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It’s The Thought That Counts.

Having trouble finding just the right gifts this holiday season? Look no further than your mailbox—not your email, but your actual mailbox. While online shopping is still growing in popularity catalogs are making a comeback, and why not? Something you can sit and peruse is a terrific way to find ideas, and there’s something in them for everyone, which is why catalogs are perfect for your holiday shopping.

Here are just a few suggestions for some of the people who might be on your list this year.

The Kids-Options for kids are all over the place, and vary from kid to kid. Some might appreciate a LEGO catalog, with all that historic company has to offer. Still others might have fun with the retro Betty’s Attic catalog, or the wide variety of items from The Toy Network.

The Roommate-Whether you’re sharing an apartment or a multi-bedroom house living in close proximity can be trying, especially when it comes to the bathroom facilities. If you have a female roommate consider a Bath & Body Works catalog. Or for your male roommate consider Williamsport Bowman Barber Supply, or Allston Supply, which offers a wide variety of janitorial products.

The Foodie-Do you know someone who likes to cook? Send them a Chef Works catalog, full of cookware and other kitchen items. Know someone who might not be so big on cooking but loves food? Send them a Gourmet Food Store catalog, or, for something a little out of the ordinary, send them a Scottish Gourmet USA catalog.

The Athlete-Know someone who likes to work out? You might think exercise equipment would be the ideal catalog idea, but try something different. Send them The Restoration Hardware catalog. At about seventeen pounds it’s perfect for regular weightlifting. Or deliberately misspell their name on a second form so they get two!

The Grandmother-Grandmothers are as individual and unique as anyone, but if you’re looking for something traditional try The Vermont Country Store catalog. Full of nostalgic and hard-to-find items it’s a cozy item to have around and useful for starting a fire.

The Grandfather-Like grandmothers these come in all types, but if you’re looking for something special for the somewhat curmudgeonly old guy in your life consider the Hammacher Schlemmer or Sharper Image catalogs. These will give him plenty of fodder for grumbling about “kids these days” and if he gets the 18-foot inflatable snowman he’ll finally have a legitimate reason to tell those kids to get off his lawn.

The Impossible To Buy For-Forget the catalogs. Send ‘em a damn fruitcake.

Thank You For The Advice.

So this short video of how to behave in a British pub from 1943 has been making the rounds, because on the internet no history is ever lost, and it’s fun to watch because of how much has changed and also how much hasn’t changed. Or at least how much I hope hasn’t changed. Take a few minutes to watch it. I’ll be here when you get back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GCcoaSq3x4&t=2s

Anyway it reminded me of a night I was in Britain and taking a train from Stratford-On-Avon to London, which is probably the second most-touristy train trip an American in Britain can take. The first is the trip from London to Stratford-On-Avon. I started talking to an older gentleman who, I now realize, was probably in his early teens in 1943, too young to enlist but old enough to know what was going on. I regret not asking him about that, but he had other things on his mind.
“Do you know why people don’t like American tourists?” he asked me.
Normally I chafe at those kinds of generalizations but I was a student and there to learn; he also clearly wasn’t talking about me, so I let it slide. I was letting him steer the conversation, as I usually did, because I liked talking to people on trains. On another trip, I forget where, I spent the entire ride talking to a guy just a few years older who told me if he’d taken a nap like he’d planned he’d be up all night so he was glad I kept him awake, and there was the young woman who told me what a wonderful city Leicester is, and I’m sure it is–it’s well off the tourist track, and it’s on my list of places to go should I go back. Back to the guy who knew why no one liked American tourists.
“They barge into pubs and they go right up to the bar without waiting their turn and yell, ‘I want this’ and ‘I want that’, making a nuisance of themselves.”
I’m not sure exactly how I responded, but I think it was some way of politely saying that not all Americans are like that and we have a term for the ones who are: “assholes”. And I’ve been plenty of bars in America where acting like that is a guaranteed way to get the bartender to add a little something extra to your drink, but that’s another story.
He agreed, and added that he might have passed by a lot of Americans without knowing it because they didn’t act like that, and he added that it was important to always say “please” and “thank you”. That was something I’d never thought about, but I became very conscious of always doing just that in any interaction. I never could get the hang of the casual British “ta”, so I stuck with “thank you”.
We chatted a bit more about pubs as a center of British life. In fact pubs were my other favorite place to meet and talk to people, and were one of the things I missed most when I came back to this side of the pond. A few years after my return a British couple in Nashville, also pining for pubs, opened one of their own and called it Sherlock’s, and I’m not kidding when I say stepping through the door was like crossing the Atlantic. Even the friendly vibe was the same, and most people who came in knew enough to wait their turn and ask for a pint of Guinness or a plate of fish and chips politely.
Sherlock’s, just a block from where I catch the bus these days, unfortunately closed when the couple who owned and managed it retired, but still, no matter where I am, I remember “please” and “thank you”. Some things will inevitably change, but I’ll keep what I can.

Leap Before You Look.

There’s a lot I could say about the transformation of a public utilitarian object into something better, into a unique work of art that should prompt joy in people if they notice it. Sure, there’s a risk that someone won’t like it, but that’s a risk every artist takes in making something. And it’s impossible to please everyone. Is there any work of art that everyone universally agrees is great? If there were there probably wouldn’t be that much to say about it because, well, if everyone agreed it was great there wouldn’t be that much to say about it. No one would feel a need to explain why it was great. And I don’t know about anyone else but that would really annoy me and the more I looked at it the more I’d hate it because of that.
Anyway there’s also a lot I could say about the simplicity of a line, the reduction of form and how a work of art can be so minimal and yet still recognizable. I could trace the history of it from cave paintings, which seem simple, all the way through the ancient Greeks’ understanding of geometry and perspective, the flattening of painting during the Middle Ages and the return of perspective in the Renaissance, the rise of trompe l’oeill painting, and the technological and social shifts that led to Impressionism and a million other -isms through the 20th century and the return to abstraction, all of which has been called by art historians “the story of art” even though it’s really only a very tiny sliver of the whole of human art history.
I could also say a lot about symbolism, slipping into signs and signifiers and semiotics and some high-falutin’ stuff about deconstruction and post-modernism and “reification” which, as I once pointed out to my literature criticism professor, is just a fancy way of saying “making a thing”, but that’s another story.
And if I knew the artist maybe I could say a lot about the inspiration behind the work, the motivation, the influences, and that could even lead me into a lengthy digression about how originality is an illusion and how every work is created in a context, but that every work is still also an individual’s vision.
Yeah, I could say all that, and it might prompt a lot of response. It might turn off a lot of people, or maybe make a lot of people happy. It’s hard to say. So I’m just going to skip all of that and jump right in.

Dead Again.

Several years ago I was at a science fiction convention and wandered into a room where an author I wanted to meet was supposed to speak, except he didn’t show up, so they had an alternate speaker who I thought was even better. It was the cartoonist and author Gahan Wilson.

I was already familiar with Wilson’s work because my parents occasionally had issues of The New Yorker lying around the house and I didn’t read the articles but I did look at the pictures, and my father also had a collection of Playboy issues and I didn’t read the articles there either but I did look at the pictures—and by “pictures” of course I mean Gahan Wilson’s cartoons.

Wilson started with a story about the origin of one of his most famous cartoons. National Lampoon was looking for cartoons with the caption, “Is nothing sacred?”

He didn’t have a copy of the cartoon he drew. He just described it to us. At first there were a few chuckles through the audience, then more of us started giggling, and by the time he got to the punchline the whole room was laughing.

Source: The Best Of Gahan Wilson, 2005

And the coup de grâce was when he said, “National Lampoon thought it was too weird so Playboy bought it instead.”

National Lampoon would publish his long-running series Nuts, a sort of response to Peanuts, which Wilson didn’t think represented childhood accurately enough.

Source: Comics Bulletin

His cartoons were wonderfully morbid—like Charles Addams or Gary Larson, but even more out there, and even more obsessed with death and disease. Several are set in doctor’s offices. It’s fitting that there’s a 2013 documentary about him called Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird. Sometimes his cartoons even contained a touch of social commentary.

Source: Barnes & Noble

It’s hard to know what to say when someone with such a dark sense of humor as Wilson’s passes on because it’s like he beat us all to the punch. He knew all along that life has only one inevitable conclusion, and he was dying to make a joke about it.

Hail and farewell, Gahan Wilson.

 

What, Me Worry?

So my wife is worried about me. I suppose that’s a good problem to have, for me at least. It’s not so good for her, especially when I wander into the kitchen and say, “We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese” and then wander out again. I guess I can see why that would worry almost anyone who doesn’t know what’s going on inside my head, including me. Half the time I don’t know what’s going on in my head either, mainly because I’m not there, but that’s another story.
Anyway what I specifically had in mind that she’s worried about, before my mind got distracted and had to go running off to look at something shiny, is that because it’s getting dark earlier drivers might not see me as I’m walking home from the bus stop. I’m more worried about the lack of sidewalks or the fact that there’s a house up the street that’s being renovated and probably going to be flipped and the construction crews park their trucks in the street instead of the driveway so drivers have to pull into the opposite lane just to get by. And then there’s just getting to the bus stop. I have to cross two major intersections and at both of them at least one or two cars will speed right through the red lights or ignore the WALK signal and try to drive over me. And that happens in broad daylight.
My wife got me a reflective vest to wear on my way home and I dutifully stuffed it into my bag and walked to the bus stop in the afternoon. I didn’t put it on because I thought I’d look like a schmuck walking along in broad daylight wearing a reflective vest, and I didn’t think it would have any effect on the drivers who speed through red lights anyway. I waited a while once I was on the bus but when it started getting close to my stop I pulled it out and put it on, and that’s when I realized it wasn’t a vest but reflective straps, and I thought I looked like a schmuck putting on reflective straps while sitting on the bus. And it came with reflective armbands that are kind of tight so I had to take one end in my teeth and pull the other end around.
Then I walked home in the growing dark with the reflective straps on thinking I still looked like a schmuck, but at least a schmuck that drivers could see.

Seeds Of Promise.

It’s been less than a year since JJ’s Market closed and I still miss that funky little shop where you could get coffee drinks named for James Brown or Schopenhauer, or any one of more than a dozen craft or imported beers—including Dirty Dick’s Ale—as well as candy from Japan and local handmade mugs.

I’ve avoided walking down that way for months so I missed that the block where JJ’s stood has been completely razed to the ground. It wasn’t just JJ’s but also the former Noshville Delicatessen, where you went if you were in the mood for chopped liver.

The destruction must have happened in less time than it takes an espresso to get cold. Pokeweed and sweetgum bushes have grown large in the cleared earth, and been left long enough to spread seeds which, hopefully, will find another place to grow.

I’ve seen the neighborhood change significantly. Single-level restaurants have closed, been knocked down, and replaced with high-rise apartments. Something I never thought about until I went for a walk one afternoon was that, on a particular stretch of sidewalk, the sun didn’t warm my face like it used to, because now there are buildings in the way. They’re not tall enough to be skyscrapers, but they are tall enough to be skyblockers.

One block over from JJ’s and Noshville there was a barbecue place. Every Sunday the owner would serve a free meal in the parking lot. He did it to help the homeless people in the area, but anyone who wanted to was welcome to come and eat. Then the restaurant closed and the whole building was knocked down. It’s all a parking lot now.

I know change is inevitable, and I take some hope in seeing that the neighborhood hasn’t completely lost its sense of humor.

Today Is A Good Day To Diet.

Are you looking for ways to eat healthy and lose weight, or at least avoid putting on too much, this holiday season? Here are twelve sure-fire tips to help get you through until the New Year.

 

Add more fiber to your diet. Fall is a great time to sit around and eat an entire raw pumpkin.

 

Avoid stress. During the holidays. No, really, I’m serious about this. Hey, stop laughing!

 

Instead of going for one of those high-calorie coffee drinks fill a tall coffee mug with water. For an added touch put a big wad of whipped cream on top of it.

 

Avoid distracted eating. When that coworker comes to tell you the story of something that happened to the cousin of one of her son’s friends for the third time put away the pork rinds and just squeeze a stress ball under your desk.

 

Partner up with a friend who has similar weight loss goals because misery loves company. On second thought this might not be a good idea because I’ve heard misery also loves chocolate cheesecake.

 

Use a smaller plate, especially at holiday parties. And if you’re holding your plate at chest level and the pile of food you’ve made reaches your neck it’s time to stop.

 

Eat something before you go to a holiday party. And, really, you’re probably already doing this if you know Aunt Louise is bringing her “famous” mackerel casserole.

 

Your body burns more calories when it’s cold. Instead of suiting up for the weather go jogging naked.

 

Try our new Impossible Carrot™! It looks like a real carrot, tastes like a real carrot, and even crunches like a real carrot. Is it good enough to fool real vegans? Let’s find out and see what happens when we tell them it’s made with 100% yak liver!

 

You’re probably doing most of your shopping online, but fill up some department store bags with garbage and go walk around the mall parking lot after dark. When you get mugged they’ll be stealing garbage! This doesn’t have anything to do with weight loss. It’s just really funny.

 

Freeze leftovers. Your body burns more calories when it’s cold and a really great way to cool down is to eat frozen cheese dip.

 

Move to southern California where people often complain that the warm weather makes it hard for them to hide the holiday pounds under layers of clothing. That kind of superficiality can kill your appetite.

 

Instead of egg nog try one of the other popular nogs: fruit nog, yeast nog, and clam nog.

Make weight loss part of a group activity, especially if your workplace offers a program. Get your pre-holiday weigh in on the same day as the office potluck lunch, and stuff a ream of paper down your pants before you go. This is the year you’ll win the tote bag!

 

Accept yourself. Have a piece of pie.

Don’t Ask About The Specials.

Source: Frugal Living NW

If the holiday season puts you in the mood for food why not order from the secret menu? These specialty items aren’t listed on the regular menus and ordering them at your local fast food joint is a great way to make that high school kid who just started two hours ago want to quit. See if you can pair up these spécialités with their maison.

  1. The Meat Mountain

Two chicken tenders, slices of roast turkey, pit-smoked ham, corned beef, 13-hour smoked brisket, USDA-choice Angus steak, roast beef, pepper bacon, with cheddar and swiss cheese

 

  1. Cinnamon Roll Frappuccino

 

  1. The Suicide Burger

A burger with four beef patties and four slices of cheese with bacon and “special savory sauce” that can be ordered with a side of Frings (half French fries, half onion rings)

 

  1. Microwavable chicken fried rice with an expiration date of 08/03/1998

 

  1. Land, Sea & Air Burger

Two hamburger patties, a fish filet, and a chicken patty on three buns. There’s also a landlubber version with two chicken patties.

 

  1. Frozen hot chocolate

 

  1. A cardboard box of Neapolitan ice cream with the chocolate missing

 

  1. Burritodilla

A quesadilla filled with about half the contents of a burrito

 

  1. Purple Sprite

Sprite mixed with Powerade, lemonade, and cranberry juice.

 

  1. The Meat Cube

A full pound of square hamburger patties.

  1. Sonic
  2. Dairy Queen
  3. Your office holiday pot luck lunch
  4. Chipotle
  5. Burger King
  6. McDonald’s
  7. The freezer in your parents’ basement
  8. Wendy’s
  9. Starbucks
  10. Arby’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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