Friday, December 30, 2005


So Christmas is behind us for another year. My Christmas was not all that Christmas-y because I had to work, so I tried to spice things up by listening to Christmas music in my car as I drove from story to story.

Now I'm not down on Christmas, I think it's a lovely holiday. And I'm not down on Christmas music either, but after a day of non-stop listening, it seems like we need to thin the canon just a bit. Might I suggest:

"Christmas Comes This Time Each Year"
Of all the observations one can make about Christmas, that it occupies a fixed point on the calendar seems to be about the least important. Who says of Halloween, "Have you ever noticed that it's always on October 31st?" It hardly seems worthy of a song. If you're so hung up on when holidays fall, at least concentrate on the ones that actually change. Points to anyone who can write a song with a title like, "Thanksgiving Always Falls on the Fourth Thursday in November," or "Chanukah Always Starts on the 25th Day of Kislev!"

"Little Drummer Boy"
One of my best friends is a drummer, so it pains me to put this on the list, but when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir says "a rump a pum pum," it just sounds wrong.

"We Wish You A Merry Christmas"
This one really gets under my skin. It starts off ok, I guess. The singers take the voice of carolers who knock on someone's door and bid them holiday tidings... again, and again, and again. But then things get ugly:

"Now bring us a figgy pudding/now bring us a figgy pudding/now bring us a figgy pudding/ now bring some right here!"

Who are these people? They show up, say "merry Christmas," then start demanding figgy puddings. They didn't even try to soften the victim up by saying, "Hey, we sure are starving. You wouldn't happen to have any figgy pudding around there, would you?" Then, and only then, could they ask for some. But they don't, they just assume you've got vats of figgy pudding around, then demand you hand it over. I'm not one to get hung up on manners, but that's just rude.

And even if you did have the figgy pudding, what if you were saving it for dinner that night? What if you had family coming over and they really wanted some figgy pudding? What's going to happen if you just hand it over to some bozos who show up at our door with a tedious song? Try explaining that when it's time to serve dessert.

But that's not all, these holiday visitors turn criminal in the next verse:

"We won't go until we get some/we won't go until we get some/we won't go until we get some/now bring some right here."

Now these once cheery singers have turned to extortion to get their hands on this figgy pudding. They're not going to leave until you produce this questionable pudding that actually sounds kind of nasty. I would hope that by the third time the singers say "we won't go until we get some," the victim is on the phone with the police. You won't go? Perhaps 8 men in riot gear can convince you otherwise.

Now anyone who owns an NWA album knows that camping out on a doorstep attempting to extort figgy pudding from strangers is not the most awful thing you can threaten a person with in a song. But it hardly seems like the kind of activity that should be glorified by a Christmas tune. That's all I'm saying.

(NWA never made a Christmas album, but they really should have. I would love to hear them cover, "Grandma Got Run Over By a F---ing Raindeer." I imagine the song would end with Eazy E (Rest in Peace) rolling in his 6-4 up to the north poll to avenge the death of his grandma. It would have been a classic.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005


"Hug a logger, you'll never go back to trees."

Ahhhh, Oregon.

Friday, December 16, 2005


I'm in Vienna right now. I tell you this because I want you to think of me as a sophisticated jet-setter type. However, this afternoon, I proved that I am every bit the Ugly American everyone thinks I am.

So I'm driving by myself near the border of the Czech Republic this afternoon when I decide my passport doesn't have enough stamps in it. This whole EU thing really stinks if you're a stamp whore. Back in the day, you could go to Europe and hop from country to country and collect all sorts of stamps and then return home and show them to your friends and use them to prove that you are a better person than your friends because... well... you're better traveled.

But now they've torn the borders down in the name of a free flow of goods, services, and information. So now you fly into some airport, you get some lame looking EU approved stamp, and get nothing else for your troubles, even if you went to many different countries. How am I supposed to prove that I went to Hungary? Pictures? With the state of Photoshop these days, pictures are easily faked.

So yesterday we went to the CZ (that's what cool people call the Czech Rebpublic), and the guards at both the Austrian and Czech borders didn't even want to glance at my passport. I thought there was a chance, what with CZ being a EU nubie and all.

But I was back at the border today to take some pictures (that could have been faked) of this hideous duty free store. It has a King Arthur theme, but there is also an old Soviet-era passenger plane with a naked lady painted on the side. Clearly this is the kind of memory I want to take home with me.

To get to the store, you have to cross the Austrian border, but you don't have to cross completely into the CZ. When I got to the Austrian guard, he takes my passport and furrows his brow. 'California,' he says. He then notes that I had flown into Frankfurt, then... wait for it... stamps my passport! Oh what joy filled my heart!

I take a few pictures of the vegas-like store, then glance north toward the CZ. Could I? Should I try again? I decide to try again.

Sure enough, the woman at the border closely inspects my passport, walks into a building, then presents me with my newly stamped passport. That's two new stamps! Yahoo!

Once across the border, I understand why I may have received more attention today. Yesterday, I was traveling with my wife. Today I'm alone. The town directly across the border from Austria has pretty much one thing, and one thing only... whore houses. I imagine the border guards thought I was slipping across the border for a bit of fun, and wanted to make sure my passport was so marked, just in case my wife wanted to check where I had been.

So now I want to go back across, but I figure that might raise suspicion that I was up to something naughty... even more naughty than sleeping with strange women. So I don't know what to do. I decide to drive off into the countryside, just for the heck of it. How long will it take to be over here until they don't think I was sleeping with prostitutes?

After a while, I realize the guards will think I'm sleeping with prostitutes no matter what. So I head back. But then I stop again. If the guards think I just spent some time with some Czech 'working women,' and I come back 15 minutes later... well... I don't want them to think I can't go the distance. That's almost as bad as being with hookers.

So I wait. I drive through a city with a name like Zypkzpzynomr Krpyzznptrbwq and then park at a gas station. I figure enough time had passed after I had been across the border for 90 minutes. That's a respectable time.

I drive across the border with a satisfied grin and present my passport. Both the Czech and Austrian guards don't even glance at it as I thrust it out the car window.


But I did get those two stamps, so it was all worth it.

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