Tuesday, December 3, 2013

BetaMaXmas 2013

Disturbingly representative of my childhood
Here it is, December of 2013 and so far, where I live, it's been a pretty mild winter with almost zero precipitation. But back when I was a little kid in Wisconsin, my family were afforded no such meteorological reprieves. We may just as well have been living at the North Pole for all the snow, ice and sleet we had to endure, and that was just in the springtime. So after a typical day of trudging through knee-deep snow in my moon-boots trying to keep the snot from freezing up in my nose, I would find that there was no better way to warm back up than to snag one of the less creaky spots on our old pull-out sofa in the basement and zone out in front of a toasty Zenith while I crawled under Grandma's old quilt and watched and waited for that little kid to get his tongue stuck on the pole in A Christmas Story. And if I was extra lucky, mom would let me eat dinner right there in front of the TV -- it's the little things in life, you know?
It's now a whole bunch of years later, but I still miss that shabby little basement with the faux wood panelling and the Suzanne Somers poster hanging next to the baseball-themed dartboard. I miss all three static-filled channels that endlessly streamed the same holiday drivel every year until we'd all had our fill of Alf, He-Man and Smurfs Christmas Specials. And I miss the TV Guide, dammit.
So as fate would have it, a few years ago I discovered a way to relive those warm and fuzzy memories without having to steal a Tardis and, even better, without having to go back to Wisconsin.
The site is called BetaMaXmas.com and basically it's a virtual recreation of the childhood memory I just described, lo-fi and complete with wood paneling. Upon entering the site, you'll be greeted with a couch and an old TV that loops 80s commercials and holiday specials from YouTube ad infinitum. Appropriately, the boob-tube sits atop an 8-Track player and Betamax machine whose clock keeps flashing 12:00. The experience is pretty complete: Don't like the channel? Use the clicker. Too much snow on the screen? Adjust the rabbit ears. Wanna know what else is on? Check out the TV Guide (if anyone under 35 is reading this, their head is probably exploding right now).
Over time, BetaMaXmas become a regular tradition for me and nowadays we turn it on around the Holidays and leave it running for hours at a time. And now that I have kids, I've found that it serves as an excellent historical pop-culture tool I can use to teach them about the time-honored tradition of commercializing Christmas, retro-style.


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