Category Archives: Christmas

No Stone Unturned

It’s the day after Christmas, or as the civilized world calls it, Boxing Day, and I’m starting to feel marginally less shit than I’ve done for the last six days. It’s a mistake to take time off work and relax because I can always guarantee that the moment I stop working a miserable cold/flu virus will descend on me from a great height and fuck me up. And that is indeed what happened precisely one day after coming home. Of course, like all normal males, I had not done one iota of Christmas shopping prior to this, having planned on the five remaining days before Christmas being plenty within which to accomplish the pathetic series of near-desperate purchases that normally make up my gift list.

I didn’t plan to be down for the count for six days, but fortunately I made the effort (greatly assisted by assorted medications) to visit the stores on Monday, just to get the whole exercise out of the way and ensure that Mrs Bison had something to open on Christmas morning. (Mrs Bison is a patient and wonderful woman, but like all women has an elephantine memory for such transgressions, and although she cares little for fancy gifts, I could not risk being slyly reminded for the next, ooh, let’s say thirty years, about the year she had nothing at all to open.)

We long ago stopped trying to impress each other with gifts, which does take the pressure off, and instead we just buy fun junk. If there was anything we actually wanted we would already have bought it, and it’s amazing how much crap you don’t really need when you get right down to it. Not exactly the consumer behavior the retail industry is dreaming about this season, and judging by the swarms of crappy people clogging up the roads around the mall on Monday, not a very common attitude either. So I patiently avoided running over the moron family who wandered out into the road, the dumb woman on her phone who didn’t look where she was going and the bitch who didn’t seem to care that between her and her bus was an active road, and parked the car at the mall. By this time I’d bought the more “fun” gifts, but I had it in my mind to check out some jewelry, because Mrs Bison is an excellent spouse, and wouldn’t it be fun to surprise her?

So I cruised a few jewelers in the mall, looking for attractive necklaces that didn’t cost the same as a small car. You have to be careful doing this – the trick is to wander through and glance sidelong at the merchandise, but without making eye contact with the lacquered harridan behind the glass counter, who will immediately ask what she can show you, and then proceed to attempt to guilt you into buying some overpriced tat. I had a narrow escape with one Eastern European assistant who wanted to direct me to silver jewelry coated in gold (“so you mean gold plated crap?”) but after three stores I had seen nothing remotely interesting. Last shot – Macy’s. Credit where it’s due, they had more attractive looking stuff, and my attention was drawn to one necklace – a gold chain with some diamondy bits, including one larger stone. Of course they had elegantly folded the price tag underneath the item, making it impossible to determine whether this was in the price range I was looking for. Along came the assistant to ask if I needed anything. “Sure – can you just tell me how absurd the price tag is on that necklace?” (No, that’s really what I said.) Out comes the necklace, display it, touch it, describe it, and then out comes the calculator for the myriad discounts, the result of which was $750, unless I wanted to get a Macy’s card?

Let’s leave aside for a moment that the gold chain was so insubstantial as to be near invisible, and that there’s a fine line between “delicate” and “cheap”. Let’s also leave aside that I thought the item would have looked better as a gold thing with glittery bits, and absent the solitaire stone, and also let’s leave aside the fact that I wanted to spend about $500 less than that. I was suddenly reminded about why I hate shopping for jewelry. It’s impossible to know if you’re being ripped off. (Actually it’s almost certainly the case, but let’s just pretend for a moment.)

The most expensive part of that necklace should certainly have been the single diamond; the gold chain and setting could have been bought for next to nothing in China, and the diamond fragments are worthless even if pretty. So what was the big stone worth? Well that depends doesn’t it? Forget the fact that it’s actually worth nothing without the artificial inflation of diamond prices by a worldwide cartel, and just consider its worth within the rigged market: was that stone a clear E color stone with no inclusions, elegantly cut to maximize brilliance? Or was it a yellow piece of near-industrial grit, knocked up in a cheap shop and glued to a gold setting in a Chinese factory? I have no way of knowing. I can’t pull out an eyepiece and examine it, partly because I don’t own one, and partly because I wouldn’t know what to look for in a million years. If I had that $750 necklace appraised, what would its value be?

If you buy a used Ford Taurus its value is largely a function of age and mileage. Buying a piece of jewelry in a mall store is like buying a used car without knowing either of these facts. “Here’s a beautiful blue Taurus, black tires, brown seats, lovely clear glass. How about this?” “Fifteen thousand? Yeah it looks nice, I’ll take it.” You’re spending significant money on something about which you cannot possibly know enough to gauge value.

And that’s where the whole jewelry business has its hands round your balls. You’re expected to buy jewelry for women because they like it, and you can’t buy glass or zircons, even though no-one could tell the difference, because then you’re a “cheap bastard who doesn’t think I’m worth it.” But if you do buy something how do you know whether that diamond is any good? Is that blue stone a pretty natural sapphire, or is it an artificially colored piece of crap produced in a factory? You could ask, but what sort of answer do you think you’ll get from the commission-based slime bag at your average jewelry store? “Yes, this is priced at $1100. It’s actually worth much less because the stone is very flawed, and the setting is mass-produced, but we make a 500% mark-up on this so I strongly recommend it to you.”

So I retreated from the store as gracefully as a shivering, run-down man with flu and three days of stubble could, probably leaving the assistant believing I was some kind of meth addict, and returned home.

Yesterday Mrs Bison and I exchanged fun gifts, and Bison Daughter got real gifts, and I managed to cook the turkey, even though I felt like crap, because that’s the tradition here, and Bison Daughter said it was excellent, and that basting with phlegm obviously helped, and then we did what everyone should do on Christmas Day, which is nothing. And later in the evening I recounted my jewelry story to Mrs Bison, and she laughed and told me she would have been pissed off with me if I’d spent $750 on a necklace, which is why she’s such a great spouse, and why I felt like I needed to buy something to show her that, so you can see my problem. But it’s a good problem to have, and I wouldn’t swap it for all the crappy diamonds at the mall.

House of Pain

When I was younger I used to try and do well at school. I’d do my homework, revise for tests, and generally try to get good grades, so I could end up at university. Then I tried to do well again – I’d actually get out of bed and show up for lectures. I’d take notes, do the assignments, and even write up all the boring lab work we had to do, so I could get a job. Then I tried to do well at my job. I’d use initiative, make good decisions, earn the company money and generally try not to step on my proverbial dick. And what was the point of all this? So that when I was a grown-up I could have my own house.

When you’re used to living at home the idea of your own house is a magical thing. It’s the place where bedtime is whenever the fuck you want it to be, and the music is never too loud, and your room is exactly as messy as you like it, and the washing up can wait. And when you’re used to sharing accommodation a house is even better. It’s the place where the food you buy is still in the fridge when you want to eat it, and you never wake up to find sick all over the toilet seat (unless it’s your own), and all your crap is always wherever you left it.

So, having spent all this time being good, and earning money, and occasionally moving to a bigger house, it has occurred to me that the whole idea was fundamentally flawed. Having your own place is a great plan. Owning your own place – not so much. You see, a house is, I have realized, merely a collection of things that are waiting to go wrong. It consists of a furnace that breaks in the winter, an air conditioner that stops working in the summer, a dishwasher that stops working every year, a garage door opener that shreds its little plastic gears and gives up the ghost, power that unaccountably stops being delivered to certain rooms, roofs that eventually leak, shutters that invariably blow off in the wind, gutters that fall off, windows that rot, a sump pump that freezes up in the cold, a deck that rots and needs re-sealing, wood that needs painting, grass that wants cutting, leaves that need clearing, faucets that start leaking, and all manner of annoying things that require sudden, unanticipated trips to the hardware store, where people in orange aprons will make you feel like in incompetent twat before informing you that they don’t actually have whatever it is that you desperately need to make your stupid fucking house work again.

This is the season of holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – the time of year where your house is absolutely guaranteed to cause maximum frustration by developing faults that require time, money, tradesmen, hardware store visits, and time outside in the cold shouting “fuck” at inanimate objects. And if you’re a man you will attempt to address these faults yourself rather than call someone in, partly to save money, but mostly out of sheer pride, so that the tradesman won’t look down his nose at you and communicate silently his lack of belief that anyone could call him out to fix anything so trivial.

So it was when the garage door opener packed up last weekend, just as I was trying to get out to the gym. To cut a long, boring story short I opened it up, found the drive gear that needed to be replaced and sent off for the part. Eventually it arrived, and I set out to complete what should have been a simple man-job. But I had reckoned without the gods of the hardware store, who looked down on me in my pride and decided to shit on me. The part slid into place but the three beautifully positioned screw holes were no use to me, on account of the fact that they had not been threaded. So, having vented my spleen with several high volume emissions of profanity, there I was, at the hardware store, looking for either a tap and die set or a pack of self-tapping screws, so I could bodge the job and get the door working again. (You see I find it very useful for getting in and out of the fucking garage.) But now that it’s done I’m not filled with satisfaction at my newly working house; I’m merely reminded that the clock is ticking to the next unexpected problem, and associated aggravation. It’s like waiting for a kick in the bollocks – you know it’s coming, just not when, where from, or how hard. Merry Christmas!

All I Want for Christmas…

Just to illustrate the point I made yesterday about gifts, here are some examples of the disparity that exists between desire and reality:

WANTED
– Porsche Cayenne Turbo
– Rickenbacker bass guitar
– Selection of fine Scotch whiskys
– Authentic leather bomber jacket
– Full bar for basement drinking sessions

RECEIVED
– Fake leather driving gloves
– CD
– Book about whisky
– Socks
– New tools to work on basement

Which is why at the end of the day gifts don’t add much to the festive occasion. Not when compared to the combination of friends, food and drink, and just the right amount of seen-it-before Christmas TV. It would still be better if I could get that bar done though…

Gifts?

It’s sad how the excitement associated with the major gift-giving occasions dissipates as you get older. When you’re a kid every birthday or Christmas holds the potential for some fabulous surprise. Admittedly the surprises were cheaper and simpler when I was a kid – it’s hard to imagine anyone today getting all hopped up on the possibility of a digital watch, for instance – but there are tons of ways to light up a kid’s face with gifts. Once you’re a fully fledged adult, however, birthdays are more likely to be an exercise in disappointment, tinged with the increasing relief as the years go by that you didn’t die in the course of the preceding year.

Why is this? Perhaps it’s the fact that all the reasonably priced sources of delight will have been purchased by you already, leaving only expensive stuff (that people won’t buy for you) and shit (about which they have no such qualms). With Christmas just around the corner I’d suggest investing in stocks of companies that make and sell shit; history suggests that they’ll do well again this year…

Christmas Hooker

Well, I’ve just spent all day having a Happy Christmas, and I have to say I’m glad the bastard thing only happens once a year. Sure, it’s great when you’re a kid – lots of presents and tons of great stuff to eat, followed by chocolate and candy, and no school for two weeks. Then you grow up, and instead of a stress-free festival of hedonism you end up with a ritual of miserable shopping, cooking, getting dragged out of bed early by over-excited kids and realizing after dinner that you’ve consumed enough calories to fuel an Olympic decathlete and are now guaranteed to enter the new year as a fat bastard.

I used to think I looked forward to the turkey dinner, but this year, when I got done cooking and eating it, it suddenly occurred to me that it really wasn’t worth the effort. Next year I guarantee I’m not spending Christmas morning up to my elbows in lard and stuffing – we’re having a fucking cheese sandwich. And a large Scotch. I realized that Christmas is mostly about doing things that you do every year, because they’ve become some sort of ritual, like sticking the turkey neck in your pants and pretending it’s a penis:

It wasn’t as funny as before…

At least we minimized the present-buying hell this year. Bison Daughter did OK, of course (no reason she shouldn’t enjoy the hedonism for a few more years) but Mrs Bison and I don’t get expensive shit for each other, and we had a present truce with our brothers. The only problem with this is that once you rule out the turkey dinner and the presents there really isn’t much left in the whole Christmas Day thing. You don’t see anyone else since they’re all committed to their own personal family Christmas hell, and there’s nothing to do except eat. We forced ourselves out of the house for a short walk before tea tonight, and as soon as we walked back in we were hit by a thick fog of turkey, stuffing, sprouts and colon gas (which consists mainly of recycled turkey, stuffing and sprouts). Hence the cheese sandwich for next year…

Mrs Bison did get me one very thoughtful gift this year – a copy of “The Happy Hooker”, the saucy memoir of a madam called Xaviera Hollander from back in the 70s. This book (or, to be more accurate, its sequel, called “Xaviera”) was an integral part of my sex education when I discovered it under my parents’ bed when I was a kid. Trust me, I learned things from that book.

Next year I’m hoping for a copy of “The Hand-Reared Boy” by Brian W Aldiss, since I think I found this at around the same time, and it featured a girl called Virginia, who was known as “Virgin for short, but not for long”, which I always thought was a better line than anything that wanker Shakespeare came up with. Or maybe I’ll go for “A Man With A Maid”, which I don’t recall had much literary merit, but it was passed around at school and I ended up swapping it with a mate for a full-color scud mag which he’d “borrowed” from the newsagent. Happy days!

I might as well recognize that I’m now past it, and reminiscence is about all I have to look forward to. Bison Daughter got a CD by Ashley Tisdale from Santa, which she thinks is great, whereas I know that it’s utter shite. It’s soulless, over-produced, teenie-girl pop shit that could have been put out by Britney or any one of a dozen near-identical blonde consumer-bitches. Not at all like the AC/DC and Motorhead I got for Christmas when I was her age. So I’m now officially old because I hate my kid’s music. Meanwhile, I got some Thin Lizzy. Let’s face it, Phil Lynott’s been dead about as long as Ashley fucking Tisdale’s been alive, so he’s not exactly current, but Chinatown pisses all over her. Which, incidentally, is about the only thing Xaviera doesn’t do in her book, so I strongly suggest you get a copy.

Happy Christmas!

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison

Let There Be Light

Wouldn’t it be great if you bought stuff and it didn’t turn out to be crap. And wouldn’t it be even better if Christmas tree lights from last year occasionally fucking worked. I’m of the opinion that these two concepts are inextricably related – since retailers are all busy competing with each other to drive down price, the quality of the goods they sell is of secondary importance. (Who am I kidding? It’s of no importance at all most of the time.) So the tree lights that were bought last year from K-Mart, and carefully stowed in a large plastic box at the end of the season, utterly failed to perform their, let’s face it, pretty limited task when Mrs Bison plugged them in on Sunday.

To add insult to injury, some of the lights on some strings worked, but I’m buggered if I could figure out what to do to make the rest come on. Sure, I tried replacing fuses, changing out bulbs and straightening wires, and then, when that didn’t work, I resorted to shaking the fucking things and banging them on the floor, but without any success. Mrs Bison ended up going back to K-Mart and buying a whole load more crappy lights. Next year we’ll pull them out of the box again, and next year they’ll be fucked again. I guarantee it.

How hard can it be? Tree lights are just some wire, some bulbs and a plug. They are a borderline fire hazard on a good day, but it’s not like they have a sophisticated task to perform. You can buy a mobile phone or game system with millions of sensitive microscopic connections etched on tiny silicon wafers, and they’ll continue to do their job for years, even if you drop them in the bog. And that job involves complex tasks, like communicating with people in different continents. We have plasma TVs, mobile GPS systems, MP3 players, Nintendo Wii and noise canceling headphones. So why the fuck, after half a century of experience, can manufacturers not figure out how to make a string of bulbs on a wire work?

Tree lights are all made in China, obviously in the factories which specialize in lead-lined children’s toys and contaminated milk. The Chinese can produce goods of very high quality if necessary, so who specified the lights to be made “as shit as possible”? It must be K-Mart, right? They know what they’re buying. Now, you might ask why I don’t buy more expensive lights, in the expectation that they’d last longer. I learned my “don’t pay more” lesson years ago with tin openers.

Everyone knows that tin openers all corrode and, after a while, you can’t get them to turn properly. So you go and buy another one. I figured out that if I bought a better model, with interlocking wheels and a more robust construction, it would last forever, and save me having to keep buying new ones. Guess what? It rusted up just as fast as the cheap ones. Rule Number One of the retail trade: paying more doesn’t mean you get more. So if I buy more expensive tree lights I’ll just end up throwing away more expensive-but-useless lights next year.

It’s the same story with everything from shoes to clothes to furniture – it’s not made to last. I’d be more than happy to pay extra for tree lights that I knew would work next year, but how would they be distinguishable at the store? A big label, saying “Guaranteed Not To Be Shit” or “Work For Ten Years Or Your Money Back”? I don’t think so. So if you fully expect the stuff you buy to be crap, the only sensible response is to buy the cheapest crap so you waste as little money as possible. Which means that retailers will continually drive down the quality of what they sell, since it’s expected to be crap, and needs to be cheap.

Mind you, it’s always possible that Mrs Bison didn’t pick up the “Never Work Twice” lights and instead selected the “Burn You Alive In Your Sleep” ones. In which case I won’t have to worry about getting them out of the box next Christmas. Or buying a new tin opener either, for that matter…

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison

Dear Santa


Dear Santa,

I have been a very good boy this year. Here is my Christmas list. I hope that you can get all these things on your sleigh, and that Rudolph doesn’t get too tired bringing them. I would like:

  • A powerful air rifle so that I can kill woodpeckers when they eat my house.
  • A large python to keep Mrs.Bison company when I travel, and remind her of me.
  • A bottle of Bruichladdich Infinity #2 single malt scotch. Or two.
  • A magic lawn that never needs cutting, fertilizing or watering, that is completely mole-repellent and that does not look like shite during the summer.
  • An Aston Martin V8 Vantage. British racing green, if you can get it.
  • A taser to deal with French people who try and jump the queue in airports (“Excusez moi, monsieur tete-merde, je crois que je vais fucker vous up avec mon taser. Ha ha!”)
  • A crate of cream soda.
  • Some socks. You can never have too many socks. Make them all the same so I don’t have to dick about matching them after the wash.
  • New songs on the KTV karaoke machines in China so I don’t have to do “Centerfold” or “All The Small Things” again.
  • A hot tub stocked with three shaven women with moral amnesia, one of which should be Japanese/Chinese/Korean.
  • A box of assorted Cadbury’s chocolate. I really like the Flake, Double Decker and Crunchie. Plus a couple of Curly Wurlies, for old times’ sake.
  • New shin-guards for soccer so I can avoid getting my leg broken like Todd. Did you see that? Both bones. Mind you, he was wearing shin-guards…

I know that this is a busy time for you, and that cars are very expensive and hard to get on a sleigh. I don’t want any of the elves to put their backs out, so if you can get me the hot tub thing then I’m not too worried about some of the other stuff. You may remember that I had a similar list last year and all I got was the socks. I’m sure this was just an oversight on your part, but just in case you have any funny ideas about pulling the same stunt this year let me tell you that I know where you live, motherfucker, and unless you’d like to wake up with a reindeer head in your bed you’ll give my list some serious consideration. Do you understand? Good. Now fuck off and get busy.

The mince pie will be in its usual place, with a carrot for Rudolph.

Lots of love, Edward.

Party Time


The holiday party season is in full swing, providing a wonderful opportunity to see the people with whom you work in a “casual out-of-office” setting. There really isn’t that much upside to office holiday parties unless you happen to be a single man in a large company, with no career aspirations, in which case they still represent a great chance for opportunistic sexual bad behavior, resulting in reputation damage, recriminations and photocopies of your genitals being passed around the office on Monday. I have to confess that I have never photocopied my genitals, and the knowledge that were I to witness this feat attempted by another, I would slam down the lid on their dick purely for the comic delight of it, will keep me from ever trying it myself. Probably.

So with penis-copying and other such seasonal games off the agenda the office holiday party starts to become an exercise in “defense” rather than “offense”. In other words, it’s not about scoring career points or getting laid, but about not committing that career-ending public mistake or incurring arse-clenching humiliation. Here are some recommendations, in case you want to make a career with your current employer:

  • Don’t walk about with mistletoe tied to your belt, silently inviting women to “kiss you under it”, or pin it above your arse in a humorous insult to management. Everyone loves the office clown; they just don’t promote him.
  • Don’t take full advantage of the free bar – three snakebites with vodka chasers, followed by wine with dinner (red and white), scotch, brandy and some tequila shots tend to result in spontaneous and highly memorable ejection of the meal onto the dance floor.
  • When kissing hello (or goodbye) to the wives of fellow employees, tongues are generally not recommended. Neither is dropping a hand down for that friendly clasp of the buttock, in order to check “thong or not” and win your bet with Gerry from accounting.
  • Don’t slow dance with old Hilda from reception, no matter how much she cajoles you. When she starts grinding herself on your crotch people will assume that it’s mutual and that women of her age are just “your thing”.
  • Avoid all members of senior management, all night. They are generally surrounded by arse-kissers at all times, and they are perfectly well aware of that fact. If you attach yourself to the group in the hope of impressing them with your insights into corporate strategy you will come off like a cunt.
  • Always wear good underwear. In the event that you do bag off with some twenty-three year-old beauty from credit you don’t want word getting round the department that you wear old man’s Y-fronts.
  • No matter what the provocation, resist the temptation to punch out anyone that has been asking for it all year. Unless you really need to, in which case do it where no-one can see, like the toilets, or behind a large plant, and then blame their staggering blood-stained incoherence on “too much seasonal cheer, I guess”.

Remember that at any party there is a loser – that person who makes such a complete arsehole of themselves that they might as well resign now. The person that you’ll all be talking about next year when the party organizers are trying to decide whether to just make a donation to charity instead, and avoid the lawsuits. The first rule of office parties is this:

Look around and locate this individual at the earliest opportunity. If by midnight you still have not found them, chances are it’s you. Unless your parties are so dull that everyone behaves. And where’s the fun in that?

Copyright 2007 Edward Bison

Merry Fucking Christmas


Just like it’s not a good idea to go shopping for food when you’re hungry, it’s probably not a good idea for me to write on the subject of Christmas shopping when I’ve just returned from the mall, on a Saturday afternoon. Fuck me! What a complete and utter bastard waste of time and money. And how did so many fat, over-made-up, terminally stupid people come to be gathered in one place?

Yes, I’m fed up with Christmas. I actually used to like Christmas – the building excitement, Christmas carols, repeats of much-loved Christmas TV, special food, the Christmas tree, time off work, occasional snow and all that stuff. But all of that is now lost in the colossal spend-fest and retail orgy that Christmas has become. It’s not as though this is a new observation but it really hit me as I saw hundreds of fuck-dumb people swarming to buy shit they didn’t need with money they probably didn’t have, and a kind of hysteria overcoming everyone as they rushed to buy whatever “hot” gift the retailers are pushing on us this year. It’s now only about the spending.

George Bernard Shaw had a few words to say on the subject of Christmas:

“Like all intelligent people, I greatly dislike Christmas. It revolts me to see a whole nation refrain from music for weeks together in order that every man may rifle his neighbour’s pockets under cover of a ghastly general pretence of festivity. It is really an atrocious institution, this Christmas. We must be gluttonous because it is Christmas. We must be drunken because it is Christmas. We must be insincerely generous; we must buy things that nobody wants, and give them to people we don’t like; we must go to absurd entertainments that make even our little children satirical; we must writhe under venal officiousness from legions of freebooters, all because it is Christmas – that is, because the mass of the population, including the all-powerful middle-class tradesman, depends on a week of licence and brigandage, waste and intemperance, to clear off its outstanding liabilities at the end of the year.”

Bear in mind that he wrote this in 1893, when the Macys sale hadn’t even been contemplated, but he pretty much nailed it didn’t he? Basically Christmas is now just about buying stuff. Buy gifts for people. Buy decorations. Buy wrapping paper. Buy food. Then go to the sales and buy more stuff because it’s such a good deal.

Now, I can hear the chorus from the religious brigade, saying that yes, we’ve lost the true meaning of Christmas. Bollocks! I don’t see any of you metaphorically kneeling at the manger in wonder, comtemplating the simple majesty of the Christ-child. No you’re too busy jostling at the mall like every other fucker, so don’t give me all that “spiritually superior” bullshit.

And all you smug non-believers can fuck off too. Yes I’m well aware that the early church co-opted the traditional winter solstice festival for Christmas but I don’t see any of you celebrating the seasonal change in close harmony with nature. If “The Holidays” are nothing more than a wonderful excuse for a winter party, I can think of better ways to mark the year-end than spending your wad at Bed Bath And Beyond.

Christmas has become one huge excuse for the retail establishment, on which we are constantly reminded that the entire US economy depends, to take money out of our pockets. Don’t think for a moment that it’s anything else. You want to put a smile on your little child’s face by buying that toy they’ve been wanting? Who do you think spent millions advertising that toy so that children everywhere would pester their parents to get it? You are a pawn in the retail game whether you like it or not.

Yes I’m a miserable bastard today, but in my defence you should have seen the idiots in the mall…

Copyright 2007 Edward Bison