Christmas parties this weekend. One small and merry, the other large and merry. I could have used some spirited civil disagreement, though. It’s a lost art. I knew only a few people at the large-and-merry party, so I foisted myself on strangers with that particular flavor of desperate extroversion that makes people edge backwards with an unsteady grin. One poor fellow deposited a box of store-bought chocolates on the dessert table, and I treated him to the theory that the squiggles and swirls on the top of the chocs were a hint of the hidden contents nestled with in.

"See, this C could stand for Caramel; this B could indicate Brickle – but I doubt it, since Brickle is usually found in flat twinned rectangles nestled in their crinkly paper pods – ah, like these! I’ll wager these are brickle, my good man."

He left before I could break into the Monty Python lark’s vomit candy sketch.

Someone else came along. I proposed the same theory. Then I checked the box to see if it was Russell Stover or Whitmans, those being the two venerable drug-store brands; it was actually Abdallah, which gave me something else to yammer about. “It’s a local chocolatier, one of the last of the old firms – started in 1909, I believe, and they had a store in Uptown on the corner where the Starbucks used to be. Curious name for a chocolate, eh? Anyway, as you’ll note, they’ve had to update the graphics on ‘Downtowner’ brand to reflect the changing skyline. You can tell from the typeface that this was a 1960s line, but I guess it’s a good seller, since – oh, sure, it’s over there, down the hall, to the right. Enjoy!”

Then we picked up (G)Nat went home and everyone stayed up too late. After the womenfolk were tucked in bed I wrote the Sunday update, had a online conversation about 70s Italian prog and the symphonic scores of video games, then watched “The Third Man.” I love this trailer: ten seconds in, we get those late-40s hallmarks of modernity, the Surrealist’s Vanishing Lines.


Take away the music and the tilted frames and the excellent sewer chase, and it’s a basic noir. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a delight to watch, with exceptional performances – except for Valli, alas. Okay, you’re in love. Okay, you’re unhappy. Got it. You’re the big post-war European Downer Chick. Noted. But I’ve seen a few ignored unheralded B-movies that had more spark and pop, and I wonder how much of the movie’s reputation rests on the Haunting Power of the Mocking Zither:


Sorry to lard this up with YouTube, but it still seems novel to me; the ability to illustrate matters on the fly with sound and moving pictures is one of the more satisfying elements of modern communication. Also, we spent the entire night putting up the tree, and I'm late to the bleatwork. As for the tree-trimming: best tree ever. It's huge. Dead, and shedding, but huge. To my relief the ornaments were not only intact, they are intact in my daughter’s cosmology. No one got the heave-ho. Hello Kitty is still welcome; both the Princess and the Pauperette were greeted with smiles, and all the My Little Ponys miniatures were lined up on the table. In fact the “A Very Minty Christmas” is playing right now; she’s listened to “Nothing Says Christmas Like a Pair of Socks” three times today. I can sing along too. She doesn’t mind. I suspect she likes it.

The animated My Little Ponys Christmas movie – as opposed to the live-action version, perhaps – is cute and all that, but the ability of the Ponys to manipulate objects when they have naught but blunt hooves is just disconcerting. Then again, the look like octopi with opposable thumbs compared to the limbless Veggie Tales characters.

We got the tree at Bachman’s – “Where the upscale prices flatter your sense of class identity!” – instead of the Boy Scouts' lot. We got wreathes and boughs from the Scouts, so it’s not as if we’ve abandoned them. But the prices were high and the trees a bit scrawny. Bachman’s has better trees, and a big heated store that’s heated and has heat and ornaments, displayed in a festive heated atmosphere. (You may get a sense of my current priorities.) Bought a tree, trussed its corpse to the roof of the Element, dragged it up the stairs, put it in water. It will not drink. Of course it won't. It's dead. Expecting it to drink is like propping up a corpse in a chair and putting its feet in a bucket of blood.

After supper, the festooning. I mentioned that (G)Nat's decorations made the cut, but this wasn't the case with the rest. Oh, it’s always a joy to get out the bins and renew your acquaintance  with the seasonal items. You know what you’ll find but you’re always surprised: oh, that. Right. Man, that’s ugly. This year we tossed as many ornaments as we put up. Ornaments have to be out of rotation for a few years before they get the heave-ho. There’s a batch of dorkaments from the 90s, Star Trek ships that no longer light up because the plugs changed at some point. Without warning. Thereby eliminating the utility of all your plug-in ornaments. Thanks, American Christmas Spoiling Council! There’s a cheap plastic angel I had in my Uptown apartment; that stays. A few items from our thin apartment trees in DC, four footers I bought on the street corner from a guy; it always felt shady, somehow. You need a tree, man? I can fix you up. This year Frederick the Flautist didn’t make the cut. We got him from Macy’s – a free gift for opening a charge account, I think – and I’ve never liked him.  I don’t know why; he’s cheerful enough. A tonsured head, a jolly round belly, a flute at his lips, the obligatory bird perched on his shoulder like an official Assisi Accessory. Charming, really. He’s gone. He had a good run. Fourteen Christmases. Fourteen fortnights in which he could soak up as much of the world as he could – oh, they moved that chair, and they took down the wallpaper – before he went back in the dark tomb for a year. Hope he paid attention and took notes, because it's the landfill for him now. It might take two years or maybe three, but eventually he'll realize what's happened. It's a fate sad enough for an animated Christmas special. I'd write it, but then someone would interview me and ask what I based the tale upon, and I'd say Frederick the Flautist.

"Oh, so he was real! Delightful. Where is he? Did you rescue him from the landfill like the character in your story?"

No, he's long gone. He's probably face down in coffee grounds in a Wisconsin dump. I never liked him. No reason, but if I'd been a skeet-shooter, I would have loaded him up and barked PULL long ago. There's no good reason; it's not as if the Jolly Monk is an overplayed theme. He just never caught on with me personally, and I resented the way his association with Christmas somehow gave him the right to hang around forever."

"So your story is not based in anything except a calculated manipulation of proven commercial themes."

"More or less, sure. Say, when is this interview going to run?"


Today's Xmas song. There are just so many.


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