Monthly Archives: December 2013

O Tannenbaum

Broken Christmas Ornament

No ornaments were harmed in the writing of this post.

Recently I took our Christmas tree out of storage, fought it to a draw as I went about the annual ordeal of trying to make all the lights work. That’s worthy of a post by itself, but I’m not here to talk about satanic instruments. No, I want to write about ornament hangars.

A stray glass ball ornament, forgotten in the branches last January when the tree was stowed in the basement fell to the floor and shattered as I unfurled the branches to their extended positon, leaving lethal shards scattered about the floor, including one that has always seemed full of pathos to me: the neck of the globe with its thin metal ring and wire hanger.  And it is of this hanger that I wish to speak.

Economies of scale fascinate me, or what I would call the Costco Effect were I an economist. (I’m not. I only play one on TV.) We all know that buying in bulk is more economical. Our family story about economy of scale in fact involves Costco. When Alyssa was a freshman in high school, we took ourselves off to buy some 3″ x 5″ index cards for her. I forget how many came in the jumbo pack, but she was able to use them throughout high school, and I think I am still using some of them today. It’s one of many office supplies our household seems to spontaneously generate. We need never buy a pen again in our lifetimes: probably two thousand of them run in great migratory herds under our roof.

Anyhow, as I was saying, I regarded the neck and hanger of the ornament with a mixture of terror and pity, and wondered how much manufacturers made on this simple but useful object. I put ornament hangers in a class with pencils: they’re simple and utilitarian, and fulfill a unique niche in the world of physical objects. Oh, sure, anyone can use a deformed paper clip in place of a wire  hanger, but how outré is that?

Some quick research revealed that, on the open market, the little hangers cost about two cents apiece. The material runs about one cent, so there’s 100% pure profit to be had on the little varmints. That’s in the neighborhood of the markup on jewelry. So, here’s my investment tip for the day: buy a lot of 20 gauge wire and make a killing. It sure beats savings account rates to pieces.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Every Form of Refuge Has Its Price


The other day, I heard on the radio that no longer do men and women have to work up the nerve to propose to their ostensible beloveds all by their lonesome and risk downright rejection and utter humiliation.

Nope, they can have the ultimate wing person and arrange to  have someone design and stage a proposal for them.

In the immortal words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up. There are companies designed to put the happy couple in blissful Engagement Land, a stories place that only appears when children believe in fairies and clap their…oh, wait, wrong story.

So, what used to be the simplest of matters, procuring  a ring suited to one’s taste and budget, once one had alit on a suitable proposee, choosing a secluded place in which to do the deed because, after all, this is the most private and personal of human undertakings save perhaps childbirth, and, bending the supple knee, popping the question fraught with moment and suspense.  (Just between the two of us, have you ever wondered why we reserve the phrase, “popping the question” for this particular occasion? We don’t “pop” the question in any other circumstance. We may pop up or pop out or pop over (especially if we are the Pillsbury Doughboy) (Sorry) or pop in or pop under or pop by or pop around or any other combination of the verb “pop” and the speaker’s choice of meaningful adverb, but in no other time and place or imaginable circumstance do we speak of popping the question.

Sidebar (not that this post is almost entirely sidebar already): Don’t you just cringe down to your skivvies when one of those young dudes (and they’re almost invariably young) who, wearing his baseball cap backwards, is just certain that  it might be a GREAT IDEA to propose to the one he considers his woman in a highly public venue such as a baseball game or crap shoot? Every time television shows one of these, I like to think that if I were there I would shout, “No, young dude! DON’T DO IT!!!” and try to get everyone to join me, even gang tackling the perpetrator before he can do the deed in necessary. I’ve seen the woman in question reject this most abject of proffers and run in a horrid admixture of unparalleled embarrassment, deep humiliation and most likely abject terror from what she was imagined was going to be a pleasant evening out instead of THE SINGLE MOST TERRIBLE ORDEAL IN HER LIFE second only perhaps to being kidnapped and held hostage by the Elf on the Shelf. Seeing a couple of these has scarred me for life, I know. You most likely can tell.

Anyhow, young fellas, if I haven’t been able to talk some sense into you, here’s a link to a proposal service:

Maybe, just maybe, they’ll keep you from hurting yourself and a whole bunch of innocent people. Good luck, man. You’re going to need it.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Some Considerations of Pronunciation, Terminology and Usage


Since we’ve been iced in this afternoon, I have had time to think about some frequently misused, mispronounced and otherwise sadly used and abused parts of our language.

For a seasonal touch, consider the pronunciation of the word, “poinsettia.” For most of my life I pronounced it as I had heard it all my life: “poin-sett-ah.” But check it out–the word admits of a different pronunciation, one I first noticed my sister-in-law using: “poin-sett-ee-ah.” Occasionally I hear this pronounced correctly in the media and in public, but for the most part it isn’t.

And there’s that long piece of lawn furniture most people call a “chaise long.” That’s a hybrid term, “chaise” meaning “chair” in French, and “long” meaning “long” in English. (Wanted to see if you were napping)! Actually, the correct term is “chaise longue.” You will recall from your high school French that “longue” means “long.” (Stay awake, now.) If you say this term correctly, you will be thought to be arty and pretentious, and that’s what we’re all striving for, n’est ce pas?

I’m exhausted from trying to save civilization as we know it one term at a time. I hope you’ll send me examples of language faux pas and even a few bons mots. Et toi! Laissez the bons temps roulez!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree

I’ve always loved Christmas decorations ever since I can remember. Back in the day, trees had those big hot lights, the kind that the whole string stopped working when one burned out and icicles made of a lead-like substance that probably killed a whole bunch of brain cells every time we used them. That would have explained a lot about kids of that era. The whole town looked like the burg in A Christmas Story because, well, it was from that same decade.

It seemed to me that homes were decorated, as well as churches and businesses, so I was somewhat taken aback when one of my favorite television doctor shows, Dr. Kildare, had a Christmas episode, and the doctors, nurses and staff decorated the hospital and had a Christmas party! I don’t know why this surprised me so much, other than I was one dumb kid, but it made perfect sense after I thought about it for a while that hospitals would do this since they are, after all, filled with compassionate, caring people.

I was thinking about Christmas decorations in hospitals and the like the other day as I was walking into the Caton Merchant House in Manassas, where my dad lives. The staff there is a wonderful, compassionate and caring group of people, and this year they have overcome some of the excesses of decorations from Christmases Past and put up ornaments, garlands, trees, posters, banner and even some tasteful outdoor inflatables that really class up the place. Not that it isn’t classy all the time.

So, one could do worse than decorate for Christmas. Just keep it tasteful, because I’ll be by to check on it. Yes, Christmas Decoration policing is just another service I gladly offer. Just have some cookies and milk for me, and everything will work out fine.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized