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Wednesday, December 24, 2003  

The Diva does Christmas

  • Beware of bothersome gifts

  • Tuesday, while cleaning out closets, I took a tour of gift blunders. Some were things people have mistakenly given me. Others items I bought as potential gifts but never got around to matching up with recipients. Though I've made my share of mistakes, there are people who have me beat.

    LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) - Gary and Karri Clark haven't forgotten their second Christmas together. He knew she wanted bathroom accessories, so he wrapped up a couple of gifts and waited.

    The toilet seat and towel rack didn't go over too well.

    ``Here I thought I was doing good,'' he recalled with a laugh. ``It was something she can always use, day after day. It's the gift that keeps on giving.''

    The Clarks were among those who responded to requests by the Daily Times-Call newspaper to share their stories about bungled gifts and best intentions - the waffle makers, blenders and vacuum cleaners given with love and practicality in mind that will never be forgotten or forgiven.

    Karri Clark admits she wanted a new toilet seat a decade ago because there was a crack in the old one. She just didn't think she'd get one gift wrapped.

    ``I could not believe it,'' she said. ``What man gives you a toilet seat for Christmas?''

    . . .Gary Clark admits his bathroom gifts were out of desperation: It was Christmas Eve, he was at Kmart and he couldn't think of what to buy his wife.

    ``She wanted it, but not for Christmas,'' he said. Since then, he's done better: His wife received a Ford Explorer for her birthday this year.

    Fellows (and any boneheaded women, too) hold off on anything having to do with elimination. Yes, I know there are some really big collections of toilet paper in very pretty colors, but. . . .

    Meanwhile, I need to unload kids' softwear, 100 percent wool sweaters and several SLR camera/binocular sets.

  • A time for miracles

  • Blogger and civil rights activist Natalie Davis has been thinking about what a challenging year this has been for her while lighting her Chanukah candles.

    This has been quite a year, what with losing Father Henry and my great-grandmother; witnessing my father's suffering and death; surviving a hellish time in New York City and a horrid time of painful poverty; spending most of the year separated from my family; warring with my teenage child; seeing the world go to pieces thanks to the activities of a certain selected charlatan; and so much more. Now, I have a new job -- outside of my field, with an inhumane and unjust corporate employer I fear naming -- that feels like the worst one ever. Can't complain too much -- many people have no work at all, and this job, though soul-crushing and not lucrative in any way, at least keeps a roof overhead.

    Bottom line: I am drowning in a sea of despair.

    So, miracles mean much to me, even if I only can ponder the possibility of them, much like a hungry person peering through a window to see a wealthy family's sumptuous feast. This is why I love Chanukah so dearly: This period of eight nights is a reminder that real miracles have happened. And it offers hope that perhaps one day, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, there is a miracle out there for me. Will it be finally seeing Jackman on Broadway? A new pair of shoes? My daughter caring about school? A new job in journalism? The means to expatriate? Marriage equality in the US? A progressive president? And end to hunger and homelessness? Or peace, real peace, throughout the world?

    The invasion of Iraq and its attendant propaganda has hung over 2003 like smog in Los Angeles for me. I actually found the year more disheartening than post 9/11 2001. I think that may be because the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and other targets were real, but so much of what we've experienced this year has been made up or tailored to fit what the power mongers want us to believe. From the saga of soldier Jessica Lynch to the current national alert, the American people have been shamelessly manipulated.

    The positive aspect of this for me is that bad times can actually be good for my writing. I've negotiated a new book deal for the coming year. The book will be about race, the topic some people have tried to drive me from the blogosphere for discussing honestly. So, in a way, even being ill-treated has been beneficial. I would not feel so motivated about producing that book but for the abuse.

    Read the rest of Natalie's entry at All Facts and Opinions.

  • Christmas jury gives Malvo life sentence

  • Speaking of miracles, a Virginia jury has decided to spare convicted killer Lee Boyd Malvo's life.

    CHESAPEAKE, Virginia (CNN) -- A Virginia jury Tuesday decided Lee Boyd Malvo should be sentenced to life in prison without parole for his role in the Washington, D.C.-area sniper killings, rejecting prosecutors' call for his execution.

    Malvo watched intently, blinking as the verdict was read; defense attorney Craig Cooley sat with his head bowed, while co-counsel Michael Arif patted Cooley's back.

    The Associated Press reported that Malvo, wearing a blue sweater that made him look like a schoolboy, sat expressionless, with his elbows on the defense table.

    Malvo was convicted last week of capital murder, terrorism and weapons charges. Prosecutors had asked the same jury to recommend a death sentence.

    Judge Jane Marum Roush set formal sentencing for March 10. She cannot increase the penalty. Jurors also called for Malvo to be fined $100,000 on the each of the two capital counts against him.

    Malvo was convicted in the killing of Linda Franklin, an FBI analyst gunned down outside a Home Depot in Falls Church, Virginia, on October 14, 2002. Franklin was one of 10 people killed and three wounded in the sniper attacks that gripped the capital and its suburbs that month.

    What is this news item doing in a Christmas roundup, you ask? It is here because I had hoped the jurors would show the ill-fated youth some mercy. Perhaps partly because of the time of year, they did.

    Asked whether the approaching Christmas holiday had anything to do with the decision to spare Malvo's life, Cooley told reporters, "All of us believe that people are of goodwill and people want to be fair. And to the extent that Christmastime accentuates that, good."

    "Whatever you do, don't try one on Christmas week," Horan said. "I'm sure it played a part."

    It is extremely rare for defendants using the insanity defense to be acquitted or receive lighter sentences, such as life in prison when a jury is death qualified. It is almost miraculous for a black defendant not to be sentenced to death when convicted of killing a white person in a Southern state. Malvo, who is from Antigua, may not realize it, but he has received an unexpected gift from an American jury -- the rest of his life.

    1:47 PM