Your Holiday Gift Advisor

Selecting the perfect gift for a friend or family member is a sign that you care for them in a very special way.  Your Holiday Gift Advisor is here to help you find just the right present to make this holiday season a memorable one.

In happier times.


Dear Holiday Gift Advisor:

Last Christmas I gave my wife a nice wicker basket filled with batteries of various sizes–D, AA, AAA and those hard-to-find kind you put in smoke detectors.  She didn’t seem too excited, and has been very mopey and sarcastic ever since, saying things like “I wonder what Mr. Thoughtful has in mind this year?” when she leaves the room to get another Nehi Diet Orange Soda.

HGA–this is contrary to the advice you gave me in November of ’15, which was that women appreciated the thought and effort you put into a gift and didn’t care about luxury.  We are a young couple just starting out, and those batteries will come in handy as we live in a tornado-prone area of the country and must make sure that our flashlights and radio are available in an emergency.

Lyle Oderberg, Shawnee-Mission, KS

Saving to get ahead.


Dear Lyle:

I have researched my files and you misconstrued my comment, I suspect deliberately.  I said “women appreciate the thought and effort you put into a gift perhaps more than any other consideration.”  Careful planning for a natural disaster is no excuse for being a cheapskate, and you probably could have found a nice dish rack or pot scrubber just a few aisles over from the batteries.

“If I was you I’d git him one of those Chia Pets.”


Dear Mr./Ms. Holiday Gift Advisor:

My nephew is a senior in high school and I want to do something special for him this Christmas in recognition of this milestone.  My brother-in-law, whom I will call “Earl,” has given me a list that includes all sorts of video games, “rap” CDs and a “Jackass Boxed Set,” whatever that is.  I was thinking more along the lines of a monogrammed wallet or a nice pen-and-pencil set.  I personally have always thought my sister married beneath herself, but I do not want to offend Earl needlessly.  Can you suggest a compromise that is both dignified and consistent with the white trash tastes that my nephew has apparently picked up from his father?

Miss Jane Heloise Putnam, Dubuque, Iowa

Jackass stunt.


Dear Miss Putnam:

You seem to have an overdeveloped sense of propriety–lighten up!  The youth of today are the hope of the future, and childhood is but a fleeting moment in the sunshine before the twilight and eventual gloom of adult responsibilities.  Here are three gift suggestions that bridge the chasm between adolescence and apparent maturity:

Hip-hop, yet tasteful.

Notorious B.I.G. autograph model chain wallet.  The fashion accessory no “gangsta rapper” should be without!  $24.95, firearm not included.

Tells the world you have so much money you can afford to blow it on stupid stuff.

Adult model “Jackass” pen by Mont Blanc.  The writing instrument of choice for overpaid professionals around the world.  Retails for $1,200.

World’s most expensive hand-held video game.

Specially-modified, gold-plated Game Boy. Comes with “rumble pack” and three-family apartment building.  $25,000.


Dear Your Holiday Gift Advisor Person:

I have been asked to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding.  I say “friend” but in fact this girl Danielle is getting married to a guy I dated for two years in high school.  I’m thinking if I have to contribute to her bridal shower I shouldn’t have to buy her a Christmas gift too, especially since it could be me getting married instead of her.  What do you think?

Cindy Dworpkin, Youngstown, OH

Cindy Dear–

I understand your sense of double-resentment.  Bridal showers are getting out of hand, with the old-style potluck lunch going the way of wedding-day virginity.  Here’s a tip for the frugal-minded: Have one of the other bridesmaids bring a nice floral centerpiece, divert everyone’s attention by dropping a glass of red wine on the carpet, take the flowers into the bathroom and turn them into a beautiful hat for your two-timing friend.  When she puts it on, she’ll really be a blushing bride!

Dad’s bass boat:  He *sniff* never got to use it.


Dear Holiday Gift Advisor:

My husband is one of six children, and his brothers and sisters persuaded him to “pitch in” on a bass boat for their father for Christmas.  Long story short, we wrote a check for $3,000 towards a used Skeeter SX-20, which his brother Lowell bought in his own name to “keep it a surprise.”  Next thing that happens is his dad goes and dies of a heart attack last week when his beloved Kansas City Chiefs lost their fourth straight game to the crappy New York Jets to knot their record at .500 after a 5-0 start!  Now Lowell is in the cat bird’s seat because the boat is in his name, and he’s offering to “buy us out” for $2,000 because he says he did all the leg work.  I don’t think that’s fair–what are your thoughts?

Jeannie Sue Moore, Knob Noster, Missouri

“Yoo-hoo, Lowell!  Can we go for a ride in your boat?”


Dear Jeannie Sue–

If you look deep within your heart I think you can understand how the loss of his father could make Lowell distraught and irrational, and lash out at other family members in this fashion.  I would suggest that you contact the Johnson County District Attorney and ask him if Lowell may have violated any laws by applying for a boat title in his name with your money–there is nothing to bring a grieving relative to his senses like a knock on the door from the sheriff’s department!

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”


Volunteers Gird for Busy Season Saving “Rescue Fruitcakes”

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.  In a non-descript building in this western suburb of Boston, the stress of the holiday season is apparent on the forehead of Mark Foutreau as he barks into his landline.  “We need somebody to cover the South Shore,” he says with a no-nonsense tone.  “I can’t spare anybody in MetroWest until after Christmas.”

Framingham, Mass.: They could afford nicer offices if you’d donate some money.


Foutreau’s mission is not retail sales, however, despite the many shopping plazas that line the busy state highway where his non-profit’s office is located.  “It’s the neglect that breaks your heart,” he says with a pained expression.  “People buy them as presents, never asking themselves whether the person they give them to can take care of one.”

But the gifts he’s talking about aren’t puppies or kittens or rabbits, which are often given at Christmas and then abandoned to die quickly in the cold New England winter.  “Those animals are part of the circle of life,” he says, drawing a deep breath as he looks at pictures of rescues his organization made last year.  “Coyotes get them, but no coyote is going to eat this,” he says, as he thrusts a disturbing image in front of this reporter.

The photo shows a discarded fruitcake lying in a drainage ditch, where it would have triggered spring floods and sewer clogging if it had been left in an undigested lump.  “Poor kid,” he says, shaking its head.  “We found it a good home, a 73-year-old man who actually likes the stuff.  He finished it off by Easter.”

Foutreau is the passionate Executive Director of Fruitcake Rescue, whose mission is to stop fruitcake neglect both after the fact by placing “rescue fruitcakes” in caring environments, and before it happens by raising public awareness of the problem.

Pediatric Fruitcake Rescue Poster Child


A fruitcake is a cake made with fruit, nuts and spices, often soaked in spirituous liquors, which can lead to impaired motor skills and low standardized test scores.  “Growing up in an alcoholic environment, many fruitcakes start off several steps behind other baked goods,” says Amy Bilboff, a professional fund raiser brought in to help Foutreau with a fund-raising drive.  “Yes there are a lot of other great charities out there asking for your money, but this is the only one doing the Lord’s work of getting me a new Audi.”

Fruitcakes date from ancient Rome, when pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins were mixed into barley mash to form circular objects that were used as chariot wheels when they went unconsumed despite being distributed in “bread and circuses” government welfare programs.  “How can this stuff be any good,” a character in a play by Roman satirist Juvenal says, “they’re giving it away.”

“You’re not sticking me with that damn fruitcake!”


Because of their alcohol content fruitcakes can remain edible for many years, a phenomenon that was brought home to American television viewers in 2003 when talk-show host Jay Leno ate a piece of an 1878 fruit cake kept as an heirloom by a Tecumseh, Michigan family.  “It’s good,” he said, “but not as good as the one Juvenal sent me.”

For Linebacker-Poets, Awards Ceremony is a Jarring Hit

BEAVER FALLS, Pa.  While the attention of the rest of the college football world was already focused on the Heisman Trophy ceremony today, this quiet town was stuffed like a short-yardage scrum with neckless men reciting deathless verse last night.

“The Dutton-Shapiro Award is the biggest night of the year for linebacker-poets,” says Ed “Milk Train” Crane, middle linebacker on the 1965 Gator Bowl-winning Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  “We’re pretty much shut out of the other poetry competitions because of anti-jock prejudice.”

Shapiro:  “You think you can run on our goal-line defense, just try it.”


First established in 1974 in honor of Tommy Dutton, a two-time small-college All American linebacker at the University of Texas-El Paso, and Karl Shapiro, the fifth poet laureate of the United States, the Dutton-Shapiro Award is the highest accolade available to NCAA poet-linebackers.  Dutton felt thwarted in his literary career, producing only the classic “Here I sit all broken-hearted, paid a nickel to crap and only farted” in a locker room stall at halftime of the 1963 Weedwacker Bowl.  Shapiro was at one time a professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and mistakenly wandered into a football game while looking for the entrance to the school’s faculty lounge.


Linebackers are considered a transitional stage in the development of the human race from its hominid ancestors.  “They walk upright like men, and have developed sufficient analytical capacity to call defensive ‘stunts’ during their playing days,” according to Niles Haygood, a biologist.  “They are ultimately an evolutionary dead-end because helmet-to-helmet tackles destroy what limited intellectual skills they master.”

Johnson:  “The over on the Patriots-Dolphins is 49?  Take it!”


As versifiers, the work of linebackers often recalls the Metaphysical Poets, of whom Samuel Johnson once said “The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together, as if blitzing on third down and long and becoming entangled with a left tackle who engages in illegal use of the hands.”

“To sing, to soar, and not to let the other team score!”


This year’s finalists for the award are J.T. Mack, a 240-pound junior from Georgia’s Valdosta State University who broke his school’s career tackle record this season, and Mike “Bull Dog” Adamick, a three-time All Conference outside linebacker at North Central Illinois State.  Adamick wins the coin toss and decides to go last, and Mack steps to the podium, clears his throat and begins:

You came through the 2 hole–I’d blitzed and expected you there.
A pulling guard cut down my legs, and all that I could do
Was take you down by might or main, by means foul or fair.
I stuck my helmet into your shoe, and saw stars of red and blue.

“That’s the stuff,” Milk Train Crane murmurs from his seat in the back row, “vivid imagery, you know he’s been hit hard in the head a few times.”

The applause from the assembled audience of retired linebackers is polite but still reserved, knowing they must hear the second half of the contest before rendering judgment.

Adamick removes his poem from the inner pocket of his sports jacket, fiddles nervously with his tie for a moment, then plunges ahead as if shooting the gap to disrupt an option quarterback in a wishbone-offense.

It was a stunt, a shunt to the left,
designed to force a three-and-out,
and make you punt.
We played to stuff the run,
you passed from the shotgun,
and all our best-laid game plan
was thwarted, undone.

A hush descends on the crowd, then a few gasps of appreciation are heard, building into an ovation, the hobbled knees of the men slowly hoisting them out of their chairs and onto their feet.

“I believe we have a winner,” says Earl “Bud” McAdam, a man credited with inventing the position of linebacker-poet with the Duluth Eskimos, an early professional team.  “Rarely have I heard a work that so deftly combines the poet’s craft and the repeated blunt trauma to the head that is the linebacker’s lot in life.”

Available in print and Kindle formats on as part of the collection “poetry is kind of important.”

Sex Change Operation

(A cappella doowopissimo, moderato)


First voice:

Oh-oh I, I’m so lonesome and blue—

Second voice:

Tell me why . . .

First voice:

That’s just what I’ll do—
I had a girl, and I loved her so true
On cloudy days, she turned my grey skies to blue.

Second voice:

So what’s the problem?

First voice:

Her condition was giving her the blues
‘Cause her gender, was slightly confused
And one day she brought me the news
Her doctor said an operation to use

She’d get a—


Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
Sex change, sex change operation—
Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
A sex change operation was what she would do.

Second voice:

So what’d you do?

First voice:

Wo-oh I-I—I got down on my knees
and I begged her, sayin’ please baby please
Don’t you do it—I wish you’d think of me
You’ll regret it, so don’t be a tease.

But she told me, it was her decision
so the doctor made the fatal incision.
And she begged him to do it with precision
‘Cause she hoped there would be no revision,

She got a—


Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
Sex change, sex change operation—
Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
A sex change operation she went through.

First voice:

I, you know I loved her so
So-o I-I, I couldn’t let her go—
But I, did not know what to do
She’d turned into a Tom where she had
Once been a Sue–

Second voice:

So what’d you do?

First voice:

Well I, I started to look
in each and every kind of medical book
Until it hit me—and my world it shook–
It was simple, so the steps I took

Second voice:

You took your life?

First voice:

No, I–I don’t think so,
but now I get stares wherever I go
Cause the solution, the simple thing to do
Was for me
To get a sex change operation too.


Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
Sex change, sex change operation—
Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
A sex change operation he went through.

As Holidays Near, Persecution of Agnostics Soars

ARLINGTON, Virginia. The month of December is a time of peace and goodwill for members of several world religions, but for Alan Macy, it’s a nightmare. “Everybody gangs up on me–Christians, Jews and Muslims,” he says, as he watches firemen put out a blaze on his front lawn. “It’s very ecumenical.”

“You’re just lucky it wasn’t an exclamation point.”


Macy is an agnostic–a person who believes that it is impossible for humans to know whether there is a supreme being.  As such, he is the target of persecution throughout the year both by religious believers and by atheists, who accuse his type of being wishy-washy.

Last night, a group of masked men came to Macy’s house and burned a question mark on his lawn, ridiculing his indifference to cosmic questions and religious strife. “MAKE UP YOUR MIND!” someone spray-painted across his door.

Other agnostics say they suffer little indignities throughout the holiday season. “I bought a birthday present at a department store and dropped my American Agnostics Association affinity credit card on the counter when I went to pay,” says Ellen Sherman. “The shopgirl said ‘Why don’t you people get your own damn holiday’ and refused to gift-wrap it for me.”

“Sorry–no free gift wrapping unless you believe in SOMETHING!”


Leaders of religious groups say they caution adherents to practice tolerance towards those who have lost their faith and don’t know where to find it. “I tell my parishioners to share God’s love with those who don’t believe in him, since we may be able to convert them someday,” says Father Francis Kaloff of St. Columbkill’s parish in Brighton, Massachusetts. “At this holiest time of the year, I urge my faithful to save their anger for members of competing sects who cut into our revenues.”

Call the Cultbusters!

Did your daughter just shave her head?  Has the little woman started getting mail from The Rosicrucians?  Call the Cultbusters now, before it’s too late!

Dear Cultbusters:

Our daughter Francine had a wonderful job as Fulton County Assistant Sealer of Weights and Measures when my dingbat husband Gene persuaded her to take a management training course at H&R Block, America’s largest tax preparation company.  She would drive up to Raytown on weekends, sometimes staying late on Saturdays for a casual dinner at T.G.I. Friday’s with her colleagues.

This year Francine surprised us right after our traditional Thanksgiving family go-kart race by announcing that she has joined the Everlasting Church of Internal Revenue, which I think is a cult but Gene says is probably okay.  The “church” believes that the current commissioner of the IRS is the vicar of Christ on earth, going back in an unbroken line of succession through the first Commissioner, Frank M. Thorn, back to St. Peter.

What do you think?  We have agreed to abide by your decision.

Verda Jean Tompkins, Lone Jack, Mo.

Dear Verda Jean:

We contacted the IRS and were informed that the Everlasting Church of Internal Revenue received its tax-exempt status in 1999 “with flying colors” and has timely filed its Form 990EZ’s ever since.  They asked for your exact street address and will be contacting you about the deductions you took for that “beefalo” tax shelter last year.



Hey Cultbusters—

I purchased your CultBuster Portable Deprogrammer because I had to drop my son off at the T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I. and did not want him to get “brainwashed” by the Hare Krishnas who sometimes hang out there.  I had no sooner stepped off the “people mover” into the main terminal when a Federal Air Marshall threw me to the floor, pinned my arm behind my back and confiscated my CultBuster, which was the 200LE model in red.  I still have the credit card bill and my question is, can I get a refund from you—the sales brochure said it “works anywhere.”

Pete Smualsky, Seekonk, Mass.

“Drop the Deprogrammer and nobody gets hurt!”


Dear Pete:

Sorry, no can do.  The bold-faced text that says “USE OF THE CULTBUSTER IS SUBJECT TO LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL FIREARMS REGULATIONS AND FAA LIMITS ON CARRY-ON LUGGAGE” gets us out of this one.  Next time, hire a lawyer before you buy something for $49.95 over the internet.


“Eloise, would you mind taking out your ear buds so Mommy can scream at you?”


Dear Cultbusters:

This year on Thanksgiving I asked my daughter Eloise whether she wanted light or dark meat from the gorgeous 21-pound turkey that I had prepared for my wife Kathi.  She—Eloise, not Kathi—announced to our extended family, with no warning, that she had become a “Vegan.”  She was on break from Wellesley College, and we were just glad that she didn’t come home with a nose ring or a girlfriend or both, but now I am concerned that she may have fallen prey to a sectarian group that will talk her out of her inheritance.  What is a “Vegan” and do they worship the same Christian God that my family has for generations?

Endicott Lowell, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.


Dear Mr. Lowell:

You have confused “vegans,” who do not eat meat, fish or poultry, with “Vulcans,” a super-rational humanoid species.  Veganism is a viral infection contracted by students at liberal-arts colleges that goes into remission when they take high-paying “yuppie” jobs and can afford expensive nouvelle cuisine restaurants Vulcans are low-level male tech workers who congregate at Star Trek conventions, and glom onto any female who can fog a mirror held under her nose.

Lentil stew, for vegans, and Star Trek convention, for Vulcans.


Dear Cult Busters:

My twin sister Ilene has recently taken up with a man named “Darrell,” who is a member of the “Shriner’s Fun Korps,” a motorized paramilitary group whose members wear red monkey hats.  I know that sentence has a lot of “dependent” clauses in it, but bear with me.

Ilene and I used to spend our weekends together crocheting or going to swap meets at abandoned drive-in theatres, but no more.  Now she is out with Darrell, riding on the back of his “Fun Kart,” even though I have been told by Rick Davis, Jr. of Modern Moosehead Insurance out on South 65 that this may void our homeowner’s policy.

Cultbusters, I feel like I have lost a part of myself with Ilene out of my life.  If I made a discreet call to the Iowa State Highway Patrol to report suspicious “cult” activity do you think they would yank the Fun Korp’s special Class 2 license that enables them to operate on public ways?

Irene McComb, Ottumwa, Iowa

Swap meet:  You can have fun just looking.


Dear Irene:

We feel your pain.  Allow it to flow out of your heart, down your left arm into your balled-up hand, which you should then open as if releasing a pure, white dove into the sky.  Either that or make a fist and tell “Darrell” to stay away from your sister or you’ll rip off one of his body parts and hit him with the bloody stump of it.

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”

With Russians Out, Freedonia Sees Chance for Olympics Glory

SPLZDKINO, Freedonia.  The news that Russian athletes will be barred from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, was greeted with a mixture of joy and schadenfreude in this city of 23,398, widely considered the sports capital of Freedonia.  “How the weasel has turned,” sneered Tomas Vzglinsk, with a contemptuous sneer.  “It is their–how you say–comeuppance for what they did to us in 2014.”

Freedonian team plane: Soviet Mug-77a, radio optional.


Vzglinsk is referring to a pre-dawn raid on the Olympic Village in Sochi, Russia, which resulted in the expulsion of the Freedonian team from the last winter games, denying him a medal in men’s seated sliding that would have brought a measure of pride to his beleaguered nation, which had never previously won an Olympics event or even a radio station trivia contest.  “Yes we had goats in our rooms, but there was no law that stood in the way of our love of animals,” he fairly spits out in anger.  “Also, the fires we set in the hallways were for cooking only, not human sacrifice as the Russians claimed.”

And so the Freedonians, having paid their debt to the amateur sports world, feel that it is their time to shine, assuming the world is not destroyed in a nuclear holocaust before medals are awarded in the Scotch mixed-doubles luge, where Olyssiak Norblenko and her common-law husband Phlogm Nogrdsk, are odds-on favorites to take the bronze.

Olyssiak Norblenko, waiting to be called for her preliminary heat in the Luge-O-Drome


“We will crush the South Koreans!” Nogrdsk exclaims before Norblenko tugs at his coat sleeve.  “What?  We must compete against ninety countries?  All at once?”

Nogrdsk’s confusion is characteristic of the Freedonian Olympic team, which in the past has sent ice skaters to summer games and swimmers to winter Olympics due to problems converting the nation’s official calendar to western standards.  “What you call even, we call odd,” notes Commissioner of Weights and Measures Jovogl Nrumbage.  “Also, we are on a base seven system, so a year such as your ‘2018’ translates to our half past 4,021.15, unless my watch has stopped.”

Soohorang, mascot of the 2018 Winter Olympics, practicing the Hokey-Pokey.


Freedonia’s grudge against Russia goes back further than the bitter memories of 2014, as Soviet forces rolled into Freedonia’s capital in 1948 with a fleet of 249 ice cream trucks playing annoying jingles in an effort to force the proud people into submission.  “We made them apply for permits as street vendors,” Nrumbage recalls.  “Freedonian bureaucrats are the slowest in the world, so the invasion came screeching to a halt.”

“You want to win a medal?  How much money do you have on you?”


The Freedonian team will walk in the opening ceremonies in South Korea wearing traditional native garb consisting of a wide-wale corduroy hat called a bokru, a pleated set of chaps known as gloksis, and open-toed shoes that have been blamed for wide-spread frostbite among the country’s snow removal personnel.  “We must remember that we are a nation of limited resources,” notes Glz Nvgrsk, the nation’s representative to the League of Nations, a now-defunct international peace-keeping body.  “We are down to an average of 6.8 toes per snow shoveller, they should limit their activities to the summer months.”