Monday, December 25, 2006


So how was your Christmas or whatever it is you celebrate at this time of the year? Did you get everything you wanted? Lots of returns? Did the special someone in your life buy you cologne that gives new meaning to the term eau du toilette?

Here in Canada the day following Christmas Day is the one day of the year feared by retail sales clerks accross this great land of the maple leaf known by Canadians everywhere as Boxing Day. In fact there are probably clock-watching sales clerks biting their nails and counting down the hours and minutes until store opening time. They know that the minute the doors to their stores open up, they will be assailed with return items. This is "the" day where your bill of purchase will get you the gift you really wanted.

The line ups at the cash are monumentous and some electronic stores feature ridiculous specials at ridiculous prices with people lining up the night before to take advantage of the bargains. The parking lots turn into zoos and it's not unusual for shoppers walking to pick up their cars to be followed by a lengthy cortege of ve-hi-cles waiting to grab a prime spot. A prime spot is anywhere within a 2 minute walk to a mall entrance. We're also talking here about a four-way-confrontation and a game of "chicken" between cars to grab prime spots, not to mention "let's-sound-our-horns-as-loud-as-possible-to-show-how-tough-we-are" ploy.

In the way of background information according to the Heritage Canada site, "The day after Christmas, the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is better known as Boxing Day. The term may come from the opening of church poor boxes that day; maybe from the earthenware boxes with which boy apprentices collected money at the doors of their masters' clients. Nowadays, we often see, in certain families, gifts (boxes) given to those who provide services throughout the year."

Another source, Wikipedia, provides this information: "Commonwealth observance: Boxing Day in the UK is traditionally a day for sporting activity, originally fox hunting, but in modern times football and horse racing. Boxing Day (in French, lendemain de Noël day after Christmas) is also observed as a public holiday in Commonwealth countries, and is a day when stores sell their excess Christmas inventory at significantly reduced prices. Boxing Day has become so important for retailers that they often extend it into a "Boxing Week". This occurs similarly in Australia and New Zealand, although some Australian states, including New South Wales are tightening restrictions on Boxing Day retail trading[2], deferring the post-Christmas sales to December 27. In Australia, a test match starting on December 26th is called the Boxing Day Test Match, and is played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground before, what is typically, the largest crowd of the summer. The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is also started on this day.In Northern Ireland, all Premier League clubs in soccer-football play their biggest rivals. The most popular one is Glentoran v. Linfield, between the two biggest clubs in the country.European observance:Boxing Day is a holiday of peculiarly British origin, but in most years it falls on the same day as the Feast of St. Stephen (St. Stephen's Day - 26th December).In Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Poland, Slovakia, and Sweden, the 26th is known as the Second day of Christmas (der zweite Weihnachtsfeiertag in Germany; Annandag Jul in Sweden; Andre Juledag in Norway; Tweede Kerstdag in the Netherlands; Annar dagur jóla in Iceland; Tapaninpäivä (St. Stephen's Day) in Finland; Karácsony másnapja in Hungary) and is also a public holiday.In Ireland, the 26th December is known as St Stephen's Day, or Wren's Day; in Austria it is called Stefanitag, in Italy Santo Stefano; in Wales, it is known as Gŵyl San Steffan (St. Stephen's Holiday). In Catalonia, this day is known as Sant Esteve, Catalan for St. Stephen. A practice known as Hunt the Wren is still practiced by some in the Isle of Man, where people thrash out wrens from hedgerows. Traditionally they were killed and their feathers presented to households for good luck. In Ireland, children used to kill a wren, then take its body from door-to-door, begging for money which they would use (supposedly) to pay for the bird's funeral. In Germany the days between Christmas and new year are called "the days between the years" (zwischen den Jahren) and becoming more and more important for retailers to clear the unsold Christmas goods.Canadian observanceIn Canada, Boxing Day is observed as a holiday, except for those in the retail business. Boxing Day and the days immediately following are when many retail stores sell their Christmas and retired model products by holding clearance sales. Some shoppers will line up for hours at night (sometimes before midnight and after midnight on December 26) for retailers to open their doors. Except in Quebec, Retailers often open their stores earlier than usual, such as 6 or 7 am. Some retail companies internally refer to the sales week after Christmas as the "thirteenth month." (See Boxing Week.) It is similar to Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) in the United States. Boxing Day 2005 was the single largest economic transaction day ever in the history of Canadian commerce (according to Visa). Individual big box stores can even gross over $1,000,000(CAN) on one single boxing day. However, in a few cities retail stores are still not permitted to open on Boxing Day because of municipal regulations; in those cities, Boxing Day sales begin on December 27."

Personally, I think that Boxing Day got its name from people trying to secure a place in line at the return counter.

Rather than fight the crowds a better or more efficient idea would be to do a gift exchange with people standing in the return line.

"Attention everyone in line!" a return-ee might yell out. "I have a beautiful wool-like scarf with a red snowman motif, which I'm willing to part with for a pair of mitts. Anyone?"

"I might be interested," someone else could yell out. "How about trading it for a pair of hand-knit-by-my-mother-in-laws-own-hands wool gloves with two extra fingers on the right hand?"

At least it will help pass the time if nothing else plus there's the added benefit of having one less gift to give for the next year. Did I mention I have a pair of glow-in-the-dark earrings bought by an acquaintance while vacationing in Roswell? Do we have a deal? Please?

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Getting tum-tum-tum-tum'd-out doing last minute Christmas - ooops - that should read holiday shopping? Feeling more than a little jingle-bell-rock'd fighting the crowd for last-minute electronic specials? It all gets a little too much some times given that the sounds of Christmas begin their rotation over-and-over the mall sound systems right after Halloween. Interesting thought that nobody has gone politically correct over this holiday. Happy Halloween is Happy Halloween, period.

For a change of pace - and a smile - I came accross some adaptations of well-known Christmas songs with some interesting lyrics . Sing 'em out loud! Merry Christmas...Seasons Greetings...whatever.

(sung to Let It Snow)

Oh the weather outside is warming
And consensus, it is forming
It's time for Al Gore's refrain:
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.
The polar ice caps are shrink-ing
And the polar bears are sink-ing
It's 80 degrees in Maine
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.
When it finally gets too hot
The oceans will sweep us a-way
But if you say that they will not-
There's work in the Bush EPA!
Though the glaciers are getting goopy
And the tundra's chicken sou-py
In my Hummer I can't complain
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.

O' KFC - the Transfat Song
(sung to Oh Christmas Tree)

Oh KFC, oh KFC
How trans-fat free your chick-en!
You saw that you
Filled veins with glue
And watched as hearts stopped tick-in.
But now that you're a healthy franch
Your customers don't buy the ranch
Oh KFC, oh KFC,
We're liking what we're licking!

Cruise control
(sung to the tune of I'll Be Home for Christmas, before the recent nuptials)
I'll wed Holmes by Christmas
You can count on me
Then folks will say,
"He's not gay
He's straight as straight can be."
Christmas Eve will find me
Oh so heter-o
I'll be straight by Christmas
As far as you will know.

Friday, December 22, 2006


So…what’s your password? Or to re-phrase it: what are your passwords? It’s a good question for lots of people these days especially when a large portion of bills are paid through Internet on-line banking. Factor in those pesky e-mail passwords and there’s a lot of data to remember.

Logically, the easiest solution would be to use the same password for everything but that would be too simple. Given the plethora of scams around these days many of us create different passwords to ensure that nobody can access our private business. Not even us. Neither are they written down anywhere as a protection measure in case somebody breaks into the house and just happens upon them. This means having to rely strictly on memory. Not a good idea.

Depending on the nature of the subject there’s that lengthy period of guessing while attempting to narrow down the word through word association. For example, electricity equals light, which in turn may or could be ‘power.’ After a lengthy period of ‘guess-the-word,’ the term “incorrect password” takes on a new meaning. It’s akin to swatting a pesky fly in the dark.

Having to request a new password is an admission that we’re victims of the aging process and the various e-mail providers and sites requiring passwords want to help us out. “Lost your password?” or “can’t remember your password?” or “re-set your password?” are some of the more common and helpful phrases. Can’t speak for others but there’s something defeatist bordering on taunting in having to send back an electronic message that we need a memory jogger - again.

According to WikiHow ( a sub-section of Wikipedia, there are certain steps that can be taken to improve our memories. One of their suggestions, which is already part of my lifestyle is to keep the brain active by developing memory skills like crossword puzzles. As a regular fan of the New York Times crossword puzzle I'm a whiz at solving the grid on Mondays and Tuesdays, sometimes on Wednesdays and some Thursdays but on Fridays - forgetaboutit! But then I have the Internet to help fill in the blanks and I don't even need a password! Other suggestions include regular exercise, healthy diet and to repeat things to ourselves that we want to remember. This could prove to be embarassing when meeting an old friend who could be addressed by an old password instead of their proper name.

"Why hello there, theatre-lover thespian. Long time no see!" a person could blurt out.

It couldn't be an accident that car manufacturers have included a button on the key pad to enable owners to find their car and there is an increasing amount of electronic gadgets on the market to help baby boomers remember things. Okay. I will admit to using it. It's easier than going through an entire parking lot checking the license plates!

Meanwhile, my New Year's resolution is to remember my passwords, whatever they are.

Some sites worth visiting with memory tips:

e-how (offers 20 quick ideas that successful people use)

How To Keep Your Mind Sharp

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


After years of freelance writing someone - and a really big someone - has finally acknowledged my presence. I'm talking here about TIME magazine naming me "Person of the Year." Actually, I've always known that I was a good writer but now a prestigeous magazine has confirmed what I've always known: I'm a damned good writer!

I'm assuming that the powers-that-be who work at the publication have been reading and following my output, which includes articles on gardening how-to, bathroom commentary, rants about life in general, my plays and my progress in attempting to get them produced, pets, humor pieces...

I mean, how else could they recognize writing genius when they read it?

Actually, everyone who has ever surfed the Internet and posted something on the information highway is being acknowledged. This includes sites that purport the content is written by cats and/or dogs and/or birds.

This long overdue personal recognition now means that I can add this accomplishment to my CV. For sure it will make a difference when an editor or publisher reads a submitted article.

"Oh!" the editor will say out loud or to himself. "For sure I'm going to use this writer's work after receiving this prestigious award. And Time magazine no less."

It will also make a big difference as to whether one of my plays will be produced.

"Look at this," a BS (big shot) theatre producer will say during a session of selecting plays for their upcoming season. "This playwright must have something special if Time has chosen her as Person of the Year. Put this in the "maybe" file."

I don't want to appear mercenary or anything but I'm wondering if there's any monetary compensation that goes along with the award. If so and given the number of people who are surfing around the world who join me in this honor, hopefully the magazine has a big budget. A really big budget.

Meanwhile I'm preparing myself for the onslaught of offers to publish that is sure to follow. Just sign me...

Eleanor Tylbor
Time Person of the Year