Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017, man.

I'm ready to give up on 2017 already. If we can be this miserable with all the blessings we have in this nation now, then I don't see what we can dream about in 2017 that will make us happier.

Seriously, what do we hope for? If we say "An end to all war and poverty and racism and unfairness" we must be hoping to die and go to heaven, because that's not how things work down here. We can't even stop fighting with members of our family or the people next door or the schmuck in line at the supermarket and we expect nations to stop fighting? Please.

Many of our problems stem from willful stupidity, and I don't see that going away next year either. Here's an example.

I noted yesterday that I didn't think the spate of celebrity passings made 2016 a particularly horrific year. For me, on that note, 2015 was much worse, as I lost nine friends. If I lived in a war zone or maybe the Villages, I could expect all those wakes and funerals, but I don't. (This year, by contrast, I had but one wake to attend.) One of the friends I buried in 2015 was a young man whose life was cut short by alcohol and drugs.

Now, how do you suppose some friends of that young man chose to pay tribute to him online the other day?

The world is full of idiots, and all of us can be stupid at some times about some things. Let us pray that in 2017 our lapses in judgment, which may be inevitable, will not be disastrous or cruel. 

Happy new year to you and yours. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Death be not taking our celebrities.

Okay, everyone, let's get morbid.

Because many people are unhappy about Brexit and/or the American elections, and think we've lost a huge number of celebrities this year, and think Harambe got a raw deal, they say that 2016 was the worst year in the history of ever.

To say that this was the worst year ever is ridiculously shortsighted, and I'm not sure I know anyone who really believes it to be the case. I'm not looking to write about politics today, and I'm never going to write about Harambe, but I would like to address the case of the various celebrity deaths.

Of course we are saddened by the loss of people of genius and vision, people like Dr. Henry Heimlich (96), the inventor of the lifesaving maneuver that bears his name. (If you missed the story in May, Dr. Heimlich actually used the maneuver to save a life in person, the first time he'd ever done it.) Or men like Robert Hulseman (84), who invented the iconic red Solo cup.

As for the various stars of film, TV, sports, and music -- I really don't think much of celebrities. I can't think of a time when I did. Growing up in the post-Ball Four era, I never thought sports figures should be the subject of idolization, and they at least didn't pretend to be something they weren't for money. I always pretty much figured that even the authors I liked would have feet of clay if I looked to closely, so I haven't, not unless they've been dead for fifty or more years. But actors and musicians? I always assumed I could never talk with these people, that I was nothing more than the price of a ticket to them. I didn't think they'd like me in person and I wasn't going to imagine I'd like them or approve of their actions. It hasn't stopped me from admiring their work.

While I'm sorry if you were devoted to Prince or Bowie or Abe Vigoda, it's a plain fact that celebrity culture is killing our actual culture. No one deserves worship, not even the saints. Not even Abe.

As for the death toll, I suppose that most famous people are from the baby boomer cohort, still the largest in history although no longer the largest living. The boomers are now entering their 72nd year. Worldwide life expectancy is 71.4 years. What I'm getting at is that the huge cohort of postwar babies is going to be dying off for some time, passing through life like a cow through an anaconda. Even if 2016 was the most deadly year for celebrities (Snopes says no) it wouldn't stay that way. We're probably not even at the bulk of the famous yet -- we still have two Beatles, three Traveling Wilburys, three Monkees, and if the elder Bush and Jimmy Carter hang on, a tie for the record number of ex-presidents as of January 20.

So if you're all upset about celebrities we've lost in 2016, just wait.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

On plans and needles.

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree  
How lovely are thy branches 
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree 
How lovely are---


Whoa, harsh.

This sad ex-Christmas tree (now known as tree) was spotted in this low estate on the morning of the fourth day of Christmas. While the rest of us were all playing with our new calling birds, this family seems to have heaved Christmas to the curb.

What's the rush? I wondered. Not everyone sticks it out with their decorations through Epiphany, but before New Year's? That seems a little hurried. A lot of us may desire to return to normalcy -- see yesterday's entry on PCL, or post-Christmas letdown -- but in my experience the post-emotional-event sadness will just leave you wiped out, pining (so to speak) at the tree, not taking it to pieces in a fit of pique.

Of course, the tree could have been dying prematurely, but that doesn't seem to be the case. This was no denuded, brown zomb-tree. This tree looks so fresh you might almost try replanting it. It looks like it might want to go for a walk.

Tossing a tree with so much left to give seemed mean, wasteful, and impatient to me at first, but then it occurred to me that the family might have been going away. If you're going off to Disney for the week between Christmas and New Year's, you'd better not leave a real tree around. The National Fire Protection Association makes it sound as if a dry tree could spontaneously burst into flame and burn down your house, and I for one would not chance it.

So if you are going away for any amount of time following Christmas, your options are: 1) no tree throughout December; 2) artificial tree; 3) arrange for a tree waterer to come in, as people will with live plants; 4) toss it ASAP and skedaddle; 5) cancel your plans and stay home with your tree.

Being an adult means being able to make the hard choices. While I'm sorry to see a tree on the curb so early -- especially since I don't think the town is even picking them up until next week -- it may have been the responsible thing to do.

Farewell, O Tannenbaum! Rest and pine no more.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Post-Christmas letdown.

Are you experiencing post-Christmas letdown?

As you may know, it was the eminent psychiatrist Lucy Van Pelt who first discovered, diagnosed, and named the condition.

Maybe it will make the DSM-6.

In one of her early disquisitions on the topic, Van Pelt described post-Christmas letdown this way:

I know how you feel about all this Christmas business, getting depressed and all that. It happens to me every year. I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that.
In her own case, of course, she linked her disappointment and depression for not receiving the gift of real estate.

Not getting what one hoped to or expected to receive can naturally lead to disappointment (see the work of R. Parker, "Red Ryder Dismay: The Physiological Effects of Denial, and the Ophthalmological Effects of Acquisition").

Thing is, I get rather sad after Christmas even now, and I'm not bothered by what I got or didn't get as a gift. I have not lost any dear ones in some time, deaths that leave an acutely painful space at the dinner table. I'm not one who is saddened by the holidays, although I can let myself get stressed. All I can think of that causes my blue state is what we casually refer to as an emotional hangover, a feeling of sadness or even desolation that comes at the end of any event that excites high emotion. I knew a woman who was so sad after her wedding that her beautiful island honeymoon was almost ruined.

So is this a real thing, this post-Christmas (or other emotional event) letdown?

Apparently so.

Researchers at NYU and other universities have found that strong emotion does affect memory in significant ways, notably improving memory of non-emotional events that follow emotional events. This new study doesn't say that emotional events leave one feeling sad, but there is clearly a physiological effect on the brain.

On one hand it seems silly to have to come up with a label for the sorrow we feel when something we enjoy and have looked forward to is over. On the other, post-Christmas letdown (or PCL) seems quite common, and fairly strong. As usual, I think Charles Schulz was onto something.

Since the boffins like to label everything, I think they could do worse than an official title of Post-Christmas Letdown. If that's too calendar-specific for people like my friend with the post-wedding blues, maybe Post-Event Affective Disorder, or PEAD. Not as catchy as SAD, though. In any event, it is usually over by Epiphany, so there's probably no need to prescribe anything for it. Take two gingerbread men and call me in the morning.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Wasn't looking forward to the third day.

On  the twelfth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me...

Twelve morning pee runs

Eleven bite marks

Ten barks at neighbors

Nine shredded socks

Eight soggy tennis balls

Seven arcane stains

Six slobbered sneakers

Fiiiiiive chewed-up thiiiiiings

Four muddy paws

Three fresh poops

Two vet bills

And a stick from a rotten old treeeeee!


Well, it's been quite the celebration here with the dogs. Our third Christmas with Tralfaz, the big guy, and Nipper's very first Christmas. For a while it looked like Nipper was determined to wind up on Santa's Naughty List, but it was worse than that.

In the wee hours of the morning of Christmas Eve, Nipper's bad behavior was shown to have been caused by gastrointestinal distress, demonstrated in an explosive way. My wife was up with him all night, the sweetheart, but tagged out in the morning. We both had plans for the day, including an evening Mass; everything got scrapped except squeezing in a few chores between running the dog outside. 

Fortunately our vet was open on Christmas Eve day; unfortunately they had short hours and the place was a (you should pardon the expression) zoo. I thought they'd squeeze us in under the circumstances, those being that Nipper had been at the vet's office for a routine surgical procedure early in the week and infection is always a possibility with surgery. But the vet just gave us a round of antibiotics, free of charge (Meeeeetronidazole Christmas to all! Ho ho ho), and told us to deploy them if his intestinal issues did not resolve.

As I write this Tuesday morning, we're on Day 3 of the pills. 

So Christmas also had some muddled plans, as you might guess. Made it to church, but it was a close thing. 

We weren't the only ones put out by the whole situation. Tralfaz knew he wasn't getting the attention, the walks, and the general focus that he is used to. As it is, he and the kid haven't been able to do their usual backyard roughhousing following the surgery, and won't be for a few more days. So with the lack of attention, fun, and exercise he had himself a grumpy little Christmas. It's extended through Boxing Day, although I was able to take him out for a walk Monday. We'll see how today goes. (Yesterday's brief entry, while clever and dashed amusing, was made in haste because of all the running in and out.)

Nipper's naughtiness continues unabated. I mean, yes, puppies are going to do things to make you crazy from time to time, but apparently when he's not feeling well he thinks that fighting, leash-pulling, random angry noises, even toy hogging are perfectly okay. Seriously -- some kind friends sent some toys for the guys, and the kid set about rounding all of them up, including the one toy that Tralfaz had with him in the hall. Tralfaz being a gentle soul at heart did not object, but the humans in the family certainly did. A time-out was enforced on Nipper. 

On the whole it's been a little trying, and it's hard to remember sometimes that Nipper is sick, and recovering from surgery, because he still wants to bomb all over the place and play -- more so in fact than usual. I can't even have them both outside at the same time, because Nipper is the one who wants to start the play fighting, although he ought to be feeling as poorly as a toddler full of candy on a Tilt-a-Whirl at noon on an Alabama August.

They say that dogs will cover up pain and sickness if they can, fearing that the pack will cut them loose. Or maybe he's just so full of puppy bounce that he's trying to overcompensate, but the effort is making him surly.

Anyway, we all survived Christmas so far (just 10 days to go!) and everything that had to get done got done. God bless us, every one. And your little dog too. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

It's hard to explain.

"I'm sorry, Ma, but I told you I was gonna have to work on Christmas!"
I hope any time you spent with family was merry and bright.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


No matter how well you plan your Christmas, something's always missing.

It could be something simple, like the year Uncle Reege sat on Aunt Kathi's figgy pudding by mistake, so everyone decided to skip it after dinner. It could be something tragic or sad, like the beloved family member whose place at the table is empty this year and will be from now on. It could be something personal but serious, like the absence of elusive but necessary good health, or intangible, like being dragged to church against your will and wondering if you believe any of this stuff, and if not, why do you put up a tree, and if so, why do you have to be dragged?

With all the abundance we're blessed with, it's sad to note when things are missing.

Sometimes it's music. I noticed years ago that when the 1974 Rankin-Bass classic, "The Year Without a Santa Claus," was shown on TV the networks would cut things to make room for more ads. Such as "I Could Be Santa Claus," the charming song that Mrs. Claus sings when Santa claims to be too sick to make his deliveries.

It's not a fan favorite like the Miser Brothers' song, but it's fun and it establishes scene and character. And it's the only solo by Oscar winner Shirley Booth, who retired from acting after recording the voice of Mrs. C for the special. In away, "I Could Be Santa Claus" was her swan song. 

Mrs. Claus was getting cut before that, though -- even before she was Mrs. Claus. The 1970 Rankin-Bass "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," sort of Santa's origin story, has a lot of hippie sensibility that shows its age -- Santa is labeled a nonconformist; his happy clothes get him in trouble with the Man, and whatnot. The hippiest number, one that can still send my wife grumbling for the remote, was love interest Jessica (later to be Mrs. C) breaking free of the constraints of her small-minded society in this psychedelic marionette video:

Of all the songs in all the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, that one had to be the most general purpose; nothing Christmassy about it. Yet not only did it fail to become a smash hit, it usually gets cut for TV.

Ladies other than Mrs. Claus fared no better in Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, a 1962 cartoon version of the Dickens classic featuring music by the legendary Jule Styne ("Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!", Funny Girl, Gypsy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, "I Fall in Love Too Easily," etc. etc.). Despite Mr. Styne's impressive résumé, the sad "Winter Was Warm," which Belle sings to Ebeneezer at that pivotal moment of his miserly life, generally hits the ground when the film hits the screen. 

A little dull for kids? Maybe. But it shows the price that Scrooge has paid with his hard-nosed and grasping ways, and I've never seen that as effectively done in any other film adaptation of the story. Usually you wonder what Belle ever saw in him, or why he ever bothered with her in the first place. This song spells it out and leaves it sundered.

I wish they wouldn't cut things. Nothing ought to be expendable. Would A Charlie Brown Christmas be the same if they cut the dopey kids' dance? Would A Christmas Story be the same if they cut the business with the flagpole? Would How the Grinch Stole Christmas be as good if they chopped the Grinch's crazy ride down Mount Crumpet? (They sometimes have, and the answer is: No.) None of these things are crucial to the story, but in some ways they are the story. Charlie Brown's friends don't care as much about the meaning of Christmas as he does. Ralphie's boneheaded buddies are as much a part of the fabric of his world as the Old Man and his kid brother. The ride down Mount Crumpet to steal Christmas is full of risk and cruelty to the dog Max, and tells us a lot about the cranky green freak. 

I wish good things never got cut. In a better world, they would not be. 

I hope your Christmas has everything it needs to be just what it ought to be. If something serious is missing, maybe you need to make peace with that. Or maybe you have to go find it. If you do, I hope you find your grail.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Who is sad today?

Not only is today Christmas Eve, but tonight is the first night of Hanukkah! That should make most Americans happy, right?

Maybe not.

It was always said to me by Jewish friends that Christmas was a great time for them to go to the movies and eat Chinese food. The Atlantic calls the Chinese food a "full-fledged ritual."

But what happens if no one goes out because a Jewish holiday falls on the same day?

I don't worry about the movie theaters. They'll get traffic. Plenty of teens from all denominations and sects whine so much about going out with their friends on Christmas Eve and even Christmas Day that eventually their parents turn them loose just so they don't have to hear it. Personally, my mother would have slain me in my chair if I'd tried it, but I had cousins who would walk right out of Christmas Eve, family I saw a handful of times a year, to go out with their friends, leaving me with the adults. We never did have a lot of family feeling with that crowd.

So the theater owners will make their money. But teenagers don't abandon the house to go eat pork lo mein.

All I can say is, for the sake of the Chinese restaurateurs, the Bumpus hounds had better be really hungry tonight.

Happy holidays to you and yours from Fredland! We'll have something tomorrow. We never sleep.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Peace be with you.

Well, this makes me want to hit something.

I've seen one or two of these around, and I suppose the idea of the peace symbol as a Christmas wreath is supposed to be a reference to Jesus's title as Prince of Peace, mentioned in hymns like "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing." It comes from the book of the prophet Isaiah (9:6), rendered in the King James Version as "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

But there's a serious problem with conflating these two things.

The peace symbol (sometimes called the Footprint of the American Chicken) has always been a hateful sign to me, as there was never a doubt in my mind that it was anything other than the flag that Americans who hated America pledged allegiance to because they knew that if they actually flew the flags of America's actual enemies they'd get a pop in the snoot. The sign originated (according to Wikipedia) as part of the British nuclear disarmament movement, which, however good or bad you may find the cause or the people behind it, must be considered a political movement.

As I've gotten older I have come to respect the opinions of genuine pacifists, people who would not punch someone even to defend themselves, but I think they are as foolish as anarchists, in that they know painfully little about human nature. If you want to say that you have declared peace with the world and will not fight anyone, great. But most Christian denominations do not expect you to roll over and take it in the face of violent threats. Nor, do I expect, do most people who hang out peace signs. (Generally these days I take the peace symbol as a form of virtue signaling anyway.)

In John 14 (KJV again), Jesus tells his disciples, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." That is very different from saying they will have peaceful lives, and for the disciples, then and since, they sure didn't. What Jesus is saying here has deep roots in the Old Testament, and means a good deal more than "No one's going to hurt you" (which it doesn't mean at all) or "Don't go getting all fisty out there" (which may be part of it but only part). Peace in the faith is itself a massive subject, a lot more than just the absence of fighting, and more information can be found about it here and here (and of particular interest, C. S. Lewis's "Why I Am Not a Pacifist" in The Weight of Glory).

But I don't want to get into all that -- Christians always pray for the literal kind of peace, as in no fighting, and like everyone else I'm glad we've never seen the need to drop atomic weapons all over the joint. These are right and good things to pray for. The point is that the peace symbol is a political symbol, and thus is the mayonnaise in the punch bowl of Christmas. I think the peace-wreath people are not happy to see American flag-based Christmas decorations, and for the same reason.

The fact is, Christians believe or ought to believe that politics will not save us; we're told to pray "Thy will be done," rather than "Let the 2017 Omnibus Spending Consolidated Appropriations Bill Pass Intact." As Mark 12:17 tells us, "And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Make $10 Working at Home!

I was surprised to realize that my home-based business will be celebrating an anniversary soon -- indicating that I have managed to be self-employed and not wind up living in a cardboard box under a bridge. Hooray, me!

Me, working
My field is books, mostly; also online magazine articles and stuff. The written word in any form is my beat, as I write, edit, proof, and fact-check it until it howls. I work for publishers of various kinds, each one infuriating in its own way; and yet I am grateful to them all, bless their little check-writing hearts. But many other kinds of work can be done from the home. Not auto manufacturing or emergency surgery, I suppose, but quite a few can be.

I thought I'd share my list of 11 things I've discovered from being self-employed. Your experience may differ, of course, and I'd love to get your tips if you've been down this road. This long, hard, scary, lonely road.

1) Your pay may vary, but the mortgage company or the landlord, the utilities, the health insurance, and things like that are pretty constant and none of them are known to have a sense of humor. It is very helpful to have a spouse with a normal job. At least there will be one steady paycheck in the family, one source of income on which you can rely, even if it doesn't cover all the expenses. You know what they call a guitarist without a girlfriend? Homeless.

2) You're not just going to go straight from college to running your own business, unless perhaps you've invented something. If you haven't written killer code or invented the Topsy Tail, however, you will need to develop a reputation in the field before you go out on your own. That means a few years in the salt mines. You'll need it to learn how the business works, not to mention all the jargon.

3) When you're ready to take the plunge, write a nice letter to everyone you think might help you. An individualized, friendly, upbeat, proofread letter, explaining what you're doing and asking for work or for contacts that might help you find work. Do not send a general e-mail to everyone, much less a social media blast---it's not just unprofessional, it's junk mail.

4) Never go out in a blaze of glory. Last year I got furious at a client who had assigned me a proofreading job after it became quite obvious that the editor had never had the thing copy-edited. (Copyediting is more time consuming and complicated and gets a higher rate of pay.) Either it was a major miscalculation on the editor's part, thinking the idiot authors had provided clean text (wrongo!) or I was being chiseled, getting proofreading pay for copyediting work. I was about to quit in a massive burst of anger, complete with badmouthing the company and maybe reporting them to any agency that would listen, but I did not. Somehow, probably God's help, I kept my head. I did the job for the rate I'd agreed to, but they were made quite aware of my feelings about it even though I was not rancorous. While I've still had some issues with that company, it's become my main source of income in the year since.

5) Stay motivated -- work as if you're still at the office and your boss's boss is waiting for what you have. And is looking at you funny because you're in pajama pants and a ratty old tee. It's easy to get distracted at home, especially if you have a long deadline for a project. Don't do it! A long deadline is an opportunity to be lazy, but get the project done early and fit in more work. Avoid time sucks like online gaming, Facebook, or committing to daily blog writing. (😀)

6) Screw days off -- take as much work as you can handle. Don't make yourself insane, but don't treat self-employment as a hobby, something to do to pass the time until your next vacation. If you don't need the money then you're taking work from someone who does. If you do need the money, work like you mean it.

7) People who tell you to set your price and stick to it are unrealistic, or are already successful in more lucrative fields that you probably work in. Maybe Annie Leibovitz can demand the moon and the stars from Condé Nast for a photo shoot, but the guy with a studio in the converted garage isn't so lucky. It's tough when they ask you to name your fee, because you don't want to go cheap but you don't want to price yourself out of the market, either. One employment counselor I met told me that whoever names a dollar amount first is the loser, but you may have no choice. Regardless of whether they make an offer or they demand you tell them what you want, it's certain that they have an idea of what they will pay and will not likely budge much because they've already budgeted for it. Use your most pleasant wiles to try to find out what that number is without naming one yourself.

8) Never blow off a client or job. You may not be able to take every job. You may find some jobs personally repulsive and have to refuse them for the sake of sanity. But always be nice, and do what you said you would do, or at least try to work it out if you can't. Even if one client is hideous, you don't know where your next and better contact will come from -- maybe even from the hideous client. (See also Blaze of Glory: Never Go Out In, above.)

9) Send presents. If someone gets you a contact, that leads to work, send a gift. When yuletide rolls around, send your clients gifts (something in keeping with your budget and how much work they gave you). So what if the person you're sending a gift to makes more than you do? Gratitude matters; acts of appreciation matter. Why do you think we even have the Popcorn Factory and Edible Arrangements?

10) Be HONEST. If you're billing by the hour, don't pad the hours. If you have an expense budget, keep strict accounting. It's a slippery slope when you start giving yourself gratuities, and eventually it gets noticed.

11) Do the best you can every single stinking day. Even if you fail, you won't wind up in a cardboard box under a bridge. Trust me. (Those primo bridge spots are all taken anyway.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Poplar Letter Protests Trmp Electoral Win

Reters News Service, Tesdy, December 20, 2016 -- Annoncing its displeasre with the confirmation of Donald Trmp as the next president of the nited States in the Electoral College on Monday, the letter U has gone on strike to protest the election.

"The man is not worthy of the job," said the vowel in a heated news conference last night at New York's Marriott Marqis Hotel. "Let him try to get along with no inpt from me. He can't even spell his name withot me!"

The firebrand letter, a known member of the Green Party, had sworn to move to Canada if Trmp was elected, bt said at the conference that "My desire is to be here" and "those French Canadians have plenty of U's as it is."

The office of president-elect Trmp released a brief annoncement in reply: "While we respect the right of all letters to protest, we find that the actions of this roge letter are likely to make things difficlt for the many Americans who rely on it daily. We strongly rge this renegade vowel to reconsider."

Trmp spporter and poplar radio host Rsh Limbagh had stronger words, saying, "This letter, which cannot even be named becase of its preposteros withdrawal from se for nited States citizens, was never a spporter for any of the major candidates, and seems to have jst sed the Trmp election to enact some blackmail scheme of its own. Now, bear in mind that Trmp, while somewhat handicapped by the loss of this letter, still enjoys the spport of T, R, and M -- P was always on the fence. Yo recall he was endorsed by D and X, and as I nderstand it, even won the silent approval of E."

Later that night Mr. Trmp Tweeted: "This is an overrated vowel blowing off steam as a sore loser. It's not even in the word 'loser' althogh sonds like it shold be." This was followed by, "Least of the vowels. Worse than Y, which is just a part-timer." And later, "Definitely an overrated letter, from a bad neighborhood of alphabet. Helps make tweets shorter withot it."

The angry letter did not say what will make it retrn to reglar se, leading some to sggest this is jst a means of acqiring pblicity.

"It's a stnt, pre and simple," said Limbagh on his syndicated show. "It thinks it's starting a vowel movement, bt it's doomed to failre. The whole thing's going to blow over by Satrday, mark my words."

Monday, December 19, 2016

Rating the Christmas cookies.

All cookies are good cookies, right?

"Me say yeah!"
Well, you'd be WRONG, Cookie Monster!

W is for WRONG! That's good enough for you! Wrong Wrong starts with W!

Cookies, even those associated with the world's most cookie-associated holiday, Christmas, are of varying quality. In fact, the glut of cookies at Christmas guarantees that some bad actors will sneak in.

Here's our ruling on cookies you may see at Christmastime, cookies strongly associated with the American Christmas celebration. The fact that these are ridiculously personal judgments doesn't stop them from being 100% correct.

Sugar cookies: There's such a wide range of quality even in the most iconic form---rolled iced cookie. Sometimes you get a beautiful, colorful cookie that tastes like the box; sometimes you get a horribly iced cookie that tastes like angels baked it; sometimes you just get a doggone mess. Cookie cutters are fun (I made my own football helmet and football shaped cutters years ago for Super Bowl snacks) but I really hate rolling dough and icing cookies. I suck at it, frankly. I know that's my own incompetence speaking but I'm taking it out on the cookie. C

Gingerbread men: Some people don't like ginger cookies, but I do. And they're much easier to ice than sugar cookies because traditionally they don't get much more than some white drawn-on designs. A-

Gingerbread house: Not a cookie; a construction project. N/A

Pizzelles: Buttery and light, these Italian delights are wonderful---when made well, which seldom happens. You have to develop a good hand with the ol' pizzelle iron, which takes a lot of time and practice. And you have to get a pizzelle iron. B-

Pfeffernusse: These "pepper nuts" are excellent if done right. They are never done right. It should be a solid cookie with some heft, about walnut sized, not hard, and glazed, not just doused with powdered sugar. Strong flavors of cardamom and cinnamon, undernote of pepper. Anything less than this should be thrown out the window. Some dingdongs will tell you that the Germans who invented this brilliant confection have a tradition of dipping it in wine. If true it would explain why they lost both world wars. B+

Cheesecake bars: Not all bar cookies are cheesecake bars, but don't you think they ought to be? Docked a grade for scarcity and also their not-quite-Christmassy-enough-ness. C

Canned Danish butter cookies: Are you crazy? Lovely box, cookies that taste like rancid cardboard. If you can't imagine that cardboard could go rancid, try one of these. F

Chocolate chip cookies: Not specifically a Christmas cookie but my wife's favorite, and she's my favorite everything, so it is a Christmas cookie now. A+++++++++

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Running on something, anyway.

Yesterday's little dinner party came off beautifully, despite the best efforts of the weather to sink us. Both dogs were on their absolute best behavior, including the new puppy, Nipper, who must have realized that Santa is watching and bad doggies get toothbrushes for Christmas. (Good doggies may get coal, as doggies are often fond of rocks and things that make a mess.)

It was a huge amount of work to get things ready, though, what with shoveling added to the mix, but my wife and I pulled it off. She in particular was an organization wonder. By the time I hit the sheets last night I basically fell into a coma. Even the dogs are looking pretty worn out today from all of the excitement yesterday.

All of my activity was made possible by humming of "Runnin' on Eggnog," the festive yuletide tune by Mark Steyn and Kevin Amos (performed by Steyn and Jessica Martin). The paean to the famed Christmas beverage is very catchy; the lyrics detail all the many things one needs to do in rhyming couplets (Gotta get the turkey stuffed / Gotta get my pastry puffed / etc.), and explains how eggnog gives the singers the strength to get through it all with cheer.

Steyn's best known as a political commentator, but is also one of the sharpest writers on modern music, particularly the classics of the American songbook. His song here is not going to replace "Home for the Holidays" or, sadly, "Winter Wonderland" on anyone's playlist, but as I say it is marvelously catchy. It is a list song, like Cole Porter's "You're the Top" or "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music, which are perennially popular but can be difficult to sing. There's no plea or argument that builds in a list song, no plot to follow, so it's easy to get lost, and then where are you? You find yourself singing lines out of order, busting up the couplets, and then the motivational song itself is all higgledy-piggledy. ("'Gotta get my stocking hung /  Gotta hear the church bells ring' -- What? Damn it! Start over.")

And yet it was a helpful earworm yesterday in getting things ready. As for eggnog itself, I've never been that wild on it, even on the rare occasions in my youth when I would find some made with alcohol. Some years I may buy a quart of the homogenized stuff before the season is over. Maybe it will be the afterburner I need to get through to New Year's.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Santa finds puppy naughty!

Very little for you today. Yesterday would have been an extremely busy day, but it got elevated into an enormously insane day with the addition of our two dogs. Thanks, dogs!

I have two projects due Monday, people coming over today, and so there was work and cooking and baking and wrapping to do Friday.

The big guy was not too much of a problem, except that (as I mentioned Friday) the thermometer crapped out and we were all out of degrees. Tralfaz thoroughly enjoys the cold weather, though; he doesn't seem to understand that it can kill the rest of us.

The little guy, however, was a YUGE problem. He's hit the equivalent of his teenage years and he is completely berserk. The long-awaited revenge my parents probably wished for me has arrived at last.

This whole week has been insane. Having been near the top of the class at obedience training, Nipper turned into a beast last time, refusing to do anything and barking at others. The trainer, who makes Cesar Millan look like a cat lady, couldn't even get anywhere with him. Then, at home, we'd run him through the same commands and he'd be a genius, as meticulous as the Swiss guard.

Then we discovered that in his pen, where he generally naps during the day, he was drilling for oil. Yes, the (relatively new) flooring has a nice hole in it now, almost to the subfloor. He's hardly ever been home without human supervision, and never without Tralfaz. Usually during the workday I'm about two feet away from him. And yet somehow he found the time to eat the floor. So now the one place where we knew we could relax our vigilance for a moment is no longer a safe space. And did I mention company is coming?

So yesterday we got a 6x4 low-pile mat to put under the pen, to keep it in place and cover the hole. Then, of course, he immediately tried to chew a hole in the mat. (Don't talk to me about that spray repellent; he seems to think of it as a delicious condiment.) He wouldn't nap at all in the pen, and most of the afternoon he was a complete pain in the tail. Wouldn't settle down, wouldn't stop making noise. No amount of play or exercise or food or anything else could get him to cool down. Not even being outside in the cold could cool him down. He wasn't mean or vicious, but he was bringing out the meanness and viciousness in others. By nine o'clock last night we were ready to trade him in for a used hamster or a slightly damaged goldfish.

As I write this, the food is not prepared for the guests that are coming, the place is a wreck, and the little guy is continuing his winning streak. He is on the leash at my feet because the moment my eyes are off him he goes to bite something that is not a toy or food. He may attack Tralfaz. He may chew the mat. He may go for the furniture next. Who knows?

Anybody got a slightly damaged goldfish they want to trade?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Baby, it's you-know-what, you-know-where.

Last night the mercury dropped to 11 degrees F, with a windchill---or as AccuWeather calls it, "RealFeel"---of -9. High wind warning until 6 a.m. Snow tonight.

All you people out there dreaming of a white Christmas can kiss my hinder.

Bitching about the weather in the late fall, in the days before Christmas, is just another one of my Christmas traditions. Just like taking the annual Christmas card to my neighbor across the street. Not from us; every year since he moved in, a card has arrived from someone who has never bothered to find out his actual address. It's close, but off by a digit, and every year I walk it over there. Kelly is the sender's name. If it happens against next year, I'm writing Mr. Kelly a letter. Maybe we can exchange cards. At least then the address he has will work.

But back to the weather. This is the third Christmas with our canine companion, and now his kid brother, so I spend a lot more time outside than I used to. Every December I think back to my childhood in New York City, not that far south from us in the lower Hudson Valley, and I think: It was never this cold.

That's not just geezerhood talking. We very seldom got snow days at all in my youth, and very seldom got to take out the ol' sleds. It was extraordinarily unusual to break 0 on the Fahrenheit scale. Snow before January was almost never seen. We never had a white Christmas. It usually rained.

Now, you'll notice that I'm letting down the old-man side here by saying it was warmer in my childhood. We were supposed to have had to walk through five feet of snow to school every day, eight miles, uphill both ways, from September on, blah blah blah. Just wasn't the case. We got our share of miserable winter days, of course, but not until at least January, when the Christmas fun was over and packed away and the will to live had fled. Made men of us. Even the girls. By cracky.

Memory is a strange thing, indeed, and I may be forgetting the Thanksgiving we got a foot of snow, but I doubt such a thing occurred. I may forget people's names, but I never forget being cold and miserable.

Before I leave off for the day, I did want to mention one Christmas tradition that has come to an end. We had a neighbor who had a little pond in his yard. In the summer it was hidden behind trees, but we could see it from the back of our house when the leaves all fell. We didn't know him, because he actually lived on another street, his house tucked into the woods, only the lip of his driveway visible from the road itself. There was a little island in the pond, just a lump of dirt, and every year he would take this little pyramid made of PVC pipe and strung with Christmas lights and place it on the island. At nighttime we could see this happy little Christmas tree on its little Christmas island.

It's silly, but we looked forward to it every year. I even put some lights on the back of our house, just to respond to their kindness in kind.

Well, they sold the property and moved away this year, and the new owners have not continued the tradition. It's left a little hole in our celebration.

I hope that wherever the family moved, it had a little place to put a little mock tree that looked like a cheerful Christmas tree at night. I wish I had gotten to meet them before they moved, just to thank them.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Well, blow me up.

I just can't get into the inflatable Christmas decorations. 

Not that I mind if you have them. When I see them on others' lawns, I smile. (Good of me, I know.) They tend to be cute and fun, even if they're two stories tall, like Hammacher Schlemmer's titanic reindeer

Just $379.95.
Some people are devoted to them, like the man in Pennsylvania who was reported to have 103 of them a couple of years ago---who knows how many he's got by now?

People like him disprove the notion that the inflatable decoration is just a lazy means of decorating; just plug it in and go back to watching football, right? No, you have to spike it down (really well, if you live in a windy area as I do), you have to run extension cords around, you have to floodlight it if it doesn't have an interior light, and what not. However, if the big balloon is the only decoration on the house, it does look kind of lazy.

The electricity use is one of the downsides for me, though. You can hear that fan running constantly on the windblown inflatables. It seems they still make some blow-ups that don't require perpetual inflation, like this chap: 

He's just chillin'

But most of the ones I see do. You go into the Holiday section of the Home Depot at this time of year and it sounds like an airfield of P-47 Thunderbolts preparing for takeoff. And no one wants to leave them on all day, buzzing and sucking up electricity, so most of them wind up spending the bulk of the daylight hours lying in a heap, looking like a used holiday-themed condom on the lawn.

At least you can tell what these are supposed to be.

I prefer the decor that can be enjoyed day and night---which means ribbons and swags on the house for daylight viewing, lights for nighttime viewing. It's like two separate but coexisting themes. They can be seen together only briefly, at twilight. It's not the most impressive display on the block, but it's good for all hours.

Well, until 10 pm. Then the window lights would keep the dogs awake.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My old man's so critical.

"No, son, you're not listening. It's not your ornament arrangement that's the problem."

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


With all the cooking for the holidays upon us, it seemed a good time to dig back into my inherited collection of old cookbooks. These are mostly promotional cookbooks meant to get you to cook with the product. Previously we've looked at cookbooks that featured woks and blenders, beans and eggs and pasta, booze and beer and Coca-Cola, and two separate visits to Swanson land. Today, in honor of the recent passing of actress Florence Henderson, we have:

Henderson was a spokeswoman for Wesson oil from 1976 to 1996, according to Wesson's Wikipedia page. You couldn't stop her. She was a lean, mean, oil-selling machine.

My book definitely predates Ms. Henderson's commercials. I am not sure how old it is, but the one address I found on it puts it before the use of the Zip code, which began in 1963. One site that sells old books places the Skillet Cook Book's publication date as 1958, which seems right to me. That would be about the height of your line-drawn cartoon person:

Lookit that chef salt them weiners!

As the Great Lileks points out in his Gallery of Regrettable Food, in which this booklet could find a place, "This may seem curious to modern eyes, but in the Olden Days the word 'glorify' was middle-America breezy slang for 'improve.' It connoted 'jazziness' without any actual jazz involved." Thus:

It's rare to find a word's meaning become more intense over time, but this seems so odd now, glory being a pretty serious thing once again. The dip glory took in the ad man's pool may have dampened it but did not drown it.

The cookbook I have shows signs of love---on some pages. Some pages have been so grease-splattered, lying open on a counter near the sizzling pan, that you have to work to read them. Others look older but unsullied, their recipes never tried.

The book does have some genuine cuisine, vegetable oil not being an ingredient like Velveeta or canned spinach that makes chefs cry. There are recipes for sauces that are the real thing, and simplified exotics like curry and chop suey that look perfectly edible.

The photography in these old cookbooks can always make you flinch, though:

The shrimp are pledging their obedience to Kali; the Swedish meatballs were stabbed to death in the hot tub. The popcorn doesn't give a damn. But isn't that the best skillet for cooking popcorn imaginable?

The worst thing about these old cookbooks, though, is when they didn't have enough money to do all the pages in color:

Now, I happen to like corn fritters quite a bit, but if they looked like that in real life I'd have never managed to get one past my teeth. These look like medical waste. Six tumors removed from Mr. Johnson; hope it hasn't spread to the lymph nodes.

I always go looking for the worst recipe in any cookbook, partly so I can feel all superior. What makes the tuna croquettes below really stand out is not the recipe itself---just canned fish and rice and stuff, nothing awful---but the olive eyes and the parsley tails. Glorified in black-and-white.

Don't get too cocky about the old-time people who ate this stuff; I'll bet you could pull any modern cookbook from the shelf and find something that would bring out the instant sneer in you. At least these fish are kinda cute.

I am not big on frying, so I'm not keen on trying out many of these recipes. There's a certain fear of the overhyped death-dealing qualities of fried foods that lingers---but I'm more bothered by the smell of frying that lingers, and lingers, and lingers, especially in the cold weather when the windows are closed. Should you try any of the recipes I've posted, let me how it went.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Cards for cards.

I'm tired of mass-produced Christmas cards people cook up on Shutterfly and other outfits like that. Not that getting Christmas cards makes me sore, or that I can't bear seeing how the kids have grown or how cute your cat is in a Santa hat. Shutterfly and family photos are jake with me.

The problem is those cards that have a photo, a printed message, and an address label on the envelope. Mass-produced in the home. Not a bit of it is handwritten. I get more personal cards from my mortgage company.

What I want to see is old-fashioned cards with a pre-printed message inside and a handwritten line underneath. Here's some samples to give you the idea. (Olde Tyme illustrations courtesy of Old Christmas from the Sketch Book of Washington Irving and Gutenberg.)

Sing a song of Xmas cheer
The birth of Jesus drawing near

Hi Joe happy holidays to you hope you and the kids are ok have you find work???? ha ha ha love Geri & pete

Snow on the churchyard
Everyone is dead


Standing 'neath the mistletoe
To get kissed (if you please)
I hope it's someone that you know
 Don't catch a dread disease

Dear Barb: Saw this card and thought of you and that guy at 
Jimmy's party, Christmas '97. I still have the pictures to prove it. 
Merry Christmas, Jill

Christmas is a time of joy
For every little girl and boy
It's a time of recreation
Depending on denomination
Hey, Cuz! Me & Suze & Jimmy & Teddy & Perry & Joey & Howie & Gaston & Andy & Little Alice are planning to come to town without warning at some indeterminate time in the future and would love to stay with you! Call you when we're three miles outside city limits!
Love, Hector

On second thought, maybe the mass-produced cards aren't so bad after all.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Gaudete Sunday.

Here it is, Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. This is the one for which priests of the Catholic church do not wear the purple vestments typical of the Advent season, but rather rose-colored vestments (or, as one young priest at our parish once said, "It's not pink! It's rose! Manly rose!"). Rose vestments, where they are used, are worn on Gaudete Sunday in Advent and Laetare Sunday in Lent, a marker that the penitential season is halfway over. 

Yes, Advent is a season of penitence and preparation. So put down that cookie and go to Confession! But wait---"Gaudete" means rejoice. So eat the cookie and go to Confession tomorrow.

I first became aware of Gaudete Sunday when I was essentially a drunken heathen, and Advent was just a time for drunken heathenocity to me. I'd picked up Steeleye Span's 1972 album Below the Salt, which featured the UK folkster's version of the 16th century carol "Gaudete." Steeleye Span reached number 14 on the UK singles chart, the first top-50 pop hit in Latin.

New Advent's Catholic Encyclopedia's considerable essay on Gaudete Sunday says: "The joy of expectation is emphasized by the constant Alleluias, which occur in both Office and Mass throughout the entire season. In the Mass, the Introit 'Gaudete in Domino semper' strikes the same note, and gives its name to the day. The Epistle again incites us to rejoicing, and bids us prepare to meet the coming Saviour with prayers and supplication and thanksgiving, whilst the Gospel, the words of St. John Baptist, warns us that the Lamb of God is even now in our midst, though we appear to know Him not. The spirit of the Office and Liturgy all through Advent is one of expectation and preparation for the Christmas feast as well as for the second coming of Christ, and the penitential exercises suitable to that spirit are thus on Gaudete Sunday suspended, as were, for a while in order to symbolize that joy and gladness in the Promised Redemption which should never be absent from the heart of the faithful." (Emphasis added)

So celebrate!

But bear in mind that, as the old saying goes, you may be cool, but you'll never be Santa-Claus-in-shorts-on-a-unicycle-playing-flaming-bagpipes-doing-doughnuts-in-the-snow cool.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Memory holder.

This basket has been in the family since the 1990s, as you might guess from the logo design:

Have never understood the "be stylish to your life" part. "Add style to your life"? "Be stylish with the actions in your life"? "Treat your life stylishly"? Anyway, it's a lot to ask from a plastic basket.

I believe this basket, made by a company called Iris, came from the late, lamented Lechters Housewares, which folded 15 years ago. The basket was purchased for apartment use. It was meant to be a caddy to hold all cleaning supplies, so they could be carried from room to room together. Although oven cleaner is not great in the living room, and Endust doesn't get much use in the bathroom, it was still convenient and useful. I'm not sure if it is fitting or ironic, however, that all these years later it has developed a layer of grunge on the bottom and may have to be discarded.

Getting back to that nineties logo for "Mesh Basket": you might think Iris had gone the way of Lechters, or for that matter, Chumbawamba, Doug, or AOL discs. But you'd be wrong!

Mrs. Key (the lovely and talented) got a new box to hold dog food, and as an elevated feeder for the big guy's bowls. And just the other day I noticed the label:

Yes! Iris is still out there, making things (in the USA, pilgrim!) that hold other things. As someone whose idea of organization is "I think I left it on that pile, or maybe that pile, or possibly the other pile," I fully support the making of things that hold other things. It's not that they'll get me organized; it's just that I can put the piles away in the boxes and ignore them.

After Christmas, Walmart and other retailers have specials on storage bins. You can bet that Iris will be there.

I feel a kind of weird kinship with the company, even though I only have the two products and one of them may have to be thrown away because it's its own Superfund site. But when something is willing to hang around for twenty years, I'm willing to show it some love.

I have some Christmas ornaments like that. Some human friends, too, actually.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Snake in the Glass.

This program contains graphic images and mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised.

(EXT: Near the side of the road. Uniformed cops walk and talk, talking into walkie-talkies. CSI folk in lab coats and gloves kneel, pointing at this and that. Detective Bacon, shaking his whiskers, approaches the lead investigator, Peter "PB" Barilotto. It's been a rough year for both of them.)

Detective Bacon: What's the riddle this time, PB? Why did the snake cross the road? 

PB: Or not quite cross it. 

Bacon: Ew.

PB: Pretty brutal. 

Bacon: Hit and run?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Immaculate Conception.

There are some erroneous concepts that need to be cleared up about this day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception:

1) It's not Jesus's conception. Even Catholics get this wrong. Jesus's miraculous conception is honored on March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation)---reasonably, nine months before his birthday is celebrated. It gets confusing, because with Christmas coming up, we're thinking about Jesus's babyhood. The Immaculate Conception is the day Mary was conceived, as she was born without Original Sin, unlike the rest of us slobs. But why is Mary's conception celebrated so close to Christmas---especially since we don't really know what dates any of these took place?

2) I'm not sure why December 8 was chosen, actually; a reading of the history of the feast shows that it arose slowly in the monasteries, and other dates were used at times. All I can say is that it should be celebrated and 12/8 had a 1 in 365.25 chance of being precisely right -- if you presume divine guidance along the way, the chances improve immeasurably.

Interestingly, the Annunciation is not a US day of obligation, meaning Catholics are not obliged to attend Mass that day, but the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is. Why?

3) Everyone knows that Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, that George is the patron saint of England, that Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and that Archangel Michael is the patron saint of Papua New Guinea. (What, you didn't know that?) Well, the Virgin Mary, as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, is the patron saint of the United States of America. (A lot of Catholics don't know that, either.) (Brazil, too.) So it's not just a day of commemorating the Queen of the Saints; it's a national holiday in this country as well. Which is why, unlike other days of obligation like the Assumption of Mary into heaven (August 15) and All Saints Day (November 1), which may be abrogated in the U.S. if they fall on a Saturday or Monday -- in other words, the feast is moved to the neighboring Sunday -- the Feast of the Immaculate Conception always requires church attendance in America regardless of the day of the week upon which December 8 falls.

In the United States, and indeed throughout the Western Hemisphere, devotion to Mary is extremely strong. Her appearance at Guadelupe occured on December 9, 1531, when the church had barely arrived here. In 1859 she appeared three times in Wisconsin---really.

The church does not accept these things easily, by the way, so don't go running to the local parish because you see Mary in a potato chip. It is far easier for you or me to become a publicly proclaimed saint than to have a claim of an apparition from Mary accepted by Rome. It's true! We don't have to walk on water or chase all the snakes out of Cleveland; we just have to get murdered while preaching the Gospel. There's a lot of that about these days. Fans of Dan Brown's novels may think that people are getting killed because of the Catholic church's secrets, but in fact people are getting killed because of Christianity's very public knowledge.

On this feast day, I, as a Catholic, suggest you go visit your parish if you're Catholic, or even if you're not---what could it hurt? You might be inspired by it. You might even enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Beware them both!

“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”

"Checking out my skirts, eh?" said the saucy Spirit.

"Dude! Claw!"

“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

“Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. Scrooge had seen juvenile delinquents before, but these took the biscuit. They looked like a couple of Grade-A creeps.

“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers."

"'Appealing' is not the word I---"

"This boy is Politics," shouted the Ghost. "This girl is Entitlement. These desiccated beasts are that which look appealing in the daylight, the guardians and providers of happiness, but in truth they appear as you see them now. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”

"Wait---Politics and Enwhotlement?"

"Politics," said the Spirit, with strained patience, "and Entitlement."

"No, sorry, I don't understand."

"Look," said the Spirit, "it's very simple. Technology and free trade will help alleviate much of the suffering from poverty and want that plagues mankind, but they also sow the seed of destruction. People will come to think only of material goods, adhere to consumerism, deny the soul, and ultimately demand their needs be met by the actions of the state. All kinds of ills follow. The devaluation of work, destruction of social order, Entitlement thinking, see? You're a businessman, consider macroeconomics. Christmas Yet-to-Come would tell you himself, but he never says anything."

"It's rather pleasant that people will be starving in the streets less," mumbled Scrooge.

“But that's the point,” said the Spirit. "Because of these two brats, all that misery will come round again. Only this time instead of people rioting because they have no bread, they will riot because they have no free education, no government guarateed Xboxes."


"Never mind. Not sure myself."

"Well, now, Spirit, I hardly think your predictions need be so dire," said Scrooge. "And even if they were, is that anything I can fix? I thought you just wanted me to be a nicer guy."

"Look, you asked about the kids," said the Spirit. "I wasn't the one that brought them up. No wonder YtC doesn't bother engaging in conversation."

"Now, about those Xboxes..."

The bell struck twelve.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday limericks.

Six famous holiday songs, rendered as limericks. 

Frosty the snowman was fat
Came to life when he put on a hat
"Let us run! Let us play!
For the heat of the day
Will soon make me a ten-gallon splat!"

Sleigh bells ringle and tingle and stuff
Lovely weather to ride through this puff
Grooving with Farmer Gray
At the end of the day
Is all Currier-Ives kind of fluff

With thadneth I write this epithtle
For Christmath I with I could whithtle
Without two front teeth
I can't with you peath
Or thay "Thusie thits on a thithle"

Oh the weather is starting to blow
But there's no place that we need to go
Out there it all bites
But the fire delights
Let it snow let it snow let it snow

"You really had better just come
And yes, you can carry your drum"
He was there on the hay
So I started to play

Rudolph the freaky young deer
Had these nostrils that caused rampant fear
But then Santa the geezer
Said "Light up that beezer
Let's deliver some holiday cheer."