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Do you know Santa?

Asks an eight-year old...

Two little brown eyes stared at me as I stood in line at the supermarket. She stared for a long time. Little girls have a habit of doing this, until they turn 12, at which point I seem to become either hideous or invisible or both.

Finally, the little girl marched up to me and asked, "Do you know Santa Claus?"

My first thought was, "Yes, of course," and that's what I said.

She took this opportunity to ask what was clearly a burning question, "Does he have pretzels?"

Once again, fast on my feet, I replied, "Yes, many types. The elves like the little mini ones. Santa likes the big soft ones. And the reindeer prefer pretzel sticks."

She smiled as if she'd been waiting her entire life to get someone to answer this question (I mean, you can't even find it on Wikipedia, so it's not exactly common knowledge).

Flush with that success, she asked "Does Santa eat cereal?"

Since I've been taking acting classes (and getting leads in feature films, more on that in the next SchmoozeLetter), I silently created an instant backstory that I was one of Santa's old school friends who visited him every couple of years at the North Pole when global warming was getting too much for me.

I thought about breakfast with St. Nick and announced, "Sometimes. Sometimes he has eggs, or waffles."

The little girl nodded as if to say, "how interesting."

She probed further, "Does he cover his cereal with chocolate?"

I thought back to my childhood with Santa, as well as my actual childhood and never once recalled wanting to put chocolate on my cereal, though I did eat chocolate cereal called Coco Puffs. My honest reply, "Not that I can remember."

Seeing as how I was clearly a font of knowledge, she continued on with questions that seem to have plagued her.

"Does he wear underpants?" she asked, as if she was concerned about this for some reason, perhaps something to do with itchy woolen trousers.

I had, frankly, never thought about Santa's undergarments, so I could only venture a guess (as if my previous answers had been solid fact gleaned from first-hand experience) "I am not sure as I've never asked, but I think so."

Now she ventured further into into private matters, "Does he use the potty? Mommy said everybody does."

Once again, I'd never even thought of the Jolly Old Elf on the john. Nor had I seen it addressed in any classic Coca-cola ad which basically invented the current image of Santa. But, since Santa is, of course, a real person (if elves count as people, and I'm sure Hermione Granger would have something to say about that), then my only possible answer was, "Yes, everyone does, though I have not personally witnessed Santa on the potty."

I added the last part just to make it more plausible, and because I didn't want her to think it was socially acceptable to watch your friends do their business.

She tilted her head and asked, "Is he your brother?"

I shook my head, "No, though this is a common misconception, and understandable given our physical similarities."

This was met with a look that clearly said, "Huh?"

I tried again, "No, but people sometimes think we look like brothers."

Her questions came faster, "What does he smell like?"

No brainer--"Cookies, of course."

"That's what I thought." (That's why it was a no-brainer)

My cell phone rang. She eyed me up and down, "Can you call him right now on your cell phone so I can say Hi?"

"No, the cell phone doesn't work at the north pole. But I'll say hi when I see him."

Her mouth dropped open, and after a few frozen seconds, she whispered, "Really?!?"

"Really," I said, truthfully, because I will say "hi" from her the very next time I see him. It's not the kind of thing I'd forget, even under those circumstances.

With that final thrill she was fresh out of questions. Except one:

"Do you like donuts?" she asked--of me, personally.

"Yes, I do, but I prefer brownies," I replied honestly, because I really do prefer brownies as any sane person should. Less grease, more chocolate, no contest. And don't just take it from me, Santa prefers brownies, too.

She looked bored. Despite being only one degree away from the jolly elf, I was clearly no Santa.

"Bye," she said, turning her interest to chocolate breakfast cereal I know Santa
would enjoy because I remember eating it the last time I was at the north pole.

So if you ask me if I believe in Santa, I can only answer "yes," because he's a friend of mine. And hopefully yours.

Daniel Will-Harris

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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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My friend, Molli Nickell, is a former publisher who's launched a cyber college that teaches writers how to get published.

If you're a writer and have a manuscript ready to be shown to an agent, editor or publisher, Molli can help you with that process. Her site will teach you about the marketing documents you must learn to craft in order to shift from being a writer to becoming a published author. As an introductory special, Molli's offering FREE query letter evaluations. No kidding. They're free. Plus, she has samples of evaluated query letters on the site to help you learn the basics about writing your query . Reading these evaluated queries demonstrates how skillful and effective Molli is as a teacher. She also gives presentations and leads marketing workshops at writer's conferences all over the country. Check out the site. Read every page. www.getpublishednow.bizᅠ  Tell her Daniel sent you.

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OK, so you're going to return some of your presents and want to use the ill-gotten gains to buy something more your style. Well, you may very well want one of these wonderful books:

JUDGE THIS BOOK BY ITS COVER: "Guess Who?" The many faces of Noma Bar. Bar is a young illustrator who creates funny and remarkably minimal caricatures. With just a few lines, symbols and sometimes letters or numbers, Bar creates portraits that are instantly recognizable, funny, and often add a layer of biting commentary about a person. For example, Stephen King's eyes are hatchets, his mouth a line of blood cut with a dagger. Einstein's face is made up of an atom, Elvis's trademark sunglasses are made from a guitar, and David Beckham's eyes and mouth appear out of a large British pound symbol. If you're a designer you'll find them inspiring. If you're not, you'll find them clever, funny and a book that can double as a party game! Under $15 on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/386roy


DESIGNING DESIGN by Kenya Hara - A plain white cover with some black text in Helvetica. That's the dust jacket cover of a design book? If I'd judged the book solely by the cover I would have missed what is actually a quite unique and wonderful book about design.

The cloth-bound cover itself is also all type, but now white type embossed into a white cover--not the most readable (though you can read it) but in a way the essence of this book--minimal, elegant, playful, clever and thought-provoking.

This understated and often witty approach is a refreshing antidote to the frantic overkill that constitutes much of the commercial design we're bombarded with hundreds of times a day.

Like the cover, the text can be mysterious. When I first read the preface I balked. But I was intrigued and read it again and this time, it was surprising and beautiful.

"To understand something is not to be able to define it or describe it. Instead, taking something that we think we know already and making it unknown thrills us afresh with its reality and deepens our understanding." It's almost as if he's talking about a Claes Oldenburg sculpture which takes a common object and shows it to us in a gigantic size that makes us see it in a new light--yet the designs and ideas featured in the book give us this new perspective right on a printed page.

You're not going to see innovative typography in this book (though the book itself is beautifully designed, typeset and produced). But you are going to see stunningly understated photography and a Japanese approach to design that can be an inspiration everywhere in the world. For more info: http://www.lars-mueller-publishers.com

On Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/yv3acc

In Germany: http://tinyurl.com/yu74gb

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FREE FONTS AND Windows Vista Office compatibility):

Perhaps someone has sent you a file ending in .DOCX and your version of office won't open it. Or they've used one of Windows Vista many excellent new fonts and you don't have them. Now you can solve both problems at once by downloading the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack (which lets older versions of Office open the documents that use the new Office file formats): http://tinyurl.com/3xr4tt

If you don't have office but want to be able to view PowerPoint files (and who doesn't!), you can download the PowerPoint Viewer 2007:  http://tinyurl.com/u5bsa .

Both these downloads include all the new fonts designed for Windows Vista, except for the Cariadings dingbat font.

The catch? The downloads are .EXE files that only work under Windows. So if you have a Mac you'll either need Parallels or Boot Camp, or a Windows friend you haven't mocked or can be bribed to help you.

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Dry Skin? This stuff works:

If you have dry skin, the best cure I've found is a plain bottle of soothing, cooling lotion called Xenolyn. Made in small batches by Rick Bibb, an 8 ounce bottle costs just $7 with shipping. It contains both lanolin and menthol, so it cools and soothes. It also makes the best aftershave I've ever used! E-mail Rick at arbilab@tx.rr.com and tell him I sent you.

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Looking for some great music? Standards, vocals, swing? http://www.martiniinthemorning.com/

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P. S.

One little tidbit to ease your mind. He doesn't see you when you're sleeping or know when you're awake. That would just be creepy. As for knowing if you've been bad or good, well, come on, only you, in your heart of hearts know that, and if you're lucky it'll stay that way and the new year will bring a renewed interest in personal civil liberties without any loopholes or presidential signing "clauses." HAPPY NEW YEAR, my friend.




Like the stories? Buy the book!

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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2008, 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.