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Merry Christmas 

The secrets of a resourceful columnist revealed

Other than the beatings, the only annoying thing about writing for Creative Loafing is the occasional early deadline. Usually I have the weekend to attend events. But around the holidays, I inevitably have to turn in my column Friday. As you're about to read in this and next week's columns, it's difficult to come up with a good Scene & Herd installment without the benefit of the weekend.

And though I've only been writing this column since June, I've still managed to learn techniques to help ensure that you, the reader, get your money's worth.

Technique 1: Begin with a lengthy introduction to fill space. See above.

Technique 2: Cover comedy events -- and quote liberally. "You are an elf and you will wear panties like an elf." David Sedaris' The Santaland Diaries, from which the previous quotation comes, details the playwright's stint as a Christmas elf at Macy's in New York City. I saw it performed wonderfully last week by the cast of the Horizon Theatre Company. The play looks at the stupid contrivances and hypocrisies of the commercial Christmas experience from the perspective of a cynical elf. I've been a Sedaris fan since a good friend of mine bought me a copy of his book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I was won over, even though my dog ate the book before I could finish it. (Bad dog!)

Despite the unrelenting jabs at un-Santa-like store Santas, angry supervisors demanding that female elves wear panties and elf pep-rallies (C'mon elves, feel good about yourselves!), Diaries is ultimately a loving, holiday bonding experience -- if only because, as a cynic, I know I'm not alone.

On a somewhat less positive note, Gonzo Comedy Night at Red Light Cafe was kind of a disappointment. Even good comedians can't energize an almost empty room. Comedian Rod Slate squeezed some laughs out of the quiet crowd with a joke about his half-Muslim, half-Baptist friend. And at one point, he went all avant- garde on us by pulling out a tape recorder and playing back parts of his performance for someone who came in late.

Host David Durham also was pretty good, turning a potentially tired routine about the so-called weirdness of car names into something good when he pointed out the oxymoron in the name "Dodge Ram."

Technique 3: Dramatically lower the standard of what you consider entertainment. On Tuesday, the city of East Point officially opened a 210-foot-long pedestrian bridge with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring lots and lots of dignitaries acting very dignified. East Point Mayor Patsy Jo Hilliard was there, as was the director of the Fulton County Department of Environment and Community, Steven Covers. I'm serious, man. That's some hardcore dignitaryness.

The bridge spans six live rail lines and connects important bits of downtown East Point. Not missing a chance to offer a redundant metaphor where none was necessary, Hilliard referred to the bridge in the official announcement as "a bridge to the future of East Point." That's kind of like Sir Edmund Hillary declaring, "Reaching the summit of Mt. Everest was the summit of my mountain-climbing career."

Technique 4: Cover an event because a friend asked you to. Last Wednesday at the Crescent Room in Midtown, friends of Danner Reske threw a party to raise money for his medical bills. He's seriously ill, and a bunch of his friends banded together on short notice to try to help him out. I've never met him, but a friend invited me. So I went.

Despite the $20 cover and early start time, the place was packed with the usual Crescent Avenue designer crowd. As far as I can tell, Reske's relation to the bulk of the crowd is that of fellow club-goer. He wasn't there, but you can tell a lot about someone by his friends, so I'll just describe his friends. He knows a lot of tall women. He knows a lot of beautiful women. He knows people who'll bid hundreds of dollars in a silent auction for a keg of Sweetwater Ale. Danner, if you read this, please be my friend.

Technique 5: Pull a "Peach Buzz" and fill space by writing stuff that has nothing to do with Atlanta. With its $18.2 million opening day, it looks like The Lord of the Rings is also Lord of the Box Office. With its rave reviews, the Tolkien classic, currently showing in Atlanta, could have the staying power to leave Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone stone cold at the box office.

Celebrity birthdays this week: Actress Mary Tyler Moore is 65. Ted Danson (former star of "Cheers" and current star of another show nobody watches) is 54. Mannequin Matt Lauer ("The Today Show") is 44. Actor Val Kilmer (don't you have to actually be in a current movie to be called an actor?) is 42. Oscar-winner (and a person who has been to Atlanta) Denzel Washington is 47.

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