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How were your holidays? Did you get any good swag for Christmas? Or Hanukkah or the solstice? Or, um ... Kwanzaa?

(Do people give gifts for Kwanzaa? Do people even celebrate Kwanza? Or is it like Administrative Assistance's Day, one of those holidays that no one observes but the guys at Hallmark keep hoping will turn into yet another occasion when people become legally obligated to exchange greeting cards? Honestly, I have no idea, which probably speaks volumes about the monoculture I call a social circle. But I'm inclined to agree with dong resin, that Kwanzaa doesn't sound particularly enjoyable. 100% true fact: as with computer games, holidays are only fun if they aren't just educational opportunities in disguise, and Kwanzaa strikes me as the "Math Blaster!" of winter celebrations.)

The Queen gave me a cookie sheet. Like, a really really nice cookie sheet. I was totally psyched. It was one of those things that I didn't know I wanted until I got it, which are always the best presents.

Because The Queen recently outed herself as a whiskey drinker, I bought her an expensive bottle of Scotch. She took one swig of it on Christmas evening, made the same face she makes when a Celine Dion song comes on the radio, and put it on the shelf where it remained for a week. I chalked it up as a gift-giving failure until Sunday night when The Queen endured a particularly gruelling campaign to get The Squirrelly to go to bed, and I later walked into the living room to find her sitting on the couch with the open bottle of scotch in one hand, the remote control in the other, and Who's Your Daddy? on TV.

I think the nicest present I gave was to my little sister in 1984. She wanted a copy of the "Like A Virgin" album, and I bought it for her. This might not seem too impressive until you factor in the fact that I was 13 years old at the time, and I had to go through the excruciatingly embarrassing ordeal of taking a record featuring a reclining, bustier-clad Madonna -- with bosoms heaving every-which-way -- up to the counter and tell another human being that I wished to purchase it. And since I only had enough money for the record, I couldn't even employ the teenage-boy condom-buying ruse of piling an assortment of miscellaneous other items on top of it at the checkstand and then feigning surprise when the cashier uncovered it. ("What the-? How did that get there?! Well, you might as well ring it up ...").

Several Christmas earlier my sister gave me a package of pencils that she had purchased for me with her allowance, because she'd heard me say I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. At the time I thought it was the lamest gift ever, paling in comparison to the Death Star playset my folks gave me. But, in retrospect, I think that might be the most thoughtful present anyone has ever got me.

Posted on January 05, 2005 to Storytelling


matt..it's kwanzaa, white soul man. or kwa-shizzle.

Posted by: mcduck on January 5, 2005 4:09 PM
100% true fact: as with video games, holidays are only fun if they don't involve guiding principles or educational opportunities.

I'm going to have to take exception to that. Clearly you never played Robot Odyssey, which means you had a deprived childhood. I'm told Rocky's Boots (also an educational game) was good as well.

Posted by: Dan Blum on January 5, 2005 5:05 PM

I've always thought of Kwanzaa as more of an african october fest, but with less drinking. A cultural celebration, not a religious one.

Posted by: Jackary on January 5, 2005 5:50 PM

maybe im really dumb or its that im english but whats a cookie sheet? and yeah, condoms seem to always get in with my stuff, how it happens is beyond me. the pencils thing is really special though, makes you think what christmas and stuff is really for.

Posted by: patrick on January 5, 2005 6:11 PM

Cookie sheets rock. I want one.

Kwanzaa was invented in the late 1960's by a man who was convicted a few years later of kidnapping and torturing two women. It is not a real holiday! It is crap!

Sorry. Anyway, happy new year.

Posted by: kathy on January 5, 2005 6:23 PM

Yeah, well, Easter was invented by some Romans who nailed a guy to a cross, so I dunno if that necessarily invalidates it.

Posted by: Matthew on January 5, 2005 6:34 PM

That'd be Good Friday. The Romans probably didn't like the whole Easter thing. So Easter would have been invented by some crazy Jewish sect, or by God, depending on one's perspective.

Posted by: Klaas on January 5, 2005 7:36 PM

now that you have the cookie sheet, you want a silpat.

Posted by: Terry on January 5, 2005 8:33 PM

Fourth of July: Celebrates a bunch of guys who owned slaves and thought women were too stupid to vote.

A cookie sheet is that thing you bake cookies on. What do you call it in England?

Posted by: Carny Asada on January 5, 2005 8:36 PM

Sorry, I didn't mean to offend, it just bugs me. I just think the guy was (is) a con man - the equivalent of Jim Jones Day of Peace. But I guess if enough people think it is groovy then it takes on a life of its own. And then, yeah, I guess it is a holiday. I don't know anyone that celebrates it, though, like you said. It seems media-driven, in which case, is that not odd, given its origins?

Posted by: kathy on January 5, 2005 8:50 PM

As far as educational games not being fun, I have to disagree. Anyone here remember Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, or Oregon Trail? Or am I just showing my youth?

Posted by: Erin on January 5, 2005 9:01 PM

Well, all games are educational on some level. But when learning is the sole purpose kids realize they're being jipped. And being jipped is Never fun.

Posted by: Ashley on January 5, 2005 9:07 PM

Here's a tip for avoiding embarrassment when purchasing embarrassing gifts: Always ask the cashier if they gift-wrap, even if you know full well that they don't. This grants you a certain level of deniability (even if the object in question is really a present for yourself).

One caveat: I've never tried this technique with condoms, so if you do, let me know how it works.

The technique, I mean, not the condoms.

Posted by: Jake on January 5, 2005 9:54 PM

What's up with Kwanzaa all of a sudden? I go through 30 years of life without ever hearing about it and this year I get wished a happy one by several people and people are blogging it everywhere I look. Holiday meme?

Posted by: Rich on January 6, 2005 2:01 AM

I think the plural of Christmas should be changed to Christmi. It just sounds wrong otherwise.

Posted by: Mimbo on January 6, 2005 5:07 AM

its not christmases? mass goes to masses, same thing, eh?

as far as the 4th of july comment.. i dont think its a celebration of some guys... its a celebration of an event. the event was brought about by those less then perfect people but we aren't thinking about slave owning when we celebrate it. same goes for the kwanzaa guy, but then what is the event or whatever that he brought about?

Posted by: bob on January 6, 2005 5:51 AM

Friend of mine says that Kwanzaa fails because it doesn't have a colorful character, like Santa Claus or Hanukkah Harry. He suggests "Kwanzaa Karl," which I totally support.

Posted by: Craig on January 6, 2005 7:08 AM

When I was a kid, My brother used to steal things from me in august, then give them to me for x-mas the geius part was, because these items dissapeared in august, i thaught i lost them, and was totaly supprised come x-mas time to get them back..

Posted by: wedge on January 6, 2005 7:20 AM

Dan --

I also have fond memories of Robot Odyssey and Rocky's Boots. Both games were written by the same people, and had basically the same premise and gameplay. Robot Odyssey was just a larger version of Rocky's Boots with an adventure storyline thrown in between the circuit design puzzles.

(Anyone else who's reading this, it was a lot more fun than I just made it sound.)

Posted by: Div on January 6, 2005 8:34 AM

Wedge, your brother was either a complete genius or totally evil.

For Christmas, I got the following things: $300 from my folks (very handy), a Hickory Farms cheese/beef log set, another magazine for my Bersa .380, and a chocolate-orange body butter from the Body Shop. Oh, and enough chocolate from my co-workers to kill a set of Clydesdales.

Posted by: Esther on January 6, 2005 8:37 AM

Administrative Assistant's Day is the day when the secretaries (I can use that word because I am one) secretly take themselves out to lunch and charge it to their bosses.

Posted by: the hun on January 6, 2005 10:01 AM

Oregon Trail was one of my favourite Mac-compatible games. Grade six comupter classes would be so much fun with my friends and I trying to see who could get the earliest tombstone.

Posted by: Jago on January 6, 2005 11:15 AM

Last Xmas I gave my nine year-old daughter a role-playing module that I created myself based on the Golden Compass, which we'd been reading together. I do not do such things regularly, she had no interest in RPGs before or really since, and I'd not played them in probably 15-20 years, but by god it simply rocked. Both of my brothers and a sister-in-law joined in, we played for five hours and everyone loved it.

Should I be required to prove my dad excellent-itude at the Gates of Heaven, I'm pulling this baby out and He's gonna absolve me of all the wrong-size clothes I've ever given her.

Posted by: Dug Steen on January 6, 2005 3:49 PM

They don't even say "cookies" in England, do they? A cookie sheet is a metal tray thing that you bake biscuits on. We bake cookies on it.

Posted by: Margaret on January 6, 2005 5:56 PM

"Wedge, your brother was either a complete genius or totally evil."

I think he was a mix of the two. I mean, i was always supprised at the gft, and happy to have it, which made it a good gift. But then i got pissed because i thaught it was gone, and misse dit for months.

Posted by: wedge on January 7, 2005 6:06 AM

Dude, in Robot Odyssey you could totally put one ro-bot inside another ro-bot (or vice versa) and program the inner ro-bot to control the outer ro-bot. So cool. Oh yeah: Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa, etc.

Posted by: Professor Cardyhouse on January 7, 2005 12:15 PM

i love your gift to your sister and her gift to you. inspired and thoughtful. (and come on, didn't your 13-year-old self secretly get a kick out of the heaving bosoms on the album cover?)

Posted by: romy on January 7, 2005 8:33 PM