I’d hoped to write something about the presidential contest today, and why Mike Huckabee’s homespunned persona has gone from anodyne to teeth-grating in the course of six days, but perhaps tomorrow. The time I would have allotted to the matter was spent polishing that annual horror, the Christmas Letter. It would be easier to send everyone a CD-ROM with a year’s worth of Bleats. Summing up a year in one page is hard enough; ginning up the jaunty tone is almost impossible. It’s a genre of fiction breezy from-the-heart truth that I simply cannot master.

After I’d completed the letter, reread it, winced, and sighed the annual sigh, I had to fit it on one page and accommodate the non-spiecific Holiday Graphics on the paper. It worked, if I used six point type. My wife gave it a look-over, and indicated a spot where I should put a nice “Best Wishes” or “Happy Holidays from All of Us” closing line, whatever that’s called. The opposite of a salutation. She wrote “warm feelings” to indicate where I should put something that suggested warm feelings. I put “warm feelings.” This did not go over. I suppose she’s right, but who takes those remarks as anything but a placeholder that says “letter’s over,  signature’s next”? I’ve read enough aggressive legal warnings that ended “Regards” or “Yours” or “Sincerely” to suspect that these are just pro forma phonemes. If the bulk of a letter teems with insincere sentiments, after all, the assertion of sincerity at the end only stands as a mocking rejoinder to the claptrap that preceded it. But make this argument to someone who’s just trying to get the dang letters out before Arbor Day and you get the Perry Mason Stare.

Next on the agenda: printing the matching address labels. I had a template, once upon a time. When we used the labels for (G)Nat’s Christmas party invitation, I ran off a batch, testing and retesting to align the labels. I ran off several batches, actually, and used up all but one sheet. I had no idea they were to be used for the family Christmas letters as well, so my profligate wastage was not well-received two weeks later. Now I had one chance to print the last sheet, and there was no room for error. Well, let’s call up the template –

Ah. Right. I threw it away. My hand had hesitated over the file, and I’d asked: what are the chances I will need to print out address labels for my child on this template, knowing that only one sheet remains? Nil. What are the chances TEMPLATE will come up in a search nine months hence and slow down my workflow for two seconds? Confidence is high, repeat, confidence is high. So I trashed it. Now I needed it. Well. No problem. Go to the website and get it again.

Alas, the website wanted me to search by SKU. I had thrown away the packaging; I knew not the SKU. I knew the name, but not the SKU. The website wanted SKU. Numbers are like plankton to websites; words are cement blocks. A search through the website eventually located the product, and the all-important SKU, and that led to the template. I had two choices for downloading: log in, supply my email, answer a brief questionnaire, or just get it as a “Guest.” Man, that’s a tough one.

Ten minutes later I had the template ready to roll. I pressed print. LOW SUPPLIES, the printer warned me. Oh for GOD’S SAKE. I just put thirty bucks’ worth of ink into this thing, and I haven’t printed more than 30 pages. These blasted machines are like rich anal-retentive alcoholics who send the manservant out for another bottle when they’re halfway done with the first, even though they know they have seventeen more in the cellar. There’s no way you’re low on supplies. But of course you won’t give me an accurate assessment; you’ll claim LOW SUPPLIES for the latter third of the cartridge, then gutter out after two more weeks. I still find it hard to believe that the invention of the catapult preceded the invention of the computer and all its peripherals; nothing in human history exceeds the ability of the computer to make its user want to construct a device that hurls heavy objects as far away as possible.

It printed without running out of ink. Good. Because I would have had to go to Walgreen’s at 10:37 PM and pay the late-night emergency printer ink surcharge. Makes you wonder how Kinko’s makes any money, doesn’t it? Just running off 100 pages must cost those guys a fortune.


Anyway, the letter’s done, and Huckabee’s characterization of Iran is based on astonishing naivety, and the last time I heard such hackneyed metaphors deployed to describe international relations I was in a dorm room, and everyone was convinced the pizza should have been here because we ordered like six hours ago even though it was only 15 minutes. And then the pizza arrived 15 minutes later, and everyone was like, whoa: pizza! 

Today Jinglepixie, the 50s sprite who clawed his way up from the pits of hell to spoil our Christmas in ways not yet apparent, took some time out to terrify the residents of Dickens Village. Boo! Ha ha ha! Come out so I can crunch your tiny porcelain bones!

Afterwards, quiet time with the dog. How about it, pal? I’ll turn on the gas and you get the matches. There’s a steak in it for you. There’s steak and gravy. My boss has lots of steak.


Now, Bleat Yuletide Theater. The debonair yet pensive Herbert Marshall stars in a Christmas story of a different sort: “Back for the Holidays,” a Suspense play aired on December 24, 1948. Nicely Hitchcockian. This version includes the original commercials for Autolite, some of the most inane spots ever aired. At least they seem to realize they’re inane; the elderly character is always somewhat amused, or even weary, by the Babbitty side-kick’s insistence on dragging every frickin’ topic back to Autolite. This brand still exists, and displays its wares in a fashion that would have been sci-fi when Suspense first aired. 

(Long-time Bleat patrons may recognize a moment in this episode; I pulled it out a long time ago to illustrate what I thought might be a flub. Turns out she said “silly old fox.”)




See you at buzz.mn.