Folks, this is about my "consumption" of plastic over the next year. I'm looking at what I have, what I buy, and why I seem to need this hundred and fifty year old man-made concoction more than my mother's fried chicken.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Week 17: Merry Plastichristmas

With my plastic Jesus
Goodbye and I’ll go far

I said with my plastic Jesus

Sitting on the dashboard of my car
When I’m in a traffic jam

He don’t care if I say damn

I can let all my curses roll
‘Cos Jesus’ plastic doesn’t hear

‘Cos he has a plastic ear
The man who invented plastic

Saved my soul

Plastic Jesus, original by Ed Rush & George Cromarty (extended lyrics by Ernie Marrs), covered by Billy Idol, Paul Newman, Jack Johnson, Flaming Lips, The Dead Kennedys, and 2 US Soldier in Iraq

Pick your favorite version! It's hard not to love Cool Hand Luke's, but Billy Idol's got me up & dancing and the 2 soldiers in Iraq left me drop-jawed. It's hard to choose just one! And please don't ask me how much time I spent on You Tube reviewing all of well as the ones I didn't want to help promote like Desire Dubounet's version. Doh!

I came across this website: Fishermen. The concept is kind of amazing--especially for me--being an ex-con of the Southern Baptist Megachurch movement in the late 80's. So, here you have this rock-climbing, Harley-riding, and not to mention WASPy-looking Jesus. Likely an ethnic reflection of the founder of this little company, right? Dude is black. So umm...who is his target market?

On the subject of plastic doll races, I was reminded of a short documentary my friend Pandora sent me about 2 years ago called A Girl Like Me by Kiri Davis. I know I can overload my posts with links, but please watch this if you haven't already. As a little white girl, it never once occurred to me to pick out a black doll from the shelf. I was more of a stuffed animal kind of girl. However, I did inherit a cherished and ever-so-creepy collection of little dolls...not the kind you play with, but the kind that live most of their lives in plastic viewing cylinders. They looked kind of like this:

In fact, I had this same exact doll. It was my favorite. I also had a black "Aunt Jemima" looking doll. Might I have been surprised when I finally learned that all Native & African American didn't look this way? I don't remember. It's just interesting to think about how a simple plastic doll can say so much without ever saying a word.

Where am I going with this?

Christmas, dolls, toys, Jesus...hmmm.

How did Christmas culture in the US evolve or devolve?
Can I make a confession? Christmas just gets weirder and weirder for me. What used to be my favorite time of the year has now become a season in which I try to sail through as quickly and painlessly as possible. Here is a day that has been usurped and morphed so many times, that it can't tell its arse from it's elbow...

There was this god see, and earth people in Rome were like, "Oh Saturn, god of agriculture: Thanks for the crops. We lift our glasses to you and will turn our society upside down for a little while in honor of you." And so, for a month--people celebrated Saturnaila by eating, drinking, raising hell and playing Freaky Friday with the social order.

And then there was Mithra, god of the unconquerable Sun (who was born of a rock on December 25) and the Romans again were like, "For those born of a rock, we salute you." From the 4th century to the 8th century, there was bunch of back & forth about needing to settle on an official birthday for Jesus (because the not knowing was killing them and history needs dates like the addict needs the needle) and even though he was likely a spring or summer baby, they thought, "why not just ride the coattails of the already established generic god B-Day on December 25th and call it a night?"

And so it was...the quiet little baby Jesus was born in the middle of a bacchanalian celebration that practiced cutting trees down to put them inside & hang apples on them, beggars role-playing as king, slow-burning logs, mass slaughter of cattle, copious wine intake, and people getting wicked excited about putting the longest nights of winter behind them.

Eight centuries later, Oliver Cromwell and his posse of Puritans ride up like Scrooge on steroids and cancel Christmas in England in 1645. You would think that the Pilgrims (who left England 25 years prior) would be getting their Christmas on in the New World, but they were having none of it either. Their influence spread into Boston, MA where it was declared illegal (5 shilling fine) to celebrate Christmas from 1659-1681.

Almost two hundred years later in 1870, Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the US. Over the past 140 years, this day (for many people) has become a worrisome yet cathartic binge of decorating, listing, cooking, traveling, partying, driving, shopping, buying, wrapping, gifting and returning of superfluous stuff. And plastic is an integral part of this process.

Decorating your tree (which may be plastic) with plastic ornaments while listening to plastic holiday CD's. Lining a plastic-sided house with plastic lights and sticking an inflatable light-up polyester Santa kneeling next to a sleeping plastic baby Jesus in the yard. Making a list with your plastic pen & checking it twice. Taking photos with your plastic digital camera to send out on your plastic computer or print out on plastic paper to friends & family. Driving to the stores in your plastic lined vehicle. Parking on asphalt, plastic's cousin. Making sure you have portable plastic cards that represent money you don't have to buy many plastic things packaged in plastic that you can't afford, which may include an alarm clock on wheels, the Hillary Nut Cracker, or for those who like to simulate the feeling of being shot by a weapon, the Laser Tag Shocking Electronic Shock Game. Toting all of these plastic items back in plastic bags. Baking various items and packaging them in cute little plastic wrapped bags with plastic curly ribbons. Wrapping the presents with plastic coated wrapping paper & plastic tape. Plastic ladling a healthy cup of eggnog from a plastic punch bowl at a holiday party. Pictures with Santa in his acrylic throne and polyester suit. Wearing a plastic apron & gloves as you serve a cheap Christmas dinner at a soup kitchen with plastic utensils. And then there's Hanukkah...

I can just picture Saturn, Mithra, Jesus and all the rest watching this process, slapping their holy foreheads crying, "Oy veh! What in tarnation are these mortals doin'?" And like any good educator, I answer: "I don't know; that's a really good question. What do you think?"


beyesn said...

Thoug you'd be interested to see this Chicago Tribune writer's story about his attempts at "A Life Without Plastic":,0,5147886.story

kristi said...

it's funny--i haven't had much time to really dig into all you are putting on this blog, but sometime during christmas i thought of you and how much you might be freaking out by all the packaging you would have to "report" on here! it must have been when we were opening all the plastic-wrapped gifts. everything comes in about 5 layers--even batteries. it's ridiculous.

i hope you guys had a very merry christmas! xoxo

Sunnye said...

Very interesting article. I the author's pain...I hope she is able to push that guilty feeling she writes about at the end into more baby steps away from plastic/consumption (and stop drinking Dunkin' or at least drink that monstrosity they market as coffee out of a reusable mug.) They sell them there...or so I've heard. ; )

Sunnye said...

Kristi! Funny thing about the holidays--we didn't do gifts this year. We just had brunch with Nick and then went out to dinner with the fam! The togetherness was our gift and it was great! It didn't come with a receipt of purchase, a plastic bag, or the burden of exchange! : )
However, I did get my left overs to go and it came in...a...styrofoam container. Bah humbug.

We miss y' always.

Lee Winters Cruising Blogspot said...

Hey Lady,

I really dig what you are up to here. Limited bandwidth stealing what I can, but I want to read more. I was hoping for fiberglass on your plastics countdown considering it's what my boat is made of and the only thing keeping me from certain death, according to my mom.

Just taught myself the Plastic Jesus song on the only instrument that fits of a boat, a ukulele. Hope you are well.


Sunnye said...

Hey there Sailor Winters--I'm honored that someone is posting from sea!!! HOW COOL IS THAT???
Fiberglass...yes indeed. A tricky word. It seems that although it is a patented technology (Owens Corning) as old as time,the term "fiberglass" is used loosely.

Is your boat Fiber-enforced plastic? Solid fiberglass? I found this interesting video on daily motion:

Plastic resins were mentioned, but I'm still not quite clear on how it's worked into the fiberglass...that material is a wonder though, ain't it?