My pre-emptive holiday post

OK. As many of you may already know, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas. The precise theological details can be obtained by making clicky with the ‘Personal’ link down and to your right.

In re: a question I see a lot around these cyber-parts, yes, it’s entirely acceptable to give the Witnesses in your life a card along with everybody else. Just make sure that a) you know them well enough that they’ll understand the motive behind the gesture is friendly, and b) the card is appropriately non-denominational (a lovely winter scene, say), and you’re set.

Honestly, you needn’t spend a lot of time feeling sorry for us this time of year. Because meanwhile we are staring around in frank awe, trying to figure out just why you-all enjoy it so much. Seriously.

I’ve worked major retail outlets many a Christmastime, people – another side benefit to our stance, lots of overtime on stat holidays! – and I’m here to tell you, the jolliness, from all appearances, it is a myth. Or at least, a wistful long-shot, rather like the precise sprinkle placement Martha Stewart gets on the cupcakes.
In terms of sheer guilt-induced looniness of expectation it can be topped only by the wedding industry. Maybe. When you’re a bride, you at least get the consolation that it’s all about you. At Christmas, by contrast, you get to run yourself ragged trying to meet the fondest needs of everybody else. Which as far as I can tell, even if you love them dearly, does not quite compensate for the loss of dignity inherent in screaming at the poor bookseller because she has just sold the last copy of The 25 Greatest NASCAR Sponsors of All Time. Or whatever.

Then, of course, there’s the post-event afterglow. In the one case, snazzy vacation, lotsa hot sex; in the other, eighteen avant-garde cheese graters and that Elmo toy that when you walk past it, goes ‘Awww, you don’t wanna play with Elmo?” in that sad-clown way you have always hated and feared. You can’t do anything about it, either, because this was little Suzy’s gift from your in-laws. So you also now have confirmation that the big family dinner is going to be really tense.

The whole situation is best summed up by the bizarre movie Christmas With the Kranks, in which a random couple’s desire to exercise their basic frelling free will is relentlessly steamrollered by an entire neighborhood of self-appointed Santa’s Little Helpers. As far as I can tell, this thing was marketed without a trace of irony. (Neither was Fred Claus, but I think that had more to do with specific latent sadism on the part of those particular film-makers.)

The only defense – not unlike the one recommended for Martha and/or wedding plans – is to raise a wall of cynicism real quick. Thus the ‘Carols I Hate’ articles, the commercials based around how nobody ever looks forward to those family dinners…the deep sighs of envy when the Witness in the next cubicle over confesses that they never even heard of mincemeat.
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen one unironic media mention of the holidays this year. Oh, except that one Hallmark commercial, but they have to lure you into a diabetic coma because that’s the only state in which anyone would lay out $19.95 on a china gingerbread-house that blinks in tune with Jingle Bells.

It all makes for a rather pleasant holiday experience for all the wrong people. The one slight drawback, of course, is that we can’t go near shopping malls past roughly November 15th…in other words, not so much with the possibility of being crushed to death in Wal-Mart. Yeah, tough choice there.

OK, yes, I’m exaggerating. Those who have contrived to keep their holidays focussed on faith and/or the simple joys of family love and togetherness, I salute you wholeheartedly. Know that Witnesses strive for the same – just not necessarily on the 25th around a tree.

For this holiday season, I wish everyone happiness according to their lights, literal or otherwise. Mind, I’ll be a safe distance off on the beach at the time.

The bemusement is strong with this one.

In the “Hi there! Duh calling!” dept, I do get my share of spam.

Most of it I can trace back either to the source, as for instance the ones that keep promising me A NEW JOB IN MY AREA, or to the general belief among direct marketers that the human race has the collective IQ of dead trout (dead transgendered trout at that, judging by the number of offers I get for discount Viagra. Uh, y’know, the email addy does begin with ‘Scarlett’…?)

But none of this quite explains why, recently, my Junk Mail file has been jammed gillward with offers to help me stop snoring.

Peering through the cyber-trees, trying to find the forest…

So about midway through the short sabbatical from writing to concentrate on dealing with some other stuff, I check back and realise the cliffhanger’s another oddly prophetic comic strip. I am sort of enjoying how the PBS posts have become markers for these little breaks in the process…it seems so appropriately random…but, uh, everything’s fine, folks. I just thought the strip was amusingly reminiscent of the way train whistles make me feel sometimes. Really.

Anyway, here I am back in the saddle again, ready to supply all your pointless rambling needs! The long-awaited Mythbusters post – look, I’ve been away, humour me for a sec, OK? – is in the pipeline, also another edition of the Occasional Christie. I just need to do a little cranial housekeeping first. Two weeks sans snark outlet has left it seriously cluttered up in here… More

Potpourri’s Revenge

So I’ve spent the past few days (when not curled up in the foetal position, whining and wheezing) exploring one of the bigger problems you encounter writing a weekly column – or at least, a weekly conglomeration of thoughts you’re pleased to call a column. Namely, coming up with things to conglom about.

It’s not a shortage of ideas, per se; I’ve started up any number of promisingly thoughful trains…only to have them fizzle and die not much further down the tracks. Clearly I need to come up with more interesting concepts, or possibly just be more interesting period. The quest to find out which it was naturally led me back around to my many and varied influences.

Didn’t work. Or rather, worked all too well. By the time I was half-way through the list of workaday idols, it became clear that all of them had either had or were in the process of having really interesting-/exciting-/amusing-incident-filled lives, to the point where my own random irritation with movie posters in the subway was starting to make even Arthur Black look like a raconteur on par with Twain. The only major exception was Dave Barry, but I’m really not into either booger jokes or beer, strong indulgence in the latter I suspect is necessary to make the former that funny anyhow.

I found myself spiralling down through the depths of recall, calling forth every random regular bit of newsprint I’d ever read, finally landing up back in my pre-teen-hood. We had a subscription to the Toronto Sun for a few years…

That’s when it hit me. Potpourri Guy. More


Public service announcement: I really must apologise to all – uh – [glances at statcounter] – any of the readership who may have unwittingly bought seats on the Great Bob & Ray Essay Kaleidoscope these past few weeks.
It started out as just your standard offhand blogger’s appreciation I swear; but then an unexpected hit from a Los Angeles IP address started me thinking that it would probably be a good idea, when writing a public tribute, not to leave the impression that any live honourees were deceased. I got interested, and started researching, and realised I’d left out some really great details…well, you can imagine, after forty years there are a lot of details.

So the next thing I knew I was working on a full-fledged little article. (Should anyone with a personal interest in fact be reading, I’d like to stop right here and say thanks. Not sure what for, specifically, but I have developed a very great need to thank somebody for those forty years.)

‘Tennyrate, the really good news is that I’ve just added the very very last, finishing touches this afternoon. I think. Well, barring any shocking! revelations of late-night cavorting on the set of Bob & Ray & Jane & Laraine & Gilda, the SNL special they taped in the 70’s…

…OK, getting grip once and for all. Seriously, as far as I can tell both Elliott and Goulding were perfect gentlemen at all times; even while throwing a spelling bee to a miniskirted Laraine Newman they come off as the dear old grandfathers they were by then. Albeit I do wonder if the little ones were allowed to stay up and watch their Grandpas chorus Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?…

[Um, in business suits. You can put down the brain bleach now. Sorry.]


So life acquires a distinctly whimsical edge anyway, when you conflate vacation days with the holidays…

[Note to readers now moved to outrage over my not saying ‘Christmas’: Hey, far be it from me to interfere with your belligerent defense of the Prince of Peace. Just please make sure the link back here from your Net-spanning defamatory emails is working correctly. thxbai!]. More