At last, it’s Christmastime.

I was having a sluggish day at work this past Tuesday. Not because anything was going wrong, but I just felt tired and lethargic. Basically, I felt how we all feel on a Tuesday afternoon.

So I decided to head to a nearby mall for pick-me-up beverage at Starbucks. Within minutes of being inside the mall, my mood instantly changed. Christmas reefs were hung all over the walls. Holiday music was playing. Santa was probably lurking somewhere. It was a very festive environment. And to top it off, I purchased a Gingerbread latte.

But I probably could’ve made it through the rest of the day without caffeine; Christmas spirit was the boost I needed to raise my energy level.

Even today, at work, while exiting my office I broke into an ear-to-ear grin when I saw our building super setting up the annual Christmas tree in our main lobby.

There’s just something about Christmas that makes me so happy. Because for one full month, we get to at least pretend that the world is one big happy place. That the snow globes you see, of glittering snow falling upon quaint little villages full of log cabins, is an actual reflection of what the world really is.

christmas-village

If there is ever going to be a real-life miracle that brings everyone together for the sake of hope and happiness, it will be during this month. And just sensing others share that same naive mindset is enough to make me a jolly man.

And mind you, I Identify myself as Jewish, but I stopped pretending years ago that Hanukkah even comes close to competing with Christmas.

Especially after this year’s election, Christmas offers us a time to finally take a deep breath and return to normalcy. Yes, Trump won, and there is a lot of uncertainty in our nation right now, but with Christmas comes a feeling of familiarity that we all crave.

And this holiday season, let’s challenge ourselves to retain these feelings of hope and optimism even after the calendar turns to 2017. And even after President Trump (it’s going to take a little bit of time to type that without gagging) is sworn in on Jan. 20.

Because after all, even though many of us share different ideologies and worldviews, we all have more similarities than we think, and what better time than Christmas to realize that? We all like having snowball fights. We all like the song “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and we all like candy canes and Peppermint Mochas from Starbucks.

Let’s start there.

After Christmas is over, we don’t have to necessarily be best friends. But we could all coexist and be happy.

trevor-noah-tomi-lahren

If you are still skeptical, then take the time to watch a video that has been widely shared on social media today — an interview of Tomi Lahren, an ultra-conservative 24-year-old Hayden Panettiere lookalike who has gained a large following on the right-wing website The Blaze, and Trevor Noah, the liberal South African host of the Daily Show.

It’s easy to watch it and say Noah was by the far the most sensible person (which, he clearly was), but let’s also keep in mind that, as the interviewer, he was able to steer the conversation while being reaffirmed by his own audience.

But it really is a great and fascinating conversation between two people of completely different mindsets. And it should teach us that we all really need to get out of our own ideological bubbles and talk to people who think differently than us.

And as was the case with Noah and Lahren, you might still end up maintaining a cordial relationship with the person that you were just disagreeing with.

Just some food for thought.

Have a holly jolly Christmas everyone.

Martin Shkreli arrested — it’s a Christmas miracle!

We are now at T-minus 8 days until Christmas.

You know, I really have no idea why the term “T-minus” is used for countdowns. Could this be easily solved by searching it on Wikipedia? Yes. Will I actually do that? No.

Choosing what you want to receive as a gift for the holidays gets more difficult with each passing year. As a kid, you wanted the latest new toys that recently hit the market.

As a teenager, you just want cash so you can buy more drugs and alcohol. Erm, I didn’t mean that. What I meant to say was…  uhh, alcohol and drugs. Smooth save there.

But when you’re a young adult, and you have a stable job, then you almost feel guilty asking for stuff when you can afford it yourself.

Martin ShkreliAt the same time, since its customary for your close friends and family to give you a gift, you have to come up with something.

For many people, Christmas came early on Thursday. Don’t get confused by that though. Christmas is still the 25th. It’s just a metaphor.

But I say that in light of the news that pharmaceuticals bad boy, Martin Shkreli, was arrested on securities fraud charges.

You all remember Shkreli. Besides Donald Trump, he’s probably the most hated man in America, if not more so. He’s the one who bought a drug that treats a rare parasitic condition sometimes found in babies or HIV patients, and then jacked its price from $13.50 per pill to $750.

The intense backlash he faced made him change his mind, but then he reversed course again. Just this month, when asked what he would have done differently, he said he would have “raised the price higher.”

Shkreli also is the guy who purchased the lone copy of the recently released Wu Tang Clan album for $2 million.

And he also happens to have the most punchable face in America.

Nonetheless, Shkreli was arrested for his alleged scheme in using a company’s assets that he was CEO of to pay back people he owed, which apparently is illegal. I’m not going to pretend I know all the details.

Even his “being hauled away by FBI agents while under arrest” look is annoying. He looks like an emo Eminem.

But seriously, I didn’t really feel like I’ve been overcome with Christmas spirit until today. It’s like the end of the holiday movie, where the greedy businessman and antagonist of the film goes down. I feel like we should be celebrating this arrest in Jimmy Stewart’s living room.

Also adding to the holiday atmosphere today was the release of a teaser Fuller Housetrailer for the upcoming Fuller House, the Netflix continuation of the classic original series that is set to premiere in late February.

It was a teaser in every sense of the word, as the only glimpses we get of the characters are their voices, from behind a closed door inside the house where the older series took place.

There are undoubtedly some things that should be left in the past. We love seeing our favorite shows come back, but sometimes it’s done simply for commercial reasons, and the sequel ends up lacking substance.

That being said, I think Fuller House will succeed. Many of the actors managed to stay relevant over the years, and with the right team of writers, I believe the show can accommodate to the current times. Plus it’s on NetFlix, and nothing in the world has ever failed on NetFlix.

Hey, you know what else just became a fuller house?

Jail.

Because Martin Shkreli is there.

This Christmas, I OD’d on Harry Potter

It was Sunday morning when I put on ABC Family to catch some of Harry Potter Weekend, denoted by the hash tag #HarryPotterForever, as the network aired all eight movies multiple times over the course of three days.

Prisoner of Azkaban started at 8 a.m, and the rest of the series followed until midnight.

The day before, I had seen bits and pieces of The Sorcerer’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets.

HPSince it was also the final week of the football season, I decided that I’d watch the marathon for a few minutes, and then spend my Sunday doing a mix of other things.

Ten hours later, I was so far deep into Potterland that it took me a little while to even remember that magic isn’t really a thing. I watched almost every minute of every movie. And it was amazing.

I pick up and read a Harry Potter book every now and then (I was hooked on the series growing up), and catch some of the films whenever they play on movie channels. But this gave it context.

The marathon allowed me to watch the events in succession, with no gap from movie to movie. It was a totally different experience.

It also helped me realize how awesome Twitter can be when actually used effectively. By following the hash tag, I was able to watch it along with thousands of people online at the same time, and experience their reactions to major events. And as any one who’s read the books knows — there are many of those.

It was a perfect way to not only end not only my four-day vacation from work, but the holiday season. Harry Potter may have little do with Christmas, but its story evokes the same wonder and magic that comes with this time of year.

Most of all, it was nostalgic. The Harry Potter series is one of the biggest things that binds Generation X together — or at least those born between the mid 1980s and early 90s.

While this current generation is defined by social media, ever increasing technology and ever decreasing attention spans, my generation will always have a book series that inspired adolescents to love reading again.

On Sunday, it call came surging back.

And then when I quoted the movies the entire next day at work, it made me even more popular.

Quick! There’s still time to get into the holiday spirit!

I can’t help but become captivated by holiday spirit this time of year.

Call me someone who’s easy to manipulate, but all I need is to see one snowflake, or one Macys holiday commercial, and I’m game. I like being happy. So when the season calls for it, you’re damn well right I’m going to answer.

It’s just 10 days until Christmas. If you’ve had a busy month, and haven’t really had time to get into the swing of it all, then it’s not too late. You can still be redeemed.

Because the best time of the holidays is the anticipation. The mood and positive feelings leading up to Christmas. If Christmas spirityou wait too long, it’ll pass you by.

So don’t waste another minute. Start right now.

And here’s how.

Watch old Christmas movies

Forget Elf and Bad Santa. The real holiday movies that captured the true spirit of Christmas were made long ago, with class, elegance, and no vulgarity.

Everyone knows It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Carol. Those are all excellent, obviously. But there’s other lesser known greats.

Try Christmas in Connecticut, starring Barbara Stanwyck, released in 1945, about a food writer who must pretend she lives the idyllic lifestyle she writes about in her columns when she hosts a war hero and her publisher at her Connecticut farm for Christmas.

Or The Bishop’s Wife, a 1947 film starring Cary Grant, who plays an angel who tries to help a bishop that’s lost a sense of his priorities come Christmastime.

If these movies don’t put you in the mood, nothing will.

Or just flip to ABC Family

If you prefer movies that aren’t in black and white, ABC Family is currently amid its “25 Days of Christmas” programming, and will keep airing holiday movies for the next couple of weeks.

Albeit, many of them are corny made-for-TV movies that aren’t very good. But come on, Christmas and corny go hand in hand!

Listen to KJOY

KJOY is probably the last radio station I’d recommend listening to any other time of the year, but come December, it’s chock full of holiday classics like Jingle Bells and It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. I dare you to switch the station when hearing one of those songs.

The other day I put it on and there was an a capella version of 12 Days of Christmas to the tune of “Africa” by Toto. It literally was the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.

Walk into Starbucks

All you have to do is set foot into the coffee shop and see the flavorful drinks they have right now — the gingerbread latte, eggnog latte and the caramel brulee — and you will be instantly won over.

Even if you walked in with the intention of ordering something else, you’ll somehow end up getting one of those three. Because they’re too tempting to pass up. And don’t even bother not ordering whipped cream. You’ll be miserable if you don’t.

Spread the cheer

Once you’ve finally accepted that this is the most magical time of the year, don’t keep it to yourself. Message a friend, hum carols to your coworkers, or even go and buy something for someone you like. Heck, maybe even donate to charity.

That’s the true spirit of the holidays: giving to those who need it most.

And if you’re Jewish then, disregard all of this, and … whatever.

Three holiday songs everyone is afraid to admit they love

Now that the giant tree in Rockfeller Center has officially been, holiday spirit can now enter full blitzkrieg mode.

It’s time to purchase and decorate the ole Christmas tree, watch Home Alone every time it’s on TNT, drink eggnog lattes at your local Starbucks (or the one three blocks away), and gossip about how badly Mariah Carey sounded during yesterday’s tree lighting ceremony.

But what’s the best part about this time of the year? Holiday music.

There will always be the old classics, like Santa Claus is Coming to Town, O Holy Night, Jingle Bells and White Christmas, to name a few (Or Adam Sandler’s The Chanukkah Song, so the Jews, don’t feel left out — but let’s face it: our music sucks.)

But there’s a few other songs that I’m convinced that everyone listens to every December, whether they admit it or not.

And they all happen to come from the same era: the Golden Age of music that was the late ’90s. For me, it’s not the holidays unless I listen to these three songs at least a dozen times.

Let’s jump right into it.

98 Degrees — This Gift

Often the forgotten boy band, people forget that 98 Degrees were pretty damn popular in their time. And in that heyday, they released this holiday gem. The harmonizing, the sleigh bells, the emotion the song stirs about the gretat feeling of receiving and giving gifts during the holidays; it’s all there.

It’s quite magical.

Britney Spears — My Only Wish This Year

Britney Spears is probably the last person you’d associate with the holiday season, besides maybe Adolf Hitler, but she released one of the most underrated and little known holiday songs, shortly before her personal meltdown.

It’s an extremely pleasant, clean pop song about wanting to find true love for Christmas. This is the Britney Spears who we could all wish we could remember, before she made songs like “I’m a Slave 4 U” and started becoming extremely trashy.

NSYNC — Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

This one really needs no introduction. Every one loves this song. Even when I was in high school right after NSync broke up in the mid 2000s, people weren’t afraid to admit they enjoyed it.

So now that Justin Timberlake is universally beloved, there’s officially no more reason for anyone to hide their love for this song. If there was one song that rekindled the spirit that lied in late 90s pop music, then this one might be it. You’d never see a song released like this one in our current generation. Now without Autotune or some type of Iggy Azalea rap solo in the middle.

Not only that, but it captured the joyous feeling that we all used to feel as kids around Christmastime.

“We’ve been waiting all year for this night
And the snow is glistening on the trees outside
And all the stockings are hung by the fire side
Waiting for Santa to arrive
And all the love will show
‘Cause everybody knows
It’s Christmastime and
All the kids will see
The gifts under the tree
It’s the best time of the year for the family.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

 

I think Secret Santa is a holiday tradition that could be done away with

It’s bad enough that we have to brave crowded malls, supermarkets and other stores during the final days before Christmas, but at least we can take solace in knowing that this last-second shopping is being done for the people that we are closest to. Because that’s who we buy Christmas presents for, right? Our family, best friends, etc.

We don’t buy presents for that one friend who we only see every two months. We make a firm decision of exactly who we want Secret Santato pay tribute to during the holidays, and it’s usually just a handful of people that we have known for a very long time.

If we want to acknowledge others, we send a Christmas card. There’s no need to spend more that 79 cents on a distant cousin.

Because Christmas shopping sucks. There’s no other way to describe it — it sucks. Aside from crowded stores, there’s also the heavy traffic to and from, and just the general pressure of deciding what you even want to purchase in the first place. But again, it’s the sacrifice we make for our loved ones.

Oh wait, I forgot somebody else who we have to go through this trouble for — that one co-worker that was selected randomly for you to buy a present for.

If you work in an office, then you most likely had the opportunity to participate in a Secret Santa swap this month.

The idea is that you list a few low-cost items that you want for Christmas on a slip of paper. When every participant has done so, you select a slip from a bag, and receive somebody at random. There is a limit on how much you can spend — normally $15 to $20 — and you have to anonymously buy the person one of their listed items, thus making you a “Secret Santa.”

It’s a great idea on the surface. A workplace is a fairly mundane, conventional environment, and it’s nice to spice things up a little. It’s also a good way to boost work relationships, and to interact with your co-workers in a non work-related manner.

Also, when a co-worker approaches your desk with a giant smile, asking if you want to participate in Secret Santa, you don’t want to be the one that says no. You want to be a team player. And it’s not like you’re spending a lot of money, anyway.Yankee Candle2

But then a few days pass, and you remember that you actually have to go out and buy the gift. You’ve probably already spent hundreds on presents already, and now you have to stroll into a Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy a lavender-scented Yankee Candle, or some type of scarf for somebody who you probably don’t even know too well.

It’s also troublesome to think of three gifts that you want for under $20. I can’t even think of anything I want when there is no spending limit, let alone that small of a sum. Inevitably, we all end up writing down some type of gift card that we don’t even really need.

And I didn’t even mention the worst part. There’s no payoff. One of the thrills of giving a gift is seeing the person’s reaction, and getting to exchange a hug with them, so they can show their appreciation. It’s not a selfish thing — it’s just a nice moment between two friends and a key part of the gift giving process.

With Secret Santa, you sneakily watch them open their present, and then just stand there like a moron. The funny thing is, everybody usually waits only like five minutes to tell the person it was them. Why even bother? Just put your name on the freaking tag. As a gift recipient, it’s also stressful not knowing who to share your thanks with.

Instead, you awkwardly say “thank you” to an entire roomful of people. And 10 minutes later, your Secret Santa party is over, and now you have to go Starbucks every morning for the next five days to exhaust your gift card.

There’s got to be other ways to promote office camaraderie, right?

Again, I’m never going to say no to Secret Santa, so the only way to avoid it is if the tradition ends altogether. So let’s just go ahead and do that.

Although, I must admit, Yankee Candles do smell like heaven in a bowl.

New York City beggars have desensitized me towards ever helping anybody in need

Since mid-November, shoppers everywhere have found themselves greeted by bells when entering malls, supermarkets, and other stores. No, it’s not because we’re being summoned home for dinner by a mother from the 1950s, but because Salvation Army volunteers are soliciting donations for those in need.

And it’s not even annoying. The volunteers aren’t yelling  — in fact, they rarely talk — they’re not shouting obscenities, their red Salvation Armywardrobe is perfectly befitting for the holiday season, and their little bells aren’t that noisy, either. If anything, it’s a welcome tradition this time of year.

Salvation Army volunteers have set up shop in front of local businesses for years during the holiday season. Naturally, the hope is that they’ll catch people, who, engulfed with Christmas spirit, are will willing to lend some spare change to the poor. And I’m sure they collect tons of money throughout the country and make good use of it.

However, today, as I was walking into a Fairway Market — which are awesome, by the way, if you’ve never been — I found myself crossing paths with such a volunteer. And what happened can only be defined as “crossing paths,” because it wasn’t anything else. If anything, it was the lowest form of human interaction imaginable.

As I neared them, I didn’t even glance at them. I didn’t smile. I didn’t nod my head. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you if it was a man or woman. And that’s because I pretended they didn’t exist. For all I know, it could have been a giant penguin ringing a bell, and I’d be none the wiser. Which would mean I missed out on the awesome opportunity to see a giant penguin ringing a bell.

And then it occurred to me — I’ve been doing this the entire holiday season.

Probably at least four or five times I’ve had the opportunity to donate to the Salvation Army this year, and not only have I failed to do so, but I haven’t even given these volunteers the courtesy of human acknowledgement.

These volunteers, who aren’t poor, aren’t rude, and who spend their valuable free time standing outside in the freezing cold just to help others and contribute to the betterment of mankind.

And while they may be the cold ones standing outside for hours at a time, in reality, I’m the one who’s even colder — emotionally.

It made me wonder why I’m such a stingy, dispirited penny-pincher. At the very least, couldn’t I look them in the eye and smile? Such a gesture would be a simple, yet effective way to appreciate what they’re doing.

And then it occurred to me — New York City beggars.

Any one who has spent even an hour of their life in Manhattan will know instantly what I mean. Because the city is littered with a New York City. Homeless man.homeless population, which — unlike the Salvation Army volunteers — are rude, loud, obnoxious, smelly and abhorrent to look at.

It’s an unwritten code of conduct among city dwellers to completely disregard these people. And I know it sounds bad — just giving them a meager $5 can greatly improve their life. But, we all know, they aren’t going to spend it on food. They aren’t going to invest it in some Internet startup in an attempt to accumulate wealth. They’re going to the nearest bodega and buying a 24-oz. can of Budweiser. In the end, you’re out five bucks, and you just became an enabler for a homeless man’s slow, painful demise.

But at the end of the day, those homeless degenerates on 5th Avenue and the Salvation Army volunteers in front of K-Mart are essentially doing the same thing — requesting your money.

That similarity obviously triggers something in my mind that makes me ignore them both altogether. Subconsciously, my brain blends them together.

And that’s wrong.

I’m just glad I realized it in time. And from now until Christmas, I am not only going to lend these do-gooders a curt nod of appreciation, but I am going to donate money. I’ve spent money on so much worthless shit in my life, that this is the least I can do. I’m a working man who has some cash to spare, I believe wholeheartedly in philanthropy, and it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

That’s right, people, if I can do it, you can too.

Unless I only have a $20 on me. Then, uhh… maybe next time.