Off The Record: Newspapers, newscasts tipping over with seasonal tips

December 13, 2004|HERB BROCK

You know that line from the "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" tune where the round one is "checking his list and checking it twice"? The song says he's doing that to "find out who's been naughty or nice." Not True.

The list that Santa checks every Christmas has nothing to do with the behavioral records of the world's children. That paper he's pouring over actually is a list of holiday tips.

Newspapers and TV and radio newscasts are tipping over with lists of tips for the season. The how-to list includes how to cook a turkey, how to carve a turkey and how to package turkey leftovers. (Tip: Push the dark meat. It's underrated and overlooked; also, it's richer and moister than the overrated and often dry white meat.)

We also are instructed on how to shop for Christmas gifts, what to get our kids, how to wrap the gifts after we buy them and where to place them under the tree. (Tip: Buy boxes that have Christmas scenes on them so you don't have to spend time and money on wrapping gifts.)


We're also informed about how to pick a tree, how to check for falling needles and dry branches, and how to put one up and water it. (Tip: A can of Sprite really turns on that essentially dead shrub.)

We're also told how to budget our time during the busy season, how much time we should spend with relatives and how to deal with anxiety. (Tip: Hold a Christmas party for all relatives instead of hosting several get-togethers so you can kill several grumpy and unpleasant-to-be-around relatives with one stone.)

I don't know about you but the needle on my holiday anxiety-o-meter spins around uncontrollably when I read, hear or see another list of tips about how to deal with anxiety. The meter blows up when I'm reading the how-to list for assembling one of those easy-to-assemble toys that only requires a hammer. I use the hammer to hit my head.

I realize that there might be some tip out there that will come in handy, especially the ones dealing with the financial part of Christmas. As a person who was born with a maxed out credit card in my mouth, I need to heed all the budget tips I hear and read.

A tip for tipsters

But here's a tip for the tipsters: Most of us were not born last Christmas. With guidance from our parents and the experiences we've encountered through life, we pretty much know how to buy, wrap and place presents; how to pick, erect and tend a tree; how to fend off anxiety, the IRS and those pesky extra pounds we pick up after stuffing ourselves at the holiday table.

If there needed to be additional proof of the alleged "dumbing down of America," newspapers and television and radio newspeople and the Internet supply it with their incessant tips, and not just during the holidays. I suppose Heloise wouldn't be a millionaire if there weren't people out their who needed her hints, but we are so inundated with tips, we don't have time to utilize them.

Next to Christmastime tips, the ones that really tickle me are those offered farmers. In the vast majority of cases, farmers come from families who have been into agriculture for generations. Their ancestors have been tilling the soil for centuries. Their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and their mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers - you can add a few more greats here - have been working and running farms and farm homes since the plow was invented.

Nevertheless, farmers are bombarded with tips about raising crops and livestock as if they had just rolled out of the turnip patch. I understand that farmers need to know the latest about agricultural technology, machinery, pest control and growing techniques. But upon hearing and reading some of the more basic, timeless tips, I can only imagine a farmer saying to himself or herself, "Duh, I didn't realize you had to dig the hole before you planted the seed."

But when Santa makes his rounds this Christmas in the rural areas of the world and leaves agricultural tip books under trees, I believe the farmers will be appreciative: "Thanks, fat boy. I had just run out of kindling and needed something to keep that fire going."

Not a bad idea. Maybe we could collect all the newspaper clippings and newscast tapes of all the tips we get year-round and hold a massive bonfire. (Tip: Make sure you hold the bonfire in a clearing far away from forests, developed areas - and, most especially, farms.)

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