So, here it is (at the time of writing this preamble, on Christmas Eve at the Anchor Inn on Henley On Thames, the Slade classic is indeed pumping on the stereo). A second weird Christmas for us all. All you can do is make the most of it and celebrate the little victories—we’re in a pub on December 24th which is an improvement on last year, for example. We hope you’re spending the day with the people you love in the way that you want. However it happens, we wish you merry brightness.
Our X-Day gift to you includes a couple of Christmassy horror stories, a chance to hang with Sarah Millican, the joys of Christmas Ai creatures and some Muppets.
Now is the time. Here is the place. Ho ho ho. This is The Cut.
Let’s start with a song. Rather than a traditional tune, we’ve chosen this perfect slice of power pop from Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe and Rockpile. It’s not at all festive, but in two and a half minutes and from over forty years ago it sums up the spirit of the times rather nicely.
Christmas can be a difficult time for many people even before you factor in the global pandemic and collapse of society as a whole. If you’re on your own and hanging around Twitter, comedian and all-round lovely person Sarah Millican spends her X-Day chatting to folks using the hashtag #JoinIn. The conversations are as warm and friendly as you’d expect. If you fancy a chinwag as a means of escape from the demands of the season, this could be very helpful.
Here’s the first of our Christmas stories, courtesy of Charlie Stross. His Laundry novels take a LeCarre/Mick Herron-style realistic approach to documenting the exploits of a department of MI5 dedicated to the fight against paranormal threats. This 2009 tale is a nice intro to the world, as our hero Bob is tasked with a turkey of a job—duty officer at Christmas.
You’d expect comedy legend Larry David to wholeheartedly embrace the festive period with joy and whole-hearted delight, right? Yeah, ok, maybe not. Here’s Larry’s trick-bag of survival tactics that get him through the tail-end of December. Not a strand of tinsel in sight…
If you really can’t stand the thought of all the jollity and need to really get away from it all, we may just have the job for you. The Ship Inn on Piel Island off the Cumbrian coast is looking for a landlord. Added bonus, you get to be the actual King of all you survey. There are, of course, a few downsides. We think Larry David could probably go for it.
The giving and receiving of gifts is a ritual fraught with potential pitfalls. It’s all too easy to say the wrong thing or seem offensively underwhelmed at a battered box of half-price No. 7 aftershave. A sure spark-point for Christmas fights and a merry trip to A&E. Luckily for us, The Onion has a handy guide to help you navigate the moral maze with ease and style.
Here’s your other Xmas tale. This one comes from Richard Kadrey, author of the Sandman Slim books. James Stark, the eponymous Sandman, is a demon-hunter and ex-King of Hell. Kadrey’s books are amped-up rock ‘n’ roll horror, blasting along like a brimstone-fuelled Harley. We strongly recommend if you like a fun, fast read with a whiff of the finest intoxicants the nether world has to offer. Here, Stark tries and fails to take a night off just before Christmas. There’s always a vampire around to spoil his fag break…
The tree at Cut Central is well-worn, balding and made entirely of artificial materials—much like some of the staff. However, if you really can’t bear the thought of X-day without a dying fir tree in the corner of the front room, there are things you can do with the thing once the New Year rolls around that don’t include a shredder or a trip to the tip. You can make cocktails, for example.
We are delighted to find Janelle Shane has fired up her pet AIs for the season to bring us a fine selection of brand-new Christmas entities. Think Rudolf or Icelandic prank-elves the Yule Lads, then add the whiff of insanity only a GPT-3 network can bring. The Three Christmas Weasels will be all over cards this time next year, we guarantee it.
We’ve happily championed the output of NeoTextReview this year. Chloe Maveal’s merry bunch of maniacs have just the right mix of geeky enthusiasms to tickle our fancy. The love they show towards British comics is just the cherry on the bakewell for us. For Christmas, Chloe argues that National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the movie we need to close out 2021, speaking as it does so clearly to our shared experience of the year.
Let’s talk about room tone. Actually, we’ll let editor Daniel Reis explain it first…
For those who aren’t familiar with film and video production, “room tone” is the ambient sound of a space typically captured at the end of a shoot. Editors think of it almost like the mortar between bricks: if I’m cutting together different takes, creating an artificial pause, or eliminating a speaker’s “ums” and “ahs,” I need to layer in that sound to make sure the final result is seamless. Room tone is something that can’t really be faked, because each space has its own ambience, and it’s very hard to re-create once you’ve left.Daniel Reis
He’s put together a lovely short film featuring all sorts of actors, directors and interesting folks enjoying that quiet moment at the end of a chat. How they choose to spend it is a big part of the fun of the piece. The choice of music puts the film squarely in the bailiwick for today’s episode. Seriously, sit and enjoy this one.
And that’s us. We’re off to roast a beast and partake of one too many snifters of booze and fall asleep in front of a movie. All ye greatest hits. We’ll be back in a week for that all important kick-off for Season Three, featuring the many Desks and their Picks of Last Year. Prepare for contentiousness and controversy.
Let’s close out with the Carol Of The Bells, in a Muppet stylee. DING DONG.
See you next year, fellow kids!