Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Paper bags and drinking responsibly

December 26, 2010 Leave a comment
Bag from India

Bag from India

I got V a Christmas present. It came from the Amnesty International gift shop and was sourced from India. It came in an ingenious newspaper bag from a recycled Hindustan Times.

Bag from India

Bag from India

So far as the bag is concerned, it made me wonder why these aren’t used everywhere instead of plastic bags – eco-friendly with no real landfill implications.

The other thing that caught my attention was an ad in the paper that ended up on the outside of the bag.

In the UK, we have ads that urge people to ‘drink responsibly’, i.e. not go binge drinking in clubs, start fights after ten pints of lager and half a dozen vodka shots and then try to drive home.

In India, the newspaper carries an ad from a company that’s urging people to ‘drink responsibly’. The company sells water purification equipment.

Interesting cultural shift of perspective there. Interesting difference in priorities. Makes you stop and think…



Christmas lists

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

It gets me every year. Christmas isn’t a two-day public holiday but a three-week build-up, a festive campaign, a laying-in of supplies. It would, I suspect, be simpler to work out what’s needed to survive a zombie apocalypse than it is to work out what’s needed for Christmas. Or is that just me?

My way of organising myself is to write lists. Here are some I found in the pockets of my trousers and coat, on my desk, and on my computer. I’ve annotated the ones where I remember what they were about. It’s pretty random stuff but I’m bored, so I’ll share…

Trouser pocket

  • Dongle (in case the broadband goes down again. I can’t use it with my laptop because MacOS 10.3.9 is too ancient, apparently)
  • Acidopholos (sp?)
  • Pen – soft tip, high quality
  • Presents


  • Laptop story, other story (I’m writing two stories at the moment, but one is on my laptop. Which one I work on depends on whether I’m in the study or the living room)
  • Speaker (we’ve reorganised the living room, so the CD player needs extension wires for the speakers. Went to buy some but got rock salt for the path instead)
  • Tinsel (me buy tinsel for Christmas? Nope, I must have had something else in mind!)
  • Interview (me interviewing someone else in connection with another project – postponed till the New Year)
  • Suet (this was because V wants to make her own gluten-free Christmas pudding, which requires suet. As it turns out, the supermarkets only sell suet that has wheat added. Why?)
  • Pickle exploder


  • Blackboard (reminder to check the virtual learning environment for a university I work with?)
  • Tx (transfer something? But what, and to where?)
  • Soc Hsg (a reminder to get on with a project on social housing, I assume)
  • Blog (this one, I guess?)
  • Library vice (no idea! Any suggestions?)


  • HS2
  • EM detector
  • Snake keeping
  • Bad poetry
  • Harley Davidson codes (related to a previous post)
  • Macbeth
  • Gothic novel
  • Magistrates court design
  • Images of justice
  • Retort stand/clamp

Most, but not all, of the ‘computer’ ones are related to things I’m writing at the moment – I hope! At any rate I’m not buying anyone bad poetry or a magistrates court for Christmas…

Have a good Christmas, anyway!

Unseasonal thoughts!

December 12, 2010 2 comments

This is a very random post, and an idiosyncratic line of thought – so be warned!

Christmas isn’t nearly upon us, it’s a good two weeks away. We all know that for the last few decades, shops have started trying to drum up Christmas trade very early – and for the last couple of years I’ve noticed some ads for Christmas shopping starting around August! But in my childhood, which was admittedly quite a long time ago now, the ‘Christmas season’ started the week before the day itself. Indeed if you read Charles Dickens, you’ll see that many people didn’t really start celebrating or dealing with Christmas until the day before, or even the morning of Christmas Day (in those days you’d still find butchers, bakers and grocers open on Christmas morning, I think).

Well, times have changed. It’s not just turkey farmers who have to start production early to get the birds on people’s Christmas tables; pretty much all the stores have to order stuff well in advance for it to be shipped halfway round the world, etc., and that gives them several months to try to drum up interest in what they’re going to sell. These days, even I get interested in the event a month or so in advance – but that’s because I’m ordering a lot of presents online and want them to arrive by post and in time.

But in all this, spare a thought for the people whose birthdays fall around Christmas. For example V’s birthday is just the week before.  Does she want her birthday overshadowed by all the other festivities? No. So in our house, Christmas decorations only go up a few days before, once the birthday is out of the way.

Offhand, actually, I can’t think of any other culture where a regular annual event dominates the calendar the way Christmas does in Western societies. Chinese New Year? Nope – it falls around the beginning of February but when I lived somewhere that celebrated it big time, I never saw advertising for it until about two weeks before. Historically, the only events I can think of that took half a year’s preparation and involved an entire population were probably things like coronations, royal weddings, or wars!

This all looks to me like commodity reification; ‘the thingification of social relations to the extent that the nature of social relationships is expressed by the relationships between traded objects’.

Maybe there’s a case to start treating Christmas like a potlach? I quote: ‘At potlatch gatherings, a family or hereditary leader hosts guests in their family’s house and holds a feast for their guests. The main purpose of the potlatch is the re-distribution and reciprocity of wealth… Different events take place during a potlatch, like either singing and dances, sometimes with masks or regalia … the barter of wealth through gifts … and sometimes money. … Typically the potlatching is practiced more in the winter seasons as historically the warmer months were for procuring wealth for the family, clan, or village, then coming home and sharing that with neighbors and friends.’

Under modern-day circumstances, how could we replicate this? Short answer – banks and governments could give out large bonuses or  tax refunds, or declare tax holidays, for the whole of December and payable right around now. And retailers could start giving selected things away free.

I wonder if the idea of the Christmas potlach will take off soon!

(Note – yes, I did include ‘fantasy’ as a tag deliberately!)

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