Category Archives: Current Events

“The Animaniacs” Reboot: A Zany Revival For An Insaney Time

Depending on who you ask, we either live in a golden age of television or a deepening dark age. The rise of streaming media and the decline of traditional TV models has completely changed how Hollywood does business. Some say it’s a good thing. Some say it’ll lead to the utter destruction of the entertainment industry, as we know it.

I don’t want to talk about such dire issues.

Instead, I want to talk about “The Animaniacs” reboot.

It’s a relevant topic because this reboot just wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago. It wouldn’t have been possible 5 years ago, either. It’s riding an ongoing wave of reboots and revivals. Many of them are banking on nostalgia from certain eras to attract an audience.

Is it shamelessly desperate in the never-ending fight for more eyeballs and subscribes? Yes, it is.

Is most of it utterly forgettable and completely unfit for the current media landscape? For the most part, it is.

That’s exactly why “The Animaniacs” reboot is such a wonderfully refreshing achievement. It’s doesn’t just bring back a beloved show that many kids in the 90s, myself included, grew up watching. It perfectly captures the spirit of that show while still embracing a modern aesthetic that fits perfectly in 2020.

It helps that this show didn’t try to completely reinvent itself. It brought back the original voice actors for Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. It didn’t significantly change the theme song, the comedic style, or the overall structure of the show. The only noticeable changes were updated animation and a more contemporary setting.

Everything else is as zany, irreverent, and meta as you remember. It’s the same style long-time fans grew to love in the mid-1990s. Remarkably, that style works just as well 22 years later.

A big appeal to that style is just how self-aware the show is of its absurdities. The Warner Brothers, and the Warner Sister, know who and what they are in the grand scheme of things. They gleefully mock, tease, and joke about anything and anyone that crosses their path.

Some of that humor is more mature than a simple pie in the face. Other times, it’s as simple as Dot hitting her brothers with an oversized mallet. Both brands of humor are still funny and cartoonishly over-the-top.

It’s the kind of humor that works for kids and adults alike. That was a big part of what made the original show so popular and endearing. In watching this reboot, I still found myself laughing hysterically at times.

My inner 90s kid and my full-fledged adult delighted in the same jokes and gags. It never felt like my love of the old show was being exploited or mocked. It just felt like a fresh influx of zany comedy that I had missed for 22 years.

Even the Warners acknowledge in the first episode that the world has changed. The type of humor they did in the 90s just won’t land like it once did. That doesn’t stop them from making plenty of 90s reference, but that’s not the sole source of appeal. It’s just a small part of it.

No matter the era, “The Animaniacs” works by sticking to a simple formula. Put Yakko, Wakko, and Dot in a strange situation, be it the gods of Olympus or in search of a donut thief. Then, let them be their zany selves as they encounter various characters and obstacles along the way. The comedy just naturally emerges from there.

This reboot did not radically change that formula, both for the Warners and for Pinky and the Brain. It just updated the dates and settings while not avoiding the many ways the world has changed.

There are hipster douche-bags running donut shops.

There are self-importance CEOs who don’t give a damn about anything other than profits and themselves.

There are assholes who take up way too much space in a movie theater.

Some of these things existed in the 1990s too, but they’re more relevant to current pop culture trends. “The Animaniacs” gleefully and hilariously rides those waves.

That’s not to say that all the jokes land. Not every episode is perfect. Some jokes just don’t land and not every musical number is as memorable as Yakko’s famous countries of the world song. There are still many more hits than misses. I argue their song about reboots is the best of the bunch.

Now, you could say a lot about how relevant “The Animaniacs” is in this current era of adult animation. There’s no doubt the landscape is very different than what it was during the 1990s. This show was part of its own golden era in the 1990s, but that era is long gone.

These days, adult animation is dominated by shows like “Bojack Horseman” and “Rick and Morty.” Those shows still utilize comedy, but their brand of humor is a lot darker, built largely on the increasingly cynical trends that have been unfolding since the early 2000s.

I don’t deny that the kids who grew up watching the original Animaniacs weren’t nearly as jaded as kids today. Even before the awfulness of 2020, generations of kids and adults alike have seen a steady decline in hope for the future. Given that kind of attitude, it’s a lot harder for that zany style of comedy to land.

However, “The Animaniacs” reboot finds a way. It resists the urge to fall into the same dark traps as many other failed reboots. It doesn’t try to be “Bojack Horseman” or “Rick and Morty.” It just tries to be the same Animaniacs we know and love.

That’s what makes it work.

That’s what makes it funny.

That’s what makes it totally insaney, even in a year as insane as this.

That’s exactly why I love it and highly recommend it to anyone with a Hulu subscription.

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Filed under Current Events, media issues, technology, television

Thoughts On A (Bittersweet) Black Friday 2020

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

If you did it right, you’re still digesting dinner and desert. I sure am.

However, as fun as it is to enjoy food, family, and football on Thanksgiving, Black Friday has become an extension of sorts for the holiday. For some people, it invites even bolder traditions than Thanksgiving. I’ve known people who will immediately camp outside of major stories almost immediately after Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m not one of them. I prefer enjoying Black Friday shopping on Black Friday. I always have. It’s not that I’m a sucker for sales and excessive consumerism. I just genuinely enjoy the Black Friday shopping experience, from the crowds to the holiday decorations to the various festivities.

I know that makes me weird in the eyes of some. I understand that. Black Friday is one of those events that you either love or hate. You love it because it’s the best shopping time of the season. You hate it because it’s the pinnacle of rampant consumerism. I can appreciate both positions. I still enjoy it.

That’s why this year is so difficult. This is the first year where I won’t partake in any Black Friday shopping sprees of any kind. Thanks to a global pandemic and a massive spike in cases over the past few weeks, pretty much any hope of salvaging this event, even in part, is gone.

For some, it’s no great loss. Not being able to go on a shopping spree in crowded stores probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of people. It means a lot to me.

It’s not just for the shopping part. Like many others, I do most of my Christmas shopping online. I finish nearly 90 percent of my holiday shopping before Black Friday. To me, just getting the gifts I want for my family isn’t the point anymore.

It’s the experience I’ve come to appreciate. That experience is what matters to me. It’s an experience that comes partially from my mother’s fondness of shopping.

She has told me on multiple occasions that her favorite activity with me, when I was a baby, was going shopping at the malls. I feel like I inherited that fondness for the experience from her. It’s one I even shared with my ex-girlfriend years ago. Some of our most memorable moments came while shopping on Black Friday.

Now, it’s just not possible to have any of those moments in a year like this.

It’s not surprising, given the current state of affairs, but it’s still disappointing. It’s yet another indicator that 2020 is a year in which we’ve lost so much. Between major movie releases, major sporting events, and beloved celebrities, the losses just keep accumulating. This is just the latest.

I don’t doubt it’ll come back at some point. Depending on how rapidly we recover from this pandemic, I have a feeling people will be eager to make up for lost experiences next year. I know I will.

Until then, I just want to take a moment to appreciate the past experiences I’ve enjoyed with Black Friday shopping. The experience of just going to malls, being around crowds, and taking part in holiday festivities are some of my favorite aspects of this time of year. I won’t let 2020 ruin my holidays, but I intend to appreciate future Black Fridays even more.

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Filed under Current Events, rants

Some (Cringy) Thanksgiving Incidents To Get You Through Thanksgiving 2020

Let’s not lie to ourselves. Thanksgiving is going to be very different this year. Pretty much everything has had to be different this year, thanks to a once-in-a-century pandemic. There’s just no way around it. All we can do is adapt and endure.

For some, that means Thanksgiving is not going to be quite as festive. If you enjoy large family gatherings, hanging out near malls for Black Friday sales, or traveling extensively to meet up with relatives, then your Thanksgiving spirit is going to be tempered this year, by default. That’s just the way it is in 2020.

I’m already bracing myself. I’m still getting together with family, but it’s going to be on a much smaller scale than usual. Given how big my family is and how much they love get-togethers, that’s going to make it rough. We’re still going to try and make it work. Thankfully, most of us have already learned to have large gatherings through Zoom and FaceTime.

However, I’d rather not dwell on what this Thanksgiving will lack. In the interest of keeping things balanced, I’d like to do my part to help us endure these pandemic-hampered holidays.

To that end, I’d like to share a video from the channel, Best Posts & Comments. It’s a simple complication of Reddit posts that recounted infamous incidents that occurred on Thanksgiving.

I must offer a clear warning, though. Some of these incidents are quite cringy. Trust me. You’ll know it when you hear it. Cringe or not, I hope it helps you feel a bit better about Thanksgiving this year. Enjoy!

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Filed under Current Events, real stories, YouTube

Vaccine Update: The Impact Of The Moderna Vaccine (Beyond COVID-19)

Sometimes, it takes a terrible global crisis to spurn huge leaps in technology. World War II was arguably the greatest crisis of the modern era, but it helps advance some of the greatest technological leaps in history. We can argue whether those advances were worth all the death and destruction, but there’s no denying that our world wouldn’t be the same without them.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t on the same level as World War II, but it is, by most measures, the greatest crisis the world has faced in the past 50 years. It hasn’t just caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and immeasurable amounts of suffering. It has completely disrupted this big, interconnected world that we’ve come to depend on.

We’ve all lost something in this pandemic. Beyond the loved ones who have perished, our entire sense of security and hope has been shattered. We now realize just how vulnerable we were and how inevitable this was. As bad as it is, there is some good coming out of it.

Usually, a crisis like this helps break down the barriers that divided us and hindered progress, technological or otherwise. Never before has the world been more united or engaged in a singular effort. Before 2020, we probably didn’t know much about vaccines or vaccine research. We just knew that Jenny McCarthy tried to be relevant again by protesting them.

That’s changing now. The global effort to create a vaccine for this terrible disease has been watched and agonized over for months. Most recently, we got a much-needed glimmer of hope from Pfizer, who reported that their vaccine is 90 percent effective. I celebrated this news like everyone else.

Then, we got an even greater glimmer of hope from the other vaccine front-runner by Moderna. Not only is their vaccine in the final phase of testing, like Pfizer. It’s even more effective and promises to be easier to store and distribute.

CNN: Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective, according to company data

The Moderna vaccine is 94.5% effective against coronavirus, according to early data released Monday by the company, making it the second vaccine in the United States to have a stunningly high success rate.

“These are obviously very exciting results,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor. “It’s just as good as it gets — 94.5% is truly outstanding.”

Moderna heard its results on a call Sunday afternoon with members of the Data Safety and Monitoring Board, an independent panel analyzing Moderna’s clinical trial data.

This is objectively great news in a year when we’ve had precious little of it. These two vaccines may very well be the one-two punch we need to end the COVID-19 pandemic and return to some semblance of normalcy. I would still like to go to a movie theater or baseball game at some point in 2021. These vaccines may make that possible.

However, I’d like to take a moment to speculate beyond this terrible pandemic that has uprooted so many lives. I know that’s not easy to do when the crisis is still very relevant and inflicting plenty of suffering. I still think it’s worth attempting, if only to imagine the better world that emerges from this mess.

That’s because both these vaccines aren’t like your typical flu shots. For one, flu shots aren’t nearly as effective as what Pfizer and Moderna reported. According to the CDC, you’re average flu shot is between 40 and 60 percent effective. That’s still important because the flu can be deadly. Anything you do to reduce it can only further public health, in general.

The problem is the flu shot, and most vaccines like it, are based on old technology. At their most basic, they take a non-infectious or weakened strain of a pathogen and use it to amp up your body’s immunity. It’s crude, but it works. Literally nothing has saved more lives than vaccines.

The problem is that vaccines are notoriously hard to develop. They take a long time to test and an even longer time to approve. Until this pandemic, there just wasn’t much incentive to improve on that process. Now, after these past 8 months, the incentive couldn’t have been greater.

That’s what sped up the development of mRNA vaccines, the technology behind both Pfizer and Moderna. It was reported on as far back as 2018. While this technology isn’t completely new, it has never been developed beyond a certain point. There just wasn’t any incentive to do so. A global crisis changed that.

Very simply, an mRNA vaccine does one better on traditional vaccines by using RNA to develop immunity. It’s not as easy as it sounds. To develop that immunity, it has encode itself with just the right antigen. That way, the antibodies it creates can attack the desired pathogen.

In the case of COVID-19, the mRNA vaccine attacks the distinct spike protein the virus uses to attach to host cells. It’s like a missile targeting a specific individual in a large crowd by locking onto the distinct hat they wear.

This approach has the potential to be much more effective at generating immunity to a particular disease. Instead of trying to mimic a virus, it just gives the immune system the necessary software it needs to do the work. It could potentially revolutionize the way we treat and prevent diseases.

For years, certain viruses like the flu and HIV have confounded efforts to develop a vaccine. Beyond the problems I listed earlier with regards to testing, the difficulty of creating a particular immune response to a particular antigen is very difficult. These viruses mutate and change all the time. With COVID, vaccines do have an advantage because they have a distinct feature.

The challenge for future vaccines against future pandemics is quickly uncovering a particular antigen that the mRNA can be coded for. In theory, all you would have to do is find the one key antigen that’s common to every strain of the virus. While viruses like the flu are notoriously diverse, they can only change so much.

It’s akin to trying to identify an army of spies in a large crowd. They may all look different on the outside, but if they all have the same socks, then that’s what you code for. With some refinements, an mRNA vaccine can stop a pandemic in its tracks before it ever gets beyond a certain point.

That assumes we’ll continue to refine this technology after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. I certainly hope that’s the case. This year has traumatized entire generations with how much pain and suffering it has inflicted. I sincerely hope that gives plenty of motivation to develop technology like this. That way, we never have to endure a disruption like this again.

To all those who helped develop this technology and these two vaccines, I hope you appreciate the impact you’ll make with this technology. The number of lives they could save is incalculable. Future generations may not remember your names, but they will be forever grateful for this wondrous gift you’ve given them.

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Filed under Current Events, futurism, health, technology, Uplifting Stories

“Wonder Woman: 1984” To Be Released In Theaters AND HBO Max On Christmas: Why This Is A BIG Deal

More often than not, we don’t realize when a fateful decision is a big deal that has ramifications for years to come. Those kinds of moments are rare, but powerful. I doubt the first person to use a cell phone knew just how big a deal that breakthrough was when they made that first call.

Other decisions are more obvious. You know from the get-go that this is one of those choices that might not be surprising, but you get the sense it’ll be one of those moments that you can cite as a major turning point years from now.

This Christmas, we may just experience one of those moments because that’s the day “Wonder Woman 1984” is set to come out, both in theaters and on streaming. I don’t think it’s a stretch to claim this decision could change movies, entertainment, and media for years to come.

It finally became official. After being originally set for release in June 2020, Warner Brothers decided that, rather than simply wait for this once-in-a-century pandemic to end, they’re going to release “Wonder Woman 1984” in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day. This is what The Hollywood Reporter had to say.

THR: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Heading to HBO Max, Theaters Dec. 25

With a second wave of COVID-19 impacting many parts of the globe, Wonder Woman 1984 is changing course yet again.

The tentpole is all but giving up on a traditional theatrical release and will instead bow in whatever cinemas remain open Dec. 25 as well as stream on HBO Max in the U.S. for one month beginning on Christmas Day. In international markets where HBO Max is not available, the film starts rolling out Dec. 16.

“At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else,” director Patty Jenkins said in a statement Wednesday. “We love our movie as we love our fans, so we truly hope that our film brings a little bit of joy and reprieve to all of you this holiday season.”

Jenkins urged audiences to watch the $200 million tentpole in theaters where it was safe to do so, and on HBO Max where it is not. In a note echoing Jenkins, star Gal Gadot added, “It wasn’t an easy decision and we never thought we’d have to hold on to the release for such a long time but COVID rocked all of our worlds.”

Growing the number of HBO Max customers is of huge import to TimeWarner, even if it means giving up on potential box office ticket sales that Wonder Woman 1984 would have earned had it been pushed to sometime in 2021. The hope is that a high-profile Christmas Day title such as the superhero sequel will lure new subscribers (HBO Max is pricier than most other streamers, at $15.99 a month).

That’s just the basics. “Wonder Woman 1984” is still coming out in theaters, as it was always meant to. However, with theaters on the brink of collapse in wake of the pandemic, Warner Brothers is opting to gamble on the future of streaming media. They’re dropping this big name blockbuster that cost $200 million to make on their signature streaming service, HBO Max.

Logistically speaking, it’s understandable. The news surrounding the pandemic has been bleak, even by 2020 standards. Even though a vaccine seems imminent, it might be too late to save the movie industry as we know it. The damage has been done. That industry must change. This may very well be the biggest change we’ve seen since in decades.

This is not some forgettable movie like “Trolls World Tourskipping theaters for streaming. That could’ve been written off as a calculated risk for a movie that was never going to make much at the box office to begin with. This is a tentpole blockbuster from a studio’s biggest franchise skipping over what many see as the most critical part of a movie’s life.

The first “Wonder Woman” movie made north of $800 million on a budget of $150 million during its theatrical run. That’s a lot of profit, but may be a profit that even a blockbuster movie just can’t make anymore in a post-pandemic world. Even after the pandemic ends, who’s to say that the theater industry will just go back to the way it used to be?

Now, it seems Warner Brothers are prepared to leveraging their future on their HBO Max streaming service. “Wonder Woman 1984” is, by far, their biggest chip and most valuable asset. It, more than any other movie they had in the can, was most likely to get their studios’ profits going again once the pandemic waned.

Instead, this movie that has so many excited and eager, myself include, is going to be Warner Brothers’ boldest gamble at turning HBO Max into a viable Netflix competitor. They’re not just looking to do for HBO Max what “The Mandaloriandid for Disney Plus. They want to go a step further and make streaming the new avenue for big title blockbusters.

It’s impossible to overstate how big a shift this is for the movie industry. Whereas “Trolls World Tour” on streaming was a sign, releasing “Wonder Woman 1984” on the same day it comes out in theaters is a monumental shift.

It’s essentially sacrificing potential profits at the box office for a new host of subscribers to HBO Max. Will that ultimately make more money in the long run? It’s possible.

After all, those who buy a movie ticket to see “Wonder Woman 1984” are only going to pay for that ticket. From that purchase, Warner Brothers will only see a fraction. If a bunch of people subscribe to HBO Max, they may ultimately pay much more to the studio through its monthly $16 fee.

Even if most just buy an HBO MAX subscription for a single month and cancel, it’s very likely that plenty will stay subscribed, keep paying, and keep coming back for more wonderful blockbusters. In the long run, “Wonder Woman 1984might make more money for its studio overlord than it ever would have in the theaters.

That’s still a big if. So much of a movies profits is still tied to its box office. Nobody quite knows how this new model of releasing a movie will work. Streaming a movie on the same day it comes out in theaters may help widen the audience, but without those profits, the idea of footing the bill for a $200 million movie might be less tenable.

Would that mean that big budget blockbusters like “Wonder Woman 1984” became less rare?

Would that mean that theaters as a whole would diminish both in numbers and in importance for the industry?

Would that mean that blockbusters will ultimately have to cater to a streaming audience instead of a casual movie-goer?

It’s hard to say. Nobody knows. I certainly don’t know. I doubt anyone knows, but most can already sense that this could be the start of a much larger trend. Releasing “Wonder Woman 1984” on streaming and in theaters could ultimately be the point of no return for the movie industry.

This could be the future of entertainment and movies. Theaters are no longer the center of all things film and there’s no going back. Whether other blockbusters follow suit remains to be seen. I have a feeling Disney will be watching how “Wonder Woman 1984” performs closely, given how it opted to delay “Black Widow” until May 2021.

If it proves profitable in the long run, I suspect that Disney will follow suit and so will every other studio. At that point, the movie industry will have permanently changed and we’ll be able to cite this announcement as the moment it began.

There’s only one certainty at this point. On Christmas this year, I’ll be curled up on my couch to watch “Wonder Woman 1984” through my current HBO MAX subscription. Whatever monumental changes this movie inspires in the industry, it’s still Wonder Woman. I still intend to partake in her wonder, no matter what form it takes.

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Filed under Current Events, movies, superhero comics, superhero movies, Wonder Woman

Post-Election Day PSA: Do NOT Trust Or Expect Politicians To Solve Your Problems

It’s over, my fellow Americans.

It’s finally over.

Election Day has come and gone. I won’t get into the drama leading up to it or the drama that’s still unfolding, as I write this. I just want to take a step back, catch my breath, and offer some perspective to those who will hear it.

I agree this was rough. I think most others will agree with me when I say this was the most chaotic, divisive, and downright stressful election in recent memory. I’ve spoken to relatives who voted for Kennedy in 1960. They agree that this year was, by far, the worst in terms of stakes, rhetoric, and tone.

That’s saying a lot, by the way.

However you feel about the candidates or who you voted for, I genuinely hope this election has been revealing, to a certain extent. It’s tempting to be cynical about it. I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling that way. At the same time, we should also take stock as to why this election was so harrowing, for lack of a better word.

The world is such a messed-up place right now. We’ve got wars, economic collapse, and a once-in-a-century pandemic has that killed over a million people in the span of nine months. Things are bad right now, more so than they’ve been at any point in my lifetime.

Most don’t question that, unless they’re rich and well-connected.

What I do question, however, is why people trust or even expect politicians to help solve these problems.

That’s a notion that, in my opinion, fuels stressful elections like this. An election is supposed to be a job interview for a position for a public-serving official. It’s not supposed to be some expensive spectacle in which we all get behind the candidate who says the right things to just enough people in a handful of swing states.

That’s not democracy.

That’s a bad reality TV show.

Now, it’s tempting to just blame the politicians and that’s understandable. Politicians are easy targets for mockery and they’ve no one to blame but themselves for that. We should criticize them. They are, after all, in positions of power and public trust. They should be held to a higher standard.

That standard, however, should not involve trusting them to fix everything that ails us, from the economy to who pays a fine for when a female nipple is shown during a halftime show. That’s not just asking too much of one person. It’s asinine.

It’s also self-defeating. Politicians make lots of promises and break plenty of them, but let’s not lay the blame entirely on their honesty or lack thereof. They’re only human. Even the most selfless, hard-working politician can only do so much to deliver on every promise. There just aren’t enough hours in the day or enough personnel to get it done.

That’s not even accounting for the times when politicians make objectively impossible promises. Certain policy pitches may sound like great slogans or taglines, but logistically speaking, they just cannot be done in the real world. It’s not that the sincerity isn’t there. There just isn’t enough people or resources.

Therein lies the source of the great cycle of toxic politics. It goes something like this.

Politician A makes a bold promise. People rally behind them. Politician A get elected.

Politician A cannot deliver on those promises. People turn against them.

Politician B comes along, offering new or better promises. People rally behind them. Politician B get elected.

Again, Politician B can’t deliver on all those promises. People turn against them.

Politician C comes along to make another set of promises and the cycle continues.

It goes beyond party affiliation, political systems, or shifts in power. It’s an unavoidable flaw in a democratic system. An election, by default, isn’t going to elect someone with the greatest governing skill. It can only elect someone with the skills to convince enough people that they can govern.

I won’t say it’s a terrible system. Compared to the alternatives, it’s probably the best we can manage right now in our current environment. However, it is not a system in which any politician, no matter how successful, can solve the problems we want them to solve. Even when the system is working at its best, it’s still limited.

That’s not to say politicians can’t be part of a solution. They definitely can be. A politician can be a facilitator of sorts, either by leadership or by policy. The specifics, though, are best left to people with the right drive, incentives, and know-how.

Whether it involves combating climate change, reducing poverty, or promoting public health, the bulk of the responsibility will still fall on the general public. We, as a people, have to collectively work on these issues together. That’s how any social species within a functional society adapts, grows, and prospers.

The role of government and politicians is always changing. The extent or details of that role depends heavily on the issue at hand. The Presidents we elect, as well as the various legislators and judges at all levels, will always have some impact on how we further our interests. The key is balancing that impact with actual, tangible efforts on our part.

The next four years are sure to be eventful. Hopefully, they’re eventful for all the right reasons. Whatever happens, use this past election as a teachable moment.

Politicians come and go.

Ambitious people will keep making bold promises and breaking them, either on purpose or through no fault of their own. At the end of the day, it all comes back to us. We have a part to play in making our world and our lives better. Let’s focus on doing ours before we trust anyone else to do it for us.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, media issues, political correctness, politics

How Early Is Too Early For Christmas Decoration? An Honest Question (With A Bias Answer)

The holidays are right around the corner.

That’s probably something you’ve heard more than once in the past few weeks. Chances are, you started hearing it the day after Halloween. If you’ve been to a mall or a major box store recently, you’ve probably seen Christmas decoration and displays popping up. A few even went up alongside displays for Halloween candy.

This raises a question that always seems to come up around this time of year, usually in the weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

How early is too early for Christmas decoration?

Sometimes, it’s asked cynically. Other times, it asked with the same whiny undertone as a kid who complains that he can’t have ice cream for every meal. It still gets asked every year, it seems. Even a global pandemic hasn’t stopped seasonal displays and holiday themed commercials from popping up.

Before I even try to answer this, I need to make one important disclaimer. It’ll likely undermine my credibility in addressing this question, but I don’t care. I’m putting it out there.

I already have my Christmas decorations up.

I actually put them up the day before Halloween.

Yes, I understand that’s much earlier than most.

No, I don’t care if you think that’s too early.

I love Christmas and I love holiday decorations. I make no apologies for that. Talk to anyone in my family. They’ll tell you the same thing. I take Christmas seriously. I’m the guy who has his decorations up before everyone else. I’m also the guy who keeps them up longer than everyone else. I also usually start my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving.

I say all this to make abundantly clear that I am hopelessly bias when it comes to this question. In my defense, I live alone and I own my own place. Legally speaking, I can put up Christmas decorations whenever I want and keep them up for as long as I want. I have the HOA documents to prove it.

I still realize that I’m an anomaly with respect to Christmas decorations. What counts as too early for me is going to be different from most other people, even if they love Christmas as much as I do. It’s still a question worth taking seriously, if only to maintain some consistency in our holiday traditions.

Growing up, we had a simple rule in my family. The earliest we can put up decorations is the week after Thanksgiving. Sometimes, we did it earlier, but only because we had other things going on and had to get it out of the way. I think that’s a fair rule.

I have friends and family members who say any day after Thanksgiving is no longer considered “too early.” The way they see it, Thanksgiving is the last holiday before Christmas. Once it passes, it’s perfectly acceptable to start looking forward to and planning for Christmas. I can’t disagree with that.

A select few take it a step further. They say that, if stores and malls are going to have Christmas displays, then it’s perfectly acceptable for everyone else to do the same. Why should these businesses play by different rules? They are, after all, responding to market forces. We, the consumers, are part of the market. They’re not setting the tone. We are because we respond to it.

That’s an interesting sentiment, albeit one I’m not sure I buy into. I’ve seen some stores put up holiday displays on the first day of October. Even for me, that’s a little too early, if only because the weather is still warm and Christmas is a winter-themed holiday. Putting it up while the weather is still warm is like getting ready for bed at noon.

I’ve never had a particular date or signal that I follow when I put my decorations up. One key indicator that often prompts me is the arrival of a few cold days. That triggers in me an inclination to start thinking about the holidays because they always seem to arrive faster than we expect. I just like to be proactive.

That was the case this year. A few days before Halloween, it got very cold. It didn’t stay cold, but that was enough of a sign for me to dust off my storage bins and break out the decorations. For me, that’s the point when it no longer became “too early” for Christmas decorations.

You may or may not agree with that point, but that was part of my decision-making process with respect to putting up my decorations. I won’t say it was the biggest part. I just love the holidays that much. I’ll look for any excuse to put my decorations up. I may do it even earlier next year, but I still understand that makes me an anomaly.

If you decide through a different process, I respect that. I even offer you to share it in the comments. I gave my justification for putting my decorations up. At this point, it’s no longer “too early” by my standards to put up your decorations. What does your standard say and how do you determine it?

Please let me know. We’re going to be hearing this question a lot between now and Thanksgiving. Let’s not avoid it or the implications.

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Filed under Current Events, Jack Fisher's Insights

Major Vaccine Update: My Reaction, Expectations, And Concerns

Like everyone else in this pandemic-ravaged world, I have been closely following any and all news regarding a COVID-19 vaccine. I liken it to waiting in a burning building with millions of other people and only a handful of firefighters trying to save the day. Those who have been working on this effort are real-life superheroes and we should be cheering them on.

Now, I’ve had some strong opinions about those who denigrate science, but I’ve also been very reluctant to get excited about any potentially good news. I attribute some of that to being jaded and cynical after seeing this pandemic do so much damage. I don’t deny that my spirit is still quite wounded after nearly a year of objectively awful news.

Well, wounded or not, the work continues. Those real-life superheroes I mentioned have never stopped this vital effort. To them, we should all be in awe, as well as grateful, because it looks like an effective vaccine is actually on the horizon, courtesy of Pfizer.

For those who might be a bit behind, this is what the Associated Press reported.

AP News: Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine is looking 90% effective

Pfizer Inc. said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine may be a remarkable 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results that nevertheless brought a big burst of optimism to a world desperate for the means to finally bring the catastrophic outbreak under control.

The announcement came less than a week after an election seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s handling of the scourge, which has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide, including almost a quarter-million in the United States alone.

“We’re in a position potentially to be able to offer some hope,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of clinical development, told The Associated Press. “We’re very encouraged.”

Pfizer, which is developing the vaccine with its German partner BioNTech, now is on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, once it has the necessary safety information in hand.

Even if all goes well, authorities have stressed it is unlikely any vaccine will arrive much before the end of the year, and the limited initial supplies will be rationed.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, said the results suggesting 90% effectiveness are “just extraordinary,” adding: “Not very many people expected it would be as high as that.”

I don’t want to understate or overstate the importance of this news. This is a big deal. This isn’t some hyped up treatment, like Hydroxychloroquine. This is a real vaccine developed by a real company by real scientists.

It’s also not one of those treatments that just came off the drawing board. This vaccine is currently in Phase 3 trials, which is the last phase for any vaccine or treatment to pass before it’s ultimately approved for public use. That means this vaccine is on the home stretch. It could conceivably be approved within the next few months.

That’s very different from some of the other overhyped treatments that were floating around earlier this year. That’s also why I didn’t get my hopes up. Most of those treatments weren’t beyond the first phase of testing and the vast majority of new drugs never make it to the final phase. The fact that this vaccine is even at that point is reason for hope.

Now, a part of me is genuinely encouraged by this. However, another part is still concerned.

My concern, however, has little to do with the science or the testing. I understand why it has to be so rigorous. I would defer to those much smarter and more experienced than me to deal with the specifics. Much of my concern has to do with the perceptions and perspectives this vaccine will bring if and when it’s approved.

The first part of that concern stems somewhat from lingering cynicism. I genuinely worry that once news comes out that the vaccine is approved and being used, too many people will start behaving as though the pandemic is over. They’ll stop wearing masks and they’ll stop social distancing.

Even with a working vaccine, that will make things worse and people will suffer because of it. We already have enough problems with people refusing to wear masks. A vaccine could only make it worse and cause a spike in cases before the effects can take hold.

That is worth belaboring. It will take time for a vaccine’s effects to be felt. Even if this particular vaccine is available on January 1st, 2021, it’s going to take months for enough doses to be given. That doesn’t even get into the challenge of manufacture and distribution.

If we do eventually get to a post-pandemic world in 2021, it’s probably not going to be until some point later in the year. That’s not pessimism or cynicism. That’s just science and biology.

Another concern I have is basically the same I had when this mess started. Thanks to anti-science, anti-vaccine advocates, this pandemic could ultimately get extended because of peoples’ reluctance to take the vaccine. Even if these people are a minority, that’s still a huge problem that will ultimately hurt people.

Even those who aren’t advocates may still be reluctant to accept the science. There are members of my own family who are as reasonable and rational as they come, but even they say they will not be first in line to get the vaccine. That’s actually a popular sentiment. People say they support vaccines, but they won’t be first in line to get it.

To those people, I respectfully ask that you reconsider that position. Like it or not, this pandemic won’t end until enough people take this vaccine and develop immunity. Someone has to be first in line. If no one is willing to take the chance, then the virus will just keep spreading. It does not care how reluctant you are. It just cares that you’re vulnerable.

To that end, I’d like to state outright that, should this particular vaccine get approved for public use, I will gladly be first in line to take it. I’ll take that risk. I’ll roll up my sleeve and trust the scientists who worked so hard on this thing. If nothing happens, then I hope that’s enough to allay your fears and concerns.

I want this pandemic to end. We all do, at this point. I’d like to go to a movie theater or a baseball game at some point next year. However, we can’t wait for someone to end it for us. We have to play a part. The scientists and doctors are clearly doing theirs, more so than I can put into words. Now, let’s be ready and willing to do ours.

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The Day Before Veterans Day: A Story And A Request

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. As I’ve done before in previous years, I go out of my way to acknowledge the sacrifice and service those who have served in the military. It’s one of the few issues that transcends ideology, politics, and debate. Those who have served deserve our utmost admiration and respect.

There’s a personal element for me, as well. I have many close family members who have served in the United States Military. I have grandparents who served in World War II. I have an uncle who served in Vietnam. They know what it means to serve their country in times of war and peace.

I know it is often used as a platitude by politicians and pundits, supporting the troops. That doesn’t make it any less deserving of such support. I certainly offer my thanks and my respect to our veterans, especially on days like Veterans Day. I also encourage others to do so and to support various veterans charities.

In the past, I’ve donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. I strongly encourage others to do the same, donating to this or other veteran-supporting charities. On top of that, I’d like to share a quick story that was told to me a few years back by one of my uncles.

Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t reveal my uncle’s name or which branch he served. I’ll just state that he has been very involved in supporting veterans since he got out of the service many years ago. He’s actively involved with churches and organizations. He’s the kind of man who will go above and beyond for a fellow veteran.

This particular story he shared took place at a local church. For years, a group of World War II veterans would meet there around a certain date. They’d catch up, drink, and laugh in all the ways you’d expect of old friends. It was a tradition they all cherished.

However, in recent years, that group’s numbers have been dwindling. Even though millions served in World War II, there are only an estimated 300,000 left alive. That may sound like a lot, but in a small group like this, they noticed when many of their friends began dying. It got to a point where the group was small, so much so that there was little to catch up on.

This is where my uncle comes in. At one particular gathering at a church, he met up with this old guy wearing the distinct World War II veteran attire most recognize. He was sitting alone and not in the best shape, health-wise. He didn’t look sad, but you could tell he was among the last of the friends he served with.

My uncle, being the wonderful man he is, sat down and talked to the man. They got along well. In doing so, my uncle found out that this old man was the last surviving member of his platoon. They’d been close for many years, but now he was the last one. Given his age, it wouldn’t be long before his entire platoon joined the many others who made the ultimate sacrifice.

It struck my uncle because he knew that, once this man passed, too many of his stories would pass with him. That just couldn’t stand. My uncle sat with that man and just listened to him reminisce. I don’t know how long they chatted, but my uncle made it a point to hear his story, knowing those who could tell them were dwindling fast.

It’s a special kind of way to honor a veteran. You can help them in many ways, but I like to think just listening to them and their story goes a long way. War and combat has consumed entire generations. They leave lasting marks, including many scars.

That’s why it’s important to remember and honor them. There are memories worth preserving, full of lessons worth learning. Times may change. Warfare often changes with it. The one constant is the strength it takes to fight, serve, and sacrifice.

I hope this story from my uncle gets that point across. I also hope it inspires others to help and honor our veterans in their own special way.

Thank you and to all those who are serving now or have served, I hope you feel the love and support you deserve on Veterans Day this year.

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A Message To America After Election 2020

It’s over, America. We did it. The election of 2020 has concluded. We now have a winner and, come January 20, 2021, there will be a new occupant of the White House. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate this. It is, after all, a cornerstone of American democracy.

We, the people, elect our leaders. We don’t always like who wins, but it’s still on us, as a people, to make that decision. I know that sounds cheesy, given these cynical times, but it’s still worth saying.

With those platitudes out of the way, I have another important message I’d like to share with my fellow Americans. It’s simple, succinct, and apolitical. It’s simply this.

Regardless of how you voted, let’s all make an effort to be kinder to one another.

It’s not a tall request. It’s not something that requires great sacrifice or rigor. It’s just a simple act that anyone can do, regardless of their affiliations or ideology.

It shouldn’t seem so daunting, but these past few years have made it difficult to grasp. I’m on the internet every day. I see plenty of instances of horrendous, unbridled hatred. It’s on social media, message boards, Reddit, and even text messages. I won’t offer examples because it’s just that disgusting.

It’s not always political, but for these past few years, politics has been a catalyst for such hatred. It’s no longer enough to simply disagree with someone on a particular issue. The default has become utter and complete hatred of anyone who disagrees with you.

Whether it’s on abortion, LGBTQ rights, party affiliation, or sexy characters in video games, there’s no room for understanding and nuance anymore. Either someone agrees with you or you hate them in the utmost.

That is not healthy.

That is not conducive to a functional society.

Moreover, that is not in keeping with the American spirit.

America was not founded on hatred. No society founded on hatred could ever become so strong and dominant. It takes people living, loving, and cooperating with one another, regardless of differences, to build what America has built.

Have we made mistakes? Absolutely, we have. Every country has, some more so than others.

We’re human. We have flaws. Hatred is one of our most egregious flaws, but it need not be our most defining.

So, with that made, I sincerely hope that my fellow Americans will use this recent election as a turning point. We don’t need to “own” our opponents to vindicate ourselves. We don’t need to hate each other to prove ourselves right. We just need to be kind and make the most of the lives we live, as Americans and as fellow humans.

To that end, I’ll end this message with one of my favorite quotes by John F. Kennedy.

“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or make it the last.”

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