December 22, 2009
Have you seen that coffee commercial where the dude comes home for Christmas and then his little sister takes him into the kitchen and makes him coffee and they stare at each other in a way that makes you, the viewer, really uncomfortable UNLESS YOU ARE MARRIED TO YOUR FIRST COUSIN?
Here it is:
What is going on with that! Did everyone already know about this commercial? Does everyone go “Oh, it’s almost Christmas! Time for the incest/coffee commercial again, I can’t wait!”?
Why didn’t you tell me about it?
And why did nobody at any point in the commercial-making chain go “WAIT A MINUTE. HAVE YOU NOTICED HOW THIS GIRL OBVIOUSLY WANTS TO DO IT TO HER OLDER BROTHER? WHAT ARE WE SAYING ABOUT COFFEE DRINKERS YOU GUYS?!?”?
The Youtube comments are pretty entertaining, if you’re down for that sort of thing. Basically they split into two groups of people: those who are offended by the “West Africa” reference and those who are offended that others are all “Say, that “You’re my present this year”+romantic doe-eyed gazing part is pretty weird, eh?” – because, apparently, that’s how brothers and sisters are and anyone who questions it hates families and is a bad American.
The weirdest part is how the sister is obviously creepily, sexually obsessed with her older brother, but he’s trying to be all cool! He brings her things from West Africa! Like maybe a lame hat to match the one he was wearing! But the sister TOTALLY WANTS TO BANG HIM, and then the editor cuts to the brother and he’s really torn. Like you can see him thinking “….that is so gross!” and yet also “A man gets lonely in West Africa. Real lonely.”
December 5, 2009
So my parents are career ex-pats, and I mostly grew up in Holland. Which is mostly a pretty cool place where everyone is very tall and zips around town on bicycles and is tolerant and skeptical.
(I know “Holland” makes you think of drugs and hookers but really that’s just because YOU YOURSELF are interested in these topics. Actual Dutch people are polite and speak outstanding English and think that Americans are crazy and all twisted up in knots about boring topics like SEX and MARIJUANA.)
Today, December 5th, is a big deal in Holland. It is Sinterklaas, which is the main traditional winter gift-giving holiday there. Sinterklaas is also the name of the dude who brings the gifts. Sinterklaas is a smooshing-together of the fellow’s name, Sint Nikolaas (Saint Nicholas). He looks like this:
He is the bishop of Turkey.
But he comes to Holland on a steam boat (In most towns, a boat will actually show up down by the river and a guy dressed like the Sint (plus horse and entourage) will disembark. This is MUY EXCITING if you’re seven years old.) from Spain. Where he lives. I don’t know why. Maybe Turkey lacks glamor.
He rides a white horse:
Something to know about this guy is that he’s kind of mean! Unlike jolly Saint Nick (I guess Santa Claus is a fatter, drunker version of this guy) Sinterklaas is pretty stern and terrible. If you’ve been a good little boy or girl, he’ll bring you treats. If you’ve been bad, he’ll bring you “roe”: a bundle of sticks I guess your parents can use to spank you. If you’ve been VERY bad, he’ll STUFF YOU IN A SACK AND DRAG YOU BACK TO SPAIN.
On the night of Sinterklaas, “pakjesavond” (um, “the night of little packages”), you give gifts. Most families would traditionally draw names so that everyone was just giving one gift to one other person, and the gifts are usually pretty small. The point of pakjesavond isn’t so much the gifts as it is the “surprises” (pronounce in the French wise) – people make these crazy-elaborate… I don’t know how to explain this. You have to write a poem about the person you’re giving the gift to (and the poems are usually funny and mean) and then you package the gift in this elaborately creative… disguise. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO EXPLAIN THIS. I TOLD YOU. But like if you were giving someone a book and the person was notorious for needing reading glasses, maybe you’d make this giant fake book out of cardboard with giant letters on it and everyone would go “Ha ha ha! Because the gift recipient is basically BLIND! Ha ha ha… awesome.”
On the night before Sinterklaas, you “put out your shoe”. Much like the American tradition of stockings, you’d put it near a fireplace if you could, and you’d find little treats in it in the morning. If you don’t have a fireplace, you might put it near a radiator or something.
Treats brought by Sinterklaas include things like:
Here is the most amazing part about Sinterklaas. His servants are guys named “Zwarte Piet” (“Black Pete” – you can maybe see where this is going.)
Zwarte Piet is usually explained to look the way he does because he’s Moorish. Sometimes people say that it’s because he spends time in chimneys, either sweeping them or going up and down them to drop off candy in peoples’ shoes.
Most Americans would probably look at Zwarte Piet and gasp and say, in an appalled undertone, “But– he’s in blackface!”
They all have the same name, and the number of them depends. They’re understood to be both a single person and a group of people: like Walt Whitman, Zwarte Piet is large, he contains multitudes.
The other interesting thing about Sinterklaas is that often a family will get like a neighbor or an uncle to pretend to be the Sint and come around the house and bang loudly on the door and then open it and fling TINY HARD CANDIES AND COOKIES into the house and also a bag of gifts.
THIS SCARES THE SHIT OUT OF YOU IF YOU ARE A LITTLE KID. Like little kids will somewhat understandably freak the hell out and start screaming and crying, because some mean angular white dude is going to beat you with sticks and shove you into a bag and take you to Spain or Turkey or something, man! Also his entourage/possible slaves throw tiny hard cookies at you and that shit hurts.
Anyway – I wanted to wish you all a HAPPY SINTERKLAAS!