[This article also appears on Huffingtonpost.com. You can access it from my author page here.]
I recently gave in to the requests of several friends and colleagues and joined Facebook. There are things I like about the social networking site (keeping up with friends, the highly addictive Scramble game) and things I don't (how can a site with so much traffic be so clunky, poorly designed and counterintuitive?). But the one thing I will not participate in is the giving and receiving of virtual stuff via Facebook. People are constantly sending each other gifts, everything from hugs to beers to Christmas ornaments to challas. You don't actually give or get anything, though, other than an icon for your page. What's the point? I don't get it.
But then it occurred to me: If the rules are now that you can give crap to people without actually having to give them anything in reality, well, then that opens all kinds of doors. With these new rules on giving in mind, here is my virtual gift list for this holiday season:
To Dick Cheney: A vacation. I don't think people understand how tiring it can be to personify evil on a day-to-day basis. It takes a lot out of you to trash the constitution, take away the rights of the American people, advocate for and approve torture, and lead the way in convincing the president to plunge the country into a needless war and a poorly planned occupation that has cost us thousands of lost lives, hundreds of thousands of disrupted and damaged lives, and coming up on a trillion dollars. So Dick needs to be sent on a vacation, and I know just the place: a federal penitentiary. I think a solid two-to-four year stretch would do him good, hopefully in the same place that Bernard Madoff ends up. That way, they can both meet the six-foot-five, 300-pound inmate who can teach them the prison meaning of "undisclosed location."
To Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada: Teeth whitening kits. The three holdovers from the New York Yankees' 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 championship teams (add Andy Pettitte to the list if he takes the Yankees' one-year contract offer for next season) probably cannot stop smiling at the chance to return to the glory days now that the team has acquired C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett this off-season. If nothing else, Jeter won't have to answer the "When are you moving to first base?" questions anymore. On a related note:
To nearly all of the ESPN on-air personalities: Red Sox jerseys. This way, the network can come clean and stop trying to hide its thinly-veiled deep love for the Red Sox and hatred of the Yankees. Eric Kuselias moaning and whining about the Teixeira signing this morning was hilarious. He read three emails totally obliterating his point of view (that the Yankees' signing of free agents this off-season, even though they had a ton of money coming off the books, is destroying baseball), but his responses to the emails were at the "am too!" level of argument and were exactly what you would expect from an angry Red Sox fan. It was good television, but not in the way Kuselias was hoping for, I'm sure. Let's throw in a Red Sox cap for him, too. (Mike of the great Yankees blog River Avenue Blues made an excellent rebuttal to the Kuselias position, as articulated by the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.)
To Rod Blagojevich: The Elvis Presley CD "Elv1s 30 #1 Hits." The Elvis-loving, hair-obsessed, wiretap-starring, potty-mouthed governor of Illinois is so detached from reality, I'm sure he won't find anything at all discomforting in hearing "Suspicious Minds," "Way Down," "Too Much," "Don't," "Surrender" (maybe he mistakenly thinks it's one song, "Don't Surrender"?), "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such as I," "(You're the) Devil in Disguise," "A Little Less Conversation," and, of course, "Jailhouse Rock."
To David Paterson: Noise-canceling headphones. Ten months ago, the guy was living a quiet, anonymous life as the lieutenant governor of New York. One call girl bust later, and Paterson was thrust into the role of leading a state with a projected deficit of tens of billions of dollars. And, to boot, he now has to appoint someone to fill Hillary Clinton's senate seat, knowing that the person will have to stand for election in 2010, at the same time he himself will be running for re-election (as will be New York's other U.S. senator, Charles Schumer). Oh, and Saturday Night Live decided to portray him as a bumbling, clueless, coke-snorting doofus. Between budget cuts, tax and fee increases and those pesky senate-seat seekers, it seems as though everyone in the state with any connection to government wants a few words with him. Poor guy. Paterson is in need of those high-tech noise-canceling headphones, stat! If he can't make those harassing him go away, maybe the headphones can at least help him tune them out. The way he has handled his new role with humor (his condemnation of the SNL sketch was an exception, not the rule) and a practical approach to the state's problems, he has earned my respect. That's all well and good, but I'm sure he'd rather have the headphones.
To the executives at financial institutions that took U.S. bailout funds but still paid themselves hefty year-end bonuses: Reinforced athletic supporters (regardless of gender). The size and density of the steel balls it took to lead a company to financial ruin, take money from the taxpayers, and then reward yourself with a bonus for your efforts must be massive. Without the proper support, I shudder to think what will happen to the streets and sidewalks of our nation.
To Al Franken: A Washington, D.C. apartment. For use, of course, when he serves his six-year term as Minnesota's junior U.S. senator. Hey, I can hope, right?
To Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman: A Sunday morning television program. These two New York Times op-ed columnists have been cranking out consistently smart and to-the-point analyses of the current economic crisis. They would offer a relevant counterpoint to the usual partisan bickering of politicians on Meet the Press and This Week, and they certainly would blow away the bloviating of the George Wills, Cokie Robertses and Sam Donaldsons that run wild on Sunday mornings. Friedman's column today was exceptionally thought-provoking.
To the female contestants of every reality dating show on television: Gift certificates to high-end hair salons, tattoo removal centers and self-esteem seminars. Do I really have to explain?
To the network executives that program reality dating shows: DVDs of the reality shows they program. Have they actually watched these programs? I can't imagine they have.
To the viewers who watch reality dating shows: Lifetime access to the Girls Gone Wild series (for the men) or the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime (for the women), as well as subscriptions to The Nation. This way, the men can get their fill of watching pretty young girls get drunk and take their clothes off and the women can see an endless supply of sappy romance, all without taking up valuable space on the networks' schedules. And when the viewers are done, they can cleanse their brains (and souls) by reading important political reporting in The Nation. No? Oh well. It was worth a shot.
And to Barack Obama: A portable DVD player. This way, no matter the time or place, he can watch DVDs of his history-making year and, maybe for the first time, enjoy the ride, without worrying about the day-to-day stresses of running a campaign, a transition or a government. It will also remind the president-elect why a majority of the American people supported him, and what he promised to do (and not do) as president. Despite some complaints in some quarters, I think he has done an excellent job so far of staying true to his obligations (even though I'm really uncomfortable with Rick Warren's presence at the inauguration). The DVD player would be a good tool in making sure he continues the good work.