Christmas is all around us

As Billy Mack, the shameless, over-the-hill pop crooner unabashedly selling out for a quick holiday paycheck from the movie Love Actually says, “Christmas is all around us.” Since many stores started celebrating this fucking holiday back in September, it’s actually been around us for several months. And considering no matter what shape the economy’s in, fit as a fiddle or looking like coma-afflicted Adrian from the interminable middle part of Rocky II, every other news story focuses on how retailers are faring this year. With the economy resembling Adrian this year while Rocky pisses away weeks of valuable training made all the more important by his busted left eye, the stories are coming double time this year.

Since there’s no escaping the Christmas juggernaut, and considering it’s Christmas Eve (why aren’t you with your family already, you vagrant?) let’s take a look at the best and worst of this holiday. Although it’s most likely too late for you to do anything with this information, it’s never too early to prepare for next year, is it? I’m looking in your direction Walgreens with your Christmas aisle mocking the calendar last September. Without further ado, here’s your Christmas awards for 2008.

Best Secular Christmas Song: “Deck the Halls (I Hate Christmas)” by Zebrahead

To let you know what you’re in for with this song, here’s the opening lyrics:

“It’s time for everybody to have a Christmas party
Everyone but me I’ll step outside
Boycott your office party
No secret santa for me
Mistletoe makes me sneeze anyway.”

In an answer to an endless parade of vapid, saccharine Christmas tunes sung by a bunch of gin-soaked child beaters, this stands as the perfect anti-Christmas song without getting sanctimonious about it. The sunny melody, “Deck the Halls” harkening chorus, and images of fun in the sun replacing the traditional picturesque winter landscapes of songs like “Let It Snow,” Zebrahead stands as a grinch’s only refuge from an endless barrage of forced merriment.

It’s not that they want to shit on anyone else’s yuletide fun, it’s just that it’s not for them. In their own words, “I don’t wanna go where shopping lines are slow, I’d rather stay at home with a frosty cold one. A Bud on ice in May, a lazy summer day. An alco-hol-i-day by the pool in the sun…” That’s E Dagger right there. I have no desire to ruin anyone else’s holiday, I just don’t want Santa and his whole fun army telling me how to spend my winter – not to mention all my money. So for those of you who don’t necessarily dread this holiday, but who are just as excited to see it leave as they are to see it arrive, this is YOUR song.

Because seriously, “Deck the halls with bows of holly. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, but… I hate Christmas, I’m glad it only comes one time a year.”

Worst Secular Christmas Song: “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives

Now then, speaking of vapid, saccharine Christmas tunes, this one has got to be the worst. As we did above, here’s the opening lyrics:

Have a holly, jolly Christmas;
It’s the best time of the year.
I don’t know if there’ll be snow;
But have a cup of cheer.

OK, first of all, it’s definitely not the best time of year unless you’re in earth’s southern hemisphere. For the rest of us, our highways make John McCain’s urethra look like Splash Mountain due to everyone hoarding to the mall, the weather usually licks balls in that “Hey, it looks nice, but I’ll bet the wind will snap my pecker off if my fly is down” kind of way, and oh yeah, enjoy some holiday weight gain from the endless barrage of sweets. Secondly, broken down, lines 3 and 4 are essentially, “Hey, I’m no weatherman, drink this.” Um, thanks. What?

What bothers me more than the lyrics is the “by golly gee” way ol’ Burl sings this tune. He reminds me of my grandfather who despite his “Aw shucks” appearance, used to hand out fake $20 bills that opened up to say, “Disappointed? You won’t be if you accept Jesus Christ into your life.” Not only is that level of naked evangelism just plain annoying, the trick itself is mean and denotes disingenuousness in the giver. My grandfather thought this was an innocent ruse and sort of a cute way of spreading the gospel, but it simply showed that he was a man not to be trusted.

What’s this got to do with Burl Ives? When he talks about meeting someone under the mistletoe he says, “Kiss her once for me.” Hey, Mr. Have a Fuckin’ Cup of Cheer, me and my lady are in our 20s, and I’m not kissing her for your old lecherous ass. That’s weird and gross, and you make me nervous. Plus, this song is an empty declaration of meaningless platitudes. So go ahead and drink your cheer, I’ll be with Zebrahead celebrating my alco-hol-i-day by the pool in the sun.

Worst Form of Christmas: Hanukkah

Festival of Lights. Whee!

Have you ever been to a Hanukkah? It sucks. I had one Jewish friend growing up and I was over there for like the 4th night of Hanukkah when I was 10. They lit some candles, spoke a bit in Hebrew, and then he opened a bunch of school supplies and a package of socks before we had to go to bed. No joke. That was it.

His mom seemed more interested in watching Tom Martino on television and his dad wasn’t even home. It wasn’t much of a celebration to be sure. All the Jewish friends I’ve had since have related similar stories about their families growing more and more disinterested as the nights went on to the point of not even doing anything by the 8th night. Seriously, based on all the evidence I’ve received, Hanukkah sucks. If you have any better stories of a kickass Hanukkah, please tell them to me. I think you’ll be the first.

In all fairness, if you can get yourself invited to a Rosh Hoshanah celebration, do it up. You’ll have the fucking time of your life and wish you were Jewish.

Best List of Gifts for Guys: Esquire

I cancelled my Esquire subscription over a year ago because I grew tired of its effete, leftist, pretentious bullshit. Once I cancelled it, someone sent me a link to one of their articles online, and I’ve been reading it there ever since. Considering I paid $6 for my subscription, this is really a net transaction of zero. Anyway, the beauty of reading online is the ability to skip anything I don’t like, which means I don’t have to suffer through reading about why I need a $1,500 suit.

And it means I can send lists like this on to you, fair reader. Esquire has a list of gifts for every subset of man they could think of, which, if you can’t find a gift or two in here that you’d like to have, means that you’re not a man. Or are a complete pain in the ass, which is sort of like not being a man. The list is still a tad on the pretentious side, but it certainly doesn’t plummet to Men’s Health depths. Those guys are so fixated on having tight abs and coming off like a know-it-all douche, they might as well have a segment called “Who are you talking to on your bluetooth right now?” where guys with complicated hair pontificate about how hardcore their weekend was after a laxidaisical week at work.

Worst List of Gifts for Guys: Ask

Yet another piece of crap in an endless string of infuriatingly misdirected articles supposedly aimed at guys. There is no way this site is written or edited by men because every article seems to be written with a twinge of “this is how men think, right?” Jokes are misplaced, moments of being genuine always seem forced, and the male psyche is never mined beyond its surface level. For instance, one of the very first entries on their gift list is for PalmerCash Vintage T-Shirts.

First of all, it’s 2008. Do you any guy you’d ever want to hang out with who would wear a “Nixon in ‘78″ t-shirt? How about an ironic picture of Lionel Richie with the words “All Night Long” on it? Wouldn’t you just punch this guy in the face? We’re post irony here, people. This trend was once funny, but now sits just below referencing the “Numa numa” guy in terms of cultural relevance. Please stop wearing ironic t-shirts.

The rest of the gifts range from cheesy looking titanium neck chain (wanna buy a used car?) to a $375,000 membership in a luxury vacation club. Hey thanks, Ask Men! You guys really do know men! I’ll just wear my ironic t-shirt and titanium chain to my private island. This will be the best Christmas ever!

Random side note: The site’s second highest rated article this month has the title “Sexless Marriage.” That tells you about all you need to know about Ask Men’s readers, doesn’t it?

Most Surprising Christmas Movie: Love Actually

 England: Land of Love and Adorable Accents!

For whatever reason, I always used to associate this movie with Notting Hill which had Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. I have no idea what that movie’s about, but Lady E tells me I probably wouldn’t like it. Since it involves both Julia Roberts AND Hugh Grant, AND takes place in England, AND is heavy in romantic overtones, I believe her.

Due to this association, I never wanted to see Love Actually either. When Lady E made me, I resigned myself to two hours of overwrought romance and goofy British aphorisms. What I got was much better.

Tits, tits, and more tits, cute girls spouting off profanity with an adorable English twang, guys who only want to get laid, a funny cameo from Rowan Atkinson, and the guy who plays Davey Jones in the Pirates movies as Billy Mack, the foul-mouthed, over the hill rocker who doesn’t give a shit anymore. I’m rarely surprised by movies, and this one shocked the hell out of me.  This one is a worthy addition to your Christmas rotation. I know what some of you are thinking. Just trust me.

Best 3 Movie Christmas Rotation: Bad Santa, Christmas Vacation, and Die Hard

 Bad SantaChristmas VacationDie Hard

Bad Santa is the most delightfully profane, unapologetically offensive movie I’ve ever seen. It delights in its vulgarity and unflinchingly pushes forward until you’re not only not surprised by the ending, you’re shocked someone didn’t try to blow him away sooner. I saw this the first time hungover as balls in Las Vegas in the middle of August. As my friend Conor and I tried to fight off the urge to yak after a horrible meal at the Aladdin, we ordered this movie for shits and giggles. After 20 minutes, I was laughing so hard I genuinely forgot I was hungover. After an hour, I was up and moving around again. By the time it was over, I was completely cured and drinking a big glass of whiskey while smoking a cigarette like I was Marge Schott. The lesson: This movie is so fucking funny it will cure all your ills. It’s like one of those Filipino miracle healers only you don’t get blood on your stomach, and this one actually works.

Christmas Vacation is the old standby. I can barely think the words “Merry Christmas” without my brain immediately following with “Shitter was full.” That’s why I’ve switched to the much more innocuous “Happy holidays” which I’m sure pisses off Bill O’Reilly and the rest of the Christian clowns who claim there’s a “war on Christmas.” (Quick aside: There isn’t.) I must be getting old when I type “Christmas Vacation is the old standby.” Anyhoo…

Die Hard is the Christmas movie that no one ever wants to acknowledge is a Christmas movie. I wrote this in making my case for including John McClane in our company Christmas card, but it’s important to reiterate here: Die Hard is a movie about a father overcoming obstacles to get home to see his family on Christmas. If that isn’t the ultimate Christmas parable, what is? Sure, it’s taking the construction to its logical end, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. And it sure seemed like McClane’s kids wanted him home unlike Bing Crosby’s kids probably felt when he sang “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” They knew his coming home meant they were in for a beating with a big bag of oranges. McClane’s kids knew their dad coming home meant a big heaping scoop of awesome.

These are really the only three Christmas movies you need. I’ll admit it, I still like It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and that creepy Rudolph claymation deal, but Christmas is about making your own traditions. And these movies are mine.

Best Christian Christmas Song: “O Holy Night”

This song captures the entirety of what Christmas is (or should be) better than any other song out there. And considering it takes a real stout set of pipes to properly belt this one out, it’s virtually guaranteed to give you chills every time you hear it. What’s not to love about that? Vivid imagery, dynamic and intense tempo changes, the singer’s soul proudly beaming through each rendition, it don’t get no better than this. I look forward to hearing this every year, and somehow I always only manage to catch it once while I hear that interminable “Hey Santa” song by Carnie and Wendy Wilson seemingly every fucking day. There is no justice in the world.

Worst Christian Christmas Song: “Joy to the World”

I don’t actually dislike any of the Christian songs, but this one gets the nod because over the last month everywhere I go kids are inexplicably singing the parody version of this song about their elementary school teachers. It got me thinking. The lyrics to that version are really fucked up. “Joy to the world, our teacher’s dead. We barbecued her head.” Good lord, that’s pretty macabre. It wasn’t enough you killed her, you actually decapitated her and roasted her head on your parents’ Weber. Then you either cut her up in pieces like you’re rehearsing for “Dexter” or found a large enough toilet to stuff her entire body down into the city’s infrastructure. That’s positively horrifying. This is way worse than singing about how Batman smells. You’ve taken a song about the birth of our lord and turned into a treatment for the next Eli Roth movie. Gross.

Best Name for a Cat Toy Invented by Lady E that I Randomly Found While Cleaning the House Today: Meowse

It’s a mouse and the cat plays with it. And he says “meow.” Get it? Meowse. What’s funny (and what you’ll probably find nauseating) is that when I found him under the couch, I said out loud, “Oh, there you are, Meowse” like it can understand me. It’s bad enough we talk to our pets, now I’ve started talking to the pet’s toys. Regardless, I still think it’s an incredibly creative name for a cat toy, and saying it out is weirdly satisfying.

Best Cyclical Way to Make Christmas Money: Sell ugly Christmas sweaters

Ugly sweaters = Lame party

Think about this. Every year people have jackass ugly sweater parties which means all the jackasses invited to the party have to go to the thrift store to buy a new ugly sweater. Since this only happens once a year, when people get around to cleaning out their closets, invariably the ugly sweater heads back to the thrift store because no one wants this ugly rag cluttering up their business. Then next year, the stupid parties roll around again and everyone’s back to buy a new sweater. If you’re a thrift store, you’ve got to love this. In the long run you don’t lose inventory, you turn over the same products year after year after year, and don’t have to do a damn thing. If I were in charge of a thrift store, I’d make sure these parties were at the forefront of everyone’s consciousness by Thanksgiving at the latest.

Most Underrated Christmas Cookie: Spritz

This is a light, buttery, delicious cookie from Sweden. No one ever hears about them when my mom brings them out at a party, but once everyone tries one, they’re gone within five minutes. Get your hands on some spritz this holiday season, and do your mouth a favor. A person can eat only so much gingerbread. Granted, that’s still a lot, but you gotta change it up once in a while.

Biggest Reason I’m Looking Forward to the End of Christmas: Those Goddamn Rhyming Target Commercials

I was in the middle of a deep sleep two nights ago and began having a dream. I was trapped in a Target commercial where everyone answered each other in rhyming couplets and they wouldn’t stop asking me questions, so I was panicking trying to keep up while staying within rhythm and rhyme properly. I started to get pretty good at it, but suddenly woke up with a pat on the hand from Lady E. I was talking in my sleep and progressively getting louder and louder. The point: These commercials are making me insane.

I’ve been walking around the last four days thinking things like “When I get done shopping, it’s three shots of Jager I crave” when my head answers with 20 little kids shouting “There’s no place like Target at Christmas to save!” I’m constructing sentences in my head like a low rent Dr. Seuss, and feel like Billy Crystal slowly going mad while groping for the word “sultry” in Throw Momma From the Train. I can’t escape these commercials, and since they rhyme, my brain is on a two track rotation between some hybrid of all these commercials and “Hey Santa.”

In short, it’s just another holiday season for E Dagger. Hart and I wrap up the year on Friday (or at some point thereafter), so be sure to check that out. And then we’re not back again until 2009.

Until then…