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 page, along with the time and place of your demise. Continue reading
It started with the question above 13 years ago: shall we play a game? And I decided we shall. I just had no idea what it would eventually become.
Mind you, I didn’t make the game up. That was the LDB Game folks. But when Mrs. LDBC and I were living in San Francisco, a friend told us about a guy he knew who had a group of people playing a game where you had to avoid hearing the tune during the holidays. That was it.
After we moved to Chicago, my better half came home from grabbing a burrito, complaining that it was not even Veterans Day, and she’d already lost that “Little Drummer Boy” game. So I decided to see if anyone was doing it online. Aside from a page listing the rules and a couple of Facebook groups I found at the time, there wasn’t a lot. So I created a Facebook page. Then this blog.
Some friends of mine joined in. And some of their friends. I lucked into some press coverage, and after that, the growth was slow but steady.
Now it’s been 13 times that we’ve taken on The Boy. A decade plus three. And it only started to dawn on me what that means when someone said that her kids grew up playing it. It further hit home when my best friend from childhood mentioned that he and his family have been playing for years, and that one of his daughters, now 21, started when she was 10. So it’s a tradition for her. And for many others.
Didn’t see that coming.
Nor did I think we’d top 6,000 followers on Facebook. Or that more than 1,000 of them would fill out the reporting form I’m always bugging you guys about. (I only nag because it makes the numbers-gathering much, much easier—and it still takes hours to put all the charts and graphs together.)
This Thing of Ours is actually important to people. I was recently touched when LDBCer Sheryl Nelsen Hutton left this comment on a post: “The holidays are difficult for me for many reasons. The Boy—if you can believe it—keeps me sane. And gets me through. And gives me a community when I need it most.”
Every year, LDBCers post more and more LDBC-elfies, of both the losing and winning varieties. They contribute tales of woe and of victory. They make sure to warn each other of new appearances in movies and on TV.
This thing matters to folks.
That said, I want to caution people not to let it matter too much. This year, we coined the terms “preppers” and “pantsers”—the former for those who prepare their environments and outings to be as safe as possible and the latter for those who just roll the dice and hit the road. Both groups are impressive for their love of planning and their trust in luck.
But when an increasing number of people tell me they’re glad when they get knocked out because the stress is over—and even Psychology Today has weighed in on the matter—I just want to remind everyone that this game ultimately rests on a foundation of stupidity. It’s a goof. And there’s a difference between feeding your competitive spirit and making the holiday season suck for yourself out of Boy fear.
Winning is fun. But there’s no prize aside from bragging rights. And losing isn’t always so terrible because at least you get to show your agony in an Elfie and relate the details of your downfall.
So that’s my spiel, people. Please remember we’re supposed to be having fun. If you love the holidays, then this is something extra. If you struggle through them, it’s a welcome distraction.
But it’s ultimately meaningless. As silly as I can make it. Because that’s what I do, and those who worship at the altar of oddities are my tribe.
Enjoy it, please. It’s dumb. Enjoy it because it’s dumb. And as long as I’m around, the man or woman who appreciates the dumb shall never go hungry.
That said, of course, no mercy for The Boy.
Because, fuck that kid.
Oh, and before I forget, here’s one more plug for Americares, which continues to do great work in the world. As always, no pressure to donate. But should you wish to, and if you’ve got a little extra to put toward a good cause, you could do a lot worse.
Please click the “Continue” link below to see the stats, player results, LDBC-elfies, and whatnot, and I’ll leave you with that. Along with a final, “For Peter!”
Stay warm. Stay safe. Treat each other right, and have a great spring, summer, and fall.
And lest we forget…
Puh-rum-pum-pum-pum, people.Continue reading
And there you have it, friends—another Challenge in the books. I’ll keep this uncharacteristically brief except to say that I realized I’m always asking others to bravely post in-the-moment LDBC-elfies when I haven’t done it myself in a while. (Last year was just my hand.) So here’s my characteristically grim countenance, which looks the same in winning and in defeat. Plus a bit of “I’ll just smash my hair down” grooming for good measure. (You’d think I’d look happier, considering I also woke up to a nifty write-up on Boing Boing. But my face has just one setting, expression-wise: Easter Island moai.)
Don’t forget to fill out the form (bit.ly/LDBCform) so that I’m working with comprehensive stats when I crunch all the numbers and post the wrap-up (halfway through January, at the rate I’ve been going).
And if you can, please send a little something to Americares, which is our chosen charity. A donation is not something anyone has to do, but if you’re so inclined, the money goes to a great organization, and you can donate here.
Oh, and some of you have asked where you might find my books, which I appreciate. You can read about the series here.
Thanks, as always, for helping to keep me sane during the season, people. Happy Holidays to you and yours, and I’ll see you when I post the wrap-up.
“All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you…”
— Richard Adams
There’s a moment in one of my favorite books, Watership Down, that reminds me of the point in the game we’re at now. (And if you’ve never read the novel or seen the 1978 animated movie, I highly recommend both. Just don’t assume that cartoon bunnies are suitable fare for younger kids, however, because the film’s pretty dark, bloody, and violent.)
Bigwig, the toughest fighter among the hero rabbits of the tale, has acquitted himself in battle far better than his opponent, the much larger General Woundwort, expected. And though bloodied and badly wounded, Bigwig uses a break in the fighting to reposition himself for a final face-off. When Woundwort returns to kill him, the general realizes that’s going to be much harder than he’d bargained for and offers to let Bigwig live if he’ll switch sides.
“My Chief Rabbit has told me to defend this run,” Bigwig replies, “and until he says otherwise I shall stay here.”
And oh, does he.
That’s about where we are in this Thing of Ours, friends. We passed the milestone of 500 fallen four days ago, and we’re steadily marching toward 600 today. We’re hurting, we’re tired, and we’re not sure who’s going to make it when so many haven’t.
But we’re here. And that stinkin’ kid better watch his ass, lest we knock him on it to get to the daylight behind him.
Hang tough, people. We’re not far now.
Do it for yourselves.
For those no longer with us.
Look sharp, stay vigilant, and cross that line as one.
(And my apologies for the inability to create a new post on the page; I’ve checked every setting, and though you should be able to, you can’t. I blame Zuck.)
We’re almost there, folks.
LDBC-Elfies: A Chronicle of Faces Fallen
Shana Tognazzini had a problem. With a capital P, and that rhymes with B, and that stands for Boy.
Shana, like all of us, was devoting nearly all of her waking hours to keeping The Boy at bay, letting the rest of her life lie fallow just to survive. But her four-year-old daughter had a date with the Dread Drummer to practice for her holiday pageant. So what was Shana to do?
Look at that face. What would you do? Are you really gonna tell that face: “Sorry, kid, but you’re on your own and are doomed to humiliate yourself in front of everyone, so please consider it a character-building exercise?”
She’s a mom. She’s a fighter.
So she took one for the tyke. (Which, yes, technically means the girl’s out, too, but the child doesn’t appear to be too broken up about it.)
For that’s what we do in this Thing of Ours. We stick together. We help our kid get ready for her thing. We don’t say anything as the song’s playing in the store because our pal may not have noticed it. So we wait until we’re safe in the parking lot to ask if they did, and if they give an honest “no,” we fill out the reporting form for ourselves and root them on.
I mean, is there anything more noble than understanding the wound is mortal and waving the survivors on with an empassioned, “Go without me”?
If running this Thing of Ours has taught me anything, friends—and 13 years in, wouldn’t you think I’ve learned something?—it’s that we’re all in it together. (OK, not all of us, but that’s why we have the “Hoist with His Own Petard” rule.)
It’s not a new lesson, of course; I’ve talked about it before.
But these days it’s pretty much the classic Moe Tucker–Lou Reed duet. You held up a stagecoach in the rain. And I’m doin’ the same.
For I may technically be able to win without you, and you without me, but it’s not nearly as much fun. So stay together. Watch each other’s backs. And do it for Peter.
Again, if you do take a tumble, please fill out the reporting form (https://bit.ly/LDBCform), and post an LDBC-elfie like one of those in the latest batch, below, by commenting on the Facebook page or by tweeting and tagging @LDBChallenge.
LDBC-Elfies: Defeated but Not Forgotten
I need to get something off my chest that’s bothered me for nearly four decades, people. Band Aid‘s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” grew out of good intentions, but what’s with the part where Bono sings, “Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”? I mean, can’t we help those less fortunate than ourselves without an injection of, “Better you than me”?
Rest assured, there’s no such pettiness in this Thing of Ours. Some of us may inwardly celebrate the downfall of friends and loved ones and laugh at their expense, to be sure, but at least nobody’s singing about it.
On the contrary, many of us do our best to shield ourselves and others (OK, maybe it’s mostly ourselves) from The Boy’s reptilian kiss, employing various strategies involving when to visit stores, wearing earbuds, and calling ahead to see if restaurants are playing holiday music. Those people are called preppers, while those who throw caution to the wind and trust their fate to luck are pantsers (as in: flying by the seat of their pants). And no, I can’t take credit for that since I borrowed those terms from the author side of my life after LDBCer Lori Sly asked if we called those groups anything.
Thus, it’s the preppers you can thank for a slew of safe, LDB-free playlists created for your anxiety-free enjoyment this holiday season. Now, I do want to stress that I haven’t checked these over to make sure there isn’t any stray Boy venom hidden inside of any of them. So do your due diligence and check them yourself to make sure someone hasn’t inadvertently left some LDB in there or isn’t actively trying to Nickroll you. (I love that term, invented by Elayne Wylie, for those who apply the principles of Rickrolling to our annual tradition. And no, it wouldn’t count thanks to our “Hoist with His Own Petard” rule, but you have no way of knowing whether the creator did it on purpose or not. So check.)
One other thing to watch out for, as BE Eliza so presciently warned, is to make sure you have the auto-suggest feature (as it’s called on Spotify, though it may be termed something else on other services) turned off so that it doesn’t start playing random holiday tunes without warning once the playlist is done. Two people that I know of have gotten stung that way thus far.
With all of that said, here are the lists, organized in no particular order by contributor name, and we thank all those who put these together:
- Thom Downing (Spotify)
- Kelsey Rubenking (Spotify)
- Justin Fermenich
- Carole Newton McManus (Spotify)
- Alvin McNeely (Apple)
- Nathan Face (Spotify)
- Julianna Taylor-Gomia (Spotify)
- Joseph Max (Spotify)
Prepper, pantser. The Boy is happy to harvest you whatever your approach. And as proof of that, we present the gallery below, which is a visual roundup of those who’ve been taken from us too soon. (And it’s but a sample; more than 100 have reported in as slain only four days in.)
And that’s it for this gray Monday. Continue to be ever-vigilant, and be kind to one another. But should you take a fall, please fill out the reporting form (https://bit.ly/LDBCform) so that you’re duly memorialized at the end of the game, and feel free to contribute your own LDBC-elfie by adding it to a comment on the Facebook page or by tweeting and tagging @LDBChallenge.
For Peter! (Or, as Anne Sussman suggested, for Pete’s sake!)
LDBC-Elfies: Defeated but Not Forgotten
Puh-rum-pum-pum-pum, people. The Boy is back, and there’s gonna be trouble.
And like Sweeney Todd, he’s hugging the drum, waiting the years, hearing the music that nobody hears.
Perhaps today, you’ll buy a toy from the Drummer Boy—the demon drummer of Beat Street.
We have a new record this year, sadly. New Zealander Peter Ragland is our First Fallen, taken down on the south side of the globe before the game had even started here in Chicago. Even worse, he did it to himself by singing it out loud. (Yes, that’s possible.)
Thus, our rallying cry for 2022: for Peter!
And there you have it. A fungus is among us. (The Boy, not Peter.) Check the rules if you’re feeling rusty (bit.ly/LDBCrules), and should you fall, please fill out the official form (bit.ly/LDBCform) so that you’re duly memorialized at the end of the game.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to submit an LDBC-elfie of yourself at the moment of your loss on the Facebook page or via Twitter (be sure to tag @LDBChallenge). Need inspiration? See the gallery just below the charts and graphs in last year’s roundup. (I know it’s a lot of scrolling. Sorry.)
Also, check our list of deadly TV shows and movies (bit.ly/LDBCtoxic), but be aware that it is not comprehensive. There are way too many for me to keep up with, so be forewarned and do your due diligence before watching.
May the odds be ever in your favor, friends. Ever-vigilant.
Warning: watch this before midnight on Thanksgiving or after Dec. 23rd; it contains the dreaded tune, and will kill you dead.
(Well, not technically, since it falls under the “Hoist with His Own Petard” rule, which means you’re not out if you hear it during the game. But why traumatize yourself? It’s like bungee jumping with a steel cable instead of an elastic cord.)
Anyway, CNN got Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix (a lethal act in recent years) to comment on the LDBC.
Game on, servants of The Boy!
Someone’s at the door.
Enjoy your holiday, friends.
But remember: starting just after midnight tonight, no pardons.
“Hell is other people,” a line from existentialist philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, is one of the most widely misunderstood quotes in use today, I recently read. Apparently, most take it to mean that other people are terrible to be around, so you shouldn’t be around them when it actually means something else.
I could’ve told you the true meaning of the line. So could anyone in this Thing of Ours. Other people are Hell—and, sadly, “other” includes loved ones, friends, and colleagues—because so many of them are downright gleeful to see courageous LDBCers go down in flames. They point the song out when you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed it playing in the background. They blast it on purpose, not realizing there’s a rule to prevent that very thing. They giggle when you get knocked out, not realizing that they, too, are out—even if they refuse to admit they’re playing. (We’re all playing, kids. It’s like gravity and breathing: not optional.)
And those are just the ones who are intentional about their treachery. There are so many others who are truly innocent in their playlists and caroling. In their dangerous TV and movie choices. In their out-of-the-blue humming and whistling.
In short, other people are not Hell. They are doom. Totally different.
There are heroes.
Husbands and brothers who text with a warning not to come into the store because they just got taken out, but it’s not too late for you. Wives and sisters who notice the song in the supermarket, and though they themselves went down, hold it together until you’re out in the parking lot, when they ask if you didn’t pick up on it. People like Thom Downing, Grace McIntosh, and Tatiana Orozco, who take the time to curate LDB-free holiday playlists.
Those are the ones to keep in your lives. The helpers. The allies. The kindred spirits. Those who link arms with us to say that there are no weak links. We stand together, and this time the line will hold.
And what must it hold against? I don’t need to tell you. A dozen years in, this most recent running was a game just as difficult as any other. Difficult enough, in fact, that a fellow warrior named Mindy Winn actually lost. (I’m not making that up.) Friends were slain, loved ones taken. But still we stand when all is done, resolute and unbroken.
The ordeal was fun as ever, too. I’m not the only one who thinks so.
“This is such an incredible project. I love Weird Data,” said Milo W., even though he lost. I heartily agree—and especially like the initial caps.
“How long have you been playing?” wrote Janee Aronoff, referring to one of the questions on the much-flogged form. “This is so much a part of me that I wouldn’t even dream of counting the years.”
Thanks, Janee. Seriously. I love that so many people have adopted this and look forward to it. Way back in 2010, the first year, I just wanted to see if I could get it going and, maybe, have something to put on my résumé to show I could do social-media content. Little did I know.
One of my favorite developments has been our annual support of Americares, and I’m so proud of the LDBCers who’ve been able to give and have seen fit to do so. I didn’t get it together to work with the Americares folks to come up with a custom link this year, so I can’t say for sure how much we raised, but between the three or so donation posts on Facebook, I think we’re knocking on about a thousand bucks. (And I’ll take this opportunity to put in one last call for donations. I’ll also thank those of you to those who’ve already given and those who are about to. If you’re not able to give or would prefer not to, that’s no problem. The game is the game, and the play is the thing.)
And with that, I’ll salute our first fallen for 2021, Erica Kolh, with one last, “For Erica!” and call it a year.
Hang in there, all. Enjoy the stats, graphs, LDBC-elfies, LDBC Wall, etc., below, and please stay safe. Take care of one another, and always try to be kind. That’s what keeps me doing this every holiday season.
Oh, and one more thing…
Puh-rum-pum-pum-pum, people.Continue reading
Well, people, it’s a bit after 6 am on Howland Island, and the birds and crabs there are celebrating the dawn of a new day. The game is over everywhere on the planet, and it’s time to celebrate our victories and give our losses their due.
What’s that mean? First off, it means winning LDBC-elfies. Post your smiling, victorious faces as comments, please. I want to mix those in with the losses and leaven the sadness of defeat. To get you started, here’s mine. (I haven’t bothered to shower today and won’t subject you all to my Vonnegut-like pandemic hair, which really does need to have a machete taken to it.) I decided to highlight our light-up snowflake, which provides a glimmer of cheer against the gray backdrop of the day.
Mrs. LDBC and I rode to victory this year, and I know many of you did, too. We are joyous in our win but mindful of those who fell before The Boy was booted back to wherever the hell he hangs out the rest of the year. (Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll make something up.)
So let’s see those smiles and victory dances. And don’t forget to fill out the form (bit.ly/LDBCform) with your win so that we can gather some fairly complete stats. For there will be stats once I get my act together to crunch all the numbers and do the wrap-up post (which seems to be getting later and later, 12 years in to this Thing of Ours).
Also, please don’t forget our friends at Americares, which is once again our charity of choice. People have been generous this year, and we really do appreciate it. And along with that comes my usual message. There’s no requirement to donate. Some people would rather give their own way, and others are finding it a little too tight this year. No problem. But if you’re up for it, the money goes to a great organization, and you can donate here.
Anyway. I suppose I should make myself presentable. We have to go grab food for tonight and our traditional eight-hour slow-cooker roast, which is tomorrow’s dinner. (It used to be five hours. But we switched recipes in order to be even slower.)
So with that, I’ll wish you and yours very safe and Happy Holidays and a bright New Year. A dozen years on, you make this Thing of Ours a pleasure to run, and you help warm the cold days and nights of December.
Please be kind to one another. No matter how it looks at times, we’re all in this together.