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!”

Raising kids to believe they’re rich

Teaching kids about money

My daughter is holding what she might find in a really good prize Easter egg. In many parts of the world, this would be a week’s wages.

Teaching kids about money is a tricky thing. The risks seem so high! Screw it up one way and your son will grow up to be Ebenezer Scrooge…or err in the other direction and your daughter will be jobless and living in your basement into her forties. So there’s a good chance many of you who are older and wiser will torch me for this post. But I’m wondering if—for those of us with first-world problems, anyway—teaching kids about money should involve raising them to believe they’re rich.

I know, I know…raising kids to believe they’re rich SOUNDS like a bad idea. You immediately think that you’ll be releasing yet another batch of spoiled brats into the world. But hear me out.

I was raised in what would probably be considered a lower-middle class family. My parents busted their tails, and we had enough through God’s provision and their hard work. Teaching kids about money was a job they took very seriously; we learned to save, tithe, and avoid debt. And they challenged my brothers and me to do better than they did. I wouldn’t change a thing about my upbringing.

My wealth gauge is incorrect, or perhaps altogether broken.

At some point as a young adult, however, I picked up and began to carry a false sense of scarcity and poverty. With it came the tendency to save (hoard?) beyond what I need…and I’m not sure that’s the healthiest thing. “What if I need this someday? Why don’t I keep an extra one just in case? What if I don’t have enough?”

I have a family of my own now, and we live comfortably in the American middle class. But the truth is that my “average” middle-class lifestyle is incredibly lavish on a global scale (check out GlobalRichList.com, by the way, to see where YOU rank among the world’s super-rich). And my “enough” is far beyond what the rest of the world needs to survive. I’m realizing that my wealth gauge is incorrect, or perhaps altogether broken.

A few things have caused me to rethink wealth and money. Several years ago, I was able to travel to Haiti for a few days to see poverty first-hand. I’m also part of a neat church that talks about money, global poverty, and what Christians should do about it. Oh, and I had a crazy eye-opening encounter with Big Mike.

“If you need money, ask my dad. A lot of people don’t know this, but he’s rich.”Big Mike

Big Mike is a high school student in our church’s youth ministry (yes, I’ve changed his name for the sake of this post). He’s big. He’s a close-talker. And he’s a hugger. Big Mike isn’t like any other kid in our group…and that’s a good thing. I had lunch with Big Mike and Anne (this isn’t her real name, either) a few years ago. Anne told us that she’d decided to start raising funds to go on a mission trip. I encouraged her to let us know how we could be involved. Then Big Mike said something that still echoes in my brain: “If you need money, ask my dad. A lot of people don’t know this, but he’s rich.”

At first I laughed…that isn’t exactly something you hear every day. But then the beauty of it started to sink in. Big Mike wasn’t bragging. He was being totally sincere. He knew that if someone needed money for something important, his dad could provide. And for those of us who are Christ-followers, doesn’t that model EXACTLY what we should believe…that our Father is rich and ready to provide when a need arises?

So my wife and I are telling our kids that we’re actually pretty rich. But it can’t end there, or else they’ll probably become complacent and self-entitled. Teaching kids about money (for us, anyway) involves teaching the repsonsibility that comes with wealth. Because we’re rich, we have a responsibility to help others (I’m not making a political point here as much as I’m encouraging personal action). And we’re hopeful that—like Big Mike reminded me—our kids will learn that they have a rich Father who can meet needs at a level beyond their wildest dreams.

“Tell [the rich] to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” (NLT)Paul, in his first letter to Timothy