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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Holiday Nightmares

The REAL "Nightmare Before Christmas"!

WARNING: THIS POST IS GUARANTEED TO OFFEND MOST EVERYONE ( if what I see driving around is any indication.) BUT MEANT TO MAKE YOU LAUGH.  However,if you are sensitive about your Christmas decorations, (a Holiday Snowflake perhaps?)  please skip this post as I will be ripping into almost every house decorating trend commonly sold and used today.

Christmas the puffy 2018 way!

Okay, if you are still with me sit tight, because today we are going to forget "Bad Santa" and focus on 'bad decorating' as I take you all on the “Tacky Tour of Outdoor Christmas Decorations”. Try not to wince if you see your own home along the way.

Before the ‘virtual ride around town’ let’s look back on the history of outdoor decorations. There's a lot of good information on Wiki (read more) It seems like the idea of outdoor lights goes as far back as the late 1800s with the notion really catching on in the 1930s. So those older vintage decorations must have been very tasteful, right? Let's have a look. Here are a few images from the 1940s and 1950s.

This is a shot from 1945. Perhaps the owner's son was a returning veteran paratrooper? Even then, there had to be a more tasteful way to acknowledge that.

Here's another tidbit of taste from a little later, 1958. 

These images prove that being corny and tacky in one’s attempts to celebrate Christmas is timeless. Perhaps the two most popular depictions of this cultural phenomenon can be seen in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” & “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” The scenes in these productions reflect that the notion of overdoing it to a point of visual catastrophe is inextricably linked to the season.

I can forgive Snoopy because dogs ARE colorblind.

But a human then decided it was a good idea to recreate it....and that I cannot forgive.

Leave no spot unlit.

Now you can Google up images of outdoor decorations that are exceptionally tasteful…..and tasteful in various genres from traditional to modern. Here is one example that reflects my own traditional and minimal preferences:

How timeless, simple, yet elegant.

But one's inclinations need not be traditional:

Totally modern.....................utterly tasteful.

But while such a possibilities are within the reach of anyone with taste…..or even the ability to copy someone else’s good taste from a Pinterest photo, the unfortunate truth is that it rarely happens. Instead any trip through town on a December evening turns into an annual assault on one’s senses. I have noticed that there are a few key categories of Christmas atrocity. Some folks merely fall prey to one or two, but some unfortunate souls manage to hit every one. Here they are listed, explained, and illustrated. And just to prove I’m not a total dick, I conclude each with a simple solution or hint to correct the problem:

1: The Mismatched Hodgepodge I list this one first because it’s the one that bothers me the most and also the one you see most frequently. I characterize this ‘style’ as the “I bought white icicles three years ago to go with the white wicker lit reindeer, but last year I got the blue shimmer bush nets for the arbor vitae, except I forgot I had three bushes and when I went back for the third set they only had the blinking red left. This year I strung some flashing multi-color lights on the porch rail and put a 8' inflatable Holy Family next to the 2' deer.” -mentality. The end result looks like what would be a great visual celebration if the Holy Family had traveled to Las Vegas instead of Bethlehem.

How many colors and themes can you fit on one stretch of property? Trees, stars, deer, candy canes, Santa and a bush in every color. And these aren't even the worst I've seen...... just the best I could find through Google.

How do you fix this? Easy. Pick a theme in subject, then pick a color scheme and visual rhythm in which to execute it. Avoid bizarre scale discrepancies too. ( A local church does an annual Nativity that actually is pretty classic…….except that the camels for the Magi are the equivalent size of German Shepherds making me giggle every time I pass it.)

2: The Overdone If you believe that when seeking the best, one should listen to an expert in that field rather than an idiot, then ignore the philosophy of Clark Griswold and listen to Aristotle instead: “Moderation in all things”. There is simply no need to fill every available space with a light or prop. More lights will not mean a better Christmas. We have a house nearby whose jam-packed lawn looks like a shop for  holiday props. To be honest I don’t think this is a taste issue. This is a symptom of a mental illness probably not too far removed from being “obsessive/compulsive” or being a hoarder. How to fix this? Get psychological help. If it turns out that you are not mentally ill…...then just stop being some kind of competitive asshole over lights.

This is a good example of both 1& 2.......or 'the overdone hodgepodge'.

3: IT'S NEW!  Avoid falling prey to any new technology and trend. Just because some store makes it and your neighbor has it, doesn’t mean it looks good or that you need to have it too. The absolute WORST new trends in outdoor decorating? INFLATABLES & HOUSE PROJECTION!

"Oooooh! Where can I get one?!!?"

I might be able to forgive this if the owners have young children. 
The more I think about it? No. Not even then.

I suppose if you've always wanted your house to look like the Christmas Intermission scene at a Drive-In................

How to fix this: Don’t buy something new just because it’s new. Granted some new items are pretty good solutions to old problems. ( The bush net lights really do help the average person illuminate a shrub evenly and quickly.) But be selective. See the advice for #1 and ask yourself: does an inflatable Santa in a helicopter really fit in with my genuine evergreen wreath and garlands?

4: ALL THUMBS Some folks are just cursed by an unfortunate lack of any physical ability to carry out installations. This is a sad one because sometimes the visual atrocity we see is not due to lack of vision but rather a lack of basic dexterity. Some people are just not handy…..and that doesn’t make them bad people worthy of being laughed at. But if you fall into this category, admit it…….and then ask, cajole, bribe, or plead with a more handy member of the family to help you execute your Christmas vision.

I guess it is a sign of realistic self-awareness to know when one is beaten.

In conclusion, I suppose it is every American's right to do what they want to their house for Christmas. And while I could protest a lot of what is out there as an eyesore (which people can lodge complaints against) the counter-argument is that I am also free to look away. But I won't. I'm going to look. I might even stare. And eventually.........I'm going to laugh. So folks, just keep 'em coming! Free entertainment is hard to come by.

You think I'm cruel? Tell me you didn't look at this and laugh!


  1. I agree to some extent that "less is more," but it's a balance. My own house is a little lighter on lights than I would like, primarily because I am too big a pussy to get up on the roof with a ladder to string lights on the highest parts of the house, and too cheap to pay someone else to do it. And, while some of the people on my block go a little overboard, it actually makes me feel good that ours does try to participate in the season, while a block over -- nothing.

    And, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I learned this year the same is true of eroticism. There is a house a couple of blocks from us with a large deciduous tree with all the upper branches draped in lights, and more lights running around the long, straight tree stem. As we were driving by it a few nights ago, my wife said it looks like a dick spewing flourescent cum. I told her she has a very dirty mind . . .

    1. Well, to be honest, I lean towards a 'less is more' traditional and classic look outside with white lights, and red, gold, and green wreaths and garlands, but I am perfectly willing to acknowledge a well-done execution of a more modern or fully-lit theme....AS LONG AS IT IS A THEME. Whatever someone wants to do.....from a cool blue winterscape to a festive candyland of peppermint swirls and warm glowing's all good, IF it's good.

      The thing I see most often is the white lights along the roof with a solid blue strand draped over a bush like a straggly afterthought adjacent to a different colored strand (this one blinking) next to a web of something else, all with a traditional nativity scene in the grass, while a 10' inflatable Grinch watches over the manger. THAT is what makes me want to vomit my Christmas cookies.

      As for the dick-tree? Well........better a dirty mind than poor taste. ;-)

  2. Perhaps a suitable punishment for neighbours who go over-the-top would be to be publically whipped among their garish decorations?

    1. Perhaps even be displayed afterwards as part of the tableau? Redden the backside and make them wear green underwear and slacks.....perfect Christmas mix!

  3. Hilarious KD...thanks for sharing.
    The most outrageous one I have seen around our neighbourhood is a trio of huge inflatable Darth Vaders holding canes...that's what Christmas is all about!

    1. That's priceless! Yeah, when you think about that one, you just have to wonder what the person was thinking.

  4. Number 1(once I saw it it blown up caused an "Oh gawd!" to slip out of my mouth

    Number 2 made me jump in shock

    The last one in Number 3 hurt my eyes, although I have seen the small star light show and that's kind of nice.

    The last one was laughably cute.

    Thank you!

    1. You're welcome, dear. These were pretty bad, but the reason I wrote this was my disbelief at how pervasive bad decorations are.

  5. The Grinch lives here! KD Grinch that is (said with affectionate teasing).

    As a writer who participates in groups I am regularity exposed to a wide variety in the quality of people's work. By "quality" I mean their degree of skill or sophistication may be fairly limited. But I have learned to fully invest myself in what they have brought, and I have learned to appreciate the humanity and sincerity of it.

    So for me, I look at everyone's house decorations with the same, non-judgemental eye. I can tell some are having a huge joke while others, even if super-tacky to an artiste, can have a genuine charm being who and what they are.

    But all I know about the Christmas Spirit I have learned in books and from films. So Ho Ho Ho. And I while I can't agree that people need to be spanked for their decoration choices, I'm all in for robust Christmas spankings. K.D. clearly needs some intervention from the Spank Elves.

    1. Hi Tomy! I'm glad you responded as you did because it reminded me that there was something I was thinking of adding to the post but later just left out. Your points have validity but I'd like to show where I see how Christmas decorations are a bit different from your writing example.

      I can relate to your writing example maybe even more so with painting. I can't tell you how many people have shown me their work seeking my "professional" opinion. And when I do critique these pieces, I am VERY kind and supportive...........but it's because I know that even with my background I don't consider myself to be a "good" painter. That level is very hard to achieve and I believe most of us struggle with different levels of success as painters.

      However, I see Christmas decorations as being more similar to getting dressed, or perhaps maintaining a home and front yard, than putting forth some artistic expression. And while there are are few people who dress stylishly and a few who dress abominably, MOST people are at the very least acceptably competent in making sure their clothes match....especially when going to work or going out somewhere special.

      It is because of this apparent ability that I wonder why these same people....who don't wear two different colored shoes, or wear the jacket from one suit with the pants from another.....can't seem to apply the same sense of basic style to their decorations?

      To your point about personal charm, I think people still dress as expressions of their individuality, but while a daring woman might choose a red dress with a plunging neckline and another chooses a modest, high collar navy blue.....neither woman usually then goes on to match the dress with brown Uggs, a casual satchel handbag, and earrings that match neither the dress nor her necklace.

      If people can dress themselves (or at least most can) why can't this same majority of people apply the same rules to their Christmas decorations that they do to the outfit they wear to the Christmas party? (unless it's an 'Ugly Sweater Party'). And yet, the overwhelming majority of the decorations I see are somewhat mismatched and haphazard. Granted most don't look as bad as the examples in the post.....but nearly all do fit in with one of the categories to some degree.

      As for the spanking? Count me in! Bending over for a couple of my favorite women in elf hats will be my contribution to the Christmas spirit. (Besides, you have the advantage of having learned about Christmas Spirit from sentimental books and films whereas I learned my spirit lessons from the perverse and cruel Christmas World of retail. LOL So of course my version is going to be more cut-throat. LOL)

      All the Christmas best, my friend!

    2. I think there is a reason the dressing analogy either doesn't fit, or it fits beautifully and explains the hodge-podge approach to decorating that you're concerned about is. Most of us dress ourselves. I choose my shoes, pants, shirt and coat in the morning. And, every great once in a while, a tie. And, if someone buys me an article of clothing that I don't like or that doesn't fit with anything else I own, I don't wear it. Christmas home decorating is, however, often not a solo effort. I buy some things. My wife buys some things. We don't consult each other when we do it. The result is often a less than harmonious collection of stuff.

    3. Dan: I think that the explanation of the group effort may fit some cases, but I'm not sure if every outdoor set-up is a team project, or rather the pet project of the person most into it. Still the team effort that results in a hodgepodge indicates that perhaps every team should have a common goal. Imagine if every project involving more than one person allowed each party to go off in their own direction. Bridges would never meet in the middle! LOL On a more local domestic level, think of a table set-up. Rosa and I collaborate on these all of the time.....and yet I think the end results are never haphazard. But we plan these executions together so perhaps consulting each other on decorations would be a good idea too?

    4. I find that what "should" happen and what "do" are often two different things, at least in my marriage. Even in the local domestic context, if I had my way half the stuff that my has brought into our house would find its way into the local landfill. We just got through with a fairly major home renovation, and I'm surprised our marriage survived trying to jointly decide on tile and paint.

    5. Dan: A very honest glimpse of reality. I think you may be right about this because it certainly was the case with certain things in my prior marriage.

      (And I can't help but tease about the type of response a comment like that would get from a DD wannabe with no actual understanding of how things really work: "As a sub guy you let your wife make all of these renovation decisions and if you argue with her she should spank you until you give in!" LOL!)

  6. We can certainly agree to disagree....My best friend is an extraordinarily fine artist with finely tuned aesthetics. But his awesome intelligence does not give him one whit of "higher authority" when he makes judgements about how other people live and express themselves - unless it is specifically about their painting techniques.

    The rest is just his opinion and we argue the points endlessly. I enjoy arguing with him becuase everyone sees him as "the genius on the mountain", while I see him as a buddy whose balls I bust any time I feel like it.

    1. I think your friend, by virtue of his training and eye, probably does have a higher authority when judging not just artistic expressions but any visual effort, (maybe not living life though...unless he is also a mystic philosopher as well LOL) it's just that no one is morally, legally, or in any other way obligated to have their efforts BE of a certain quality. People are free to do what they want....and they do. And while opinions can vary, I don't think it's a stretch to say that a trained opinion carries more weight than one that is just what someone personally thinks looks good to them. If this was true then anyone could get their painting in a museum just by asking, having their song played on the radio, or having their book published just by submitting it.

      There are actually reasons that end up being more biological than aesthetic when it comes to "what's good"...and those can be taught and learned. Most people just don't bother and are free to buy whatever they want. And like I said in my last paragraph.....their end results can be highly entertaining.

  7. Okay. Okay. I had my fun with it.

    I suppose the Kardasians must have wisdom and taste that exceeds the average - based on their obvious success in getting their paintings hung, their songs played, and their books published...

    1. You are being a cheeky little devil aren't you? LOL ;-)

      However, while the Kardashian example is a on the surface a good little zinger, it does raise the two questions: 1: are you implying that in your judgement there is something of lesser quality in the efforts of the Kardashians? 2: Do you think that because submitting lesser quality work and still getting recognized for it works for the Kardashians that it then work for all of us? it does with Christmas decorations?

      Also, to put a fine point on it, to my knowledge no Kardashian piece has been judiciously curated for the permanent collection of any serious collection. It is one thing to get shown or even published as part of celebrity/publicity hype and another to end up permanently on the walls of the Lourve.

      Fun exchange! I love verbal fencing. Hell, I love real fencing....verbal fencing is just easier on my back and knees.

  8. Replies
    1. Very good, sir. But a bit of anecdotal trivia: in my four years of collegiate fencing ( Including qualifying and going to the NCAA's in 1981 for epee...yeah, 'glory days' bragging LOL ) and two extra coming back to'help out' as a volunteer assistant coach, believe it or not, I rarely if ever heard "en garde" used anywhere except the movies. Really. Whenever French was used to begin a match it was always "allez".

      typical exchange:
      Director: "Fencers ready?"
      Both fencers: "Ready, sir"
      Director: "Allez!"