Originally published in the Rutland County Express on Jan. 5, 2011.

New Year’s Eve might be my least favorite holiday. Over-hyped and forced, it’s a contrived excuse for celebration that, at its best, always feels halfhearted. Why does the conclusion of a year need to be marked with such trite fanfare? Who was the first person to say, “Hey, it’s the end of the year, let’s consume large quantities of alcohol and spend way too much money!” anyway?

Every year, when the requisite New Year’s Eve planning commences among my friends, I am grudgingly pulled into the discussion. I’m not much help. I tend to set the bar pretty low — as in, I dig a hole in the ground and put the bar in it. Having low or no expectations for NYE is my preference. At best, it’s a good night out (or in) with friends. At worst, it’s a drama-filled ordeal fueled by too many drinks and inevitable disappointment.

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More holiday fun from The Plaid Crew. This is a piece co-written by TPC’er Laura and myself. Also, enjoy our close readings of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.'” (Warning: language and subject matter may be offensive to some people. You’ve been warned.)

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) is truly a Christmas classic (view a clip here). It begins with Charlie Brown faced with Christmas depression —suffocated by the consumerism that surrounds him. After he is appointed director of the Christmas play, Linus touchingly teaches him the true meaning of Christmas. However, like Rudolph, Charlie Brown finds himself smack dab in the middle of Cold War anxieties, an increasingly religious America, and the rise of feminism.

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Cassandra Hotaling Hahn / Rutland Herald photo

Originally published in the Rutland County Express on Dec. 22, 2011.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Wait. No, it’s not. It looks nothing like Christmas outside. What the heck? Christmas is, indeed, only days away, but as of writing this column, it just doesn’t feel right. Sure, the decorations are up. People are gifting and re-gifting and pepper-spraying each other. The calendar doesn’t lie; the 25th is right around the corner. But where is the snow?

Without snow, the many holiday decorations around town look incomplete — like they have been left out well into the spring, the punchline to some unfunny Jeff Foxworthy joke.

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Just in time for the holidays, here’s a re-post of a story I did for

A recent survey showed that the majority of people prefer to give gifts rather than receive them. While I might regard this as a sign that mankind’s altruistic nature is not entirely lost, a more cynical analysis might suggest that people prefer to give for no other reason than that the act of giving is free (for the most part) of the awkwardness and disappointment that comes along with getting a really terrible gift. Get my advice after the jump.

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Vyto Starinskas / Rutland Herald photo

(Originally published in the Rutland Herald on Nov. 30, 2011.) By now this scene is commonplace. Throngs of people convened on a predetermined location. Their motivations for being there were myriad, but all agreed they would not leave until they got what they wanted. There was shouting, pushing, shoving. In some extreme cases, people were even injured.

This wasn’t Zuccotti Park or Tahrir Square. It was retail stores across America last week rapt with Black Friday mania. As I combed my Twitter and Facebook feeds last Friday morning I was struck by the vacillation between disgust and glee in my friends’ status updates — a microcosm of American attitudes toward this pseudo-holiday.

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