Olaf: the other reindeer

. . . is the topic of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

Got to thinking about this reindeer Olaf. He’s "the other reindeer." And the one that exposes the darker side of Santa’s entourage, the price of fame, etc. The fact that these reflections come with dollops of double blue Stolich (or was it the half gallon of FIC’s durian ice cream?) does not detract from the pointed grimness of the story that is Olaf.

Everybody knows the eight reindeers: Dasher (the dashing one), Donner (who directed "Superman 2"), Comet (the athletic one), Cupid (well ... we know where his talents lie. Thus, the term "horns on a reindeer"), Dancer and Prancer and Vixen (the triumvirate who produced Queer as Folk and the majestic, sublime, classic -- simply no adjective could do justice to -- The L Word), and Blitzen (the secretive reindeer in charge of Santa’s security).

And then, of course, the most famous reindeer of them all: Rudolph. The origins of Rudolph are as murky as Blitzen’s activities. There is that famous Rankin/Bass hagiography of Rudolph, projecting him as the warm cuddly friend of Clarice, the female reindeer. The movie conveniently forgets that Rudolph was previously known as Rudolf, who in his wild youth, relentlessly dealt in drugs, hence his lifelong friendship with Sam the Snowman (and the movie conveniently brushes aside the reason why he is called "the Snowman"; the movie The Falcon and the Snowman was based partly on his exploits as a turncoat for the Russians. Sam would later sue the Washington Post for libel but the courts threw out his case).

In any event, these reflections are with regard to Olaf. Where is he now? Nobody knows. All we know is that, perhaps in trying to hide common fears relating to globalization and the immigrant influx into the North Pole community, "he used to laugh and call [Rudolph] names," even to the point of excluding him from "reindeer games." Rudolph, however, was the last person Olaf should have antagonized. Rudolph relentlessly read the 48 Laws of Power and, which is even more impressive, actually understood it and got the joke at the end of Law 48. Afterward, he decided to watch marathons of 30 Rock, while eating garlic peanuts. And plotting continuously.

It was Santa who gave him that chance. All of us know that in one "foggy Christmas eve," Rudolph, aka Rudolf (nicknamed in his Siberian hometown as the "Russian Carlito Brigante"), got his break. After that, the rest of the reindeers had no choice but to love him, even to the point of "shouting out with Glee" (Glee being the PR consultant hired by Rudolph to burnish his image and hide his past).

Anyway, from that point, there would be no talk of the ruthless mobster that is Rudolf. From now, it would be Rudolph, the shy reindeer. With the media machinations of Glee (Rudolph would even publish two bestselling books ghostwritten by Glee: The Tipping Blink and The Audacity of the Assault on Reason) and the somewhat unorthodox methods of Blitzen, we came to accept Rudolph as going down in "history." It may have been a slip, nevertheless, but when Bart Simpson sang the Rudolph song, when he got to the part "you’ll go down in history," he added "like Attila the Hun." It was at that point that Homer started choking him. Was Homer under Rudolph’s payroll? Or had Blitzen gotten to him?

Santa (aka St. Nicolas, aka alleged senior Coke executive) would still occasionally use Rudolph, always in "foggy" nights, in cohorts with the shady Blitzen. The rest of the time ... well ... reportedly Rudolph gets into his drunken haze, womanizing and gambling, forgetting that Clarice is back home turning into a raging alcoholic, until Santa would get Blizten to come for him and use his special "red nose" talents. Glee, of course, would then be ready with the press releases and photographs, lauding the "heroic" accomplishments of Rudolph.

But of Olaf, we know nothing of anymore. Some say he went into hiding, terrified of what Rudolph might do by way of vengeance. Others believe he has merely reinvented himself, composing Lady Gaga’s hit "Poker Face" to counter the popularity of Rudolph’s jingle. Historians would do well in getting to the bottom of Olaf’s story. After all, the world benefited from knowing what a bare-faced liar Obi Wan Kenobi is (nobody in his right mind would think that the words "I ... hate ... you ...," uttered by someone suffering from incredible lava burns after a vicious light saber duel, are meant to imply "your father wanted you to have this [light saber]).

Like any of mankind’s greatest mysteries: the Marie Celeste, the Yeti and Loch Ness monster, the existence of the remains of Noah’s ark, the qualifications of Noynoy, uncovering the fate of Olaf, the other reindeer, should serve as a challenge to everyone.

That’s it for 2009. A Merry Christmas and a better New Year to all.