Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I've finally found some time to create a post for this blog!

I know it looks like Frankenstein and Dracula dragged me off to some horrible fate, but I actually was tied up all month participating in this year's November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). Just like last year, participants attempt to write at least 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. By the end of the month, you must upload your manuscript to their site for an official word counting. If you meet the required word count by midnight November 30th, you win! Not that you really win anything other than bragging rights, but it's a great form of motivation if you are having writer's block and an opportunity to network with other writers who are struggling with a shared challenge.

For the second year in a row, I am proud to say I succeeded in banging out over 50,000 words during the previous month and winning my little icon, displayed to the right. I think I also have created the rough workings for a new novel, so that's pretty good too. Sooner or later, I'm bound to stumble onto something a publisher might like.

Anyway, it's now December and I'm scrambling to take care of all the little details I neglected over the past month (e.g., taking the car in for an oil change, getting my annual physical, etc.) along with Christmas shopping and other preparations for the coming holiday season. I'm also preparing a special action figure-related Christmas post which I hope will come out as well as I imagine it will. So in the meantime, I thought I'd share some images over the next couple weeks that always gave me that warm Christmas feeling as a kid.

In the early 70s, one of my uncles unloaded a huge pile of National Geographics on us, most of them dated from the late 40s and early 50s. I don't know why my Dad accepted them because they took up valuable storage space in our 3 bedroom row home, but I enjoyed occasionally flipping through them on dreary, rainy days when I couldn't play outside. I know what you're thinking, but the pictures of the topless African tribeswomen were not an attraction for me. What I really loved were the advertisements! These full page, glossy ads were so meticulously painted, evoking a world more lovely and exciting than reality. I especially loved the Coca-Cola ads on the back covers, and none were better at eliciting a sense of heightened fantasy and wonder than the Christmas ads. Here's one from 1948:

These ads, created by commercial artist Haddon Sundblom, were so strongly associated with our modern concept of Santa Claus that he was often incorrectly credited with inventing the 20th century Santa look. While he may not have invented the red suit and jolly appearance, he certainly rendered it in such a realistic way that one develops a sense that this figure is the definitive article. This particular ad also features a pixie character that appeared in other, non-holiday Coca-Cola ads. I assume he's supposed to represent Jack Frost, as in a frosty, cold Coca-Cola, but he's especially effective in these commercials for the holiday season of the solstice.

What I loved about these ads as a kid was the pristine rendering of everything in the picture. All the items in the refrigerator are so neatly arranged and the packaging wondrously bright and colorful. The toys in Santa's bag look so inviting. And, of course, the curvaceous Coca-Cola bottles glisten invitingly. You can just taste that cold, sweet liquid by gazing at those fluid soldiers standing at attention on the refrigerator rack.

Reality in the 70s was sloppy: everyone's hair was long; clothes were loud with big, floppy lapels and collars; crime and drug abuse was rampant; and polite behavior and common courtesy were considered passe'. Even as a grader schooler, I sensed that we had lost something from the era before my birth. These images from the past made that all too clear. Sure, the world wasn't as perfect as the artist portrayed it. But the mere fact that commercial illustrators aspired to present us with an immaculate reality showed a certain virtue in itself, I think.

Next time I'll post the Christmas 1950 ad and offer more of my pointless pontificating. I hope these images provide some holiday cheer!

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