"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 18 December 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.

It's an undeniable, repeatedly proven American fact: Hype annihilates enthusiasm. And yet, year after year, the tinsel and faux gifts and tackily clad elves are rolled out and dusted off and assembled unattractively, much to the chagrin of hundreds of thousands of hapless shoppers nationwide.

And year after year, with each faux-snow-sprayed storefront, with each stale candy cane, with each clanging Salvation Army bell, we're overcome with the same slow, sinking feeling that we had the year before. And we're faced again and again with the recognition that by the time the joyous day arrives, we'll be so soiled and besotted by the endless stream of Christmas dreck that we'll have nary an ounce of appreciation left for that damnable holiday.

And after a full month of burgeoning dread, finally Christmas will arrive with its tell-tale taste of vague dissatisfaction. Then mere hours later, we'll be overcome with post-holiday let down, all the same.

As Burgess Meredith, Christmas-guy extraordinaire, would say, "You can't win, Rock!"

Next ... Thinking of skipping Christmas? Think again.

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