Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Garfield Christmas Special (1987)

You probably know whether you like Garfield or not. It seems like the funniest idea ever when you’re a kid, or when I was a kid, anyway. This is one of a handful of specials that predate the Garfield and Friends tv show.

In the final estimation, this is a fine special. The songs aren't annoying, there are some cute moments, and while it isn't terribly funny, it isn't bad or all that boring.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Jon taking Garfield and Odie to his parents’ house for Christmas, and a series of scenes that establish the characters’ relationships and quirks. Like It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, this has the feel of a bunch of loosely connected vignettes rather than a single story. About the only plotline that is longer than two scenes is the one where Odie is making Garfield a present.

Some of the scenes almost contradict each other, too, in things like whether Jon and his brother are poking fun at their parents’ traditions or not. Jon’s grandmother is a fun character: a feisty old lady full of piss and vinegar.

The version we saw (on DVD) apparently has a slightly extended scene or two, but it didn’t drag; it came in at a trim half-hour.

There were some awkward transitions, and the animation isn’t the fanciest. I smiled at the sweet scenes and giggled a few times, though. You could do a lot worse than this for a quick holiday fix. I’m still not sure whether people can ‘hear’ Garfield, though.

Black Friday: A Retrospective

Another Black Friday has come and gone, leaving desolation, holiday cheer, and suffering in its wake. The images are permeating the internet, and the stories will likely be told in hushed tones until next year's even greater excesses renders these events quaint in comparison.

But until then we can enjoy the show. Since studios have yet to get on the ball and start producing stop-motion specials about the magic of Black Friday, we must make do with video captured by shoppers and spectators (apparently, we're not the only ones).

Gawker assembled an impressive collection of shorts showcasing the festivities at various Walmart stores. Of their videos, we found the following most fascinating, as it manages to record the incident clearly:

If you'd rather skip the suspense, the holiday cheer begins at about 1:25. It takes the crowd approximately thirty seconds to strip the display bare of electronics, leaving a pile of rubble behind.

For the sake of comparison, here is a video we found on YouTube of piranhas killing and devouring a goldfish. Note the relative display of restraint and use of strategy in their attacks. Also, note how they function as a community, building off each others' actions for collective and individual gain:

Sabrina the Animated Series: Witchmas Carole (1999)

I don't believe I ever saw an episode of Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, nor do I recall ever having heard of an animated spin-off. But apparently not only does such a thing exists, it has a Christmas episode.

The plot focused on Sabrina's rivalry with a rich, stuck-up classmate. She attempts to put this character through the premise of A Christmas Carol to what I really, really wish had been hilarious effect. Ultimately, the writing and poor comprehension of the medium made the result tedious and uninspired.

Structurally, it clearly wanted to feel like a sitcom: the characters were two-dimensional, and the world was mostly constrained. The only reason simplistic characters work at all in sitcoms is that actors are able to add depth or - at the very humor - to the backdrop. Take away the nuance, and you're left with a blank slate, which is exactly what this felt like.

Using a bratty rich girl as the villain was about as lazy as you can get. The character was constructed to be unsympathetic, which almost made me sympathize with her. Likewise, the lesson the episode tried to impart felt entirely forced and wasn't remotely convincing (nor was the resolution).

The jokes were delivered in cliched one-liners and over-the-top characterizations that were utterly meaningless without live actors. Nothing was funny or interesting: just vapid and inoffensive.

This thing was a waste of time.

Archie's Weird Mysteries: The Christmas Phantom (2000)

Lindsay came across a collection of Christmas cartoons called (oddly enough) "Christmas Cartoon Collection" in Toys R Us for five bucks. Each of the ten animated episodes comes from a different series. I've heard of exactly 30% of these shows.

One of the series I've never heard of is "Archie's Weird Mysteries." Apparently, it lasted for two seasons from 1999 and 2000 and is about Archie and the Riverdale gang solving Scooby-Doo style mysteries (although apparently supernatural causes were the norm). Based on the era, I'm assuming this was an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the X-Files.

This episode is from 2000. Actually, according to IMDB, it originally aired in February of that year, presumably because whoever scheduled it was as dumb as whoever produced it.

Before we continue, allow me to state the obvious: this was really, really bad. But I also had a hell of a lot of fun watching it. I honestly can't fathom why this exists, but the fact it does is kind of hilarious. That said, I really can't recommend it to anyone who's not systematically trying to see every Christmas special ever produced, so I have no compunctions about spoiling the entire goddamn thing.

The premise of this episode basically starts as a spin on phantom-of-the-opera: according to legend, the local department store burned to the ground thirty years earlier and the mall Santa vanished. Jump to the present, and the store is haunted, with the current fake Santa getting scared off by a possessed Christmas Tree. Archie, who wants a mystery for his series in the school paper, takes the job. On Christmas Eve, he's locked in. He discovers the phantom, who's raised an army of living Christmas toys using a book of spells.

Swear to God; I'm not making this shit up.

The phantom explains that he's planning to send his army out to steal Riverdale's Christmas because the town - with the exception of Archie - has grown too materialistic and has forgotten the true meaning of the holidays. Archie steals his book of spells and gets chased around by the possessed tree and the animated toys. He runs into the Christmas Phantom again and pleads for Riverdale's Christmas. The phantom offers him a deal: if Archie agrees to skip Christmas himself, Riverdale will be spared. Archie agrees, the phantom lets him keep the book of magic, and even unlocks the door.

At this point, Archie bothers to look at the book and realizes it's just a copy of A Christmas Carol. He runs into his friends and seems to promptly forget his deal not to celebrate Christmas. He ducks back into the possessed department store alone to grab the presents he forgot. While he's there, he decides to find out who the phantom is.

He finds him in the back room, tackles him, and pulls off his mask, revealing....

Santa Claus. The real Santa Claus.

See, all of this was just done to screw with Archie's friends and teach them a lesson about... I don't even know. Something. Oh, and so Archie would have something to write about.

Yeah. That makes perfect sense.

This was bizarre. Really, really bizarre. But it was so random, so utterly and completely insane, I couldn't help but enjoy the experience. You probably shouldn't bother watching this - I think I've managed to distill the essence of the thing above - but I did find it just mildly amusing enough to award it the coveted "so bad it's good label."

Friday, November 23, 2012

American Dad: "The Most Adequate Christmas Ever" (2007)

Lindsay and I picked up a DVD containing a Christmas episode of Family Guy and one of American Dad. We got it dirt cheap at a warehouse sale. We saw both and divvied them up: she reviewed "A Very Special Family Guy Freakin' Christmas", and I lost the coin toss.

Where to start? As far as I can tell, American Dad is the show Seth MacFarlane made to make Family Guy look good in contrast. I've only seen a handful of episodes, but nothing I've sat through struck me as being funny in the least. This Christmas episode was certainly no exception.

The premise sounds better than it was: Stan gets killed trying to find the perfect Christmas tree. After failing to make a case for deserving a second chance at life, he grabs a gun, breaks into Heaven, and tries to threaten God into sending him back to Earth.

In case you missed the subtle subtext, Americans are arrogant and violent.

In the hands of capable writers, this premise could conceivably have worked. But, unsurprisingly, the writers of American Dad weren't remotely up to the task. This didn't feel subversive or intelligent in the least: it barely even registered as shocking. I'm sure the producers wanted it to be jarring and leave us gasping at the idea someone would dare do something so blasphemous at Christmas, but - frankly - things like this don't surprise us anymore. South Park got picked up after a short where Jesus and Santa throw down and a handful of kids die in the crossfire: do the makers of American Dad really think a CIA agent holding a gun to God's head is going to surprise us?

With the shock value stripped away, there's really nothing left. The characters are 2-dimensional, meaning whatever pitiful lessons learned have no emotional weight behind them. The jokes - if they can even be called that - are childish and humorless.

Needless to say, this thing is a waste of your time: skip it. Apparently, it isn't the only American Dad Christmas episode, either. There are at least two more, which I suspect we'll track down eventually. Can't wait for that.

The Magic that is Black Friday's Eve

Black Friday's Eve is about tradition, something we at Mainlining Christmas hold in the deepest reverence. Our night began with a feast, of course, since we'd need energy for what comes next. Once we'd built up a healthy layer of fat, Lindsay and I set out into the cold to celebrate the holiday and kick off the holiday season.

We could think of no better place to start than Walmart, that bastion of holiday cheer and stalwart shrine to American culture. We arrived around 10:30 PM Thursday and found a parking space, no small feat on this night, as you can see above.

The lights in the parking lot shone off the cars and SUV's like decorations. We made our way through the near-winter wonderland of vehicles and reached the front, where a handful of police cars were lined up to help maintain order.

The line of eager shoppers wrapped around the store. There were families of all shapes and sizes, many with young children, there to enjoy the festivities, undeterred by the hour-long wait in the cold just to get into the store.

We considered waiting ourselves, but ultimately decided we didn't actually need to see the inside of Walmart to appreciate the magic of the evening. We took enough joy in the joy of others: in this case, the crowd steadfastly waiting for a chance to get their hands on a discount television or blue-ray player.

So we departed for other pastures. As we drove away, it began to rain, and it warmed our hearts to think of those standing outside. Because we knew that a little rain wouldn't undermine their enthusiasm for the day.

Our next stop was Target, which had opened at 9:00 PM in recognition of Black Friday's Eve. We reached the store around 11:00 and were surprised to discover we could simply walk inside, a welcome situation since we were ready for a bathroom break.

We wandered around the store, buoyed by the smiling faces of shoppers. Many had big-screen TVs and the like, but unlike last year in Queens, it didn't seem to be the rule (granted, last year we arrived as the store opened - we have no idea what things looked like a few hours earlier).

The lines were absurdly long, and besides, there was really nothing there we needed, so we headed out soon after. We had one more stop planned, and it was getting late.

It was  around 11:30 when we reached Big K. The store was busy for K-Mart, but this is a far different scale than Target or Walmart. Besides, this was far from the start of their Black Friday's Eve celebration: they'd opened from 6AM to 4PM, before closing for a few hours to allow their employees to time to buy and eat some turkey sandwiches from a gas station or something before reopening at 8:00 PM.

There were a number of people shopping, but the lines looked manageable, and the store wasn't too crowded. Still, we didn't feel the need to buy anything.

But that's alright, because I realized something special last night. I realized that Black Friday's Eve isn't about materialism: it's about community. I realized that if you took away the bargains and discounts, all these people would still be standing in line outside Walmart, because they were there to celebrate the holiday together.

And that is the true magic of Black Friday's Eve.

Book Review: The Christmas Basket

The Christmas Basket
Debbie Macomber, 2002

Premise: Girl met boy, lost boy, left hometown in a terrible snit, returns years later successful but lonely career woman to face boy, their feuding moms, and Christmas.

Wow. Romance is silly. I mean, anyone who says otherwise is just deluding themselves. It's not necessarily bad, but it is darn silly.

Particularly this light bit of fluff from noted romance author Debbie Macomber. Apparently Ms. Macomber writes a Christmas book every single year, so a friend suggested she'd be a good choice to spotlight for Mainlining. Why did I read this one? It was available at my local library and it won an award. Simple as that.

I flew through this book in a single evening, and most of the details have left my brain already, but for romantic fluff, it wasn't bad. Sure, every single character was a sitcom-level moron and they all deserved the stupid pits they’d dug themselves into, but it was still okay to read.

The main problems with the book are common to a lot of romance (I think, I do read romance on rare occasions, after all). There’s a crazy amount of telling rather than showing. This character says shes upset, then she says she’s conflicted, then she says she’s in love. I never really felt any of it. The romantic plotline overall was pretty by-the-numbers and dull. The main girl’s name is Nowell and her birthday is Christmas. Ugh.

What saves this book from the scrap heap is the fact that the mothers of the lovebirds are in the midst of a twenty-year feud which escalates into a sort of global-war-level of petty catfighting just for the holidays as they attempt to work together on a charity project. The mothers are both hopeless and hilarious. I was actually a little sad when they (completely unrealistically) made up by the end.

So, do I recommend you read it? Probably not, unless you’re trapped in a Barnes & Noble in a blizzard and other people took all the good sci-fi. Am I sorry I read it? Nah, it was short. Not the worst way to spend a couple hours.

The Tiny Tree (1975)

Arggh. I knew I should have just fast forwarded past this without looking. I found this on a VHS of programs recorded off of the Disney Channel when I was small. 

This is one of the stupidest specials I've seen in a while. Not quite scratch-my-own-eyes-out, but that's mainly because it's short.

Okay. The Tiny Tree is a completely nonsensical special about a tree that lives in a meadow with a bunch of folksy animal friends who all have different caricatured regional accents. A little girl and her family move into the house by the meadow, and the tree and the animals make friends with her.

You have to understand that the little girl is in a wheelchair, but doesn't seem to be able to reach the wheels for some poorly-animated reason, so this amounts to a handicapped child being repeatedly kidnapped by a bunch of half-clothed, talking animals.

But it's okay, because the child loves the tree. Now, I loved trees as a child, but the way the narration keeps stressing how much the child LOVES THE TREE gets a little creepy.

Incidentally, the Tree has a face, but only whispers in a way the other animals can understand.

There are some musical numbers which vary from obnoxious to merely mediocre which serve no other purpose than to fill time. Really this could have been an annoying 5 minutes instead of a deadly tedious 20-some minutes.

Also there's a hawk... who eats berries. WHAT THE HELL?

The little girl doesn't have a name, incidentally, and no character other than being in a wheelchair. So when she falls and gets hurt trying to stop the hawk from accidentally eating his “friend” the mole, it's actually really funny. Yes, Christmas specials make me a bad person. Why do you ask?

Finally the holiday part of the plot shows up. There's a blizzard and the parents can't get to town to get the little girl's presents. The Tree decides he wants to be her Christmas Tree to make her feel better, so the animals – get this – transplant the Tree (in the snow, somehow) over close to the house and decorate it with berries and cold probably-dying fireflies and unspecified magic.

Then, THEN, Christmas magic heals the little girl. Just so that no one gives up anything, or has to experience any emotion other than oh-yay-everything-is-peachy! The writers of this thing managed to give it a plot-of-sorts with zero emotional weight or poignancy. Good job.

I don't know whether you can find this anywhere, but I don't recommend it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Very Special Family Guy Freakin' Christmas (2001)

Huh. That was.... not as bad as I expected.

You have to understand, I basically hate Family Guy. There were a few funny episodes early on, but the characters grate on me to such a degree that watching the show makes me feel somewhat ill. So it was with much trepidation that I settled in to watch this.

For the first two-thirds of the episode, it went basically as expected. Erin and I sat there in revolted, stony silence as the terrible attempts at “jokes” rolled out. Unnecessary crudeness that just wasn’t funny, pointless twists in the service of yet more unfunny lines, and a building over-the-top sitcom-style disaster that mostly had us rolling our eyes.

Then there was a tiny little Christmas miracle: it got funny.

The third act followed through from what had gone before, but ramped up the craziness in a way that actually worked! We laughed, we sat up, suddenly interested, and were rewarded with biting, funny commentary on the manufactured nature of the holiday, a solid amount of amusing blasphemy, and a speech about the meaning of Christmas that was actually kinda great: unsentimental, selfish reality masquerading as niceness. You know, like the holidays.

I don’t know whether the ultimate pay off made up for enough of the earlier, terrible part for me to actually recommend this, but I can at least give you this: It Didn’t Suck.

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

About ten years ago I wrote a novel called For Love of Children about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy teaming up to (among other things) fight the Bogeyman. I spent a lot of time trying to find an agent, but no was interested in something that out there. Three years ago I gave up and published it myself. At about the same time, Dreamworks started production on Rise of the Guardians, a movie about five characters (included the aforementioned 'big three') teaming up to fight the Bogeyman.

I've been asked by several people if they stole the idea from me. The answer is no: they announced production had started a few weeks before I released my book. So unless they had access to a time machine, they couldn't have heard about it beforehand (and, so far as I know, they still haven't). They based the movie on a series of books William Joyce was working on at the time (these started getting released last year). I keep meaning to check those out but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Essentially, Joyce and I started with very similar premises and went in different directions, but definitely hit on some eerily similar parallels on the way. I don't know how his books turned out, but I just got back from the theater, so I've got some thoughts about the movie.

The point of all that is that if you're looking for an objective review of this movie, you should probably go elsewhere. On the other hand, as someone who spent several years thinking about and writing a novel about these characters, I'm kind of qualified to discuss them.

First of all, let's address the big question: was Rise of the Guardians any good? Well, yes and no. As a Jack Frost movie, it's pretty solid. The mythology behind Frost has always been sparse, leaving them with a lot of room to work, and they put together a solid back story and concept for the character. There was certainly still room for improvement (in three hundred years it never occurred to him to try that?), but it was still probably the most interesting take on Jack Frost I've seen to date.

By most other metrics, it was a failure. The versions of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy presented were pretty original, but "original" isn't the same thing as "good." There's a lot of room for approaching characters like these from new angles, but if this is about believing in Santa Claus, you should probably be using something that at least resembles the Santa Claus children believe in. There's exactly one scene where an authentic-feeling Claus almost breaks through. It was transparently manipulative and not particularly effective, but it was still a welcome break from the zany Russian who appeared in every other sequence.

The North Pole plays a big role in the movie, too, and not in a good way. The yeti feel forced, and the elves... I actually think these are the most annoying elves I've ever seen. Scratch that: second most annoying.

Kids will probably be happy with this take on the Easter Bunny, but I'm not. Making him Australian as some sort of joke is just idiotic. And the less said about his "warren," the better.

The Tooth Fairy's portrayal wasn't much better. In a year when female characters have generally been standing out in genre films (Merida, Katniss, Black Widow, Catwoman, etc.), this felt like a huge step backward. The Tooth Fairy was the movie's only female Guardian, and she was by far the least powerful on the team and seemed entirely ineffective in most situations.

I'm sure de-powering the big three and robbing them of their histories was intentional: if they hadn't done this, Jack Frost wouldn't have been able to stand out. In effect, they knew they couldn't raise Frost or Sandman up to the level of the these icons, so they toned the icons down.

As a result, the big three are largely superfluous here. The only combatants who seem significant are Pitch, Sandman, and Jack Frost. Actually, Sandman seems to be more powerful then the rest of the Guardians combined (that's kind of the plot of the movie, in fact). Santa and the Tooth Fairy are mainly here to inspire Jack, and the Easter Bunny is mainly present to offer some competition within the team.

Again, as a Jack Frost movie, that's not an issue. But putting what are arguably the three most significant folk characters in a movie and relegating them to comic relief and supporting roles feels like a waste. In addition, the movie also fails as a superhero team-up story. Arguably, the cardinal rule of a superhero team is that every member must be essential. That's just not the case here.

Setting all that aside, as a movie it's mixed. There are some serious pacing issues throughout the first two thirds, but the last act moves at a decent clip. It oscillates between melodrama and comic relief most of the time, but occasionally finds its feet. Most of the minor characters are awful, but the villain serves as a credible threat. There are several beautiful sequences, but more that are just messy.

This isn't awful, but I don't think I'd call it 'good', either.

Like I said at the start, I'm not exactly the most objective voice out there when it comes to this thing: I've got pretty strong opinions about how this premise should have been carried out. That said, even when you pull out my issues about the premise, I think it's got quite a few failings. It does have a lot of good moments balancing those out, but in the end, the best it manages is so-so.

The War on Black Friday

In the span of a few decades, Black Friday has grown from a trivial footnote to a major part of the Christmas season. As such, it is surely fitting that the day not be excluded from one of the most significant holiday traditions. I refer, of course, to warfare. War is only an integral part of Christmas figuratively speaking, of course: people don't actually die in the fights between Christian groups fighting for the right to erect lighted shrines to pagan tree spirits and secular groups demanding that the phrase "Happy Holidays" be substituted for its synonym, "Merry Christmas."

No, the war over Christmas is actually a cold war. Casualties are unheard of.

Black Friday, on the other hand, is no stranger to bloodshed. People have been trampled to death, shot, and stabbed. But, until now, these have been isolated events: more skirmishes than an actual war.

But that may be changing thanks to a new trend: Black Friday Eve.

The day before Black Friday has long held significance to the American people, but until recently, it was mainly a day of rest. Corporate CEO's, far removed from the theater of war, have seen an opportunity, and have begun to roll back the start of the holiday shopping season. It's not dissimilar to the age-old practice of letting children open a holiday present on Christmas Eve to tide them over. Only instead of children, it's a company's shareholders. And instead of a present, you're giving them money, almost certainly in exchange for a widescreen television.

You may recall how we were there at midnight last year, when Target opened to usher in the season. Well, they'll be opening even earlier this year: you'll have the option of heading in as early as 9PM on the night before; 8 for Walmart*.

For some reason, there is opposition to this move: a number of employees at these stores have expressed dissatisfaction at the prospect of having to abandon time spent with family and friends on the holiday - one of the few times in the year workers in retail have traditionally been able to count on a day off. This has led to petitions and even strikes: another brewing war between employee and employer over the holidays.

Ah, it makes me feel so warm inside.

But all is not well. The media has dubbed the disputed day, "Black Thursday," which is dull and uninspired. I'm not sure why Mainlining Christmas wasn't contacted by CNN: clearly we're the world's foremost experts on the subject. If they had reached out to us, we'd have recommended the following names:
  1. Black Friday Eve (obviously)
  2. The Blackest Night
  3. Grey Thursday
Come on, news media: get in the game.

As for the rest of you, I guess we'll see you at Target this Black Friday Eve. Especially if you have the misfortune of working there.

*Technically, most Walmarts will be open 24 hours on Thanksgiving, just as they're open 24 hours every day; their 'Black Friday' sale prices, however, will start at 8PM.

Strawberry Shortcake: Berry Merry Christmas (2003)

I'm a little confused how this exists. I knew that someone did a rather silly-looking reboot for Strawberry Shortcake in the early 2000s, around the same time a bunch of 80's franchises for girls got ill-fated re-imaginings. But we bought this used, and it's a VHS. 

A VHS! In 2003. Wow.

It's a good thing we bought this 50-cent used VHS tape, though, because if we hadn't, I would be unable to report to you that the tape itself is berry-scented. Just like the dolls.

Onto the actual content: surprising no one, this is pretty bad. Not “Oh God, my eyes!” bad, but just without any production values to speak of. I mean, I guess the animation isn't terrible. However, what they chose to animate is incredibly boring.

There is basically no plot to speak of, and so the characters just meander around an impressively dull world for 45 minutes. It is in fact like watching a particularly unimaginative six-year old try to plan a party. Picking out presents is a nearly insurmountable task, requiring one to sing terrible songs about it.

That's the plot, incidentally. Strawberry Shortcake has to buy her friends Christmas presents, but she sucks at doing this, and eventually goes on a little trip to the place where the stores are, and picks out gifts. Santa helps, because Strawberry's kind of hopeless. The End. Exciting, huh?

The songs are terrible: poorly written, shoved in at weird times, full of forced rhyme schemes and un-catchy tunes. It doesn't help that the voice actors don't seem to be able to sing and do their character voices at the same time, so it isn't like they're actually singing so much as shifting the pace of their speaking. The voice acting in general is odd. The vocal intonation never changes, it's consistently just high and lilting, no matter whether the character is happy or angry or sad. The transitions are also really strange. Odd CG ornaments appear and disappear, apropos of nothing, sometimes when no transition is necessary.

The moral of this story seems to be: it's nice to give presents. Also, think about what your friends are like in order to pick out good presents. You can use questions like: is your friend a pony? If not, did your friend conveniently mention that she didn't have any more plums? Maybe in that case if you think really, really hard you can think of something to get her. If all else fails, you know, you can always fall back on the classic little-kid present: make something useless. Like, say, snowballs.

Along the way we also learn that maybe a machine that's making too many candy canes shouldn't be set on high.

And that strawberries make good currency. In winter.

Although, really the lesson should have been that maybe Strawberry should have started shopping before her friends came over. Yeah, literally her friends all just wait at her house while she shops.

Erin said this was “somehow hypnotically fascinating in its utter vapidness,” and I'll have to agree. It wasn't a good piece, not at all, but it was amazing as an example of how low you can set the bar for children's programming and people will still buy it.

Needless to say, this is not recommended.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Year Three

We weren't going to come back.

The pain was too great; the burden too large. We looked at the task, at what it would entail, and we flinched. This wouldn't be a year of animated classics and Miracles on 34th Street: we've done those already. This was to be a year of Barney, Veggie Tales, and Adam Sandler. It was going to be hell.

So we ran. We fled across the country to a new city, where maybe - just maybe - we could start a new life. Maybe watch an Easter special or something; I don't know. And that was going to be it for the blog: let it die. Who needs it?

That's when the phone rang. Not the cell, not the land line... the other phone.

The message was bleak. Christmas was in danger. A conglomerate of evil businessmen aligned with foreign powers intent on undermining America, as well as secular groups legitimately trying to make their communities more inclusive for everyone, have pooled their resources in a coordinated attempt to destroy Christmas once and for all.

Remember that business in the 80's with candy canes that made kids fly then blow up? That was a goddamn trial run: this time, it's for real.

There was only one thing that could save Christmas, and that was holiday cheer. Not just normal amounts: it's going to take three hundred megayules of holiday spirit to make sure Christmas happens. Needless to say, that's a shitload of megayules. You could play Rudolph nonstop on CBS between now and December 25th and not get a tenth of that kind of energy.

In fact, there's only one thing that's ever demonstrated that kind of Christmas spirit, and that's Mainlining Christmas.

We realized that it wasn't about us. It was about the kids. And Santa Claus. And all the elves: Hermey, Lanny, Bryony, Richard Simmons, Buddy: all of them. And also kind of Jesus, I guess. Whatever. The point is, Christmas is bigger than any one. We knew what we had to do. We thanked the President and hung up the phone. Then we ordered the biggest artificial Christmas tree we could realistically fit in our apartment and started making a list.

Mainlining Christmas is back to save Christmas. You know the drill; you know what we do. We're starting this season with twice as much holiday music as we had this time last year. We've got shit on DVD you've never heard of and I suspect you'll wish you hadn't. And we're going to have Christmas fiction: way more than ever before.

So strap yourselves in, because between now and December 25th, we're going to be uploading the true meaning of Christmas one byte at a time.