Shopping for Armageddon

Humbuggery at the mall

In these darkling days, you have to be careful what you wish for. For example, you might have wished, "In these times of unchecked conglomeration and corporate greed, I wish the Bush administration would institute an antitrust investigation."

Well, they have, and it ain't Enron or Clear Channel, but instead John Ashcroft's Justice Department is doing a full-court press on the nation's two leading alternative weekly chains, Village Voice Media—which owns the OC Weekly—and New Times. The two chains apparently had a deal in which in two competing markets—including LA—each chain wished one of their papers into the cornfield, leaving the opposing chain's paper without an alternative competitor.

I don't know that this was a good thing, but far more detrimental deals go unmarked daily. As a Los Angeles Times article pointed out, both markets have several other news sources, so the only parties really impacted were the alternatives' porn advertisers, who now face higher ad rates. So prudish Ashcroft, who put drapes on seminude statues in the Justice building, is going to bat for gay phone-sex providers? It must be purely coincidental that their actions might also kick the shit out of two of the few media sources that dare to criticize the administration. Humbug!

* * *

Though bomb shelters can make fun rumpus rooms, I don't really recommend building them or stocking up on canned goods for Christmas. What I do recommend you do is make or buy gifts that affirm life, build community and say "phooey" to the processes that make us consumers instead of citizens.

For instance, buy your loved ones three months' worth of organic vegetables from Capistrano's South Coast Farms, from whom they will get a weekly box of in-season local organic fruits and veggies to do with what they will, while supporting local sustainable agriculture (www.southcoastfarms.com). Or buy them a membership in the ACLU, KPFK or the OC Philharmonic Society. Or make a donation in their names to a good charity or environmental group.

That's what my niece Amber gave us last Christmas. It was a kind gesture, but I can't especially remember now if we're helping a Peruvian kid or a den of fruit bats. These are the gifts that keep on giving, not some Dolemite DVD. You've already got more stuff than most people on the planet, and I've got more stuff than you. So believe me, you don't need it.

Look at Trinity Broadcasting Network's Jan and Paul Crouch. They've got the $6 million Newport Coast house. They've got the fancy cars. They use so much electricity to light up their joint you can see it from Mars. They drink wine that costs more than your college tuition. But are they satisfied? Are they not always asking for more, in Jesus' name?

I stopped in at Trinity's Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh Gift Shop, where you can buy a nice leather checkbook holder with a cross on it for $29.95. "Have you got any myrrh?" I asked. "I haven't been feeling very anointed lately." They haven't, I was told, except for a bit mixed in their little bottles of holy oil from the holy land. Such nice people. "Have a blessed day," the saleslady said. And I wish you the same.

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