As the daylight dwindles and the Most Expensive Holiday draws closer with the inexorable scurry of The Giant Rat of Sumatra, we're all pushed, pulled, shoved and rushed to the point of double- and triple- and quadruple-tasking, and it can't be good for us, because we all end up with frayed tempers, and very little good will towards anybody with inner peace.
    Just last week, for example, a couple of my friends, having snoozed through my comments on “The Golden Compass,” wanted to know what I thought of the really fun movies that had just opened.     So I dashed out of work,  picked up my Santa suit at the cleaners, chopped down a Christmas tree, sawed the Yule Log, and made it to the multiplex in time to watch two movies in one day. It is, however, just marginally possible that I didn't stay awake for the whole time, because I only remember one movie, that went something like this:
    Will Smith lives alone in Manhattan, because an outbreak of Bubble Gum Rock has driven off all the people and left only animals. Will  is still around because he was in his basement studio remastering some old Robert Morley movies when the Monkees revival struck.
    Will spends his days driving up and down a deserted Sixth Avenue, looking for a miracle cure because he's a scientist, and flirting with mannequins because he's nuts.
    At night he goes home to his super-cool brownstone on Washington Square and closes the cast-iron shutters because he's afraid of the dark, and hallucinates about losing his wife, who left him for a career in aeronautics when he gave up songwriting for genetic engineering. 
    It turns out he has good reason to fear, because one evening three horrid monsters break in, trash his house, and sing repulsive songs in dreadful harmonies with chirpy little voices that would make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window. With the help of his roommate, Rin-Tin-Tin, Will captures the beasts and straps them down in his studio, where he attempts to cure them by making them listen to loops of Phillip Glass's “Satyagraha” intercut with The White Album and some Wanda Landowska. “You are sick and I can help you,” Will says. “I can fix this!” he screams, pulling out more vinyl discs of Judy Collins, John Denver, and E. Power Biggs.
    Will is, however, so close to being completely unhinged by the horror of the situation that the alpha male monster (identified by the large upper-case “A” on its sweat shirt, making one think queasily of Nathaniel Hawthorn) is able to talk him into agenting them as the opening act for Celine Dion's Kazakhstan Tour.
    Fortunately, Will's ex-wife shows up just as the monster named Theodore is about to squirm its way into Will's bed. She has a kid with her who doesn't look at all like the kid in his hallucinations, so you know they're real, but she wants them all to go to Vermont, for cryin' out loud, which is where all these woodland creatures come from in the first place.
    Will stalls the Vermont trip by negotiating with a record producer who is also a morgue clerk in “Men in Black” and  a video store owner in “Men in Black II,” thereby proving that space-time is full of wormholes, or string, or something.
    The producer, named J. Worthington Foulfellow and played by a bald fox, bribes the monster trio into leaving Will by singing “Hi-diddle-de-dee, a rock star's life for me!” and inviting them to Pleasure Island, where they meet Lampwick and Pinocchio and get wasted on Moxie shots and some really fine Miná de Veracruz cigars.
    The trio wakes up with a collective hangover the size of Cleveland, which is why they can't tolerate sunlight, and sell their souls back to Will for a fistful of Alka-Seltzer and some dark glasses. “Honest John” Foulfellow is bribed to give up the trio with a Rogaine therapy gift certificate, and all the good guys end up at Middlebury College, teaching Screenwriting 101 and spending their afternoons gathering hazelnuts in the thickets and drinking macchiatos at the Moldy Monk.
    By the time I left the multiplex I had no clear idea of what I had seen; I ran into the same friends, who said I had obviously slept through both movies and couldn't be trusted to pass judgment on any matters artistic, and I said, yawning cleverly, that their mother wore army boots.
    Of course  all of us are going to meet again at Christmas dinner and start the whole donnybrook up again, and I'm sure you will too;  but it's a tradition, and we couldn't get through the Solstice without it.
    So, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a clean fight.