CSotD: Fact-checking the Funnies

(Baby Blues)


The question of real vs. artificial Christmas trees seems like one of those issues in which either argument makes sense and it comes down to what you want to believe and what you prefer to do.

However, you aren’t hurting the forests by buying a real tree or saving them by purchasing plastic.

Christmas trees are farmed like corn, the biggest difference, I suppose, is that, if we quit buying corn and the land were turned back to prairie grasses, it would have more impact on the environment.

If we quit cutting down young trees, some of them would grow into old trees but the rest would be crowded out and shaded and would die, and some smart botanist could probably calculate the difference in carbon exchange between 20 mature trees and 60 young trees, but the main point is that your Christmas tree didn’t come from the forest any more than your Christmas turkey was hunted down and slain there.

With plastic being the eco-villain of the moment, it’s not hard to look down your nose at an artificial tree, the defense being that you won’t be throwing it into the ocean on December 26 but, rather, storing it in the attic.

Those truckloads of real trees — trees which exchanged CO2 and oxygen for a decade and a half before being cut and then replaced — came down from somewhere in the US or Canada on a truck while your plastic tree was made in some Chinese factory that does god-knows-what to the air and water, and then was shipped across the Pacific and then probably rode a truck about as far as those natural trees do.

But only once, so there’s that.

Whether you’re going to buy a tree at the department store or at an urban tree lot is pretty much your decision.

My only advice is that, if you have a plastic tree, you should also serve tofurkey, and then, when the holidays are over, you could stick the rest of that up in the attic along with the plastic tree, and they’d both be just as good next year.


Out here in the boonies, as seen in Wallace the Brave, things are considerably different: We can cut trees on small lots owned by actual, real people, so that you see who’s getting your money and how many trees of This Year and Next Year and Five Years From Now they’ve got growing.

As for letting Hammie get his hands on a saw, I recall as a wee lad not all that much older than him, that my father took me down to a farm owned by my friend Art’s family.

Art’s dad and grandad were janitors at our school and I wasn’t old enough to be too aware of things but I think I already knew it hadn’t made them wealthy.

So we drove up to the farmhouse and my dad and Art’s dad sent the two of us off with a sled and an ax to find a tree while they stood by the car talking, and I remember being floored that someone my age could swing an ax with such authority and skill.

It being a few more years before I realized that I had several friends whose regular chores included splitting wood for the stove and not some Yuppie soapstone wonderpiece but just the thing that heated the house.

I’d rather give Art’s family the money for the tree than some guy in the parking lot at Target, partially because I know they can use it, but mostly because it’s just more fun to deal with friends.

And a privilege rare in these impersonal times.

As for the “Indoor and Outdoor Tree” concept, there used to be a fashion for buying live trees and planting them after the holiday, but I don’t know what the survival rate was, while, if they did make it in credible numbers, you’d have to have one hell of a good-sized yard to keep the tradition going very long.

Unless you started chopping them down and bringing them inside.


Meanwhile, in literary circles

Big Nate has been working on a children’s book this week (starting here) and I’ve gotten several laughs out of it, because everyone seems to be working on children’s books these days, under the mistaken impression that writing for children is easy.

Writing children’s books is like baking biscuits: The recipe isn’t complex but having them turn out well takes some skill and the bad results can be hard to choke down.

Also, attempts to make biscuits into health food or children’s books into important life lessons are equally doomed, except that librarians and teachers award medals to books that are Deeply Meaningful, Socially Relevant and Completely Indigestible.

Meanwhile I’d rather have my grandchildren grow up with chainsaws than with some of the role models in the books that were read to me as a wee lad.

For instance …

…  though not everyone in Africa shared her view of beauty, as we saw in Doctor Doolittle:

But nobody had a chain saw in either series, so we kids didn’t get any negative messages.


For truly regrettable horrors, however, there’s nothing like the annual Corporate Prom, as seen here in Alex.

At the first paper where I was on staff, our annual party was the night before Labor Day, because we didn’t publish on the holiday, so the pressmen could join in, as well as all but a skeleton staff in the newsroom.

But then we began publishing on more holidays because greed is good and the party started downsizing because fun costs money.

The parties weren’t as much fun anymore, but, then, neither was working there, so it was a kind of chicken/egg thing.

As I rose to middle management, I started to have a drink, be seen by my staff and my boss, and then get the hell out.

Maybe it was discretion, maybe it was burnout.

But there’s no place like home for the holidays.