Finding “Christmas with Santa and His Friends” on the Internet’s strange, long tail

Christmas with Santa and His FriendsMuch has been made of the long tail of the Internet. The idea: there’s a market for anything and everything online, and you can build a pretty good business by servicing super-targeted niches. Let Target.com sell mass-produced sweaters for $25, in other words, while you knit sweaters out of unicorn hair and sell them online for $5000.

But I’ve learned that you can’t actually find everything on the Internet. Around the holidays last year, I started having weird childhood memories of a recording that involved Santa Claus, a feather bed, and a guy named “Reporter Dick.” (It’s not what you think.) Some basic Internet sleuthing revealed that these memories had their origin in a specific vinyl album…namely, “Christmas with Santa and His Friends.”

Evidently Radio Shack, a retailer known for its wise decisions, recorded “Christmas with Santa and His Friends” in the late 1970’s. It’s based on the premise that Reporter Dick travels to the North Pole to spend December with Santa and his friends, and he records what happens. (Just roll with it, okay?) Given that I don’t own a record player myself (I know…music sounds better on vinyl, etc.), I turned to the Google Play store, iTunes, and just about every other digital music purveyor I could find. Nothing. I couldn’t buy it digitally anywhere, and I wasn’t crazy about the idea of paying another online retailer $20 to mail me a copy of the album that they’d transferred to CD.

This is where my mom and dad (and a man in a ski mask) save the day. As further proof that God loves me, my parents still had the album, and they happily sent it my way. I reached out to my friend Makeup and Vanity Set to ask if he could wave his magic wand over vinyl and digitize it. He confirmed, adding that he could also reverse it and add reverb for maximum creepiness if desired. I declined that offer, but trusted him enough to send my prized LP his way.

Short story long, Makeup and Vanity Set did a wonderful job digitizing the album, although he confessed to getting a strong “journey to the top of Mount Doom and throw it into the fire before Sauron gets it” vibe while listening to the tracks. And he’s right; if you’ve never heard it before, it’s VERY bizarre. But for those of us who grew up with “Christmas with Santa and His Friends,” listening to it brings back memories of a time when we had nothing better to do than daydream about Christmas.

I’ve decided to post the files for download here, given that this glorious record seems otherwise doomed to disappear completely. (Tweet your thanks to @vanityset, by the way.)

Click here to download Tracks 1 – 10 of “Christmas with Santa and His Friends.”

Click here to download Tracks 11 – 23 of “Christmas with Santa and His Friends.”

By the way…I would love nothing more than for Radio Shack’s corporate copyright attorney or Chief Creative Officer Nick Cannon to contact me, tell me that the company is planning to re-release the album in a modern format, and ask me to remove this post. And I’ll happily comply. But given its bankruptcy protection filing and ownership changes, my hunch is that Radio Shack executives have no idea this album exists.  And even if they do—and if they find this post—maybe they’ll appreciate the free publicity and allow the rest of us to celebrate Christmas on the strange, long tail of the Internet with Santa Claus and Reporter Dick. Enjoy “Christmas with Santa and His Friends!”

Maslow’s hammer, the beach, & YETI coolers

Best beach cooler isn't a YETI.

The YETI Tundra 65. Weight? 29 lbs. MSRP? $400. Going to the beach? Leave it at home.

You got that big, beautiful YETI cooler for Christmas. You proudly slapped the YETI sticker on your rear windshield. You even bought the matching YETI baseball cap, ensuring that your head stays nice and frosty. Now you’re heading to the ocean, and you’re convinced that your YETI will be the best beach cooler for your family. Ehh…you might want to rethink that.

First off…the YETI phenomenon is pretty amazing. Their coolers are a fantastic bit of engineering (and the same can be said for other roto-molded coolers, like the Orca, Engel, Pelican, Grizzly, et al.). It’s pretty mind-blowing that we can throw ice (or frozen food, or whatever) in a box, leave it outside in the heat, and still find it nice and frigid when we crack open the lid a few days later.

But what YETI has accomplished goes far beyond engineering. Think about this for a moment: people are purchasing hats, shirts, stickers, and belts to proclaim their allegiance to a cooler (a cooler!). Igloo, Thermos, and Coleman have never approached what YETI has done from a branding standpoint.

Still…that doesn’t mean you should lug your YETI to the beach. Here are four reasons why the best beach cooler isn’t a YETI:

  1. The best beach cooler shouldn’t be oppressively heavy when it’s fully loaded. Have you ever tried to lift a roto-molded cooler when it’s packed with ice and drinks? It weighs a TON. If your walk to the beach is anything like mine, you’re also going to be carrying chairs, towels, toys, and kids.  If your cooler is heavy when you leave your room, it’s going to be unbearable by the time you’re slogging through ankle-deep sand.
  2. The best beach cooler can’t be a magnet for theft. People want YETI coolers…but not all are willing to pay for them. You know what you DON’T want to be thinking about while you’re in the ocean paddling around on a kayak, snorkeling for sand dollars, or throwing your kids into the waves? Whether a couple of petty thieves are running off with your expensive cooler.
  3. The best beach cooler only needs to keep beverages cold for one day. Unless you’re camping at the beach—or you happen to be staying in a location where ice is scarce or expensive—you don’t need your cooler to keep ice for four days. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to load up a cooler before you head to the beach at the beginning of the day (with free ice from the freezer in your condo or from the ice maker in your hotel). Then you’ll dump the remaining ice at the end of the day to save weight on your walk back from the beach. So as long as a cooler keeps your ice on a hot beach for one day, you should be golden. Anything beyond that is overkill…and it comes at the expense of cost and weight.
  4. The best beach cooler shouldn’t weigh a ton when it’s empty. Alright…this goes hand-in-hand with the first reason, so I’m cheating a little here. But can we all agree that the walk home from the beach at the end of the day is one of the worst things in the world. You’re exhausted, you’re sweaty, you’re probably hungry…and you have a million things to carry. Keep in mind that the smallest, lightest YETI roto-molded cooler (the Roadie 20…which probably isn’t big enough to hold all of the water, Capri Suns, Go-Gurts, and applesauces your family will consume in a day at the beach) weighs 15 lbs. So…you’re essentially carrying a bowling ball (or maybe a few of them, depending on the size of your cooler) back from the beach. FUN!

No…I’m not a YETI hater. But I do know that there’s truth in Maslow’s hammer (the concept that when you have a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail). When you have a YETI, everything (including a trip to the beach) starts looking like a reason to use it. (Another example: the whiteboard guy at your office. You know who I’m talking about. The guy who has a whiteboard on his wall, and he looks for any / every excuse to scribble something on it?)

Oh…and for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve landed on as the best beach cooler: the AO Coolers 36 pack soft-sided cooler. It’s big enough for a day’s worth of drinks and snacks, it does a remarkable job of keeping ice at the beach, it’s inexpensive (compared to a roto-molded cooler, anyway), it weighs practically nothing, and it’s got a great warranty. Buy it (and yep, if you buy it through the Amazon link above I’ll earn a paltry referral fee) and thank me later!