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Jingle bells

No matter where you go, some gremlin thinks up something to make you smile. Congratulations, Edeka.

Edeka is Germany’s largest supermarket chain. They hid 13 cameras and as customers stood at checkout counters, lights went off, but cashiers continued to scan items through the checkout. That’s when cashiers’ machines began to beep a very familiar tune!

The cashiers choreographed the holiday classic, ‘Jingle Bells’ to the delight of their customers.

Click on the video button and begin the video and let us all try to be gremlins.

  #EZ.32548 Exp 12-20
    Ref:   Bill Walaitis  
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Simple Penny Was My Christmas Miracle


  #EZ.35414 Exp 12-10
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    Ref:   Reader's Digest 2007  
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Take your time

Take Your Time  -   Anjula Razdan

It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top. - Virginia Woolf

Lately, I've been approaching bedtime the way, I assume, marathoners approach the finish line, which is to say, exhausted and in need of a nourishing IV. Buoyed by the frenetic pace of what philosophy professor Al Gini has called the Everydayathon of modern life, I leapfrog from errand to errand, desperate to get my unwieldy to-do list under control.

No longer do I have time in my overbooked life for the kind of roomy, deep-focus activities that used to sustain me.

The bookcase behind my bed is a shrine to my aborted attempts at reading novels, my e-mail inbox a painful reminder of the nurturing friendships I've let drift away. I even have a slow cooker I've never used.

Indeed, many people these days seem to suffer from what comedian Ellen DeGeneres has termed TBS, or Too-Busy Syndrome. We speed date, guzzle Red Bull, race to yoga, schedule Cesareans, and, in the ultimate catch-22, engage in faux-leisure activities such as scrapbooking, which requires us to pack our schedules ever more tightly in order to glean experiences worthy of scrapbooking. Quips DeGeneres: It's enough to make you miss Mayberry, isn't it?

It's a joke, but an apt one. Many Americans, worn out by what former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins calls this culture's mad theology of speed, have started to cast their minds back to the rural values of simplicity associated with small towns like Mayberry, the famously easy and slow setting of The Andy Griffith Show. In fact, four months before the 2004 presidential election, renowned Republican pollster Frank Luntz revealed that lack of free time was the biggest concern among swing voters. Not the economy. Not health care. Not even the war in Iraq... The issue of time matters to them more than anything else in life.

...Perhaps a retreat from modernity and a return, however regressive, to a simpler time is exactly the point for many overworked, overscheduled, and exhausted Americans. After all, Americans are busier now than they've ever been. We work more and vacation less than any other industrialized nation (even Japan, which has a word, kashori, that roughly translates as death from overwork). Global competition, corporate downsizing, and a shaky economy have demanded that we step up our productivity. And, in the ultimate bait and switch, supposed labor-saving devices like computers, cell phones, and BlackBerrys have instead enslaved us, forcing us to be on 24/7 and pushing us to accomplish tasks faster and faster.

Technology, observes Robert Kamm, author of The Superman Syndrome, forces Americans to live at speed, not at depth.

...In truth, we've always been suckers for the promise of a simpler life. Take the popular new reality television show Amish in the City. In a witty analysis in The Washington Monthly (Oct. 2004), Sasha Issenberg claims that we have long romanticized the Amish for their plain ways.

In living Amish culture, [we] see both the purity of a simpler past and a promise of a more virtuous present, Issenberg writes. Americans lionization of the Amish is part of a broader tradition the reactionary anti-urban, anti-consumerist vein in our national life that had its roots among America's first Puritan settlers and has lasted well into the modern age in communities ranging from the crunchy back-to-the-land hippies of the 1960s to the right-wing survivalists of today.

The busier we get, it seems, the more we make a fetish of the simple life. Like Depression-era audiences who lapped up Busby Berkeley's lavishly produced, exorbitant musicals, we'll make do with fantasy if we can't attain the reality.

We weren't always so lost. Aristotle's famous view that we work in order to have leisure held up well into the 20th century, according to Ben Hunnicutt, professor of leisure studies at the University of Iowa. For more than a century prior to the 1930s, American workers successfully lobbied for higher wages and shorter hours, most notably the eight-hour workday and five-day workweek, and there was a widespread expectation that leisure would increasingly come to dominate our lives.

Back then, Hunnicutt says, the American Dream consisted of two things: more wealth and more time to live. And it wasn't just put-upon workers who defined progress as having more leisure time. Liberation capitalists like W.K. Kellogg and Lord Leverhulme (one of the Lever Brothers) viewed the coming age of leisure as the finest possible accomplishment of industrial capitalism. Kellogg even put his money where his mouth was and, in 1930, instituted a six-hour workday in his Battle Creek, Michigan, cereal factories. The result? Not surprisingly, workers spent more time with their kids and in their communities, strengthening both family and civic ties.

So why didn't this utopian experiment spread across the country? The answer is complicated, Hunnicutt says, but one factor is consumerism and the birth of marketing in the 1920s. There was a great deal of pessimism in the 1920s that the economy was not going to grow anymore because people had all they needed. Then this new view comes along that it's possible to convince people to buy things they never needed before, he explains.

That idea of scarcity, that there is never going to be enough, many observers agree, created our desire to have it all and is a big reason why we feel so busy today. We're taught from birth that there's always more to have, more to need, Hunnicutt says. We've created a Frankenstein, a monster that requires us to work continually.

...Perhaps time (or lack thereof) is the ultimate moral issue. That's one of the ideas behind Take Back Your Time (, a nonpartisan national campaign that aims to lobby Congress with a multi-pronged legislative agenda...Time is a family value, observes national coordinator John de Graaf. Americans talk a lot about family values these days but often leave [that] one out. ...Time, he observes, is an overarching issue that cuts across ideological lines and draws interest from a diverse mix of people. [As Carl Honore says, it's] all about balance.

Be fast when it makes sense to be fast, and be slow when slowness is called for, he writes. Seek to live at what musicians call the tempo giusto -- the right speed.

...Of course, no one says the revolution can't begin at home. There are a number of things we can do as individuals to carve out a sanctuary from our busy lives:

Embrace solitude. Loneliness is the poverty of self, poet May Sarton declared. Solitude is the richness of self. It is only in those quiet, empty moments of repose, when we are finally, blissfully alone, that we can daydream, stare out a window, talk to ourselves, or engage in random thoughts and the luxury of being bored.

Cultivate your inner Dilbert. Use all of your vacation and sick time (even if you're not sick). Overall, American workers gave up $21 billion last year in unused vacation time. Look out for your self...

Focus on the moment. Grate a radish, rub your dog's belly, or simply savor that first glorious sip of morning espresso, and you will understand what novelist Henry Miller meant when he said, The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

Cancel your plans with someone. He or she will love you for it.

Reconsider your dream job. Leisure professor Ben Hunnicutt says we have unreal expectations about fulfilling our creative urges and realizing our humanity and changing the world through our jobs. I see very little hope for a reevaluation of leisure until our expectation that the American Dream is fulfilled by a job that is rewarding, has a good salary, and so on, begins to change, Hunnicutt says.

Engage in proactive television watching. Television, many experts say, is a big reason we feel crunched for time. We park ourselves on the couch intending to watch only one, maybe two, shows, and hours later, we're still there...

Learn to say no. Be mercenary about your engagements.

Reject e-mail's Pavlovian ping. Train people to expect a response an hour, a day, or even a full week after they e-mail you.

Grating a radish or e-mailing someone a week late may not exactly seem revolutionary. And yet, making our nation's collective fantasy of slowing down a reality could ultimately save us. As Mark Slouka writes in Harper's Magazine (Nov. 2004), Idleness is not just a psychological necessity. . . . It constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space . . . necessary to . . . democracy . . . by allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it.

...Perhaps it's too much to hope for, but taking on the modern culture of busyness may be one way to bridge our ideological divide. Lack of free time, after all, is an everyday civic issue that affects us all. Busyness remains our national theology, but if we slow down and allow ourselves to just be, we may start to heal.

As the monk Thomas Merton said, It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am, the more affection I have for them. . . . Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.

[Anjula Razdan is a senior editor of Utne. Edited from an article in the January/February 2005 issue of UTNE: ]

  #EZ.24795 Exp 12-10
    Ref:   Nixon, Don  
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