Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Gifts of Christmas Past, Part II

The pictured Christmas gifts below are the ones that seem to just keep on giving. Here's how the inventory breaks down:

I've lamented before that my daughters are now of the age where they go to sleep too late but are just a year or two too young for my wife and I to watch a movie of our own choosing. The first volume of SCTV DVDs provide our marriage with just the right dose of comfort: we cheerfully and repeatedly resort to them on late Friday or Saturday nights. The Second City crew, a mixture of Canadian and US talent, was an incredibly gifted team of comics — for my money a more prodigiously funny group than their SNL compatriots in New York. Of the bunch, no-one gets me laughing harder than Andrea Martin. It's curious to note that much of her material is solo, with a few anonymous stand-in straight-men. Sometimes she duets with Catherine O'Hara, and occasionally they'll team up with Joe Flaherty (who, out of the entire team, seemed the most game to throw his lot in on behalf of someone else's concept — Libby Wolfson's hilariously über-feminist play "I'm Taking My Own Head, Screwing It On Right, And No Guy's Gonna Tell Me It Ain't" couldn't have been done without him). Conversely, when Martin shows up as a bit player in a larger sketch, she almost always steals the scene by getting the biggest laugh (her singing hula-girl in Polynesian Town doesn't get more than 10 seconds of air, but is far and away the comic highlight). A well-used and highly recommended DVD set (along with Volume 2).

Moving clockwise, we have a black turtleneck sweater — my second since we married. I'm sure there are men who have too many black turtleneck sweaters, but I have not yet reached that optimal state of marginal utility. A woman can never go wrong with this gift.

Next we have the pile of words. It's not a manuscript (sorry guys), but one of my journals. It originally looked more like the black leather-bound beauty just to its right. A lovely cover like that should inspire lofty thoughts, but I found myself so intimidated by its quality and my inability to measure up to its standards, that I ripped it off and threw it away. Problem solved: pages full. Journals, no matter what they look like, are a welcome gift.

There are three collections of essays — writers talking about writing, basically. I'm especially fond of the Paul Auster book. It's a British publication, given to me by a friend at a time when Auster was not yet well-enough known on his native soil to merit a North American collection of poetry and essays. I think it's a demonstration of a highly perceptive and intelligent writer discovering and slowly gaining confidence in his own voice. The other two books are Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott and The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. I could just as easily have included similar books by Stephen King and Josip Novakovich (all highly recommended) along with a half-dozen others. A future posting, perhaps.

The figurines are all justly celebrating the gimped-out/wimped-out condition of the prone Maple Leafs player — on leave from his tabletop rink. The other three characters are from various Star Wars Lego sets that I have assembled with my daughters and their friends.

Next we have a fine baby-blue dress shirt and the fab martini tie that my wife gave me early in our marriage. I don't have as many occasions to wear a tie as I used to, but when I do the martini tie remains a frequently commented on and coveted stock favourite. I've worn the Bollé sunglasses for the last three years, and they're now too scratched to be of much use. I've replaced them with a pair of Serengetis, but can't quite bring myself to throw away the Bollés.

The whole display is propped on a crokinole board, my table game of choice.

And last, and most importantly, we have the boxed collection of Steely Dan — a gift from my wife in our first year of marriage. No-one gets as much play in our house as the collective brainchild of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker — except for Fagen, solo. I don't believe anyone in the last 50 years of pop music has intuited and fleshed out the potential of the pop song to nearly the same degree as these two, and given the lyricism and wit of Fagen's solo albums I have to give major props to him. A short story can never be a novel, and a novel can never be a Shakespearean play — but a four-minute song can be all of the above. I can't get enough of these guys. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.


Rob In Victoria said...

First off, I believe we may have been separated at birth...

Secondly, I have to say that I LOVE the "Don't bother, it's all crap!" scrawled over the words on the top page of that journal - did I mention my suspicion that we may have been separated at birth?

Whisky Prajer said...

Ha! You flatter me, dude (and Merry Christmas to you too, RIV).

Cowtown Pattie said...


But, a man who loves The Dan can't be all baaad!

Yahmdallah said...

Is "Bird by Bird" any good? Her articles in Salon are very hit and miss.

Whisky Prajer said...

And you couldn't be more Texan, my dear CP! (Love yer git-tar strummin' Santa, BTW)

Y-man - BbB is hit and miss, too. Here's where I sheepishly admit I put it in the picture because of its handsome red cover.

DarkoV said...

I'll second Andrea Martin as my fave as well. Her Turkish immigrant washerwoman has me rolling as soon as she scrunches her eyebrow (singular).

Although Joe Flaherty, IMHO, has always been undervalued.


Whisky Prajer said...

DV - oh, Flaherty is the man, alright. Have you watched any of the interview footage on those DVD sets? I get the distinct impression that, beyond his own unique comic genius, he was frequently the glue that held the team together. Can't say enough for him.

Like the link, too. I get a kick out of Martin Short's "Kid From Deliverance" - kinda reminds me of Angus Young, actually. But once again the laughs go to the lady: Catherine O'Hara as Lucille Ball ... brilliant.

dan h. said...

Doh... I was just getting ready to make my guess...

And if you will indulge me a personal memory: Years and years and years ago I worked at a little gas station in the middle of nowhere along interstate 80 in usa, and for some reason the Second City van used to stop there from time to time. I have no idea if it was any of the "big" names; but I remember it was always great fun when they did. Takes me back.