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. Continue reading
I began last year’s wrap-up with an apology for the lateness, LDBCers, and I’ll do the same now since this one’s just as tardy. If it continues, I’ll stop saying I’m sorry and declare it a holiday tradition, which is exactly the kind of responsibility-taking that’s led me to be such a screaming success in the professional world.
But that’s not really what I want to talk about. What I really want to talk about is how meaningless goofs such as this Thing of Ours can sneak up on you with poignance that was never intended. And though such profundity would initially seem to be unwanted—’cause believe me, I’ve done my damndest to ensure that nothing serious comes of our yearly struggle with The Boy—it shows up like that stray puppy on your doorstep, and next thing you know, it’s the best thing to happen to you in a long time.
Exhibit A didn’t exactly creep up on me. After years of my running this Thing and wondering how I might use the ever-growing level of participation to do some good in the world, Facebook launched an easy way to allow people to donate directly from the page. Thus, our donation effort for Americares has raised more than $1,000 for a solid cause (and if you haven’t donated yet and would like to, here’s the link for doing so via Facebook one more time). As I mentioned when I first posted that, I never wanted to create any sense of obligation on anyone’s part; I just figured if people were willing and able, it was a nice thing to do. So I’m truly honored that so many have come through, and again—if you can’t or would rather not, no problem. This game’s supposed to be about dumb fun, after all.
Exhibit B, from victorious LDBCer L’Rae Whipple, made the game for me this year:
I’m still in, as are many in my platoon. I recruited early this year and we’re playing in honour of my friend Jill Pengra Perrapato, who introduced me to the Challenge. Jill passed away from breast cancer last year, and I am making a donation to a breast cancer support charity for all of my troops who make it through. We’re helping to kick cancer in the pah rum pah pah bum!
Because that’s something I didn’t think about when I first launched the Facebook page for the game, followed by this site. (And I’ll remind you that I wasn’t the one who originated the idea of avoiding the song; that was these good folks.) It didn’t even occur to me that if this Thing lasted long enough, people would have their own history with it—and some of those people would die even as we all went on talking about death and murder in joking terms. But then, the list of stuff that doesn’t occur to me would max out my storage limit on the WordPress site.
So that’s my one serious bit for this year, people: have as much fun as you can while you can because you have no way of knowing when the carousel will stop. And while we all joke about carrying on for those we’ve lost, that sometimes happens for real.
Or, as the late, great Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
This year seemed to bring even more dentist-office casualties than usual. That’s always been a thing. But in 2018, it was a thing.
Christine A. was done in to the accompaniment of heartless suctioning. Which might make a decent song title, no? “The Sound of Suction.” Cat C. was laid low whilst being lectured about flossing. (Watch that, Cat: too little and you bleed; too much and your gums recede. It’s a rhyme that illustrates the tightrope we walk in this game and in life overall.)
“Pretty sure this would’ve been my year to win if Staci could listen to her shit Christmas music at respectable levels,” complained Heather A.
Indeed, how many Stacis are out there kicking our feet out from under us with their shit music? Colleagues. Spouses. Friends. Children. All dropping mortar shells into the tubes without so much as a glance at the targeting. It’s not possible to be fragged by malice (unless the fragger lies about their intent), but it’s always a risk that one will be blown up by the stupid and the careless. And those two categories of people account for a good many tragedies in this struggle.
Yet struggle we do. Every holiday season—no matter the risk, despite the suffering. Struck down at Starbucks because we require liquid alertness. Ripped apart at retail because we must make a living. Grinched at the grocer’s in the midst of seeking sustenance. And the following year, we’re back at it.
As you’ll see after the jump, we had a higher percentage of reported wins in 2018, an increase from 28 percent to 30 percent. Perhaps The Boy was off his game. Or maybe we just had more people who saw my repeated nag notices to fill out the form. I don’t know; I’ll take my good news where I find it. (And for the record, House LDBC endured a split this year, with a win for myself and a tragic downfall for the missus.)
Place-wise, home continued to be where the Hell is. However, this year, retail, the car, and work ate into the lead a bit. And church held steady at one percent of all reported losses, proving yet again that The Boy is only too happy to take aim at the pious, the mobile, the shopper, and the shut-in alike.
In terms of timing, only three percent of us went down in the final week of the game, which is a significant drop from last year’s 18 percent. I don’t know what the significance of that is beyond the number. Either people got a lot more careful as they neared the finish line, or The Boy wasn’t nearly as patient this time around. But it meant a little less heartbreak with light at the end of the tunnel, so we ought to be grateful for that small kindness, I suppose (kindness being at a premium in this endeavor.)
One other item to note: I stopped doing the huge artist bar graph as an image this year because the list keeps growing, and it was already almost impossible to read as a picture. So now it’s a straight table. Sorry, traditionalists.
Which is really about it, kids. I’ll end with the same notes of gratitude and good wishes I always try to finish with. (And I’ll fire off one last battle cry for this year’s First Fallen: for Sloppy Joe!)
All the best for a happy and healthy year to you and those you love and like. As I noted above, this pointless effort has begun to manifest a point despite my best intentions, and it’s actually become a much-anticipated way to get through the holidays, according to more than one of you. To those who’ve thanked me, to those who meant to, and even to those who wish I’d clam up and go away, I loose my gratitude in your general direction.
As much work as this is, I enjoy the crap out of it every time, win or lose. And it wouldn’t work without all of you.
Thirty years ago last night, Hans Gruber’s Christmas-Eve attack on Nakatomi Plaza commenced. And while some still believe he was framed by rogue New York cop John McClane, who dropped him off the building in order to guarantee his silence, I think the only thing that matters is that the threat was neutralized. I mean, it was a long time ago. Why start pointing fingers now?
Speaking of threats, as of midnight on the 23rd (that’s the end of the day, not the beginning), ours is gone for the year, too. Now all that remains is to tally up the stats and put together the hotly anticipated year-end wrap-up, which will probably be posted a week or so into January.
You know the drill, then: post your victory or loss to the reporting form if you haven’t already; drop a victory LDBC-elfie photo on the Facebook page if you’d like to be featured in the gallery; drop a contribution into the collection cup for Americares if you can and are of a mind to; and enjoy your holidays to the extreme.
Happy Holidays, LDBCers. You make this time of year for us, year in and year out.
Yes, that’s a desperate channeling of Jeff Spicoli, but I’m still in this thing, and I’m drop-dead exhausted from the fear of it all. I mean, do you even remember a time when we weren’t running from The Boy? I’m not sure I can recall what normal feels like anymore.
Nevertheless, LDBCers, we’re almost there: midnight of the 23rd. The end of the struggle. And what a struggle it’s been. We’re closing in on 1,000 victims who’ve reported in via the form (Mrs. LDBC among them), and we’re at that point in the game where those who get taken out now break my heart. So close. But that’s our Boy, bloodthirsty to the last.
How bad is it? Well, take a look at the gallery of LDBC-elfies below, which is comprised of those who’ve taken a Boy-inflicted dirt nap since the last time I posted a Dispatch. Seventy-two in all. (Okay, so that’s a rather large gap between updates, but as noted philosopher Luther once said, I been busy.)
There’s no sugar-coating it. It’s bad. So bad that LDBCer Sara Starkowski wasn’t even safe in Bethlehem. As in, the Bethlehem.
Every morning I awaken and pray that today will be the day that nobody is caught out in the open. And within a few hours, a dozen or more prove that prayer is useless in this Thing of Ours. Sadly, it seems that our list of toxic media isn’t exactly getting the job done, either, as people keep stepping on clearly marked landmines. (Don’t watch that Pee-wee/Grace Jones video, folks. Just don’t. Same goes for those episodes of The West Wing and American Horror Story.)
Anyway. This’ll be the last Dispatch before the finish, when we can finally breathe easy and take time to both celebrate and mourn. We’re almost there. Hang in. We can do this.
Spare a thought for the fallen below; honor the memory of our First Fallen; keep the rules ever in mind; and for God’s sake, whatever you do, keep moving. You don’t want to be buried in a Pet Sematary this late in the game.
For Sloppy Joe!
Faces of the Fallen: LDBC-elfies
“Bottom line is, even if you see ’em coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change. Not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are. You’ll see what I mean.” — Whistler the Demon
Thirteen days in, LDBCers. Thirteen days, and nearly 500 reported losses thus far. Our friends. Our colleagues. Family members we don’t care for all that much, though we’d never admit that to ourselves when sober. And that guy everyone just knows is stealing other people’s sandwiches from the office ‘fridge.
These are their stories. Well, two of them, anyway. And there are so many more. Enough to fill 400-plus cells in the spreadsheet that the reporting form feeds into. (C’mon, you knew I was going to mention the form. I’m all about that thing.)
First up, a man who went looking for a deal and got more than he bargained for. After that, a woman with zipper issues.
All they wanted to do was shop. Is that so wrong? (Yes, yes, it depends on what you’re trying to buy, true, but rhetorically speaking and setting the freaks aside for a moment.)
These are our fellow warriors, people. Laid low by our foe. As I’ve said before, mourn them. Learn from them. Giggle at them if you must, but know that in doing so, you invite the attention of The Boy. And that’s just not the kind of scrutiny you want pointed your way.
I can offer you nothing more than those lessons in vigilance.
Well, yes, I can. Here’re a few more lessons in the form of the latest LDBC-elfies. But that’s it, I swear. I mean, I have to log off and go make dinner sometime, you know.
Meanwhile, check the list of toxic media before you go blindly watching what may be a landmine for your ears. And let’s be careful out there.
Now go find out who you are.
LDBC-Elfies: Faces of the Fallen
Our cute and cuddly critters won’t save us, fellow LDBCers. In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests they may be part of the problem. If nothing else, they’re certainly not helping. The two ladies above were done in while in the company of an assortment of wee, fuzzy pals. Kayla Roche was shopping among them when The Boy found her and laid her low. Kim Drogan Prentice was trying to find a good home for those she created. Think about that. Behind the fabric visage, could there lurk the spirit of a being that would happily create musical matricide? (Yes, this paragraph is polluted with a lot of alliteration. I fall into that now and again and have no doubt posted about it before, though I’m too upset to go find where and when.)
The body count, going by those who’ve reported in via the official form, has now topped 300—and the real number is probably higher. Some were felled by already documented toxic media. Others simply shopped when they should’ve stopped.
I don’t know. After a while, it’s all we can do to resist the temptation to go numb. But to resist is the point. I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I don’t tend to zombie-walk through our struggle like an over-injected famous face full of Botox. (And there I go again, plus I’m mixing metaphor and simile.)
What can I tell you? I’m rattled. And I think that’s understandable, given that our casualty rate has just passed that of the Spartans at Thermopylae. And all we can do is run, hide, and earbud our way to safety. No stabby solutions for us.
I have nothing more profound or promising to offer on this cold, rainy Chicago Saturday, folks. If we’re to weather this thing of ours, it’ll be together—hand in hand, heart beating against heart. The Boy’s a hunter. A tracker, as noted bounty hunter and philosopher Leonard Smalls once said. Some say part hound dog.
The most recent casualties are pictured below. Mourn them. Learn from them. Pay your respects, and then do your damndest not to suffer their fate. But should you fail and fall, post it to the Facebook page, add it to a comment on an existing post, or Tweet it to us.
And one more thing. I don’t want to flog our new charity effort to the point of being tiresome (too late, maybe?) and keep asking people to donate to Americares, our official charity this year. (Though I’ll note that the donation button is on this Facebook post.) But I wanted to call out fallen LDBCer Justin Fermenich, who pledged a very generous 50 dollars whether he won or lost. He went face first into the turf, alas, but he is a man of his word:
Love and altruism will get us to the other side of this thing, friends. Well, that plus cowardice, planning, panic, and dumb luck. But who’s counting? I am. And we’ve topped 500 bucks in donations thus far. So again, there’s absolutely no obligation to give. But if you can and you feel like it, here’s that link one more time.
For Sloppy Joe!
Faces of the Fallen: LDBC-elfies
You’ll notice that certain movies get mentioned a lot in this thing of ours, people, and Jaws is certainly one of them. But the parallels between the shark terrorizing Amity and The Boy are fairly obvious. And I was reminded of another earlier today, when I pre-ordered a two-bag venti English breakfast and walked into Starbucks to drink it there, only to realize they were in full holiday-tunes mode.
I have nothing but respect for those who try to alter their circumstance using earbuds or careful planning, but lately I’ve been more in organic mode, taking normal care to avoid obvious places but otherwise trusting my luck to get me through. It often results in my exit, but today, I was able to finish my tea as harmless Christmas song after harmless Christmas song ticked by.
Though I did panic a bit when I was packing up and getting ready to leave because I was almost home. And it took me right back to sitting in a darkened theater the summer before fifth grade, freaking out as Charlie, one of the knuckleheads using a hunk of meat chained to an old pier, swam for his life while the shark approached, and his pal yelled for him to just keep swimming and don’t look back.
That was me, wet shoes slipping uselessly on wet planks as I struggled to get to safety before doom struck. I couldn’t get my Mac into my bag fast enough. Why were people blocking the trash can? And was the music playing outside, too, through external speakers? I couldn’t recall.
Still, I survived, which is in stark contrast to the 180-plus unfortunate LDBCers who’ve already reported in via the official form as having gone down. Some missed out on the warnings from our list of toxic media. Others just decided to play fast and loose and drew a bad card.
Also, if you’d like to donate to Americares, our official charity this year, the donation button is on this Facebook post. Using that allows us to track how much has been given thus far. (We’re almost at $500, so thanks very much those who’ve contributed!)
And again, below are some of those who’ve already left us.
Faces of the Fallen: LDBC-elfies