You might recall that Santa set up alternate headquarters in Hardyville a few years ago. It was that global warming thing. When the ice melted right out from under the reindeer barn, Santa discovered Rudolph couldn't float half as well as he could fly. And all that salt water short-circuited the red nose and...well, you don't want to know. Not a pretty picture. So the Big Claus said to heck with it and moved the whole Santa Shebang - cottage, elf workshops, candy canes, Mrs. Claus, and all - to Hardy County.
Our particular corner of nowhere is almost as cold as the North Pole, this time of year. But it's not of the melting persuasion.
Having Santa's workshop in our sagebrush-filled backyard hasn't helped the local economy much. Jobs? Forget about it! That man hasn't heard of affirmative action; if you aren't an elf, don't apply. And since the whole operation is magical, not to mention imaginary, the Claus crew don't do a lot to improve business at the Hog Trough Grill and Feed, Grouchy's Guns & Liquor, or Pickles Groce Mart. (And believe me, business could use some improving.)
Santa, frankly, hasn't done much for Hardyville. But being in Hardyville has had ... well, an interesting effect on The Claus. Our cussed, independent, Don't Tread on Me-ness has influenced the guy's product-development concepts. You can't imagine some of the gifts we've seen being reindeered out to the S. Claus, Inc. distribution centers this fall.
Don't you believe all that stuff the media tells you about Bratz dolls, radio-controlled Hummers, and plasma TVs being the big things this year. Nooooo, sir. Hardyvillians know better. Why, Santa's most popular items this year are positively subversive.
Here's a peek at the gifts we've seen coming out of those workshops:
1. Santa's got all kinds of USB hard drives for your computer, with prices as low as a $130. What makes a hard drive so subversive? Put your secret stuff on it, then hide it away. When baddies grab your computer, they haven't got your very best.
2. If you know your loved one's favorite caliber, a gift of ammo might be welcome. Me, I've asked Santa for a little packet of Glaser Safety Slugs, the ultimate (but so pricey!) self-defense ammo. Since good practice trumps fancy ammo, however, some folks might prefer heaps of inexpensive ball ammo for weekly trips to the range.
3. Santa seems to be shipping a lot of pretty, decorative (and increasingly valuable) Maple Leaf, Eagle, and Panda gold coins from the workshop this year. Small bags of silver coins or rounds also make a nice weight in the bottom of a Christmas stocking.
4. Some gifts have no weight, but are golden, nevertheless. The elves have been hammering out new Internet security tools. Here's one: Top Secret Crypto Gold (v.3.10) . TSCG enables Windows users to conduct encrypted real-time chat sessions, encrypt e-mail, keep a secret journal, encrypt files or entire folders, and (most important, of course) insert "smileys" into your messages. It's normally $34.95 for a single user license. But Mac the Knife, the developer, is offering TSCG free until December 31, 2003 to all members and users of the Claire Files message boards. All you've got to do is visit the boards and find the secret password and instructions in one of Mac's messages.
5. Linux users have to stick with other encryption technologies. But then, Linux itself is one big security tool -- not subject to Windows viruses and Windows-based snoopwear. So the elves are on a campaign to convert ordinary desktop (non geek) computer users to Linux. They've quite sneakily placed a whole line of inexpensive Linux computers in Wal-Mart's online store, with prices starting at $199.98. (Take your choice of the Lindows, Lycoris, or SuSE "flavor" of Linux.) Another option: Buy your loved one an inexpensive used computer and a copy of Mandrake Linux...then explore to your heart's content on a computer you're not afraid to make a mess of.
6. For purely symbolic subversion, how about a Gadsden flag? Or a brass cannon? You can build your own replica brass cannon from a kit or buy one ready-made. Getting a real one might take more doing not to mention more money! (Anybody who's wondering about the symbolism of a brass cannon should read Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
7. No year would be complete, of course, without a Backwoods Home anthology or subscription. Santa knows that being self-sufficient is one of the most subversive and satisfying things we can do. This year there's also Backwoods Home Cooking, 344 pages and more than 400 recipes from 14 years of everybody's favorite magaine.
8. Plenty of freedom lovers on your list would be thrilled to dip into that Christmas stocking and find a gift certificate for shooting classes at Front Site, Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, or your local firearms training school. (Make sure your favorite shooter can meet the requirements first.)
9. When you care enough to send the very best, get your beloved shooter a gift certificate for a Dillon reloading press. Or how about some Starline brass? Speer bullets or a Speer reloading manual? Or Sweetie's favorite brand of smokeless powder, gun oil, or other gun gear?
10. Santa recommended this next item a year ago. But he's repeating it again because it's still a good idea and because the price has dropped a lot. This is the TracFone and the pre-paid cellular service cards that go with it. Pre-paid cellular gives you the safety of having a phone wherever you go, but doesn't invade your privacy, as subscription services do. This year, the TracFone is just $40 instead of $80. If you'd like to call friends from your computer, instead of a phone, check out Skype peer-to-peer telephony. It's only for Windows and only beta right now. But it's free.
11. For that really unusual gift, consider anything -- simply anything -- from the Synergy Terrorist Supply Shop. Don't be alarmed by the name. The tools, books, and gear there are (mostly) defensive. But when your favorite person simply must have a coil of razor wire, foaming pepper spray, road stars, or an American flag whose 50 stars are little corporate logos, this is the place.
12. Santa's a little short on good books and DVDs this year. But he strongly recommends one important film-and-book gift combo. Wrap a DVD or VHS copy of the new documentary Innocents Betrayed with a copy of one of these books: Terrorism and Tyranny by James Bovard, Death by Gun Control by Aaron Zelman and Richard W. Stevens, or The Seven Myths of Gun Control by Richard Poe. Innocents Betrayed shows that "gun control" is a pre-condition for genocide, all around the world. I may be biased because I wrote the script and chose the images used. But read what dozens of others have said. This is an important film and may convert many people instantly from anti-gun to pro-gun.
13. On a lighter note -- just for play or for those occasions when you urgently need to fling large projectiles over the walls of medieval cities -- everybody ought to have a mangonel. Be sure to get the tee-shirt, too: "Cum catapultae proscribeantur tum soli proscripti catapultas habeant" ("When catapults are outlawed, only outlaws will have catapults.") When you want more modern homemade booms, bangs, and kapows, get Be Creative , a fairly amazing set of how-to articles from Thomas Spooner of Doing Freedom!
Finally, here's a bonus item. This would be the ultimate stocking stuffer assuming you have one darned big, heavy-duty stocking and an extra $2,200: the Serbu .50 BMG bolt-action rifle. This big boomer kicks like a horse on loco weed, and the concussion is capable of knocking over small spectators at 20 paces. Each individual round'll run you about $1.50 (or more!). Tyrants fear the .50 BMG because of its accuracy at extreme range. Gun-banners target it because BMG stands for "Browning Machine Gun" (even though ihis gun is single-shot). But how can any cheerful freedom lover resist a gun whose muzzle brake is imprinted with a cheery, "Have a nice day!"?
Have a nice day. And a happy holiday.
Santa's gift list was made possible by the subversive elves of the Claire Files message boards. Particular thanks to Docliberty, Augustwest, Hasher, Ian, Jac, Jebur27, Ted Nielsen, scarmig, enemyofthestate, Bear, Dana, Debra, Carl, and Mac the Knife. Those guys were the brains behind this column.