Dem's da Rules
It's very easy: So long as you don't hear "The Little Drummer Boy," you're a contender. As soon as you hear it on the radio, on TV, in a store, wherever, you're out. And you record your loss on the official reporting form, then tell us all about it on the Facebook wall, along with the time and place of your demise.
(Special note: You cannot be done in by anyone tricking you into hearing the dreaded tune or otherwise hitting you with it on purpose. Such exposure doesn't count.)
What's the time frame? The game begins the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) at 12:00 am local time and continues until 12:00 am the morning of Christmas Eve. The day of Christmas Eve, if you haven't been puh-rum-pum-pum-pummed, you win. For this year, anyway.
Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
And with that, just one of many translations of the poem to mark the heroics of men who each had more bravery in his pinky toe than I have in the entirety of my corpus, we celebrate the yearly toppling of The Boy, fellow LDBCers. We, the fallen, cheer the triumph of our winners while battling to contain the Giger-esque chest-burster of jealousy. And I face down a seasonal terror second only to that of the little rat-a-tat bastard himself: basic math.
The 2014 LDBC brought us a 46 percent increase in Facebook likes (from 1,830 to 2,675). More fearless holiday warriors willing to challenge the rhythmic darkness. And a few more skillful ones, apparently, since our reported win rate improved from 25 percent last year to 29 percent this year. Or maybe there are more shut-ins. Or more liars, perhaps. Still, a reported win’s a reported win, and I, for one, believe them, as I am a giving kind of guy.
One other statistical difference you’ll note is that this year marks the first time that the deadly duo of Bing and Bowie haven’t taken first place in the body count. That’s because I, being ever observant, realized after five years of doing this that people were reporting losses via the solo Bing version and not the combo, so I broke them out separately. Thus, live performances are now the King of Chaos and Harry Simeone reigns as Baron Blood.
Other firsts? This year marked the debut of the First Fallen, the lead-off loser who inspires the seasonal battle cry with his or her awful misfortune. For 2014, that dubious honor went to long-time LDBCer Susan Campbell Beachy, who bought it on day one with a grace comparable to that of Wile E. Coyote wrestling gravity. (She went paws-up at Michael’s Crafts while searching for a holiday garland for her bannister. For Susan!)
All gloom aside, let’s not forget that we end, as we do every year, with the inevitable victory delivered by our old friend the Gregorian calendar. (The second hand saves us when it passes the twelve in the first moments of December 24th, as it dependably does every year, after all.)
And this time around, we celebrate another groundbreaking gift, the arrival of the first LDBC twins (and first LDBC babies of any kind, as far as we know). Wee ones Bea and Tess showed up on December 9th and helped save their mom, LDBCer CJ, with the forced isolation of a nine-day hospital stay. And as Mom pointed out, they both have a lifetime LDBC winning streak going. (Please join us in welcoming the kids to the fray and congratulating the happy parents on their creation of life in the defiance of so much woe. Whoa.)
And if the circle-of-life thing isn’t quite enough joy for you, if you need more positivity to cram into your cheek pouches for later use, we also treat you to this, a note left for Santa by LDBCer Keri Rae Boyle‘s grateful third-grader. Personally, I rejoice in the knowledge that I’m not the only one out there who needs a few do-overs, even if my standard is set by a member of the post-Berenstain Bears crowd.
With that, we bring you the yearly NASA-level graphs and analysis, plus an LDBC-elfie gallery that’s full to bursting with pathos but is also leavened with a few pinches of win. And, of course, the sad and stirring narrative highlights and the ever-lovin’ LDBC Wall, your reward for filling out the reporting form. (And if you didn’t fill it out, but want to get on the Wall, you can still do so. I’ll check it now and then and add you laggards.)
As I say every year, this thing of ours helps get us through the holidays, and we couldn’t do it without you. So from all us slain Spartans to those still shuffling out the jitterbug o’ victory, a very Happy New Year, and best wishes for a wonderful 2015.
The Quick and the Dead
Song Sung Blue
Here Is Where the Story Ends
LDBC-Elfies: Tragedy and Triumph Captured
LDBCer Tales from the Trenches
Jack Taylor – L
I will never buy anything retail again.
Irene Connelly – L
When I encountered The Boy, as we all must, he was wrapped in a handmade artisanal flag, carrying an organic, slow-food lunch encased in recyclable BPA-free plastic in one hand and a locally handcrafted gluten-free ale in another. This is not what I call sustainability.
Marcus Andrews – W
Being an out of touch, mass-media-shunning, shopaphobic curmudgeon finally paid off this year.
Robert Helfen – L
Just had to buy those stupid wall anchors, right?
Mary Humphreys – L
“Oh shit,” said my mother.
Jamie Baker – W
After five years, I have vanquished the Boy and his power. I HAVE TASTED VICTORY AND IT IS DELICIOUS. (If that doesn’t warrant caps-lock abuse, I ask you, what does?)
Chris Smith – L
I was blind-sided like Willem Dafoe in Platoon.
Ted Bunn – L
I suppose we could have left the room, like members of a secret society when the society’s name is mentioned, but good manners got the better of us.
Cori Eckert-Chu – W
Slacker was axed on the final day, but he can report his own tale of woe while I dance the victory Happy Dance around him. Things like this are good for our marriage.
Elizabeth Fox – L
Buying head cheese for my mom at a German deli. Oh, well. She liked the head cheese.
Steve Friedman – L
I ducked briefly into Au Bon Pain to check out les soupes du jour, and tout d’un coup I realized that le voix du Bing mort was croonant cette chanson maudite on the background-music service. Merde, merde, merde.
Kate Hagel – L
My stupid kids love the polka music.
Cate Husted – L
Stupid Anne Murray. Stupid garden gnome.
Adam Kelly – L
Now I must explain to my son that he is an orphan.
A.D. Puchalski – L
My co-workers were shocked I lasted four days. I cursed them out with the sort of happy fury you expect from the lone non-chef in a cake shop.
Maria Kelly – L
All I wanted was to feel a bit of holiday joy, so I turned on the Finnish holiday music station online.
Kjell King – L
The old lady sitting next to me had somehow figured out how to make TLDB her ringtone. I thought old people were supposed to be shitty with technology.
Ellen Adler – L
I kinda sounded like Nancy Kerrigan after Tonya Harding whacked her.
Rae Loney – L
I panicked and nearly punched the driver in the face.
Wade Lucas – L
The wife was playing with our dog, dressing him up like a shepard, and just started singing.
Megan Moore – W
The first year I’ve won!!! I’m so happy I could cry!!! I love this game. All my friends and family think I’m crazy, but this is such a fun thing for me every year! Thanks so much for all the work you do!
Gil Reavill – L
Never trust your shuffle.
Brian White – L
I went into the leasing office of my apartment complex for service, and he nailed me. Upon hearing his dreaded music, I yelled expletives a crusty, drunken longshoreman shouldn’t hear, let alone a six-year-old girl, who just happened to be present (the girl, not the longshoreman). This is what it sounds like when doves cry.
Brendizzle Slice – L
Yelling, “No!” like Vader when he found out he was Vader.
Esther Summer – L
Who would expect a kosher ice cream emporium to be playing Xmas songs? Yarmulkes and “The Little Drummer Boy” are a bad mix.
Holly Melton – L
You’re a bad man, Charlie Brown!
Anthony Vant Leven – W
Headphones and Weird Al kept me safe.
The Victorious and the Vanquished: The LDBC Wall
|(Not Mike), Mike||L|
|Amlaw Swift, Lys||L|
|Brian Ragan, Julie Galdieri (And)||L|
|Brown, Mary Jo||W|
|Coffey, Lea Ann||L|
|Hyland, Mary Pat||L|
|L Parker, Carrie||L|
|Lee, Anna Nicole||W|
|Nelson Melle, Vivian||L|
|Parker, Nomi Joy||L|
|Rocco, Cathleen, A Queen Among Women||W|
|Rose, Johanna Maria||W|
|Shengold, Nina & Maya||L|
|Snell Nachtsheim, Joyce||L|
|Spagg Boggg, Oskar||W|
|Stacy, Jamie Lynne||L|
|Stoneburner, Ann Marie||L|
|Terzoli, Debbie Jo||L|
|Van Noordennen, Pieter||L|
|Vant Leven, Anthony||W|
|Von Ahn, Lisa||L|
|Von Esenwein, Silke||L|
|Ware, Minda Grace||L|
|Wessel Walker, Donna||W|
|Wessel Walker, Mary||L|
|Wilson Hall, Bridget||W|
|Wolfisch Cole, Terry||L|
A day may come when the courage of LDBCers fails, when we forsake our struggle, and allow The Boy to roam unfettered, spraying the landscape far and wide with Bieber-esque treacle. But it is not this day. This day—well, the 26 days of the 2014 LDBC—we fight. Fought.
You see, fellow LDBCers, while some of you are doing happy dances ’til your shoes turn red and others of us are rubbing vitamin E on our scars in the hopes that they’ll soon fade, we’re all victorious when the shadow of The Boy has faded. I mean, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t one of those mushy-spined things where everyone gets a trophy. Many of us have fallen, while only some (about a quarter, on average) get to drink from the cup. We salute the winners. The winners mourn the losers. And we all make fun of each other without mercy because we all have that edge.
What the hell am I talking about? I don’t know. I’m all hopped up on the itchiness of a fresh haircut and the clippings that have worked their way down my shirt plus the caffeine buzz from my second cup of Numi Breakfast Blend.
I guess what I’m trying to say, really, is Happy Holidays to all! Relax! Play some LDB all you want! He’s like the Bumble after he’s been relieved of his choppers. (Mrs. LDBC and I recommend this and this.)
And as a reminder, if you haven’t posted or sent in your LDBC-elfie of victory, please post to the Facebook wall or email them to the address you’ll see by passing the humanity test on our contact page. (We do want some happy ones in the mix, after all, but check out the new, wondrous shots o’ tragedy—with a few wins sprinkled in—in the gallery below).
As yet another reminder, if you haven’t filled out the official reporting form, please report in so that your loss or victory is included in the official stats and your name goes up on the yearly Wall. (Last year, a little more than 700 reported in; I’m betting we can beat that number handily this year since we added more than 800 of you.)
Once I’ve posted a few rounds of nagging and have gotten everything I think I’m going to get, I’ll post the year-end wrap-up and put this thing to bed for another season. (The tradition has been that it posts about a week or so into the New Year, and knowing my sloth-like ways, that’ll be a tradition I honor.)
But again, all: Happy Holidays. We laugh. We cry. We mock. But you guys really do make the season a hell of a lot more special for us.
Eleven days without an update, LDBCers, and so much has happened, both joyous and heartbreaking. (Heartbreaking, mostly—’tis the season and all.)
An interview on Time‘s website (seriously…an actual interview). Another appearance with the good folks of Good Day Sacramento, where the dim lighting of our first-floor apartment on a cloudy day and the Mac camera’s attempt to make up for it once again leaves me glowing like Obi-Wan when he comes back from the dead.
But enough about me. For now. The story here is the continuing tragedy and poetry of you lot, as the English say (and I love that expression). Last year, when the first downfall snapshots began appearing and I made up the term LDBC-elfie (awkward, but I’m sticking with it), only a few trickled in here and there. Now it’s a thing. And it’s beautiful. From the above shot of Christine Moers and her nod to religious iconography in the baking-supplies aisle (her 11-year-old suggested they might as well make a cake since she died in front of them) to Joey X’s one-finger salute, our faithful community has responded with such enthusiasm that I’m not sure I can even put them all in one gallery lest the page take a few weeks to load. (We’ll see. It’s a nice problem to have.)
But before we dive into all the grief and misery, let us first bask in the holiday miracle that is Christine Jolley Hill’s baby boy, who, in true Harry Potter fashion, survived the dastardly Boy attack that slew his parents in their automobile while he napped in the back seat. A little hero, that kid. So charge your shields up with the cuteness of wee and scrappy slumber before the wave of sadness that’s about to wash over you.
And just in case you’re not sufficiently fortified, there’s also the following (albeit edited for brevity) exchange between LDBCers Mike Barish and the prophetic Joe Hobaica, who’s earned himself a double-mention in this post, both by his real name and his Echo moniker:
MB: Joe Hobaica says I’ve jinxed myself, but this is the deepest into the season I’ve ever made it (I’ve obviously never won). Having a newborn has kept me out of stores and limited my media consumption in general. Unless his mobile somehow learns LDB, I’m feeling confident!
JH: Way to go, Icarus! You’re invincible!
MB: And I’m out. Joe was right. I got cocky. WHO THE HELL BLASTS LDB ON THEIR CAR RADIO WITH THE WINDOWS DOWN?! I’m minding my own business on December fuckin’ 21, walking my dogs half-a-block from my house and hear the death rattle of my LDBC 2014 season from about a mile away. Bah humbug!
Submitted the form. Time to drink.
So there you have it. Careful with that cockiness, friends.
And with that, we watch the skies start to dim here on Day 24, secure in the knowledge that while this is the shortest and cruelest day of the year, tomorrow we’re over the hump and slowly heading for more daylight. Just two more days, those of you who are still hanging in there. (Remember that the cutoff is 12 am the morning of Christmas Eve day, your local time.)
Here’s your big ol’ honking helping of the latest LDBC-elfies, and we mourn every one of them.
Sometimes these things write themselves. His name’s Little Drummer Boy, so he’s balancing out the evil-incarnate nature of The Boy with some good old-fashioned cuteness. Even better, if you’re in the Chicago area, you can adopt him.
Faithful LDBCer Sammi Esterman, who brought this to my attention and who is unsurpassed in her love of all-things-puppy, informs me that should doggie LDB be lucky enough to be adopted, that linked-to page will disappear. However, you’re free to click on the image and get a gigantic version as much as you like.
And should you be so inclined, you can always make a donation to PAWS Chicago in the little fella’s name.
Thus, it’s time to take a break from the constant carnage and focus on some sunnier topics, LDBCers. Like our final offering from admirably artistic James Barnett, whose Fright Club series of LDBC spins on famous horror-movie posters has been such a bright spot in a dark season. Above, he brings us his version of Children of the Corn.
First up, a tale of quick thinking, altruism, and a spirit of surfing to rival that of Bodhi himself as LDBCer Tracy Scarlato shares her tale of tasty waves and survival skills:
Fellow LDBC’ers, an amazing stroke of luck and good fortune came my way today. While looking for a sweatshirt in a surf shop just now, a surfer dude working the cash register nearly jumped out of his seat to complement me on my high top vans, and offered to pay me cold hard cash for them because they were so “rad.” (I declined.) I struck up a conversation with my new friend Josh, and since he was playing holiday music in the shop, I told him about LDBC. He looked at his computer and said, “Holy shit, it’s the next song on the playlist, we have literally 22 seconds to abort!” He immediately deleted the song for me so I could stay in the game (and invited me and Dave to a party down the street even though Dave isn’t here*). So here’s to all the Josh’s out there who are our guardian angels during this trying time. To Josh!
[*Editor’s note: Dave is Tracy’s husband. And that’s not a Cheech and Chong reference; Dave really wasn’t there.]
Also, while I’ve studiously avoided any hint of trying to monetize the LDBC over the years—my dream is to make it big enough that I can work in some sort of charitable component one day—I’m not averse to dropping in the occasional plug for LDBCers and their undertakings, particularly those who contribute their talents for free, help us out in some other way, or happen to strike me as just-plain good people. (I’ll include myself in that group, even though I’m not notably good because, hey—why not?) So without further ado:
- I wrote a contemporary fantasy, The Commons: Book 1: The Journeyman (the cover’s up there in the right rail). It’s ebook-only for now, but a print edition is due in the next week or two. It’s been described as a magical-realism/metaphysical-fiction mix of Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Ray Bradbury, with a bit of Vonnegut and William Gibson thrown in. More here.
- The aforementioned Mr. Barnett is your man in Phoenix, Tempe, or Scottsdale for wedding photos and portraits.
- Your Name Gear is, as the name suggests, your place for personalized apparel. Hats, shirts, sweatshirts, and more—and they make perfect gifts!
- For other nifty gifts this season, check out some of the designs on offer from LDBCer Claire E. Skinner’s Rocklawn Arts, including some truly neat phone cases, wrapping paper, mugs, and address labels.
That’s about all the can-do vibes I’ve got in me for this gray Sunday, people. But you’re always welcome to contribute more for consideration. I can’t and won’t include anything and everything, but if you’d like to have your business/hobby links or your kids’ holiday art looked at for potential future posts, make your way to the official LDBC contact page. (Please don’t post promo links on the Facebook page or in the comments here. Both places have been wondrously free of such stuff thus far, and I don’t want to have to get all censor-y and delete anything.)
That said, don’t you fret none about all this smile-slinging. The tragic LDBC-elfies continue to roll in, so we’ll return to the grim tidings soon enough.
We fired our guns, and the British kept a comin’
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago …
Like Johnny Horton’s British, dear LDBCers, there aren’t as many of our compadres as there were a little over a week ago. It’s getting right nasty out there. (I myself dodged two bullets yesterday—once when a hunt for some half-and-half led me into shooting distance of a combo playing holiday music at work and then in our neighborhood Jewel. (I took extraordinary measures and donned earbuds in a long express-checkout line. Whatever gets you through the night, it’s all right.)
Another passel of LDBC-elfies to share, alas, with 160-plus reported passings on the official reporting form. A few highlights from those turning in snapshots:
Why do my kids have to love polka so much?!
Having a nice family dinner and my daughter thought she should play Christmas music on the iPad.
My son and I were just mown down at his dental appointment. Had I only known what lay ahead, I’d have let his teeth rot right out of his head instead of leading him into this bloodbath.
And then there’s Kristin Fletcher’s creation of a new tradition: LDBC Shaming, in which one posts punishment pix of the person responsible for their downfall. (It’s not petty or vindictive. It’s justice!)
Let’s be careful out there.
The good news, friends, is that we’re coming up on nearly 2,300 brave souls on the Facebook page. The other good news is that LDBCers Laura Scandura Rea and Anne Sussman have both survived frighteningly close retail calls.
Here’s Laura (also pictured above):
An emergency run to IKEA for drapery rods (don’t ask—he’s the one needing the hardware). We heard the now dreaded Christmas playlist as we hit the escalator! “Oh shit! We’re going to have to run the gauntlet! No meatballs at the finish line! Mooooooove!” And we did…. With each new track, a moment of relief as we knew we had 3-4 minutes more of safety. Would our luck hold? He snagged his hardware (not a euphemism) and we sprinted through the furniture self-help warehouse to the registers just as a medley began on the playlist…. “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland”….. And we were out! We survived another day… Stay strong and shop fast, friends!
And here’s Anne:
I danced with the devil tonight.
After reading of our comrade Susan [that would be official First Fallen Susan Campbell Beachy—Ed.], who was taken from us far too soon at a Michaels with no apostrophe, I was the poster girl for hubris as I strolled into a Harmon Face Values—which shares a foyer with the Michaels on 6th Ave., and very likely a demon sound system. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” was the first hint. Then “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Holy hell. I just needed some generic brand apricot scrub. But where was it? “Holly Jolly Christmas” was up next. I felt weak. My palms were sweaty. Jesus Christ, is this what’s going to take me out? Some cut-rate blemish control?
And then, sweet Jesus, I found it. I grabbed two. Hurry, hurry, hurry, I muttered as I waited in what seemed like an interminable line. “White [Fucking] Christmas.” I had to get out. Finally, it was my turn at the register. I thrust the Bed Bath & Beyond gift card at the cashier and nervously tapped my fingers. Hurry.
And then I was out. I had made it. I was lucky. But how long will my luck last? There was a time, before the war, that I would have described Susan as lucky.
Stay alert, soldiers.
Of course, I led with the good news because I’m a hopelessly sunny fellow, as you’ve surely realized by now. But the bad news is that nearly 90 of us are down. (At least, nearly 90 have been dutiful despite their tragedy and reported in via the official form.)
And many have joined Sarah Jenkins, the first to send in an LDBC-elfie this year, in documenting their downfalls. Now, I sincerely hope there are no more photos to be posted because I sincerely hope the rest of us all make it. But I know that cannot happen so long as The Boy hunts. So if and when you take a fall, feel free to share it on the Facebook wall or email it via our contact page.
For Susan! (Remember the recently invented rule: each year, the First Fallen is honored by having his or her name inserted into our war cry. Until we get tired of it or forget that’s what we’re supposed to do, that is. Those things happen a lot.)