VIEW FROM AFAR- Play the Christmas headlines game this season

Every Christmas season we are bombarded with a barrage of news stories about the dark, strange and bizarre events happening as the holidays approach.

Taken too seriously, these stories and warnings can easily make one believe the earth is coming off its axis, or at least increase ones depression and anxiety.

But, I have noticed that every year the same crazy stories are published as Christmas approaches. The great wheel of media perversity grinds out the dark stuff. Maybe journalists are impacted more than normal folks by long nights and cold weather.

So this year, I am simply keeping a scorecard as the inevitable news of the weird, tragic and perverse is cranked out and giving points for each predictable story.

I am turning this predictable dark stuff into a game. Every time I see a new headline with warnings and conflict during the Christmas season, I check it off. When I get enough points, I will realize it is time for Santa to come down the chimney.

  • Thousands of Christmas Toys Ruled Unsafe. Unless consumers check every toy, kids and grandkids unlikely to survive until New Years Eve. (Two points.)
  • Study Finds Fruitcakes Contain More Toxins and Preservatives Than New Orleans Street Sludge. Eat more than one slice and your ears will fall off, experts warn. (Three points.)
  • Mistletoe and Poinsettia Leaves Poisonous Enough to Cause Demise of All Pets in a Three-block Radius of a Home. (One point.)
  • All Christmas Presents Stolen. (Four points if taken from an orphanage, three points if from a homeless shelter, two points if from a Katrina victim; lose a point if taken from the home of some spoiled rotten rich kid in California.)
  • Elderly Couple Burns Christmas Tree for Warmth Because They Can’t Pay Heating Bills. (Two points. Get five bonus points if this story runs in the Wall Street Journal.)
  • Santa Claus Arrested as Suspected Terrorist. (Two points if in major American city, four points if in Marion County, one point if in shopping mall in any Middle Eastern country.)
  • Salvation Army Bell Ringer Robbed. (One point. Two bonus points if bellringer chased mugger down the street and beats him to a pulp.)
  • Egg Nog Found to be Cause of Most Blocked Arteries in America. (One point.)
  • Egg Nog Discovered as New Health Food. (Two points.)
  • ACLU Files Suit about Crèche on Front Steps of City Hall. (One point.)
  • ACLU Files Suit to Defend Nativity Scene Display. (Four points.)
  • Suburban Man Lights Home; Power stations fail in four-mile radius. (Two points.)
  • Retail Clerk Fired for Wishing Customer a Merry Christmas. (One point.)
  • Clerk Fired for Refusing to Wish Customer Merry Christmas. (Two points.)
  • Millions of Travelers Stranded by Storms. (One point.)
  • Perfect Weather Causes Thousands of Travelers to Arrive Early. Relatives plead they were unprepared for guests. (Three points.)
  • Retail Sales Lower Than Expected. (Three points.)
  • Retail Sales Higher Than Experts Anticipated. (Two points.)

The contradictory headlines filled with warnings, laments and dire predictions are just part of the warm up for the season. But Christmas always arrives on schedule and most folks will have a splendid time.

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