Grading The Christmas Gifts
Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists
This is a volume of strange lists from the editors of the periodical McSweeney's. Prior lists from McSweeney's are the inspiration for some strange lists I've had in my blog. I think this book, while hilarious, has the most white space of any book ever published. Despite a length of 224 pages, I finished it in the space of one cross-country flight with a layover. Also highly recommended is another McSweeney's book, Created In Darkness By Troubled Americans.
Phillies vs. Dodgers baseball tickets
As a Philly fan living in Los Angeles, I always try to see my teams when they come to town. Normally a tremendous gift. However, tickets for the upcoming season have not yet gone on sale. So the gift was offered with instructions to either buy the tickets when they go on sale and ask the giver for reimbursement or ask the giver for his credit card number to make the purchase. Which brings up the sticky situation of how much the giver intends to spend...tickets range from about $15 to well in the hundreds. Giving a gift might be stressful, but receiving a gift should be easy! The grade was adjusted accordingly for emotional distress.
Roll With You by Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Loves
This is a great CD by one of the finest current practitioners of 60s-style Motown soul. However, the reason it made this list is because of what my brother said when presenting the gift. "Whatever the hell this shit is, Merry Christmas."
Under Great White Northern Lights box set by The White Stripes
For the obsessive fan in your life. The box contains a documentary, a live DVD, a live album (on both CD and vinyl), a hardcover book, and a silkscreen print. The White Stripes' emphasis on art direction has never been put to better use. It doesn't arrive until March, but I've already had several wet dreams about finally clutching it to my bosom. Technicality: Because it actually hasn't been released yet, I pre-ordered it with Christmas money. So the credit for actually choosing the gift (and for the excellent grade) belongs to me.
Atari 2600 Video Computer System
Yes. The original. The best game system ever devised - save it, Nintendo apologists. My parents are moving, and when I was home for the holidays we cleaned out the attic and found about 30 Atari game cartridges from way back in the day. I immediately decided to take them home with me and find an Atari 2600 system. It should arrive any day now, and I couldn't be more excited. The Christmas that my brother and I first received the Atari, back in 1979 or so, we hardly got to play it. All my aunts and uncles (most in their 50s, mind you) who came over for dinner became enchanted with Freeway, a Frogger-like game in which you are a chicken trying to cross the road. We barely touched the prized gift until the next day. This remains one of my family's favorite Christmas stories. Technicality: Another gift purchased by me with Christmas money.
Grade: A+ (if it works)
Donald Duck Skydiver
My father instituted a new Christmas tradition once my brother and I became adults. He goes to the dollar store every year and gets each of us a toy so that there are still toys given out at Christmas. I got a Donald Duck figure with a plastic parachute. Of course, I immediately went out in two feet of snow to see if it worked. If you wrap it loosely, it really works. If you wrap it tightly, Donald is a stain. To my chagrin, the packaging did not explain the dramatic events that might have required Donald Duck to jump out of an airplane. I guess for a dollar you can get a toy, but not a narrative.
If any of you would like me to grade your Christmas haul, simply email me the list of gifts you received and I will be happy to heartlessly quantify how well you did. Consider it my gift to you.