Saturday, November 26, 2011

Batman Returns (1992)

It's funny – I've always hated this movie.

I actually saw it when it first came out. I didn't know what the word 'campy' meant then, but the portrayal of the characters and setting was just a bit too cartoonish for me at the time. I remember thinking that the first one was serious, while the second one was just a joke.

But I've recently re-watched both Tim Burton Batman movies, and it turns out they're both equally campy; in their own, dark way, they're actually no less campy than the Adam West version. It also turns out I've been wrong about Batman Returns for my entire life.

This movie kicks ass.

Granted, this isn't the Batman geeks like myself have come to embrace. This Batman lacks the comic version's flat out moral refusal to kill. In fact, he incinerates one goon and shoves dynamite down the pants of a second (and then has the audacity to lecture Catwoman about killing later: the hypocrite). But this does a fantastic job exploring the concept of the double life. The party towards the end where Bruce and Selina enter as the only two ostensibly not wearing masks isn't exactly subtle, but it is extremely effective.

And, while the first two thirds of the movie are pure camp, the finale feels more operatic. It's dramatic and over-the-top, but still somehow genuine.

The Christmas elements are, on some level, a bit tacked on. The holiday connections don't really have much impact on the plot or even the tone (as they did in Die Hard), but they permeate the film enough to justify its inclusion here. Oddly enough, they didn't get the movie a winter release: the studio, greedy for the larger potential profits associated with the summer, originally released this in June.

It's always a pleasant surprise to discover a movie you've always dismissed is actually a lot better than you ever gave it credit for.

You can pick up Batman Returns on Amazon, or even stream it there pretty cheap.

A Chipmunk Christmas (1981, 1989)

Erin and I have a... disagreement about The Chipmunks. I find them mostly inoffensive to funny, and I have a bit of a soft spot for their animated selves that stems from a love of The Chipmunk Adventure movie. (I have no idea whether that movie is actually any good, but I loved it as a kid.)

Erin hates The Chipmunks, and he can't even identify why. So for his commentary, you can just imagine him tearing his hair, muttering about stupidity and incoherently shouting in exasperation.

A Chipmunk Christmas (1981)
This TV Special was a loose sequel to the 1961-62 animated series The Alvin Show, and aspects of it make no sense without a basis in that, including a nonsensical dream sequence about the other segment from that series.

So here's the set-up: cliché sick kid at Christmas. Alvin gives the kid his harmonica because he's a big fan. But oh, no! Now Carnegie Hall is calling, and Alvin needs money for a new harmonica! Plus stupid misunderstandings and lots and lots of stopping for songs. It's not terrible, but it's mostly kind of boring, and it belabors obvious plot points.

The animation is okay except when it loops, and it's in a mix of the designs from the earlier tv series and Chuck Jones' standard style.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Carroll (1989)
This is an episode from the chipmunks show I remember. It has more extreme personalities, more zaniness, and if, possible, a dumber plotline. The animation is more consistent, but less artful.

This one's a riff on A Christmas Carol, in which Alvin has to learn to think of others,not about getting gifts, in time to write an essay about the spirit of Christmas. The designs on the other characters standing in for the three spirits are extremely ridiculous.

Dave's Wonderful Life (1989)
Ouch. Despite some amusement inherent in the silliness of the setup, and the Twilight Zone riff, this parody of It's a Wonderful Life falls pretty flat. It doesn't even obey its own internal logic. It would have been pretty funny if it had paid attention to the history set up by this same series, that established that if Dave didn't exist, the Chipmunks would be, you know, dead of hypothermia and starvation.

Overall I'd give this one a pass, unless you're a big fan. Even then, watching this might convince you that you're less of a fan than you thought.

Christmas Reading

Because I know you can't get enough of reading me prattle on and on about Christmas HERE, I thought it would be a good time to remind you that I've written a novel about Mr. Claus. You can get my fantasy novel, For Love of Children, in print or for just about any e-format you need.

And that's not all. I've marked the electronic versions down for the holidays. That's right - you can buy For Love of Children for Kindle, Nook, or... what the hell's Sony's reader called again? Oh, who cares - no one owns one of those anyway.

So, yeah. Kindle, Nook, whatever: it's yours for a measly 99 cents. Less than a buck.

Here's where you can buy it on Amazon.

Here's where you can get it for, well, anything and everything on Smashwords (recommended if you own multiple devices and want more than one format).

If you own a Nook, you can get it at Barnes & Noble's online store here.

All of the above sites offer free samples, but Smashwords will give you a bigger chunk.

Of course, I know damn well that some of you are cheapskates looking for a handout. Like my taxes don't already pay for your workhouses and prisons.

Oh, well. It is Christmas, after all, and with that in mind, I released this free collection of short Christmas cheer last December, collecting a handful of short holiday fiction pieces from this very blog (and one not-so-short story exclusive to the collection.

You can download "A Man of Snow and Other Seasonal Stories" in any and all formats at Smashwords. Alternatively, Nook owners can get it at Barnes & Noble.

Toy Review: Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer: Santa's Musical Sleigh

When I'm not wiring my eyeballs open to force-feed Christmas specials directly into my cerebral cortex, I spend a lot of time reviewing toys at Toy Remix. Since this is Christmas-related, I decided it really belonged over here.

This monstrosity is produced by "Forever Fun," a toy company who's sole purpose seems to be making action figures and playsets based on old Christmas specials. To their credit, they've got some good merchandise out there, including a six-inch scale articulated Rudolph I bought a few years ago and reviewed at my OTHER toy site (I'm a very busy man).

The toy I'm looking at today is smaller and lacks articulation. On the other hand, it comes with eight other reindeer, Santa, and a sleigh. So take that however you like.

I keep calling this a toy, although that's actually misleading. Sure, it's packaged like a toy and it's sold at Toys R Us, but this really doesn't feel like a toy once it's out of its box. It's more like a Christmas decoration, something you'd expect to find at Hallmark.

First, a little about the packaging. Artistically, I like the snowy hill, and my guess is it does a decent job selling this as a substantial object. The downside is that it takes up a lot of space and is a bitch to remove. The number of twist ties required to  keep everything in place is a bit overwhelming. By the time you're done, there won't be much left of that hill, which is made of a thin, papery plastic.

The actual base is a smaller, hard plastic piece. It looks all right and houses the electronic components - more on that in a bit. In addition, there's a clear plastic arm that attaches to another clear plastic apparatus which connects to everything else. There are a number of joints on this thing, which in theory should give you some posing options.

The problem is that the joints are way too loose out of the box. I had to tighten several with a screwdriver before it would hold up the deer. The experience was anything but fun, so I don't dare experiment with posing for fear of loosening the joints again.

In addition, nothing feels all that secure or balanced. The base is fairly lightweight, which means this will tip over if you rotate the sleigh too far one way or another. The fact that the pivot joint won't stand up to a strong breeze makes this situation all the more disconcerting.

Nevertheless, this is a pretty cool looking set. Providing that you think of it as such, it's not a bad a decoration for the holidays.

Of course, I haven't told you about the best part yet. There's a button on the base that plays an extremely loud and annoying rendition of the music from Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer. Perhaps mercifully, it skips most of the song.

Because it's Christmas, I thought it'd only be fair to share the experience. For the full effect, be sure to crank your speakers, sit back, and relax:


In case you were wondering, I didn't pay the full retail price of $29.99 for this thing. Last January, I found this in the clearance section of the basement of the Times Square Toys R Us marked down to $10. I managed to combine that with a coupon I had, and wound up paying five.

Getting crap no one wanted for a fraction of the price after the holidays have died down: now that is the true meaning of Christmas.

Friday, November 25, 2011

We Were There

At this point, Black Friday has more or less completely consumed Thanksgiving. If people still bother with the feast, it must be to store energy for the long night ahead. As co-founder of the internet's self-proclaimed premier holiday blog, I've decided to dub the night between Thanksgiving and Black Friday "The Blackest Night."

In case you're either living under a rock or enjoying the holidays with loved ones instead of watching news reports of disgruntled shoppers pepper-spraying a crowd, the old-fashioned 3AM door-busters are an antiquated notion of a bygone era: Black Friday begins, at the absolute latest, at the stroke of midnight. Some retailers aren't even satisfied with that: Toys R Us and Walmart opened for Black Friday at 9 and 10 PM, respectively. Yes, Black Friday officially started on Grey Thursday, Black Friday Eve; the Blackest Night.

There was no way in hell we were missing that.

Lindsay and I arrived at the Queens Toys R Us around 10. They'd already been open for about an hour, but there was still a massive line outside, presumably in compliance with occupancy laws. It took us a solid half hour to make our way through that.

The inside was actually a little less horrific than would have suited our purposes. Sure, customers were pushy, but I the environment didn't seem too bad. Granted, we never actually made it into the electronics section, where the real deals were located.

When we were making our way towards the door, we found our path blocked by an employee manning a rope. "Are you looking for where to pay?" she asked, trying to ensure no one was cutting the extremely substantial line.

It makes me wonder if we were the only visitors she'd encountered that day who weren't actually buying anything.

Afterward, we headed for the train station towards our next stop. On our way, we swung by a Best Buy, just to see what the line looked like. Here's a picture:

It's hard to tell, but the line ends right around the car with its break light on, just about fifty feet from the store's entrance. Unfortunately for those waiting, it was pointed in the other direction. We took this picture around 11:30, and the store was scheduled to open at 12. I have little doubt that line was fully circling the store by the time it opened.

None of this prepared us for Target. We arrived to find that the only entrance in use was through the parking garage. The scene outside, at almost exactly midnight, warranted video:


I don't remember seeing a sign expressly prohibiting driving, but it was pretty clear you couldn't get a car up there anymore. The crowd spiraled up to the fourth level, where the line began. From there, it snaked up, higher and higher into the parking garage.

I was skeptical that we were going to have the patience to wait through that line, but it went shockingly fast. I had the impression that they weren't in much danger of hitting their occupancy maximum (or maybe they just didn't care), but either way, they kept the line moving at a pretty steady pace, and within a half hour or so we were in.

Toys R Us had let us down, but Target delivered a full dose of holiday horror. This was a place of legend, nightmare, and discount merchandize.

The second floor was a crowded sea of carts, each housing no less than one flat screen TV. It was so packed, you couldn't move: the line circled the entire floor, like a snake eating its own tail.

Lindsay and I decided to check out the Christmas section down on the first floor to see how that looked. Here's what we found:

How about a wider shot? I asked Lindsay to back up and offer a better sense of perspective.

It wasn't just the Christmas decorations. While electronics and appliances were packed beyond reason, about half of the store was almost entirely empty. It was almost impossible to elbow our way into the toys section located on the second floor, but once there we could move about unimpeded. Because no one was really there for toys. Or Christmas.

It was at that moment I made a significant realization: there were thousands of people in that store, and none of them were actually there for Christmas presents. Maybe the next day they'd go out and shop for others, but that night - the Blackest Night - has taken on a new meaning: it's a holiday where Americans go out and buy themselves a new TV.

And we'll push, crush, pepper-spray, or even shoot anyone in our way. Because, at some point, a sense of entitlement convinced us that the property out there belongs to us, that we have a right to it.

Maybe all this is an appropriate way to honor Thanksgiving and the origin of our nation after all.

For the record, we left without a big screen TV, though I did buy some floss, and Lindsay picked up some energy bars, and a discounted Christmas shirt. We were downstairs, so there wasn't any line, at all.

I mean, it would have been a shame to leave empty handed.

A Christmas Carol (2009)

Ugh. What a boring excuse for a movie. We all know the story of A Christmas Carol (if you don't, well go read it. It's short and free online, and we're planning on looking at quite a few versions this year) so the only questions here are its quality as an adaptation and its quality as a movie. This fails pretty badly on both counts.

The first problem is that A Christmas Carol is not a long story. No, not even if you shoehorn in as many lines of dialogue and tiny descriptive moments as you can bear, including many that wiser screenwriters left out of their versions. Mickey's Christmas Carol works by being short. Muppet Christmas Carol has musical numbers. This one either shoves in deadly dull sequences of nothing; pointless flyovers of GC landscapes, establishing sequences for settings that are never used, ridiculously stupid chase sequences that make no sense, ludicrously over the top “this was filmed in 3D!!!” pans, or it just takes forever to get to the next part.

On the positive side, that meant we had lots of time during the film for MST3K style commentary in between the dialogue.

And there were lots of things to mock. Hideous CG monsters, I mean children, for one. Erin tells me that Polar Express is set even further in the uncanny valley, but this is pretty bad. The character designs are stupid. The eyes are dead and glassy. There are contradictions moment to moment whether “real” physics or “cartoon” physics governs the movement of characters. Erin pointed out that motion capture completely fails to be realistic when the body shapes of the characters are so far removed from those of the actors. Bob Cratchit looks like Mundungus from the Harry Potter movies.

There are a few decent sequences, and most of the backgrounds are quite pretty, but the pace is so awful that I had a hard time noticing anything good. The design on Christmas Future was actually pretty great for a while, but every time this movie started to approach something resembling heart, the message, or anything actually moving, it undermined it with sight gags or very poor art direction. I found it difficult not to laugh at anything dramatic or wince at anything “funny”.

It's all flash-bang, no substance, and it's boring flash-bang, to boot.

Okay, I know I've gone on for a while, but there's one more thing that drove me up the wall.

From Dickens:
...his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of the building. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing. It swung so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house. 

The above does not equal something that looks like this:

Because this is a bell panel. A big house in the Victorian era has this in or near the servants' quarters, each bell connects to a different room so that if Lady Agatha rings for tea, it isn't brought to Lord Bertie's room. WHY IS THERE A MULTI-BELL PANEL IN A MASTER BEDROOM? Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I just think they didn't do a lick of research.

If it had been less boring, that might not have stayed with me. But it was. Very Boring. Not Recommended.

Listen Along at Home

Hi folks. I've got some fairly lengthy thoughts about Christmas music I'm planning on subjecting you to eventually, but this post is going to be a little more targeted.

Here's the thing. Amazon's currently unloading a crap load of holiday cheer dirt cheap. I don't expect these prices to last past the end of the month, so I wanted to draw your attention to a handful of Christmas MP3 albums that are actually worth listening to before the prices go back to normal in a few days.

Full disclosure: This site is an Amazon affiliate, so, yeah, if you use the links below and proceed to buy something, Amazon gives us a 2 cent kickback or something. Woo - conflict of interest. However, believe it or not, I'm NOT writing this post in the hopes of generating enough revenue to buy a pack of Smartees. No, I'm doing this because I truly believe that Christmas music spreads pain, and I'm a horrible, horrible person. At any rate, if you like my advice but hate me, this link should take you to Amazon's list of 100 $5 Christmas albums, and I won't see one red or green cent.

Without further ado, here are seven albums that are getting us through the holidays this year, all five bucks a piece:

Nightmare Before Christmas Special Edition: In addition to the movie soundtrack, this has a number of alternate and new recordings. You're getting 29 tracks in all: highly recommended for fans of the movie.

The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs: This is a really cool little collection of Christmas songs done by various artists. There are a few weak tracks, but several of the songs are becoming favorites. At the very least, listen to the sample of Meiko's "Maybe Next Year I'll be Good."

The Jethro Tull Christmas Album: My single favorite Christmas album, period.

Bela Fleck & the Flecktones: Jingle All the Way: I just picked this up this year, and I'm loving it. This has some extremely original takes on classic Christmas songs.

Merry Christmas From Sesame Street: The real deal - the classic 1975 Sesame Street Christmas album. You know you need it.

Melissa Etheridge: A New Thought For Christmas: Another one I recently bought and am loving.

Straight No Chaser: Holiday Spirits: Lindsay would be pissed if I omitted this a cappella album. She adores it; I like it.

In addition, if you're looking to beef up your collection of classic Christmas music, Amazon's currently unloading an album containing 100 Classic Christmas Songs for $5.99. I won't swear to the quality of every one of those songs, but at six cents a track, it's a hell of a deal.

Care Bears Nutcracker Suite (1988)

The Care Bears Nutcracker Suite (or The Care Bears Nutcracker, depending on the release), was the last of the 1980's Care Bears television specials, and by most accounts the worst. Relatively speaking, I didn't find it that bad, but then I haven't seen the other two. Maybe they're masterworks of brilliance, for all I know. I kind of doubt it, though.

Let's be clear - this isn't good in any meaningful definition of the word. It's bad. Kind of really bad. It doesn't make sense, and it feels like the unholy love child of a toy commercial and the drug-fueled ramblings of a coke-head. But then, isn't that what the 80's were truly about?

Ostensibly, this was supposed to be based on The Nutcracker. That might be a bit of a stretch: this is mainly an excuse for the Care Bears to roam around Toyland, a concept that feels hopelessly redundant. I mean, the animated Care Bears have stitches on their backs: there's no way they're supposed to be "real" bears.

At any rate, they're now walking around a child-like fantasy kingdom that is not Care-a-Lot, but might as well be. And they're fighting a villain who's basically the same as No-Heart (Lindsay assures me it's the same voice actor; I'm sure she's right) going by the name of "The Vizier," because it's too much to ask to retain any kind of similarity to the source material. There is a Rat King, though he's nothing more than an incompetent lackey. I'll let you try and imagine just how idiotic his lackeys are.

To the Care Bears' credit, they occasionally use their Care Bear Stare as something other than concentrated peer pressure. At one point they're on a train being overrun by the rat army, and they start shooting them off with their chest symbols. It's better than nothing, but for a race of creatures with weaponized psychic energy at their disposal, they get their asses handed to them far too often. I mean, in an earlier Care Bear episode, I once saw a bear generate hard-light heart constructs, jam them into a stone wall, and use them to climb a tower. So during The Care Bears Nutcracker, I found myself yelling at the screen, "Stop fucking around, and kill the goddamn rats!" I mean, come on, The Care Bears basically laid the foundation for Geoff Johns's rainbow of Lantern Corps: read Blackest Night if you want to see what weaponized compassion should be capable of.

At any rate, this special often gets grouped with the absolute worst of the holiday specials. Look, after last year, Lindsay and I are connoisseurs of awful Christmas Specials, and this can't compete. You want to give up hope on mankind? Go watch The Star Wars Holiday Special and Casper's Haunted Christmas. The Care Bears Nutcracker Suite, on the other hand, walks the line of so bad it's almost good. I don't know if it fully crosses over that line, but it's definitely watchable.

In fact, if you're a Brony (that's a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, for those of you with lives), you should definitely check this out. There's a similar spastic, equal parts sugar and cocaine, quality to both.

The special occasionally uses music from the Nutcracker Suite, though it's got to be one of the worst recordings ever made. More often than not, they don't even bother, instead using generic synthesized music.

You can generally find this thing used on Amazon, if you're so inclined. Alternatively, you could pick up any other Care Bears special or movie, get so smashed on eggnog you can't think straight, then put it on. I'm pretty sure the experience would be about the same.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Christmas with the Chipmunks (CD 2010)

This year I made a point of adding to my collection of holiday music with what I'm calling Novelty Character Albums. What I mean is, albums where most of the gimmick is that the songs are being sung by fictional characters. I, honestly, love character-based Christmas music. There are so many seasonal songs that are good no matter what, but when, for example, the Muppets sing them, they become transcendent.

The first one I'm looking at is also the oldest (date on the CD notwithstanding).

The Chipmunks have been a novelty act since the 1950's, and their hit holiday song won a Grammy at the very first Grammy Awards.

So for historical purposes, I had to get one of their compilations. The company that owns The Chipmunks has been putting out different combinations of holiday songs since 1961, generally just re-combining and re-releasing the same tracks. So even though this CD was technically released in 2010, the recordings are all from the 60's.

With that out of the way, let's talk about the album itself!  16 tracks:

  • Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
  • The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)
  • Jingle Bells
  • It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
  • Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Up On The House-Top
  • We Wish You A Merry Christmas
  • Silver Bells
  • Over The River And Through The Woods
  • All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)
  • Frosty The Snowman
  • The Twelve Days Of Christmas
  • Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  • Deck The Halls
  • White Christmas

Of course it features their headline track, The Chipmunk Song, but overall it's a decent selection of songs. The album starts strong, with a little introduction before the first song (many character albums have this) but the jokes in the music get repetitive pretty quickly. I really like the first song, Here Comes Santa Claus. It made me laugh. The first time Alvin speak-sings a verse with mock-gravity it's pretty fun, but when a similar gag is used later, it's less interesting. This CD would probably be better blended in with a bunch of other disks, not listened to by itself. A little Chipmunks is fun, but a little goes a long way.

About specific songs:

Some of the tracks are great. I mean, they do ALL THE VERSES to Jingle Bells! Nobody does that! There's a nice lightly jazzed-up beat to this version, too. Plus this is the only version of Over the River and Through the Woods in our collection, which was surprising. Also that song has more lyrics than I remembered, and they add some bridges to extend the song and make it more Christmassy. I approve.

Rudolph has a large amount of character stuff, but it gets very odd. (There's extra dialogue, sideline jokes about catching a cold at the North Pole, etc.)

Fun 12 Days... Like all good versions of this song, there's a decent number of layered jokes to keep you interested, including occasionally singing the wrong lyrics on purpose.

Deck the Halls has one of those "now you sing at home, kids" sections, which is not surprising.

I found this version of White Christmas particularly cornball, and it's too bad that it was chosen to end the CD; it would have been better to close on Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

Best songs:
Here Comes Santa Claus, Jingle Bells, 12 Days of Christmas

Worst songs:
White Christmas, Up on the Housetop, All I Want for Christmas

Final judgement: fun, but use in moderation.

Happy Black Friday Eve

I'm telling you, it feels like the Black Friday season gets here earlier every year. I realize that the season doesn't really change - it still starts the day after Halloween and goes until Black Friday Eve - but I swear stores have started putting out decorations and merchandise before kids are back in school.

But all of that's behind us, as we settle down to feast with family and friends tonight in preparation of tomorrow's big day. So, whether you're planning on spending this Black Friday Eve gathered around a roast turkey or if you and a loved one are trying to force down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in line outside a Walmart while cross-referencing a map of the store against a sales flyer, we wish you and your family the best this holiday season.

But Black Friday is about more than just you: it's about all of us. It's about America. In fact, very few people know this, but just as Christmas was scheduled around co-opted pagan holidays, Black Friday Eve's date was actually based around a forgotten early-American day of feasting and giving thanks. While the original symbolism has long been forgotten, some of the customs have endured.

Moreover, it gives me a warm feeling inside to know that while the focus has moved away from antiquated notions like family, community, and thanks and shifted to twenty-dollar DVD players and sales beginning at 10 PM at night, there's no denying that this day is still a pitch-perfect reflection of our nation's current set of values.

So, with capitalism and consumerism in our hearts, we wish you and yours a very happy Black Friday Eve.

Live-Tweeting the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade!

Mainlining Christmas will be covering the Macy's Thanksgiving parade! Live! From NEW YORK CITY (more specifically, from our apartment in Queens, where we'll be watching it on TV).

Yeah. Here's the link.

Terry Pratchett's Hogfather (2006)

Clocking in at two ninety-minute episodes, this is one of the longer pieces of work we've seen for this project, but it's completely worth the time. This is an excellent adaptation of the novel, with all of its zany twists and dry satirical humor.

As in said novel, the plot revolves around Hogswatch (Christmas) on Discworld. The Hogfather is missing, and while Death himself holds down the fort, his granddaughter Susan has to figure out what happened, then how to save both Hogswatch and possibly the Discworld itself. The characters are fun and interesting, most of my favorite parts of the book made it into the adaptation, and Erin, who hasn't read the book, was able to follow the plot, and the point, without a problem.

I'm hoping to re-read the novel soon and post about it, so I won't go too far into the plot here. Instead I'll give you a few screenshots. I wish there had been more Death of Rats, but Death was surprisingly well done. I wasn't sure that he could be properly portrayed in three dimensions.

Also, Susan was everything I hoped she'd be,

the bad guys were properly creepy,

and it managed to juggle the various plotlines really well.

There's adventure, nonsensical gift-giving, and the very creepy magic of blood, teeth and belief, which, after all, is what Christmas is all about.

This is streaming on Netflix, so really you have no excuse not to carve out some time to enjoy this seasonal visit to Discworld.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Christmas Magic Returns

Do you believe in Christmas? Do you love Christmas?

Most people would answer yes to those questions without a moment's hesitation. And that's a shame, because it means they're not considering the implications. It means they don't actually know what Christmas is.

To many people, Christmas is silver bells, angels, and love. But that's not Christmas. Christmas is an angler fish a thousand feet long from the space between worlds; its tinsel and decorative lights are lures to draw us in, so the jaws can snap shut.

You think I'm being harsh? Think I'm just cynical? Then you don't know a damn thing about Christmas -  you've never seen its teeth.

Have you listened to 20 versions of Silent Night back to back? Have you stared into the abyss long enough to see the icy stare of a snowman gazing back?

No? Then you don't know Christmas: you know only its shadow.

Last year, we descended into the wide maw of the holiday. We stared down its throat and returned to tell the tale. And what we saw was truly beautiful and horrible. Yes, there is beauty in the holiday. There is generosity.

But those who think that is the spirit of the holiday are sadly mistaken. Commercialism, corruption, and greed are not outside elements imposed upon the holiday, nor are tacky ornaments and gaudy lights things to shun. No, they are part of the Christmas spirit, part of its dark and tortured soul.

Once again, Mainlining Christmas is preparing to invoke the Christmas Spirit. We will watch specials, more than most can imagine - one a day is the minimum, most days you'll see us review two or three. We will listen to Christmas music, all the Christmas music we can find. We'll put on nothing else until the day itself is upon us.

We will eat, drink, and dream Christmas. We will inject it into our veins.

We invite you to roll up your sleeves and join us.

The second season of Mainlining Christmas is upon us. We have more than a thousand songs of holiday cheer, and more than fifty specials, movies, and holiday episodes to get through.

It starts now.

(Written 11/21/11, while sitting in the audience waiting for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular to begin)