’Twas a month after Christmas, so here’s my holiday card

The latest version of my annual holiday cards.

The 2012 version of my annual holiday card. The caption says, “Although there’s no snow, you can make a snow angel in a hot town like Chico!”

Yes, this post is late, but then again my Christmas cards were delayed again this year. What were supposed to be Christmas cards quickly became holiday cards, meant to welcome the new year. If I had delayed them any further, they would’ve celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

In addition to the usual procrastination, I was stumped about the card’s concept. Since I’ve started making my own cards, I’ve tried to either include a humorous element, something about Chico or both. It took some last-minute inspiration for me to get this year’s cards out the door.

After teasing it a few years ago, I was all set to do the “Sierra Nevada Santa” — my take on the iconic Coca-Cola Santa ads, but with local brew Sierra Nevada instead of sugar water. There were some hurdles: I don’t own a Santa suit and I started getting cold feet about the concept.

While people don’t give a second thought to the Coke Santa concept (except perhaps to remark about soft drinks contributing to obesity), I started to see some potential pitfalls with the Sierra Nevada incarnation. Although it’s all in good fun, I wondering if people would question combining beer with an iconic childhood figure. And speaking of beer, what sort of image does it sent to have a man responsible for sleighing across the world in a 24-hour period to be indulging in an alcoholic beverage? Yes, the reindeer do the flying, but the jolly old man does all the driving, so drinking and sleighing seemed out of the question.

I thought about replacing the Celebration Ale with one of Sierra Nevada’s fine gourmet mustards, but the visual of Santa spreading mustard on a cold-cut sandwich didn’t seem to work.

Also, I don’t own a Santa suit and my line on one dried up. Buying a suit would have cost at least $30 and I had to again consider how much it’s worth to do a comedy bit, especially since I would need a fake Santa beard too.

So Sierra Nevada Santa was put on ice for another year, but the concept may show up again in some different form in upcoming years. I also had another idea to do a side-by-side comparison showing Santa and me, but that concept wasn’t fully baked.

Making a karaoke confetti snow angel on the stage of Feather Fall Casino Brewing Co. during the Karaoke Rockstaz show.  (Karaoke Rockstarz image from <a href="http://www.facebook.com/KRockstarz">facebook.com/KRockstarz</a>)

Making a karaoke confetti snow angel on the stage of Feather Fall Casino Brewing Co. during the Karaoke Rockstaz show. (Karaoke Rockstarz image from facebook.com/KRockstarz)

Christmas was fast approaching and I was still stumped. Thankfully, like most things in life, karaoke provided my salvation. I was at the Karaoke Rockstarz live-band karaoke show at Feather Falls Casino when I saw the show’s MC fire off an explosive canister of confetti.

Watching the colored debris waft gently the stage floor, I started thinking about making a snow angel with the confetti. During an intermission, I asked about how much the material cost and what a confetti snow angel look like. The MC was cooperative and we took a picture of me on the stage making the snow angel.

Unfortunately, I could see some problems — with the confetti all over the floor, the snow angel image couldn’t be easily seen. Laying on top of the confetti basically crushed it, but provided little context.

Sensing I was on the right track, I continued to develop the idea. Instead of paying a kingly sum for confetti, I thought I would make my own using colored construction paper and a paper shredder. However, buying construction paper would’ve cost about $30, so I looked for cheaper options.

A stop at the nearby Michael’s turned up some wrapping paper on sale for about $2.50 each. Sold.

There were different varieties, but all I needed were green and red. I supplemented those rolls with some old Ikea wrapping paper that I’ve held onto for years.

I ran home to shred up some confetti. I saved some time by cutting off large swathes of the wrapping paper, folding them lengthwise and feeding them into the shredder. In about 30 minutes, I had a big trash bag full of red, green and gold confetti. It was about half white colored because of the obverse side of the wrapping paper.

After that, I zoomed back to an area where there would be a relatively clean floor (to help make clean up a snap). For this phase, I had my friend Evan spread the confetti while I lay on the floor and waved my arms and legs in the customary snow angel pattern. Here’s sort of what it looked like:

After the initial snow angel was made, we took some photos to show the "making of." Given my relatively unflattering pose, I opted not to use it for the card.

After the initial snow angel was made, we took some photos to show the “making of.” Given my relatively unflattering pose, I opted not to use it for the card.

We tried to parody an early scene in PSY's "Gangnam Style" video, but the results were underwhelming and perhaps a little disturbing.

We tried to parody an early scene in PSY’s “Gangnam Style” video, but the results were underwhelming and perhaps a little disturbing.

We also thought it would be funny to take a photo of paper flying into my mouth, like that scene involving PSY in the music video “Gangnam Style.” Ultimately, the photo didn’t really turn out to be very flattering and it’s too hard to understand the context (it just looks like a bunch of colored paper on a fat guy’s face on the floor).

With the initial photos done, I needed to get the card ready for publication. At the same time, I was preparing to go to San Diego for the holidays.

It took a few days to get the cards ready to go. I tried to submit a design online, but I thought it would take too long to process. Thankfully, the people at the Carmel Mountain Ranch Costco were very accommodating on an in-store rush order. The design wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I think they turned out OK.

The cards were finished by Dec. 23. Christmas passed and a little procrastination settled in. The priority of sending the cards out fell behind spending time with family and going through some old boxes. However, I was able to get the cards mailed out the weekend before the New Year. Upon returning to Chico, I distributed nearly all of my local cards by the end of the first week of January.

As always, sending out Christmas cards is an evolving process. I think I have some good ideas for 2013, so I will hopefully be able to get the cards out sooner.

In any case, here is the 2012 card for all to enjoy. Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Presenting the 2011 Christmas card

Christmas Card 2011 preview

Autofry and I hope you 'ring' in a merry 2012.

Continuing a proud tradition of homemade Christmas cards, I’m happy to present this year’s edition. On a positive note, the card was sent out to be received around the holidays… instead of mid-January, like last year.

As always, I started the card season with some great ideas, but I had to whittle them down to a concept that I could execute without investing in a Santa suit or driving deep into the Sierra Nevada in search for snow (but look for those in future years).

This year’s card plays up my desire to absurdly celebrate the season. While I didn’t want to mock the over-commercialized aspect of the holidays, I wanted to put a unique mark on the holiday. To accomplish this, I turned back to an old joke that a friend and I made several years ago.

In the early days of going to karaoke at The Maltese, my friend Ari and I would infrequently joke about the name of the bar’s fryer — Autofry. Because the name is so prominent on the otherwise unassuming metal box, the fryer became anthropomorphized as a benevolent provider of tasty, albeit slightly unhealthy treats.

We haven’t joked about it for years, but I thought about how silly it would be if Autofry and I posed for the holiday photo, much like a couple might.

With that basic idea in mind, I made a quick stop to Target for a Santa hat and a ribbon. As I continue to fashion my own cards, money has become a concern because I don’t want to break the bank making them. Thankfully, the materials for this year’s card cost about $8 — plus the onion rings.

While I was getting everything in order on the night of the shoot, I thought it needed a little something extra, and I was also hungry. I asked for an order of onion rings.

The rings turned out to a secretly smart move when it came to devising the caption for this year’s card. Because of that food product, it made sense that Autofry and I would hope that people would joyfully ‘ring’ in the new year.

I again used Costco’s photo service to print the cards (50 cards and envelopes for about $15 is still a heckuva deal). I also used one of their templates — although they can sometimes be a little underwhelming, I liked seeing my offering within the window sill frame.

Thanks for a Maltese staff for helping to letting me slip into the kitchen for about a minute. Also, kudos to Marcus for taking the actual photo.

‘All I want for Christmas is two less chins’ and other holiday thoughts

Christmas is just hours away. By this time tomorrow, all the presents will have been opened and most families will have concluded their holiday suppers.

As the holiday season reaches its annual peak, I pause and reflect on how this year’s festivities have gone thus far. In most ways, this season has hit the usual high notes and, sadly, some of the same lows. Part of the magic of the season to me is finding new, yet sincere and relatively low-key ways to celebrate.

Low notes include the fact that the Christmas shopping season appeared to begin earlier than ever this year. I thought I saw some holly and wreaths just a few days after we scarfed down hot dogs on the Fourth of July.

I’m kidding — the first Christmas shopping display was probably after Mother’s Day back in May.

A low note that I constantly try to avoid is the trite insincerity of some elements of the holiday. Because everything is so familiar, the desire to create something new or unique can lead me, and others, down some darker paths.

For example, I create an original Christmas card each year for my friends and family. I do it so I can add a personal touch and my patented brand of humor. However, some of my concepts are better left on the drawing board because they don’t ring true.

One year, I had the grand idea to poke fun at the holiday’s consumerism. My concept was to dress up in a gaudy, Cosby-style Christmas sweater and to go to a dining room arrangement at the local IKEA. While the dining room is geared to be an ideal, my posing among the price tags would expose the façade for what it was.

Or something. When I explained my concept to my mother, she asked why I would do that. I said that I thought it would be funny and that was probably all that was needed. After receiving that feedback, I went in a different direction.

When trying to break the mold, sincerity is essential. During the past week, I heard several dozen novelty Christmas songs. Most of them were fun (especially the Bob Rivers’ track “There’s a Santa Who Looks a Lot Like Elvis” set to “It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas”), but many seemed dated or hokey.

That brings me to my latest idea — giving a modern take to a Christmas classic song, shifting from the innocence of youth to the side effects of an obese America. That song is, of course, “All I want for Christmas is two less chins.”

On one level, I think the song could be a reflection of where we are today. I don’t think I’m picking on others — I consider myself to be festively plump and would love to be a little thinner.

Asking for this gift from Santa is similar to the young boy’s wish for two front teeth. They are both things that Santa really can’t give, although the boy’s new teeth will eventually emerge. I know, and hopefully others know, that becoming physically fit requires dedicated, personal effort.

There were a couple of flaws to my song concept. One — many people thought I was referring to the family name of “Chin,” and that I wanted to be rid of two such individuals. My quick rebuttal was that anyone who thought that was racist, but it seems like a regrettably easy association to make and I should probably come up with a different take on the song.

Second, I like the phrase and it’s gotten a chuckle from people when I try it out. However, I don’t know if anyone else has used that phrase before. I’m leery to search Google and find that it has already been done, much how like my brilliant idea of the awkwardness of a four-man nude bobsled was already a David Letterman punchline from 1994.

I suppose I can look it up now that I’ve committed my thoughts to digital paper, but I want to savor the possibility that I came up with a slightly novel, mildly amusing twist on an old chestnut.

Trying to come up with something new might amp up the pressure to deliver on an ideal Christmas. While I appreciate adding touches to make Christmas special, people need to be realistic in what they can do.

To paraphrase Otto von Bismarck, Christmas is the art of the possible. The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time of year. If you’re not having fun, maybe you need to change things up.

For me, I’ve got silly Christmas cards and spending time with family. I hope you find whatever makes your holidays merry and bright.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

My call on ‘The Marriage Ref’ — Foul

“The Marriage Ref” is established on sporting principles (based on the lengthy animated introduction with Jerry Seinfeld). Unfortunately, the performance of this panel show that debuts tonight on NBC (KNVN 24) is more XFL than NFL.
I’ll be short because other viewers and TV critics have already eviscerated this show. One critic snarked about a future when networks could get instant feedback and cancel a show in progress.
Based on the 30-minute preview that aired Sunday, I find myself dreading an entire hour of this banality.
If the “Ref” were a pitcher, there were months of wind up (including endless commercials), but the pitch is a roller in the dirt. If the “Ref” were batter, it’s probably going to quickly strike out.
But “Ref” is neither pitcher nor batter, it’s a simple show that would be at home on basic cable if it weren’t for the celebrity friends Seinfeld has gotten to join him as panelists for the actual ref, Tom Papa.
The premise of the show is relatively straightforward — footage of a couple bickering over a meaningless trifle is shown before a panel of celebrities. The celebrities pick apart the couple’s dilemma and hopefully make a few good jokes before Papa makes the call on which spouse is right.
Humor ensues, or it’s supposed to. However, as some critics pointed out, there may be some elements of the show that might work, but the execution is wrong.
The panel of celebrities are amusing, but they definitely aren’t as funny as they think they are. Some have accused the show of elitism — where the well-to-do celebs mock people from outside New York City. I didn’t necessarily get that feeling, but there was a sense of insincerity around the endeavor.
First – When Papa brings the couple back for the verdict, he says we’re going to meet the “real” couple. But the audience already saw a realistic depiction of the dispute earlier. Does that mean that it was faked with actors? That’s pretty lame. Update: I watched a small part of Thursday’s show. Apparently the couples are real throughout the program. Papa seems to say “actual” as a verbal tick (like “It’s the ‘actual’ David Blaine.”). Still lame.
Second – While cracking wise, the panel has made some pretty valid points about the relationships — like how one silly dispute may be due to a lack of intimacy. Does this get back to the couples? Not during taping, but maybe they’ll see it when/if it airs.
The whole thing reminded me of the goofy shows that Comedy Central aired in the past two decades, like “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” “Beat the Geeks,” or “Root of All Evil.” These shows are often a string of jokes built around an extremely flimsy premise.
When they live in the fringes of cable, the shows are enough to keep people amused for 30 minutes. But mild amusement isn’t enough to sustain a show that is shoved into the relatively bright light of network primetime for an entire hour.

As Christmas shopping days tick away, check this tip list twice

With Christmas just days away, I’m offering some holiday shopping advice. Thinking of gifts can be pretty stressful, so my list is a slightly humorous take on the tradition. Here’s a sample:

shopping tip #001–while there is _huge_ difference between “The
Clapper” and the clap, neither is a welcome holiday gift.

It started with that one and I was inspired to keep going. I’m dishing these tips every day on my Twitter account, but you can also view all of them on this page.

I hope to have a tip every day up until Christmas, but coming up with them can be tough (especially if I was trying to be funny). If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments.