HV078- Shopping for Santa

Coca-Cola ad: Santa with bag of presents drinking CokeHearing Voices from NPR®
078 Shopping for Santa: A Season’s Greeting
Host: Barrett Golding of Hearing Voices
Airs week of: 2009-12-09

“Shopping for Santa” (52:00 mp3):

Holiday spirits and communal consumption:

“City X” (22:07) Jonathan Mitchell

We go shopping at “City X,” a sound-rich history of America’s malls and their creator, architect Victor Gruen (PRX | Radio Lab | 3rd Coast).

“‘Tis the Season” (27:09) Ginna Allison

The producer, at age 2, sings “Silent Night” with her Dad. A woman homesteader remembers brutal North Dakota winters in the 1920s. Blues legend Brownie McGhee describes homemade Christmas presents. Adi Gevins’ father reveals that all New York Santas gain entry through the fire escape. And an Oroville grandfather uses a snow machine to make his plastic Christmas tree even more realistic. Produced for the series A Gathering of Days, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and KQED-San Francisco. Thanks to Adi Gevins, psychiatrist Ray Posie, John Langstaff: creator of Christmas Revels, and the late Peter Allison for the family recordings.

“And a Happy New You” (1:53) Jesse Boggs

Eli Boggs, age 3, sings “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. His dad, Jesse Boggs, plays guitar.

Hearing Voices wishes you lotsa Holidays Spirits and Prosperos Anos Nuevos.

Images from Coke Lore. Ads painted by Haddon Sundblom
1942 above, 1951 below:

Santa drinking Coca-Cola

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Comments (4)

This was an enjoyable program; nostalgic. Japanese do not celebrate the winter solstice. There is a national holiday on Dec 23 – the Emperor’s birthday. However, they do have holidays for the spring and fall equinoxes. Merry Xmas!

Comment added by Allan Murphy on 12.13.09

This has to be the lamest radio piece I have ever heard: random, without any context, historically inaccurate, nostalgic, and oh-so-NPR-cute. This epitomizes the smugness of NPR’s elitism without any real content. And what’s so annoying is the ahistorical aspect of it all. You know what malls do have a real, serious history: the epi-center of 1950s white suburbs, middle-class dreams, development of sprawl, and America’s love affair with consumption–not these random, uninformed comments about food courts, make-overs, and picking up girls.

Comment added by Robert Bicknell on 12.18.09

I beg to differ, this was very historically accurate, and I know because I was there, and did a huge amount of research in its preparation. This a case history, and not intended to function in the way that you seem be indicating.

“the epi-center of 1950s white suburbs, middle-class dreams, development of sprawl,” — these are all issues referred to in the piece. I’m curious to know if you actually heard the whole piece, or just tuned in to the middle part.

This piece is certainly not random, and much of the context is provided by the listener (which is what I found interesting about this approach). It’s intentionally vague, and that’s the point — in many ways, malls have homogenized the country and created a very vague sense of culture on the local level. But as much as there are negative aspects to it, I also have fond memories of being there, which I pointed out though the use of nostalgia. My feelings about the mall are quite complex, and I think this piece reflects that.

I would hope that this piece is judged based on its actual intent (which I think is implicit to anyone who gives it a chance). If you were looking for a straightforward documentary, then I’m not surprised by your disappointment. If you want a “serious” history of the mall, there are several good books I could recommend. This piece is an essay, and a reflection on the effect of “the mall” from the perspective of the people who go there. And it uses the medium in a way that’s intended to provoke the imagination. The meaning is between the lines.

But really, the best criticism is action. If you don’t like the intent of this piece, or what it says, or the way it was made, make a piece of your own that says things in a way that has the qualities that are important to you. That’s what I did.

Comment added by Jonathan Mitchell on 12.18.09

I can’t tell you how little I wanted to hear about malls, but I clicked ‘play’ anyway and this piece (the first one) captivated me with its narration-free, judgment-free exploration of how we relate to our culture of shopping and to our environs (downtown vs malls). When the kids were talking about scoping each other out at the mall, I felt like I was hearing of the mating rituals of another human tribe, another culture, as an anthropologist might (I could relate to it on the one hand but it also felt foreign to me).
I did not want the piece to end. (Wasn’t going to leave a comment but decided I should put in my two cents of appreciation.)

I liked the variety and flow of the Christmas piece, too. And a darling ending, with the child singing, and then the guitar… it’s Christmas in August for me right now. Thanks for putting this together.

What I just realized I especially love about Hearing Voices is the lack of editorializing patter and preamble to the pieces. So thanks again.

Comment added by Sarah In Brooklyn on 08.08.11

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