Snow Job: The Terrible Ethics of Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer

This year marks the fifty-third annual broadcast of Rankin/Bass’s classic Christmas TV special Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That means it’s also time for the fourteenth annual posting of this essay, possibly the most popular thing I’ve ever written. It originally appeared December 4, 2004 on my defunct ethics site

Hermey and RudolphWednesday night marked the fortieth annual broadcast of the “classic” holiday television show, Rankin/Bass Production’s Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I tuned in for probably the twenty-fifth time (but the first in many years) expecting to find a rudimentary moral lesson tucked amongst all the holly-jolliness and evil-looking puppets. Instead I had the frightening realization that, for forty years, RtR-NR has been cramming several sleighloads of bad ethics down our chimneys. In this holiday nightmare, nearly every character demonstrates a distinct lack of moral integrity bordering on turpitude, and none other than Santa himself comes away as the worst of the bunch. Here’s an ethical play-by-play.

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Support My Run for Suicide Prevention

Alive & Running 2017Without a doubt, I’ve never met a group of people more selflessly committed to helping others than my fellow counselors at the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center. They dedicate themselves to giving people in crisis the tools to stay alive simply because they feel called to do so. Joining them in their work has profoundly changed my life, and together we’ve helped over 50,000 callers and chatters already this year.

My enthusiasm for the Suicide Prevention Center should be clear from the fact that, though I’ve been running for years, I’ve never once had the desire to race — until I learned about Didi Hirsch’s Alive & Running 5K Walk/Run for Suicide Prevention. On September 24, I’ll take to the streets and race for the first time with my SPC teammates, families who’ve lost loved ones to suicide, survivors of attempts, and hundreds of others to raise money to support the center.

My modest fundraising goal is $500. My foolhardy running goal is to win my age group. Please sponsor me at any amount. Every dollar you give will help end the public health crisis of suicide.

Watch Me on Jeopardy! Friday May 5

Is this the only question I got right? Find out when I’m on Jeopardy Friday May 5, 2017. Check your local listings.

The Saints Invented Rocket From the Crypt

The SaintsI’ve pretty much stopped using Facebook 1If you’re reading this on Facebook, it’s because it was auto-posted there by WordPress. I don’t really miss it, except for times like right now when I discover a morsel that gets me excited but is of such focused interest that the only way I can share that excitement is if I post it to Facebook so it can snake its way through the network to find the one other person I know, whomever it may be, with a compatible mental input port.

Today’s obscure morsel is that Rocket From the Crypt’s distinctive sound was invented two decades earlier by the Australian punk band the Saints.

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1. If you’re reading this on Facebook, it’s because it was auto-posted there by WordPress.

Bruce’s Brain

Born to Run by Bruce SpringsteenI can’t possibly judge the reaction to Born to Run of a person who doesn’t consider Bruce Springsteen to be their personal, artistic, and political hero. But someone who does will react by doubling down on their devotion, thanks to his memoir’s deep introspection and focus on art, ideas, responsibility, friendships, and family. Anyone looking for a debauched rock n’ roll tell-all needs to find another book and another performer to write it.

Bruce and his work have always managed to find a place in my life to nest into and from which to inspire, motivate, and support me despite how I change over the years. Now, as I’ve found a new passion for mental health and helping others to achieve it, in steps Bruce devoting many pages of his autobiography to intimately recounting his history of mental illness. Mental illness fueled his self-examination that outputted into his lyrics; his obsession with perfection that made his best records THE best records; and his need for acceptance and escape that drove him to three-hour concerts. In short, mental illness made Bruce Bruce. It also nearly unmade him more than once, and he lays out his struggle with his brain not as a triumph over tragedy but merely as an upfront description of facing one of the troubles with being human. Whether he intends to or not, he scrapes away the stigma and opens a door to help for any readers unwilling or unable to do so themselves. My hero.

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I’ve Been Trebekked

After three online tests and as many auditions over the course of five years, I played Jeopardy! for real yesterday. It was a joy. I can say no more right now, not even whether or not I won the mandatory fist fight with Alex Trebek. Stay tuned for an air date.My New Jeopardy! Hat

Stuff I Liked in 2016, pt. 4 – TV

Watching TV is hard. I swear that once I used to just turn on a box, but now I have to navigate dozens of platforms across multiple devices to sit through hundreds of old episodes of 17 seasons of a show to understand what’s happening in the one on Sunday so I can decide that I don’t like it. These 10 shows were worth all that.

BasketsBaskets (FX)
Most comedies have lazed out of being funny, original, and sincere and just go for two out of three. Baskets hits the trifecta. Everyone rightly talks about Zach Galifianakis’s and Louie Anderson’s performances, but its Martha Kelly’s deadpan guilelessness that holds the show together.

Beyond the WallsBeyond the Walls (Shudder)
A French miniseries about a woman who inexplicably inherits a Parisian townhouse and then disappears into it. I was lucky enough to watch Beyond the Walls in a theater, and the world of the house expanded to envelop the room. Turn off the lights and turn on your big-screen TV and you’ll come close enough.

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