Thursday, December 30, 2004

Christmas 2004

First, a public service announcement from Eddie Ifft - professional comedian, ex-lifeguard, and humanitarian:

When September 11th happened the world rushed to the assistance of the United States. Aid poured in from all over the world. The devastating tsunamis that hit Southeast Asia this week have already taken over 77,000 lives. The International Red Cross is expecting that number to go much higher, possibly over 100,000. Many more people have been left homeless and without clean drinking water and in danger of terrible diseases. Now is our chance to give back. The link below is a list of organizations that are providing information and assistance. I hate SPAM, but for once I think it is necessary. Please forward this to your own friends and family.

Now, to the re-cap of my Christmas:

Another Christmas has now come and gone, and as great as it was we are already getting the unfortunate sense that the number of true-believing Christmas’ you get to have with your kids is much too finite. There are only two solutions to that unfortunate fact: either keep ‘em coming – new kids that is, or shield your kids completely from the wider world. We are almost done with the first approach, and are now seriously contemplating the second. It would be a Hurculean task in this day and age – you have to get rid of your TV for starters, as well as the TVs of all of your kids’ friends – or else get rid of the friends. And even still, after taking such precautions, you will probably face and eventually lose to the growing light of reason in your child’s head.

But for now, the one and only question I got this year questioning the authenticity of Santa Claus came from Billy – “But how does he grow the beard?” A softball doubting -Thomas question if ever there was one! After a five minute disquisition on hair follicles and protein, I think he was satisfied that the beard is indeed authentic. But eventually the questions will become more sophisticated – “Dad, given that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, and that the population of the world is approaching 4 billion, spread across a globe that has a circumference of 24,889 miles, implying a surface area of 1.946 billion miles, wouldn’t it be impossible for the alleged Santa Claus to stop at every single house, leave presents under the tree, eat the cookies, and get up and down the chimney to and from his sleigh? And don’t give me the international timeline answer – I’ve factored that in, and still I figure Santa would have to exceed the speed of light to finish the job.” Or maybe it will be something far simpler and more ethically based, like “Why does Santa discriminate against Jews, and how can he tell the Jewish homes from the Christians?” Or “How come Santa will not let the elves form a union?”

Again, all of this is for the future. For now, we have three true believers, the youngest of which, Jake, swears to his dad that he heard Santa Claus land on the roof. Some might say that dad led our little 3 year old Jake with his questions, but the seriousness of Jake’s reply, with eyes wide-open in wonder, suggests otherwise. Jake wisely pretended to still be asleep so that Santa would not suspect anything was amiss. Jake was the first (other than Mom) to awake, and before he could scamper down the steps in advance of the film crew (dad) being in position, I called to him from my bed to join me, at which time he confirmed that Santa had truly visited. I made him stay in my bed while I went downstairs to get the video camera Christmas-ready. Mom was busy making cinnamon roles, a Christmas tradition that will unfortunately end this year, as the kids wanted no part of them.

Gift opening was frenzied, as all three now have the dexterity to open gifts at a dizzying pace, and none of the three have developed any inkling of patience. (Jake, by the way, set the mark for quickest destruction of a new gift - as he opened his ceramic Robin (Batman's sidekick) ornament from its wrapping, it flew out of his hand onto the hardwood floor, and a his left foort broke clean off). But perhaps that is too harsh, as non-Santa gifts began arriving in the mail two weeks prior to Christmas, and have sat beneath the tree taunting the kids ever since. The tree they sat under is genuine artificial Douglas Fir, a necessary concession to the allergens brought into the home by the fake ones that people cut down outdoors, which would turn Joey into a whirling dervish for three weeks. Mom has been lobbying for the fake tree for years, but we found out only last year that Joe’s allergies included ones related to the traditional tree, and so dad did not give up the argument until this year.

But I have a confession – I love it! Pre-wired with lights, this baby is the Cadillac of fake trees. If you are looking at it from a distance of twenty feet in feint light, you cannot even tell it is fake. It is even purposefully irregular in its branching so as to reflect the random imperfections of nature (or American manufacturing - take your pick). No watering required, no needles to vacuum, no scratching of the car, no fire hazard, no screwing the stand into the trunk! But an easy Christmas presents a dangerous slippery slope for a Christian - having discovered the comparative ease of a fake tree, part of me thinks a menorah would be even easier.

To my great surprise, this year there were very few toys strapped to the packaging with those little metal twist-ties wrapped in a sheath of clear plastic, which have been the bane of my existence. Every action figure (not doll!, as Jake was quick to point out when I told someone he got a Yoda doll) comes bolted down to the plastic packaging with at least 6 of these twist-ties, with the ends of each forming a double helix strand that is no less than 5 twists long. Scissors can cut them, but not without some degree of force, and then you are still left having to pull the tie through the hole. As much as I hate these twist ties, by necessity I am good at unraveling them. If it were an Olympic sport (and it probably has as much of claim to being one as most events these days), I’d have been a metal contender. There with my callused finger tips in Athens, I would have done the hands-only event, the scissors-only event, and the freestyle competition, giving me three shots at Olympic glory. I attribute the excessive use of twist-ties to the Chi-Comms who no doubt assembled our toys – taking a dig at the consumer excesses of capitalism by making the fathers of our materialistic society spend their Christmas day cursing the toy manufacturers.

Though the kids’ Christmas did not disappoint, when they are my age they will no doubt look back upon Christmas day as being anti-climactic from the toy perspective. When I reminisce, the day I remember more is the day that the JC Penney Christmas catalogue arrived in the mail – 500 pages of pure possibility. Well, make that 200, as the first 300 were clothes and other boring items that held no allure. As long as you had that catalogue, and Christmas day was still interminably in the future (like two weeks away), everything – race tracks, Lincoln logs, planet of the apes forts, GI Joe, record players, bikes, skateboards – was a theoretical possibility. Only on Christmas day did 95 percent of the possibility set become an impossibility.

Our kids are no different – they are catalogue connoisseurs. But unlike in our day, they get smaller catalogues by the dozens throughout the year. Different ones for different minor holidays that the merchants of America try desperately to turn into an occasion to buy more crap for your kids. (Which reminds me of one of the best lines in The Jerk, when Steve Martin is working at the carnival, and his tag line for getting people to play his carnie game is “Step right up and win some crap.”) They love their catalogues, and will walk you through each page saying what they want on each. All requests are of course possible as long as you can point to the page in the catalogue and as long as Christmas is not quite here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Santas Preparing for Philly Posted by Hello

Monday, December 20, 2004

Santa Goes Golfing

No Christmas goes by without fond memories - or what little remain of them after the hangover that attended them- of those Christmas' that occured in my early twenties. It is actually inaccurate to say that I think of Christmas day itself - instead, I think of the Santa "Suck-Em" Saturday events that occurred for three years running on a December Saturday preceding Christmas.

The "Suck Em" referred to beers for all of you with minds in the gutter out there, and the term was grafted by the events founder, Dusty Eggs, from "Suck Em Sundays," which consisted of runners from the St. Joe's University Cross Country team spending their Sunday afternoons, early evenings, and late evenings, drinking enough beers to make up for staying sober on Friday nights in preparation for Saturday meets. My knowledge on the history of Suck-Em Sundays is not as complete, but my guess is that Dusty Eggs founded that weekly fall event, and that anyone who would counter that history could not possibly have been sober enough in those days to be trusted.

The Suck-Em Santa event consisted of approximately 20 irredeemable guys in their early twenties, scraping (at least in my case) $80 together to rent a Santa suit, and heading out en masse to conquer 18 bars in Philadelphia, one at a time. There may have even been a security deposit that went with the rentals, but when you set out to drink at 18 different bars, starting at 2 in the afternoon, it is wise to treat the security deposit as merely part of the rental cost. The format for the event was a "golf course", where par for a bar was a beer consumed in the thirty minute time alloted, and birdies could be had with a shot or two beers. Of course, eagles and ... I don't even know what is better than an eagle ... were feasible as well, as too many of us found out too early in the first Suck Em Santa event. That first event ended with only a handful or guys making the final hole.

Year 2 of the event involved approximately the same number of Santas - but we were one year older and a world wiser. Pacing became the mantra of the early portion of the day, with each of us restraining the early adrenaline offered by a good game of beer golf. This year I had brought along Joe McGrath, a guy I guarded with in Stone Harbor - he knew only me within the group, not much of Philly, and even less of the train system that brought our jovial band over from the working class suburbs of South Jersey to the Gemorrah of the Philadelphia bar scene. One of the innovations of this year was a full one hour stop at the ninth hole, where everyone had time to get some fuel in them by ordering some food.

The group remained well intact until hole 15 or 16, I am not sure, when all hell broke loose. We were filing in to a long thin bar, one at a time. When the last of the Santas, and a few tag-along women who had become volunteer elfs along the way, came into the bar as some South Philly tough guys were leaving, one of the tough guys muttered to our elves something to the effect that Santa cannot give you what you need, come sit on my lap. Such comments are even more out of line with the Spirit of Christmas than 20 drunken Santa Clauses, and no self-respecting Santa with beer muscles could abide such a comment. Words were exchanged, and word filtered up the line of Santas that a melee was threatening to ensue.

Like most would-be barroom brawls, this one was looking like it would end without blows being struck, when all of a sudden a tag-along Santa wannabe (a friend of a Santa) came from the innards of the bar to the scene of the showdown and threw a punch without any idea of the context and significant progress being made in the negotiations. Then all hell broke loose, with bouncers flying from all corners to get to the fight.

I was in the last third of Santas to have entered the bar, so I stood just inside the bar, about five feet away from the fracas. Aware that there were Santa's potentially being pummelled in the pile, I made an effort to pull one rather large man from the pit, and gave up after realizing two things - I wasn't capable of budging him, and I couldn't see any Santa Claus in the pile. Turns out the one Santa Claus involved - Chris Murrary - had managed to crawl beneath the fight and out into the main section of the bar relatively unmolested. Seeing him safe, drunk, and happy, I was content to think that all Santas were OK and that there was no need to risk my neck, a decision that was heavily reinforced when the bouncer I had one moment before tried to peel from the pile turned around in a considerable rage asking me who was touching him. "Ne Ne Ne Not Me!"

And then came the decision of the bar's management, in a unilaterally unfair move, to kick out the Santa Claus brigade as the source of all the trouble. Dutifully we filed out of the bar one by one, only to see several cop cars speeding to our location. It is impossible to convey the fog of being a drunken Santa Claus, except to say that I suspect it mimics the fog of war - you are not quite sure about the sequence of events, or when you realize what you are actually seeing. As one of the last Santa Clauses to enter the bar, I was one of the first to leave, but I didn't see the first arrest being made. There was Bob-O, probably no stranger to his Miranda rights, up against the car. Bad Richie, upon seeing his good friend, started laughing uncontrollably under the assumption that Bob-O must have done something truly memorable, and the thought of what it might be was enough to make him laugh. He should have stopped there. Instead, he yelled to Bob-O to tell the cops they'd be getting coal for Christmas. That, apparently, is against the law, as Bad Richie was quickly apprehended.

Now no one had seen the cause of Bob-O's arrest, but at the same time those who knew him did not see such an arrest as outside the realm of possibility. But we had all witnessed Bad Richie get cuffed for more or less nothing. Still, with as many beers as we had, it didn't quite register that we were all guilty - guilty of being Santa. It finally registered with the third arrest - when Dusty Eggs, event founder, came out of the bar as the last Santa, completely ignorant of the fight that caused us to be tossed and the subsequent arrests, the cops siezed him at once. It was starting to sink in ... and when a cop with a billy club came walking toward our group, the remaining 17 of us had fully learned the lesson, and started sprinting down South Street in Philadelphia.

I sometimes wish I was merely a patron on South Street that night, not carrying the heavy burden of spreading Christmas cheer, because the sight of seventeen Santa Clauses sprinting down the street at 10:30 at night, with the cops in close pursuit, must have been for those blessed to see it one of the most comic things they've ever seen. For us - well, we were being chased for no damn reason! Some Santas were ducking into allies where they could take off the Santa suit, others were darting into the first bar they came across, and all instinctively knew that the safest route was to split into small groups of no more than three Santas. In the confusion, Joe McGrath and I were separated.

Our three "alleged" criminals were brought to the "Roundhouse," a prison so named for its circular shape. Dusty Eggs was asked to remove his Santa suit, which he steadfastly refused to do. He was asked again, and responded that it probably wasn't a good idea. When finally told to remove the suit, he complied, and about 200 peanuts stashed into his coat at hole 14 (Maco's) tumbled to the floor. The three of them were then thrown into a cell that neighbored one filled with teen-age skinheads, who started taunting our Santas by saying that Santa Claus is a bleeping Jew. That was not entirely untrue, as our ranks did include at least one Jewish Santa Claus, but it was not anyone of these three. Bob-O and Bad Richie responded by questioning the sexuality of said skinheads, who took great offense at that notion and great pride in their efforts to bash homosexuals.

I somehow made it back to South Jersey that night, safely to my parent's home. The next afternoon Joe McGrath showed up at my door to return the suit, minus the hat. It seems he hit a few more bars with some other fugitive Santas, and then found his way to the subway. He fell asleep on the train, and estimates that he travelled back and forth between Philly and South Jersey at least twice before someone finally woke him. He woke to find that someone had stolen his Santa hat and his shoes.

I have it on authority from the Giant that he, Dusty Eggs, and G-No-Money all agreed to meet with their wives for dinner in Philly recently. They didn't recognize the locale at first, but soon Dusty Eggs identified it as the location of the bar wherein he was found guilty of being dressed as Santa Claus. He made it through dinner without another complimentary trip back to the Roundhouse.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Christmas Morning ... Posted by Hello

The Cycle Begins Again Posted by Hello

The 2004 Christmas Card

Well, there it is ... the photos are small, but you can click on them to enlarge and get the basic story. Make sure you read the captions beneath to get what is written on the actual card. Recipients open to see the first picture on the front face of the card, followed by the second picture on the inside of the card. So here is the story behind the story:

* I came up with the idea back in the summer. The graffiti wall is in our basement, and it was a mess after our contractors turned a window into a crawlspace for the new addition. I knew I'd have to paint it - so why not let the boys trash it first?

* If you sometimes think that your kids' memories of childhood will be dominated by you restraining their wild behavior, allow yourself to let them - no, don't just let them, encourage them - to trash a wall. They were in pure kid heaven. At one point, Billy said to me in utter glee "Why are you letting us do this? You sure know how to spoil us." Indeed it is a good question, and part of the answer is - now I have that ace up my sleeve - should they ever complain we were to strict, out comes the 2004 Christmas card to prove we were libertines.

* The photo chosen for the graffiti wall didn't give the best view of the graffiti, but it was the best photo for the poses and expressions of the boys, so we went with it. So here is a list and an explanation of the graffiti:

"Sue Everybody" is a reference to the Jerky Boys. If you don't know what this means, I could never explain it to you - for those of you in this camp, you can prefer to think of this as the unofficial slogan of the John Edwards presidential campaign.

"We (heart with an X over it) the Yankees!" Unfortunately all that was left in the picture here was the Yankees portion, leaving the false impression that we like the Yankees. We don't.

"Bush-Cheney 2004" and "W '04" You can see the Cheney part, and the very bottom of the W symbol. By the way, did you know that Dick Cheney's daughter is a ... oh, nevermind.

The usual symbols - a Spiderman symbol (clearly visible), the Superman symbol (also visible), the Batman symbol (not visible), and the Rescue Hero symbol (not visible). There are also a couple of dinosaurs.

"Kilroy was here" is standard graffiti, and I believe there is a law that requires that it be included on any graffitid wall. Because our house has been crawling with inspectors from time to time in connection to the addition, I didn't want to get busted for ommitting this.

* For those you who are going to try this at home, you need to know the following - over 100 cards were sent. The pictures were $0.29 per pic, or $0.58 per card; the card stock and the paper cutter used totalled $40, or $0.40 per card; envelopes and stamps ran another $0.42 per, charcoal brickets totalled about $0.04 per card; paint to fix the wall came to about $0.17; labor, at my standard billing rate (which admittedley includes a hefty profit margin that does not go to me), $30.00 per card. Finally, the main characters in the card ... priceless. If you ignore the priceless part, that comes to $31.61 per card.

* Well, now it's time to think of next year's idea, although the pattern has been that every other year has been the standard picture with no ulterior motive.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Lileks Takes On a Canadian Scrooge

Today's post is an easy one - I am just going to paste some Lileks and be done with it. The Lileks piece was the first that I ever read of his, and it remains the best - he takes on a Canadian scrooge. The 2004 Christmas card will be posted tomorrow.


There's a new staple in modern newspapers: the tale of the Holiday Crank. In the past these people would be ignored, but nowadays no coverage of the season is complete without a dissenting voice. You don't lose any points in a modern Western newsroom suggesting that the paper run profiles on people who hate Christmas. Float the notion of profiling lapsed Muslims who hold Ramadan in bemused contempt, and I suspect people would react as though you had pushed a ball of tinfoil into one of their dental fillings.

Our story hails from Canada. Excerpts are in italics. It begins:

Today, the National Post continues its series exploring the lengths to which some Canadians are going to take the Christ out of Christmas.

So soon in the series, and already I hear a song:

O Canada, O Canada
How bitter are your peoples
How shocked they’ll be when soon they see
Mosques rise in place of steeples

VANCOUVER - After years of sending friends anti-Christmas cards, one of which featured a homeless Santa and another battered child angels, Valerie and Trevor Williams decided to "go big" this year.

Battered child angels. Yes, that’s what the spirit of the season is all about: Shaken Cherubim Syndrome. Good thing the Williams brought this matter up, since there’s nothing in the Christmas story that might bring to mind poor infants in peril.

The result can be seen on a billboard looming over the Pat Bay Highway near Victoria, where commuters, rushing no doubt to buy gifts, are faced with this stark message: "Gluttony. Envy. Insincerity. Greed. Enjoy Your Christmas."Pretension, Hatred, Conspictuous Arseholery, Snobfoolishness. Enjoy your life!

In truth, my Christmas will be nothing like the event the billboard pillories. Gluttony? We have a small turkey the size of a big dog's head, a cud of stuffing, a cup of gravy, a tin of peppermint chocolate. We live in an old house, you see; we don't have a vomitorium like most folks in the suburbs. I’m sure there are many who stuff their maws until their pants buttons pop off and ping against the walls like rivets on a sub that hits the ocean floor; I'm sure that all over this wretched land, gouty zeppelin-bellied men will stagger to their feet, raise a glass and shout ONE MORE WHALE LIVER SMOOTHIE FOR JESUS! I've never seen it happen, but I take the word of an insular, disapproving Canadian scold that it must happen, somewhere. Remember: the people who have no first-hand experience with the people they hate are always the keenest critics. (See also, Kulaks, Soviet Ukraine, disemboweling of)

Envy? Methinks thou doth project too much.

Insincerity? There might be a little of that, if I find myself at a Christmas party talking to some bitter, self-satisfied Christmas-hating jackass who doesn’t consider the season complete until he’s pissed in everyone’s wassail and told us we’re all greedy want-bots programmed to pour into malls and fill up our carts when we hear “Jingle Bells.” I might react with insincerity, nodding and smiling instead of grinding my heel hard on his forehead like I'd want to do. Greed? I don’t care if my wife gives me nothing more than a kiss and a refill. We want for nothing. Even on a day when we’re all sick, sniffing and hacking and puking and moaning, we’re still all doing it together, and that’s all we need. For gravy, there’s Jasperwood, and for biscuits, there’s Jasper. Who wants only a biscuit. And some gravy, dammit.

Mrs. Williams, a 33-year-old Women's Studies student at the University of Victoria,

You know, if every “Woman’s Studies” department was closed, and the student loans were used to create businesses that hired women instead of studied them like tragic butterflies impaled on the patriarchal pin, we might be better off. Granted, we’d be without PhDs theses like “Rape Symbolism and Beatrix Potter: A Rake’s Progress,” but the culture would survive; the only noticeable effect at all would be a 17% decrease in Frieda Kahlo poster sales, and a 50% decrease in 33-year old college students.

. . . and her husband, a 37-year-old aeronautical engineer,

I have the feeling this is a charitible description of his lifelong ambition to prove that pigs can fly.

. . . are on a campaign against what they see as the rampant consumerism and religious exclusivity of Christmas.

Imagine that: a religious holiday that’s religiously exclusive. Why not reach out? Why not Baby Shiva in the cradle, worshipped by three Japanese Emperors, with a floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign for the Ayn Rand atheists? This is like protesting the menorah because it excludes the innumerate. Besides, isn’t the standard complaint that Christmas has become too secular? After all, it’s one of the few religious holidays - maybe the only one - that has found a meaning outside a narrow religious interpretation.

At the same time, it’s not just Saturnalia with a crèche. As secular as one may be, you can’t avoid the spiritual dimension of the day. For those of us who grew up in a Christian tradition but don’t necessarily subscribe to the precepts and tenets of an organized theological community, the day still has a powerful message; you can’t help but feel the old tides pushing you back to the shore. You feel small and vain to resist them, too. The message as I interpret it isn't YOU GO BE LUTHERAN NOW! but step outside of yourself, look up, give thanks.

You believe in God or you don’t. If you do, how you believe in Him is a personal matter. Maybe you think He’s in the home office a dozen multiverses away working on a really big project while a little window we call REALITY is running in the corner of His screen, and He checks it every once in a while the way you’d check your Sims. Maybe you think He’s by your side in the grocery store, the restroom, the marital bed, the golf course, the gutter. Whatever you believe matters less than if you believe, and if you do, Christmas matters. If you believe very little, it may be the one day where you get all your believing done. Better than nothing.

It's seculiar, it's religious. It's neither, it's both. I can't see the harm in any of it.

While others are humming carols, trimming trees and picking out gifts for the people they love, Mr. and Mrs. Williams have taken all their Christmas gift money this year -- $1,200 -- and spent it on the attack ad."I think the billboard is stark, it's angry, it's red. Black letters on red, the Christmas colours," she said when asked to describe the sign.

Red and green are Christmas colors. Black and red are the colors of a goth who had an accident slicing a bagel.

Mrs. Williams said she and her husband have been grumbling to themselves about "Christmas hell" for several years. A few seasons ago they started to boycott the whole gift-giving, carol-singing, egg-nogging thing and began to send out the anti-Christmas cards, along with a note informing family that instead of giving them gifts they were making donations to charity.

It says a great deal about these people that they think informing people that they’re giving donations to charity in lieu of gifts is an anti-Christmas act.(snip)

She says she doesn't know where the Christmas rebellion will go from here, but she's determined to keep fighting against Santa and all he represents.

"Who is Santa?" she asks heatedly. "He is the mall's puppet.... Children are taught to worship this white, heterosexual man who overeats. I mean, it's wrong."

And thus did millions of British Columbians realize, with a flash of light and a clap of thunder, how wrong! they! were! Santa is white? Santa is heterosexual? Santa overeats? And we’ve been leading our children to the lap of this monster! What else does he do? Quick! To the Internet!

(typing into Google image search:) santa smoking(parent watches in horror as Google disgorges picture after picture of Santa smoking a pipe)

Nothing does the cause of equal rights for gays more damage than some dessicated harridan complaining that Santa is always presented as a Straight Male. You can feel the chill wind of the future, a clammy foretaste of the day when Santa’s marital status will become a sign of the Heterosexist Imperium. Here we see the difference between people who want to expand the definition of Normal, and those who want to redefine it. The difference between those believe Vegetarians are ordinary folks, and those who believe Carnivores have been programmed by a socially-constructed notion foisted on us by the Meatriarchy.

Sorry.Of course Santa's straight. You think he'd wear that outfit if he wasn't?

But that's not the issue. We have to marvel: What sort of person complains that Santa is straight? A thirty-three-year old college student, that's who. Someone who's sat in the canteen and nodded excitedly as a fellow student describes how the whole Santa-with-his-big-red-bag-thrusting-down-the-chimney thing is a metaphor for Western anxieties over homosexual rape. Of course! It's so clear! They have to make Santa straight to make the rape-myth palatable. They all feel used by Christmas. They feel shame that they need Santa, yet are repulsed by him. Mall Puppet? More like Mall Prostitute. Ho, Ho, Ho, indeed.

As for Santa being white - this is a crime? As for Santa being fat - this is a crime? Get a cell ready for Ed Asner.


Mrs. Williams admits it can be tough to explain her socio-political point of view to the children of friends.

It’s tougher to be one of her friends, discover her explaining her socio-political point of view to your children, and fight the impulse to strike her in the head with a six-pound trout.Oh, it goes on, and on, and on. Every year we hear from these people. They’re Scrooges and Grinches in a play with no third act. If they’d written “A Christmas Carol” the story would have ended with the appearance of Marley, because we’d have to spend the rest of the play opening up that sad shade’s spectral cashboxes, unpacking the miseries he accumulated as a misspent capitalist. Meanwhile, Scrooge dozes unmolested; the Ghosts attend to other sinners, and Marley takes the spotlight to urge everyone to sing the new anthem for a more enlightened age. Shall we all join in?

Lenin the bald-head Marxist
Had a very nasty foe
He was opposed by royalty
So of course they had to go (bang bang bang)

All of the evil bourgeois
Used to sneer and call him mad
They never let poor Lenin
Put in place his strategy for implementing a nationwide struggle
to wrench the means of production from the parasites’ grasp and thrust it into the proud, eager hands of the proletariat to build a future in which all were equal and rhymes were the forgotten legacy of a debauched capitalist system! (Sung very quickly, with great anger)

Then one snowy October
Hist’ry came to say
Lenin with your theories great
Won’t you seal our cent’ry’s fate?

Then all the masses loved him
As they shouted out with glee
Lenin the bald-head Marxist
You’ll save us from Christ - mas - Treeeees!

Pshaw. May your orgy of envious insincere gluttony be as wonderful as I know mine will be. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Christmas Card 2002 Posted by Hello

The Conspicuous Consumption Christmas Card

Today we skip a year to get to 2002. No fun and games were had in 2001, as that year was not conducive to it. But the next year America was back to its greedy imperialistic self, and the Hatcher's family was right there with it. The Christmas picture from that year illustrates several important points:

1) The dirty little secret every parent knows but shudders to admit is that little kids are never funnier or cuter than when they are rip-roaring drunk. But not the Hatcher - everyone knows it's funny, so why hide behind the politically correct facade that you shouldn't let your kids booze it up until they are at least 12. I hope this act of courage made other parents less self-conscious about letting their toddlers have a beer or two to unwind after a hard day on the playground;

2) At this Christmas season, it is important to remember that there are children across the world who will go without a meal, but my one year-old owns a tuxedo! Hey, it works for John Kerry;

3) In line with the conspicuous consumption theme, note that the boys are toasting with martinis rather than some canned beer preferred by the peasantry. My boys have discriminating tastes!

4) The missing element to the picture is the cigars - I had a few old cigars that, when pulled from the drawer after sufferring a few cold dry Minnesota winters, practically crumbled to dust. I regret that I could not put in a plug for the tobacco companies of the world that Christmas, but there will be others.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Political Christmas Card

You thought you felt the pressure sweating out the 2000 election ... I had to dump $100 on this professional picture for the X-mas card prior to knowing the outcome of the election, and all the while I thought I was cursing our chances.

Sure, I know what you are thinking - exploiting my kids for political purposes. But it wasn't like that, I swear. The twins, who were 13 months old at the time, came up with the idea themselves. Sure, having very little in the way of motor skills at the time, let alone speaking or non-verbal communication skills (beyond screaming that is), there was a great deal of very sophisticated interpretation on my part to understand their vision; but hey, Jane Goodall speaks with apes, and liberals love her - so don't doubt the story.

The flags in mouths was totally unplanned - but the kids were clearly tense about the election as well. Of course, four years later, they've taken a turn for the worse, having light sabered my Bush Cheney 2004 sign to oblivion. But once upon a time, they were solid red-staters.

Christmas 2000 Posted by Hello

Monday, December 13, 2004

Merry Christmas from the Hatcher and Judge Scalia

Lucky for you I've discovered how to photo blog, so through the week I'll be posting Hatcher Christmas cards from years gone by for your edification and enjoyment. The last one on Friday will be this year's card, which many of you should be receiving in the mail this week.

The first one posted below didn't actually go out as a Christmas, but it should have. It stems from the days prior to marriage and kids, when I spent my free time partying at the Supreme Court. Every picture is worth a thousand words ... the quicker synapsis from that below is the following:

The young Hatcher was on a preilous path, growing his hair long, listening to rock-n-roll music, refusing to keep six inches distant from dancing partners, eating desserts prior to the meal, occasionally skipping mass on Sundays, etc. I was headed to the gutter fast, until by chance it was all turned around when I met and was inspired by Antonin Scalia - father of nine kids, devout Catholic, hunting partner to Dick Cheney, and Supreme Court Justice. I snuck up behind him while a friend snapped this picture, and he turned to me and said - "Get a haircut, you hippie freak, you're an embarrassment to your family, your country, and your God." My hair has been short ever since.

Merry Christmas from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the Hatcher! (circa 1995) Posted by Hello

Friday, December 10, 2004

Where's Al Gore with our candy? Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Stupid Human Tricks

I came across this on a blog I sometimes read:

"Have you ever run across the 19th century French music-hall star Joseph Pujol? He was quite a phenonemon, a huge star who was known as "le petomane," or "the fartiste." That's right: Pujol was a specialty act, and virtuoso farting was his specialty. He had a long and busy career, and performed his act all over France. He had his greatest success at the Moulin Rouge, where he outgrossed (if that's the right word) the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Here's a description of Pujol's opening night at the Moulin Rouge:
Then Le Petomane performed some imitations, using the simple, honest format of announcing and then demonstrating. He displayed his wide sonic range with tenor, baritone, and bass fart sounds. He imitated the farts of a little girl, a mother-in-law, a bride on her wedding night (tiny), the same bride the day after (loud), and a mason (dry-- "no cement"). He imitated thunder, cannons ("Gunners stand by your guns! Ready-- fire!!"), and even the sound of a dressmaker tearing two yards of calico (a full 10-second rip).

After the imitations, Le Petomane popped backstage to put one end of a yard-long rubber tube into his anus. He returned and smoked a cigarette from this tube, after which he used it to play a couple of tunes on a song flute. For his finale he removed the rubber tube, blew out some of the gas-jet footlights from a safe distance away, and then led the audience in a rousing sing- along."

This reminded me of a guy I used to lifeguard with in Stone Harbor, who could fart on cue, and would often note his attendence at morning roll call by "tearing two yards of calico." It seems he was a wrestler in high school, and while doing some strange stretching and warm-up routine, he discovered this ability; at first, he would actually have to roll around in this warm-up to be able to produce the effect, but with practice was able to do it merely while sitting.

He was the youngest of three brothers, all of whom were guards. The eldest of the three was cut like a rock, had dyed blonde hair and a surfer doo, and was perhaps the vainest guy I've ever met - although admittidley with good reason. While in law school, probably no doubt already leveraged to the hilt, he bought a Porsche to see if he couldn't set a record for debt accumulation at a young age. The joke about him was that he would excuse himself from intimate female company when events seemed to be heading in a certain direction, retire to the bathroom, drop and do 50 push-ups, and return with a bit of a pump. For all I know it was pure fiction - but like the best of pure fiction, it was extremely credible.

The middle brother lacked both the ability to fart on cue and the ability to do fifty push-ups as a warm-up for intimacy. Like me, he was a graduate of Lehigh, so his talent consisted primarily of being able to drink beer in many different ways - from a funnel, while doing a hand-stand on the keg, from a two-story funnel (for which his fraternity was rightly famous for having invented). As a male Lehigh student, there was little need for him to develop the pre-sex routine of his brother, and the ability to fart on cue would probably not have brought much distinction, especially within his particular fraternity.

We didn't know each other while at Lehigh, but I once was an accomplice to an old running friend trying to steal a painting from his fraternity after drinking in their bar until 3 am; earlier that day, he had won the conference indoor 3000 meter championship, but liquored up, he didn't make it more than 100 yards from the fraternity before being walked down by a fat guy named Puddles. Puddles was a good sport about it - no hard feelings - stealing things from fraternities is a time honored tradition that he had probably taken part in himself, so there was no need to get pissy about it. And that was characteristic of his fraternity in general - they were drunk degenerates, but they were good guys.

All of the brothers, to my knowledge, became lawyers, following in the footsteps of their father. The youngest once told me that the three of them were dining with their father one night, and when the waitress queried if they'd like to have a round of waters, his father quickly responded that fish piss in water, so bring us a round of beers. Probably not an original joke, but that was the first time I had heard it, so it has stuck with me to this day, and I think of it always when being offered a water in a resturaunt. Of course, beer has certain agricultural products as ingredients that are no doubt fertilized with cow manure, so though I prefer a beer, it is not for the same reasons some reject water.

As economists are wont to say - there is no accounting for a person's taste. There is even a fancy Latin phrase to that effect that I forgot minutes after having heard it from the mouth of Professor Ket Richter, which gave it a life slightly longer lived then everything else he had said in that class. In any event, even economists don't believe there is no accounting for taste, they just know that such accounting will not really involve any sophisticated math that will impress their colleagues - so why bother accounting for it? That is, after all, why sociology was invented - for those who don't understand math.

I always fear with posts like these that I am straying from a consistent theme to my blog, which principally consists of making fun of liberals. In the interest of having a common thematic thread, then, I will end by saying that liberals are turds.

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