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Wednesday, December 30, 2009
How Do You Measure Its Worth?

When my monthly edition of First Thing arrives in the mail, the first section I usually page to is "The Public Square." Previously home to the musings of the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, the witty tidbits that fill "The Public Square" are now ably compiled by Joseph Bottum and they almost always make for an enlightening and entertaining read. But when the current January 2010 issue showed up, two article titles boldly splashed across the cover caught my attention and caused me to immediately read them.

The first was a book review by Ari L. Goldman actually titled Tuesdays With Morbid that the magazine cover labeled "Mitch Albom Is An Idiot":

I would be very surprised if Mitch Albom still sleeps with a teddy bear or saves his money in a piggy bank or believes that the stork delivers babies or does math on his fingers. But of this I am sure: If he exhibited any of these childish behaviors, he wouldn't write a book about it. He has, however, written "Have a Little Faith," a book about religion that is founded on childish ideas, naïveté, religious stereotyping, and downright ­ignorance.

Quite remarkably, he is even proud of all this. The book begins with an "author's note" in which Albom says, "while this is a book about faith, the author can make no claim to being a religion expert."

Religion expert? I would be happy with a modicum of religious literacy, but there is none to be found here. Can you imagine a book about physics or government or medicine or science or history beginning with a similar disclaimer? ("Read my book about X even though I don't know the first thing about X.") Can someone tell me why ignorance is a virtue when it comes to writing about ­religion?


While it might appear harsh to call a former sportswriter trying to write about religion an "idiot," it was part of a pattern for pieces that rated mention on the FT cover and also included Cicero Is A Superstar and Pete Seeger Is A Communist. While I was aware of Seeger's role as a useful idiot for the CPUSA and knew that other folk singers like Woody Guthrie were fellow travelers, I was a bit surprised to see one of the names named in Lauren Weiner's piece:

That part about an "ideological minority" being "celebrated" by somebody had gone over our heads, too: We did not know that the folk boom was a reverberation of an earlier boomlet, a foray into American music roots, many of whose movers and shakers were as Red as a bowl of cherries. Who on our suburban street knew that Woody Guthrie, the hero of Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan, had been a columnist for the "Daily Worker?" Or that the man from whom we heard rollicking sea chanteys, a Briton named Ewan MacColl, was at one point kept from entering the United States as an undesirable alien? Then there was the cuddly-looking guy with the slightly pedantic six-record set and companion volume, "Burl Ives Presents America?s Musical Heritage." If my parents or any of the neighbors were aware that Ives had been summoned, in 1952, to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and had identified Pete Seeger as a communist, they kept the details to themselves.

Burl Ives?

By the 1940s, folk singers had become a ceremonial part of Communist Party meetings. And at nearly all of them, one would find Pete Seeger playing, under the revolutionary pseudonym "Pete Bowers," with the likes of Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, Burl Ives, Josh White, Saul Aarons, Bernie Asbel, Will Geer, and a new arrival on the East Coast musical scene, Woody Guthrie.

Yes, that Burl Ives, a man likely best known to most Americans as the narrator of the beloved television classic "Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer" and singer of the more popular songs from the show such as "Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Silver and Gold." Some of the material from his CPUSA days doesn't sound quite as catchy.

To achieve the effect they wanted--music that was "national in form and revolutionary in content" in Charles Seeger's conception--they dipped into the past for their material. "Jesse James," "Wayfaring Stranger," "Sweet Betsy from Pike," "Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy," and "On Top of Old Smokey" were brought to urban settings, in some cases for the first time. Topical songs--many written for the Henry Wallace presidential campaign of 1948--were political editorials often set to old hymns and folk tunes: "Capitalistic Boss," "Join the Union Tonight," "Oh, What Congress Done to Me," "Defense Factory Blues," and "Marcantonio for Mayor" (for the Stalinist Vito Marcantonio).

You don't hear too many people walking around humming "Join the Union Tonight" these days, although given its recent actions I could see "Oh, What Congress Done to Me" making a comeback.

Knowing about Ives' past commie connections causes me to reconsider everything I've always thought about "Rudolph, the RED-nosed Reindeer." While some might mock such concerns, you have to wonder about what influence Ives' ideology may have had. Was "Silver and Gold" really a subtle critique of capitalistic excess? Was the intolerant Comet (the reindeer games coach) a representation of a McCarthyite archetype?

Our own Atomizer has already noted the similarities between the Island of Misfit Toys and Cuba while other have also wondered about the discreet messages that RTRNR may be trying to send about class and sexual orientation. How much deeper does this go? Sigh. Sometimes it's better not to know. Maybe I should just see if a can find a copy of "Capitalistic Boss" to download and get my mind right.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009
Carol of the Magi

For Christmas Eve, a beautiful new carol by English composer John Rutter, performed by Minnesota's own Vocalessence.

"It's sort of the idea of one of the magi reflecting years later and saying, 'Goodness me, I still remember something special about that child,'" he said. "That got me started on what it is about the Christmas story that speaks to the innocence and vulnerability of every child."




More John Rutter carols and other music available on the Vocalessence YouTube channel.

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Even Skeptics Get The News

David Harsanyi finds many reasons to celebrate the Christmas season--even for an unbeliever:

It's this kind of close-mindedness many atheists find most annoying. For a long time, in fact, I believed H.L. Mencken's line that, "God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable."

But then poll after poll illustrates that religious people-- in the throes of ignorance, granted--are far happier, far more charitable and far from helpless.

On an ideological front, it dawned on me long ago that though didactic Christians may attempt to limit personal freedoms, they are rank amateurs compared to environmentalist moralizers or "social justice" moralizers or economic equality moralizers of the left.

God or no God, one of these groups generally believes in free will and the others generally believe taking is an ethical pursuit.

Other curiosities invaded my thinking, as well. It is common, for instance, for free-thinking acquaintances of mine, ones who sneer at the very thought of Christianity, to buy into every half-baked mystic-sanctioned cure available.

These same folks who have no compunction comparing evangelicals to the Taliban demand I demonstrate more deference to the misogynistic, homophobic and anti-intellectual theocrats elsewhere in the world. For peace.

So while, today's nonbelievers tend to focus on the ugliest aspects of organized faith-- and there is no dearth of opportunity--they ignore that this nation's tradition of liberty, economic freedom and unmatched tolerance (sure, we could always use more) was driven and tethered to Christian ideas.

Maybe, it's not worth believing. But it's worth a holiday, at least.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Driving A Crooked Horse

Sometime over the course of the next few days, it appears that the Democrats will realize a monumental victory in their long-awaited scheme to have the government control the American health care system. There are a whole host of reasons to look forward with dread to what likely lies ahead for us as a result of this corrupt bargain. One concern that seems appropriate to discuss at this time of year is that if the government completely manages (and pays for) heath care, they will have an even larger stake in controlling personal conduct that impacts people's health.

If you thought we already had an overreaching, busy-bodied Nanny State, you ain't seen nothing yet. What you choose to eat, drink, inhale, ingest, or otherwise consume is no longer a matter between your brain and your body. Nope. Now that the government will be doling out the care and footing the bill, these decisions will no longer be left up to individuals. It will now be completely within the purvey of the government to decide what's good for you and what's not.

So enjoy this Christmas season while you still can. Eat, drink, and be merry in the manner of your choosing. Make the most of the Christmas cookies, candy canes, and cakes at your disposal. Fill up on that figgy pudding and fruitcake. Pig out on pie and plum pudding. Savor the fowl of your fancy whether it be turkey, duck, or goose. Revel in the roast beast. Hit the hot chocolate and hot buttered rum early and often. Enjoy many an eggnog. Tip back the Tom and Jerries. Consume your favorite Christmas cocktail with abandon.

Because it the not-too-distant future, in may well not be within your means to enjoy these essential elements for celebrating Christmas. They won't be banned outright of course. No, instead they'll be dealt with the same way the government has dealt with cigarettes: tax them heavily while running propaganda campaigns that stigmatize them and exaggerate their health risks (second-hand smoke in the case of cigarettes). Those that still want to enjoy these fine holiday fetes will find themselves paying a pretty penny for their pleasure and risk being ostracized from civil society the way that smokers have been.

The rich and privileged of course will continue to indulge as they do today. They'll be able to afford the added costs and if their appetites do lead to medical problems they'll still have access to the finest care, if no longer in America than perhaps in a luxury hospital in the Caribbean. Celebrities will do PSA urging the proles to eat healthy and exercise to help keep OUR health care costs down while living a separate and very unequal life outside of the public system. Yes, the future of the People's health care will be glorious indeed.

While we're on the subject of Christmas traditions which will no longer be sustainable in our return to the cave new world, you should also be sure to enjoy your Christmas tree while you can:

In other tree news, Alternative Consumer magazine says we should stop buying Christmas trees and just draw holiday trees on old shopping bags. Here's the green prescription from Alternative Consumer for family fun during the holidays and how the tree should look for the kids on Christmas morning:

"No tree. No driving to the tree lot, watching them saw the tree down, wrapping it in plastic and then driving back home. No driving to Target, buying a plastic tree and driving home. We make a tree mural out of shopping bags and leave a few Sharpies around to decorate with. It's personal, meaningful and 100 percent recycled."

And it's more than just Christmas trees too:

"The Rules" in Alternative Consumer for "A Freegan Christmas" include the following: (1) "No cards. Not even e-cards." (2) "No wrapping paper. There's something exciting about opening a wrapped gift, and you can achieve that by putting it in a paper bag--we all know you have a billion under your sink." (3) "No thank-you cards." (4) "No holiday hams. French toast can replace tired turkey and ham dinners." (5) "No stress."

Actually my kids would probably welcome number four.

For now, these are merely suggestions for how you can save the planet by slashing and burning your Christmas traditions. For now.

Finally, it's likely that you'll soon have to forget all about dreaming or roasting chestnuts by an open fire at Christmas. At least in California, which seems to be the primary breeding ground for ideas on how to best restrict individual freedoms for the common good.

Merry Christmas everyone. Be sure to take the time savor the season. Especially this time around.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Have Yourself a Mark Steyn Christmas

A writer with the extraordinary talent of Mark Steyn has no business being a superb broadcaster as well. We amateur hobby hacks in each medium NEED to think that each is uniquely difficult and nearly impossible to perfect. Sure, a chosen few could do one or the other. But both? Never heard of it.

Of course, Steyn's writing has been known for years as the best in political and cultural commentary. While his fill-in broadcasts for Rush and Hugh Hewitt have been good, sometimes very good, they haven't quite been up to elite standards. Turns out maybe political grind radio just isn't his forte.

Superb is the word to describe his self-produced and non-political holiday effort, The Mark Steyn Christmas Show. Two hours of highly entertaining and utterly charming radio (except done exclusively for podcast). The man himself on the guest list:

I stuck mainly to old friends and neighbors for this first tentative fur-trimmed boot toe back on the Santa sleigh. Rob Long, writer of everything from "Cheers" to Al Gore's e-mails, joins me to talk Christmas comedy. From across the Connecticut River in Vermont, Elisabeth von Trapp fills us in on what happened to her famous family after The Sound Of Music. There are a brace of British lyricists - Don Black, writer of "Born Free", "Ben", "To Sir With Love", and "Diamonds Are Forever"; and Tim Rice, writer of Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, The Lion King and, of course, "One Night In Bangkok". There are a couple of Québecois cuties - Dorothée Berryman, star of the Oscar-winning film Barbarian Invasions, and Monique Fauteux, from the province's legendary progressive rock band Harmonium. Hugh Martin, composer of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", performs his classic song his way; and Martha Stewart, America's homemaker, mocks my pie dishes. And I couldn't celebrate Christmas without my Sweet Gingerbread Gal Jessica Martin, but, if you've ever wondered what she sounds like de-Steyned, she gets a shot at a couple of solos.

Along the way we consider a range of topics from Ron Paul's artificial Christmas tree and Perry Como's cocaine classic to the dearth of New Hampshire songs and the alleged sexiness of my French. And there's lots of live music from my guests, including performances of "White Christmas", "Silent Night", "My Favorite Things", a bilingual "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" not to mention North America's oldest Christmas carol, and a song that nobody's sung in over a century, plus a couple of great medleys.

There are great moments in nearly all of these segments. Standing out in particular were Martha Stewart critiquing Steyn's baking skills, Christmas carols sung in French by the various chanteuses of his acquaintance, and the 95-year-old composer of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and his first-hand observations of working with Judy Garland (who died 40 years ago). Even the jazzy instrumental bumper music between segments is pitch perfect.

This combination of intelligent conversation, humor, appreciation of cultural history, popular music standards, a touch of high culture, and bad singing by the host reminds me of one person- Garrison Keillor. Except without the anti-Semitism.

I should say it sounds like Keillor at his best. Not once does Steyn delve into the shrill political partisanship or lazy cornpone humor Keillor has increasingly subjected his Prairie Home Companion audience to in recent years. With Keillor hinting at retirement in the next few years, maybe Steyn could be the answer to the question, what if public radio were actually interesting to listen to and truly non-partisan? Now that would be a Christmas miracle.

Until then, we have The Mark Steyn Christmas Show, something I hope at least becomes an annual tradition.

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Monday, December 14, 2009
Light My Way

Cut to the asylum interior. An unshaven, wild-eyed man sits in the corner bound in a straitjacket, nodding his head, and muttering, "C7, C9, C7, C9..." over and over again.

"What's he in for?"

"Christmas lights."

The great Christmas light quest of aught-nine is officially over. After many failed attempts to find the last few strings I needed, I settled on some that I discovered at Bachman's on Saturday. They're not ceramic which was what I really wanted, but they are multi-colored. They're also LED and have a five year warranty, so they should save energy and last longer (as in they actually might work again next year). I had to pay more for such features, but I'm hoping the investment pays off in the long run. Yes, I've finally acquired those C7s that I've been looking so hard for.

As I was stringing up the new lights in the fast diminishing light of late Saturday afternoon, I noticed that they looked a little different than the one string of ceramics I already had on the roofline. It wasn't just the finish and color of the bulbs either. It was the size. They were definitely smaller.

So all this time that I was searching very specifically--and would accept no substitute--for strings of multicolored, ceramic C7 bulbs, what I actually was trying to match was a string of multicolored, ceramic C9 bulbs. Funny, isn't it? Yeah, I'm still laughing today.

UPDATE-- Tim e-mails to twist the knife:

I hope in your quest for the C7 Christmas lights you didn't pass up C9 lights that you really needed.

Oh, you mean like when I was at a Target on Saturday and saw a string of C9 ceramics, but decided not to get it because you know I HAD to have C7s?

If they ever make a sequel to or updated version of A Christmas Story it should include a side story that kind of runs throughout the movie in the far background, kind of like the squirrel chasing the nut in Ice Age, with you, of course, as the "quiet, never bothers nobody, until Christmas that is," OCD-Christmas-light-obsessed town crazy guy.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009
An Offer You Can't Refuse

Courtesy of tonight's Phineas and Ferb Christmas special, we have another addition to Saint Paul's list of questionable Christmas song lyrics. Consider if you will the second and third verses of the classic We Wish You A Merry Christmas:

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer

We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some, so bring some out here


"We won't go until get some" certainly seems like an implied threat does it not? Unless you hand over some figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer, these maniacal carolers are going to be on your doorstep disturbing the peace and creating a scene. Not entirely dissimilar to extortion tactics employed by union thugs or even the Mafia. Note too that they aren't asking, they are demanding: "so bring some out here." We'd hate to have anything happen that might uh...spoil your Christmas, you know. Now make with the figgy pudding and we'll be on our way. That way everyone is going to be happy, right?

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Merry Christmas? No Such Thing

We're about two weeks out from Thanksgiving, meaning we're about two weeks into 'round the clock Christmas music on at least three Twin Cities stations I listen to. Two weeks of constant reinforcement and repetition of the stuff and I'm at capacity for enjoyment already. Now I'm in the phase of really listening to the lyrics and noticing some rather disturbing things. It seems some of the old standbys aren't as wholesome as we were led to believe. In fact, some of them advocate for the most grievous ills that plague our society today.

A few of the worst offenders:

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

Rabid ageism.

And so I'm offering this simple phrase, to kids from one to ninety-two
Although its been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you


Now, I agree with denying the newborn segment Holiday greetings, they are barely sentient beings, it's just wasted breath. But what's up with an arbitrary standard for shafting the elderly? If you're 92, Merry Christmas. If you're 93, cram It with walnuts gramps.

Maybe it's foreshadowing of the kind of rationing to come under Obama health care and cap and trade reforms. We can't afford these old people producing all of this extra carbon with the caroling and hall decking and wassail punch drinking and breathing. Kids from one to, oh say, 62, Merry Christmas. 63 plus, don't forget you have an appointment with your district death panel on December 23.

From Generians.com, a short list of those who turned 93 this year and are officially uninvited from the Christmas party. Please restrict your Season's Greetings accordingly:

Actor Kirk Douglas. Actress Olivia De Havilland. Historian Bernard Lewis. Dictator Raoul Castro. Former Minneapolis Lakers coach John Kundla. NPR commentator Daniel Schorr. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Coop. Gilligan's Island creator Sherwood Schwartz. Former Norwegian Minister of Industry Finn Lied (Finn Lied,, Christmas Died).

To all of you, Christmas is over and it ain't coming back. Maybe you can look into Kwanzaa.


Holly Jolly Christmas

Sexual harassment.

Oh ho the mistletoe
Hung where you can see
Somebody waits for you
Kiss her once for me


That's a request you don't hear every day. Hey, next time you and your lady are hooking up, whaddya say you find a way to work me into the mix? Who does this guy think he is, Tiger Woods?

It reminds me of a line from the holiday classic, The Jerk. Navin (Steve Martin) and Marie (Bernadette Peters) on their first date:

Navin R. Johnson: Do you think the next time you make love to your boyfriend you could think of me?

Marie: Well I haven't made love to him yet.

Navin: That's too bad. Do you think its possible that someday you could make love with me and think of him?

Marie: Who knows maybe you and he could make love and you could think of me.

Navin: I'd be happy to be in there somewhere


The "kiss her once for me" request is especially weird coming from Burl Ives. He was born in 1909, making him a centegenarian (that is, if he weren't already dead). Perhaps this indicates the reason 92 was the proposed age cut-off for being offered a "Merry Christmas". Offering it to men beyond that age risks a sexual proposition in return.


Winter Wonderland

Social Inequality

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say: Are you married? We'll say: No man.
But you can do the job when you're in town.


"No, man"? Where is this meadow located, Haight Ashbury?

The use of "man" as a vocative expression I assume to be yet another charming contribution to the culture from the 1960s- early 1970s. For example, the 1971 Five Man Electrical Band hit song, Signs: If God was here, he'd tell you to your face, man you're some kinda sinner. And the ubiquitous generalized greeting from the era: "Hey, man, give me some drugs!"

However, Winter Wonderland was written in an earlier era. You can't blame the dirty hippies. In fact, you can't really blame the filthy beatniks or the moderately soiled bobby soxers either. It predates all of them, with the song being written in 1934.

So, if baby boomer juvenile angst, challenging of authority, and drugs are ruled out, what is the source of "man" as an informal term of address? For that answer, we turn to my favorite book, "The Dictionary of Epithets and Terms of Address" by Leslie Dunkling. (BTW, if you really want to stick it to a buddy of yours, call them a "Leslie Dunkling".)

According to Dunkling (heh), the use of "man" in this way has a long tradition in the English language, going back at leas as far as James Joyce and Charles Dickens Excerpts from the Dictionary.

"A commonly used vocative by mainly working-class speakers, usually address to an adult male but in many varieties of English addressed also to women.

American speakers use the term more than British speakers of English, which may reflect interference from Spanish, where hombre is commonly used.

Black Americans and British speakers of Caribbean origins appear to use the word vocatively more than other groups, though is also very frequent in e.g., Wales and English regions such as Tynesdale.

Used by middle class speakers, "man" is often used by a socially or professionally superior to a junior, especially if the speaker is irritated with the hearer.


Well that explains that. The ancestor's of the couple in Winter Wonderland hailed from Wales and/or the Tynesdale region, making them privileged white people. And they were offended by the impetuous question of a perceived social inferior and they put him in his place with a sharp answer! Take that you uppity snowman! John Edwards was right, there are two Americas.

Clearly the kinds of discrimination and hatred evident in these songs have no place in America during the Age of Obama. I call on local radio stations to cease playing these songs and instead concentrate on the more wholesome, unifying Christmas carols that reflect our values.

That's it for me. I'll just sing a little from one on the approved list on my way out:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay

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Monday, December 07, 2009
Lights Out

Went out at lunch today to pick up a couple of more strings to complete this year's outdoor Christmas light display, which went up on Saturday. First stop was at Menards, where I've often purchased Christmas lights in the past. They appeared to be all out of "normal" lights with only a small selection of special (and expensive) collectible light options available. I checked with the help and they confirmed that's all that remained of their stock. Hmmm...

Okay, no problem. I can just run over to Home Depot. I'm sure they'll have Christmas lights. Again, after some fruitless searching I came up empty handed. I picked up some windshield washer fluid and when I checked out I asked the clerk if they had any more lights.

"Nope, that's it. They really went fast this year."

They really went fast this year? I didn't realize the supply was so limited. Was there a poor light harvest? Did the Obama Administration impose limits on the importation of Chinese Christmas lights? Was there an unexpected surge in local demand for lights? Do no other stores in the Twin Cities have excess lights that could be transferred to these depleted locations? How about the rest of Minnesota or other nearby states? Is the entire country stocked out of Christmas lights?

We can ship products from one end of the world to the other in a few days. We have the most advanced supply chain planning tools at our disposal. And you're telling me that EIGHTEEN days before Christmas we're all out of Christmas lights with no hope of getting any more? Thousands of the allegedly best and brightest minds in the entire world are getting together in Copenhagen this week to talk about how we're going to change the weather a hundred years from now and we can't even figure out how to have enough Christmas lights available on store shelves almost three weeks before Christmas Day.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Castro's Still A Leo

Back in 1995 I wrote a brilliant piece about the sociopolitical undertones roiling beneath the surface of the classic Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Since it was just on TV tonight and since I'm just too lazy to post any new material and since the original post is also a classic (because I SAY it is!), here it is again. I hope you relish it as much as I.

Isn't Castro A Leo?

I think I may be getting way too cynical for my own good. Not possible, you say? Wait for it...

Last night I watched CBS's special holiday presentation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as I have every single Christmas season since my eyes first developed the ability to focus. The hour long "Animagic TV Classic" ranks just above the original "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" in my list of absolutely-must-see holiday videos (Jim Carrey's always ridiculous over-the-top performance completely ruined the live action remake...and even managed to taint the original).

I clearly remember several pre-Christmas evenings from my childhood when I hastily scarfed down my dinner, sometimes even skipping dessert, so I could rush downstairs to the family room and not miss even one single second of Rankin and Bass' timeless masterpiece.

This year, however, is the first I can recall that I viewed Rudolph through my ever darkening lens of bitterness and contempt. I'll admit that I watched the first half through what remains of my child-like eyes. The wonderful stop-motion animation always makes me long for the days when all I had to worry about was six hours of grade school drudgery and what Mrs. Dalsin was serving for lunch.

This self-imposed illusion lasted only until our protagonists (Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius and Hermey the Elf Dentist) came upon The Island of Misfit Toys. It is here that we are introduced to the flying lion, King Moon Racer.

As the Rudolph story goes, this benevolent King "rescues" toys from children who no longer want them and then imprisons them on his desolate snow encrusted island to await their eventual demise.

Upon the arrival of Rudolph and crew, these horribly inconvenienced toys beg for their freedom in a wonderfully enchanting musical number with lots of misfit on misfit action including copious amounts of squirting jelly.

All that aside...when Rudolph and friends eventually plead for asylum to King Moon Racer as horribly maladjusted misfits themselves, the King not only tells them to shove right off but he demands that they send Santa Claus himself to his despotic little ice sanctuary to relieve him of all the twisted toys he has collected over the years and deliver them to children who may possibly someday want them.

My question at this point is, if King Moon Racer can fly around the world and pick up deformed toys from undeserving kids without the need for a magic sleigh and mutant reindeer...why in the hell can't he deliver them to some more deserving ones on the way back instead of relying on an already overburdened Santa Claus to do the dirty work?

All this Moon Racer character has done is create an island of dependent and demoralized subjects who fearfully worship every beat of his so called benevolent heart. Their only hope for freedom is that the more prosperous people of neighboring Christmas Town will swoop in to rescue them...from a problem the King himself created!

Island of Misfit Toys my rear end. Sounds a lot like Cuba to me.

How's that for cynicism?

The Elder Brews Up Some Coffee: Some people have lost weekends, Atomizer has lost decades. While it might seem like it was a blast from 1995 to him, his original post was actually scribbled back in aught-five. We regret the error.

Atomizer Sez: Meh...what does ten years mean in the grand scheme of things?

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Monday, November 16, 2009
You've Come A Long Way Ralphie

In Friday's WSJ, Eric Felten writes on the marginalization of Thanksgiving:

Given half a chance, retailers would probably try to get their plastic garlands hung just after Labor Day. (Ho-ho-ho, it's back to school!) But we've been spared that particular encroachment, thanks to a holiday that has proved capable of standing athwart the relentless forces of Christmas-creep--Halloween. Once a quaint bit of Americana built around the simple pleasures of costumes, candy-grabbing and petty vandalism, Halloween has become a marketable and profitable holiday, putting many official holidays to shame. If only Presidents Day had some sort of free-candy angle.

In contrast to Halloween's stalwart ability to keep Christmas from jumping the queue, Thanksgiving has lost its cultural muscle. The early advent of the Santa season may have less to do with the red-and-green imperative than with the weakness of Turkey Day. What happened to this quintessential American holiday?


The Thanksgiving squeeze is something that we can definitely relate to this year. Since we'll be out of town for ten days on and around Thanksgiving, our house decorations have transitioned from Halloween to Christmas with scarcely a pause in between. It's a shame too because Thanksgiving is a holiday that merits more attention. As Felten notes, it's a quintessentially American experience and one that I look forward to every year. If your travels aren't too arduous and you're not the one responsible for assembling the feast, it's a day to revel in the finest traditions of eating, drinking, and being merry. Throw in a little football and it's really a hard day to beat.

Felten ends his piece with a plea to embrace the autumn season, Thanksgiving in particular. It also includes an interesting nugget on the state of American Christmas culture:

There will be plenty of time next month for all the secular manifestations of Christmas: shopping, trimming the tree, shopping, mugs of frothing Tom & Jerry, shopping, and watching Ralphie get his Red Ryder BB-gun and Clarence get his wings. Oh, and yes, shopping. But before we break out the ornaments and dust off the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack, let's make the most of autumn and its particular pleasures. Jump in a pile of leaves. Savor the waning daylight. And go ahead. Week after next, eat that second slice of pumpkin pie--just be thankful for it.

Amazing. "A Christmas Story" is now so widely recognized within the culture that it's cited along with shopping, tree trimming, Tom and Jerrys, and that other grossly overrated Christmas movie as being emblematic of secular Christmas in America. Our little boy is all growed up.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Christmas Comes Early

Yesterday, my wife took my advice and gave me a four-pack of Surly Furious as a Christmas present. Well, I actually picked it up and paid for it, but it's the thought that counts, right? In addition to the Surly I also brought home some Rush River Winter Warmer, Leinie's new 1888 Bock, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, and a winter variety pack of Summit.

We also received a shipment of coffee from our Utah connection. Two-and-a-half pounds of some of the finest beans that Starbucks offers plus a mug. Who says this whole blogging thing doesn't have benefits?

Snow on the ground. Ice on the rinks. Stocked up on beer and coffee (and whisky & wine). Shopping done. Not going back to work until January 5th. We're definitely ready for a very merry Christmas. Hope you have one too.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The Magic of Mystery

One of the challenges that Christmas poses for Christian parents is to try to strike the right balance between the magical wonder of Santa Claus and the beautiful mystery of the birth of Jesus. You don't have to worry about your kids getting excited about Santa. They get bombarded with images, references, and stories of the jolly fat man. But you do sometimes worry that all this focus on Santa may diminish their understanding of the real meaning of Christmas. Does their faith in Santa interfere with their faith in God?

In Friday's WSJ, Tony Woodlief opined that it's not only acceptable, but understandable that for children the path to God can go through Santa Claus:

Perhaps a more responsible parent would confess, but I hesitate. For this I blame G.K. Chesterton, whose treatise Orthodoxy: The Classic Account of a Remarkable Christian Experience had its 100th anniversary this year. One of its themes is the violence that rationalistic modernism has worked on the valuable idea of a "mystical condition," which is to say the mystery inherent in a supernaturally created world. Writing of his path to faith in God, Chesterton says: "I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician."

Magic-talk gets under the skin of many, like renowned scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins. This is doubly so when it is what the Christ-figure Aslan, in C.S. Lewis's "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," calls "the deeper magic," an allusion to divinity. Mr. Dawkins is reportedly writing a book examining the pernicious tendency of fantasy tales to promote "anti-scientific" thinking among children. He suspects that such stories lay the groundwork for religious faith, the inculcation of which, he claims, is a worse form of child abuse than sexual molestation.

I suspect that fairy tales and Santa Claus do prepare us to embrace the ultimate Fairy Tale, the one Lewis believed was ingrained in our being. New research from the Université de Montréal and the University of Ottawa indicates that children aren't overly troubled upon learning that Santa is a myth. But the researchers remained puzzled because while children eventually abandon Santa, they keep believing in God. Lewis would say this is because God is real, but Mr. Dawkins fears it is the lasting damage of fairy tales. While Mr. Dawkins stands ironically alongside Puritans in his readiness to ban fairy tales, Christian apologists like Lewis and Chesterton embraced them, precisely because to embrace Christian dogma is to embrace the extrarational.

Today's Christian apologists, by contrast, seek to reason their way to God by means of archaeological finds, anthropological examinations and scientific argumentation. That's all well and good, but it seems to miss a fundamental point illuminated by Chesterton, which is that, ultimately, belief in God is belief in mystery.


I happen to be reading "Orthodoxy" right now and I can testify to its simply stated brilliance.

I can't recall the exact age when I realized that Santa was not the source of our Christmas booty. It probably was a gradual understanding that became clear over the course of a couple of years. I don't remember being especially traumatized by it nor do I think the revelation had any impact on my faith in God.

I can recall a period of time when I was wise to the ways of Santa while JB Doubtless was still a believer (I think he was about sixteen before the light bulb finally went off). It wasn't that hard to keep the illusion up and I actually enjoyed helping preserve his innocence a bit longer. He wasn't completely free of skepticism however and I can remember when he asked our Dad how the logistics of the whole Santa delivery operation were possible. Dad wisely explained that Santa had helpers who used Jeeps to cover the territory. Since JB was a Jeep fanatic this explanation suited his worldview perfectly and eased whatever doubts he may have had.

Another incident related to belief in Santa that I vividly remember took place at church. This too took place after I was in on the game. I don't think it was a Christmas Mass. But there were a lot of children in attendance and the expectation of Christmas near was definitely in the air. Probably the third of fourth Sunday of Advent.

Anyway during the homily the priest essentially came right out and said that Santa didn't exist. Now it's one thing for a kid on the playground to tell you there's no Santa. That same kid probably thought Spider Man was real and liked to eat yellow snow. It was easy to dismiss his claims. But when the priest--the guy one step down from God in kids' very hierarchal view of the world--said that Santa wasn't real it caught peoples' attention.

In this case, it also attracted the ire of my mother. Usually our parents tried to shield us from what they really thought of the clergy. They didn't want to poison our minds or introduce doubts in our fragile faith. After all, these were the men of God and as such they deserved a certain amount of respect and fealty. But this particular padre had crossed the line and I remember leaving church with her cursing his name (which I can't recall) for being such a jackass as to doing something so stupid around Christmas.

These many years later it still seems as if my mother's assessment of the priest's conduct was accurate. What's the harm with letting kids believe in the magic of Santa? It need not be detrimental, but in fact may help that appreciate the true wonder of the ultimate mystery of God.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Christmas Boot

I've been subjected to an inordinate amount of time listening to the Christmas Music Super Station in the Twin Cities this season. As such, today's story of President Bush getting shoes thrown at him during a press conference made me think of only one thing.

The Christmas Shoes (in Iraq)

It was almost Christmas time
There I stood in a press line
Trying to get that last Bush quote or two
Not really in the Christmas mood

Standing right in front of me
an Iraqi reporter waiting anxiously
Pacing around like reporters do
And in his hands he held
A pair of shoes

And his mood was dark and cold
He was a reporter from head to toe
And when it came his time to inveigh
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

"This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog"
And from his hands flew the initial dirty clog.
Bush ducked it fine
But the reporter had one more
You see, he'd been pissed for quite a while
And he knew these shoes would make liberals smile
and he wanted Bush to look foolish,
on Count Down and Hardball tonight



And ........ that's all I could complete.

I know, it really deserves a full rendering. But the original lyrics have like 8 more stanzas, with no discernible rhyme scheme or verse-chorus progression. You thought it was torture listening to the song, try to do a parody of it!

You gluttons for holiday punishment out there who think you want more, I give you this instead. The video for The Christmas Shoes starring ....... Rob Lowe.

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Monday, December 24, 2007
Creatures Stirring

Went to Mass at 5pm. Cracked open some wine, had dinner, watched a little television, put the kids to bed. Then, my wife and I spent TWO HOURS assembling a PlayMobil pirate ship for the elder son. Admittedly, it's a pretty damn sweet toy and I expect to spend some quality time playing with it myself, but TWO HOURS on Christmas Eve? Not my idea of a silent or holy night.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good (and assembly free) night!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Be Of Good Cheer

All in all it was a very good Christmas. Just before it began, my coffee connection came through with a five pound bag (yes, a FIVE POUND bag!) of some of the good stuff. You can never have too much coffee. Especially when it's free.

And you can never have too much good Scotch. My wife came through on this front. I was delighted to find a bottle of double-matured Talisker Distillers Edition waiting under the tree on Christmas morn. Forget the old adage ladies. The truly best way to a man's heart is through his liver. Seriously, it's hard to go wrong with the gift of quality booze.

My mom continued her own special Christmas tradition when, a couple of fortnights ago, she asked me what was on my wish list. A gift card to Best Buy would be welcome, I offered. So I got a sweater from Macy's. At least it was the right size. Not so many years back, she made a point of asking what size I wore in advance and then getting me clothing items whose proportions bore no resemblance to what I said. Mother knows best, right?

The highlight of the holiday of course was Mass on Christmas Eve. The choir kicked things off fifteen minutes before the service began with a rousing batch of carols. The church was immaculately decorated and the overflowing crowd was decked out in their holiday best. Everything was perfect. It was almost like a scene from a Christmas movie.

And then, as the long lines of revelers had just about all made their way through the communion lines, my wife gently nudged me and directed my attention to the Christmas abomination strutting down the aisle. A slack-jawed juvenile wearing vinyl red sweatpants and a...

...a green Brett Favre Packers home jersey. On Christmas Eve, of all the days of the year, you would think this punk could put on something appropriate for church. But no, he HAD to wear his Packers laundry. I'm not sure what was worse, this clueless kid or his parents who allowed him to represent his team on Christmas.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006
Protecting What Is Yours And Mine

Russ Vaughn pens an ode to our Sheepdogs:

It's so easy to forget them there,
As we warm beside the fire,
Those spread so far out everywhere,
Those sent to man the wire.

Patrolling on the front line,
As peacefully here we bask,
Protecting what is yours and mine,
That's their hard, dreary task.

Like sheep we are protected,
From the far off wolves of war,
And our Sheepdogs as expected,
Never waver from their chore.

In peace we sheep ignore their kind,
Wary of their violent trends;
But when the wolves attack we find,
These Sheepdogs are our friends.

Forever this has been the way,
Since time for us began,
Sheep fearing that the Sheepdogs may
Disrupt our placid plan.

Yet time again Dogs surely prove,
When comes a wolfine danger,
The Sheepdogs will most swiftly move
To guard the lambs, the manger.

So here's to Sheepdogs everywhere
At this Christmas time of year;
Just know the flock is with you there,
And we wish you Christmas cheer.

We wish we could advance the clock,
Cause truth is, Dogs, we miss you,
To the day that you'll rejoin the flock,
When we'll sheepishly then kiss you.


Merry Christmas to all, especially our Sheepdogs.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006
It's The Hap-happiest Season Of All

I just unwrapped my Christmas present from my boss and, even though I'm usually opposed on principle to the exchanging of any gifts in the workplace, I have to say that he made an astute purchase.

A four-pack of Bodingtons pint cans.

No need to worry about exchanging these babies. Now, if I only had a fridge under my desk...

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Sunday, December 03, 2006
You Can't Digitize a Feeling

Regarding my angst over missing the sole showing of Charlie Brown Christmas a few weeks ago, Learned Foot kicks this season of giving off in style:

Even though you missed A Charlie Brown Christmas, they have this wonderful new technology known as DVD. You can borrow my kids' copy if you like.

Giving away your kids possessions' without their consent probably violates the spirit of the Season to some degree, but it's the thought that counts and I'll take what I can get. One problem, I don't actually own a DVD player. You don't want to be an early adopter with every new-fangled technological whiz bang that comes down the chute. (Yes, I got burned by the beta version of the this a few years back.) So, before investing my hard earned dollars, I'm going to take a wait and see attitude on this whole "DVD" thing and make sure it's here to stay.

Strangely, although I don't own a DVD player, I do own 4 DVDs: King Kong (the most recent remake), Dumb & Dumber, The Clerks Cartoon compilation (personally autographed by Kevin Smith), and Presidential Bloopers (personally sat on by Gerald Ford). I have one hell of a movie marathon awaiting me once the technology is proven.

Would I add a viewing of a A Charlie Brown Christmas to this list? Not sure about that. I don't have a problem watching the classics over and over and over and over. When I was in Jr. High I taped an ABC Night at the Movies presentation of "Patton" on my parents Betamax and literally watched it every afternoon after school for three straight months. I didn't necessarily want to. In fact, near the end of this streak, it really started to seem like a bad idea. But each day before retiring to the den for a relaxing five hours of television, I asked myself "If Patton were being shown on regular TV right now - would I watch it?" The answer, in those primitive pre-cable days the answer was invariably "YES"!

But there is a problem with having access to Charlie Brown Christmas on such a convenient, casual basis. And not just the specter of me having to watch it every day for the next three months. Because it is not just a classic, it's a Christmas classic. And like the holiday itself, the anticipation and singularity of the day is what makes it work.

Kim from Hayward, CA writes in with a good description of what I mean:

Thanks so much for putting together the holiday specials post on Fraters Libertas!

My children will never know what it was like to watch the TV Guide in anticipation of Charlie Brown, Rudolf, and the Grinch. By the time they came along we had them all on VHS. But oh man, as a kid it was heaven to anticipate those shows, to sit down with hot chocolate and feast in the fact that the ONLY time we would ever see them for the year was that one night.

I only caught Charlie Brown by accident the other night and you would have thought I was nine-years-old again. I told my husband the only thing missing were the commercials for Dolly Madison cupcakes!I think I'm the only person on earth who cries at the end of Charlie Brown.


Kim has another recommendation for a show I did not put on my recommended list:

Did you ever see the Pee Wee Herman Christmas Special? Don't fall over - it is really funny. I know Paul Reubens is weird, but this really is a fun show. Pee Wee's Christmas list is so long that Santa has no toys for anyone else in the world so Pee Wee has to learn to be less selfish. And he keeps getting "fruitcake" from everyone as a gift. Everyone - even a tiny one from the dinosaurs in the wall. At the end of the special, he builds an addition to the playhouse with all the bricks for fruitcake! It is one of the wierdest things you will ever see, and obviously made before Paul Reubens became the poster boy for NOT going to adult theaters, but it has become one of my favorites. I'd like to know what you think of it, if you have ever seen it.

Anyway, as one who rarely watches TV anymore, I certainly appreciate the listing. And I will never, ever watch Christmas Story again without thinking of it as 24 hours of Hugh Hewitt! : D That's okay, I like Hugh. Somebody has to. Have a great Christmas!

Kim Hayward, California


Merry Christmas to you Kim. Given his sordid background, with the arrests, rumors, and allegations, I'm not sure I'd want to invite that particular performer into my house during the Christmas season.

Pee Wee Herman on the other hand sounds like he might have an entertaining program. I've never seen it. But it's got a tough time slot this year, 1 AM on December 25 on the Cartoon Network. Skipping Midnight Mass to watch it is not a likely prospect.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006
You've Ruined Another Christmas

It is with regret I have to inform you, the viewing public, that you already missed the one and only airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Yes, it has come and gone and December hasn't even started yet. The programming wizards, and presumptive Satanists, at ABC put it on this past Tuesday. A mere 5 days after Thanksgiving and 9 days after they ran A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving! Are they mad!

It is an outrage, it is a travesty, it is an abomination. No right thinking American expects it to be on this early. And since Monday Night Football was moved to ESPN there are exactly zero reasons to ever intentionally turn the channel to ABC. How in the name of Rankin and Bass are we supposed to catch this holiday classic? ABC, I condemn you. May you spend the afterlife watching reruns of According to Jim for an eternity.

After some research, I am relieved to report that none of the other holiday classics have passed us by this year. They are all still on the horizon, though bearing down on us like a freight train. (Really, why don't they wait until we're closer to the big day before showing these? With Linus's poignant reading of Luke 2: 8-14, Charlie Brown Christmas would be the perfect Christmas eve fare. As Charles Schultz himself is reported to have said: If we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?).

Circle these dates on your calendar so you don't miss the other must-sees this season:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - the all-time classic, nothing else need be said. Next Friday, Dec. 8, at 7 PM central on CBS.

Rudolph's Shiny New Year - an underappreciated gem. Rudolph, Ben Franklin, and a cave man (voiced by Morey Amsterdam) in a fight for the future. Inexplicably relegated to cable, ABC Family (Comcast channel 46), next Saturday, December 9 at 3 PM.

Gack! a conflict with NARN 3: The Final Word on AM1280 the Patriot. Which is a show about a political operative and economist (coincidentally, voiced by Morey Amsterdam) in a fight for the future. Never fear, Shiny New Year reruns during prime time on Dec. 13 , 22, and 24. But strangely NOT on Dec. 31.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town - Kris Kringle from cradle to the fat, bald, old scamp we know him as today. Featuring Fred Astaire, Burgermiester Miesterburger, and the Winter Warlock singing one of the catchiest songs of the holiday stop animation oeuvre, "Put One Foot in Front of the Other". It's must see TV. Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 PM on, hold your nose, ABC.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Tuesday, December 12, 7:00 PM on, you guessed it, ABC. The "According to Jim" fan base will be beside themselves, it's pre-empted for the third week in a row!

Note, this is the Boris Karloff narrated cartoon version, the 40th anniversary showing no less. The inferior, live action Jim Carey vehicle is also on ABC, Saturday December 9 at 7 PM.

Year Without a Santa Claus - A different view of Jolly Old St. Nicholas, as a vain, hypochondriac, prima donna. He comes down with the sniffles and threatens to pull the plug on the whole she-bang. I don't recall how this situation was resolved, but I do remember the appearances by the Heat Miser-Cold Miser brothers were worth the price of admission. Airs on ABC Family, THIS FRIDAY, at 7 PM. Reruns on the same channel on December 3 at 9 PM, December 13 at 8 PM, December 15 at 6 PM, and December 24 at 8 PM.

Believe it or not, NBC is premiering a live-action remake of this cartoon next Monday, December 11 at 8 PM. Don't know much about it, except Heat Miser is being played by a gay cross dresser and Cold Miser by the less funny member of the Lenny-Squiggy tandem. If ever there was a night for a very special episode of According to Jim to score in the ratings, this would be it!

And finally, the highlight of any Christmas season . . .

Midnight Mass from St. Peter's Basilica - featuring the Vicar of Christ himself, Pope Benedict XVI, and the heavenly host, LIVE! on EWTN (Comcast channel 21) on Christmas Eve at midnight Vatican time, and usually a replay at 12 midnight local time on one of the network affiliates. Not sure which one, but I know it's not ABC, since they'd schedule it to run sometime around Dec. 16.

Enjoy! And happy holiday TV watching from Fraters Libertas.

UPDATE--The Elder Adds: Don't forget THE Christmas classic movie for the ages, "A Christmas Story," which will air on TBS for twenty-four straight hours beginning on Christmas Eve at 8pm eastern time. You can flip back and forth between it and the Pope's Christmas Mass.

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Saturday, December 24, 2005
That Hugh Hewitt Is Simply Abominable

The voting has closed and the people have spoken. And by an overwhelming margin you have decided that Hugh is the Bumble.


(Thanks Derek)

Oh well. He'll always be Ralphie to me.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005
Isn't Castro A Leo?

I think I may be getting way too cynical for my own good. Not possible, you say? Wait for it...

Last night I watched CBS's special holiday presentation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as I have every single Christmas season since my eyes first developed the ability to focus. The hour long "Animagic TV Classic" ranks just above the original "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" in my list of absolutely-must-see holiday videos (Jim Carrey's always ridiculous over-the-top performance completely ruined the live action remake...and even managed to taint the original).

I clearly remember several pre-Christmas evenings from my childhood when I hastily scarfed down my dinner, sometimes even skipping dessert, so I could rush downstairs to the family room and not miss even one single second of Rankin and Bass' timeless masterpiece.

This year, however, is the first I can recall that I viewed Rudolph through my ever darkening lens of bitterness and contempt. I'll admit that I watched the first half through what remains of my child-like eyes. The wonderful stop-motion animation always makes me long for the days when all I had to worry about was six hours of grade school drudgery and what Mrs. Dalsin was serving for lunch.

This self-imposed illusion lasted only until our protagonists (Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius and Hermey the Elf Dentist) came upon The Island of Misfit Toys. It is here that we are introduced to the flying lion, King Moon Racer.

As the Rudolph story goes, this benevolent King "rescues" toys from children who no longer want them and then imprisons them on his desolate snow encrusted island to await their eventual demise.

Upon the arrival of Rudolph and crew, these horribly inconvenienced toys beg for their freedom in a wonderfully enchanting musical number with lots of misfit on misfit action including copious amounts of squirting jelly.

All that aside...when Rudolph and friends eventually plead for asylum to King Moon Racer as horribly maladjusted misfits themselves, the King not only tells them to shove right off but he demands that they send Santa Claus himself to his despotic little ice sanctuary to relieve him of all the twisted toys he has collected over the years and deliver them to children who may possibly someday want them.

My question at this point is, if King Moon Racer can fly around the world and pick up deformed toys from undeserving kids without the need for a magic sleigh and mutant reindeer...why in the hell can't he deliver them to some more deserving ones on the way back instead of relying on an already overburdened Santa Claus to do the dirty work?

All this Moon Racer character has done is create an island of dependent and demoralized subjects who fearfully worship every beat of his so called benevolent heart. Their only hope for freedom is that the more prosperous people of neighboring Christmas Town will swoop in to rescue them...from a problem the King himself created!

Island of Misfit Toys my rear end. Sounds a lot like Cuba to me.

How's that for cynicism?

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Sunday, December 26, 2004
We Wish You a C-List Christmas

Ever wondered what it would be like to have Goose Gossage and Lorenzo Lamas wish you a Merry Christmas?

Barring the ingestion of powerful mind altering drugs or profound depression, your answer is probably "no." Which makes me wonder exactly what's going on over at the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The fine folks in charge of defending our skies also does the service of tracking the progress of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve for all the children of the world interested in such things. Which is great. Especially if you like flash animation of Santa buzzing aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines in war zones (and I do).

But this year, NORAD also presents video Celebrity Messages, in honor of NORAD's 50th year of tracking Old Saint Nick on Christmas Eve. And all I can say is, at least we can rest easy that the Pentagon isn't blowing its budget on talent fees.

Click on over and receive the finest of half-hearted, slightly confused greetings from the likes of Jose Canseco, Eric Roberts, Warren Moon, and Erik Estrada. (I knew it was difficult to find pro-US military celebrities in Hollywood, but this is ridiculous). And don't forget George Stroumboulopoulos. No, not George Stephanopoulos. This is George Stroumboulopoulos. An entirely different hairy celebrity Greek.

Next check out the best wishes from Brett Butt, Hayden Panettiere, Brie Larson, and Diamond Dave Somervile. Then, of course, hit Goolge, to find out exactly who Brett Butt, Hayden Panettiere, Brie Larson, and Diamond Dave Somervile are. Parents everywhere, and Donald Rumsfeld, will be relieved to hear that despite their names, none of them are adult film stars. Not yet, anyway.

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Saturday, December 25, 2004
All I Want For Christmas...

...is a new furnace. Balsawood has cooled down to a chilly 54 degrees this Christmas morn. Thank God for the fireplace...in addition, of course, to thanking Him for that whole business about giving the world His one and only Son.

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Merry Christmas

Luke 2:12-14

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

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Friday, December 24, 2004
All I Want For Christmas...

...is Hugh's new book. Wait, a complimentary copy just arrived in the mail today. Finally, I'll be able to understand what this whole blogging thing is really all about.

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Friday, December 26, 2003
Taking What They're Givin'

Very satisfying Christmas. I had the pleasure of watching my four year old nephew tear open his GI Joe aircraft carrier (it's on my list for next year), die-cast A-10 Warthog with full ordinance (from me of course), space shuttle rescue kit (you wonder if they thought twice about shelving this after the 'Columbia' disaster last year), and numerous rockets of various shapes and sizes. Meanwhile my niece, around twenty six months, received a Volkswagen Barbie, two or three different Barbies to ride in it, an Olivia stuffed animal, and pots, pans, and other play kitchen accessories. Yeah, there's no difference between boys and girls.

I myself scored a Simpson's Christmas DVD, an under the counter radio/CD player for the kitchen, books on Reagan and Lincoln, gift certificates for Amazon, Best Buy, and Barnes and Noble, a five piece model set of generals from World War II (Patton, Monty, Ike, MacArthur, and Rommel), and best of all, from JB Doubtless, a bottle of The Macallan Cask Strength single malt. Yes, it was a memorable Christmas indeed. By the way JB, I hope you enjoyed your glass of Macallan yesterday. It was offered in the spirit of the season and you won't be seeing that bottle again any time soon.

But as much as I enjoyed the gifts from Santa and family, what really warmed my heart this Christmas was the generous collection of goodies I received from my fellow Northern Alliance members. Sorry JB, Saint Paul, and Atomizer but anything addressed to "the Fraters" is considered to be my property in a very real and legally binding sense.

The guys over at Power Line sent a nifty blue blazer. Mitch from
Shot In The Dark dropped off a loaf of what has to be the best banana bread this side of the Mississippi. The SCSU Scholars also were thinking about food with a tin of affirmative action bake sale cookies. The Warrior Monk of Spitbull renown, was kind enough to present me with the latest rendering in his now famous series of toast art pieces. Ed from Captain's Quarters contributed a framed copy of his bawdy version of 'The Night Before Christmas' done in limerick style. I'd give you a sample but this is a family friendly blog and we have certain standards that we attempt to maintain.

But easily the best gift I received came courtesy of one James Lileks. And it should come as no surprise that he elected to present me with a very, very special Hummel near and dear to his heart. It had to be difficult for James to part with this one.

I'm still waiting for my present from the NA Commissioner. I assume that it's been delayed due to some sort of delivery problem. But any day now I expect to get the call from the good folks at Downtown Jaguar with the news that I've been waiting for. Yes indeed. Any day now. (fade out to sound of fingers tapping...)

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2009-10 NARN LOON O' THE WEEK

3/20--Rick Perriello
3/13--Nancy Pelosi
3/6--Harry Reid
2/20--Keith Olbermann
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2/6--Barack Obama
1/30--Carol Shea Porter
1/16--Martha Coakley
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12/19--Al Gore
12/12--Harry Reid
11/21--Al Gore
11/14--Nancy Synderman
11/7--Roland Burris
10/31--Levi Johnston
10/24--Alan Grayson
10/17--Rick Sanchez
10/10--Barbara Boxer
9/26--Ed Schultz
9/19--Jimmy Carter
9/5--Chris Matthews
8/29--Dan Savage
8/22--Brad Pitt
8/15--Chris Matthews
8/8--Barbara Boxer
8/1--Bill Maher
7/11--Maddow/Klobuchar
7/4--Al Franken
6/13--David Letterman
6/6--Harry Reid
5/30--Drew Barrymore
5/23--Jesse Ventura
5/16--Wanda Sykes
5/9--Alren Specter
5/2--Nancy Pelosi
4/25--Janeane Garofalo
4/4--Damon Greene
3/28--Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
3/21--Charles Grassley
3/14--Seymour Hersh
3/7--DL Hughley
2/28--Sean Penn
2/21--James Clyburn
2/14--Chuck Schumer
2/7--Nancy Pelosi
1/31--Nancy Pelosi
1/24--Richard Lugar
1/10--PETA
1/3--Caroline Kennedy


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