ISSUE 1

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  When you look at most things our society considers “normal,” they actually seem really... weird. Like wearing a hat backwards or getting breast implants or having massive biceps when the heaviest thing you lift in regular life is a gallon of milk. In fact, most of the things we do for enjoyment have no grounding in anything other than that it’s kind of fun.
  That’s essentially what fun is: something that’s not exactly useful but scratches an itch that our pure survival instinct can’t—like scrapbooking. No self-respecting backwoodsman has a scrapbook in a survival pack filled with Bowie knives, bug spray, fishing hooks, interesting sticks, funny rocks, and... uh, all the other stuff you need to survive.
  If aliens ever get here and they don’t enslave humanity, we’re going to have a lot of explaining to do about our pastimes.
  Our Alien Friend: So, just wondering, could you explain this whole thing called Nascar?
  Us: Well, you see these cars drive around in a circle   really fast, and occasionally they pass each other. And   whoever wins gets a bunch of money. A lot of people   watch on TV and around the track.
  OAF (that acronym was completely unintentional): Do the viewers get to drive the cars?
  Us: Well, no...
  OAF: And does the track change at all?
  Us: Not really... They pass each other occasionally.
  OAF: How many times do they go around the same   track?
  Us: It depends but anywhere from two hundred to five hundred times.
  OAF: And nothing much changes?
  Us: Uhh, I guess not... But people really seem to like it, so there must be something to it.
  OAF: It seems a little pointless to me.
  Us: Well, people like it, so it exists.
  [Awkward silence]
  OAF: [whispers] We’re destroying your planet in three   days.
  Us: What?
  OAF: What?
  We’d have an especially hard time explaining all the things we do during the holidays, not to mention the holidays themselves. Take the Christmas tree for example. No other time in the year is it socially acceptable to go into the woods and cut down a perfectly good tree in order to have it die in your living room.
  This is the case unless, of course, you’re a professional arborist, in which case you’re probably sick of the whole Christmas tree thing and wish we could have a holiday tradition of putting our presents around a flower. But then we’d have the florists on our ass. And if there’s anything we don’t want, it would be that.
  But it’s a sacred tradition, like feeling terrible the day after Saint Patrick’s Day or hating couples on Valentine’s Day (every single person ever), and Americans never mess with tradition, especially when it involves family. Trying to talk someone out of a Christmas tree is like trying to talk someone from Green Peace into hunting a baby deer with an AR-15.
  Of course, there’s quite a few ways to scratch that Christmas tree itch, but some are more “authentic”—whatever that means. The best would be to go to an actual pine forest and struggle through five-foot drifts of snow to “The One”, a free-range Adonis of nature destined to have a suburban family chop it down. This is what our forefathers, the American pioneers and settlers, would have done—or what they would have done if they weren’t shivering to death, attempting to grow a couple rows of corn, or appropriating land to not grow corn on.

  The next best option is a tree lot where they grow trees in nice straight rows, a kind of puppy mill for non-sentient beings. This is less desirable, simply for the fact that you pay to do most of the work in a simulated environment when it’s painfully obvious you are in anything but a natural environment.
  Lastly, we have the grocery store, the option for when you’ve clean run out of options. It’s like buying cage eggs. They’re cheap, but god knows what awful things some chicken had to go through to plop them out. The trees could have been verbally abused, grown indoors under heat lamps, or even worse, put outside where temperatures are known to drop below freezing, the wind sometimes gets above breezy, and moose eat whole branches of needles they didn’t even ask permission to eat.
  Then the trees are tied up and shoved in a truck with all of their brethren, squashed so close they can’t even breath—or whatever trees do. Photosynthesize? Respire? Exude fumes? It doesn’t matter. Whatever goes on, you don’t want to think about it.
  It’s only after you’ve found the tree that you can put it in pretty much the opposite of a tree’s natural surroundings—a carpeted room surrounded by a bunch of its dead relatives in the form of contemporary Danish furniture. There it will stay for December, January, and parts of February if you’re really lazy, making its slow progression from thriving tree to brown needle-less tree.   Then it will be thrown out on the curb for the boy scouts—a patently purposeless expense of anywhere between forty to one hundred dollars in the name of tradition. 
  But everyone’s pretty okay with it. I’m okay with it. Even the eco-friends, the bleeding heart liberals who wouldn’t slap a mosquito if they could help it, revel in the fact that they have a ten-foot behemoth strapped to the roof of their Prius. The whole thing is a little crazy, a socially acceptable form of lunacy like being in love or after the Cubs win the World Series. Hell, why not spend a whole afternoon staring into someone’s eyes? Why not hold hands everywhere? Why not dye the Chicago River blue?
  There’s not one tradition in the whole holiday bag that makes much sense—searching for chocolate eggs, asking strangers for candy, putting colored lights on the house, singing the same godawful songs for a month, eating green bean casserole, dressing up as a pirate, getting pinched for not wearing green, lighting explosives to honor our country... And don’t even start about Thanksgiving and what that day means for turkeys.

  It’s all a bit mad but also kind of enjoyable, and that’s what really matters. So my alien friends, pointless as it is, the tree stays.