Deer Leader Rudolph

"You know Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and Vixen, Comet, and Cupid, and Donder and Blitzen But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?" -from traditional song commemorating Deer Leader

It is the time of year once again when people the world over pay tribute to our great luminescent leader and true Emperor of the North, Rudolph the Radiant. As benevolent patriarch to his countless offspring, Emperor Rudolph sees to it that all his children have a profound understanding of their father's esteemed place in history. Once again this season, they take part in the reindeer games that were denied our young hero during his time of suffering and honor him by reciting the song that recounts his humiliation at the hands of his inferiors and his eventual redemption and glory. As all loyal citizens know, the song tells the story of how brave Rudolph bore the taunting of his peers, only to emerge victorious in the end through sheer pluck and determination. In subsequent verses added after his rise to preeminence, we learn how he showed compassion for his tormentors and oppressors, allowing the few that were deemed worthy of reeducation the opportunity to work side by side with the elves in the factories and mines, doing the good and necessary work of providing toys and coal for all children of the world.

All blessings upon good Rudolph and all his heirs! Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer's name has truly gone down in history.

Little Drama Boy: Unsettling Christmas Music

Now that we're in the midst of the holiday season, just as sure as you'll hear the ringing of the Salvation Army's red kettle Santas, you'll also be bombarded with Christmas tunes and, correspondingly, the complaints of those who despise them. As for myself, I generally love Christmas music. Just as most of us have a special fondness for the music we listened to in high school and college, holiday music for me conjures up fond memories of childhood holidays. The dilemma seems to be that as media consumers, we are always seeking out something new, but we still crave the familiarity of the music we grew up with. So, as a compromise, we settle for yet another rehash of White Christmas, even though nothing beats ol' Bing's version. Even so, as a kid, there were a few Christmas songs that I found a bit unsettling for one reason or another:

Topping my list would be the following:

1. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus No mystery why this would be disturbing to young believers: Here you have a child eavesdropping on their own mother carrying out an illicit relationship with the icon of all that is good in this world, unbeknownst to the child's father. Is the implicit twist to the song that Santa is in fact the father in disguise? If so, for whose benefit is he going incognito when the child is supposed to be in bed. And is the mother in on the ruse, if that's what it is, or is she fooling around behind dad's back? Meanwhile, the child speculates on "how funny" it will be when father discovers the affair. Funny?? More like very confusing and potentially a Shakespearian tragedy in the making.

2. Blue Christmas This belongs to a sub genre of depressing holiday songs. Others in the category include Miles Davis' REALLY depressing Blue Xmas and the Pogues REALLY REALLY depressing and hilarious Fairytale of New York. Compared to those, Blue Christmas is a fairly mild lament about being separated from a loved one during the holidays. What made this one especially unsettling to me as a child was the dirge-like, minor key background vocals coursing through the song like a ghostly, mournful wind.

3. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer It should come as no surprise that this shallow morality tale ostensibly dealing with bullying started as a commercial enterprise. Montgomery Ward came up with the character and story as part of a Christmas promotion in 1939. It was adapted into the popular song and recorded by Gene Autry a decade later in 1949. Rudolph, one of Santa's reindeer, is subjected to merciless teasing and ostracism because of his physical abnormality, a glowing red nose. In what's supposed to be the redemptive final act, the other reindeer exhibit a fickle and implausible turnaround once Rudolph proves his worth to their master. Is this what true friendship is all about?

4. Nuttin' for Christmas My parents had a couple of 45 records that we nearly wore the grooves off of during the holidays. One was the first and most iconic version of All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth by Spike Jones and his City Slickers recorded in 1947. The other was another novelty record by voiceover actor and comic Stan Freberg called Nuttin' for Christmas in which a bratty voiced kid recites a list of his transgressions as a reason why Santa won't be paying him a visit that year. The most unsettling part of the song comes near the end, when the boy hears what he thinks to be Santa Claus entering his home. Instead the intruder turns out to be a burglar intent on robbing the owners of their silverware and jewelry. Though the kid doesn't seem all that upset and may even be in cahoots, the idea of someone violating the sanctity of house and home was a bit troubling to my younger self.

5. Misunderstood lyrics These are the songs that include archaic phrases or odd line breaks that led to misinterpretation. One of these was Winter Wonderland, namely the line "In the meadow we can build a snowman, and pretend that he is Parson Brown". As a young Catholic boy, I was unfamiliar with the term "parson" so naturally assumed that "parson brown" was some sort of tawny shade which I thought to be a very unusual color for a snowman. Another misunderstanding occurs in the first line of the plodding We Three Kings, "We Three Kings of Orient are." Due to the awkward line break, I believed they were from the land of "Orentar", which I imagined to be a sub-region of the far East.

Have a joyful holiday season and may the peace and good will of the season continue long after the radio stations and malls have resumed their regular programming.

Happy (and safe) holidays from Dave's Ink!



Don't be distracted by the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you "Be of good cheer". There's a lot to watch out for this time of year.

Statistically, emergency rooms and trauma centers see an upsurge around the holidays, which is little wonder when you consider the inclement weather combined with alcohol and overloaded electrical outlets.

Besides those described in the illustration above, here's a small sampling of other potential life-threatening hazards awaiting you this winter:

(If only my snowblower threw snow as well as it throws that wrench and dismembered hand.)

So put on your boots with the studded soles, hold onto those handrailings, and let's enjoy the holidays, carefully!

Newt Gingrich and the REAL war on Christmas



"From the foldings of its robe, (the Spirit) brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment." ……….. "Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.

"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"

Once again this year, victims of the "War on Christmas" are warning us to be on guard against those who aim to pervert the true meaning of the holiday, as was spelled out so clearly by Linus van Pelt in "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Never mind the fact that many of our dearest Yuletide traditions, such as the Christmas tree (Nordic Pagan ritual) and gift giving (Saturnalia) had secular origins. Meanwhile, the REAL "War on Christmas" seems to be waged by those who seem to have forgotten the hallmark of the season, kindness and generosity toward the poorest among us.

From it's earliest inception in the United States, Christmas has had a distinctly secular side. It wasn't celebrated by the founding fathers, who viewed it as an English tradition. It was finally declared a national holiday in 1870, thanks largely to the writings of Washington Irving and especially Charles Dickens, who in 1843 penned the instant classic novella, "A Christmas Carol".

In early 19th century England, as well as in the U.S., unemployment was rampant, the gap between the rich and the poor was growing wider, and those in the lower classes who had jobs withstood dismal working conditions. "A Christmas Carol" was a scathing indictment of the greed among the upper classes and the exploitative nature of the business practices of the day, including forced child labor. It's not a stretch to draw comparisons between Dickens' England and the frustration felt among today's Occupy Wall Street crowds.

So, mindful of this history of Christmas' early celebrations in the U.S., it's odd and yet somehow fitting that Newt Gingrich chose the beginning of the holiday season to put forth his idea to fire union janitors in the poorest inner city schools and replace them with low-paid students, to instill in them a sense of "work ethic" and more importantly, to save money. Besides taking jobs away from main bread winners in families that can least afford it, Gingrich's big idea would take money that might have been spent locally out of already depressed communities. With this latest assault on child labor laws and organized labor in general, and with his recent advice to Occupy Wall Street protesters that they "take a bath and get a job", Newt Gingrich is doing his utmost to win 2011's "Scrooge of the Year" award.

It took just one Christmas Eve night and three ghosts to turn Ebeneezer Scrooge from a miser into a benevolent friend to all of mankind. But Newt Gingrich may be one of the tougher nuts to crack this holiday season.

Happy holidays and God bless us, one and all!

Holiday Office Party decorum

Even with budget cutbacks, busy schedules, and a lingering recession, we still find time to get together with friends and coworkers to celebrate the holidays. For those still employed in the standard business model, here are a few decorum reminders for the annual holiday office gathering:

1. The punchbowl is NOT your friend.

2. Assume that everything you say or do will end up on Facebook for all to see.

3. You will have to go back to your routine and face those same coworkers at some point.

With these tips in mind, have a merry holiday season and a wonderful and prosperous New Year!