So we’re at this club, about 40 Santas, and the club is in two halves—there’s one side that’s playing ’80s retro music (where most of the Santas are), and the other side is the goth side—nearly completely dark and playing goth music. It’s filled with really serious goth-y types, in fishnet gloves and clothes with lots of buckles and stuff. So I go over to the goth side and in a quiet bit of the music, I yell, “SO DO ALL YOU GUYS LOVE TWILIGHT, TOO?”
Didn’t get an answer, but didn’t get beat-up, either.
A couple tried to get Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name Of” listed as the UK’s #1 single for Christmas, and managed to do it, over the competition, which was a sappy song by a reality-show winner (the reality-show’s yearly winner has won the Christmas #1 spot four years in a row now, apparently). Anyway…win.
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) - Good martial-arts movie; not as beautiful as House of Flying Daggers or the like, but good. Four stars (Netflix)
Body of Lies - Clever current-day spy thriller with Leo diCaprio and Russel Crowe. I liked it. Four stars.
The Band Wagon (1953) - a dance film, with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Good, and funny in places, but other Astaire movies I’ve seen have had more dancing, which is why I watch them. Fred Astaire was one of the most snappy dressers ever; I’d love to have his wardrobe. Three stars (Netflix)
Army of Darkness (1993) - I don’t think I’ve seen this since it came out, and wanted to see if it was any better than when I saw it then (no). Good FX for 1993, probably, but overall, still disappointing. Two stars (Netflix)
Everything is Illuminated (2005) - I really liked this film, from thr narrator’s broken English to the incredible sets and cinematography. Five stars (Netflix)
Tsotsi (2005) - This won Best Foreign Language Oscar that year, but I’ve never seen it. It was pretty good, though a little predictable. Three stars (Netflix)
The Fallen Idol (1948) - A British film about a kid who idolizes his butler, until the butler seems to have killed his wife. Eh. Two stars (Netflix)
Pandora’s Box (1929) - The original “Lulu”, a flapper girl with a relaxed sense of morality. Cinematographically very pretty, but the story was overdone. Two stars (Netflix)
They Live! (1988) - Silly. Two stars (Netflix)
Freakazoid (1995) - Silly. Two stars (Netflix)
That Mitchell and Webb Look - A British sketch-comedy TV show with really just two guys and a backup actress, but fantastic in the versatility. Watching all the first season got repetitive after a bit, but there were a lot of hilarious moments. It’s cool, too, to see short-sketch comedy work; it seems to be a genre that we’ve forgotten in this country. Even more impressive is that it’s just these few actors for every sketch. Four stars (Netflix)
Escape From New York - Saw this at Mile-High Sci Fi, and it’s one they’ve done before, with great results. Movie: two stars; MHSF: five stars. Extra credit for the audience members who came in wearing eyepatches, just like Snake Plissken.
So last night at like midnight, I’m working on a last few Santacon toys. I put a new blade in the X-Acto, and immediately the blade slips off the toy I’m cutting and goes right across my left index finger, between the knuckle and the first joint. I immediately stick it under cold water and threw some Betadine on it and did the gauze-and-pressure treatment, but I was pretty sure it was gonna need stitches. Went downstairs and knocked on my friend (and a professional nurse) Julie’s door until she woke up (sorry, Julie!) and asked her opinion, and she thought it was deep enough to warrant sewing up.
After a few interludes of lying down to get over the shock, I finally got in my car and drove to the hospital. After parking, I couldn’t find the emergency entrance, and had to walk like five blocks around the complex trying to find it.
Good thing was, at 1:00 a.m., they weren’t busy, so no waiting (I’d even brought a book, in case). People were really friendly and helpful, too.
Turns out I’d nicked the tendon, but not enough to require them to stitch it together. They even showed me the tendon where it was cut. Five stitches, and I’ve got to wear a splint for three weeks so I don’t bend the finger while the tendon heals. Well, that’ll make for a fun holiday season!
This is the first time I’ve been in an emergency room or had stitches in probably 20 years. While it wasn’t a horrible experience, I’m okay with skipping it for another 20.
Went to U.S. Toy yesterday to get more of the small plastic toys to hack for Santacon. While the bigger toys are fun, I like the little modded toys, the tortoises with butterfly wings and the clowns buggering dogs and such. The little modded toys are creative, artistic, versatile, cheap, easy to carry, and small enough that I can hide them in corners, potted plants, nooks on the street, etc.. I like leaving them around so that hours or days later they get found by someone.
Anyway, U.S. Toy isn’t carrying the bendable rubber clowns and ballerinas anymore! AAARGH! Those were the cornerstone of so many of my little toys—ballerinas with lizards bursting out of their chests or dinosaur heads; clowns with crab legs or orally raping other clowns…
This sucks. I mean, sure, I can make lizards with bird wings or fish-horse hybrids, but without without the ballerinas, who am I going to have the dogs have sex with? WHO?! Won’t someone think of the puppies?!!
I think I might have a few clowns left over from last year. I’m going to have to start rationing/hoarding them…
I blanched a ton of almonds last night, for this recipe and for almond biscotti. This is a great recipe for the holidays—it starts out sweet, but there’s heat that comes later. They’re crazy addictive.
3 tbsp. [peanut] oil
2 cups whole blanched almonds
½ cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
1½ tsp. [kosher] salt
1½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes [I’ve also used powdered jalapeno and cayenne]
Warm the oil in a large sauté pan. Add almonds and stir with a wooden spoon, coating each one with oil. Sprinkle with ½ cup sugar, and continue stirring until almonds become golden brown and the sugar caramelizes.
Remove pan from heat, and pour almonds into a medium mixing bowl. Sprinkle the remaining sugar, salt, cumin, and pepper powder over the nuts, and toss well.
Pour onto a single layer on a baking sheet, and separate with a wooden spoon (this is the tricky part: you have to move fast! They stick together as they cool and are impossible to separate!). Allow to cool.
Most people would probably see the delicacy of the Generic Colorful Ornament Ball as a drawback, but for me it has become a source of nostalgia. For whatever reason, I remember childhood Christmases mostly for their clutter: tinsel strips, opened envelopes, empty cans of stewed pumpkin, and tiny shards of shattered Generic Colorful Ornament. Plus, they allow any jerk with a copy of Microsoft Paint to make a Christmas tree drawing. Green triangle, yellow star, buncha multicolored circles. Or just red circles, if you’re really lazy. A-
It was a decade or so before I realized that tinsel was supposed to evoke icicles. I still don’t really see it, honestly, but I understand it at least. You’d think that people who are surrounded by actual lung-searing cold wouldn’t want to make their houses appear colder than they actually were. But I’m in California, so the imitation ice is just quaint. If we really wanted to re-create winter we’d hang slightly thicker socks from the tree, paint the ceiling kind of a harsh blue, and deck the halls with posters for movies that feature thirty-six scenes with explosions and one scene with a mall Santa. C-
Winnie-The-Pooh in a Santa Hat I can see. A little scale model Enterprise I can sort of see, if only due to the geek need to hang scale-model Enterprises from everything. But are people really intent on hanging Assembly Line Lucy Ricardo from their yuletide boughs? It doesn’t fit the Christmas principle, it doesn’t fit the generic dangly thing principle, it’s just a scene from a sitcom with a hook on it. I don’t get you people. D
Clearly, one sign of the increased wimpiness of our society is that we no longer use actual candles on our Christmas trees. The same cultural nannies who have banned those slightly-serrated butter knives from eighteen states, and who successfully campaigned to have street curbs in Cincinnati covered in ankle-protecting velour, have now convinced us that precariously attaching live flame to a dead, resin-exuding tree is somehow dangerous. The fact is, I don’t know anyone who has died in a tree-candle fire. I don’t even know anyone who suffered burns to more than about a third of their body. Mark my words, if this keeps up we’ll soon see prominently marked fire exits in all public buildings. C
Construction Paper Rings
These, I’m certain, are only popular because they contribute to the self-esteem of kindergarteners. You don’t see construction paper ring garlands for sale anywhere. They either come from school or some grotty rainy-day crafts book. So you throw them on the tree, then take them down and toss them in the God’s Eye/Lanyard/Fingerpainting closet. Meanwhile, those of us without kids use that closet space to store excellent scotch and racy DVDs. D+
Traditionally, you can put a star or an angel on top of the tree. Either one; nobody seems to care. Given the American temperament, I’d expect long Web screeds about anarchist socialists and their heathen star-placing, but people are pretty relaxed. Of course, you can always buy a tree-Buddha if you’re feeling like a smartass. Me, I’m thinking a little King Kong would be whimsical. Or a tiny platform with a little member of Earth First and some eensy rice cakes. B-
"And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose." This seems like an odd ritual to go through just to get the hell out of some guy’s house. Perhaps the ritual is necessary? Is it possible that we have found Santa’s one weakness? My theory is that if he is unable to lay his finger aside of his nose, Santa is helpless. And using this insight I propose to capture Santa, bind his hands, and subject him to a brutal interrogation until he reveals all his secrets, or at least coughs up that “2-XL” toy robot I asked for in third grade. C
Most overweight middle-aged men can’t pull off a white-and-red fur suit with black leather boots. Hell, most pimps can’t pull it off. But Santa can, and do you know why? Because when you give away billions of dollars of merchandise every year, you can dress however the hell you want. If he decides that next year he’s going to switch to an empire-waist yellow chiffon dress and matching two-tone high-heel pumps, who’s going to complain? In this country we know whose jolly old ass to kiss if we want our stockings stuffed the way we like it. A
It’s interesting that “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” one of the seminal texts of the modern Claus, specifies eight tiny reindeer. I don’t know why the miniature aspect of the reindeer has been abandoned. Personally, the idea of big ol’ Santa and his big ol’ sleigh being hauled around by a bunch of shar-pei sized ungulates comes perilously close to filling me with something vaguely related to Christmas spirit. I think if we’re not going to embrace the tininess of the reindeer, we should pick another two-syllable adjective for the poem. I suggest “angry.” B
I feel bad for Mrs. Claus. To begin with, her place in the Santa pantheon ranks several rungs below a mutant reindeer. Her role in the whole shebang is poorly defined; presumably she undertakes the standard pre-feminist womanly tasks of cooking, cleaning, and being seduced behind the reindeer stables by a strapping, virile young elf. A quick trip to Amazon reveals several literary attempts to fill out Mrs. Claus’s legend with titles like How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas and A Bit of Applause for Mrs. Claus. But how do we know they’re real? C+
I’m unclear on how Santa got his workshop started. How do you even manage to gather a skilled elven workforce? Okay, Craigslist, but how did you do it back then? Ads in the back of Pixie of Fortune magazine? Drive a pickup truck to a street corner just outside the enchanted hardware store? Of all the creatures in mythology, you’d think elves would have about the shittiest work ethic possible, but apparently they’re still hard at it, making wooden trains and hobby horses and other toys nobody wants anymore. I can only imagine Santa has some serious dirt on those guys. B-
Apparently, Santa’s workshop is able to create any toy any child asks for. Given that Santa will undoubtedly deliver more than a few Xbox 360s this holiday season, presumably he can create products that aren’t even commercially available. Perhaps he can use the power of his toy shop to make the toy shop itself unnecessary. It just takes one child to put “Little Tykes Nanotech Matter Assembler” on his Christmas list and Santa can ditch the sack and the elves and just spurt presents out of his new high-tech device like it was a machine gun of joy, shooting “cop-killer” Teflon good tidings. C
There used to be some question as to why Santa needs millions of plates of cookies ready for his consumption, but the jargon of fitness has given us our answer: carbo loading. Bringing joy to all the children of the world takes focus and endurance, and Santa doesn’t want to run out of glycogen over Scaffhausen. In fact, it seems to me that if the Iron Man competition wants to be taken seriously, they should swap out one of the events for Santa’s job. Swimming, biking, and bringing joy to all the children of the world. B+
On one hand, if your conveyance is being pulled through the night skies by magical reindeer, why does it need to be a sleigh? On the other hand, why would it need to be anything else? Given that it’s the reindeer that provide the horsepower, the actual vehicle can be anything from a Honda Element to a colossal baked potato. It should probably be something without a roof, though, so we don’t lose all those delightful “something falls out of Santa’s sleigh” jokes. B-
So Santa lives at the North Pole. That…sorts of makes sense. It’s isolated from distractions, and that way nobody can claim to own Santa. But why the North Pole, given that there’s no actual landmass up there? Why not the South Pole? Well, it’s kind of an unpleasant thing to report, but…Santa hates Australians. Can’t stand them. Oh, sure, he’ll bring gifts to the kids—that’s his job—but he wants to be as far away from the country as he can. He wouldn’t even go see The Lord of the Rings, because it was “made by those God-cursed Australians.” I tried to explain that Peter Jackson is from New Zealand, but he just gave me this look, like he pitied me for thinking there was a difference. D
It is my understanding that an old British tradition is to take children’s letters to Santa and burn them in the fireplace, if you have one. That’s hilarious. “Okay, honey, now we’re going to send your carefully hand-written three-page letter to Santa and send it to him!” *FWOOSH*. I don’t think I could do that with a straight face. “Hey, I have an idea! This year, why don’t you make an elaborate painted toothpick diorama of what you want from Santa, and we’ll send that to him! Oh, hey, I bet Santa would like a comic book to read! Why don’t you go get one of your favorites, and we’ll lend it to him!” Kids are such saps. A
Santa Claus is Coming to Town Also known as “The Extortion Song.” Pretty pointless, because asking kids not to pout is like asking free cyanide ions not to react with methemoglobin to form cyanohemoglobin. Here’s a hint, kids: Santa is a wuss. Have you ever actually known a kid who got coal in his stocking? Last year even that kid who hit you with the Wiffle bat got a cool RC racer. How do you think he ended up on the “nice” list? Santa brings toys pretty much unilaterally, and all the pouting, shouting and crying in the world won’t change that. C-
Silent Night The thing I like about this song is that if you learned it you probably first learned it without really understanding it. Nobody ever sits you down and says “Okay. Here’s what ‘tender and mild’ means outside of a bowl of chile verde.” So you’re going along, singing this year after year of your youth, “Roun dyon ver gin, tin der an miiiild” and then one day it hits you. These are words! There’s a story here! A very touching story about a round virgin who wants to go to sleep! Kiddie catharsis. B
The Twelve Days of Christmas Also known as “99 Bottles of Yuletide Beer on the Wall.” This song is pure torture. It’s a torture to sing, it’s a torture to listen to, it’s a torture to try and figure out in what context “Lords a-Leaping” are a traditional Christmas gift. My least favorite part is “Five Golden Rings,” because by the time you’re dealing with the Pipers Piping, everyone’s so bored they try and invest the song with a little liveliness by singing the Golden Rings part like a soloing tenor, which just degrades the already degrading experience for everyone. If we must sing this song, I suggest we toss everything from the Swans A-Swimming onward, call it the Six Days of Christmas, and get back to drinking. D
Santa Baby Oh, please. D-
Jingle Bells People generally only sing the first verse of this, the one with the bells on bob-tail, and the chorus. This is a pity, as the song has three more verses which deal mostly with falling out of the sleigh and into the snow, with a few sly references to girls. With the additional verses, the song is transformed from a dopey cheer for a form of transportation that doesn’t get much use outside of Norway into a sort of Dickensian Cannonball Run. We lose so many of the subtleties in this culture. C+
The Heat Miser Song This is, without question, the best song to come out of the various animated Christmas specials. Better than “Holly Jolly Christmas,” better than the one where the elf wants to be a dentist, even better than that weird-ass song the Whos sang in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” For those of you who need the refresher, the Heat Miser was this guy who had a brother, the Cold Miser, and they each sang in kind of a rinky-tink showtune way about how hot and cold they were, respectively. It was raucous. Beats hell out of figgy pudding any day of the week. A
Here Comes Santa Claus This is a blatant example of lazy songwriting. I mean, really, “Santa Claus Lane”? Where, exactly, is Santa Claus Lane? If your particular town doesn’t have a Santa Claus Lane, does that mean Santa Claus can’t come right down it, and children will wake up Christmas morning to find nothing but empty stockings and apologies? Or is it like a carpool lane, a special section of the freeway you can’t drive unless you’re a jolly old elf or are accompanied by a jolly old elf? Correct answer: they made it up, it sounds jaunty. C-
Frosty the Snowman You know what I like about this song? It has an honest-to-Kringle sad ending. Doomed from the start, Frosty ends up melting like a Crayola on the dashboard, with only the promise that he’ll come back again someday. It’s the Empire Strikes Back of Christmas carols. A-
Jingle Bell Rock I don’t know where they get off calling this “rock.” It’s not even Jingle Bell Easy Listening. Not a great song in the first place, this is made even worse by its overinflated sense of hipness. I can just imagine some sixty-five-year-old crooner saying “And here’s one the young people will enjoy.” You want to hear a Christmas rock song? The Kinks, “Father Christmas,” end of story. D
The Chipmunk Song The starkly limited appeal that the chipmunks ever held for me was hearing hits of the Eighties rendered in their electronically tortured little voices. (Which is not to say that most Eighties pop stars didn’t themselves have electronically tortured voices.) Given that, I fail to see why anyone would be interested in their original compositions. How do you explain Christ to a chipmunk anyway? D-
The Little Drummer Boy There’s something charming about this, a song about the world’s first drum solo. It also has a nice little lesson about how you should give whatever you can. Presumably if the drummer boy didn’t have his drum, he would have given the newborn savior a little shadow puppet show or something. Me, I would have just asked one of the wise men if I could put my name on his gift too and pay him back later. B
My Favorite Things When did this become a Christmas song? I remember hearing this as part of the infuratingly soothing mall lineup a few Christmases ago, and since then it’s been a minor player in the carol scene. It has a couple references to mittens and packages and the like, but it’s hardly a seasonal song. Can’t we all agree that the Christmas canon doesn’t need adding to? If you’re really getting tired of the usual songs—and who isn’t—learn “Fum Fum Fum” or “The Wassail Song” or something. C-
R. and I were trying to find a place for dinner after buying a Christmas tree on Wednesday, and went to the Red Trolley (2639 W. 32nd, at 32nd and Clay, in Denver). It had been really favorably written up in Westword the week before, and I wanted to try their supposedly incredible, all-natural hot dogs. Unfortunately, the hot dog sales were shut down at 8:00, so we missed those, but we got a pint of fantastic Salted Caramel with Chocolate ice cream that’s just incredible. I can’t wait for summer and taking a bike ride up there to get ice cream.
We ended up eating around the corner, at Los Carboncitos (38th and Pecos), which was super friendly and tasty, but it was so cold outside and in the restaurant we just wanted to get home and set up R’s tree! Anyway, highly recommend that place, too, if you find yourself Highlands way…
Google sez it’s 10 degrees, and my hands were okay in my gloves (compared to yesterday, when it was way below 0 and my hands froze). So procedure needs to be: find additional hand warmth when temps are below 5-10 degrees.
Google sez it’s -3 in Denver. The ride in was fine—I had an earband under a balaclava, so my ears and the rest of my body were warm, but I need to come up with a solution for my hands. I got to work and my hands were too frozen to dig out my ID so I could ride into the parking garage. Maybe a shell layer or something…
Riding along the Cherry Creek bike path was gorgeous, though. Today was the first clear day this week, so it’s sunny and blue sky. the creek’s all iced over in some sections, and got ice along the edges in others. The water is super clear and running fast. Because the water’s warmer than the air, it’s all steaming in places. It was beautiful, and you could almost imagine yourself riding along a country creek. I wish I’d had my camera with me. Maybe tomorrow.
As my coworker pointed out, because it’s been so consistently cold, all the snow has remained snow, it’s not melted and then frozen over again into ice or slush. Aside from the frozen hand thing, it makes for a fantastic bike ride.
"The Senate on Tuesday rejected an effort to tighten restrictions against using federal funds for abortion under Democrats’ landmark healthcare legislation, handing a victory to abortion-rights advocates but setting up a potential conflict with the House." Link: LA Times.
Abortion is a legal procedure in this country. To say that the government won’t fund it under the new health care system because of certain people’s moralities is repugnant, and would affect poor people—but not rich ones that could afford a private doctor. Kudos to the Senate for standing up for what’s right.