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FA LA LA LA LA,
BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH

Every year, just a couple of days before Christmas, my wife announces, "It's time for us to write our annual holiday letter so our friends will get it before Christmas." Naturally this leaves plenty of time to write, edit, design, print, address and mail. It helps to know that while she tries to find the holiday cards, the deadline may be extended to January 1st, and, in certain circumstances, Valentines Day. I find this a good idea, as getting an annual holiday letter in March or April makes it stand out from the crowd of letters that arrive, prosaically, during December.

I try to ignore this because I never know what to say. She asks me how I'm doing with the writing, and I ask "How are you doing with the cards?" This is code for, "Have you found the cards yet?" She collects them all year, then squirrels them away "someplace safe" which means they might only be found should we have to move to another house, or be struck by a tornado, or perhaps not even then.

Once she finds the cards I have another grace period: she has to sort the cards into ones she must keep and those she can bear to part with. And bears inevitably play an important part in this process.

"Look at these polar bear cards!" she exclaims," and with good reason--those adorable polar bears look so sweet you just want to invite them for dinner, even though, rationally, you realize that dinner might be you.

If the polar bear happens to be hugging something, then the jig is up, "You're going to send this out?" I ask, innocently enough. "No, not that one," she's forced to reply, as she finds one where the polar bears show signs of being real life vicious creatures, in which case they are perfect to share for the holiday.

"What about those nuzzling bunnies?" I test her. "Um, I have six of those, I might send one." Might being the key word. So, if you happen to get a cute card, then you are a truly favored individual.

And if your polar bear's a little worse for wear, well, consider yourself special enough that she would turn loose of it at all.

Now, back to the letter, which is my responsibility/problem. What to say? If we had kids I could easily write pages about their brilliance and beauty and feel just fine about it--that's what parents are supposed to do. My beautiful and brilliant niece, Ocea, just had a beautiful and surely brilliant daughter, Violet and both are doing great. Ocea is so calm and sweet about motherhood that she's verging on Virgin Mary territory, except that I suspect her husband, Stirling, had a little something to do with the baby because it conveniently looks just like him.

Lacking progeny, we are only left to write about pets--which is also perfectly acceptable if you have dogs or cats but in our case, we have two rodents, which makes it a touchy subject.

I am as proud as a peacock to announce that my honor-student Chinchilla celebrated his 15th birthday without ever turning into an evil teen. And he's establishing a credit rating! He received his first credit card. It's in his name and everything. They sent an application and he filled it out with my help (he's penmanship leaves a little to be desired, but hey, he's little). The card is platinum, just like he is, so it's all very color coordinated and apparently quite tasty, as he never tires of chewing on it (it just tasted like plastic to me). Though the Guinness Book doesn't have an entry for this, at 1.5 pounds I believe he weighs less than any credit card holder this side of Nicole Ritchie and the Olsen Twins, combined.

Our most recent rodent is a 1 oz. pygmy hamster from Russia. Well, not directly from Russia, we assume he was born somewhere in the US as he doesn't have an accent, but doesn't have a birth certificate, either, so anything's possible which adds to the excitement. His major accomplishment so far is that he hasn't yet escaped and built a teensy Cossack village by chewing his way under a sofa. Something to look forward to in 2007.

Now, about ourselves, here's where it gets tricky. I could write about going to Yellowstone and getting a kidney stone, but somehow this just doesn't scream holiday spirit. I could talk about trips to Durango or Chicago, both of which end in "oh," but "so"? They're both great places but I don't want to inflict a slide show on you.

We went to see a lot of theater: Lestat (le stunk); Martin Short's Fame Becomes Me (somewhat unbecoming); the 26th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (can you spell "hilarious?); Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands Ballet (brilliant); Argonautika (acrobatic theatrics in Chicago); and finally Jersey Boys (great, and the audience reacted as if Oprah had just given them all new cars).

I could talk about personal accomplishments, like my wristwatch design, Reveal, being one of the Museum of Modern Art in New York's best selling items and explaining how you can see it at here . I could wax rhapsodic about my brand new watch design that's strikingly unique, like a mobile you wear on your wrist, and you can see it here. All very exciting, but putting it in a Christmas letter just seems too self-aggrandizing.

I don't mind writing that my barbershop quartet, "With Relish," has begun a fabulously successful world tour, if you consider performing within 50 miles of home as the start of a the tour. We sang at the Marin Civic center, on the same stage where huge stars have appeared, though not at the same time as us. We performed Christmas Eve at an exclusive dinner attended by not one, not two, but three movie stars, along with screenwriters and directors, who shall remain nameless because they were extremely nice and deserve a break from the paparazzi and press.

To our amazement as much as everyone else's, we actually sounded pretty good. You can hear a recording, live from the Marin Civic Center, here (save it to your iPod, send it to your friends!) (1.6MB). That's me, singing lead and sounding, in other people's words, like Neil Sedaka. That's like giving you a free gift, so it doesn't count as bragging.

And you can hear a funny song I wrote called "I wanna be a cowboy" that was recorded by the brilliant Dave Marchant of the Raytown Kiwanis Orchestra and can be download for free and enjoyed all year long another free MP3 chalk-full of high-class entertainment value.

So, I hope this year was good for you, and next year is even better. I hope you can avoid kidney stones but not Yellowstone, realize time is precious no matter how it looks on your watch (and remember, it'll look better on one of mine), and you go through a year with a song in your heart if not on your lips (or iPod). Oh, and may all your Christmases be white, except those of you who don't live in snow country or celebrate Christmas, in which case I wish you a retro, multi-colored holiday.

 

Read about my latest movie role (you read that right), here!

XARA, THE WORLD'S BEST GRAPHICS PROGRAM GETS BETTER

I've used an illustration program called Xara for many years and still say it's the best graphic program in the world (and I've used almost all of them).

Things like transparency and anti-aliasing are live in real time so what you see when you work is exactly what you see when you export graphics for web or print.

Xara Xtreme Pro's new features include the ability to create industry standard PDF/X files (for spot-on printed output). It's easy to import and export Photoshop PSD, and Acrobat PDF files. Create multi-page files with text that flows for page layout-like power.

REVOLUTIONARY: Xara Pro offers a truly inspired and easy new way to make Flash animations. Just name objects, create a new "frame," then move, rotate, size or make other changes and Xara automatically tweens the objects, text, even photos smoothly from one frame to another. The results are perfect, compact SWF flash files you can drop onto any web page.

There's no faster or easier way to create custom Flash animations.

Combine that with Xara's other lightning fast and bulletproof features, and you have the best graphics program on the planet. Download a free trial.

GIVE HOPE

http://www.heifer.org/ You can change lives and bring hope and possibility to the people who need it most by giving the gift of an animal to a needy family. Heifer has helped more than five million families become self-reliant. Gifts start at $20 for chicks. It's a great gift for the person who has everything, for the person who doesn't. http://www.heifer.org/ or call them at 1-800-422-0474.

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DO GOOD WITH A CLICK

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P. S.
HAPPY NEW YEAR

May 2007 bring you health, wealth and much happiness. Or at least two of the three.
 

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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2007, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.