01 December 2010

24 Days Before Christmas

I'd like to say "decorating is going apace," but work takes priority; still, there is lunchtime and after work hours. I started with the kitchen and the dining room, but ran into a snag immediately: the top shelf of the ceppo had come unglued—no idea how. So I had to fix that up and start something else. So both rooms are done, feather trees, sparkly bits, reindeer, and lots and lots of gingerbread, despite having to wrangle with the bead garlands on those feather trees. I think a bit of the reason that we don't have a Christmas tree with garlands—besides the fact that I love tinsel icicles so—is that hanging the fool things to me are like wrestling with Spanish inquisitors.

After supper I also got the Rudolph tree up, and placed decorations in the guest room, and Schuyler also has her decorations (they all play music, natch).

During lunch I also played one of Rick Steves' Christmas-oriented "Travels" podcasts. Since I've just discovered them, there is a backlog of about four years' worth. I'm trying to ration them to last through the season. Since the downloads aren't dated, I'm not certain which year I listened to, but it was Rick chatting with friends about Christmas in Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sicily, Australia, and Paris. The chat about Hungary reminded me of the marvelous chapter about "Mikulas" in The Good Master. In the Dutch segment, the young woman sang and translated the little song the Dutch girl sings in Miracle on 34th Street; the words basically ask "Sinter Klaas" to drop a gift into her shoes. I had to laugh at the Sicilian portion, when the men were talking about being "mama's boys" and wives competing with their mothers-in-law! They mentioned a fascinating old Sicilian custom: children didn't get toys at Christmas, they used to get them on All Saints Day! Now that is something I never knew.

Sirius turned on XM Holiday Pops today, so I had that for background music most of the time.


Christmas Forever, edited by David G. Hartwell
This is the second (I think) in Hartwell's string of Christmas sci-fi/fantasy short stories. As always in anthologies, there are some you like, some you don't—and with fantasy, sometimes a couple you don't understand.

In general, I liked this book. The first story, about a youngster who wants to make a Christmas on an alien planet, sets the stage for the remainder of the stories well. I particularly enjoyed "My Favorite Christmas," about a teenager spending Christmas with a legendary uncle; "Prince of the Powers of This World," about a child waiting for a Christmas birth; "The Cockatrice Boys," about a fight against monsters who have invaded Earth; the sentimental "Pal O'Mine," "A Present for Santa," set in a future where the Government decides whether you live or die; the humorous "We Three Kings," featuring three Christmas monsters; "Christmas Wingding," even a very odd story where Scrooge becomes the film noir gumshoe in a Maltese Falcon world. Several were...very strange. "A Present for Hanna" was just plain creepy.

The story that most affected me was "And When They Appear." It was a very imaginative story of a poor society revolting against the rich from the POV of a small boy who lives in a house designed to protect him. But the last two pages were just so terribly creepy I cannot get the story out of my mind, and I wish it would go away.

Recommended if you don't have problems with stories staying with you (otherwise just skip that one).

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