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David Mitchell on Gifts

I realize that this has nothing to do with science, skepticism, or medicine. However, it’s Sunday, and I found it amusing. Nothing like a little fluff before diving back into the usual topics next week. It’s also cool that David Mitchell has his own YouTube series of videos.

Given that Christmas is a mere four months away, it’s never too early to discuss these issues.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

6 replies on “David Mitchell on Gifts”

Quite a clever routine from this young man. I reached that stage many years ago and in our family with set a cut-off (age 10, I believe) for Christmas gift giving. I am so beyond the “acquisition” stage…”when in doubt, toss it out”. My favorite little boy has a college fund and for special occasions, mom always gets a check from me and the latest Tommy the Train book for Tyler.

There are many urban legends out there about the “traveling fruitcake”…my favorite is this one:

What about the oldest fruit cake?
This question falls into the realm of “urban legends.” The 2002 edition of the Guinness World Book of Records does not include this category. We scoured the Web and several article databases and found plenty of stories touting fruitcake longevity claims. They are all anecdotal, not documented in a scholarly fashion. One of the classic phrases regarding the longevity of this particular food was coined in 1983 by Russell Baker: “Fruitcake is forever.”

“Thirty-four years ago, I inherited the family fruitcake. Fruitcake is the only food durable enough to become a family heirloom. It had been in my grandmother’s possession since 1880, and she passed it to a niece in 1933. Surprisingly, the niece, who had always seemed to detest me, left it to me in her will….I would have renounced my inheritance except for the sentiment of the thing, for the family fruitcake was the symbol of our family’s roots. When my grandmother inherited it, it was already 86 years old, having been baked by her great-grandfather in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. Washington, with his high-flown view of ethical standards for Government workers, sent it back with thanks, explaining that he thought it unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter…There is no doubt…about the fruitcake’s great age. Sawing into it six Christmasses ago, I came across a fragment of a 1794 newspaper with an account of the lynching of a real-estate speculator in New York City.”
—“Fruitcake is Forever,” Russell Baker, New York Times, December 25, 1983, Section 6 (p. 10)

In my family the tradition is for the adults to buy whatever they want to get, hand it to the other adult to wrap, and then act extremely surprised when they unwrap it on Christmas morning. Last year I got measuring cups and a vegetable steamer.

Of course each year someone, like my mom, decides to break with tradition and buy some junk at walmart at 10 pm on Christmas eve. Inevidetably it ends up being some fugly slippers that you have to smile about, put on, and act like you love. Even when they are two sizes too small.


Yes, Nicole in the back recesses of my closet I have some of those gifts of apparel. I also have a favorite baby doll, given to me by my favorite aunt when I was a little girl on a Christmas morn, (ahem) years ago. She is in desperate need of rehab at a doll hospital and when I get around to it, it will be perched atop the tiny caned chair that my daughter sat in, whenever we had company. My daughter likes the old nice things that I have saved from her grandmother’s and her great grandmother’s homes and little by little she has claimed them for her new house.

In spite of ridding myself of many useless kitschy gifts, I locate more of them when I go on cleaning binges. I think I’ll propose a “white elephant gift exchange” for my family this Christmas.

All I want for Christmas is the editors of SBM and a high-ranking JREFer or two at my house for a intellectual discussion over dinner. I suppose that’s not feasible for any of my friends (nor myself) to manage, though, and I’ll just end up reading my copy of the Bonesetter’s Daughter again to pass the time.

I am a massive fan of David Mitchell! I love his Soapbox bits – on the overuse of ‘Passion,’ and on singning some boobs, and on necrophilia, and Raping and Pillaging, etc. But my favorite is absolutely Dear America.

Because I hate misuse of that phrase.

(My manager told me about a week ago to ‘hold down the fort,’ and I barely escaped a fit of giggles.)

Well we all don’t use the expression “I could/couldn’t care less”; “Hold down the fort”…yes, I confess.

I’ve forwarded the video to two close friends…born in the U.K. and Guyana who endeavor to teach me the Queen’s English.

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