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MR GRINCH
November 26, 2004 7:46 PM   Subscribe

You're a naughty one, Mr. Grinch.
posted by mr_crash_davis (53 comments total)

 
"...the city council voted to require a permit for any exhibit lasting longer than three days...So Alan Aerts, a six-foot-three amateur body builder, commissioned the $2,500 motorized Grinch statue..."

Um...that's a lot of money to spend to spite your neighbors for less than three days. Now if you could leave it up for a week, that might be worth it....
posted by spaghetti at 7:58 PM on November 26, 2004


it's not an exhibit it's a lawn ornament.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:01 PM on November 26, 2004


Bah humbug!
posted by cpchester at 8:02 PM on November 26, 2004


There needs to be more evil holiday gremlins!
posted by Balisong at 8:13 PM on November 26, 2004


10-foot-tall, singing, motorized Grinch statue? That's awesome! I'd leave that sucker out all year long.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:21 PM on November 26, 2004


Alan Aerts gestures as he talks about his 10-foot-tall singing Grinch in front of his stately French tudor home in Monte Sereno, Calif., Wednesday. (AP/Paul Sakuma)
There's just so much wrong with this sentence. However, as I am the UK Consul-General for Grinchland, I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a brief and ritual free winter holiday.
posted by dash_slot- at 8:23 PM on November 26, 2004


i'll build the dude a 10 foot tall singing crucifix for a grand if he's interested.
posted by tsarfan at 8:26 PM on November 26, 2004


Somehow I'm guessing that if he'd turned it into Jesusland with an expansive nativity scene, the city council would have been a lot more likely to balk at not allowing it. He should have gone for that angle. "But I became a born-again Christian! You're preventing my free exercise!"
posted by u.n. owen at 8:28 PM on November 26, 2004


WWJD? Probably something similar.
posted by ba at 8:30 PM on November 26, 2004


It sings, and belches steam.
posted by mek at 8:31 PM on November 26, 2004


Somehow I'm guessing that if he'd turned it into Jesusland with an expansive nativity scene, the city council would have been a lot more likely to balk at not allowing it. He should have gone for that angle.

Or maybe his house would have been torn apart by a mob of "protesters," you never know.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:33 PM on November 26, 2004


It sings, and belches steam.

Clearly you've never seen me after a Mexican dinner.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:35 PM on November 26, 2004


Somehow I'm guessing that if he'd turned it into Jesusland with an expansive nativity scene, the city council would have been a lot more likely to balk at not allowing it. He should have gone for that angle. "But I became a born-again Christian! You're preventing my free exercise!"

Sure, because allowing religious displays has never gotten the government into trouble in the past, right?
posted by magodesky at 8:35 PM on November 26, 2004


it's not an exhibit it's a lawn ornament.
The technical term for this, according to the last paragraph here is display.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:47 PM on November 26, 2004


Wow. It's eerie in its King of the Hill neighborliness.
posted by DonnieSticks at 8:47 PM on November 26, 2004


This all reminds me of Roger Ebert's (1-star) review of Christmas with the Kranks:

"They form a herd mentality, without the mentality."
posted by idontlikewords at 8:47 PM on November 26, 2004


"If you can't even put up a display these days, what kind of people have we become?"

um...people that hate freedom? And Christmas. And Christ. Obviously.
posted by butternut at 8:54 PM on November 26, 2004


Except Christmas these days has so little to do with the dude's birth. Not that that has anything to do with the display issue here. Just sayin', that's all.
posted by Eekacat at 9:03 PM on November 26, 2004


This Alan Aerts guy just needs to move somewhere where his overexhuberance for the holiday is appreciated. Texas embraces assholes creative souls like this. I remember when I was a kid we used to go drive around the rich Interlochen neighborhood in Arlington Texas. It was like a tradition. Of course, I never lived in Interlochen, so the abundance of traffic never bothered me. I imagine some people living in Interlochen would set up their lights on a timer, then go on vacation to some place far away from their homes, because during the month of December it'd take them hours to drive in and out of their own driveways. The Nguyens should actually count their blessings. It could be worse.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:24 PM on November 26, 2004


"They also violated the Christmas spirit, he said."

After all, who's idea of Christmas doesn't involve turning your house into a carnival attraction? 1,500 cars a night... holy crap. How much cheerful Christmas spirit do they expect the neighbors to have?
posted by strikhedonia at 9:24 PM on November 26, 2004


Living on a somewhat busy street myself, I have to side with the neighbours. 1500 cars per evening is a lot of vehicles, and although the Aerts enthusiasm is impressive, the other residents have a right to complain if it impedes their own lives.

I find it interesting that he singled-out the Nguyens since the petition was signed by a number of residents (enough to force Aerts to drop the exhibit).

It could be worse.

Sure it could, I can think of any number of possibilities that would make the situation much, much worse. That doesn't mean that this is in any way acceptable if a number of residents do not want the exhibit in their neighbourhood.
posted by purephase at 9:35 PM on November 26, 2004


I grew up (and my parents still live) in a house about three blocks away from this guy. I just hope the grinch is still up and belching steam when I visit in a few weeks.

This is plain *hilarious*, and completely in character for Mr. Aerts.

His place is casually referred to by many people in the neighborhood as the "mafia house". This is partly out of unfounded suspicions about the owner (who made his fortune in the vending machine industry... have to love cash-only businesses, eh?). But it's mostly because the house is a tasteless display of wealth worthy of the Sopranos. Even in a city where the cheapest house is worth well over a million, it's over the top. Though I do like the separate home theater building, complete with light-lined marquee and box office window with animatronic ticket taker. (And no, I'm not kidding.)

His Christmas display seems to be an honest attempt to provide enjoyment to others for the season. When neighbors expressed concern about the lights being on late in the evening, he turned them off earlier. When word got around and the traffic got heavier, he hired people to guide traffic and keep people away from the neighbors houses. (1500 cars a night is an absolute maximum, not the norm) After that, most neighbors just sighed, laughed, and got used to the sight of a glowing motorized Santa Claus on a surfboard for a month.

The Nguyen's house was built several years before the Aerts, and I suspect it has irked them for a decade that he managed to get his (aesthetically challenged) place built. Rather than approach him with their concerns and find a compromise, which he was apparently willing to do, they just demanded that he take it down. When he didn't, because there was nothing about it that was against city ordinance, they spent three years getting new ordinances passed. It's a shame.
posted by zeypher at 10:33 PM on November 26, 2004


I do like the separate home theater building, complete with light-lined marquee and box office window with animatronic ticket taker.

Wow. That's a kind of decadence that I'll never experience.

Zeypher's post was more interesting and more informative than the linked article.
posted by painquale at 11:11 PM on November 26, 2004


Zeypher's post was more interesting and more informative than the linked article.

I second that.

zeypher: But it's mostly because the house is a tasteless display of wealth worthy of the Sopranos.

Hey, the guy's a philanthropist!
I actually had to laugh out loud when I read that. I'll have to remember that one for the next time someone asks me what I do for a living.
You can almost imagine the reporter asking "So, what do you do for a living, Mr. Aerts?" -- "Why, I'm a soft drink distributor and philanthropist."
posted by sour cream at 3:18 AM on November 27, 2004


I do like the separate home theater building, complete with light-lined marquee and box office window with animatronic ticket taker

Jesus, man. Tell us more...
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:28 AM on November 27, 2004


I live next door to a city park that is a popular spot for people to show off their cars. During the summer there is an endless, circling, herd of cars going past my house for hours on end. It is quite difficult to leave my house, or go back to my house during the time of the herd. Even when they don't have the bass turned all the way up the herd itself is annoying; when they do have the bass turned all the way up its maddening.

I can sympathize with the neighbors is what I'm saying. Free speech does not, actually, include the right to force others to listen.
posted by sotonohito at 4:34 AM on November 27, 2004


I think these kind of over the top home displays are pretty cool, but that is a LOT of traffic for a little side street. A few years ago we had a hell of a time visiting friends who lived near a somewhat famous block where three or four houses get more and more elaborate with their displays every year. They had millions of lights, machine operated animatronics, and turned their living rooms into display pieces that you could see through the window. It was stunning to look at, but the traffic tied up several blocks of cars on the side streets and the lights at the major intersection weren't timed for that kind of traffic, so only a few cars got through each time. If I lived there that would drive me nuts after a while - especially when I just wanted to get home after a long day at work.
posted by HifiToaster at 5:29 AM on November 27, 2004


u.n. owen: Somehow I'm guessing that if he'd turned it into Jesusland with an expansive nativity scene, the city council would have been a lot more likely to balk at not allowing it.

Krrrlson: Or maybe his house would have been torn apart by a mob of "protesters," you never know.

magodesky: Sure, because allowing religious displays has never gotten the government into trouble in the past, right?

The original "jesusland" point was distracting (though I this it's probably true, and mildly amusing in a cyncial way), but responses like these are just...weird. Irrelevent. Divorced from reality.

It's a basic truth of life in America that it's not really socially acceptable to make strong criticism of religious display. To magodesky's point, it's also a fact that a lot of government-sponsored religious displasys have been shut down on establishment-clause grounds. But....protesters?! If that was a joke, I didn't get it. If it was really a speculation about the likelihood of hordes of smelly atheistic liberal descending on the house to dissassemble the display, then....wow. That's quite a vision.
posted by lodurr at 5:53 AM on November 27, 2004


This is really a very, very American conflict, but it's got nothing inherently (at least, not in this generation) to do with religion (at least, not as people traditionally talk about it). It's about one guy who thinks that as long as he does no literal physical harm and breaks no literal laws, he shoudl be able to do pretty much whatever he likes. He does even makes some concessions. But in the end, he's really evangelizing for his own right to inflict his own vision of the Christmas Spirit (and the conequences of his infliction) onto his neighborhood.

Americans are downright schizoid about individual and community rights. We love to talk about the value and importance of community, and we love to recast it in myriad forms, but when push comes to shove we all run home to individual rights. This tension is what really drives all of our politics -- all of our winning politics -- for the last 50 years: Tax reform, establishiment, free speech, civil rights. We're so obsessed with individual rights that we've recast Christianity in those radical terms (the "child's" "right to live", which is, of course, logically more basic than the mother's "property right" to her own person). And we often find community interests driven into hiding, where they exert themselves under the guise of religion, patriotism, fandom, and property values. The Nguyen's are casting this in a relatively unobscured form: Quality of life.
posted by lodurr at 6:00 AM on November 27, 2004


There are some tricky issues here with regard to freedom of expression. But I find myself sympathizing with the neighbors. Why should anyone have to put up with their neighborhood being turned into a theme park for several weeks out of the year?
posted by wadefranklin at 7:48 AM on November 27, 2004


That's not a cell tower in my front yard, it's a Festivus pole.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:54 AM on November 27, 2004


His Christmas display seems to be an honest attempt to provide enjoyment to others for the season.

I'd like to sit down with Mr. Aerts and have a heart-to-heart. First I would ask how much money he spent on last year's display: electric bill, decorations, security guards, whatever else. Then I would ask him to pinpoint exactly what he got out of this. A thrill at briefly (10 minutes max) touching the lives of a few thousand strangers? A big kick out of turning his home into a cheap Disney knock-off? A giddy sense of self-satisfaction for separating himself from his neighbors?

After that I would try and bring him around to the idea of truly making a difference in a few people's lives. Buying a good used car for a single mom. Providing groceries for a year for a family that can't make ends meet. Paying for a child's life-or-death surgery. Maybe if I made these options sound appealing enough (the gratitude of a lifetime) he would see how shallow and unnecessary his public display has been.

Or maybe not.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:02 AM on November 27, 2004


Is it totally obnoxious to say it's a filthy waste of energy? And it's ugly. Abstinence is the way to go here.
posted by faux ami at 8:43 AM on November 27, 2004


If he was really worthy of the Sopranos, he would have his complaining neighbors dumped in the ocean in barrels full of cement. Or something. Shame he had to take the lights down. There was a guy in Little Rock, Arkansas, that had a huge display which was causing tons of traffic problems. He ended up having to actually move his lights to Disneyland or something. I wish I could have seen it while he had the big displays up.
posted by bargle at 10:45 AM on November 27, 2004


That's a lot of traffic for one house and one display for a small community. I'm all for public displays and holiday spirit but when it starts to effect the neighbours time to put aside personal freedoms and think of others that will be effected.

I live in an area where the native bands rent out their reserve to hold raves in the summer. While I like the music and like raves the traffic and the noise (from 8PM to 9AM) is unbearable. My neighbourhood gets forced to participate in the fireworks displays, loud music and thousands of people who are there to party. And we can't do a damn thing about it because it is on reserve land. The band doesn't care how it effects the neighbourhood ... ugh

'Americans are downright schizoid about individual and community rights'

Schizoid is a mental disorder marked by severe shyness, restricted range of emotion, being reclusive etc. Schizoid is not a slang on schizophrenia. Neither schiziod nor schizophenia is multiple personality disorder and schizoid personality disorder is not schizophrenia. Schizoid and schizophrenia have never meant two diametrically opposite views, no matter how many time popular culture keeps using it. :)

(misuse of those words is a pet peeve of mine)
posted by squeak at 10:47 AM on November 27, 2004


On the Today show this morning, Mr. Aerts claimed he used proceeds from his display towards Toys for Tots. After the Nguyen's complained - this guy bend over backwards trying to make them happy. He even offered them $10,00 towards any charity they wanted. No dice.

She didn't impress me. So much for Christmas spirit...
posted by Macboy at 10:52 AM on November 27, 2004


You mean the Nguyens couldn't be bought off?
What, in Christ's name, is the world coming to?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:15 AM on November 27, 2004


how about the nguyens erect a 20 foot raging santa claus that heaves 3 foot diameter iceballs across the street at the grinch? i can see this escalated to the level of reality tv! imagine teams of neighbors building and battling their own giant robotic fire-breathing transformers, laying waste to entire subdivisions!



ooooooooooh yeah!
posted by quonsar at 11:58 AM on November 27, 2004


But I don't WANT to be exposed to xmas!
I am shocked... SHOCKED... that nobody made this comment earlier
posted by wendell at 12:18 PM on November 27, 2004


nobody else is quite as fixated on the thing as you.
posted by quonsar at 12:23 PM on November 27, 2004


When I was a kid in Kansas we always used to go drive to the "light happy areas" - places where the neighbors got together on an entire block in competition with each other and everyone decorated their homes. Some people went way over the top - but that was something to laugh at and enjoy. And everyone drove through those areas, slowly. In some places they had carolers, and in streets around those blocks people would park and go walking though the streets just to look at the decorations, and chat with strangers. At some houses they gave out cookies or candy, kind of like Halloween where decorating and giving out goodies to strangers is considered a good thing. When I lived in Texas I found that some neighborhoods had kicked this up a notch and put up massive displays, and there were companies you could hire to decorate your entire house in lights - I mean, outlining the entire thing. Few went to the extremes this guy did - but there was still the tradition of driving around on Christmas week and looking at the lights with your family. And walking through your neighborhood to look at them as well.

Anything taken to an extreme can be bad thing - but there have been many neighborhood lights that have been frowned upon by just one neighbor when the rest of the neighborhood is fine with it - or tolerates it, knowing it's a display that won't last long. They are also neighbors that learn to communicate with each other civilly in order to solve any problems - people like that still exist on this planet, despite stories like this. Frankly I think this is a story of neighbors who aren't working well at getting along - compromise should come from both sides. The same story happens with Halloween decorations and people that decide to paint their home an usual color. Or install unusual yard sculpture. (I could get link happy but I admit, I'm lazy.)

And dammit, I just like looking at lights. Is that so wrong?
posted by batgrlHG at 12:31 PM on November 27, 2004


Argh - "there are also neighbors" and "paint their home an unusual color."
Need more caffeine...

posted by batgrlHG at 12:35 PM on November 27, 2004


batgrlHG: "and people that decide to paint their home an unusual color."

Funny you say that. I guess I forgot to mention that Mr. Aerts' house was originally pink. Light pink body, with vivid hot pink trim. Yep. The kind of color that would be tacky even in West Palm Beach, and was certainly out of place next to the moderate 60's ranch homes nearby. Apparently, the paint was really cheap, because that winter, the rain caused the trim color to bleed down the side of the house. After that, he repainted with the more neutral tones in the photo.

As they say... just the facts ma'mn.
posted by zeypher at 1:43 PM on November 27, 2004


Christmas displays can mean a lot to people. Where I live (Reykjavík, Iceland), there's this guy who lives on one of the main traffic arteries who has had a lavish Christmas display for at least a decade now. It's got nothing on Mr. Aerts's display, and there are other more elaborate ones elsewhere in the city, but because so many people pass by there, it holds a special place in the heart of many. A few years ago he broke his leg when he fell out of a ladder putting up lights and a bunch of teenagers offered to do it for him instead. This year he may not put it up because he's getting too old (73) and his health isn't quite up to it. This was front page news in one of Iceland's main newspapers. I know that a lot of people are really bummed at the prospect of the display not going up.
posted by Kattullus at 1:52 PM on November 27, 2004


Oh man zeypher, I was going to say "paint their homes pink" - for some reason in many cases where a home owner has a problem with their neighbors or with a zoning/covenant board a common response has been to paint their house an obnoxious color - and for some reason pink is that color in many cases I've read. (Random letter about building color, and another opinion piece that also mentions painting a house as an expression of individualism and protest.) Which, annoyingly I can't find any links to - but I remember a case in San Antonio where the house was painted pink like this one. Here's a pink house story. It all comes down to whether neighbors can learn to tolerate certain unique individuals - and whether these individuals can work with the neighbors so as not to annoy them with their more extreme uniqueness.

I think some folk just forget that they're never going to live next door to people that always agree with their sense of taste. And I also think that if everyone would get together and agree that the lighting fest would only take up so many days - well, it would seem that something could be worked out so that people could still have a bit of fun without disturbing the neighborhood.
posted by batgrlHG at 3:18 PM on November 27, 2004


Wow. That's a kind of decadence that I'll never experience.

Wow. That's a kind of decadence that I'll thankfully never experience.

Honestly. I hereby give explicit permission to everyone: if I ever become so wealthy that I become grossly ostentatious with it, please shoot me dead.

I hope that if I ever were rich, I'd be sensible enough to spend my money on helping others, not on animatronic ticket dispensers.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:41 PM on November 27, 2004


I bet the money helped the guy who built the animatronic ticket dispenser.

Just sayin'.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:50 PM on November 27, 2004


Hmmm. Help one animatronic ticket dispenser builder, or donate livestock via Heifer.org and help several villages? That's a tough one.

'fraid I'll have to go for the heifers.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:28 PM on November 27, 2004


Why do you hate animatronic ticket dispenser builders so much?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:31 PM on November 27, 2004


Zachsmind--ahh! I also have memories of Interlochen. We went one year, sat in traffic with five hundred other gas-guzzlers to see yard displays that frankly, weren't worth the hassle.

Make all the points you want about Aerts' willingness to compromise, once he had created a traffic problem for the neighborhood he should have found another outlet that didn't bother his neighbors. Charity, sure, but what about building a Christmas village in a town square, or sponsoring a Christmas fair in his town that everyone could get to? Surely there are lots of ways to indulge your urge to make Christmas Vegas-like and display your wealth without bugging your neighbors.
posted by emjaybee at 7:13 PM on November 27, 2004


"You ever seen the movie Groundhog Day? It's just like that."

..Only, y'know... Christmas...
posted by Robot Johnny at 7:35 PM on November 27, 2004


It's the beady eyes, crash. Nasty beady eyes.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:47 PM on November 27, 2004


animatronic heifer dispensers are the answer.
posted by quonsar at 8:58 PM on November 27, 2004


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