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by Hank Heller, 12/15/00

(music: theme)

Hank: Hi, Henry Heller here with another helpful holiday hint for the house and home. We have a letter from Tipper G. of Washington DC, who writes, "I'm worried that political discussions will dominate our get-together at Christmas. What can I do to help my family and guests focus on happier and more congenial topics?" Well, Tipper, if I may be so familiar for better or worse, we do have freedom of speech in America, so it's not always easy to control what other people talk about. One technique you might use since food is a focus of any holiday gathering, is feed the people who talk about good, positive things and starve those who dwell on nasty, unhappy stuff like politics. Make sure the appetizers and the plates of food at the table by-pass those political junkies if they're really talking about the election they're probably not going to notice they've been left out of the food loop until the persistent rat of hunger begins to gnaw at their bellies later in the afternoon, and by then it's likely going to be too late for them to do anything about it, anyway. Where's my helper?

Helper: (off mic) Right here, Hank.

Hank: Stay close by, Watson. I'm going to need you. Perhaps, Tipper, your REAL aim is to prevent ALL discussion of politics by EVERYONE at your holiday party. That's a tall order but there are techniques you can use. First thing - Remember that people naturally will talk about the most immediate calamity, so you need to make something happen that is more urgent than politics. . If, say, your husband is complaining to your in-laws about a particular court decision drop a plate on the floor, and make sure it breaks. Like this.

(sfx: plate break)

That will attract attention and make the offending parties forget what they were talking about. Unless the discussion is really deep, and emotional, having to do with say deep seated resentments and mounting legal fees, in which case you might consider knocking over the entire table. Like this.

(sfx: huge crash)

Something of this sort is going to draw the attention of everyone at your party nine times out of ten. They'll stop talking about politics and start talking about how to wrestle dinner away from the dog. But every now and then a political topic comes along that people will not leave alone. If that should happen at your party, and I hope it never does, one sure way to end the discussion is to use a festive holiday candle to set the drapes on fire.

(sfx: growing blaze)

Of course, setting the drapes on fire should never be deliberate. Or at least it shouldn't look deliberate. But it may cause your guests to momentarily stop talking about how they were robbed by the court, and start talking about something more pleasant and positive and of wider interest, such as the location of the nearest fire extinguisher. It's right over there.

So Tipper G, these are just a few ideas of how you might re-direct the conversation at your holiday gathering so people won't talk about things that will make them angry and unpleasant, and if you can put up with a smokey smell on everything, it means your holiday won't be ruined!

(sfx: fire extinguisher)

Next time, we'll talk about some easy and interesting string and bowling pin crafts projects you can do at home if you've just missed getting the most powerful job in the world and you need something useful to do with your hands to while away the hours waiting for your next assignment. Until then, I'm your helpful handyman, Henry Heller, saying you CAN do it yourself.


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