Day 16: Cross Purposes

Fallen LDBCer Shuji Sakai‘s expression says it all in the LDBC-elfie he submitted: sadness and defeat, yes, but also an outlook leavened by the determination to figure out exactly what went wrong and the hope that it won’t be repeated next year. And isn’t that about the best we can do, really?

It’s been a hell of a time since last we checked in, people. More than 400 of us down already, and that’s just those who’ve been diligent enough to fill out the reporting form. (You know the form, right? The one I’m always going on about? You’ll be hearing more about it in order to give us as complete a set of stats as possible at the end of the game, but if you’re out and haven’t done so already, please fill it out.) We have a new hazard to avoid (the “Last Christmas” episode of This is Us, which took out a whole host of unsuspecting LDBCers who didn’t see our warning in time) and some old favorites to fear (The West Wing, the SNL and Pee-wee’s Playhouse holiday specials). It’s getting so you can’t wake up in the morning without feeling the fear.

Because you can’t.

I’m as positive as the next guy. Ask anyone. (Well, except for those who’ll deny it. Not them. Ask other people.) But I must stress that we won’t get through this without staying frosty and maintaining our edge. It also helps to remember some of the key rules:

You have to hear the song, not read it, which is why the New York Times crossword next to our fallen friend Shuji doesn’t count. Though I’m not sorry the Times ran an apology anyway and cited yours truly. Because I am, after all, a creature of vanity. And sarcasm. And poetry. But there’s a good bit of vanity in there to keep its larger cousin, self-doubt, company.

Also, we have an important new addition this year, the “Hoist with His Own Petard” rule, which helps deal with the issue of your irritating uncle who keeps thinking he can trick you into hearing the dreaded tune. It was already the case that you can’t be taken out intentionally. But now, the person who tries to knock you out is eliminated. They are out, not you. And don’t let them try to tell you they’re not playing. We’re all playing. (And the type of person who’d do such a thing is the type who’ll really hate being told they’ve just lost.) Bullies must go down in flames and shame.

Now, it wouldn’t be a check-in without hearing from Sister Julia Skochko. (She’s not a nun or anything. I’ve just started calling fellow LDBCers “Brother” and “Sister” this year because—well, just because, which is why I do most things.) Julia and her kid have bought it already (see gallery, below). And while I don’t know the lady personally, her narratives of victory and loss rank among my favorites every year. So here’s Julia:

Evil combinations rarely get their due. “Chocolate and peanut butter” are widely celebrated. “Peas ‘n’ carrots” singlehandedly conquered the polygonal vegetable market. But what of more sinister pairings? Creepy old houses and axe-wielding maniacs. Rats and plague bacteria. Preschoolers and air horns. And now… THE BOY AND THE DIAMOND INDUSTRY. I should’ve seen it coming. Those sparkly little buggers contain more human suffering per millimeter than the bear-gnawing-on-Leonardo-DiCaprio-like-a-landjäger scene in The Revenant. I’ve never bought, sold, or even held one. And yet I foolishly ventured into a jewelry store in mid-December, and I was punished accordingly… DeMolished by DeBeers.

I blame my son. I was only there because he needed to have his watch band resized. You might not think an eleven year-old needs a watch. You are right! He also doesn’t need a briefcase, yet he has TWO. I’m pretty sure he’s anticipating his first issue of AARP: The Magazine more eagerly than facial hair. ANYWAY. He recently obtained a big, clunky middle-aged man watch, the kind with seven hundred functions (“Beep When My Bratwurst Is Done Grilling”, “Calculate the Fuel Efficiency of My Pontiac Aztek”). The fact that it was comically oversized on his teeny wrist somehow rendered it even LESS cool, so I took him to the local jeweler.

It was there that disaster struck… quietly, in the form of The Temptations. It was… The Last Temptation of Skochko. “Nooooo!” I shrieked. “Huh?” said my son, who’d been ogling some nice understated tie tacks, “… OH, CRAP!” “Hey, guys, your watch is done,” said the jeweler. It was with feigned enthusiasm and a heavy heart that I accepted it. The only thing I needed to know about time was that OUR time… had come.

You see, Julia’s jeweler couldn’t recognize what had just happened, just as nobody understands this thing of ours. Hell, Facebook can’t even translate it properly. Here’s the evidence. Mark Zuckerberg thinks we’re speaking Malay, which only provides cover for The Boy.

New York Times Crossword

Facebook: lost in translation

Yet so we beat on. However, we do it this year without the folks pictured in this latest gallery of LDBC-elfies. Review them. Mourn them. Learn from them. Then dust the snow off and get on with it. As I always say, the little bastard can’t get all of us. Not all of us, he can’t.

For Mike!

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Photo credits: Facebook translation courtesy Kyle Larsen; Times crossword courtesy Tyler Crosby

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