Tuesday, December 21, 2004

For Nerd Eyes Only

Thanks for the Memory to The Jawa Report.

Ladies and gentlegeeks, I give you,


New Blog Plug

Thanks for the Memory to Vultures Row.

My good friend Scott (Vulture 6) tipped me off about Blog Explosion. And while it does artificially inflate your traffic, it can be a good way of getting found, as well as FINDING good blogs. I've found a few that way, and when I get off my lazy butt, I'll post links to all of them.

In the menatime, I'll plug one that Scott found, and then told me about. I have a lot in common, it would seem, with the owner of Spreadin Understanding -- a Christian, a Conservative, a child of the Eighties, and an expectant father. Not to mention, he's an interesting read.

Go give him a look.

For Whom the Christmas Bells Toll

Thanks for the Memory to the New Yorker via Bob Hayes at Let's Try Freedom.

During my Sophomore year in College, I became fascinated by the works of Ernest Hemingway. Over time, he began to lose some of his luster -- he can be a bit predictable -- though I do still enjoy him on occasion (my favorite is the short story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber").

So I almost died laughing when I found this old gem, recycled at Let's Try Freedom. It's a send-up of Hemingway by Thurber, and it nails Hemingway's style dead on. Enjoy:

A Visit From Saint Nicholas
As Retold by Ernest Hemingway

by James Thurber

Originally published in 1927

It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren’t even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.

The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mamma and I were in our beds. Mamma wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn’t move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep.

“Father,” the children said.

There was no answer. He’s there, all right, they thought.

“Father,” they said, and banged on their beds.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“We have visions of sugarplums,” the children said.

“Go to sleep,” said mamma.

“We can’t sleep,” said the children. They stopped talking, but I could hear them moving. They made sounds.

“Can you sleep?” asked the children.

“No,” I said.

“You ought to sleep.”

“I know. I ought to sleep.”

“Can we have some sugarplums?”

“You can’t have any sugarplums,” said mamma.

“We just asked you.”

There was a long silence. I could hear the children moving again.

“Is Saint Nicholas asleep?” asked the children.

“No,” mamma said. “Be quiet.”

“What the hell would he be asleep tonight for?” I asked.

“He might be,” the children said.

“He isn’t,” I said.

“Let’s try to sleep,” said mamma.

The house became quiet once more. I could hear the rustling noises the children made when they moved in their beds.

Out on the lawn a clatter arose. I got out of bed and went to the window. I opened the shutters; then I threw up the sash. The moon shone on the snow. The moon gave the lustre of mid-day to objects in the snow. There was a miniature sleigh in the snow, and eight tiny reindeer. A little man was driving them. He was lively and quick. He whistled and shouted at the reindeer and called them by their names. Their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.

He told them to dash away to the top of the porch, and then he told them to dash away to the top of the wall. They did. The sleigh was full of toys.

“Who is it?” mamma asked.

“Some guy,” I said. “A little guy.”

I pulled my head in out of the window and listened. I heard the reindeer on the roof. I could hear their hoofs pawing and prancing on the roof. “Shut the window,” said mamma. I stood still and listened.

“What do you hear?”

“Reindeer,” I said. I shut the window and walked about. It was cold. Mamma sat up in the bed and looked at me.

“How would they get on the roof?” mamma asked.

“They fly.”

“Get into bed. You’ll catch cold.”

Mamma lay down in bed. I didn’t get into bed. I kept walking around.

“What do you mean, they fly?” asked mamma.

“Just fly is all.”

Mamma turned away toward the wall. She didn’t say anything.

I went out into the room where the chimney was. The little man came down the chimney and stepped into the room. He was dressed all in fur. His clothes were covered with ashes and soot from the chimney. On his back was a pack like a peddler’s pack. There were toys in it. His cheeks and nose were red and he had dimples. His eyes twinkled. His mouth was little, like a bow, and his beard was very white. Between his teeth was a stumpy pipe. The smoke from the pipe encircled his head in a wreath. He laughed and his belly shook. It shook like a bowl of red jelly. I laughed. He winked his eye, then he gave a twist to his head. He didn’t say anything.

He turned to the chimney and filled the stockings and turned away from the chimney. Laying his finger aside his nose, he gave a nod. Then he went up the chimney. I went to the chimney and looked up. I saw him get into his sleigh. He whistled at his team and the team flew away. The team flew as lightly as thistledown. The driver called out, “Merry Christmas and good night.” I went back to bed.

“What was it?” asked mamma. “Saint Nicholas?” She smiled.

“Yeah,” I said.

She sighed and turned in the bed.

“I saw him,” I said.


“I did see him.”

“Sure you saw him.” She turned farther toward the wall.

“Father,” said the children.

“There you go,” mamma said. “You and your flying reindeer.”

“Go to sleep,” I said.

“Can we see Saint Nicholas when he comes?” the children asked.

“You got to be asleep,” I said. “You got to be asleep when he comes. You can’t see him unless you’re unconscious.”

“Father knows,” mamma said.

I pulled the covers over my mouth. It was warm under the covers. As I went to sleep I wondered if mamma was right.

Recycling Good Cheer

Over at Naked Villainy, the Air Marshal raises the question of re-gifting: giving as a gift something that you yourself received as a gift. He's against it, as summed up in his closing statement, "Re-gifting, to me, says 'You aren't worth my time or effort, so here you go.'"

I would argue that the appropriateness depends on the gift, the occasion, the original giver, and the new recipient. If you receive something that you just don’t like, and give it just to get rid of it, yes, that’s thoughtless. But how less thoughtless is the person who just buys gifts because they are obligated to without putting thought into what they purchase? On the other hand, some of the nicest gifts I've ever received were "used", but that word doesn't do them justice. They were items that belonged to friends, things they had received or purchased for themselves, which they enjoyed and valued, but the item reminded them of me and they knew I would value it even more highly. The item was unique or expensive enough that they could not purchase a duplicate, so they sacrificed their own for my happiness (my friends David and Brian are especially notorious for this). This seems more like a statement of "You are worth more to me than this item, so there you go."

I suppose part of my perspective comes from growing up relatively poor. We never had enough money to buy all the nicest things everyone wanted, but we put a lot of thought and effort into choosing just the right gift within our budget. Even as an adult, this rings true. The nicest gift I have received for Christmas from The Feared Redhead was also probably the least expensive, and was not new: She found a copy of BH Liddel Hart's History of the Second World War in a used bookstore for me.

Or take as an example the Air Marshal's own admission of passing on bottles of wine. If he won't drink them, and someone else will like them, why not pass them on? It's a simple gift given when attending dinner, it's not like you're one of the Magi carrying recycled Myrrh to Baby Jesu. Of course you should make sure you don't present a bottle given to you by your host or one of their other guests, but beyond that, I don't see the harm.

Ultimately, if you completely reject re-gifting, you're saying that what matters about a gift is how it was acquired. And that means that what really matters is not the giving of gifts, but the buying of them. And I reject that materialistic standard. I don't care how much of your money you spent on my gift. What I want to know is, how much love did you invest in it? The giver of the first Christmas gift invested His all, but not a single dime of money. Can't we invest a bit of ourselves without breaking the bank?