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Writing Switch: Take your stocking and stuff it

Benjamin Welch and Sean Beckwith
Writing Switch

As you’ve probably realized by now, dear and fervent reader, the overarching and most commonly reoccurring theme to this column is “we hate repeating topics but coming up with new ones is hard, especially when you haven’t had any life experiences in the past 9 months because we’re actually trying to mostly follow the rules and not participate in this half-assed facade of a social scene.”

Hard to believe that we’ve watched all the seasons change through patio doors and now we’re right back to throwing snowballs at each other’s windows again. Well, hard for you to believe, maybe; we anticipated it. Optimism is perverse.

Anyway, not wanting to squander our final Writing Switch of 2020 and the best opportunity for holiday-themed hot takes, enjoy these meandering stocking stuffers of Christmas vignettes and cheers to 2021 — may you do laundry more than four times in the year to come.



The art of graciously accepting an “unpredictable” gift

SB: Ever received a gift that was so far off your gift list radar that you weren’t even aware that it was a thing? Shout out to all the surprise appliances moms get sons because they assume we can’t use a knife/do more than push like three buttons to cook a meal.



Going silent like Nebraska just gave up another touchdown to Illinois is too obvious a display of dismay, but overreacting to the point that you’re patronizing your parents is too much. There’s a happy middle ground between the two that you have to reach deep down into your soul to find (I’m assuming that’s where it is but I haven’t found it yet).

Or you can try to treat it like that thing you wanted — open up the box, flip through the reading material, fiddle with it — but that’s difficult because, what the hell, you asked for a guitar and got a juicer.

If you really want to fix being disappointed by a present, set your expectations at socks so you’ll be grateful when it’s long underwear.

The Gift of Eternal Salvation

BW: Sleeping as a child was difficult enough, mostly because my dreams were terrifying and violent (honestly it’s a miracle I turned out so normal and regular and kind, knowing what my subconscious is actually capable of). I told myself as a teen that as long as I got about six hours a night, I could mostly stumble through the next day. Now in my years of dereliction I require between 8 and 12, probably because dreams are the only form of escapism, and yet there’s still plenty of stumbling involved. Now compound all this with Christmas Eve and that present under the tree I KNOW is a Gameboy, and there will be no rest tonight. Will I start with Charmander, Bulbasaur or Squirtle?

But there is a loophole to the restlessness: the You Can Open One Present On Christmas Eve Rule. I’ll just jam my nose against the nightlight and play Pokemon on my new machine until I hear Santa rustling around downstairs.

After suffering through a candelight church service and the traditional fare of hors d’oeuvres such as smoked weenies and Swedish meatballs and celery and crap, I sat down amid my family with the gift in my lap. I tore off a strip of wrapping paper and, uh, shouldn’t there be text or pictures of Mario and Yoshi on this package? I turn it over, lift the lid and there is one picture — of Jesus cradling a lamb. I paste the “oh shit this is not what I wanted/expected” smile on my face and turn as green as the protective case.

So I lulled myself to sleep with my favorite biblical tale of Job, the guy who God smote to sate his ego and who spends the next 20-some chapters tearing his own skin off with his fingernails and screaming at the sky.

Ghost of Christmas future

SB: It’s reasonable that most of us know what our ghosts of Christmas past and present look like (past is all the times I was a little shit about getting another button-up shirt instead of a video game, and present is, I don’t know, something COVID-related), but the wildcard is the future ghost/nightmare.

So let me indulge the dark side with a little prediction for the ghost of Xmas future:

First off, I’m definitely alone. There’s no doubt about that. The nature of cynicism is a lack of sentiment, especially when it’s most prevalent.

I’m most likely still writing this column with Ben, who has done a total 180 and is now a well-manicured family man with a soft spot for all things popular. (Wait, is this Ben’s ghost of Christmas yet to come, too?)

The downtrodden, tragic aspect is I’m either crippled or being sued for crippling someone due to an on-mountain snowboard-skier crash. Or maybe I’m doing the suing and the “Generous turn” is dropping the suit. I’m not sure, it’s still in the works.

Elf on a Shelf is a Snitch and Should Be Taken Into the Alley

BW: A well-documented tidbit is that I’m really not a fan of kids. And it’s a shame I dislike children, because I would be an amazing dad. We will gloss over the fact it would be impossible for me to find someone to breed with or that I’m taking the coronavirus vaccine solely because I heard it will cause infertility, even though I’m already immune (to the virus, not infertility … I hope). Ben Junior would like the coolest sports teams, listen to the best music, receive an adequate amount of beatings and be at least half a genius, so really it’s almost like I’m cheating the universe, for once, instead of the alternative.

But the more I contemplate, I realize it’s not actually the kids themselves I have a distaste for — they’re rather succulent, actually. My theory is it’s generally their incompetent parents who turn them into little shits by causing them emotional trauma. The dinner table has barely been cleared, do you really need to start playing the “GO TO BED! ONE! TWO! TWO AND A HALF! I’M THROWING YOUR BLANKET AWAY!” game for the next five hours until they pass out on a soggy, tear-streaked pillow? JFC dude, let them watch “Scooby Doo” reruns or something for a bit, who cares? “But I had a long day, sometimes I don’t want to deal with it.” Yeah, I had a long day too, which is why I made the conscious decision (we’re still pretending it’s a decision, remember) to finish the night eating ravioli and watching TV, posting on OnlyFans, drinking beer and waking up at 6:30 a.m. drooling on the couch.

Which brings me to Elf on the Shelf.

Was it not bad enough that children had to live with the perpetual burden of Santa watching them every waking moment? Did that not scare them into docility adequately enough for you? Pardon me if my interpretation of this practice is flawed, but leave it up to a batch of millenial parents to acquaint their brood with the concept of omnipotent, in-your-face surveillance beginning at infancy. Cute game to play with your offspring, sure, but is it worth a monthlong charade of lies meant to indoctrinate them into cowering subservience to someone else’s moral ethos?

Rather, Ben Junior has a healthy disdain for authority, manners and ceremony, and exhibits calculated skepticism toward the nauseating platitudes that nursery rhymes like “Miracle on 34th Street” preach.

Anyway, that’s why I would be a good dad.

“Die Hard: Claus and Effect”

SB: The silly notion that “Die Hard” isn’t a Christmas movie even though there’s A) Christmas music, B) Themes of family reuniting over the holidays and C) A Christmas party, is erroneous. I’m not going to make the argument again because you either think a hot dog is a sandwich or you don’t.

However, everyone loves a reboot, so why not remake it so it’s irrefutably a Christmas movie.

My elevator pitch is “’Die Hard’ recast with Christmas characters.”

Here’s a quick rundown of what I was thinking for corresponding characters:

John McClane: Santa Claus

Holly Genero: Mrs. Claus/Ms. Genero

Hans Gruber: The Grinch

Sgt. Al Powell: Frosty the Snow patrolman

Harry Ellis (coked out businessman): Will Ferrell’s Elf

Karl and his brother Tony (eastern European henchmen): Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as Harry and Marv from “Home Alone”

Argyle: Cousin Eddie

Nakatomi Plaza: Santa’s workshop

It’s still in pre-production, so the minor-yet-memorable characters like the reporter (Scrooge? The Rat King?), a few more henchman and token cops/FBI guys are still being ironed out but you get the snowdrift. I think it’s a win-win all around that I fully expect Netflix to make because Disney+ doesn’t do R-rated movies.


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