A Small, Good Thing

Mr. LDBC’s winning LDBC-elfie

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.

Day 9: We Need to Talk About Hawkeye

Hawkeye's Hailee Steinfeld
Hawkeye‘s Hailee Steinfeld

“I no longer believe in superheroes,” Mecca Brown writes while relating her tale of being betrayed and taken down by everyone’s favorite Avengers archer and his sidekick on Disney+. And while I’m not willing to go quite that far—I need to know Spider-Ham is real and battling baddies in his own dimension, for instance—it is disheartening to be stabbed in the back by a hero after we were so sympathetic about his family being turned to powder and all.

Anyway, as a friend of mine said when his car was stolen, only to be recovered with its dashboard and steering wheel completely bedazzled, it’s what’s happening. It’s what happens every year, and we do what we can to get through it. Together.

“I went back to bed. What’s the point of getting up now?” dearly departed LDBCer Robert Laughlin said when posting of his own demise. And I get it. I do. Especially on a Sunday evening, when it’s cold and rainy, and I’m staring down the barrel of a Monday that starts with a 6 am alarm and kicks off a full week of work. But so we beat on, and our hope is to beat The Boy.

Who do we do it for? Each other. And Erica Kolh, our First Fallen for 2021. And the 216 other LDBCers who’ve been taken down thus far. And should our heroes continue to let us down, then fine—we’ll be each other’s heroes. As long as I get to be the Silver Surfer.

So that’s it for a Sunday when it’s a little after 6 pm, and it’s been dark for an hour and a half. Below, you’ll find our first batch of LDBC-elfies, turned in by the victims who were unfortunate enough to zig when zagging was clearly called for. Honor them. Fight on. And we’ll be each other’s light.

Puh-rum-pum-pum-pum, people.

For Erica!

LDBC-Elfies: Tragedy Captured

  • Kim Drogan Prentice and David Prentice
  • Naomi DeVries Pomerantz
  • Em Emma Emily
  • Stephanie Ellis
  • Sarah Hunter and Josh Turiel
  • Mara Fitter
  • Lynn Sebrell
  • Lori Ploeg Wells
  • Liz Murdock
  • Krista Schnelle
  • Kendra Hughes
  • Karen Austin
  • Julia Hodgson
  • Frances Noon
  • Aileen Stickley
  • Rachel Cleveland
  • Laura Sanger Watkins
  • Kenny Hicks
  • Jillian Harris
  • Jeanette Jamison

A little help, if you can: once again, we’re battling the darkness that is The Boy by trying to shed some light on the situation. So if you’re willing and able to help this year, Americares is who we’re giving to this year.

As I say every year, there’s no obligation. Everybody’s welcome in this Thing of Ours, whether you contribute or not. But if you can, Americares is a great organization.

Please donate here.

“No More Shines, Billy.”

“Sometimes you don’t sound like you’re kidding.”

That’s right, LDBCers. We don’t shine The Boy’s shoes no more. Not for another year, anyway. In fact, he’s the one sent home to get his shine box.

So post the details of your win (or your loss, if you haven’t already) to the reporting form, please. Then it’ll be time for the official wrap-up.

But breathe easy, and enjoy the taste of winning (or of our yearly struggle being over, at least). We’ve earned it. I mean, given the year we’ve had? Boy, have we (pun intended).

Puh-rum-pum-pum-pum, people.

Reminder: we’re trying to balance out the evil of The Boy by doing some good, LDBCers. So if you’ve got the giving spirit and are able to help this year, Americares is once again our cause of choice.

As I’ve stressed since we started doing this, no pressure. I’m happy to have everyone play the game who wants to, whether you’ve got the desire or the means to contribute. But if you can, Americares does great work.

Please donate here.

Day 24: She Gave Me Gasoline

Jennifer Palome Nassivera

Curses, foiled again: Jennifer Palome Nassivera at the scene of the crime

A bit more than three weeks into this thing, people, and it’s looking like those who said it’d be easier due to sheltering-in-place may have had a point. We’re running at about 56% of the losses we had last year by this time.

But as Bruce Springsteen sang, “To the dead, it don’t matter much ’bout who’s wrong or right.” If you’re out already, it wasn’t any easier for you. Just ask poor Jennifer Palome Nassivera and her sister, pictured above. (I assume it’s your sister, Jennifer; please correct me if I’m wrong.) They just wanted the opportunity to prettify themselves. It’s a basic right. That’s what they asked for. What they got was the Evil of The Boy.

And the more I think about that, the more another song comes to mind—Howlin’ Wolf‘s “I Asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline).” You expect something, and you’re handed something else. A visit to the dentist’s office doesn’t result in tartar-free choppers as the chief memory. Nor does firing up that wonderful holiday playlist you found. Instead, it’s a trip to the reporting form to enter the details of your demise.

We do what we can to help, though. We’ve put together a list of Deadly Movies and TV to check before you watch. (Be aware, however, that it’s by no means comprehensive. We’ve been struggling to keep it up to date, in fact.) And your fellow LDBCers try to help, too. We’ve got two safe Spotify lists contributed by Grace McIntosh and Anna Bulthuis. “Safe” doesn’t always mean what you want it to, though. Grace was recently knocked out herself (not because of her list). And mistakes can be made by the most well-meaning among us. So double-check for yourself before playing, just in case. As I always say, ever-vigilant.

Safety is what you make of it, friends. A lack of it is what’s taken down more than 400 of your fellow fighters thus far, including Rigdzin Dorje, our First Fallen this year. But we’re just days away, so look alive, and maybe you’ll stay that way.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest helping of LDBC-elfies from our dearly departed. Learn from them. Finish strong for them. Because no matter how hard the tricksters try to tell us otherwise, we’re all in this together.

Puh-rum-pum-pum-pum, people.

For Rigdzin!

LDBC-Elfies: Tragedy Captured

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Reminder: we’re trying to balance out the evil of The Boy by doing some good, LDBCers. So if you’ve got the giving spirit and are able to help this year, Americares is once again our cause of choice.

As I’ve stressed since we started doing this, no pressure. I’m happy to have everyone play the game who wants to, whether you’ve got the desire or the means to contribute. But if you can, Americares does great work.

Please donate here.

Day 6: A Flaming Dumpster Fire

Only six days in, and we’ve already got nearly 100 reported casualties, LDBCers. It’s grim. No question about that. But last year, there were twice as many by this time, so maybe the quarantine lifestyle is an impediment to The Boy after all.

Which doesn’t mean he’s not on the hunt, mind you. Why, just ask poor Emily S., who checked in with this summary of her downfall.

2020 has already been such a flaming dumpster fire that I had a premonition of going out early, but I’m still disappointed that I (technically) did it to myself.

Just made dinner for the bickering kids, who’ve been on the longest school vacation ever, clocking in at 8.5 months. Eeeeeeeeight and a haaaaaalf moooooonths these children have been home with me. Everyone’s heartily sick of Thanksgiving leftovers. They’d been fighting all day over whose turn it was to play Breath of the Wild. (My house is in a heretofore undocumented bend in the space-time continuum where the person currently playing has both been playing “all day” and “just started,” and digital kitchen timers do not function properly, mysteriously going off “too soon.” NASA, hook me up with some research money.)

I just wanted some peace and seasonal joy while I watched them eat four-day-old turkey and dressing and monitored for early signs of salmonella poisoning. I turned on the old kitchen TV to the cable company’s version of Christmas satellite radio: Music Choice’s Sounds of the Seasons. By the dinner table’s second chorus of, “Mine is cold, and the reprise of, “This tastes funny,” I heard the unmistakeable notes. Sharon and the Dap-Kings had kicked me while I was down.

Single parenting = hard.

Single parenting & working from home during a pandemic = really, really hard.

Single parenting & working from home during a pandemic with LDB in the background = intolerable.

Everyone has their breaking point, and this was mine. Plates were scraped into the trash, pizza delivery was called, and a kitchen dance party was held as we embraced the seasonal suck. Sharon’s version isn’t half bad, but I’ll relay my prescient 13-year-old’s comments as wisdom from the mouths of babes: “Pizza makes everything better, and I like the David Bowie one where he sings with that other guy best.”

So do I, kiddo. So do I.

With the help of dancing and pizza, we’ll get through this.

Happy holidays, LDBCers.

Indeed we will get through this, Emily. We always do.

Well, except for these folks pictured below.

For Rigdzin!

LDBC-Elfies: Tragedy Captured

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Reminder: we’re trying to balance out the evil of The Boy by doing some good, LDBCers. So if you’ve got the giving spirit and are able to help this year, Americares is once again our cause of choice.

As I’ve stressed since we started doing this, no pressure. I’m happy to have everyone play the game who wants to, whether you’ve got the desire or the means to contribute. But if you can, Americares does great work.

Please donate here.

Day 28: Endgame

Endgame

Don’t Worry. She’s Got Help.

Midnight tonight, your local time. The goal isn’t that complicated, LDBCers.

Live.

For those of you left, see the reminder, below, of those whose burden you bear with your very survival. They can no longer carry it; it’s yours to shoulder.

Jennifer Sarah Blakeslee

Now You’re Talking: Jennifer Sarah Blakeslee’s LDBC-Elfie

I mean, the little bastard can’t get everybody, right? There you have it, then—simply put.

Avenge us.

And when it’s all over at one second after midnight, report your victory (or your downfall, if you haven’t already) via the form. Then celebrate or mourn your result, as appropriate, with a post and/or an LDBC-elfie on Facebook or Twitter.

For Ribert!

War and Remembrance: The Departed

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Day 9: The “Cuss” in “Percussion”

Dawn Doherty

Hang In There, Baby: Dawn Doherty’s Attempt at a Holiday Card

Putting the “cuss” in “percussion.” That’s how LDBCer Tara De Lis characterized this struggle of ours, and given the carnage we’ve seen thus far, it strikes me as particularly apt. The “no” in “noel.” The “ailing” in “wassailing.” The “oy” in “Boy.”

Day 9 finds us with nearly 330 brave brothers and sisters down already. And with Ribert, our First Fallen. A reminder of what the holiday truly means: fear. That’s what occurred to me as I reminded the latest victims to report their losses via the form. What if terror, I thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if terror, perhaps, means a little bit more?

Anita Purdie McKee

Anita Purdie McKee‘s Kitty, Milo, “Helps” with the Tree

It means a whole lot to The Boy, certainly. Cruelty’s his bag. Choir member Julia Kuhn, who, like so many others, had her love of singing twisted and weaponized against her. Lynne Brown, who absent-mindedly gave voice to the deadly notes and self-immolated while placing Baby Jesus in a nativity scene. Countless unfortunates drawn in by what was promised to be a cute Jimmy Fallon/Alanis Morissette bit.

Jen Brown Talley's Daughter Thought She Wanted a Bike

Jen Brown Talley‘s Daughter Thought She Wanted a Bike

Nature can be beautiful, but she sure as hell isn’t guaranteed to be kind. Why, just consider that she decided the tarantula hawk wasp should exist, and then try to tell me about how gentle Mother Nature is. So it only follows that the holidays carry their own brand of cruelty, and The Boy is that spite and viciousness personified.

Dave Draper

“And obviously drunk”: Dave Draper as a kid, with family

So I bring you two sides of the same coin, people: the tragedy of the LDBC-elfie and the flip-side fun of awkward photos, Christmas-tree cheer, hideous sweaters, and all-around jocularity. The season giveth, and the season taketh away.

Spock and Kirk in holiday garb, courtesy Jon Jackson

Spock and Kirk in holiday garb, courtesy Jon Jackson

First, the tragedy. None of them asked for this fate. They actively tried to avoid it, in fact. Yet the evil of the season didn’t factor their desires into its plan. It just went ahead and had its way with them like a kitten with a roll of toilet paper. Shreds of what used to be joy and promising vitality draped over the toilet handle and floating in the water itself, waiting to be sent, spinning whichever way the water goes, depending on your hemisphere, to the sewer of despair. (Please note: the Coriolis effect doesn’t actually determine which way your toilet flushes; that’s a myth.) The holiday is the handle, and The Boy is the giant palm that slaps it to the rhythm of his mirthless guffaw.

Paradise Lost: The Fallen Thus Far

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Anyway, after venting my despair, built up by documenting the piles upon piles of atrocities already visited upon those I love, am acquainted with, or just met via the magic of the Internet, I won’t leave you with that dark taste in your mouth. Rather, here’s the promised second helping—one flavored with a lot more levity. Sweaters. Costumes. Trees. Pets. Kids. Awkward family photos. Surely, there’s something to smile at in here, right?

Candles in the Darkness

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And there you have it, people. Once again, remember to report in via the form, should you fall, and post an appropriate LDBC-elfie documenting your demise on the Facebook page or on Twitter. Remember: ever vigilant.

For Ribert!

Day 1: Alas, Poor Ribert…

Little Drummer Is Watching

Little Drummer Is Watching by James “Big Brother” Barnett

The darkness has descended once again, fellow LDBCers, and already we have a First Fallen. Bow your heads, and say a word for our 10th-anniversary First Fallen, Ribert Economu, taken down at home, as so many of The Boy’s victims are. (Yes, I suspect there’s at least one typo in there, but you fills out the form, and you takes your chances.)

So we have our battle cry for the season. And all those who find themselves still standing as the sky lights up with each new morning shall shout it to the ceiling to honor those who’ve passed on and gird themselves for the battles to come. Remember, should you fall, please fill out the official reporting form. And if you wish, take a photo of yourself at the moment of your demise, and post it to the Facebook page so that you’re visually memorialized. (Scroll to the bottom here for some inspiration from the past.)

For Ribert!

Pre-Game: After Midnight, We Gonna Let It All Hang Out

Apocalypse Boy

Apocalypse Boy by Jungle James Barnett

Part of me was afraid of what I would find and what I would do when I got there. I knew the risks, or imagined I knew. But the thing I felt the most, much stronger than fear, was the desire to confront him. — Captain Benjamin L. Willard

Puh-rum-pum-pum-pum, people. After midnight, local time (wherever you are), it’s Black Friday, and we’re under way. Check your playlists, step lively, and watch your backs. Remember, first one to get taken down and fill out the reporting form is our First Fallen for the year.

Ever vigilant!

Day 29: Hey, Blood—Let’s Party

A night to dismember: art from Kristin Fletcher's & Emily_Guinn's kids

A night to dismember: art from Kristin Fletcher’s & Emily_Guinn’s kids

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

 

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