It’s no secret that I’m something of a pop culture omnivore or that I enjoy things from up and down the spectrums of objective and subjective quality, good and bad taste, and general worth. Normally I’m not even terribly apologetic about this, but there’s something about Christmas (a very obvious something, along the lines of the Reason for the Season and all that) which makes me feel that certain entertainments and diversions that I have no problem giving a place in my life are nonetheless non-ideal candidates for inclusion on my list for Santa. Still, if for no other reason than to mock myself a bit while keeping Christmas Week going, I’d like to present Five Things from what would be an awkward-at-best Christmas list if I were suddenly devoid of my usual filters. (Hopefully the fact that I am riffing on this four days before the holiday will lend more credence to my assertion that this is not a passive-aggressive ploy to persuade certain blog-readers who are gift-giving relatives to seek out the items in question. I’m just talkin’, here.)
1. God, No! by Penn Jillette – My own personal hippy-dippy take on spirituality is not so much “complicated” as “willfully unorthodox” in that it mashes up various bits of secular humanism, Christian morality, Zen enlightenment, common-sense rationalism, Jedi mindtricks and whatever other philosophical insights strike me as particularly relevant or helpful at any given time. I don’t think any particular organized religion has got it all figured out. I don’t think atheists have got it all figured out, either. I’ve always been more of an all-of-the-above kind of guy than none-of-the-above, and I feel like I get something out of most stuff I read, especially when the author is coming from someplace interesting that he also happens to be personally invested in. Plus Penn Jillette is smart and hilarious and I’m a big fan. But asking for an impassioned defense of atheism for the celebration of the Savior’s birth? Not a bridge I’m going to cross.
2. David Comes to Life by Fucked Up – This one is much more prosaic. David Comes to Life has been showing up on tons of year-end Best Albums lists including ones whose opinions I generally groove along with; it’s also a hardcore punk concept album, which means it hits both a genre and a format I am typically enamored of. But while I have absolutely no problem with the band’s name, I still would feel weird putting them on a Christmas list for elementary reasons, specifically that the list would then be NSFMG (Not Safe For My Grandma).
3. Secret Identity by Craig Yoe – The subtitle of this book is “The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-creator Joe Shuster” which should pretty much render it self-explanatory. Am I curious about the lesser-known works of one of the foremost legends of superhero comics’ golden age? Yep! Am I puritanically uptight about erotica and having same in my house? Nope! Do I think it’s appropriate to slip this onto my Christmas list? Nosirree. (Funny, maybe, but not appropriate.)
4. Gotham City Impostors – This video game is actually only just barely a contender for this list of excisions. Sure it’s a first-person shooter where you play a member of either a vigilante gang who idolizes and dresses up like Batman OR a member of a criminal gang who worships and emulates the Joker, and then you try to kill everyone on the other side, and that’s a little bit disturbingly violent, but I do celebrate American Christmas after all and was getting GI Joe toys from the time I was eight or so. And “murder simulation” video games are pretty mainstream these days, at that. But take the slight thematic dissonance and combine it with the fact that I have a well-documented absence of time in which to play video games and either I’m planning on being a lot more neglectful of my family or I’m just asking for money to be wasted on a gift I’d never make use of. Then add on top of that the fact that it’s a download-only video game and I’m uncertain what a gift-giver would even wrap and put under the tree to indicate I was receiving it, and those kinds of gifts are a pain. Then add on top of THAT the fact that the game doesn’t even get released until January of next year and you can see what a total boondoggle the whole thing would be. (Having said all that I gotta admit whenever I hear this game is coming I really really want to check it out.)
5. Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper – There was a brief period in my family holiday celebrations (on my father’s side of the family, specifically) when my aunts and uncles and grandparents would buy one another booze as presents, not just bottles of wine but 1.75 L handles of Jack Daniels and such. And I remember getting old enough to think it would be cool when I turned 21 if I started getting included in that tradition, and then turning 21 and discovering that by then the practice had fallen by the wayside. (Utilizing the Retro-Spect-O-Scope I have to assume this coincided with one of my uncles, who has since gone through AA, becoming more and more of a problem drinker.) I had no problem obtaining alcohol for myself in my college and immediately-post years, of course, and Southern Comfort was always in heavy mixology rotation. Now they’ve recently begun marketing a spicy-hot version of the old 70-proof knock-you-on-your-ass liqueur, and given my sentimental attachment to the original and my insatiable appetite for all things Scoville-rated, I’m moderately curious to sample it. But if I didn’t already feel like a degenerate wallowing in godlessness and foul-mouthed punk and dirty comics and gory video games, the bottle of hooch in my stocking would no doubt put things over the top.