Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SECRET ORIGINS: Three meanings of Christmas you didn't know about before today!

Last year, I mentioned that Christmas seemed to be infinitely malleable in what it means to people -- the lowpoint/high water mark of that development being the part, in Love, Actually, when that one guy confesses (via placard) his love to Keira Knightley (really? her?) because "Christmas is when you tell the truth," he says, which is an interpretation I had never heard of the Christmas story, before.  I mean, sure, Christmas is the time to say I love you (right, Billy Squire?) but apparently Christmas is everything to everyone.

But to the extent that you (or I) thought that was a modern thing -- extending Christmas to encompass whatever it is we want it to mean, whether that be buying the wife a new car or buying the wife a new bracelet -- here are some old interpretations of Christmas that show Christmas is Everything To Everyone isn't exactly a Madison Avenue creation.

Consider, for example, that Christmas might mean only about 33 more years of lying bound, waiting to go to Heaven -- and while 33 years seems like a long time, it's relatively short compared to the 4,000 years that went before it, as told in the old Christmas song  Adam Lay YBounden:

Adam Lay Ybounden's first verse goes like this, in case you had trouble following it:

Adam lay ybounden,
   Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
   Thought he not too long.
And all was for an apple,
   An apple that he took,
As clerkës finden written
   In their book.
Nor had one apple taken been,
   The apple taken been,
Then had never Our Lady
  A-been heaven's queen.
Blessed be the time
   That apple taken was.
Therefore we may singen
   Deo gratias!

The story being this: Adam ate the apple and thereafter had to stay bound from Heaven until Jesus was crucified for our sins, that being the story in the Middle Ages.  So the song, which doesn't sound upbeat, really is, in that in the second and third verses, Adam's story unfolds and by the end his redemption is only a few decades away, which is about a jillion times more of a happy ending than Clark Griswold getting enough of a bonus to put in that swimming pool.

Not a lot of families sit around the Spinet and sing Adam Lay YBounden, I bet: It's a song included in the First of the Nine Lessons, a form of Christmas service that isn't seen much these days, but which is broadcast every year on Christmas Eve from King's College -- giving some stiff competition to TBS' annual marathon of A Christmas Story.

If you're uncomfortable gathering the kids around the Tree of Knowledge of Good And Evil and singing about a man being bound for 4,000 years, well, get over it, or else maybe move on to a more modern interpretation of Christmas, and by "more modern" I mean "over 100 years ago," and by "interpretation of Christmas" I mean "actually, it was Thanksgiving," by which I mean to say Jingle Bells was originally a Thanksgiving song.

It's common, nowadays, to moan and groan about "Christmas creep" and complain that Christmas trees appear in the stores before the Halloween candy has even been eaten, but have you considered that maybe you're not eating it fast enough?  Lord knows, I'm trying, but I'm just one person.

And have you considered that maybe Christmas Creep is also not a modern thing, since, as I mentioned, it's been going on for over a hundred years and began, more or less, with the co-opting of Jingle Bells by Christmas away from Thanksgiving.

In fact, Jingle Bells isn't even really called Jingle Bells, and the name isn't just wrong, it's also misleading, in that Jingle Bells weren't meant to be festive: they were meant to warn you away from certain doom.

Let's explain: Jingle Bells was written, depending on who you talk to, by a rebellious loner who wanted to buck tradition, or a "complete loser," as its author, James Pierpont, was once described.

Pierpont wrote Jingle Bells at a tavern, "in the presence of Mrs. Otis Waterman," according to the plaque commemorating the occasion, in 1850, and it's important that Mrs. Otis, whose place in history is assured except that nobody knows about her, was there because there's actually some dispute about that version of events because while Medford, the place where the tavern and Mrs. Otis were, claims to be the birthplace of the song, Pierpont didn't actually publish it until 1857, when he lived in Savannah, Georgia, and he published it under the title One Horse Open Sleigh.

Pierpont's inspiration for the song was the sleigh races that were popular in Medford at the time, and the words Jingle Bells is not so much descriptive as it is imperative, according to Wikipedia, which says that the bells were put on sleighs to help warn people that the vehicles were coming.  That makes the song less of a traditional carol and more of an 1850s version of Little Deuce Coupe or Hot Rod Lincoln

Pierpont not only didn't set out to write a popular Christmas song, but he didn't even write the song: he stole the music from a French (!) song, Vive Le Vent:

Here are the lyrics to Vive Le Vent:

The long road
All white snow white
An old man walks
With his cane in hand
And up there the wind
Whistling in the branches
Whispers romance
He sang a little child:

Jingle Bells, strong wind
Jingle Bells Winter
Who goes whistling, blowing
In large green pines ...
Oh! Live time live time
Long live the winter weather
Snowball and New Year's Day
Happy New Year and grandmother ...
Merry, merry Christmas
A thousand candles
When singing to the sky
The bells of the night,
Oh! Jingle Bells, strong wind
Jingle Bells Winter
Which refers to the old children
Their memories of yesterday ...

And the old man
Down to the village,
This is the time where everything is wise
And shadow dance by the fireside
But in every home
It floats on a festive air
Around the table is ready
And we hear the same song:
{au Refrain}

Snowball and New Year's Day
Happy New Year and grandmother!
Jingle Bells Winter!

So this year, why not sing that song with an exaggerated French accent, and think about how Obama has socialized even our Christmas carols?  

If it's any consolation, Medford is also the birthplace of the woman who wrote the poem that became "Over The River And Through The Woods," but you're right: that's no consolation.

Say, as long as we're talking about how Obama turned Christmas into socialism from Kenya, why not mention how Christmas got totally politicized back in the day, the "day" being 1977 when the not-cashing-in-at-all play "Annie Warbucks" was written as the second attempt at a sequel to the hit play "Annie."

(The first attempt was Annie 2: Electric Boogaloo.)

"Annie Warbucks", according to Wikipedia, had this plot:

On Christmas morning in 1933, when Child Welfare Commissioner Harriet Doyle (replacing the original's Miss Hannigan as the villain of the piece) arrives on the scene to informDaddy Warbucks he must marry within sixty days or else the child will be returned to theorphanage. Daddy Warbucks' whirlwind search for a fitting bride uncovers not only a plot by Doyle and her daughter Sheila Kelly to strip him of his fortune, but also his true feelings for his long-time assistant, Grace Farrell. A gaggle of cute little girls seeking parents and President Franklin D. Roosevelt return to take part in the shenanigans.
Which, somehow, translated into setting an off-Broadway record for box office performances, but plans to move the play to Broadway were scuttled by, seriously, cold weather: producers said that cold weather was slowing down ticket sales and so they didn't bother moving the play to Broadway because theater-goers apparently do not know that most Broadway plays are actually put on indoors.

In Annie Warbucks, not just FDR and a gaggle of girls returned, but the hit (?) song "A New Deal For Christmas" was reprised, as FDR and people sang in the original about the glories of overturning Lochner-era rulings and allowing Congress to run rampant with the regulations:

Remember when Christmas wasn't all commercial like it is now, and instead was all about government agencies handing money to people? The lyrics to that song include: 

On Farley and Perkins 

 On Ikes and Wallace 
 On Monganthau and Cummings.
Fill our pockets with dollars!

Farley, you might want to know, was a Democratic boss who revolutionized the way polling was used in elections and helped build the New Deal while also being the first politician to normalize relations with the Vatican.  Perkins was FDR's Secretary of Labor, and Wallace was the Secretary of Agriculture, a position you don't ordinarily associate with either Christmas or power, but in Wallace's case, it helps to know that he ordered the slaughtering of pigs to help drive up the price of commodities.

Oh, Christmas memories! It's amazing to me how few of our modern celebrations take note of the slaughter of pigs to drive up prices.  It's like the holiday doesn't mean anything any more.

Deal Dash: Fun shopping, great bargains.

In the past few days I have talked about DealDash a lot on my blogs, and with good reason: Deal Dash is awesome.

Where else can you pick up $25 gift cards to places like Walmart, Starbucks and TGIFriday's for as low as a buck, or even free?  NOWHERE ELSE is where. 

The thing is,Deal Dash isn't just a cheaper way to shop -- the auction site makes it fun, too, by letting you turn your shopping into a game, almost.

DealDash lets you buy bids -- for really cheap -- and then bid on whatever great items they've got on sale on their site.  So you know someone who wants a Keurig Mini Brewer? That's going for about $4 right now.  Maybe you've got someone who'd like a 20" Dell Inspiron desktop all-in-one for Christmas? That was just given away free on their site.

All you've got to do is bid, and if you're the winning bidder odds are you'll get what it is you want for way less -- but even if you don't win the auction, you can get your bids back by buying the item from Deal Dash anyway, so it's win-win, either way.  And a great way to shop for the holidays!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

In case you are wondering how to get rid of the last bits of humanity you have...

In case you are wondering how to get rid of the last bits of humanity you have, I have something that might help you out: Have you considered buying someone a watch that costs $15,500?

In The New Yorker this week, there is a piece in Talk Of The Town that is apparently supposed to be sympathetic to Randy Johnson, who was a baseball pitcher and is now an awful person who wears, on his wrist, a watch worth more than most people make in a year.

But he doesn't want you to buy the watch he wears, mind you, which is (I gather) part of why The New Yorker feels he is admirable.  (The other part is that Johnson has a picture of the Twin Towers.)

Johnson was profiled in The New Yorker because he was in town to promote "The Big Unit," the watch he is now endorsing, or something (he is a "friend of the brand," The New Yorker says, and such a friend that he lent his baseball nickname to the brand).

The Big Unit was named watch of the week by GQ, a magazine which still exists and does so, apparently, unironically.  This is it:

And if you love baseball, or time, enough to get that monstrosity, well, you are a bit of a monster yourself, as it retails for $15,500.

Reality check time: 13.8% of the people in the United States lived below the poverty line as of the last census.  The poverty line, you might want to know, is $15,130 for a 2-person household.  1 in 8 people do not make, in a year, enough to buy the latest watch of the week in GQ magazine.

Randy Johnson does not wear The Big Unit.  Randy Johnson wears something called a Sonata.  The Sonata watch that Randy Johnson, terrible human being, wears, is apparently an engineering marvel that can do everything but solve the problem of how we can let people spend that much money on a watch when other people around them are starving and homeless.

But that is not Randy Johnson's problem: he can afford to pay $39,000 for a watch, as he did.

The poverty line for a family of 8 is $38,890.  Families of 8 are expected to live, annually, on what Randy Johnson, soulless corporate demon, paid for his watch.

"Ding, Ding Ding," The New Yorker quotes Randy Johnson as saying about the song his watch plays.  Every time a bell rings, a rich man looks at his watch and 12,600,000 children skip a meal because their families had to choose to pay rent or buy food.   Ding Ding Ding.

Just for fun, I search engined "Randy Johnson Charity" and checked his Wikipedia page.  Apparently, the Internet is not interested in posting what I assume are the numerous charitable things a man must do to keep his soul from burning in Hell for wearing a $39,000 watch while hawking a $15,500 watch from which he will profit.

Nor did The New Yorker mention any charitable work.  It did mention that Randy is into photography now.  He took a picture of Rush for a magazine cover recently.

I once stayed up late to watch Randy Johnson pitch in Game 7 of the World Series, one of the few baseball games I ever watched.  I remember admiring him.  Now that memory makes me sick.

Randy mentioned at the end of the piece, without apparently realizing the irony (?) of it, that he doesn't even need the watch:  "I have nowhere to be," he told The New Yorker.

And all the time in the world to not be there.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Nothing says "Xmas Cheer" like a spreadsheet: It's your 2012 NONGift NONGuide!


Every year, on my now-defunct-again sports blog, I ran a post called "The Nonsportsmanlike Conduct Nongift Nonguide," a guide to what NOT to give the sports lover in your life.  Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! will be an ongoing feature on this blog, now, but in the interests of justice (?) I'm expanding the Nongift Nonguide to people other than sports lovers, as well, in a feature I call:

NONGift NONGuide 
To Holiday Shopping For The Loved Ones In Your Life!

Here is how, if you were raised in my family, you choose what kind of gift to get for someone: You learn one thing about that person, and from then on for the rest of your life you give that person something from that one thing category.

Take my Mom, for example.  According to legend, my mom, when she was little, had a dream one night about a tiny little elephant that came and played with her.  She told her dad (my grandpa) about it, and from then on, whenever he could, my grandpa would buy a little toy elephant for my mom.

"Is this the elephant you dreamed about?" he would ask.  It never was the elephant she'd dreamed about, but he kept trying.

That is a sweet, sad little story about an attempt by a man to give his little girl some happiness, and had it been left there, it would have stayed a sweet, sad little story. 

But it could not be left there.

Because this is my family, you see.

So what my family took from that story is that my mom liked elephants.

I should note, for the sake of accuracy, that it is almost completely untrue that my mom liked elephants.  I don't think she cared for elephants any more than she cared for any other animal, or thing, in her life.  Having lived with my mom until I was 19 and then visited her off and on for the next 20 or so years until she died, and having during that time observed my mom, I would have to say that what she loved, really (besides her kids because you are supposed to say that because NESTLR)  was Coca-Cola and ham sandwiches.

But for my family's sake, she loved elephants, because we all learned about that story early on and stored that in the tiny, single-cell of our brains we were willing to devote to knowing something about another person (each person gets one cell, at least in my mind, which leaves the rest of my brain free to think up stuff like this)  and from then on out, my mom got elephant-themed presents, up to and including the 40-pound hand-carved wooden elephant I bought in a tiny room in a bazaar in Morocco where I thought I was going to get my throat slit because that's how all the stories I know about naive college students who don't even speak the language following some guy down a dark alley in a foreign country end.

That, too, is how I ended up with a collection of sports-themed t-shirts and sweatshirts and even jackets and hats: Because I sometimes like sports, and when I sometimes like sports, I sometimes root for the Packers or the Buffalo Bills and so when it comes time to buy me presents, people default to he likes sports and therefore I will get him this Packers snowglobe of Aaron Rodgers, a thing I just now made up but which I am 100% certain will exist if I search engine it.   

Wait here for me...

It does:

And you could've bought it for just ninety-nine cents.  But you were too late.  TOO LATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry. I'm back.

Anyway, all that stuff is neither here nor there, as they say, or at least as I say, or possibly it's here and there, given that some physicists say that since the Universe is infinite that means that every possible combination of atoms exists all at once, and so somewhere out there, trillions and trillions of light years away, there is (they say) a pocket universe in which you actually were able to buy that snowglobe.

They say that.  I don't.  I know that just because the odds say that eventually all possible combinations of atoms will have occurred doesn't mean squat: the odds say that if you flip a coin it'll come up tails half the time, but there is no physical law that says it has to, and you could, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, flip a coin an infinite number of times and have it come up heads every time.  That's the difference between probability and reality and it's why there's not another you out there somewhere scratching her head and saying "Why did I buy an Aaron Rodgers snow globe?" which brings me to the first of the NONGifts in the NonGuide:


The real theme of every Nongift Nonguide was that if you have someone in your life who loves sports, just give him or her a shirt with the team logo on it, instead of trying to get all creative with it, because getting creative with a sports gift ultimately sends only one message, and that message is: "I know you like sports, but I myself know nothing about sports and also nothing about you, so here is a gift that vaguely relates to sports."

Past NonGuides have featured terrible Fatheads, skateboard ornaments and inexplicable toys, but they've never featured knockoff inexplicable toys like the OYO Sports figures:

 To the uninitiated among us, the Oyo figure may appear to be a knockoff of a Rhymes-With-Eggo toy, but you are probably saying that just because you have eyes and can see.  See, whereas those other kinds of toys, whatever their name is, I can't remember, are made to build all kinds of things, the Oyo figure is specifically sports-based, as the copy on their website tells you:

OYO minifigures are building toys made for the sports fan in all of us.
OYO Sportstoys are minifigures designed to resemble MLB and NFL players, and are new to the roster of officially licensed MLB and NFL products in 2012.
Did you get that? They are officially licensed.  So somehow, that other toy company lost out on the bidding to be the officially-sanctioned NFL building block toy.  HOW IN THE WORLD DID OYO, a company nobody knows existed, PULL THAT OFF?

ALSO: In a world where Samsung can be sued for making a tablet computer and lose because Apple can copyright a rectangle, is what I got from that whole lawsuit thing, how can Oyo make those figures?

But they can, and lest you worry that your Oyo Cleveland Browns quarterback will not be able to sit in your Avengers' jet alongside Captain America:

What is an OYO?

OYO minifigures feature rotating forearms, bending knees, and the ability to hold a bat, glove and ball, all of which come in a special package that can be used to display your collection.

Compatible with brand name building toys, OYOs come with stands that let you pose the minifigures for display. Every OYO also has its own unique identification code, called a DNA number, that sets it apart from the other figures in each new product release.

 What savvy copywriter at Oyo lost his job for admitting that Oyo wasn't a "brand name building toy?" 

I was intrigued by the DNA Number, though, because none of my toys when I was a kid had DNA, kids today are so spoiled so I search engined "Oyo DNA" and came across this heartwarming true-life story about how Oyo brands Came to steal someone’s copyright   were created:

The Story

It all started at the ballpark. Shortly after building an elaborate starship from a popular building-block brand, a father took his son to Fenway Park to take in a Red Sox game. Taking in the sights and sounds of the park, a true New England rite of passage, the duo would begin to explore the confines of the park in search of more mini-figures for the seven-year-old’s starship and beyond. As their searches went without results, an idea was born: Creating mini-figures of athletes that kids could play baseball with.

Developing figures with rotating forearms, bending knees, and complete with the equipment of a true ballplayer — a ball, bat, and glove — the dynamics of the project were born. After many late nights of extensive patent work and distribution strategies, OYO obtained licenses with Major League Baseball and the MLB Player’s Association as its first professional sport.

But an OYO goes beyond a figure capable of poses previously impossible for building-block mini-figures. The OYO packaging was intricately designed to be able to fit in a kid’s pocket while looking like both a toy and 3-D baseball card. Following many colors, concepts, and logos, the final OYO package was complete and the rest is history in the making!

 That will likely be a Xmas special next year. So basically, saying "Hey, I wish this popular building-block brand action figure could show how much I am devoted to the Red Sox, and also bend his knees" is enough to get box seats at this year's Super Bowl.  And right now, a guy somewhere is saying to his son:

"I'm sorry, son, but these Oyo-brand sports figurines don't have opposable thumbs... wait a minute, I just had an idea!"

That is the circle of life.

The real fun of Oyos is that you can customize them, making your little Munchkin (TM) all the happier because not only does he get a tiny Oyo Kirk Ferentz under his tree, he also gets an Oyo loosely based on himself wearing his little league uniform!  So for those kids who were good at sports, I hate you, and for those kids who were not (like me) the nightmare of Little League season and overwhelming parental expectations can continue... in toy form at Xmas!

And don't worry: the Oyo figures can come in any one of three different skin tons and up to 10 different facial expressions, just like humanity itself.  If they have one with the "I'd rather be at home reading my Hardy Boys' books" facial expression, I'm going to buy it and send it to 10-year-old me.

"Don't worry," the card will say to Former Me.  "You're going to marry someone who's totally hot."

Speaking of Hardy Boys books, how about 


Being alive today, for book lovers, is what it must have been like to be a foodie living in the 1800s when fat people were considered sexy: the world is just made for us, in that books are more available than ever before: Online, for free, downloadable for your e-reader, and even in  "real" format for those people who for some reason get off on reading stories written on the dried-out, ground-up bodies of formerly-living organisms.

So if you know a book lover, it's easier than ever to give them a book, by going to one of the local bookstores that carry them, or, even better, by simply going to Amazon and emailing it to them!  WILL WONDERS NEVER CEASE!

Or, you know, you could go in another, less-satisfying, weird direction instead, and give that book lover in your life something completely useless and inappropriate like, say, a finger-puppet of her favorite author.

Yes, for just $6 or so, you could give that reader in your life something they can't read and won't use, like the Fyodor Dostoevsky finger puppet:


which actually costs $1.50 more than Crime & Punishment on Amazon, but it's the thought that counts, right?  And here, the thought is:  "I know you like to read, so I got you something that you can't read."  

You can also get Ernest Hemingway:

And he doubles as a 'fridge magnet, so that's like two gifts in one and you're off the hook for their birthday.   
For extra fun, click this link to watch a video about all the finger puppets you can buy.  I can't decide if that video is so tongue-in-cheek that it loops back around to being completely serious.

Need a stocking stuffer? Check out the Nietzche Will-To-Power bar they sell on that site. Does Schopenhauer have a candy bar? I think not

If books are not your thing, though, then maybe you are a cook, or foodie!  In that case, let's hope your friends and family avoid the


Look, it would be too easy to just go with the Edible Ant Farm candy that is actually for sale/also a reason why I hate people:

because eating bugs is just wrong and I don't want to hear otherwise and how can you argue otherwise when the description of that product is:

Real ants are cooked into these flavored hard candy rectangles resembling ant farms!
 So it is an ant-flavored Jolly Rancher, and a low point for humankind.

So, yeah, that's weird, but not weird enough, and useless, but not useless enough to past muster as the WORST POSSIBLE gift.  To really hit the depths of inanity, you've got to go to a place like Uncommon Goods, where they've got something called a Mobile Foodie Survival Kit:



The product story says:

Don't Leave The Kitchen Without It

For foodies, nothing is scarier than being in a strange place where you're subject to sub-par food. The horror! With this handy Mobile Foodie Survival Kit, you can doctor up even the most repulsive meal. Stocked with organic herbs and spices, plus indispensable extras like wasabi. Containers are unlabeled so they can be re-used for your favorite spices (separate key included).

Kit includes: Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Cayenne, Onion, Basil, Conventional Wasabi, Cinnamon, Oregano, Garlic, Thyme, Curry, Ginger, Dill.
 THE HORROR!  Again, I can't tell if we're being sarcastic here because nobody has yet figured out a good way to convey sarcasm on the Internet.  (Or, alternatively, the Internet itself is the ultimate sarcasm conveyance, with every single thing on it being meant to be ironic, including this post, and including, ironically (?) irony itself.)

If that gift is a real thing intended for real people then there are people out there who would actually carry with them a tube of tiny canisters of thyme and dill in case they show up at a house that has the temerity not to have turmeric.

I am very proud of that phrase.

I was going to go with the Corksicle for this entry.  It was a close call:

 That's not just any old icicle. It's a BPH free plastic icicle that you can put in your freezer and chill and then stick it in your wine to keep that bottle of white wine chilled perfectly, which is great but how about those of us who drink the wine so fast it doesn't have time to warm up? WHAT ABOUT US? Never mind, we're all drunk and don't care anyway.



Getting a movie lover a gift these days has, unlike getting book lover's stuff, become harder, because the fact is, movies are pretty much available for free nowadays; in the past you had to go and buy DVDs or *shudder* go to a theater and sit with other people to watch a movie -- people who probably had not used hand sanitizer and who would wave their butts in your face as they edged by you in the seats, but nowadays every movie is more or less available on demand or on Netflix and so if you are a movie lover, what are people supposed to do, pay a couple months' subscription for you?  BOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRING.

There are lots of sites that will promise to give you tips on what to get the movie lover in your life, like this helpful fella who suggests you get a reclining chair for that special someone  because you have tons of money and, let's face it, people who watch movies a lot are fat slobs who can barely stand up, right?

Um... sorry.

Anyway, you could also go cheap and make a homemade present, such as one of those suggested on this site. My favorite on that list? 

Homemade Gifts for Movie Lovers: Organized List of Their DVDs

This homemade gift is so easy to make, but it's sure to be a big hit with movie lovers. This homemade gift is also easier to make if you live with the movie lover or know them really well. When you have a chance to look through their DVDs, write them all down. Then use Excel to make a list of their DVDs. You can put them in alphabetical order or you could also organize them by genre. That way they always know which DVDs they have and won't buy multiple copies.

 Nothing spreads Xmas cheer like a spreadsheet of stuff you already own.  That idea would really do for every category on this list!  "Hey, Sweetie, for Xmas I got you an organized list of all the foods you like to eat!  It's alphabetical and by category."

But maybe you're not the craftsy type who can create a spreadsheet all on your own.  If that's the case, why not get that movie buff this actual thing you can buy him:

Holiday Gift-Giving Guide for Movie Lovers

The Little Otsu Film Diary, $12, lets you jot down all sorts of things about the movies. Fill in the list of flicks you want to see (and check off once you have), and keep track of movies you’ve seen by filling in the title, director, cast members, and your rating from 1 to 10 (perfect for any film festival-goer). Plus, there’s an alphabetical index to fill in as you go.  

THAT. IS. PERFECT.  How many times have you been at a movie and been really really enjoying it and thought to yourself "You know what this experience is missing? The ability to jot down exactly what I like about this movie right now."  (Zero.)  And imagine the thrill you, the gift-giver, will feel when your giftee pulls out that diary next year, and shows you all the little notes they made about the movies they watched that year:


*Second-dumbest, actually, after the diary.


I'm kind of stretching here.  I'm not sure there are science lovers out there, people who, you know, get into science, so to speakOnce you're a grown-up, you're not supposed to be playing around with genetics or chemistry sets or rockets or stuff, so you have to get your kids into it just so you can blow up a baking-soda rocket on your driveway, but even then, all you can think of is "How is it possible for a little boy to lean over that rocket every single time?"

But I included this section mainly because I, like you and everyone else, have been, lately, thinking to myself "I wish I could do DNA sequencing at home but I don't have an adequate thermal cycler."

Right? AMIRIGHT?  I am, but now you don't have to worry about that formerly-lacking experience, because you can, at an affordable price, too:


  That is, seriously, a home DNA sequencer kit that is available to just anyone who wants to build a living creature, and since you can order DNA sequences by email now, I am suggesting that everyone get busy and start making your own little creatures for your own little creatures.  (That may or may not be the plot of this story.  I'm not saying.)

Which brings us to the last category here because I am very tired and have a wisdom tooth coming in that has effectively limited my snacking this Thanksgiving weekend but I am about to go try and give some leftover pie a go, so I'll leave you with 

6.  The WORST POSSIBLE GIFT to give ANYONE in your life:

 For twelve bucks, you'd think it would at least be wireless.


Here's 2009'shere's 2010's, and here's 2011's, the latter of which features Selma Hayek in a bathtub, if you're into that kind of thing. 


Let's focus on the future, not the past.  And THE FUTURE IS NOW, as


The first post, PART ONE OF MY ANNUAL XMAS STORY, has been posted on lit, and you can get to it by clicking this link.

ONE LUCKY PERSON will get a free (e)book just for commenting.  And, all readers are eligible to find out what "the BLOOP!" is.


And watch for posts from these authors on these days:

FREE BOOKS will be given away on these days by these authors:

Andrew Leon, on his blog Strange Pegs, (the author of The House On the Corner and Shadow Spinner.

  Author Sandra Ulbrich Almazan, on her blog. (Sandra is author of Lyon's Legacy.)

Tony Laplume on his blog Scouring Monk, author of Monorama.

Lara Schiffbauer, on her blog Motivation for Creation.

PT Dilloway, on his blog "Tales Of The Scarlet Knight,  Author of "A Hero's Journey."

12/1: Vanna Smythe, on her blog, author of "Protector: Anniversary of the Veil, Book One."

12/3: Cindy Borgne, on her blog "Dreamer's Perch," author of "Vallar"

12/4:  Michael Offutt, on his blog SLC Kismet, author of the trilogy "A Crisis of Two Worlds"

12/5: Tony Laplume on his blog Scouring Monk, author of Monorama.

12/6: Me -- or YOU if you want the slot!

12/7:  PT Dilloway, on his blog "Tales Of The Scarlet Knight,  Author of "A Hero's Journey."

12/10: Andrew Leon, on his blog Strange Pegs, (theauthor of The House On the Corner and Shadow Spinner.

12/11:  Me -- or YOU if you want the slot!

12/12: Tony Laplume on his blog Scouring Monk, author of Monorama.

12/13:  Me -- or YOU if you want the slot!

12/14: PT Dilloway, on his blog "Tales Of The Scarlet Knight,  Author of "A Hero's Journey."

12/17: Andrew Leon, on Strange Pegs, (the author of The House On the Corner and Shadow Spinner.

12/18: Lara Schiffbauer, on her blog Motivation for Creation.

12/19:  Tony Laplume on his blog Scouring Monk, author of Monorama.

12/20:  Me.
12/21: PT Dilloway, on his blog "Tales Of The Scarlet Knight,  Author of "A Hero's Journey."

12/22: Vanna Smythe, on her blog, author of "Protector: Anniversary of the Veil, Book One."

12/24: Me  

bloggers like Lara Schiffbauer, and hopefully Rusty Webb's Blutonian Death Egg will put on a show!

And here are the books you can get, for FREE:

Plus, copies of my books:

LEAVE A COMMENT, and I'll draw from the names of everyone who leaves a comment and the winner will get a free e-book of their choice from that list!  TELL YOUR FRIENDS: The Blogathon Of Doom! is here.

Best Online Coupons gets bestier every day!

You're probably, right now, feeling a bit of post-Holiday letdown already, thinking "I can't believe that Black Friday is over!" Yep, another great holiday come and gone, and all we've got left are our memories of Walmart Black Friday crowds and people leaving 1-year-olds in freezing cold cars so they can get cheap TVs.

But the fun you felt from finding those Black Friday Ads and buying stuff yesterday doesn't have to end just because Black Friday officially came to a close.  After all, there's stillCyber Monday 2012 and you've still got access to Best Online Coupons.

Each of those links will send you to Best Online Coupons, a site I keep bookmarked on my laptop because it's got the Best Online Coupons.  (Hey, I just got that name!)  And they really are the best, and they really do have great Cyber Monday deals, like 70% off all Star Wars action figures and playsets, or a $139 flatscreen HDTV, and even 10% off everything at the Lego store, which is great because Mr Bunches really likes Legos and I really want to get him some but Sweetie really doesn't want me to spend all of our money on Lego sets, so EVERYONE is happy, this way.

Don't let the holiday season fade away so quickly: get yourself over to Best Online Coupons, and be ready: on November 26, they're going to list tons and tons of deals, so you'll want to be up bright and early to get a head start on it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"I'm sorry," he mumbled and wondered how much of his sadness was the egg nog and brandy...

It's here... my latest book: the uplifting, downtrodding story of a brother and sister and the people important to them:

When "Bumpy" takes his sister's fiance out for a night on the town, a mysterious drowning crashes through their lives like a wrecking ball into an already-crumbling wall. Sarah mourns her lost lover by halfheartedly joining a group dedicated to proving there is a serial killer on the loose and jealously guarding her dying mother, while "Bumpy" moves to Las Vegas to take up a new career, only to accidentally stumble into his old one.

Through the course of a year that unfolds haphazardly and out-of-sequence, Bumpy and Sarah try to figure out how much of the past they ought to hold on to, and how much of the future is worth looking into.

Up So Down is a heartwrenching story of a family that barely is, of love that stops existing and then starts again, and of the universality of feelings that everybody has and nobody wants to think they have.

Available on your Kindle for $0.99 by clicking here; paperback version coming soon.

Don't feel like buying it? You'll have chances to win a free copy just by commenting on my blog during the

which starts Friday! Watch this blog for details and your chance to get Up So Down, or one of my other books, free!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Everytime a sitcom dies, Google collects another soul: Unironic, Narrowcast Xmas Specials That Ought To Exist Since A Dr. Who Special Does, Apparently.

So I don't know what this is:

but it is apparently a big deal because the Internet, which tends to get all caught up in things that I know nothing about forcing me to try to find out at least a little about them so that I can then say to people in my office "What, you didn't know about that? I thought everyone knew about that!" and make myself seem... cool? No, that's not the word.

That video is for something called the "Dr. Who Christmas Special," or maybe it's not, because to be honest, my "research" for this introduction was limited to

1.  Going to Youtube

2.  Typing "Dr. Who Christmas Special" into the search bar.

3.  Pasting the first video I found.
 So if it's not the video for the "Dr. Who Christmas Special" then don't blame me, blame Google, because if you blame Google they will know it and they will make sure that every search you ever do, no matter what you type in, leads to some terrible result that will get you fired.

That -- Google's ability to screw you over if you make fun of them -- is something I surmised existed from a recent episode of Up All Night, that TV series that I think was briefly on this fall starring Christina Applegate:

and other people who aren't her.

The premise of Up All Night is that Christina Applegate:

and one of those other people are married and have a kid but here's the catch: they used to be cool and go out a lot and now they don't, and so every show revolves around a weird mixture of them trying to do parent-y stuff like make videos of their kids and/or be in a warehouse with their brother-in-law (I didn't really follow the plot of that one) and also their trying to be young and hip even though they are...

get this...

not young OR hip.


Anyway, on the episode of Up All Night I watched the other day when I was, ironically (?) up all night with a toothache, Christina Applegate's

ex-boss, Ava, said something and the people in the room all decided to look it up on the Internet, and all three of the people in the scene began chanting "Search engine it! Search engine it!" and I couldn't decide if that was some sort of ironic (?) commentary on people saying Google it or if they wanted to say Google it but couldn't because of some sort of trademark-y thing, the way nobody can say a name brand on TV, and then I got distracted by thinking "there must be a lot of search engines out there and you couldn't get even one to let you use their name in that scene?  Really?"

I think that might be the new moment for determining when a sitcom dies: when they cannot even get Ask Jeeves to let them use their name in a scene.*

*Apparently, Ask Jeeves no longer exists.  You know how I found that out? I googled it.  Irony! (?)

So this is not about Up All Night.  This is about something called the Dr. Who Christmas Special existing, and also about the fact that I know who Dr. Who is without ever having seen a Dr. Who show, without knowing anyone who has ever seen a Dr. Who show, and without even knowing someone who knows someone who... you get the point.  Somehow, Dr. Who exists in my consciousness the same way Lady Gaga goes, but not for the same reasons:

Lady Gaga is in my consciousness, and probably yours, the way nitrogen is in the atmosphere: for no apparent reason, but taking up tons and tons of space and doing not much of anything of value.  Although to be fair, I believe that nitrogen might help keep our atmosphere from spontaneously combusting every time we light a campfire.  I'm not sure if I read that in an article or just thought it up one night, but now, in the crystal-clear light of day, illuminated by a cake-saturated Lady Gaga, it makes sense: if our atmosphere were pure oxygen, wouldn't the entire Earth have exploded the first time something burnt?

Makes sense to me.

If a Dr. Who Christmas Special can exist, to appeal to those 13 people who write for Boing Boing and who go nuts every time someone on Etsy issues a hand-painted shot glass featuring a Dalek, then what other Christmas specials could exist to cater to a narrow, barely-existing market that shouldn't be forgotten in these days of giant conglomerates overwhelming us with their "Holiday" specials that begin on November 1 and their Black Friday specials starting on Thanksgiving practically during the Lions game that nobody but author PT Dilloway is watching**

**that is an unpaid promotion.  If PT is like Google and those other people who wouldn't let Up All Night use their search engine names, then future archived versions of this post will read "nobody but AUTHOR is watching.

and all those other things that corporations do that we hate, because pretending to hate corporations is good for business which is why I just went on that little diatribe, if all those things, then I might finally get to the premise of this post which is, if you remember the title, me giving you ideas for

Unironic, Narrowcast Xmas Specials That Ought To Exist Since A Dr. Who Special Does, Apparently. 

 which is to say: There are a lot of barely-known, little-remembered things in pop culture, and if Dr. Who gets a Christmas special, why shouldn't they? So I will write the premise for them, and Hollywood will take it from there, and I will get paid.  That's how it works, right?

Let's start with:

Christmas At This Moment: A Billy Vera and The Beaters Christmas Variety Show!

There's not a chance that you are not right now remembering the overwrought, overwhelming performance that catapulted not just Billy Vera, but the Beaters, too, to the top of the charts in 1980-something-or-other.  An entire generation of kids listened to this song and thought Oh my God, I can't wait to fall in love and then have her break my heart because she loves someone else so that I can then wander around a rainy alley in New York City or maybe Boston, listening to this song FULL BLAST on my WalkmanTM and crying.  

And yet, At This Moment, despite defining what heartbreak should be for a brief period of time in 1980-something, has dropped away from our consciousness, having not been used (so far as I can tell) in any TV show, movie, or other visual reference since it was the background music for a Family Ties very special episode:

The Set-Up:  Christmas variety shows, as Stephen Colbert so accurately noted, always involve a celebrity on an obvious stage set with a minimum of plot driving forward guest appearances, so let's go with:  Billy Vera is all set to do his voice-over work that he's known for these days, but when he's asked to do the voice-over as Santa on "Corporations Are People, Too: A Very Citizens United Christmas," in which Santa gets bought out by SantaCo, he has a crisis of conscience and has to decide whether he'll take the money and live large this Christmas, or stand up for the true meaning of Christmas***

***Something about egg nog, I think.  I've lost track.

Billy would then be greeted by obscure special guest stars, like character actor Lewis Smith, who appeared with Billy in the hit (?) movie (?) The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension:

and at the end, would gather up the star-studded cast for a singalong, Christmas-ized version of At This Moment, featuring the lyrics:

I'd fall down 
on my knees
find my present
under the Tree:
you, with a bow on

Is that not doing it for you?  Perhaps you're not the musical variety-show type.  Well, then, how about a very special episode of a sitcom? Something like

Andy Richter, PI, Controls The Universe Via His Quintuplets (At Christmas!)

Who doesn't love Andy Richter and his many wacky sitcoms?  Apparently, everybody, as Andy has repeatedly made the attempt to escape the gravitational pull of Conan O'Brien's cowlick, only to be sucked back into secondbanana-ing a guy whose show can't do any better than TBS.  

I have always been a fan of Andy's, and I loved his show Andy Richter Controls The Universe, which gave me one of the favorite swear words that I use secretly when I am driving because officially I don't swear. *4

*4: The word is asspods.  As in "which one of you asspods turned me in.

but my love of Andy's shows is not shared by other people, and so Andy is sufficiently obscure to serve as a counterpoint to a Dr. Who Christmas Special, while also being able to revive that great 80s tradition of Very Special Christmas Episodes of TV shows, the kind of episodes that would begin by looking out the window of Alan Thicke's house as snow falls, or with Tim Allen coming in from shoveling snow and in either case someone announcing that despite all the snow falling, they just had to get to the Mall to buy that last present for their boss, or some such.

After a series of mishaps, the entire cast of the show would end up huddled in the cab of the tow truck that had itself gotten mired in the swamp trying to pull out the car, and they would at first bemoan their fate, until the truck driver told a story about how his grandpa would have loved to be around on Christmas but he'd gotten drafted for World War II and spent his Christmas getting shot at in France, and then the driver would share his special egg nog recipe and everyone would step outside the cab where fake snow was falling around them and look up and see a star shining brighter than all the others.

*Sigh*.  Remember when Christmas was special because our president wasn't a Muslim who had unleashed God's wrath on us by secretly gay marrying someone in college?

The Set-Up: I'd go with what I wrote up there.  But with more wackiness.

If music and sitcoms aren't your thing, perhaps I could interest you in a little Xmas Xooking?  Everyone loves a celebrity chef, right? And we've got tons of them, what with that big lady who doesn't do charity and that one guy with the hair, plus probably Rachael Ray still cooks, doesn't she?

She sure does. 
The problem is that most celebrity chefs are pretty well-known and/or really really annoying and insufferable, so to get one that's truly as obscure as the aptly-named Dr. Who, I went way back in history and found this guy:

 Who is not as cleavage-y as Rachael Ray but who was, nonetheless, the first-ever celebrity chef.  That guy is Bartolomeo Scappi, who was the personal chef to Popes Pius IV and V.  I am not sure where those popes fit into the Pantheon of Popes -- good? bad? indifferent?-- but they were Popes and so that probably constitutes putting the Christ back in Xmas.

Bartolomeo's cookbook was called Opera and had over 1,000 recipes, some of which are a bit impractical today; he recommends, for example, using the liver of a goose "raised by Jews," but you could use this recipe for Tortelli, which are a doughnut-ball eaten at "Christmas and carnival."

Per far minestra di tortelli d'herba alla Lombarda
Piglinosi biete, & spinaci, taglinosi minute, & lavinosi in piu acque, & strucchi fuori l'acqua, faccianosi soffriggere con butiro fresco, & con esse ponasi a bollire una brancata d'herbe odorifere, & cavinosi, & ponganosi in un vaso di terra oo di rame stagnato, & giungavisi cascio Parmeggiano grattato, & cascio grasso, tanto dell'uno quanto dell'altro, & pepe, cannella, garofani, zafferano, uva passa, & uove crude abastanza; & se la compositione fosse troppo liquida pongavisi pan grattato, ma se sarà troppo soda, metavisi un poco piu di butiro, & habbiasi un sfoglio di pasta fatta nel modo che se dice nel capitolo 177. E faccianosi i tortelli piccoli, & grandi, facendoli cuocere in buon brodo di carne, & servanosi con cascio,. zuccaro, & cannella sopra.

 You won't even need a Jew!  But you will need beets and spinach, which you will then top with cheese, sugar, and cinnamon. Sounds like my mother-in-law's cooking! (Ba dum bum.  Don't forget to tip your waiters!)

The Set-Up: The Xmas Xooking special would resurrect... sorry, wrong holiday... some of Bartolomeo's recipes, prepared by the celebrity chefs of today, with intermittent performances from some opera guy or something ('cause duh, Italy!) because opera always sounds Christmas-y:

And did I mention celebrity chefs?

Can't emphasize those enough.

If, though, none of those do it for you, then all I've got left is An Animated Xmas, getting together long-forgotten cartoon heroes whose heydays have come and gone.  Heroes like


 And Wonderbug:

and Grape Ape:

and they'd all get together and do something Christmas-y because the only way to make even more sure that everyone tunes into something than by slapping "Christmas" on it is to make sure that you somehow make it nostalgic, too.

Or, to put it another way:  Cobra C.L.A.W.S. are coming to town existed:

Have you heard about this?

It starts Friday! Click the picture for details!