An Art Christmas Carol
Ebenezer Scrooge saved his soul, and today the challenge is to save all our souls
Ol’ Ebenezer, CEO of the Online Aggregator of Common Creator Content (OACCC), placed the key in the lock of his Manhattan loft and thought “Bah! Humbug!” He still couldn’t believe that his assistant, Bob Cratchit, would have the audacity to suggest mounting an online Christmas exhibit that would feature pieces of true art and writing that depicted truth and beauty simply for art’s sake!
Bob actually wanted to display pieces in the styles of realism, impressionism, expressionism, and even fiction, simply to worship truth, beauty and enjoyment on this “holy day?”
Who ever heard of such a thing?
Bob actually thought people still cared about that sort of thing.
“It’s only once a year, sir!” he audaciously suggested..
“Only once a year!” Ebenezer sneered, “That’s a whole 1/365th of the year and nobody monetizes art for art’s sake! The nerve of Cratchit.
No, Ebenezer thought, we will continue to post clickbait and listicles. That’s what the public wants and the proof is in the traffic….and in those glorious advertising dollars. Bah! Humbug! Let’s hit them with a popup too!
Ebenezer congratulated himself as he climbed into bed.
“The OACCC community is lucky to have me” he thought, “I mean, what kind of money could we possibly make from content by simply displaying, with no launch or marketing plan, beautiful art with no way to monetize it! What an antiquated idea!”
Ebenezer chuckled to himself as he climbed into bed, turned off his plasma TV, and said, “Alexa, turn off the lights.” “Bah! Humbug!” he thought again as he drifted off to sleep . . .
Ebeneeeeeeezer . . . . ., Ebeneeeeeeeeeezer . . . . . wake up!
Ebenezer awoke and was excited to see the ghostly figure of Twitter influencer, @TedContentGuy in front of him. Ted! A great master of content in his presence!
“Ted,” Ebenezer began, “I know I must be dreaming, but I’m still excited to see you. What’s with the long chains and chests you’re dragging behind you? Is that a new course you’re about to launch? I would love to set up a call with you to discuss how our Online Aggregator can increase your revenue by 72.3% by giving you more exposure. Did you get my last email? What day next week are you available for a quick call? Here’s my Calendly link, bruh.”
“Silence!” Ted Content Guy bellowed. “I am the art ghost of Christmas past, I recently passed away, and I’ve come to warn you before it’s too late.”
“Do you see these heavy chains?” Ted continued, “These chains represent all the Tweets, blog posts and stock photography I passed off as serious writing and art in my day. All of the content that wasted people’s time and money in life, I now carry as a heavy burden in death. I forged my chain, one Tweet, one banal Twitter thread, at a time . . . and yours…yours, I’m afraid, is much, much longer Ebenezer. Oh woe to you, Ebenezer!”
Ted continued, “Now come with me and see shadows of days gone by . . . Christmas 1995”
The scene changed and Ebenezer was a young man. He was back in college marketing class. The teacher kept rambling on about “getting eyeballs onto your website” and how to “monetize” your work. “Content is King.” She kept using that phrase a lot, though Ebenezer wasn’t sure what ‘content’ was. Was it writing? Was it art? Was it photography?
Half listening, he was thumbing through his art history book, just enthralled by the works he saw. His heroes were Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Titian, Vermeer. Oh! John Singer Sargent just took his breath away . . .are they simply ‘content’ now he wondered?
“Ebenezer!” the teacher bellowed. “Didn’t you hear my question?” “How would you monetize this image of a Starry Night by Van Gogh, if you had rights to this content?”
“I..I…I’m sorry ma’am”, the young Ebenezer stammered, “I guess I just don’t understand. I’m sure I’m missing something but isn’t something like a Van Gogh painting something one should just experience? For enjoyment’s sake? Why should we concern ourselves with “monetizing” it? Should we just enjoy it for its intrinsic beauty?”
“A depiction of beauty? Is that what you think makes something successful, that makes an image successful? It’s all about getting online now and online everything is content. Beauty isn’t cool, you know what’s cool? A billion dollars. I swear Ebenezer, you’ll never make it in the information age.”
“I wouldn’t try to make money from a piece of art like this.”
Gasp! The entire class turned in disbelief. The other students began to laugh and jeer. They made fun of Ebenezer and wondered how he would ever be successful. How would he ever be taken seriously by the “in” crowd if he didn’t “get it?” How could he question authority? How dare he?
Ebenezer vowed right then and there that he would “get it” more than them all. He would show them! Not only that, he would do anything it took to be commercially successful online, he would understand content better than anyone. He would learn to monetize ‘content’ better than anyone!
Ebenezer blinked. Ted Content Guy was gone and a new apparition appeared before his eyes.
A large jolly spirit, laughed in good cheer. The spirit turned his bright eyes on Ebenezer and said in a deep, yet gentle voice, “Touch my garment, Ebenezer, for I am the art ghost of Christmas present, come and see things as they are. . . .”
Ebenezer reached out a trembling hand and touched the ghost’s robe and instantly found them both hurtling through the air, flying above the streets of New York. They flew over the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, over Central Park, over the SOHO galleries. Out, out, out….to the lowly suburbs.
They landed in front of a small home. There was a minivan parked in the driveway.
“Where are we?” Ebenezer asked, disgusted.
“We’re in front of a house.”
“How awful this place is spirit! Are you telling me people actually live here? Let’s go back to the city! Why are we here?”
“That is what you must decide.” Answered the spirit.
Ebenezer looked through the window. There was a family there. It was Bob, his assistant. He was talking with his small son, yes, if he strained, Ebenezer could just hear the conversation.
“You see, Tim, this one is by Renoir.” said Bob, who appeared to be showing his son, Tiny Tim, great artworks by past masters.
Bob continued, “The Impressionists experimented with new techniques, they tried different ways of applying color. They wanted to find ways to more accurately express the beauty that they were seeing in the natural landscape. Here, look how beautiful this next one is….”
Bah! Humbug! thought Ebenezer. Beauty? He expected such antiquated concepts from Bob, but he was now infecting the next generation too? What difference did beauty make in a world where success, where money, depended upon feeding the machine algorithm an ever increasing amount of content? Bob should be teaching Tiny Tim how to game the Instagram algorithm! How to make Reels!
How could their online content aggregator thrive when there were prudes such as Bob around still espousing things like beauty? Didn’t Bob understand that online attention is all that matters anymore? We live in an “attention economy” now. Really, he would have to sit Bob down and have a talk with him . . .
“Oh Dad! I want to be an artist! I want to paint like the Impressionists! Can I work some more on my painting now?” Tim then went into a fit of coughs.
“Sure Tim! Let me set up your easel.” Bob replied.
Ebenezer suppressed a laugh. Paint like the Impressionists, indeed! Everyone knows the real action these days is in developing memes that can spread quickly across social networks. He thought about the guy who taped a banana to a blank canvas. Now that guy was a visionary! What a concept! That’s something you could sell t-shirts of! You could even sell courses, people could do it with apples, with oranges, there are all kinds of fruit and vegetables you could use to make memes. “Poor Tim”, Ebenezer muttered, “he’ll be doomed to a life of artistic insignificance, no content site or social media algorithm will ever take him seriously.”
The spirit heard Ebenezer’s mutterings and commanded, “Look through the window.”
What Ebenezer saw was astounding. Tim was sitting in front of an easel. His left arm was in some sort of brace and didn’t look very usable. His right arm. However, he could move, but it looked like it caused Tim great effort and pain to take each brush stroke. He coughed nearly continuously. He was obviously a very sick boy.
However, Tim was fighting the pain and was working on a nearly completed painting. Ebenezer’s eyes moved over to the canvas and, for just a moment, he was amazed. There, on the easel, was an exceptionally good copy of Monet’s Water Lily Pond.
“The boy does have talent.” Ebenezer mumbled. "Ghost," said Ebenezer, with a strange wave of emotion, "Will Tim live?"
“That is the future, Ebenezer, and I understand only the present.”
“I must know,” Ebenezer pressed.
"Very well, I see an empty easel" replied the Spirit, "and a brush without an owner. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the boy will die, and his art with him."
While Ebneezer’s mind raced with thoughts of Tiny Tim, his disease, and his amazing talent, a third spirit appeared. The third spirit was nothing but a large black canvas with a small button that read “Click here.”
Although Ebenezer was afraid, he could help admire the wonderful hook. A black canvas! Why hadn’t he thought of that? Now that’s content! Imagine a black tshirt that had a button that read “Click here.” Those would sell!
Ebenezer touched the canvas and the scene changed. They were standing in front of a website. It was his website, in the future, and they flew into the screen and it became as if they were in an actual building, walking down a hallway toward what they appeared to be in the newly constructed Ebenezer Scrooge wing. There were nothing but black canvases on the walls. And the sign above the door read “Death.”
It was cold. And Ebenezer trembled. Still he forced himself onward.
There was a large crowd at the end of the gallery, gathered around what appeared to be the centerpiece of an art exhibit, which, judging from the size of the crowd, was a huge success. Everyone was carrying a commemorative poster - each poster simply a large black piece of paper! Think of the revenue! He must come up with the ultimate hook which is nothing but a black square to represent death!
What a future for content! Ebenezer was afraid but simultaneously impressed with the idea. Whoever brainstormed this idea was a visionary indeed! Everything about the space did indeed make one feel dead.
And to think, people used to think art was important and that objective beauty mattered. They thought that humanity mattered. It’s memes all the way down now. Even in death. Bah! Humbug!
The black canvases all now had arrows, pointing to the central exhibit . . . showing Ebenezer where to go.
As Ebenezer approached, he could see that someone was lying there. Someone was mimicking death. . . .
His heart beat faster and faster and then nearly stopped. It was him! Ebenezer stood looking at his own lifeless body. He looked at the crowd of people staring at his corpse, admiring it, paying for content…and he finally understood!
“Spirit, take me from this place!” Ebenezer pleaded. “I understand now! I understand again what art truly is! I remember the joy from my childhood! Please let me change this exhibit! Let me use my site to show beauty, to show truth, to show the works of art that come from the hearts of artists who want to share their vision with the world! Let me connect with people as humans, and not treat them merely as eyeballs to be monetized! I understand that there is more to this live than side hustles and Twitter Threads. Please, spirit, I will remember to keep Christmas in my heart all year long!”
The exhibit disappeared and Ebenezer was back in his bed. It was morning.
He ran, picked up his iPhone and called Bob. “What day is it Bob?”
“Why is it Christmas!” Bob answered.
“Yes, yes, Christmas, a day to Celebrate!” Ebenezer shouted.
“Bob, I’ve decided that you deserve a raise! I’m putting you in charge of curating content, I’m sorry, of curating art for the site! And that Christmas exhibit that you wanted to feature? I want you to begin tomorrow and we’ll open that section of the site to the public on New Years day!” I want to keep Christmas in my heart, in my mind and in our business all the days of the year! And while we’re at it, let’s bring in the best of today’s artists and writers, and have them give demonstrations, workshops, and let’s get children interested in art! You can start by bringing your son Tim down to livestream to inspire other kids. And, we’ll get him the best art education we can afford! Let’s bring humanity back to the Internet, Bob!”
Bob was speechless, flabbergasted . . . and elated.
Over the next week, Ebenezer and Bob worked round the clock and put together a beautiful Christmas Exhibit. They looked for beauty, they looked for diversity, and they looked for artists who truly love to share their gift with the world.
So, during this Christmas season, I’d like to thank you, the artists, the writers, and all the creatives who embrace their humanity. We raise a glass to toast those who resist the grift of the modern internet. Cheers to those who listen to their soul to produce art, rather than flooding the world with cheap content while chasing the sound of a cash register.
To you, the true artists who read this, we say: Merry Christmas.
Thank you for the joy you bring to the world through your art.
And God Bless Us . . . Everyone!