CSotD: On the Eve

Ivan Turgenev’s On the Eve is one of my favorite novels, but it bombed in Russia when it was published in 1859, in large part because it was dismissive of effete student idealists who talked reform and accomplished nothing, as one of them admitted:

Plus ca change, baby, though I’d suggest that Jeff Danziger (Counterpoint) needs to visit more campuses, because college food, in my experience, has become absurdly good, in keeping with the rise in overall cost of being there.

In my gap year, I read On the Eve, Great Expectations and The Sun Also Rises, which present three different portraits of vain, unproductive wastrels. The major difference is that, if you read The Sun Also Rises at 20, you find it romantic, the overwhelming atmosphere of wretched excess not kicking in until you read it again at 50.

I choose those dates because the other day Kareem Abdul Jabbar used a Muhammed Ali quote in his Substack:

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.

But perhaps you have to be 50 to know that.

Howsoever, we’re not talking about being on the eve of the 1848 Revolutions or of the Crimean War, as Turgenev was, but of Christmas Eve, when Rhymes With Orange (KFS) reminds us of scurrying home for the holidays.

Something besides campus cuisine that has changed over the past half century is that many schools had a holiday break, but held first semester finals in January, which meant students had to lug home all their books at Christmas, in an era when textbooks were thick and wheeled suitcases were rare.

And we had to walk uphill both ways in the snow, dagnabbit.

But to answer the question, what fits in that little external pocket is a pop-up umbrella, so that, if it rains, you can get from baggage claim to your car without drowning. Though if you have one handy like that, it never rains.

I’m not in a particularly political mood this morning, but it’s being forced on us all. Pat Bagley points out that, no matter how well things are going, there will be rightwing Grinches intent on turning a lovely holiday into yet another hatefest.

The joke in Bagley’s cartoon is that the anti-Biden crew don’t admit how good things are. I saw some fool talking about how Bidenomics had killed Christmas shopping, which is a case of someone backing up his own opinion with his own facts.

Marketplace reports that not only did we duck the forecasted recession, but things are actually quite healthy. Inflation is not at the Fed’s target yet and prices remain somewhat elevated, but Gross Domestic Product is growing nearly five percent, Consumer Confidence is up and spending for the holidays was, as Bagley notes, quite healthy.

Things are really very good. Sorry for the bad news.

David Horsey points out the one genuinely sour note in this recovering economy, which is housing. She’d like to have made a move back before rates began to climb, and I can’t blame her, though the Fed is not raising rates any more and may start bringing them back down if trends continue to improve.

Mortgage rates aren’t exactly tumbling, but they are coming down. People with older fixed-rate loans aren’t moving because of those higher rates, so existing home sales are somewhat stalled, but, then again, the matter of principle is as critical, if not moreso, than the borrowing rate, and people set prices based not necessarily on what is fair but on what they can get.

Can’t blame the Fed, or Joe Biden, for that.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Arlo and Janis — AMS

Betty — AMS

An interesting contrast here: Arlo often looks back on his childhood, while Bub lives very much in the present.

I remember being excited about Christmas, but not over the top. However, as Bub notes, everything has been Chritmassy for a long time. Back in the Day, it really was just from Thanksgiving until December 25, while now Christmas seems to begin at Halloween. Even sentimental Arlo admits that it can be anticlimactic, and moreso now than then.

And I appreciate a different spin on the common trope of men shopping at the last minute. My own suspicion is that it’s related to the well-discussed difference between how women enjoy looking around in stores while men tend to go in there for something specific, find it, and get out again.

If you’re not going to go to the store until you’ve decided what to buy, it’s natural that it would entail a longer process of contemplation and a last minute flurry of activity.

Not everyone, however, is good at gift-selection, as Matt Percival observes, including people who imagine their dog wants to dress up for the holiday.

I had one dog who thought wearing clothes was hilarious fun and one who assumed he was being punished, but most fell in the “meh” middle ground. As with all gift-giving, it’s an issue of knowing your recipient rather than assuming they want what you want them to want.

My current dog wriggles out of her clothing so fast that Moms for Liberty want to hire her as a mascot.

I don’t know that F-Minus is correct about this trend, because along with cheap plastic toys come a whole lot of expensive plastic toys, and I say that as someone who once lived in a three-bedroom house whose floors were, starting on December 27, completely covered with random pieces of an Ewok Village.

Meanwhile, I still have this diecast metal Dinky Toy garbage truck, with rubber wheels, shades that can be raised and a crank that tilts to dump. It has been well played-with and will turn 70 in 2024, but the only missing part is the rear cover, so don’t ride down the road behind me, the road being the swirls on an oriental carpet.

I understand that Dinky Toys are now collectible, but this one ain’t for sale.

Christmas, however, is very much for sale, and Mark Evanier’s always worthwhile blog takes an in-depth look at the controversy around Stan Freberg’s classic Green Christmas, which his record company at first refused to release and which many radio stations refused to play.

Helluva record, helluva story!

9 thoughts on “CSotD: On the Eve

  1. Arlo and Janis really hit home because I’ve always been a Christmas Eve kind of person. Christmas Eve has been something special to me for some unfathomable reason, while Christmas Day as a child was church, church, church. Midnight Mass, the Morning Mass, then maybe we could get to the presents after brunch (not in the modern term, but late breakfast after finally coming home from the final Mass of the day). Not exactly something that appeals to the child.

    As an adult, it became it more so, due to the importance of Christmas Eve with my late wife (dinner at a very nice restaurant in Richmond) which has carried on with my current wife. 25 years tonight. Yeah, Christmas Day is nice (full blown dinner with my sister-in-law coming over, the late wife’s sister, not the current wife’s family) but there is something so magic in the air for a few hours that if I were single I’d probably ignore Christmas Day completely by comparison.

  2. Since my wife is from El Salvador, we celebrate on Christmas Eve. Since we are done celebrating Christmas by the time we wake up on the 25th, we usually go to the Jewish Milwaukee Museum (which is one of the few places open on the 25th).

  3. In every photo of a dog dressed in a costume, the dog looks like it’s thinking, “why do you hate me?”
    Every cat, on the other hand, looks like it’s thinking, “I will have my revenge.”

  4. Mike writes: However, as Bub notes, everything has been Chritmassy for a long time.
    I reply: I think the movie ‘Brazil’ showed an economy so reliant on massive consumer consumption that they have christmas all year round. I see a close parallel to this in the ever increasing massive commercial push toward needless consumption of highly overpriced silly, unnecessary things (electro-robotic cat pans!?) and drugs upon drugs.

    At this time of year, to counter the consumer binge and purge, we focus on and encourage others to take time to consider how we can improve the quality of life for all in 2024.

  5. I was unfamiliar with Freberg’s Green Christmas or attendant controversy-that was entertaining. Thanks for sharing

  6. Since the number of available college freshman is shrinking, colleges and universities have to compete with each other for amenities just to draw enough new students. That means nicer dorms, better WiFi, climbing walls and better gyms, and better food at the cafeteria. Add in much more diverse student bodies with a wider variety of dietary needs (vegan, halal, allergies , etc.) and the old-fashioned cafeteria model with limited choices won’t cut it any more.

    Actually, a big draw for fraternities and sororities back in the late 70s at my school was better food.

  7. What fits in that little pocket is your wallet, keys, coins, etc., for getting past TSA at the airport.

    And thank you for the link to the story behind Stan Freberg’s “Green Christmas.”

Comments are closed.