We Are the Champions

Sauron's Tower Falling

That moment when evil topples, and you get to stare at its one big, dumb eye as its own loss begins to dawn on it? Yeah.

We did it.

The Boy is vanquished for yet another year, people. Now comes the fun part. Fill out the form (below) with your win. Post victory LDBC-elfies to the Facebook page or tweet them to @LDBChallenge. Smiles, people! Show us some teeth! Or better yet, let us see some Freddie Mercury-level rejoicing.

But let us not forget the fallen we’ve left along the way. For they have been us in past years, and they will be again.

You know the routine, old-timers (and you rookies, pay attention). I’ll nag you a bunch more times over the next week or two to fill out the form so I can do all my wondrous statistifying and post all of the LDBC-elfies along with the Wall of the Fallen in the year-end wrap-up. And then we put this thing to bed.

So rejoice! Fill out the form! And the happiest of Happy Holidays to all!

For Mike!

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

Day 4: Train in Vain

wes_anderson_hm

Ho-ho-aaaaaaagggh!!!: Anderson’s deadly ad

When the grand epitaph of our civilization is written, it will point out that marketing did us in. Or maybe that’s just the early days of this game. This year.

Anyway, it has. For those who haven’t seen the warnings from LDBCers such as Brother Reuben Radding or Brother Joe Hobaica, this year’s H&M ad from director Wes Anderson features a deadly heapin’ helpin’ of LDB. And unfortunately, a whole bunch of our fellow LDBCers didn’t read the warning in time, as the fatalities from viewing that thing have come in thick and fast already. As have the fatalities in general (119 of them having come in via the form so far).

And speaking of fatalities, we have our First Fallen this year, as I announced on the Facebook page. Poor Mike Misch caught the foreshadowing of LDB exposure on Thanksgiving Day, only to be taken out for real the following morning. You know the drill, all: from here on out this season, our battle cry shall be, “For Mike!” We will survive. The Boy can’t get us all. And as for Mike, he will be much-Misched. We Misch him already, in fact. (Don’t blame me; blame Sister Tracy Scarlato, who first made that joke.) And no, I’m not making fun of the man’s name. Listen, my last name is Peck. You really want to talk about growing up taking shots for your name—first the bird gags, and then the phallic references? Really, people.

Also worth noting: I’m keeping my eye on Brother Hobaica. Sure, he warned us. But then he just happened to recall that he works for the company that produced the Anderson ad. Sort of like one of those Westworld host robots that’s all heroic until it flashes back to doing something awful. I’m not saying I don’t trust Joe. I love him. I’m just watching him for glitching.

(My favorite commentary thus far is from Julia Skochko, who narrowly missed being assassinated by Anderson, but wasn’t actually exposed to it: “[S]ince it was Wes Anderson, I’m just assuming it was played on a hand-carved miniature balalaika festooned with vintage beach stickers from the 1940s, too. Such an undignified way to be taken out.”)

There is no dignified way to be taken out, Ms. Skochko, though some are more undignified than others, it’s true. So exercise complete vigilance. And if you don’t, and you zig when you should have zagged, post an LDBC-elfie to the aforementioned Facebook page and fill out the official reporting form.

Below is the first batch of this year’s LDBC-elfies. Kindly remove your hats before viewing.

For Mike!

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Heeeeeere’s Drummy!

heres_drummy_w_info

Heeeeeere’s Drummy by Jocular James Barnett

Puh-rum-pum-pum-pum, people. It’s on. (It is here on the East Coast, at Chez Mother LDBC, anyway. It kicks off at 12:01 am your time on Nov. 25.)

Be quick or be dead, and best of luck to you, friends and loved ones. Should you go down hard, please remember to post on the Facebook page to share your misery and seek comfort (and maybe include an LDBC-elfie of your moment of loss; below is last year’s game-ending gallery to inspire you in your tragedy-capturing). Also, be sure to fill out the official reporting form so that you’ll be duly enshrined on the Wall of the Fallen at the end of the game.

Remember, whoever’s first to get hit and post or fill out the form receives the honor of this year’s First Fallen.

And if you need a quick review of the rules—as well as a handy post for sharing with newcomers—you’ll find that here.

Onward!

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Day 23: Yeeeeee-HAH!

Happy Granny

It’s happy-dance time, friends. It’s over. (Well, it is on the East Coast and in the Midwest, home of LDBC Central, anyway. Our friends on the West Coast and all points further back in the Earth’s rotation have to make it for a bit more since the game ends at midnight your local time.)

Everybody out of the cee-ment pond.

Little Drummer Boy

Southern California Little Drummer Boy by Susan Biddlecomb

Time for the bastard Boy to wave goodbye for another year while we bind our wounds, collect our dead, and celebrate our survival—if indeed we have survived.

You know the drill. Over the next few days, please fill out the official reporting form (linked here and embedded below) with your loss or victory if you haven’t done so. I’ll post a few reminders to catch the stragglers before I start compiling our ever-lovin’ stats and put together the hallowed LDBC Wall.

Also, all you lucky, lucky survivors, please post a gloriously happy LDBC-elfie to the Facebook wall, and I’ll share all your celebratory faces in the 2015 wrap-up post.

Before all that, though, I want to share an LDBC-elfie gallery and two tales. The first, from Wes Flinn, is short and light-hearted, but inspiring all the same:

My wife held the door to a gas station bathroom closed so I could not get out. She did it because the Boy was in the station and I couldn’t hear him in the bathroom. (She was taken out a couple of weeks back.) I love her so much for this.

The second, from Thomas Carpenter, is honestly one of the most touching posts I’ve seen in the six years we’ve been doing this (right up there with Sue Carkner‘s 2013 Tale from the Trenches):

I’m out! And under the worst possible circumstances.

My husband and I have a dear friend who got a leukemia diagnosis over the summer. She responded well to her initial round of chemo, and pretty quickly found a 10-point match for a bone marrow donor through the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

The problem is, that she’s single, and lives alone in NYC, so the hospital wasn’t willing to do the bone marrow transplant unless she had caregivers. My husband and I stepped up and said that she could move in with us while she re-built her immune system.

Here’s the thing about having a bone marrow transplant. You can’t really be out and about among other people. You’ve got no immune system, whatsoever, and the slightest thing could set you back, or worse, could kill you.

Our friend is slowly, but surely recovering, and one of the most important things for her, at this point, is to visit one of the restaurants in our neighborhood, where we’re regulars. We might be pushing it, in terms of going out to eat before her immune system is totally rebuilt, but it’s so important for morale, so we’ve done it. And the restaurant wiped down the bar with ammonia before we even sat down, and the food was served piping hot, so…it seemed a safe bet.

Well, while it was safe for my friend who’s recovering from cancer, it was not safe for me. No sooner did I finish explaining to the bartender the terms of The Little Drummer Boy Challenge…

Etta James. Singing “Come, they told me…” Not the worst version. Actually, probably the best, if you have to hear the song. It doesn’t make your ears bleed, at least. But I immediately shrieked in pain, and everyone around me said, “WHAT? Are you okay?”

I was not okay. They eventually heard what was playing, and knowing what it meant to me, promised that they would delete that song from their playlist forevermore.

So, I’m out. But my friend is cancer-free, and I persuaded a restaurant to amend their holiday playlist, so, I can fall asleep with my soul intact, tonight.

And that’s about it ’til the countin’s done, folks. So fill out the form, people, and in a few days, we’ll put this thing to bed for another year with the post-game wrap-up.

For Craig!

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Day 23: How Much More?

Sammi Esterman Balik

Fallen LDBCer Sammi Esterman Balik

How much more? A bit more than three days. An eternity, in other words.

There are pluses and minuses to being blasted by The Boy early in the game. On the one hand, you’re in the LDBC afterlife right off the bat and don’t have to walk in fear anymore. On the other, it’s kind of humiliating to get cut down right out of the gate.

Similarly, while it’s frustrating as hell to get thisclose to winning, only to be clotheslined within days of the finish line, there is some pride to be taken in having made it that far.

Mrs. LDBC and I just returned from a light, late lunch at neighborhood favorite Taste of Heaven, where we were absolutely certain we were going to buy it amongst the tasteful holiday decorations and tempting cupcakes. (The Elvis and Cho Cho Cho offerings are among my recommendations.) The joint was chockablock with Christmas music, and I was all set to snap a tragic selfie. Only The Boy didn’t show. Likewise yesterday, when I made it out of my doctor’s waiting room in one piece after a enduring a veritable tempest of yuletide tunes.

Still, not all is phew and relief. We have a whole new batch of LDBC-elfies, and yet again, it is our duty to doff our caps to observe a silent moment of solemnity for the fallen pictured below. They started this thing with the same hopes and dreams as we did this year, and they were done in by the dastardly drum before they could even glimpse the finish line at the end of Santa Claus Lane.

The moment we wake up, before we put on our makeup, we say a little prayer for them.

Speaking of prayers, this noir LDBCer Dispatch from Cathy D Thomas is simply divine and deserves to be included in its entirety:

Three o’clock in the morning, And, I’m supposed to sleep.

I said I’d be dead by Friday. Of course, The Boy didn’t let me go that easy.

The first thing you should know is that Denver had a snowstorm this week. That must sound to others like, ‘the sun rose today’, but really, in Denver, snowstorms mostly dust the grass, then melt on the pavement in midday. This snowstorm closed the Denver Public Schools; that meant that the bus drivers couldn’t see far enough to drive, and kids couldn’t climb the snowbanks caused by plowing, if their neighborhoods were lucky enough to get proactive clearing overnight.

The next thing you need to know is that after a protracted period of periodic employment, I started my first full-time job in over a year. That meant getting up at 5 am, to allow for the bus delays on the commute, and coming home to massage the bruises and strains on my legs and knees going over fairly rough ice terrain. By the time of yesterday’s party, I was tired enough to assume I needed cabs coming and going. I learned to depend on the kindness of strangers, and have cash ready.

The third and final thing to know? Denver has a barbaric system of ordering every bar to clear out its patrons by 1 am. That means drunken brawls and shootings occur in the parking lots, because bingers get frustrated. It also means that after midnight, finding a cab outside the LoDo bar sector becomes nearly impossible.

My tiredness should have stopped me from assuming The Boy would forget my winning streak, my dodging of Him during this week’s several corporate holiday festivities. Tiredness, the cold, and my desperation to get home led to arrogance — and, The Boy was waiting for me.

After getting through the first cab ride, with a driver who didn’t know why locals still call Sports Authority Field at Mile High “Mile High Stadium”, I got to the party, ate, drank, pocketed luscious chocolate bonbons from the table-setting bowls, and settled down to bet $1000 of play money toward the eternal bitch goddess of Roulette… where I left the table with over $2000. (This never, ever happens with real cash.)

I then observed my co-workers careen through hands of Blackjack, a game I love, but never will be good enough to play. (Too lazy to count, for Blackjack, too wussy to be an asshole, for Poker.) Throughout all this, the DJ played classic hits. Someone, bless him, asked for non-Christmas music — you see what this led me to? Yep — I thought I’d dodged Him.

By midnight, we ended our hands, as the dealers were getting loopy with the overtime, then gathered our coats. I’d asked a co-worker to get a lift to a downtown cabstand, but we missed each other in the rush to leave. At 12:15, I called a taxi (no smartphone, nor the desire to support scab drivers, to call Uber). By 12:45, it was clear no one would take the ride, so I called another company. By 1:30, after three calls to the dispatcher, and two to the driver, we finally found each other, in one of the large parking lots in front of the stadium. He was new to the city, and his phone’s directions suggested taking the highway, a cab-rider’s sucker bet. I told him, step by step, how to take me home.

1:40 am. We were on the homestretch, with clear traffic and no need to speak. The radio was on low, playing K-Love Christian Rock. I barely heard it, but knew, once I did, I had to acknowledge the truth. There it was — Pa rum pum pum pum — and, it was over.

“Turn it up,” I sighed.

“Off?”

“No — up.” Why not? These fuzzy, faux-hep, Jesus-Freak monsters did the equivalent of tripping me on the sooty, disgusting street ice, twisting my ankle on someone else’s tracks, then stomping on my hand, as I tried to struggle back up. The joy of the season will remain, but tainted by their harmonies.

At least I still have the bonbons, and can take my muscle relaxant and try to sleep 12 hours, in my nest of Snuggies, down comforters and regret.

But, The Boy? God damn the man and his music. And triple damn MercyMe, who saw fit to use The Boy as their signal bombast on their Xmas album.

Three days-plus and counting, people. It’s stiff-upper-lip time now.

For Craig!

(The usual reminder: should your lip wilt and you find yourself among the fallen, please report in via the official form so that you’re included in the gratifyin’ game-end stats. And if you’re feeling photographically frisky, post an LDBC-elfie of your sad, shocked face on the Facebook wall.)

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Day 19: Steel Wheels of Woe

CTA Holiday Train

CTA Holiday Train: Purple Line, Noyes Street Station

Just a quick tale of encouragement and luck, fellow LDBCers.

The CTA calls it the Holiday Train. I call it The Boy on Wheels.

It certainly looks and sounds delightful enough. What’s not to like? A special L train all decked out with lights, elves, holiday décor, and merriment. That last part is important.

The merriment includes music.

Music.

I saw the murderous machine pull in and didn’t even consider running for it. I kept my distance and documented the atrocity, in fact. Then I caught the next blissfully unadorned train.

Nice try, North Pole.

Ever-vigilant, friends.

(The usual reminder: should your vigilance fail you, please report in via the official form so that you’re included in the gratifyin’ game-end stats.)

For Craig!