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I haven’t been much in the Christmas spirit and my 15 year old confided to me last night that he’s feeling bad that he’s not much in the spirit either. So I’m going to do what any good parent would do; force the spirit of Christmas down everyone’s throats.
 
Tonight we’ll go pick up our tree from the TEN MILLION TREES lot (I look at it as rescuing a doomed tree from it’s prison), then we will decorate that tree while we eat Christmas cookies (that I did NOT bake myself) and drink hot chocolate and play Christmas movies in the background. If I have to make everyone sing Jingle Bells and wear stupid Santa hats to get the mood going, I will. This includes the cat and dog.
 
My favorite Christmas movies are Die Hard and The Ref. Sure, they are not Christmas movies, per se, but they do have a Christmas feel to them and, as such, they qualify. But they will not work for tonight’s festivities. Nor will Bad Santa or Silent Night, Deadly Night, though that’s what will get played if everyone does not concede to my wishes to be in a good, holiday mood.
 
So, Christmas movies. Real Christmas movies that make you feel like a kid, bring joy to your heart and want to shower the world with good will. Ok, maybe not so much that. Maybe more like movies that are about Christmas.
My daughter will insist on Elf, but Todd and I are not Will Ferrell fans, so we’ll probably end up watching Christmas Vacation. Still works, after all these years. Then maybe a viewing of Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas before I declare the night’s festivities over and everyone can take their hats off and I go back to killing zombies.
 
Which, of course, leads to the question: What are your favorite Christmas movies.
And yes, Die Hard counts.
 
 
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[new at not pitchfork: huey lewis and sleater kinney]

I cannot bake. I can cook – I can whip up a gourmet meal at a moment’s notice. But baking leaves me frustrated and in a foul mood. So generally, I don’t do it. I leave the baking for the Martha Stewarts in my family.

So why did I find myself standing in my kitchen one December night in 2001, elbow deep in flour and frosting? I’ll tell you why. It’s my sister’s fault.

I work with my sister. My sister is the social butterfly to my anti-social maggot. And sometimes she drags me kicking and screaming into her little circle of work gathering hell. This particular year, it was the cookie trade-off lunch.

This is where a bunch of women get together for a holiday lunch, and bring a dozen home-baked cookies for each person attending. This was my fourth Christmas at the job, and I had avoided the cookie exchange every year thus far. My sister would have none of that this year. She enthusiastically signed me up without asking. Why? Because she is a sadist. She knew I would now have to combine my hatred of baking with my loathing of my co-workers all in one day. I suppose I could have e-mailed the head cookie cutter and offered my apologies, but I decided I would give in instead. Maybe if I did it one year, they will leave me alone for the next three.

But how the hell was I going to pull this off? Baking is a foreign concept to me. Well, not totally foreign. I’ve tried it. But never with any results that could be fed to actual, living human beings. And even when I did manage to bake something edible, it always came out looking decidedly unedible.

I had options in regards to the cookies. I could cheat. There are various ways one could cheat when it comes to cookie baking:

First degree cheating: Go to bakery, buy fresh made, gorgeous, incredibly delicious cookies. Put on throw-away Christmas plate, wrap in something festive and pretend like you slaved over a hot oven all night making them.

Second degree cheating: Buy a pre-made cookie mix, follow same method as above for wrapping and lying.

Third degree cheating: Buy the Pillsbury slice and bake cookie rolls. No fuss, no mess. Just chop the roll up, stick in oven and proceed with festive wrapping and lying about the recipe.

I opted for third degree cheating, sugar cookie style.

Have I mentioned I suck at baking? Even when the cookies are almost made for me?

First, I followed the directions carefully. One rounded teaspoon of dough per cookie. I only made six, to see how they would come out. I carefully rounded out that teaspoon size dough and dropped them on the baking sheet. The cookies came out the size of a baby’s toenail. Six cookies wasted.

So I made them a little bigger; somewhere between a tablespoon and a scoop. Apparently they weren’t rounded enough this time and turned out looking like lumps of brown coal. Which is great to stick in a kid’s stocking as a joke, but not great for actually eating. Six more cookies wasted.

Finally, I decided to throw some flour into the mix and roll out the dough. This was brilliant because it would feel more like really baking, and I wouldn’t feel as guilty. I had no cookie cutters, but I found the cover to one of my nephew’s bottles and used that to cut the dough into large circles. They came out the perfect size and shape. I was on my way to Marthaness.

But…..I couldn’t just give plain sugar cookies, could I? That would be lame. Even though I did not like these women and I did not want to be in their stupid little cookie club, as long as I was forced to participate, I was going to make sure no one was going to talk shit about me after the party was over. Plain old sugar cookies would certainly be talked about. They had to be decorated. They had to reek of Christmas. I was ready with green and red colored sugar and some Christmas tree shaped sprinkles. I was prepared to go all out for this.

When the cookies were a bit cooled, I sprinkled the colored sugar on them. It rolled off. A rainbow of Christmas was all over the tray, but not on the cookies. So I put more sugar on and pressed it down on the cookie to get it to stay. The cookie broke. I poured myself a glass of gin. No, not a martini. Just the gin. Not even an olive. This called for clearheadedness and olives just get in the way of that.

I put a fresh batch in the oven and a light bulb went off in my head. I’ll sprinkle the sugar on before they bake! That must be how Martha does it! Six more cookies in. I drink, I wait.

They came out looking like an elf puked on the cookie sheet. Six more cookies wasted. Good thing I planned ahead for failure and bought a few rolls.

I baked a fresh batch and came up with a new idea, which was partly hatched with the help of my second glass of gin. I needed to find something to put on top of the cookies when they are cooled that will make the sugar stick to them. Frosting! God, I am a genius.

I only had pink frosting. I mixed some red food coloring into the frosting until it looked a Christmas sort of red. I stirred and poured and stirred and poured and finally the frosting was red, but the consistency of water. Like thin blood. At this point I didn’t care. I reminded myself over and over that I don’t even like the people who will be eating these cookies.

I took each cookie, smeared it in blood red frosting and then poured the colored sugar over them. They ended up looking like a kindergarten craft project, if the kindergarten was for blind, stupid children. Six more cookies shot to hell. More gin.

I decided to give it one more try. What is wet enough yet not distasteful that I could put on top of the cookies to make the damn sugar stick? Because at this point, it wasn’t about the cookies. It wasn’t about the party or the women or my sister or even Christmas. It was about the sugar. I was going to make it stick to those damn cookies even if I died of alcohol poisoning while trying.

And then I saw it, right there in my cabinet. The answer to my sugar dilemma. Pam no-stick spray. Buttered flavor. Of course.

I sprayed each cookie with a little Pam, hysterically laughing to myself that I have reached so low a point. I take each non-stick coated cookie and drunkenly turn it upside down in a pile of red and green, yelling BOOYA! as I spiked those cookies like a football into their decorative sugar.

I have Christmas cookies. I have baked. I was also very drunk and almost wept with joy at the sight of those hideous cookies because, well, I made them. I persevered through some horrible moments and I never, ever gave up, I just kept climbing that mountain, I….I needed to go lie down.

I woke up the next morning and had a vague recollection of having baked the night before. When I walked into the kitchen it looked like Martha Stewart and Christmas got into a drunken brawl in my house. And the product of their make up sex were the ugliest, most revolting, hideous, worst tasting cookies this side of dog biscuits. I didn’t care. I made them. I made fucking cookies. I baked.

I went to work that morning despite my raging hangover. I went through hell for those cookies and I was going to make damn sure that I got some decent cookies in return. I popped about two dozen Excedrin and walked into that party with my head held high.

Oh, I saw the looks. I heard the gasps as my pitiful cookies were unwrapped. I knew that I would be office gossip fodder for the next week. But that was ok, because only I knew those women were eating cookies whose main ingredient was no-stick spray, and which may or may not have fallen on my kitchen floor.

Don’t ever ask me to bake.

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I suppose this is a continuation of my “What is twitter for” posts.

I saw an ad for a book called The New Influencers. One of the books praisers (obviously influenced by author and new influencer Paul Gillen) says:

“If you haven’t immersed yourself in blogs or started one yourself, ‘The New Influencers’ can tell you what is popular, what type of blogs work, and what kind of impact they’re having across the consumer and corporate worlds.”

In other words, he will tell you how to start a blog simply for profit. He will tell you how to figure out what people are talking about and write a blog specifically about that and then promote it enough to get a company interested enough to advertise on your blog or maybe even pay you for writing it.

It seems so disingenuous to start a blog about a specific subject that you might not have any interest in, just to make money. It seems like, well, spam. It’s as bad as those “pay per post” bloggers who get cash to write single blog posts about specific products. If I go to a blog and see a few paragraphs where a link to the same exact website is provided five or six times, I know what I’m seeing. I know the whole damn thing is nothing more than an ad and the blogger is nothing more than Billy Mays selling a Bedazzler. He doesn’t care about the Bedazzler. He never uses one. He just wants you to buy one because that’s how he puts dinner on the table. He may try to sound passionate about his Magic Putty, but everyone knows, there’s no passion in putty. Billy Mays tries to convey passion by yelling. A pay per post blogger tries to convey interest in the product they are hawking by linking it ten times in one post. She tries to come off as if she really, really loves writing about time shares in Alabama, and damn it, those links to every page on the Alabama TimeShare Company website prove it.

I know, I don’t have to read it. So I don’t. But I wonder who does. I wonder who reads those advertisements disguised as blogs and I wonder who reads emails about Viagra and I wonder who is following the new Social Media Experts (capitalized, of course) on twitter. Mostly, I wonder who is reading books about Thought Leaders and New Influencers and thinking they have something wise to say about gathering enough virtual acquaintances to use your blog or your FaceBook or Twitter to sell yourself to them. These people are the new shysters, the new hucksters. They are standing in front of the three ring circus of the internet, bringing in the crowds who want to see the bearded lady who is no bearded lady at all, but Billy Mays in drag. They are this century’s get rich quick artists, and there are people who hang on their every word, seeing every new phrase and made up word dangled in front of them like some kind of sparkling pot of gold. Monetize!

I don’t know why I have such a visceral reaction to this newfangled social media. Maybe because I see everything I love about the internet being squeezed so hard to try to fit them into marketing niches and tightly defined spaces identified by how much money they can make that the heart and soul are being juiced right out of them.

I started my first blog in 2001. That was when you would say the word “blog” and people would think you had something caught in your throat. There was a certain joy in blogging and reading blogs then. No one had figured out a way to “monetize” them. No one was paying someone for throwing links into their posts. People were writing about what they loved, what they believed in and what amused them. What happened with blogs is going to happen with every new form of media. People will say “Flickr was more of a community before they made all those changes.” They will say “Twitter was so much fun before the social media experts took over.” “Facebook used to be about college kids hooking up.” “This used to be fun.”

Yes, people are still writing about what they believe in and twitter still has poop jokes and Facebook will still help you find that long lost high school friend. But the noise level has changed. As soon as people find a way to use something as a marketing tool, as a capitalist venture, they will swarm in and change the face of it all, and it will be ugly to everyone except the people who are in on the money making.

Makes you wonder, though. Who buys those get rich quick books? Who clicks on links that are obviously ads? Who robotically follows someone who calls themselves a thought leader and social media expert? Who calls a 1-800 number to buy Magic Putty? Is someone really sitting there reading a guide on how to make money in blogging or pouring over pages telling them how to turn their tweets into gold or their Facebook contacts into piles of cash?

Here’s what you do. I’ll tell you for free. You get as many contacts as possible. You add blogs to your links list whether you read them or not. You follow every possible person on twitter and friend everyone who has a Facebook and do whatever it is you do with LinkedIn and all those other places. You just gather hordes of people who have no idea who you are or what you are selling but you shove your links down their throats and scream over and over again about what you’re selling and eventually you’ll make a few dollars and you’ll feel like a social media expert yourself and then you’ll write a book about it and sell it to people just like yourself who are looking to become social media experts so they can sell their grand ideas to other people…..

Right. It’s like a circle jerk of late night tv commercials.

I know I’m never going to make money off this blog. I know I’m not going to make money by reviewing my entire music collection. I’m not even trying. People keep telling me to open an Amazon affiliate thing and put in Amazon links to all those records I’m reviewing. No. It’s just not worth it for me to spend the time putting those links in for a 45 cent check I’ll get at the end of the month because someone decided to give Steel Pole Bathtub a try. I’m writing about the records because I love writing about music. Because it’s fun. I don’t want to monetize. I don’t want to thought lead. I don’t want paradigms or synergy or whatever the hell it is the “new influencers” want me to shove up your ass every time you read my blog or click on my FaceBook (which I haven’t clicked on myself in months).

Yea, I know. There are people who want that stuff. There are more people who want to figure out how to make money off each new big thing than people who don’t. So of course, the rule of the internet goes here. Don’t follow them. Don’t read those blogs. Don’t buy those books. Don’t click those links. And I won’t.

But the best thing about the internet is that I can use my blog to bitch about things I hate. It doesn’t matter that only a few people will read it and there are no ads within and I’m not using this as a means to exchange my social resume with anyone or get someone to read my book on how to write a book telling people how to make money off of writing books about nothing. It doesn’t matter that this is one big, rambling rant that I haven’t even proofread because it is what it is, and it’s not anything else.

Beware the money makers who want to show you how to make money. They will, you won’t. Unless, of course, you learn how to be a new influencer. By buying a book written by one of the new influencers.

The internet: a circle jerk where only half the people get off.

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Four done today: INXS, Night Ranger, Cheap Trick and Johnny Cash

The question of the weekend: I was talking with a friend about an old music meme we did many years ago about the five songs we can’t live without. I went back and looked at mine and none of te songs on that list would make it if I made a list today.

So, right now in your life, what are the five songs you can’t live without? Could be your five favorite songs of all time, or just songs that are rocking your world at the moment. Old, new, whatever. What five songs do it for you?

Updated

Here’s my list, which is very here and now.

1. Steel Pole Bathtub – Carbon
2. Queens of the Stone Age – I Never Came
3. White Stripes – Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground
4. Clutch – The Mob Goes Wild
5. Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart

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Four done today: INXS, Night Ranger, Cheap Trick and Johnny Cash

The question of the weekend: I was talking with a friend about an old music meme we did many years ago about the five songs we can’t live without. I went back and looked at mine and none of te songs on that list would make it if I made a list today.

So, right now in your life, what are the five songs you can’t live without? Could be your five favorite songs of all time, or just songs that are rocking your world at the moment. Old, new, whatever. What five songs do it for you?

Updated

Here’s my list, which is very here and now.

1. Steel Pole Bathtub – Carbon
2. Queens of the Stone Age – I Never Came
3. White Stripes – Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground
4. Clutch – The Mob Goes Wild
5. Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart

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Reviews! ZZ Top and Stabbing Westward, The Archies and U2.

If I get tired of killing zombies (just got Left4Dead tonight) I might fulfill an Emerson Lake and Palmer request. Or I might get so sucked into this game you never see me again.

Over at life after all, a story about Christmas caroling and revenge.

We once hit upon the idea of singing Christmas carols to Murray. We thought it would soften his heart, as if life were nothing but a sappy tv movie and we were writing the script. When we burst into his store singing Silent Night, Murray shrank back in horror. I had a vision of Murray as the wicked witch, melting under Dorothy’s thrown water.

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I was all set to be gracious about the way Guy Kawasaki responded to my post yesterday, but after reviewing his tweets about it, I was surprised to see that he was really quite nasty about it. Subtly, and quietly, but he got his digs in. Perhaps those emails and direct messages I got telling me that Mr. Kawasaki is, indeed, a tool were spot on.

A couple of things: I was not trying to imply that Guy did nothing with his tweets but talk about alltop. I was saying that the way he uses other tweeters to talk about alltop is spamming. Not his particular tweets. And yes, I got it, Guy does reply to your tweets. Perhaps I was just using him as a catch-all for people who follow tens of thousands of twitterers. I’m just trying to understand the worth of following that many people when there is no way you can know what they are all saying. Why follow someone if you are not going to read what they write?

Second, I don’t really care how big Guy is or what he does now or what he did before. If you think I’m supposed to genuflect before the guy because he, what? Evangelized Apple computers? Made money by writing books about how to make money? No. Sorry. That’s right, I didn’t know who he was before I got on twitter and I’m not really sure I care who he is right now.

I truly loved the email that said I didn’t know what I was getting myself into by saying bad things about the beloved Guy Kawasaki, that commenters would come down on me like a hammer, that I would lose followers. Ohh, I’m taking on a “big dog.” He’s a big dog to you. Not to everyone with a computer and internet connection. And really, so what? What’s going to happen to me? Nothing of any consequence. Everyone knows the internet is not real life, sheesh. Besides, if you only knew what I’ve been through in my eight plus years of blogging. This is nothing. I’ve survived death threats and DOS attacks and more idiocy than you can see in one day on Something Awful. Yes, a few people called me names and some people followed and then unfollowed me and you know what? The sun is still coming up today. I still have to go to work and take care of family and do all those little things that encompass my life, the least part of which is twitter.

I truly appreciate those who constructively criticized my post or who added something of value to the discussion. I appreciate those who decided to follow and those who headed over to my music blog, and I’ve already had some great conversations with people I would not have come across if not for the whole Guy thing yesterday. So good things came of it, and I’m happy for that and honestly, I have no more respect for Guy than I did before I knew who the hell he was.

Update: Lisa has much more, here.

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