Irrelevant update: I just saw a splash head on CNN that said more than half the country isn’t even aware the Republicans took control of the House. I don’t know how reliable the survey is, but this means that those of you who read this blog are better informed than more than half of Americans.
On the other hand, if you weren’t aware of that fact either, you clearly haven’t been paying attention while you’re reading.
Spoiler alert! Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving Crafts are two apps released to make your Thanksgiving a bit more entertaining. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them apps so much as half-apps: text wrapped in an app cover. If you’re looking for information, recipes and craft ideas this might be worth downloading, provided you’re too lazy to look the same stuff on the Internet.
Of the two, Thanksgiving Day is the better buy. But since both cost money, and Thanksgiving Crafts also comes with a sermon crafted pretty much from the Roman Road to Salvation, you may want to save the money for Christmas apps.
Imagine this scenario: Thanksgiving is a week from Thursday. Family is too far away to visit for both Thanksgiving and Christmas and since you get more time off for Christmas you decided to postpone the trip until then. You settle for a good buffet with cocktails, maybe catch a movie—Skyline isn’t exactly holiday fare but it’s release was timed to coincide with the holidays—and then settle into bed for the evening to catch Dave’s top ten list of Thanksgiving faux pas. In Texas, you get up Friday morning in time to watch the Longhorns tackle the Aggies.
The rest of the world, who could care less about Texas football (especially this year), sleeps in.
This is not how Carol and I will spend Thanksgiving. Here’s how our Thanksgiving will go: Every year we’re invited for Thanksgiving at Carol’s brother Bill’s house where his wife Liza does not allow pets, dirt or any form of disarray to pass past the portal. Everyone leaves their shoes at the door and their feet freeze on the cold tiles.
But we are never invited until the day before because Bill and Liza both assumed the other made the call. We can’t invite ourselves because that would be just rude. We can’t plan on going because with Carol’s parents both gone they really don’t have to invite us anymore.
This is Episcopalian family politics. It would be impolite to assume family really wants you around until they actually say so. It would be impolite to make plans without an invite because you should know damn well your family loves you enough to invite you, even if they forget to tell you.
We spend Christmas with my mother and sister Aimee in Dallas so it would be rude to ignore Carol’s family and spend Thanksgiving there too, even if we aren’t invited to Bill and Liza’s dinner yet.
So we’ll plan on dinner at Threadgills or some other fine dining establishment and buy a smoked turkey breast for sandwiches. That way, should Bill or Liza call (or rather, when Bill and Lisa call, but loving Episcoplians would never assume), we don’t have to offend other family by canceling that visit to keep our traditional annual plans.
On Wednesday, Bill or Liza will most likely call. We will, of course, accept because Carol is the head of the family now being the oldest of the siblings, and because she loves Bill and Liza. It seems her family doesn’t make decisions based on manipulation and guilt the way my family does.
In my family’s defense, they use guilt and manipulation because I really am that guy who gets so caught up in his writing and research that he would forget he was married if Carol wasn’t on the other side of the bed so that she can lean over and whack me on the head when I get lost in my own universe for more than a day.
Once our invitation is received, Carol will rush to the grocery store to buy the ingredients to make the sweet potato casserole that has been our contribution to the meal forever. She would never buy the ingredients in advance because in the Episcopalian universe that would create a psychic expectation that Bill and Liza are now obliged to invite us.
The casserole is probably what will remind Liza to check with Bill to see if he called Carol (which she should know he didn’t because he is pretty much as lost in his universe as I am in mine). She will be running down her checklist, which everyone as organized as Liza is bound to have—even if she keeps it in her head–and she will get to “sweet potatoes” and think, “I’d better see if Bill called Carol,” which, of course he won’t have and that’s when we’ll get the call to cancel our plans for Threadgills.
If things work out the way they usually do.
I should also admit, Thanksgiving dinner isn’t really about Bill’s family, the Cooks. Even when her mom and dad were with us, there were just the four of us, and the Cooks are very reserved. The Cook idea of excitement is a quiet dinner, a concert on public television and small talk. Then we retire to our respective comfy chairs and read.
Thanksgiving is about Liza’s family, the Emersons, and they enter the room like a tidal wave—half wearing Cowboys jerseys and the other half with Cowboys jewelry somewhere on their bodies—always with two or three more toddlers in tow than they brought the last time. Carol and I let them interact and we sit quietly at the table while they crowd in front of the TV, talk over it and turn up the TV, then talk over the turned up TV, and watch the Cowboys.
Ah, the Cowboys. Every one in Liza’s family roots for the Cowboys, and so do the Cooks. Except for Carol. She lives and dies with the Redskins and I’m a Forty-Niners fan who roots for the Redskins whenever they play the Cowboys. In short, we don’t like the Cowboys. They may have won a few Super Bowls, but ever since Jerry Jones took over they’ve been run more like a combination of the Keystone Cops and a drug cartel.
The only good quarterback they’ve had since Jones took over (in fact, the only good quarterback they’ve had since Staubach) was Troy Aikman and he could’t come from behind. Ever. That’s what made the Cowboys so boring. If they got ahead early, they won. If they fell behind more than two touchdowns, Aikman would never catch up.
Not like real quarterbacks. Not like Joe Montana who could rally a team from a 24 point deficit in the last ten minutes of the game. Or the Snake, who studied the playbook by the light of the jukebox. Or even Staubach, who came from behind a few times himself.
So the Emersons wear their Cowboys bling, watch the Cowboys and talk about the Cowboys and football and basketball and other sports. We would like to talk about other things, but if we talk about politics the room explodes because it’s Carol the Democrat against a room full of Republicans.1 Not just Republicans, but conservative Catholic Republicans. So all Carol has to do is to say something like, “women should have some control over their bodies,” and the room ignites.
This means it would be nice to have something to talk about at Thanksgiving besides football and politics. Fortunately there’s an app for that. Two of them, in fact. They’re called Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving Crafts, and they’re not really apps so much as articles bundled and packaged as apps (kind of like special editions of magazines at the news stand).
Let me say straight away, if I were going to recommend one of these it would be Thanksgiving Day, if only because the interface is a little slicker. Actually, it’s a lot slicker than Thanksgiving Crafts, but only because it has pictures and a navigation system that works.
Thanksgiving Day offers a menu-based navigation system
that’s not much more sophisticated than the CD-ROMs from the nineties.
Thanksgiving Day opens to a menu with a general breakdown of the contents: historical data, Thanksgiving foods and Thanksgiving activities. The editors have gone out of their way to include a multi-cultural approach to the season, with articles on Thanksgiving in Canada and native American recipes.
I know multiculturalism secretly means social secular humanist agenda to helping the killer Mexicans thwart immigration reform2 and overthrow the government. And it is fair to ask why the Canadians get a Thanksgiving because they aren’t really Americans. They sat on their hands when we booted the British out and then gave them a back door to stay in our country.
Thanksgiving Day includes a number of alternate recipes, including native fare.
But I think the editors meant well and, let’s face it, the Canadians run America’s entertainment industry. So we have to expect a little give-and-take.
Thanksgiving Day even include a variety of Thanksgiving activities including parades and the lyrics to Thanksgiving songs. I never really thought there were Thanksgiving songs, but there are. We used to sing “Over the River and Through the Woods” as a Christmas song, but it works just fine for Thanksgiving. And Christmas has so damn many of them, why not appropriate it for Thanksgiving?
You can find the complete lyrics to “Over the River.”
That being said, Thanksgiving Day has a distinctive nineties feel about it. It reminds me of the interfaces for the CD-ROMs created en masse just before the web killed the media. At best it resembles some of the early attempts at CSS.
This isn’t a bad thing. It just makes me feel like the developer hired someone from a community college design class. If the intent was to keep down the cost of the app, I can live with it. But I keep thinking they could have gotten students a little closer to graduation.
Thanksgiving Crafts reads more like a homeschool manual for Thanksgiving than its companion app. The editors focus far more on home and family activities, like handprint turkeys and pilgrim hats. No attempts to broaden the cultural connections to Thanksgiving in this app, although they do acknowledge the native contributions to the traditional celebration.
I find it interesting that the editors released a digital app to promote clearly luddite activities. Nothing in Thanksgiving Crafts involves a computer or the iPad. It’s all scissors, glue and crayons. I remember doing all these activities as a kid and if you can’t afford an iPad for every one of your kids, these activities could keep them out of your hair.
Thanksgiving Crafts is text only. It is about as non-iPad an app as you can imagine.
To say the app is “bare bones” is to deny substance to bones. Bare bones are far more decorative than digital ink on white paper. When you open the app, you see a disclaimer. Scroll down (which is all you can do) and you will see a typical table of contents.
There should be hypertext links to the contents, but none of them worked. I had to manually scroll up and down to access any content, which, as far as I can tell, can be accessed with any search engine.
The text is dry. The first paragraph begins, “The Publisher has strived to be as accurate and complete as possible in the creation of this report, notwithstanding….” Wow, that sounds like something I want to settle in with on the couch to read to my kids.
The app store bills Thanksgiving Crafts as an “easy-reading” app with adjustable font sizes. So far, that’s about the only thing I could find that would recommend it. If, in fact, you could really adjust font-size. The only interface element I could find was the redundant scroll tool at the side of the single page.
Not only is it redundant (you can scroll fine without it), it’s easier to scroll with your finger than the scroll tool.
The hidden (not so much so) agenda
I’m going to segue to a couple more memories from childhood. My grandfather used to make my uncle hand out religious tracts in shopping center parking lots. He would stick them under windshields and come home, mission accomplished.
I read some of them and they seemed kind of dumb to me. Not the theology, but the fact that the tracts would really only make sense to someone who was already a convert. People who couldn’t already speak the lingo would probably think it was like listening to someone speaking in tongues.
Later when I was emerging into adulthood (when I was young enough to be stupid enough to really believe I was an adult) my Christian buddies and I would go out to eat, fifteen or twenty of us bundled into three or four cars. We would order just about everything on the menu and the only one who left a tip was me. Every one else left those same incomprehensible religious tracts.
Their rationale? The waitresses need Jesus more than they need money.
Right. Tell that to a woman who busted her ass serving twenty obnoxious guys between 18 and 22 who constantly ordered refills on the coffee and refills of any other free stuff for the two hours we were there. Tell that to her when she has to tell her kids the tip that would have paid for tomorrow’s food that she has nineteen copies of the same religious tract. She’s going to be really receptive to the love of God then.
If you’re wondering why I would bring all this up, let me tell you what I found after the last chapter on the last handicraft. I found a sales pitch for Jesus, pretty much identical to the pitch in those tracts I remember from my youth.
Only those were free. This app costs three dollars. I’m not saying this because I don’t want you to learn about Jesus. I’m saying this because I suspect a number of people who download this app will be pissed that they really paid three dollars for a digital infomercial for Jesus.
Just like those waitresses probably felt about those tracts after busting their asses for twenty graceless Christians.
Jenny Manytoes rates Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving Crafts
Jenny Manytoes would take a nap next to Thanksgiving Day. The content is reasonably interesting but the interface feels dated. By ten or fifteen years. But I can’t help feel there’s nothing here you couldn’t find for free on the Internet and you would have the fun of the search.
Jenny Manytoes would bunch her tail all over Thanksgiving Crafts. The only thing to recommend it is the content, which also seems easy to find on the internet. But as an app, I would rather read a book.