November 22nd, 2004

A tiny, personal indication of the continuing decline of American civilization: my friend Ann wants to buy Christmas crackers that play musical notes as you break them open. She has bought them every year at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra store on Michigan Avenue. We went there Saturday: no crackers this year, they tell us. I proclaim: “I’ll find them online.” I spend a full hour scouring the Web and eBay. I rake through page after page of Google. These objects seem only to be available in the UK, where there is a veritable cult of Christmas crackers. There’s a Web site devoted to them here ( Anyway, I could only find them in a few places in the UK such as this: The lowest price: 9.99 British pounds. I am astonished to find that this is about $18 U.S. And this does not include VAT and shipping costs. We suspect this is why the symphony store did not order Christmas crackers this year: due to the plummeting U.S. dollar, they are now too expensive for us here in the states.

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