinch. And I don't want to do that ... especially this year, with the world feeling as tenuous and fragile as it does. (And with life feeling pretty much the same way. Sweet dreams, OldeRocker.)  I need stuff like favorite holiday commercials, and favorite stop-action animated Christmas specials from the 1960's, and favorite cheesy holiday songs that haven't yet been beaten to death by people like Stevie Wonder ... just to keep me from wandering down that road any sooner than I have to. This is the stuff I'm going to pay attention to this year.

The rest of it is getting the *Mute* button.

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we hate this year's GAP commercials, too.
[bring back the little drummer boy ... please?]