Friday, December 25, 2009

O Holy Night.


O Holy Night.

Another Christmas, another nativity scene in the basement.

Notes:
  1. The angels' wings got a major upgrade this year, thanks to a clearance sale at Pier 1 last January.
  2. I can't find the Big Boy (!), so this year the pickle had to hover in his place.
  3. Brett Favre was allowed to remain, but only because here, he has manifested in his Packers form. Vikings-related Favre manifestations are indeed unholy and must not be allowed near the six baby Jesuses (Jesi?).
  4. A benevolent Liberace still watches over us all. Amen.

And a benevolent Liberace keeps a watchful eye over them all...


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dylan + house party x Tom Petty's hair & hat = must be awesome.


This was posted over on PDD the other day, but it's so spectacular that I can't resist posting it here.



I want to play this on a loop all day at our house on Christmas. MAGIC!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I love Christmas shopping.


I'll admit it: I love Christmas shopping.

Well, not so much the shopping part. Actually, I hate shopping most of the time. I usually know what I'm looking for when I walk through the door, so if I don't see it, I don't like sticking around just grasping for something else to buy. I'm a cheapskate at heart, so even though I'm impulsive sometimes (hello, three Rubbermaid bins full of yarn in the basement!), if I think something's overpriced, I won't buy it. I don't like crowds, or standing in long lines, or crazy competitive people that get off on grabbing the last thing on a shelf. Those Black Friday people can have it.

But I do love Christmas shopping the way I do it.

I start in the spring, and haphazardly pick things up throughout the year as they pop into my head. I almost always have a stash of presents-to-be somewhere in the house; birthday presents for my friends' kids, trinkets for my mom, random crap for my brothers. I check out clearance racks. As I come up with ideas, I write them down and hide them on my computer. I watch for sales around town and online. I shop local, I shop often; I don't spend a lot of money, but come December, I'm usually almost done. It makes life a lot easier. (I realize this is probably easier for me, being single & childless, than it is for people with more irons in the fire. But for now, for me, it works.)

And I really love giving people presents. Seriously. I mean, I suppose most people like giving presents, but I really love it. Like, at least as much as Oprah does. I don't do one-size-fits-all presents (except for last year, when I got my friends Snuggies)--everybody gets something that I hope is tailored to their tastes (however weird their tastes may be). And it's not really the giving-of-stuff so much as it's the act of surprising people. I love surprising people. I love remembering some random thing someone brought up six months ago and delivering it to them in a sloppily-wrapped package at the end of the year. Gift giving entails so many of my favorite things--making lists, crossing things off of lists, sealing things in Scotch tape. We were made for each other.

The funny thing is, like most adults, I don't get that many surprises anymore around Christmastime. I wind up doing a lot of my parents' shopping for them (or with them), since they can't ever make heads or tails of the stuff me & my brothers put on our wish lists, so I usually know what they're getting me ahead of time. I still get some surprises from my friends and my brothers, but you know how it is--it's never the same as when you were a kid, and this time of year was all about possibility and curiosity and intrigue.

So when something truly unexpected does turn up, I love it. I just love it. It seriously makes my day. Especially if it's something tailor-made to fit my weird tastes.

And this totally made my day:

World's Smallest Letter.

Tiny! Inside.

To/From.

Magnifying glass included.

Thank you, Mystery Elf, whoever you are!



Nope, I'm not the only one.


I cross-posted my query about compulsive ice chunk kicking on Perfect Duluth Day last night, and a commenter left this little nugget of joy in the comments:

A Great Winter Sport
by Peter Moore

The best part of winter, the best part by far,
Is kicking those ice chunks that form on your car.
No matter our ages or races or genders
We all enjoy booting that slush off our fenders.
It's deeply fulfilling, that contact and sound
Of boot hitting chunk and then chunk hitting ground.
It makes you feel better, it makes your day brighter,
It makes your Tercel about twenty pounds lighter!
And boy, what a workout! We all could be hunks
By starting each morning with kicking some chunks!
So next time you spot one, no matter how awesome,
Don't wait and think maybe you might let it thaw some;
Go after it, mister! Attack it with zeal,
And manfully give it the back of your heel!
It may take you weeks, but of course that's good, too:
The winter goes faster with something to do!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Am I the only one...


Kick me.


...who spends most of the winter fighting the urge to sneak through parking lots, compulsively kicking the ice chunks off of other people's cars?



Friday, December 18, 2009

Reading/Watching/Etc.

It's been a few months since I've done one of these...so some of this stuff was read or watched or etcetera'd a while ago. But eh, better late than never, right?

READING:

"Dear President Bush" (The Atlantic, October '09)
"The belief that when America tortures, the act is somehow not torture, or that when Americans torture, they are somehow immune from its moral and spiritual cancer, is not an American belief. It is as great a distortion of American exceptionalism as jihadism is of Islam."

"How American Health Care Killed My Father" (The Atlantic, September '09)
More depressing observations about the state of our health care system. Whee!

"Obama's Big Sellout" (Rolling Stone, December '09)
As I watched the last hopes for meaningful health care reform swish down the toilet, I read this and now I definitely want to punch somebody.

The Hater (The A.V. Club/The Onion)
Speaking of wanting to punch somebody, when I read this, it jackhammers away at my anger until its broken down into digestable chunks of laughter. It's like Activia for rage.

Roger Ebert (rogerebert.com)
I don't find the time to read a ton of movie reviews anymore, which is just as well since we've had a dry spell at the theater in Ashland (oh my god, get rid of Old Dogs already! Are enough people actually going to see it to justify keeping it around for yet another week? DISTURBING!). But Ebert's a great writer, and even if I don't always agree with his reviews, I like the way he lays out his arguments. Check out his very funny take on Did You Hear About the Morgans? ("I realize yet once again the durable validity of Siskel's Question: 'Is this movie more entertaining than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?'"), and dig around in the archives for more gems, positive & negative.


WATCHING: Special NBC Thursday Night Line-Up Edition

Community
My favorite new show of the fall season, hands-down. Modern Family has been consistently funny, too, but this one's more of a square peg, and I'm always one to root for the oddball. Watching Joel McHale & Chevy Chase bounce off each other (and watching Chevy bounce off the scenery--the dude can still take a fall like nobody else can) keeps getting better, and I like how the potential romance between Jeff & Britta has been (sorta) dealt with and subsequently shoved onto the back burner, giving us a chance to ignore it and get to know the rest of the characters. Smooth move, because that had (has?) the potential of becoming a great big distraction, and really, the rest of the cast is too funny and weird to be relegated to the sidelines. My two favorite episodes so far have been the Halloween and Christmas shows...the A.V. Club over at the Onion has kept up a great weekly recap of the show, and I'm glad to see they're championing it, too.

Parks & Recreation
Yay, it's improving! Good thing, since last spring's run didn't impress me much, and things hadn't changed much when it came back this fall. But the writing's gotten crisper, the characters are getting more interesting, and they're even almost getting me to like the guy who plays Tom. (I can't explain why he rubs me the wrong way: he just does. I didn't like him on Human Giant or Scrubs, either.)

The Office
Still funny. It veers off into the ridiculous on occasion, but it's fun to see what new shenanigans everyone gets into from week to week. Loved the Christmas episode when Michael referred to Phyllis as "Tranny Claus."

30 Rock
Is it just me, or is this show becoming very...shrill? The little asides that once dotted the edges of the main storylines are becoming distracting as they shove their way to center stage, and they're fragmenting things to the point where the show's reminding me of Family Guy. That's not a compliment. Some sight gags and one-liners are one thing, but this is taking the "let me make a completely unrelated comment so we have an excuse to cut to this totally superfluous clip" to an irritating new level.


ALSO WATCHING:

Julie & Julia
The "Julie" half of this movie should be jettisoned into the farthest reaches of space, so that the lovely & charming "Julia" half might thrive unencumbered under the weight of Julie's self-entitled, me-me-me bullshit. Every time Julie came on the screen, I wished I had a fast-forward button to push. Toward the end, when Julie whined "Julia Child hates me," I turned to my friends and said, "Well, that makes two of us." "Julie" = 1/2 star; "& Julia" = 4 stars.

The Class/Entre les Murs
Outstanding. It's slow-moving, messy, complicated...and totally engrossing from start to finish. It could pass for a documentary, it feels so real.

Away We Go
Something about this didn't quite gel for me. I liked the premise of the story, and I liked the actors, but...it's like it was a little too quirky for its own good. Some of the supporting characters were cartoonishly wacky; at the same time, the leads seemed a bit bland and underdeveloped to me. The tone would shift jarringly from scene to scene--it's like the movie wasn't quite sure what it wanted to be, so they thought they'd cram everything in there and hope that the soundtrack could do some of the heavy lifting instead.

Scrubs
If there's one show that deserves a mercy killing, it's Scrubs. I tuned into the season premiere with an open mind...which immediately slammed shut as soon as J.D. and Turk inexplicably burst into yet another reprise of their little "Guy Love" song. Folks, that horse died a long time ago, whattaya say we stop beating it now? The new characters can't possibly compete with the old ones for the viewers' attention (or, at this point, affection)--the girl who's supposed to be "the new J.D." is completely uninteresting, although I think Cole (the one played by James Franco's brother) has some comedic potential. The other guy newbie is just a Dr. Cox clone, and the other girl newbie...well, she's Australian? And she stands around pushing her boobs out? That's about all she's been good for so far. If we're three episodes in and I don't even know the new characters' names yet, that's a problem. Meanwhile, I keep waiting for Elliot/Carla/The Todd/The Janitor to walk in, but alas, they never will. Pull the plug.


ETC.

I finished putting up the Christmas trim in the basement; my cards have been sent out; all my shopping is done; and I've mailed out everything else that needed to be mailed. Now I can be a lazy little elf.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tales of a 4th grade lip-syncher.


When I was in the 4th grade, we were presented with a series of class projects of dubious educational value. Like, extremely dubious educational value. Not that the 4th grade should be a grueling day down in the coal mine, but in retrospect (and hell, even at the time we were doing them), I have a feeling we were doing this crap less for our benefit, and more for the amusement of our puppetmasters.

One of the most ridiculous things we had to do that year was (A.) pick a song, any song and (B.) lip-synch to it. In front of the whole class. And dance around in a manner befitting our song selection. Costumes were not required or encouraged, but I'm sure if anyone had shown up in one, the teacher would've clasped her hands in glee and cackled with delight. Students could perform solo, or form supergroups (just like Damn Yankees!).

This presented a number of conundrums for nine year-old me:

1. None of my friends could agree on a song, so we all went solo. I wasn't a super shy kid, but the prospect of going up there alone definitely freaked me out.

2. I owned, like, three tapes. (I was nine! It was the 80s! It wasn't like it is now, when five year-olds have their own iPods!) And those tapes didn't present a wealth of songs that would make me a hit with the 4th grade set...I mean, I loved Weird Al, the Beach Boys and the Oliver & Company soundtrack, but I knew that the rest of the girls in my class had already moved on to saltier terrain like Poison and Bon Jovi. Sure, my older brother had a Queen tape, and my parents had some eight-tracks upstairs, but those options weren't red-hot, either.

3. Have I mentioned how utterly stupid I thought all of this was? The teacher leading this field trip to hell wasn't my main teacher that year, and I didn't like her--there were two fourth grade classes at my school, and I only had this lady for reading and social studies( or something like that, I forget how exactly it was divvied up.). The rest of the day, I had a very laid-back, lumberjack-ish guy who most definitely never would've come up with this lip-synching business. He was a burly man of the forest, and I always got the feeling he didn't really cotton to all this singin' and dancin' nonsense but just went along with it because hey, it got him out of writing a lesson plan for that day.

I remember spending a lot of time on the phone with my best friend Jenni, agonizing over what to do. Neither of us knew what we wanted to "sing." Jenni had a better selection at her disposal, though, since her parents had more tapes & records than mine did, and they bought her more tapes than mine did, too. (My birthday & Christmas presents were all tied-up in My Little Ponies at this point.)

Finally, we each picked a song. And then, the day of the big "concert" arrived...one by one, our peers went to the front of the room and performed their selections. There was some "Every Rose Has It's Thorn," some hits from Dirty Dancing (which I obviously hadn't seen, since Weird Al wasn't in it), a smattering of Debbie Gibson, "The Loco-Motion" (oh, Kylie Minogue, have you always been so perky?), "Pour Some Sugar on Me," at least one "Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car"...and then Jenni went up. And "sang" this:



I shit you not.

I think it's safe to say that most of us 4th graders didn't quite know what to make of "Rainy Days & Mondays." Heck, I still don't quite know what to make of it.

Then it was my turn.

*

And thank goodness Jenni went right before me, because after that bummer of a song, my classmates greeted the infectious fun of the Beach Boys like a liberating army.

The funny thing is, each of us sort of unwittingly picked ourselves the perfect song. Jenni picked the moody, introspective one, and I picked the one about slacking off and having fun, fun, fun. And that's why Jenni wound up as the high school valedictorian, and why I wound up as a shiftless English major.




*What I especially love about that clip is that it probably looks a lot like whatever the hell I did at the front of the classroom that day.


Monday, December 07, 2009

Stowaway.


What the dentist pulled out of my tooth today.

That sharp little metal spike (underneath the pencil's tip) rode in my molar for a week...but I never felt a thing. Freaky, huh?

Today's root canal went great. The dentist got the broken file out much more easily than he'd anticipated, so things went faster than anyone had expected...and as an added bonus, I've been able to keep the post-digging-around-in-my-tooth pain at bay. I've popped a couple of Advils, and so far, all's well. (Knock on wood.)

I don't want to jinx it, but as it stands right now, I don't know why root canals have the reputation they have. I've had way more painful dental procedures than this. Heck, there were times when I got my braces adjusted in middle school that my mouth hurt more than this. Maybe I'll change my tune when I wake up tomorrow morning, but for now, the most painful part of the root canal's been the bill.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Now that it's December...


...it's okay to do this to the cat as much as possible, right?


Toivo Claus.