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Howard Baker and Richard Nixon on Fred Thompson


A few more Thompson scraps and then we're on to the next thing. Going to New Hampshire and Iowa, in fact. Gonna file some copy. Shoot some video. Blog. Might even podcast. Yeah: Thank you for all your calls and emails and letters and cheering-on-the-street after my first podcast yesterday. Not since the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan...

In case you mist it, here's the online chat from yesterday.

When I talked to Howard Baker the other day about Freddie "Fred" Thompson's campaign -- almost universally described as a dud, though he did get excellent (he's aliiiiiive!!) reviews for his debate performance yesterday -- Baker put the best spin on it. He said, in effect, that although Thompson hadn't lit the world on fire (ya think?), "Fred is still Fred." Meaning he hadn't bent one way or the other to fit into some particular political niche.

Baker: "I think the important thing is Fred is still Fred. Fred has not changed or been changed. Fred is still standing, still a principal contender. Everyone is savaging each other. He's still a contender."

I'm skeptical about whether Fred being Fred is going to work for the fellow, but no one knows anything for sure in politics.


Meanwhile here's a story in Nashville Scene, saying the media haven't been very nice to Thompson.


One of my favorite parts of doing that piece on Thompson (almost as much fun as going to Lawrenceburg, Tenn.) was reading transcripts of the Nixon tapes in Kutler's "Abuse of Power." Almost without fail, the mention of Thompson's name caused Nixon to wince and/or curse. And Nixon on these tapes is (stop the presses) such a schemer! He's constantly trying to cover up The Cover Up.

Feb. 22, 1973:
Haldeman: ...Oh, Baker has appointed Fred Thompson, Minority Counsel.
Nixon: Oh s--t, that kid.
Haldeman: I guess so.
Nixon: They are going to lose them all...It's too damn bad the kid (unintelligible).
Haldeman: I guess that's the way it is. Is this Fred Thompson the young guy from Tennessee?
Nixon: Yes.
Haldeman: Do you know him?
Nixon: Yes. He is a young kid.
Haldeman: Well, we're stuck with him. Yes.
Nixon: Yeah, I know.

March 16, 1973

Nixon: ... I find that somebody's got to get Baker --
Dean: Pulled around. He's off the reservation, I would say.
Nixon: I think he must be off the reservation, and I'm kind of surprised that he saw me and then went off...Baker and Weicker have predictably -- I mean, they read the Washington papers and the rest, run around in the social set, and want to be hotshots. They take a potshot even if it is to the embarrassment of the administration....Baker may not realize it, but by getting on the wrong side of this we will destroy...his chances ever to move into a leadership position. We will destroy it. He can't be told that, but -- you know what I mean...He's just going overboard and his counsel [Thompson], I noticed, is working hand in glove with [Democratic counsel Sam] Dash. Well, Dash is too smart for that kid ...

April 9, 1973

Ehrlichman: ... [H]e's got a big old Tennessee boy as the minority counsel who's made friends with Ervin...
Nixon: Ervin will take him in like Flynn.... The more I think about this, I've got to stay one step rmoved from the Goddamned thing....

May 14, 1973

Haig: ... I pulled Len off the phone. He's talking to Fred Thompson. I said you're not --
Nixon: Oh s--t, he's dumb as hell. Fred Thompson. Who is he?

June 6, 1973

Buzhardt: ... [W[we've got pretty good rapport with Fred Thompson ...
Nixon: He isn't -- he isn't very smart, is he?



Now just fer laffs here's the top couple of sections of the Thompson story:

By J.A.

Freddie Thompson hit full height in the 10th grade, some 6 feet, 5 3/4 inches. His buddies called him "Stick." He was a nice-looking kid, played football and basketball, chased girls, horsed around in class, rarely cracked a book.

"Basically, just a carefree, underachieving kid," he says today. "Pretty good kid. Never gotten in trouble or anything like that. But didn't care much about my studies." Years ago, he put it a different way in an interview with The Washington Post: "I was interested in two things -- and sports was one of them."

He must have had something going for him, because he caught the eye of Sarah Lindsey. Freddie was smitten. She was a year older, a pretty brunette, smart, bookish and on her way to becoming salutatorian at Lawrenceburg High School in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. She planned to study English at Vanderbilt University. The Lindseys were pillars of the community, a clan that peopled the important jobs such as mayor and lawyer and county administrator. They owned a business manufacturing church pews.

The Thompsons were a rung down on the social ladder. Freddie's parents, Fletcher and Ruth, had grown up on farms during the Depression, and neither had made it beyond the eighth grade. They lived at the edge of town in a one-story house on a hillside that plunged to a creek. Fletcher sold cars for a living, on Route 43, and did it well, selling to the same folks again and again, eventually opening his own used-car lot. Freddie admired his father's manner, how he could be at ease with anybody, whether it was a guy who didn't have two nickels to rub together or the governor passing through town on a campaign stop. Fletcher Thompson was a serious man, but always good for a joke. "He saw the humor and the tragedy of life," Thompson says.

Ruth, a devout church lady, ushered her two boys to the First Street Church of Christ three times a week. "Every night, Mama put supper on the table at 6 o'clock. If Dad wasn't walking in, it would be 30 seconds before he did."

Life had structure, rules, things you could

count on.

That was the backdrop when Freddie, age 16, learned that Sarah was pregnant.

* * *

There are presidential candidates who are congenitally ambitious, having started campaigning for votes shortly after leaving the womb. There are other candidates for whom being presidential timber is a birthright, something inherited, along with a famous name and a jaw line and maybe a beachfront compound.

Then there's someone like Thompson -- a reluctant candidate, not terribly interested in stumping, slow to enter the race and so laid-back that he declines to take a wide-open shot at an opponent during a televised debate.

But the folks in Lawrenceburg bristle when they hear Thompson described as a lazybones. No one gets out of a small town like that by whistlin' "Dixie."

The record shows that, particularly as a younger man, Thompson, now 65, was driven, pretty much a workaholic and in a very literal sense opportunistic. People saw things in Fred Dalton Thompson -- he dropped "Freddie" after law school -- that he may not have seen in himself. They offered him chances, and he jumped.

Thompson fit an archetype: the solid guy. He isn't charismatic in a traditional sense. He has no flash, no dazzle. His charisma is physical: He fills up a room.

Young Freddie developed into a big man, with a deep, aged-bourbon voice that other men would kill for, plus a face that looked older than its years, interesting and fleshy, with all kinds of creases, furrows, jowls and a bulldog mouth.

He became a formidable presence, someone who could win a lot of battles just by showing up. Identity is a collaboration between actor and audience, and Thompson always benefited from the way others responded to him. People cast Thompson in roles; his job was to hit the mark.

Lucky, some have called him, but he also leveraged his good luck to maximum effect. "He definitely took advantage of every opportunity offered him," says his childhood friend Jan Clifton.

Even the worst jam of his life -- when his sweetheart Sarah came to him with that startling news -- turned out to be fortuitous.

[Click here to keep reading the story]

[George Mitchell nails Clemens and many all-stars. Huge story.

Clemens has been mentioned a few times in connections with steroids, but has denied it. Here's an excerpt of a story from Oct. 2006:

The federal prosecutor overseeing an investigation of steroids in baseball said yesterday a newspaper report that five players, including Roger Clemens, had used illegal performance-enhancing drugs contained "significant inaccuracies."

Citing sealed court filings, the Los Angeles Times reported that former pitcher Jason Grimsley had named Clemens, his Houston Astros teammate Andy Pettitte, and Baltimore Orioles Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons. The story first appeared on the Times' Web site on Saturday and quickly was seized on by print and broadcast media outlets.

San Francisco U.S. attorney Kevin Ryan issued a statement yesterday, saying, "In view of the recent news reports purporting to identify certain athletes whose names had been redacted from the government's search warrant filings in the Grimsley matter, and in the interests of justice, please be advised that these reports contain significant inaccuracies."

A spokesman for Ryan declined to elaborate.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Times had no immediate comment. The newspaper reported that an unidentified source with access to the document allowed the newspaper to view it, and a second source provided additional details about the document.

All five players immediately denounced the story, with Clemens calling it "dangerous and malicious and reckless."

And here, in another story, is Clemens being more specific:

"I just think it's incredibly dangerous to sit out there and just throw names out there," Clemens said yesterday before the Astros played in Atlanta, according to the Associated Press. "I haven't seen [the report], nor do I need to see it."

"I've been tested plenty of times. My physicals I've taken, they have taken my blood work. I have passed every test. Again, I just find it amazing that you can throw anybody out there."

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 13, 2007; 6:57 AM ET
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Next: How to Fix The Baseball Record Book


Good morning, Martooni. Good morning Cassandra. Good morning, Achenbloggers.

Posted by: daiwanlan | December 13, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Joel... "Ed O'Keefe" is really just you holding your nose to make that great nasaly radio voice, isn't it?

He sounds like someone right out of the fifties. I picture him in his gray suit, hat with a "PRESS" card sticking out, one hand cupped over an ear...

Posted by: TBG | December 13, 2007 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2007 8:43 AM | Report abuse

That must have been Fred at 8:43.

Posted by: byoolin | December 13, 2007 8:46 AM | Report abuse

byoolin, I think the 8:43 was written in reappearing ink, we just have to wait.

Good Morning, daiwanlan.


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 13, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse


...and when all is said and done Fred is still Fred.
Given all the past indicators that Fred was still Fred the only question remaining to be answered is will Fred still be Fred?
Only time will tell.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 13, 2007 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Um, case you mist it? Is that a pun?

G'morning, everybody!

Posted by: Slyness | December 13, 2007 8:54 AM | Report abuse

was me. sorry. glad evryone had a good time at the BPD/DPL/BHT or whatever it is we're calling it these days. I had every intention of going myself but got sidetracked (long boring story). I'm in a bummer mood. maybe somebody over on celebritology will post something ignorant and I can be mean to them and cheer sunnydaze up and my day will be a little bit better.

Posted by: omni | December 13, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

Joel, I can't believe you passed up the opportunity to mention Thompson's appearance in the film, "Days of Thunder," and to ask him what Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are like in person.

And to press him for more when he answers, "Short," in regards to Cruise.

I'm glad you and the WaPo are bringing up the issue that the Thompson campaign seems to be dragging its feet.

Perhaps they can leverage his performance in yesterday's debate,
but it may not be enough --
too little, too late.


Posted by: bc | December 13, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, boss, that voice has *got* to go. You can get away with flyaway hair, but it will not do to sound like a seventh grade nerd who's head been inserted in a toilet by the school bully.

May I suggest some vocal exercises to strengthen those vocal cords:

gargle copious quantities of high octane whiskey as deeply down your throat as it will go, at least to your navel. No spitting out.

recite Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in a sonorous voice through a mouth that is packed full of raw steak.

Whistle Dixie through straws poked in both nostrils.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 13, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

The BPH last night was lots of fun, I'm sorry you missed it, omni.


Posted by: bc | December 13, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Yes, omni, we missed you... and mo... and ebtnut... and Moose! Where were you? We asked random folks, "Are you Moose?" and only got slapped a few times.

Unfortunately for us, the Achenwaitress has moved on to bigger and better (much better) things. We are in need of a good Achenwaitress. When LostInThought asked last night's waitress if we had been a bother to her she answered, "I've had worse."

WRONG.. the correct answer is always given with a smile, "You guys are great!" That's I always loved about being a waitress.. you play the politician all night long!

(Here's a question... why is the nongender version of actress "actor" but the nongender version of waitress is "server?" And why is a female bartender called a "barmaid"? There's no gender in "tender"!)

Posted by: TBG | December 13, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

omni, cheer up, it could be worse. You could be sitting at my desk, listening to my next-cubicle-neighbor singing along with Barry Manilow to, yes, "Cobacabana." I have to say, it could be worse for me, too--instead of Barry I could be listening to the electronic Santa singing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" -- yes, we have that, too. It's a fun office.

Seriously, it's normal to be in a bad mood this time of year. That's why we have "The Holidays" to try to offset our natural surliness. Sometimes it works.

Posted by: kbertocci | December 13, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2007 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Joel, good article on Thompson. Were you assigned to him or did you get to choose? Also, your related chat went well, do you agree? I've yet to listen to your podcast; will do so at home (funny, my employer doesn't appreciate that sort of thing at work).

Posted by: jlessl | December 13, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

a bea c,
Your post last night made me dive for an article I clipped some time ago, when subscribing to the Louisville Courier Journal. Although the op-ed doesn't specifically adress prosletyzing in schools via oral instruction, it comes close in some respects.

It was written about the 2000 timeframe by Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport, a man I greatly admire. I remember commenting on the op-ed the first night of the genealogy class (my first) that I took from this rabbi. I would go on to take a class about Judaism from his wife, co-rabbi at The Temple in Louisville.

His op-ed is titled, "The 10 Commandments: 10 reasons *not* to post them in schools." I shall give you Reason 5, and Reason 1, the latter in which Rapport attempts some humor.

Reason #5: The right of freedom of religion is not violated by the absence of religious symbols (Padouk: or the playing of "O Holy Night" at the school's December pageant) on the walls of our schools or government institutions. Anyone who chooses to can speak the Ten Commandments to themselves or to a friend. They can wear them on their T-shirts or on a chain around their necks. They can choose to carry them with them every minute of the day. The desire to have the school post them is purely intended to demonstrate government support of these patently religious ideals and to broadcast that support to those who do not choose to carry such guidelines themselves. This is exactly the kind of government sponsorship of religion that the First Amendment was intended to avoid.

Reason #1: It's better to practice the Ten Commandments than to post them. Let's start a counter campaign. Instead of sending every member of Congress a framed copy of the Ten Commandments to post in his or her office (41 members of Congress have already complied with this request), let's give them each a wallet-sized list to place in purse or pocket with red-letter text highlighting the ones that say "Thou shalt not steal" (That's a lesson in campaign finance reform); "Thou shall not bear false witness (That's a lesson in campaign advertising reform); and, of course, "Thous shall not commit adultery" (which is a message from God to you personally; not a stick to use against eveyone else but yourself).

Reason #10 starts off historically--It's against the law. We settled that one 20 years ago when this exact case was carried from Kentucky all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by our own Rabbi Martin Perley. The Nov. 17, 1980, ruling said, in part, ...

Posted by: Loomis | December 13, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

SCC Waitor?

Posted by: 999 | December 13, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Sorry I couldn't make it last night, guys. Got home to find the cat had left a "calling card" on the carpet (Wife of Nut is in the 'Burg for a few days). By the time I got things cleaned up and picked up some pills at the drug store it was too late to get downtown at any reasonsable time. Trying to work ahead some this week, since I want to take off next Friday, as well and Xmas week. May only drop in occasionally.

Posted by: ebtnut | December 13, 2007 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I think this really belongs in the last boodle, but here goes anyway...

Posted by: TBG | December 13, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

kbert writes: Seriously, it's normal to be in a bad mood this time of year. That's why we have "The Holidays" to try to offset our natural surliness. Sometimes it works.

Sorry, no sale here. "The Holidays" increase my natural surliness.

Shall I describe the lawns of my neighbors? The slothful, young Brooklynites next door haven't done any maintenance on their yard in about eight weeks. Leaves are piled high on their lawn, their gutter has about two feet of leaves extending outward from the curb. Because they don't have sprinklers or water their lawn, the grass under the leaves is dead. When it rains, they lose topsoil--what's left of it-- into our yard. They are the scourge of the neighborhood. It's really time for me to make my annual call to our homeowner's association. Their laziness causes me an awful lot of extra work and clean-up when their messes blow into my yard.

On the other side, we have the tawdry decorations put up by Las Tres Hermanas. If it was bad last year, it's worse this year. They have gone into overdrive. There are the tiered multi-color strings of lights on the bushes, what underwatering and lack of care haven't killed. This year there are two giant inflatables--one a big Tigger and the other, who knows what with a twirling globe that reads, "Let it Snow," which of course it will practically never does here in San Antonio. Then there's the lighted choo-choo train approaching Tigger. Then a stack of faux wrapped gifts with a huge purple teddy bear next to the orange Tigger. Giant candy canes line the walkway. Then there are the swirly white, lighted Christmas trees that light up and ring their bushes on the lawn near their driveway. Giant gold balls hang from their newly planted oak, causing the limbs to droop and no doubt stressing the young tree. All sorts of cheap junk hang at their entryway. While their scene looks bad at night, it looks like absolute cr@p during the day.

The traffic. The parking. Clerks wishing me "Merry Christmas," to which I don't respond. I'm constantly thinking of something either reasonable ("I'm not of that persuasion.") or snide to say ("Where do you see on my person any indication that I'm a Christian?. Lapel pin? Hair color? Height? What?"). The horrible Texas-themed ornaments, with excessive Texas braggadocio provided by local grocery store HEB, on the once-beautiful pine from California erected in front of the Alamo.


Posted by: Loomis | December 13, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I reread the Thompson article and the chat. To me they really highlight that fundamental conundrum of human existence. You can truly dislike someone's philosophical outlook while still acknowledge that their intentions are honorable. It makes identifying the proper people to subject to mindless hate so complicated that it is seldom worth the effort.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 13, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Nice article on Sen. Thompson, Joel. It seems like his life story of a working class person hitting the big time is more of a rarity these days. Maybe it's because were transitioning to a service economy and making it as a MD, lawyer, or otherwise highly paid professional is more a function of who you know. The more connected one is, the better off you are. Unfortunately, better connections tend to be a function of social status. As such, it's the extraordinarily exceptional child that makes it big from the backwashes of America.

On a lighter note, glow in the dark cloned cats...

Posted by: jack | December 13, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Last week one of our office directors, whose last name ends in "stein," brazenly wished me a Happy Hanukkah because, you know, he wanted to wish me joy on a day that is important to him.

Some people.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 13, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

That r@t b@st@rd. I hate him and all his cheerful kind.

On a lighter note, I will be crazy busy right up until the second gift-giving occasion of this holiday season (of those in which we participate). Then, I'll be taking some vacation time to work on my (vacant) house, to get ready to reduce our level of home-ownership. Fun to be me!

Posted by: Tim | December 13, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

The holiday season is a mixed bag. The traffic heading to and from the malls adds 10 minutes to my commute, and the season certainly has it's share of stresses. My wife often acts as if failure to fulfill each and every Family Tradition, including baking all the Mandatory Cookies, will result in a nightime visit from the Yuletide Storm Troopers in their Red and Green jackboots.

But buried deep within all the undeniable craziness,unseemly consumerism, and undeniable outbreaks of tackiness, lies something good. I mean, what other holiday besides Christmas is so universally associated with kindness? And I refuse to acknowledge that Christmas is the exclusive domain of religious Christians.

There is a secular holiday that has emerged from the religious one. A secular celebration that encourages giving and simple human kindness. This should be open to all and, ideally, embraced by all.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 13, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Wow. I've finally heard the Boss' voice. It's eery. But what I really learned is that it's pronounced "AWK-en-bach," rather than "AKE-in-bach." This changes everything.

Posted by: CowTown | December 13, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Laughing at "Mandatory Cookies" and "Yuletide Storm Troopers in their Red and Green jackboots," Padouk. You and I may be married to the same woman, I think.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 13, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Ah, holiday traditions! The major one in my family is the potluck supper with all the cousins on my mother's side that traditionally was held on Christmas Eve.

Several years ago, we moved it to another night because we are so spread out. My elder child still hasn't gotten over that, but sometimes traditions have to evolve. We outgrew meeting in our homes and went to the church fellowship hall. One year it wasn't available, so we are now having the party in the community room of the local fire station. It's a great facility.

We take turns hosting, and this year my brother and I are in charge. It's a race to come up with nice table decorations; two years ago, I bought up garland at Restoration Hardware for this year's party. And we're doing something a little different: Jeopardy questions on the family. I'm spending time poring over the geneaologies to come up with obscure ones. The first: What generation are our youngest members, from the first who came to the area in the middle of the 18th century? (Answer: 10th)

Posted by: Slyness | December 13, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, your wife, RD's, and mine are three peas in a pod. Our house looks like the North Pole on steroids. Every nook must have it's own "Theme": Christmas trees clustered together to resemble an entire forest, gaggles of angels winging their way from one navity scene to the next, and enough lights to give Santa a first degree sunburn.

Our new neighbors, wonderful folks (he is Jewish, she's Hindu), gawk at the whole spectical in slack-jawed awe.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 13, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

All this holiday chat sent me scurrying over to wikipedia to get the putative facts on Saturnalia. Unfortunatly it was not the wall to wall orgies of my fevered imagination. That would have explained all the cheery F Us I hear in parking lots this time of year.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 13, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Um, a question for Don, RD and Mudge: Does this mean your wife will be voting for Mitt Romney

Posted by: omni | December 13, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Greetings, all.

Is it just me, or is the WaPo making it even more ridiculously difficult to find this blog? Now I've got to take part in even *more* clicking to get to where we are here. Geez.

It looks very gloomy out today, but I'm inside for the duration, with work up to my veritables. And, yes, that's a good thing. On my list for the weekend (and before *the storm* (which may not amount to anything) shuts down the power) is to finish printing out calendars of my African pictures and placing them on various pieces of furniture to set up overnight (for stacking ability). It has really become somewhat of a pain in the, well, you know, but homemade presents are, in part, fun to do, until it becomes a bit tedious to do. But it only comes once/year, so it's not *that* bad. Maybe next year, I'll start in June so that the end of the year won't be so compressed.

As for Thompson, ehhhh. Don't care a whole lot about him. I don't find him particularly impressive intellectually (which puts him in a huge pool of people, BTW, almost all somehow running for president (*sigh*)).

Back to the mines.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | December 13, 2007 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Our holiday traditions are:
(a) try to restrain Christmas until Hanukkah is over.
(b) after that, we're too busy to decorate.

We did put up lights for two years. Then the light strings became too tangled to deal with in a timely fashion, so we just keep them in a box. Now that LED lights are available, I expect that we will dispose of the inefficient old lights that we never use, and switch to brilliant new high-efficiency lights to take up the freshly-emptied space. Probably, we will put them up one time, just to get the tangles properly knotty.

Posted by: Tim | December 13, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and Fred Thompson: I had no time to read the article yesterday, what with attending ScienceKid #1's orchestra concert, getting some late pizza, planning space-based observations of the Earth, and getting publicity photos taken for the "Hotel Mauna Kea" video (really. I'm not kidding). I'm sure it is a brilliantly written article, based on its provenance. There is no way I would ever vote for him -- well, no realistic way; I suppose I can envision sufficiently weird and unlikely circumstances that could cause me to do such a thing, but the odds are very low. Until such an event, I don't think I'll take time to read any profiles. I admire the, um, vigor, that enables him to keep up with his young and gorgeous wife, but the two of them together still makes for a pretty cheesy image.

Posted by: Tim | December 13, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Tim - I am looking forward to the LEDs too. Yes, they are pricier, but environmental advantages aside, I hear they are far more robust. The part about putting up exterior Christmas lights that I despise is when half of a string goes out, and you spend the next 10 minutes wiggling bulbs until they come back on.

Of course, this year, because of my shoulder problems (much improved BTW) our Illuminated Extravaganza is much more modest than in year's past. And compared to many it has never been that intense.

But one of my favorite things about the holidays are the exterior lights. Memories of them go way, way back. I guess it is just some primordial fascination. I simply cannot look at strings of bright lights, be they red and green or blue and white, and not feel just a bit happier.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 13, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

If all that stuff disappears from Las Tres Hermanas place overnight and ends up dumped off of Mt. Crumpit, Loomis' 9:53 AM comment will probably be used as evidence by the Whoville police department investigation.

Personally, I like the Holidays -- spending time with friends and family, great food and drink, the traditions, the festive decorations and general good cheer.

But then, I'm a big dumb sucker that way.
Enjoying life a little bit keeps me from being miserable for awhile...


Posted by: bc | December 13, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Omni asked who my wife favors for president. That made me stop and think. I haven't a clue. Don't think she does either, yet.

Santa? He'd make a good President, no?

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 13, 2007 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Exactly, bc & RDP. You've said it far better than I could.

Posted by: dbG | December 13, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Talk about LED's, there's a family down the street from us who put some blue and white LED "trees" in their front yard. Three, I think. Lights up the whole street. I love LED's, but I wonder if anyone will get any sleep once we all switch over to them.

Posted by: CowTown | December 13, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

dmdhouse now sports LED lights, I was going to wait until our large collection of regular lights needed replacing but a big sale plus energy rebate made me decide to switch over. The lights look great and there was only a slight awkward time explaining to my husband why we needed new lights.

I am not unlike RD, Mudge's and Don wives, he has long ago learned not to argue with "the decorating at christmas".

Posted by: dmd | December 13, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

yeah, okay, I read Joel's piece. It was good.

Posted by: Tim | December 13, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

trees around the Taipei 101 building (in Taiwan of course) were decorated with blue and blueish-white LED lights, which somehow looked much nicer than a single color would have.

In terms of comparisons, the trees on one side of the Orlando airport terminal were incandescent, the other LED. I think thanks to the color filter (transparent paint on the incandescents, plastic on the LEDs) the effect was very, very different. Can't say which I liked better.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | December 13, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I have the coloured LED lights, although the colours are bright they do not light up the yard like my old lights did.

Posted by: dmd | December 13, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

There goes RD again, saying it best in his 10:26!

Glad everyone had a good time at the BPH.

Slyness - your daughter hasn't outgrown her desire for the traditions to remain intact? We have several Christmas traditions (Mass on Christmas Eve; dinner afterwards with friends who have no family in the area like us; leave for Maryland late afternoon on Christmas to spend the next week partying like mad with zillions of sibs and cousins, etc.) that we didn't even realize were traditions until we attempted to do something different. The hubby and I were met with implacable resistance by the kids. We are not allowed to change anything, not even the ham and twice baked potatoes for dinner.

I had no idea that kids could be so set in their ways!

Posted by: Kim | December 13, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Fred. Although I hate this about myself, I cannot help but associate the name "Fred" with someone who isn't terribly bright. It's like how I can't imagine a supermodel being named Mabel or a fancy chef being named Roy.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 13, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Kim. What a kind compliment!

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 13, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I need to hie me to the podcast and hear JA's voice. From the descriptions I've read, it seems to me that he and Weingarten should DEFINITELY go Xmas carolling together.

I'll be happy to sing harmony too.

Posted by: byoolin | December 13, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"sing" = "caterwaul"
"harmony" = "what in the h-e-double-toothpicks is that gee-dee racket?"

Posted by: byoolin | December 13, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Yes, RD and bc have captured the pleasantness of the holiday spirit very nicely. While Christmas is certainly a religious holiday for some, the "season" is much more secular and not entirely about shopping and greed, either.

I used to be somewhat like the wives of RD, Mudge and Don -- there were certain things that just had to be done (meaning I had to do them) every year at Christmas. Then in 2000 my mother died just before Christmas. I realized that it was okay to choose what I felt was important and what made me and the family happy, do those things, and not worry about anything else. Some years more gets done, some years it is less. I am much more relaxed, the Boy learns valuable lessons about reacting to stress and expectations, and we're all a lot happier.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 13, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Amazing, isn't it, Kim? Proof that we have done something right as parents. Maybe not exactly what we thought, but something!

Posted by: Slyness | December 13, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Just got the Pagan Tree up. I am pleased that out of the usual assortment of Pagan holidays I celebrate, this one has 12 days. I assume the little colored balls on the tree are to make the other trees a bit jealous and wake them up to the potential that they, too, may bear some fruit later, and to not despair. The sun is not going to go away for long.

I have heard that some other religions have glommed on to this thing. Masters playing slave for a day; this sort of foolishness. Ah, well. I will be tolerant of all this. After all, I get 12 days!

Posted by: Jumper | December 13, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

1 True Love refers to God
2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Posted by: omni | December 13, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse


I don't think Santa has committed to a party yet. His advisors say that he is torn between his instincts to want to give a present to everyone and the harsh reality of separating the naughty from the nice (and the associated intrusive surveillance required)

Posted by: SonofCarl | December 13, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

When I saw Dalton as Sen. Thompson's middle name, I flashed back to an oooold Colgems LP of Huckleberry Hound. One of the stories was of his quest to bring in the Dalton gang: Dirty Dalton, Dangerous Dalton, Dastardly Dalton, Despicable Dalton and, worst of all, DIIINNNKY Dalton.

Posted by: jack | December 13, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I have always thanked my mother for passing along the tradition of No Baking for Christmas. Mom seldom baked anything all year long, other than banana bread to use up old bananas or cake from a box for a birthday.

I have no compelling need to "get my baking done" each year in time for Christmas like so many of my friends do.

It's a fine tradition that I am happily passing along to my children.

Posted by: TBG | December 13, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, omni! I have been singing that for years and never knew any theological allegory behind it. Now I sing it under protest, and usually only for one special person who requests it yearly. Some years the Boy has to help me with the words. Otherwise I'll revert to the parsnip in a pear tree.

I like to sing the Pogo "Deck the Halls" too, usually right before or after the real thing.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 13, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Hey, for the record, I'm not against a fantastic light display. Saw one the other night at an upscale neighborhood entrance, that we accidentally found ourselves driving past (I missed a turn). Think of the ribs of an umbrella draped over a gigantic oak. Lights are small and blue, green, and red along the ribs. Repeat by, say, 25 trees, clustered lossely together. Cool (as in understated, although there wre plenty of smal bulbs), impressive, dazzling.

And, if you're really into a festival of lights, then Happy Diwali, everyone!

Posted by: Loomis | December 13, 2007 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Is everything slow in Tennessee? That Nashville article link Joel posted took five minutes to load.

Posted by: bh | December 13, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, you gave me a toon cootie.
Your reference to Pogo popped open the old box of memories of long ago childhood and the Milwaukee Journal "Green Sheet" where the comics were printed. I didn't fully "get" the lyrics then, but now, they are such a hoot!!


Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker n' too-da-loo!
Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!

Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, 'lope with you!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 13, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Good to see some people are still busy this holiday season...

*banging my head quietly on my desk*

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 13, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Gail Collins makes me laugh:

Opening grafs of her NYT op-ed today:

Huckabee! Huckabee! The man of the hour! What is it that voters love so much about this guy? Is it a hitherto inchoate yearning for a president who knows less about international affairs than they do? Hope that a man who can lose 100 pounds could also get rid of the federal deficit?

Mike is soaring ahead in the early polls, in a surge to the front of the pack that suggests Republicans cannot come to grips with the idea that they are supposed to nominate either Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani for president. There has to be a way out! What about Huckabee? He has a good heart! True, his brain doesn't seem to have a single thought about foreign policy or know much about domestic policy, for that matter. But one well-functioning body part is better than nothing.

Closing grafs:

The Republican pack is one extremely unappealing bunch of politicians, and it's no wonder that the poor voters have developed buyers' remorse before they've come near the cash register. Huckabee is this week's exercise in avoidance, and he's not likely to be the last.

If Iowa opts for Mike (More Sincere Than Mitt, Less Weird Than Rudy), chances are that New Hampshire voters will decide that going that way lies disaster. They'll probably go for Mitt (Fewer Wives Than Giuliani and More Money Than Anybody Else). Once the small states have spoken, Florida voters may be so appalled by the idea of having to listen to Mitt talk about his beautiful marriage for four years that they'll opt for Rudy (More Consistent Than Mitt and Remember 9/11). While some candidates are focusing on small states and face-to-face campaigning, Giuliani seems to do best in large states where very few people have actually met him.

Then, somewhere around South Dakota, Fred (Extremely Tall) Thompson's strategy will finally unfold and the voters will give him the nomination because they've forgotten he was ever in the race.

Posted by: Loomis | December 13, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I have a little recollection and a suggestion. Thirty five years ago we moved to Providence for my wife's graduate studies. We were complete strangers, knew no one, and all our family was in Texas. By November of the first year we lived there we had met a few folks at work and school and around the neighborhood, but not too many. Knowing our situation, one of our neighbors invited us to her family's Thanksgiving dinner at their home overlooking Naragansett Bay. It was a big house full of four or five generations of cheerful Irish Catholic Rhode Islanders who greeted us warmly, stuffed us with food and drink and generally made us feel welcome while we entertained them with our Texas accents. It was a sweet generous thing to do which cost them almost nothing and meant a lot to us.

If you know of someone in your neighborhood, at your workplace, in your class- a foreign student, an intern, an elderly single, or a young couple far from home and strapped for cash, think about inviting them to share a meal during the holidays. The knowledge that someone cares can mean a lot.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | December 13, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

That's a nice story and a good idea kurosawaguy. I'll try to make that offer this season.

I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed that when the heat pump kicked on, there was no swoosh of air that accompanied it. That ain't good. Fortunately, our heating & cooling people have a guy available to come by this afternoon.

I did spend some time this morning hanging four sets of miniblinds in my living room, which kept the cold at bay for a while (who would think you'd work up a sweat doing that?), but my toesies and my nose are getting mighty cold now. I sure hope he shows up soon.

Posted by: TBG | December 13, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

This is why one should always read the fine print...

Posted by: jack | December 13, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I don't care how Ed O'Keefe pronounces it, I distinctly remember Joel writing in his old Rough Draft series years ago that his last name is pronounced so as to rhyme with "shake an' bake" and that is how it will always be pronounced, in my head, at least.

Posted by: Slats | December 13, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I've been getting lots of stuff lately plugging "Operatic sensation and winner of Simon Cowell's 'Britain's Got Talent'" but all I can think is that I would change my name if it were Paul Potts.

Was the name A. Dolfit Lerrs already taken?

Posted by: TBG | December 13, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Funny that you mention that TBG my boss and I were watching the Youtube videos of Paul Potts this morning (yes it is quiet in our office this time of year).

Posted by: dmd | December 13, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

another holiday idea for sharing a meal:
Call the local police department (when you're ready)to let them know you have a meal waiting for the cop(s) on duty in your area.......

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2007 2:07 PM | Report abuse

firsttimeblogger, same feeling. I just bookmark Achenblog and use reload current page for updates. Don't know if the clicks still count for WaPo.
kguy, well said. Heartfelt memories when I first have Christmas dinner in my host family's home. When we shared our table with a couple newly arrived from Taiwan in our married student apartment, a long lasting friendship was seeded.
Read Marc Fisher's online chat today. Interesting part regarding paper books and e-books. If the internet is down or WaPo server is malfunctioning, will the Achenblog vanish? That's why I just save a print of some good words of the day, such as RD's 10:26.

Posted by: daiwanlan | December 13, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Well it is festive here today, snowing outside and it made me think of a home in my town that goes all out decorating for the holiday.

They now have a web site with pictures and videos and a touching tribute to a son who was killed in an accident. One of our traditions is to visit this house each year. I met the mom of the house in a store one time when the cashier and another lady were discussing the house with the lights, this lady piped up thats our house, like their display she was a lot of fun.

Posted by: dmd | December 13, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Slats, I have many a time instructed people to say my name incorrectly, I guess out of some perverse desire to garble my personal reality. It's OCK-en-BOCK. Unless you're German, in which case it's more like Ahhkkkk-un-Bahhhkkkk with all kinds of throat action.

FYI I have somewhat fancied up an expanded the kit.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 13, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Still wondering about those afternoon debates (Democratic turn today). Do they go to bed early in Iowa?

Posted by: dmd | December 13, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I once worked for a man of Lithuanian extraction whose name was Uosis Juodvalkis. This is pronounced "wah'sis yuudvahl'kiss." After watching many visitors butcher his name without correction, I asked him why he didn't correct people and help them pronounce his name. He replied that these guys were all sales reps trying to sell him stuff and he found that hearing "you oh sis jew odd vale keys" helped his sales resistance.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | December 13, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Yes indeedy, the Nixon tapes. Thanks for that excerpt, Joel. Several years ago I'd almost calmed down about the Watergate mess and constitutional contretemps. After all, Nixon was out of the public eye (this is before he died and was reinvented as a statesman), he was old (I met him, he was little) and he did go to China, inspiring an excellent opera. Then I read the book of the tapes when it was published. And got mad all over again. Every facet of the man was crooked -- even appointments to the Milk Board. Grrrr.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 13, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

My last name gets mispronounced and misspelled constantly. If I had taken my wife's maiden name, I simply be another John Smith.

Posted by: jack | December 13, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Just got back in the office after a 3-hour company xmas party luncheon held at the Banana Cafe (8th and Penna., S.E., for you locals), a Mexican place (hey, felice navidad, muchachos). We were actually told to order a lot, because there was a set amount to spend, and so about 25 of us pigged out. If I'm not mistaken (tho' I could be), somehow a caipirnha appeared at my spot, and after lunch (ceviche, and a beef chimichonga) a Drambuie appeared with my coffee. I'm not feeling both stuffed and very, very mellow.

Did I mention mellow? I'm one mellow dude. Fleece yer navy, dad, muy chacos.

Like Don, I have no clue who my wife will vote for. She's registered Indy, which means she can't vote in Maryland's primary, which ticks her off. But she made the choice to be Indy. So I guess she'll wind up voting for whoever the Dem nominee turns out to be.

FYI for you young whippernsappers, in the photo at the top of the kit with Thompson and Baker, that's Sam Dash in the middle.

Jeez. Almost 3 o'clock here. Two and a half more hours to remain conscious yet mellow, mellow, mellow (decreasingly so, but still...).

Wonder if there's any more coffee around here? I wonder if a nap is out of the question.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 13, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm not gonna be the one to tell 'Mudge he already had coffee...


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 13, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I heard some of Sen. Mitchell's news conference on the steroids response; I couldn't hear the first question clearly, but did anyone else notice it REALLY looked like he was reading a pre-written response?

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 13, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

SCC: steroids report, of course...

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 13, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Coffee? Why, thanks, Scotty, I believe I'll have a cup. Haven't had any since yesterzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 13, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers, are you stocked up on water and toilet paper?
There is a good one heading your way.
"The Northeast braced for a major winter storm that began to arrive about midday on Thursday, bringing with it snow, sleet and rain, depending on location. Forecasters said as many as 10 inches of snow could fall in the Boston area while the accumulation in New York City was likely to be 2 to 4 inches."

Mrs denizen doesn't got completely nuts on the Christmas decoration front but close. We now have over 30 miniature trees distributed around the dining/living room. They range in size from a couple of inches to maybe a foot. She is making them out of paper, carboard, foam, pine cones, fir cones, solid plastic, expanded plastic, foam, leaves, wood, plastic, whatever strikes her fancy. We also have a couple of (hand-made, you guessed it) wreath and 2 Christmas quilts have replaced the fall quilts on the wall. Apparently, one more seasonal quilt is required and will be designed and started during the holidays to be completed in time for next year.
I do the outside lightning. I only did a wreath (with those diode tubes) and the skeletal tree this year. The cold weather and the snow prevented me to do the 30ft spruce in the backyard. Grown men shouldn't be handling 20ft pole standing on a stepladder just to string lights on a tree but he...

Posted by: shrieking denizen | December 13, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Roger Clemens used steroids? Wouldn't that make you angry and surly and inclined to throw pitches at batters' heads? Oh, wait...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 13, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, maybe you should take up pitching... give ol' Rog a run for his money. :-)

Posted by: byoolin | December 13, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

[waits for the inevitable high and inside fastball.]

Posted by: byoolin | December 13, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

byoolin, you're lucky I'm feelin' mellow...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 13, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Clemens got a pass from the media throughout the Bonds controversy. Wonder if there's some second guessing...

I added a little Clemens material to the kit.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 13, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Don't care too much about Thompson, though that was a good article. I wouldn't be voting Repub. anyway, except for Ron Paul. I'd vote for that guy, if I thought he stood a chance. Don't think I'd vote for Santa, though. The White House would be overrun with elves and livestock and I don't want to send that sort of message abroad.

About those who insist that this holiday has Christian roots, check out the History Channel's take on it. According to their historians, Jeebus wasn't even born in December. But the pagans were having their big feasts and celebrations surrounding the winter solstice and the Christians wanted to enlarge their congregations, so a new, all-inclusive holiday was born. Sure, have your pagan tree, your Yule log, your orgy of dining delights, but you guys are celebrating CHRIST-mas now. You know, the birth of your god-on-earth? Ever notice how many of the Christian holidays fall on or near the holidays the pagans were already celebrating? There are no coincidences here.

Posted by: Gomer | December 13, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

You know, I read Wapo solely because of Nixon, Bernstein, and Woodward. The 2000 election's logical choice (ok, I didn't know the name of any other Washington local papaer) for information was Wapo. I hope someone gives these guys a cut of the profit I generate. Oh wait...

I've always pronounced Achenbach right. Its that German background, only I can't do that throat stuff. The throat stuff makes my eyes water.

Posted by: dr | December 13, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I went looking for Marc Fisher's ebook chat, but went the long way around to avoid the WaPo homepage, and found this blog item from two years ago about Podcasts:

Nobody comes close to Fisher in his ability to be at once cutting-edge and retro. I have been trying to catch up to this podcast phenomenon for a while. And now Achenbach is doing podcasts. I better try harder. By posting this link to the Fisher clues, I can come back later and surf the links in it. It's a plan, now all I need is to find the time to do it.

Posted by: kbertocci | December 13, 2007 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I just have to share. Just got off the phone with my guy, who mentioned that he's got an appointment for a haircut tomorrow, with a new, in training person (his old person has left since his last haircut). He expressed some uncertainty.

She: Well, as long as you find someone you like before all the wedding pictures next summer, it'll be fine.

He: Why does that matter?

She: Well, y'know, there'll be a lot of pictures taken, and we might want to look at them again someday...

Are we playing to the stereotypes or what?

And I feel a little silly doing so much of the wedding shebang after seeing Scotty's glorious event, but oh well, it'll be fun.

Posted by: bia | December 13, 2007 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, bia... you sound like a real bridezilla.

I mean, you want your groom's hair to look good at the wedding? What's next? You're going to want him to be wearing two shoes that match?

Posted by: TBG | December 13, 2007 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Or matching socks! (Shudders) You are one tough cookie, bia.

You can take some comfort that he is concerned about going to a newbie.

Posted by: dr | December 13, 2007 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I guess this means Clemens will finally retire.......It is about bleepin time.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 13, 2007 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, good point, dr. And we've actually already done the shoe shopping trip, because I wouldn't let him wear his old loafers to my cousin's wedding last summer. So we're way ahead of the game. I may need to keep an eye on those socks, though.

Posted by: bia | December 13, 2007 6:31 PM | Report abuse

bia - I think that ScottyNuke would agree that what really matters is that both the bride and the groom are happy. The idea is to host a joyful celebration of your love.

If that means a quiet ceremony in the outdoors, great. And if that means a blow-out party with ice sculptures, a live band, and a champagne fountain, well, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that either.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 13, 2007 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, RD. Joy we can do. So we really are all set.

Posted by: bia | December 13, 2007 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Well Shrieking, I made it home. Took me twice as long as usual, but that translates to 20 minutes instead of ten. By the time I left work at 5:30, everyone else had gone and the roads were almost deserted. Not well plowed however. It took "S" four hours and twenty minutes for a one and one half hour commute and he left at about one o'clock. Then we shoveled the driveway. It's still coming down fairly hard so there will be more shoveling before we go to bed. It is very beautiful out. Next door they have a pretty evergreen shaped just like a Christmas tree with while lights, it lit our way during the shoveling. Quite festive.

On the earlier subject of Christmas baking, my mom always did it and our neighbor who was from Minnesota made fabulous cookies which she shared with us. I have to bake at Christmas, it's a compulsion. Some of the recipes are new, some are from the MN neighbor, and some are just traditional for our family. There would be a major revolt if I didn't make gingerbread cookies and fudge. Plus I love how the house smells when I'm doing it.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | December 13, 2007 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers you make gingerbread cookies, I love them.

Beautiful here the couple inches of fluffy wet snow have covered everthing - fresh and clean and beautiful.

Posted by: dmd | December 13, 2007 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Sneaks, glad you and S are home safely.

The tradition here is cheese straws. My mother gave me her cookie press, so it's on me. One of my cousins learned to make egg noodles like my grandmother did, so we are extending that tradition another generation.

Posted by: Slyness | December 13, 2007 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Sneaks, likewise with the baking, although I grew up baking with my aunt.

My well-off sister told me yesterday that she wants homemade cookies for Christmas again. She always says it's the one thing you can't buy!

Guess I'm baking tomorrow. Springerle for sure early in the morning, let them sit all day under a ceiling fan before baking in the evening, then start the butter cookies.

Posted by: dbG | December 13, 2007 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Pictures? Someone mentioned pictures???

And yes, I agree completely with RDP.


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 13, 2007 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Just looked outside, there must be close to a foot of snow now. About the cookies, I give a big box to my hairdresser. Her husband looks forward to them every year. I also make a box for my best friend. She's a great cook but doesn't like to bake.
dbG, you are right, there is nothing like homemade, whether it's baked goods or knitted or quilted or gifts from small children. It's not just the product, it's the love and caring behind it. Good old Christmas spirit is taking me over right about now.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | December 13, 2007 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, not trying to offend anyone. Don't want to do that with the holidays upon us. I would just like to enjoy Christmas. It's hard for me to do that sometimes because of the loss of my son. The g-girl's enthusiasm helps a lot, and my daughter put up a tree and some lights outside. Of course, all of it would go better if I could make this body do like it's suppose to.

RD, it is hard not to feel something when one looks at Xmas lights.

a bea c, my troubles are still with me, but I'm praying and believing that Christ will work it out for me. I hope it is well with you, and your family. Thanks for asking.

I've had a rough day today. The medication has made things worse, but I'm feeling a little better.

Nice kit, JA, but Fred Thompson is not for me.

Are the folks they found using steriods by the Mitchell report going to be tried and hung, say, like Barry Bonds? Baseball seems to need to clean up its act.

Kbert, as long as I can remember I've always felt a little sadness at Xmas time, even as a young woman. I don't know why. I think perhaps it may have been because I was without a partner so much of my life, as in husband. I think most events and circumstances go better when they are shared with someone you love, and that loves you back. Don't you agree?

I'm off to bed. Good night, boodle.

Posted by: Cassandra S | December 13, 2007 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, last night my pastor was reflecting on his 25 years of marriage. He said their marriage counselor told them one thing that has stuck with him ever since: that in a marriage, the highs are higher and the lows are lower. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Posted by: Slyness | December 13, 2007 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Snuke, Thanks for the great pictures. Do you see what I see, Achenbook in hand?

Posted by: daiwanlan | December 13, 2007 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Laughing my butt off at "Brenda and Eddie," Scotty. Well done, sir!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 13, 2007 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I have had the opposite experience in life--basically I'm a loner and have never suffered from loneliness, although alienation gets me sometimes. In spite of my willingness to live on my own, I have never really done it--only for two semesters in college and less than six months after I graduated--all the rest of the time I have had roommates, family, or my husband to share my life with.

I think it's the time of year that makes people edgy--the dying of the light, the ever-shortening days. Some are more sensitive to it than others. I'm affected by it a lot and that's one of the main reasons I live in the Sunshine State. It's not a coincidence that so many cultures have some sort of "festival of lights" this time of year--to counteract the encroaching darkness.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." --John 8:12

Posted by: kbertocci | December 13, 2007 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Back from the Winter Concert, with joyous fair ranging from

French carol suite
A John Rutter piece
Big Band Christmas
Sleigh Song, complete with bell ringers through out auditorium
Nigerian song about Bethlehem
Steel band Drummer Boy
White Christmas, with a flugelhorn solo by the nicest kid ever
Silent Night in German, then English, then Spanish

AND, the most amazing thing ever:

Jazz band piece that went back and forth between Silver Bells and some juiced-up klezmer stuff that let two clarinetists really chase the saxophonists for coolness.

Very festive.

Cassandra, I am always wistful at Christmas, despite being a pretty jolly sort. The darkness does not help as we need sunlight to trigger the joy chemistry of the brain, really. The sadness fits the story that names the season though: A poor family in an occupied country found themselves about to have a baby and the only place they could find was fit for animals. Mary and Joseph were not the "beautiful people" living in a gated community with a 401K. She was very like an unwed mother;Joseph somehow managed to overcome the shame of that pregnancy and did not put her aside. Later, that mother saw her son accused of treason, beaten, humiliated, and executed by the same occupiers who years before forced her to leave her home just before her baby was born. I think these stories occur over and over and over again: poverty,rape, shame, occupation, refugees, political injustice, imprisonment, torture, death ....Iraq, Darfur, Burma, Guantanamo...

Becoming a parent, like other acts of love, opens us up to all that is joyful and also to the incredible risk of loss. I feel for you about losing your precious boy. I am glad you have the g-girl and the g-boys.

Take care. I hope you can see lots of holiday lights with the grandchildren. My oldest loved a pajama ride this time of year to count the "crispis" lights.

Posted by: College Parkian | December 13, 2007 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Great Nixon photo. What a country we were to elect someone like him. Feh.

Posted by: bill everything | December 13, 2007 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the laugh S'nuke. Been shoveling an hour and a half again tonight. Teenage labour is getting sparse. Their stories of final term papers and exams are getting more realistic. Time for a snowblower, maybe.

Posted by: shrieking deniznen | December 13, 2007 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Gomer, the real question is why do people celebrate everything near the winter solistice?

Hard times need some cheer. Coming in late-- there is a correlation between social isolation increasing the depressive impact of lack of sunlight-- and it can also help offset winter blues.

Of course the flu works pretty good for increasing the blues too. All I can think of is that once the solistice passes, things do get better sunlight-wise.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 13, 2007 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers - I'm like TBG, there is no baking tradition in my house! I'm just terrible at it- but your post makes me wish I had tried harder...

However, like Slyness, there is a homemade egg noodle tradition in my family that I tried my hand at this Thanksgiving. I have to say that it didn't measure up to my mother's noodles, but it was pretty good. Her recipe, according to my brother, who has always made them at Thanksgiving, as she did, started with "Take one egg and 1/2 eggshell of water and beat." I was incredulous, but it all worked out.

CP - lovely post as always.

Cassandra - I'm with you, I love Christmas lights. Like the late Michael Kelly, we're a colored light family.

Loved the BPH photos. Looks like it was fun. Honestly, Maggie O, you look EXACTLY like I thought you would. Don't ask me why, I didn't think about how she would look before, but as soon as I saw the pic I thought something like, "of course! She looks like someone who would love Georgette!" That doesn't really make sense, since I love Georgette and I don't look anything like Maggie O, but there you have it. There's no 'splainin' it.

Good night, boodle.

Posted by: Kim | December 13, 2007 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Apologies to Steve Miller:

The Joker:

"Some people call me over-relaxed yeah,
Many women call me the Senator of love,
Joel Achenbach called me the "Stick,"
Cause I got what the young women do love"

People keep talkin' about me baby, say I
ought to be stumpin' more, stumpin' more,
Well, don't worry, don't worry baby
because I speak like on Law and Order.

Posted by: bill everything | December 13, 2007 11:56 PM | Report abuse

So nice when mental impressions actually work, isn't it?

At my first BPH, people identified me only by Wilbrodog and how he set off my gnomishness.

S'nuke and Mudge were speechless for over 30 minutes... because they were busy writing, of course.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 13, 2007 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Shrieking Denizen, all the trees and quilts sound lovely. I love quilts, but I can't make them - I'm no good at sewing. Mrs SD's tradition of starting a quilt that will be used the next year is wonderful.

I don't decorate much or do much baking, either. Just a little to get in the mood. I enjoy the lights - some nice displays in the neighborhood this year.

Posted by: mostllylurking | December 14, 2007 1:14 AM | Report abuse

I've always like this time of the year in the US. All the Christmas decorations and lightings are so beautiful. Here in Bn, the only public Christmas decoration is done by the only Lexus car dealer in town. The car dealer's place is the only place where they'd have decorations for Hari Raya, Christmas and Chinese New Year.

When I was in the US, I had friends who were not Christians and they were not going to be Christians, but during Christmas they'd have trees and Christmas decorations in their houses and also exchange gifts. They don't think of it as a Christian holiday. It's just everybody gathering having a good time eating and be merry.

Posted by: rainforest | December 14, 2007 1:21 AM | Report abuse

Remember "This sentence is true"?

Now, try this: "Slats, I have many a time instructed people to say my name incorrectly, I guess out of some perverse desire to garble my personal reality. It's OCK-en-BOCK."

When somebody tells you they lie about something "many a time" and then earnestly tell you that something...well, anyway, I certainly wouldn't advise buying any bridge shares that person might at some time try to sell you.*

After researching and writing a Fred story, would not one be entirely willing to garble their personal reality for at least a short period of time afterward? Or: might one be incapable of not doing so, especially after admitting to doing so "many a time"?

Achin'-bake wouldn't necessarily such a bad name, in an ungarbled personal reality sense, if one would simply choose to admit to it on a consistent basis.

Ya gotta admit, though, as perverse desires go this particular example is fairly innocuous.

*On the other hand, reputable bridge share sales can always be found at my web site should you desire to invest your Xmas bonus in a highly profitable business.

Posted by: MedallionOfFerret | December 14, 2007 2:00 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. CP, that was a wonderful comment you wrote. Thank you so much. And Kim, lights do it for me every time. Kbert, I suspect there is a lot of truth to what you say in your comment, and yes, Jesus is the light of the world.

Slyness, my experience at being married did not last long, but I love the concept of being married. Just did not work out for me. The first marriage was shotgun, and the second was a bad choice, but my choice.

Did anyone read Eugene Robinson's article about the war in Iraq? After reading that I felt so guilty. It is true the things he state in that piece. We are totally ignoring both wars, and it isn't right. The soldiers have families that love and miss them terribly, and we're acting as if everything is everything. The media has focused our attention on the election and Iraq and Afghanistan are pushed way back, not even mentioned in the paper anymore. Why? I don't understand the media allowing such a "get out of jail card" for the people in charge. I'm guilty along with the rest of America. We can do better. I never thought I would see the day when America when become so whimpy and not stand for right. It's almost like the country is on "auto pilot"?

Of course, the candidates are not talking Iraq because they want to get elected. Oh, what a difference a day makes!I keep seeing President Bush standing at ground zero, and everybody loving him.

Morning,Mudge, Scotty, Martooni, and all.*waving* Martooni, let us hear from you and what's going on with the fairy doors?

I just wonder if a new President is going to be able to undo so much of the damage. I mean our standing in the world has taken a huge black eye. Can we repair that? And what about the wars we're fighting, what's to be done about that? It is mind boggling.

And as to Huckabee, I don't know. He was governor of a state below where I live, and things that way aren't quite up to date. And as for his being a Baptist minister, I don't know. The national Baptist folks kind of tow a real strict line. These folks don't talk much about forgiveness as they do death and hell. That's my understanding, of course, I could be totally off the mark here. Like I don't know what I'm talking about. For me, not anything to write about.

I belong to a Baptist church, but we're not hooked up to the national organization. In religion and church, we're still divided by race, don't you know? And that speaks volumes about what we profess to be, and it is our shame.

Got to go. Time to get cracking, as in getting the g-girl ready for that bus. Of course, Spongebob has to have his due. I'm about ready to strangle Spongebob, the toothbrush and the show. Help!

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | December 14, 2007 5:08 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle, Cassandra. Glad to see you're up and about early.

Great Eugene Robinson column this morning, asking whether Hucklebucky is "hair-on-fire" scary or merely worrisome. Fantastic line: "And down at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson -- who famously distrusted organized religion -- must have been whirring like a turbine at Romney's declaration that 'freedom requires religion.'"

Great headline in "Slate" for the new Will Smith flick: "Fresh Prince of Post-Apocalyptic New York."

Something's up. I have instructions from my wife to come home early today (12:30 bus), and pack for the weekend. Apparently we're going somewhere. It's a surpise, and apparently our Christmas present to each other. (Gee, it would be nice to know what I got her. I hope she likes it...whatever it was I must have picked out so brilliantly. Anyway, it's apparently not bling. One gets sooooo tired of bling, right, ladies?) So it appears I won't be boddling much, if at all, until we get home Sunday evening (in time for the Redskins' debacle? one can only hope).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 14, 2007 6:00 AM | Report abuse

Mudge... have a great weekend! Sounds like fun. Did she say to pack your bathing suit? What about your thong?

Up early today to wait for the heating guy. Nope... didn't show yesterday. When I called at 5 (after taking the day off and missing work deadlines), the woman told me, "Oh he's already been there!" Nope. Still cold and I never left the house all day. So I'm supposed to be his "first call" today. Fortunately, it's not too cold outside. And only about 60° inside, so we're really OK.

Been thinkin' about ol' Fred lately. Is this who we really want as our president?...

Posted by: TBG | December 14, 2007 7:08 AM | Report abuse

Oooh, Mudge, sounds like fun! I look forward to hearing about it. This is the party weekend for us - one tomorrow evening and two Sunday. Will be good to get to Monday morning.

TBG, hope the heating guy gets there early! It's supposed to get colder here today and tomorrow, I'll bet the same happens with you too. I'm ready for the weather to be seasonable.

Cassandra, I know exactly what you mean about wrong choices. My first husband, bless his soul, I couldn't ever have made him happy. Knowing his family background, I'm amazed he's functional at all. He's the father of my kids, so I don't regret it, but leaving was the best thing I ever did, for him and our daughters and myself. Also the most difficult.

Posted by: Slyness | December 14, 2007 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, my hands are STILL sore after pressing out LOTS of cheese straws last weekend... Or maybe that's the leftover ache from writing my hand off when I met Wilbrod. *L*

'Mudge, hopefully she told you to pack the cummerbund and not the wet weather gear. Enjoy!!!

*kinda skeered that neither TBG nor bc have commented on the pics* ;-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 14, 2007 7:54 AM | Report abuse

"*kinda skeered that neither TBG nor bc have commented on the pics* ;-)"

You mean Brender & Eddie? Loved the pics, Scotty! I think our next BPH should be All Hat, All the Time.

Posted by: TBG | December 14, 2007 8:07 AM | Report abuse


I like that you and TMM (The Mistress Mudge) are still crazy after all these years. Tell all, but not the blushing parts, when you return.

Paging BC -- is the station wagon dead? Will I truly be out of luck after two very long runs with a

used Volve 240 wagon with wayback seat that went over 450K; AND my

lightly used 2001 Merc. Sable with 75K.

Will there be no proletarian 7-8 passenger car slung low and reasonable like a wagon?
I saw that Chrysler Pacifica enter the arena but that is a small SUV....and the Suburu creatures do not seat enough peeps. Sigh. All I want for Christmas is the return of the station wagon, so that when my Sable conks out, I can buy a lightly used wagon again. I take my NON-SUV Parent Badge quite seriously.

I am having all sorts of Crispus Lights -- like Christmas and Festivus? -- hell. I am about to call an electrician. I hope that my famously tacky rope of red hot chili peppers will grace the arch of my fake federalist door soon. The neighbors are asking! Thank goodness I live with good natured sorts who all appreciate these sorts of silliness:

a) the caeful placement of a well-worn pink flamingo amid blue lights (honoring a bubbala of a granny who lives in Florida);

b) a herd of lit reindeer skeleton-thingies, some with slowly bobbing heads, somewhat eerie actually and weireder when;

c) the tasteful "Curly Bird" mansion on the corner in Martha-approved white lights and a Williamsburg collage of fruit over the door;

d) the Ohio State buckeye themed-house down the block;

e) The college students across the street who hung a tangle of lights in one window that another neighbor wants to offer to untangle. This is a spider's nest of lights, really.

See, we need my chili pepper lights to keep order in the Universe....ahhh, I forget the newly arrived Icelandic family who have tiny lanterns lit in each window. Tasteful and Nordic and I think they need a TomTen door. Martooni, that is Scandihovian for elfie-fairy creature.

Let the tacky joy begin. Bonus points if someone on your block leaves the lights underway until say Valentines. That would sometimes be me.

Posted by: College Parkian | December 14, 2007 8:13 AM | Report abuse

New kit!

Posted by: TBG | December 14, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Canada seeks 'rogue elf' who sent obscene letters from Santa

Posted by: Anonymous | December 14, 2007 5:45 PM | Report abuse

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