Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas parties and gift exchanges

So just about every year no matter where I'm working there tends to be a holiday party with a gift exchange, usually with a $20 or $25 price tag. Lately they've been White Elephant, although you also might still find the "drawing names and getting a gift for someone specifically" style. Either way, I have been on a mission the last few Christmases to get the worst possible gift- without making it seem like I'm trying to bring a bad gift. Through years of trial and error I've refined it to the point where it's an art form, and I think I'm finally ready to spread my irreverent manner of holiday cheer.

Some of the ideas I'm about to present I like better than others. Some work more as a personal gift in the name-drawing method, some are more suited to the White Elephant, and some have crossover appeal. In any event I hope you find even a fraction of the amusement in reading the list as I did in compiling it.

And like I said, there was a good deal of trial and error involved, which is of course ongoing. For example, one of my first ideas was a hit of ecstasy- usually available for $20 to $25 (or so I've been told)- but then I thought "Hey, that's actually an awesome gift." Back then when I first set out on this worst-possible-gift journey, I was operating under a looser guideline of least-appropriate-gift. Amusing as that was, it didn't feel right to have the gift be something that someone would actually want. Thus the quest evolved.

Another early inspiration (after transitioning form inappropriate to unwanted) was found driving down the freeway. As I passed a U-Haul truck on the road, I couldn't help but notice the "$19.95 rental!" offer emblazoned on the side. What a perfect fit for my price range, I thought to myself.

And so begins the game, again keeping in mind that the gift has to seem thoughtful. If it was as easy as getting something useless you could just pick up a DVD of Glitter and be done. But there's no art in that. No finesse.

That being said, if you don't care for one of the ideas or if you see room for improvement, leave a comment. And if your comment is really good, you may find yourself the recipient of a special gift next year.

A U-Haul truck. Make certain it's accompanied by a note that says "return by noon tomorrow with a full tank of gas."
A coupon for 12 minutes of therapy. The guise of helpfulness or concern, and the unspoken suggestion that someone needs that kind of help.
A 5-gallon jug of gasoline. The high-octane stuff, don't chintz on quality.
2 large pizzas. Better if you get somewhat unusual toppings. Not too fucked up though, don't kill the gag. Best thing about this is that by the time your gift is opened it'll be cold.
A syringe and a vial of flu vaccine.
A $20 gift certificate to Bo-Rics. This works on so many levels- the thought that anyone would willingly go to Bo-Rics, the fact that it likely won't cover an appointment, and the backhanded complement that you think their hair needs improvement.
A puppy. Because who doesn't like puppies? Better yet- a pound dog. A pretty mangy one, too. I love this idea because it's sooo presumptive, that the recipient even wants a dog.
A $20 Christmas tree. Again, it'll seem thoughtful but it's hugely presumptive.
A box of condoms or a carton of cigarettes. Especially good for a "name-drawing" type of party.
A bootleg DVD of whatever hot blockbuster movie just opened, complete with shoddily (but not too much so) handmade cover and case.
Something- and here's where you can exercise your own creativity- that you can withhold part of. Like a cake with a slice gone, a chess set minus the bishops, a CD boxed set missing one of the discs. And earnestly explain that the missing piece is due to the fact that it was priced slightly above the pre-determined budget.
When all else fails, go to a pawn shop and ask "What can I get for $20?" Perhaps better- a gift certificate to the pawn shop, with the suggestion that their money can go farther there.

So that's my own personal game I play every year. I cannot stress enough that the gift has to appear thoughtful or the ruse becomes transparent.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


It's that time of year, bitches! And for those of you who don't know-

We created NOODGE as the antithesis to the consumer whore-dom of Christmas when we got tired of the insane crowds, the capitalistic urgency, and the requisite feeling that Corporate America was telling us that we just had to get each other the best, hottest, most perfect gift currently on the market.

Our non-commercial, non-religious, omni-cultural festivity is an acronym for Neutrally Organized Observation of Days for General Enjoyment. It's our new end of year holiday, and can be celebrated pretty much anytime in late December. Notice it's plural. It can be one day or several. For us, we prefer to celebrate NOODGE anytime we have the opportunity to take days off, or if we just plain want to ditch work. It's a time for relaxing, not shopping, not stressing, not fighting crowds... and enjoying people who bring joy and happiness to your life. It's all about leisure activity: renting movies, sleeping in, spending time with friends and family, frisbee, bar crawls, golfing, strip clubs, shopping.... No judgment. Whatever you like. Sure, shopping was one of the reasons we started NOODGE, but if you enjoy it and you can handle the crowds, cheers.

No gift giving is undertaken... in fact, giving of material gifts undermines the spirit of NOODGE. It's not at all about materialism. However, in the spirit of appreciating the things for which we're happy in life, it is definitely acceptable and encouraged to reach out to those less fortunate... Then again, the NOODGE is not the boss of you. If you want to throw the bitchinest beer bash of the year, or lose a skullful of brain cells in Vegas, that could be NOODGEriffic too.

If you're gonna give a NOODGE card, make your own. Creativity is one of the driving forces behind NOODGE. So don't buy some crappy, Hallmark junk; not that anyone makes NOODGE cards anyway. No specific decorations to be hauled out annually either. I do like to design a NOODGE shirt every year though. This year's design is below. What's that? The previous paragraph railed against materialism? Fuck it- our holiday, our rules. Also, I would recommend a big mug for cocoa or moonshine whatever it is you drink. A big mug means fewer refills!

Since most holidays seem to have totems or patrons, we have chosen "the dude" as the mascot of NOODGE. The dude and his old lady are the harbingers of mellowness and tolerance, peace and love, representing the antithesis of all that's wrong with commercial holidays. But be forewarned... if you have not been groovy this year, the dude will visit your house during NOODGE and piss on your rug.

One more thing about the timing of NOODGE... you can take a "floating NOODGE" anytime during the year if circumstances are right. Time off, impromptu gatherings, just plain feeling like it...

When celebrating NOODGE with others, try to keep it distinct from the other holidays. Don't use "happy" or "merry" in front of it. We'd like to maintain it's spirit of vitality.


'09 NOODGE shirt

I usually have the shirts on Cafepress, but they didn't like my use of the Fight Club logo so they yanked this one. Same thing that happened to my '07 NOODGE shirt.

Older Noodge shirts can be seen here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cloud Cult is effing amazing

My favorite lyrics at the moment, "Where It Starts" by Cloud Cult-

I found god at the stroke of midnight with your tongue in my mouth, on New Year's Eve

I found god when I was twelve with my cousin, trying to get a buzz from shots of listerine

I found god in a Dr.Suess book

I found god in a dirty magazine

I found god in the words of Steve Miller: I really like your peaches, wanna shake your tree

I found god on a Wednesday afternoon, drinking boxed wine and wishing you would call me

I found god in the middle of the woods, spitting at the stars and making love to a tree

I found god when I quit smoking cigarettes

I found god in a bag of weed

I found god in the back of my head: Too scared to even talk to you, but dreaming you would marry me

I could find god if I could taste you

I could find god if you'd lay down next to me

I could find god in your secret places

I could find god if you'd only talk to me

I found god in the back of my head: too scared to even talk to you, but dreaming you would marry me
I found god in the words of Steve Miller: I really like your peaches, wanna shake your tree


This is a band my wife turned me on to a couple years back, and they never cease to blow me away with their music. I could probably write a freaking thesis on how amazing they are. That is, if I had the time, the patience, and the focus. I'm pretty sure that if ADD exists- which I don't necessarily believe it does, I think it's a cultural/societal phenomenon rooted in technology and our Western lifestyle in general, fast-paced as it is- I've got it in fucking spades. Shit. What was I talking about?

Oh yeah... Anyway, they are such talented musicians. They are literally uncategorizable. That's right, new word. Their music crosses almost all genres, they have so many different styles that you honestly can't pigeonhole them into one particular type of music.

And they are such passionate musicians, I think that's the thing that really hooks me in. Their music is just so magical and overflowing with pure emotion, the intensity is palpable. It's just a visceral experience; the only musical accomplishment that surpasses them for sheer emotional content and intensity is Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt." I swear, I can't even listen to that song without first steeling myself for the experience lest I be overwhelmed by the magnificent sadness of that performance.

With Cloud Cult, so much of their music is permeated by that raw, driving emotion. There are songs of theirs that I know I can turn on and change my mood if need be. Another favorite of mine:

Like some kind of sonic drug, they just wash away all the superficial, dramatic bullshit and leave me basking in the glow of their delicately powerful aura. Not to say that the emotion is always positive; much of their music has a melancholy to it that Billy Corgan would trade his right arm for. Especially poignant are the songs they (or rather, "he," meaning Craig Minowa, the heart and soul of the band) wrote about their (Craig and his wife, Connie) son Kaiden, who died when he was 2. Craig wrote literally hundreds of songs about the tragedy- none that are really obvious in meaning on the surface- and he pours his heart into them. The best example of which is the song "Your Eighth Birthday," which is not only written for (as the title implies, 5 years after he died) but sung to his departed son. The lyrics are so childishly silly, perfectly capturing the innocence of youth, but still profoundly sad. I mean, just listen to the beautiful pain in his voice as he calls his son's name in the chorus, with an intensity that almost feels strong enough to pierce the veil between our world and the afterlife, letting his too-soon-departed son know that he is still greatly loved and even more greatly missed:

Holy. Shit. Gives me goosebumps just listening to it. Just amazing. Nothing else I write (nor anything I've written so far) can possibly capture the essence of what their music does for me. So I'll just be done.

Wait, one more nugget of the intricate link between love and sorrow- After Kaiden died, Craig and Connie split up. A fate none too surprising for couples who suffer that tragedy. But after splitting up, they eventually reunited and are now expecting another baby.

There is so much more that's cool about Cloud Cult- from the live paintings that are performed on stage at all their concerts, to the massive efforts they put into being a truly green band- that they definitely deserve all the success they achieve. Check them out.