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Showing posts from December 16, 2012

30 Rock Christmas Episodes (2007-2010)

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30 Rock: Ludachristmas (2007)

The first Christmas episode is in Season Two. The main plot, following Jack’s trouble with his elderly mother and Liz’s annoyingly perky family, was darn fun. There’s great family dynamics, and the resolution is nicely cynical. The B-plot about Tracy’s alcohol monitoring and the office Christmas party was also pretty funny.

30 Rock: Christmas Special (2008)

Season three brings us this episode, with promising plot hooks and decent execution. Elaine Stritch is fabulous again as Jack’s mother, whom he has (accidentally?) hit with his car. Liz’s plot, however, is about her desire to donate toys to some needy kids, and while the takeaway is kinda funny, it’s awkward and painful to watch.

30 Rock: Secret Santa (2009)

This one I had seen before, and it’s rather weak. The gags fall flatter and the tropes are tired. Blah.The joke about Jenna’s insecurity about her singing made me sort of angry. I know the character is shallow and crazy, but I just didn’t like it.

30…

The Adventures of Pete & Pete: O Christmas Pete (1995)

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Man, I forgot how freaking weird this show is! It’s really, really weird. Watching this episode, about how one kid’s attempt to keep Christmas around a bit longer spirals into a battle for the ages between the Christmas Spirit and an evil Garbage Man with his own theme song is... well, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Overall I’m glad we saw this. It certainly wasn’t boring. It was an exceptionally surreal experience and it suffered from the abuse of sound effects, but at least it wasn’t boring.

If you’re looking to relive what you liked about Pete & Pete, you might want to start elsewhere. But if you want a very unique tale of holiday cheer, give this a shot. I found it on YouTube.

VeggieTales: St. Nicholas Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving

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Ah, VeggieTales. At last we meet face to face.

VeggieTales is about a bunch of anthropomorphic vegetables who praise Jesus and tell really, really awful jokes. The vegetables don't have hands, but still manage to lift small objects in front of them, as if they did. I can only assume this is done with a limited form of telekinesis.

As premises go, I think I'd rank this dead last out of absolutely everything humanity has ever invented. And yet... somehow... this was so bad it failed to live up to its potential.

I'm going to gloss over the frame story about a broken truck and jump right into the real meat of this thing, which concerns the "real" Santa Claus. Of course, they're referring to Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra. Ultimately, I'd describe the final result as being less historically accurate than Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Sure, they turned Nicholas into a pepper, but that was far from the only alteration. The story started out acceptably (not cou…

The Twilight Zone: Five Characters in Search of an Exit (1961)

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We watched another Christmas-themed Twilight Zone episode last year, and thought it was pretty decent. This one was slightly less good, but still okay.

Actually, knowing that this is a Christmas episode has a decent shot at giving away the twist, but it’s not that awesome of a twist. The plot, such as it is, follows five amnesiac strangers who are trapped in a featureless room together. They know their occupations, they know a little about the world, but they don’t know who they are or how they got there. The Army Major is the most recent one to arrive, and he pushes the others to try various crazy escape plans. The rest of them seem rather content to just pass the time.

Some of the acting is pretty interesting, the clown and the dancer have some neat moments, but the major has too much over-the-top bluster. He’s a bit one-note, and he’s the main character. We did really enjoy the characters working through all the obvious and not-so-obvious theories about where they were.

It’s not a…

Mythbusters: Holiday Special (2004)

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Huh. I was not actually expecting that one to be so boring. Only it was, in fact, really boring.

Has Mythbusters always been boring, but I only watched it at times in my life when I wasn’t very picky? Although come to think of it, Mythbusters has always been something that I either heard about or would occasionally watch a clip from, not a show I ever sat down and watched.

In this episode, a great deal of screen time is dedicated to building a Rube Goldberg device centering on the Mentos-soda reaction and a few holiday knick-knacks. It has to be designed and built and talked about and then tried over and over. These segments are dull, un-whimsical, and annoying.

Meanwhile, the kids on the show “test” a bunch of other “myths”, although I think they might have been scraping the bottom of the internet for some of these.

Can you break your foot (or a small dog) by dropping a frozen turkey on it?
Well, considering the weight and density of a frozen turkey, I’d say, duh.

What crazy remed…

Fiction: Wings in the Night

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Welcome to day 22 of Mainlining Christmas's series titled, "25 Christmas Eves." We've got a very special Christmas Eve for you this time, boys and girls. A nice little religious piece called, "Wings in the Night." Hope you like it.
By: Erin L. Snyder
“Mr. Juliard?” the woman asked, extending a hand over his hospital bed. She was beautiful, or at the very least attractive. Exotic would be the best word: her ethnicity was difficult to pin down, even for Hugh, who’d always been good at that sort of thing. Part Spanish, part Indian, maybe?

Hugh didn’t ask, of course. He simply raised his hand. It was tiring, but mainly because the painkillers sapped his energy. “Hello. I didn’t catch your name,” he said.

“Burkwitz. Melody Burkwitz.” She smiled. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard of me.”

Hugh shrugged. “Sorry,” he said.

“I’m not offended,” she said. “I’ve done a few morning shows. My books tend to gather attention. It’s not always the sort I’d like, I’m afraid.” She …

Suburgatory: Krampus (2012)

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I was flipping through shows on Hulu (every year they compile a list of Christmas episodes and specials available), and I saw an episode of Suburgatory titled "Krampus." Calling something "Krampus" is a good way to pique my interest, so I hit play. Keep in mind I don't remember ever hearing of "Suburgatory" before, so I was going in blind.

It was certainly an odd thing to jump into. It seems to revolve around a teenage girl, Tessa, who's recently moved to "the suburbs" with her single father. The focus jumped around a lot, so a good portion of the episode was devoted to minor characters. Also, the show wasn't entirely episodic, so a lot the plot lines were continued from previous episodes (though, in Christmas tradition, it seemed to wrap most of them up).

There was a lot going on here, but three plots seemed to be the most significant:

Tess went to spend Christmas with her (newly discovered) mother.Her neighbor discovered he was ado…

Craft: Phoenix Angel Ornament

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I'm getting more interpretive with the angel motif around here. Isn't she pretty?
Here's what she started out like:
I added Kneadatite over the word "Faith", and then I added some extra flames to her hair and wings:

A light sanding, then plenty of paint, and she's evoking a very different look.

I didn't manage to get in all the cracks as much as I'd like, but maybe I'll do a little touch-up when I have more time. I went over all the non-flesh colored parts with white first, then chose the best bright colors I could mix. The fire wings are many layers of oranges, reds and gold.

Here's a shot for scale:
I thought about going back in with a symbol or something, but I like that it's not completely obvious who she is. She came out pretty nice, and she's probably not going to eat your planet today. 




Phil of the Future: Christmas Break (2005)

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This is probably the strangest installment on the "Disney Channel Holiday" DVD we found on clearance, and believe me: that's saying quite a bit. I'd assumed it was the pilot from the episode's subject matter, along with the fact it's technically included as a Bonus Feature on the disc, but it turns out this was from the second season. That was kind of a let down: the episode felt like it had some good ideas behind it but was unpolished. Turns out, this was what the show was like after it was polished - I can only imagine what it was like beforehand.

Don't interpret that to mean the episode was bad. Actually, I can't decide whether it was bad or good. Hell, I'm not even sure it wasn't brilliant or horrible.

Let's start with the show's premise. Apparently, Phil of the Future is about a family from a few hundred years in the future marooned in the present when their time-Winnebago broke down in the middle of their vacation. This episode …

Live Blogging the End of the World

As everyone knows by now, the prophesied end of days is scheduled for today. The way I see it, anything that occurs in mid-to-late December is, by definition, part of Christmas, so I wanted to offer some insight into our world's horrible demise as it happens.

Unfortunately, I've got some last-minute Christmas shopping to do, so I'm not going to be able to give the 2012 apocalypse as much attention as I was hoping to. Nevertheless, throughout the day I'll be updating this post, so you can follow along.

Note: all times are Pacific Standard.

9:04 AM: So far, things are pretty quiet out here. Sky's are kind of blood-red, but it's still just raining. It's a little cold, I guess.

9:06 AM: Checking the morning news. Most news sites are reporting the East Coast was swallowed by the ocean. Fox News is claiming liberal bias.

9:08 AM: Small, fiery rock crashed through window. Gonna have to board that up later. Kind of reminds me of the movie "Armageddon." God, I…

Musical Interlude, Part 8

As always, Amazon has a handful of free Christmas albums up on, so I decided to download and listen to them. After all, I obviously didn't have enough Christmas music already.


Album: Greenhill Christmas Music Sampler
Artist: Various

On average, this is a bad sampler, primarily containing elevator jazz and new age tracks. But since this is a free album, there's no law of averages at play: all that matters is whether there's anything worth keeping. And fortunately, the answer is yes.

There's not a lot, but there are a handful of good songs, along with (dare I say) one great one. Oddly enough, the great one is from a new age artist, David Arkenstone. It's an adaptation of Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, albeit one that (at least to my ears) sounds like it belongs in a spy movie.

I looked up Arkenstone's Christmas album after hearing this and listened to the 30 second samples. They sounded good, but they're certainly nothing like this Dance of the Sugarplum Fair…

Book Review: The Gift of the Magi

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The Gift of the Magi
O. Henry, 1906

Premise: You know. No, really, you've seen or read something based on this story. You know, anything with two people who buy each other gifts but give up something important to do it, making the gift exchange generally somewhat ironic? I told you you knew.

I’ve seen so many versions of this story as part of Mainlining Christmas, that it hadn’t occurred to me until yesterday that I’d never actually read the original story. And hey, it’s better than I expected.

The style is humorous and playful, with more than a few sly jokes. The story focuses on the wife, Della, and while she’s a bit childish at times, she's also forthright, determined and loving. The ending is much sweeter than I expected. I quite enjoyed reading this.

Why am I still talking about it? It’s a short story and it’s Free. Here, read it yourself!

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7256

Fiction: The Drive Home

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For those of you keeping score with an advent calendar, this is day 21 of "25 Christmas Eves," my series of Christmas-Eve-inspired short stories designed to get you in the holiday spirit. And speaking of holiday spirits....
By: Erin L. Snyder
“You’re kidding, right? You know what time it is?” Mark was frantic, which wasn’t making his drive through the storm any easier. His cellphone was pinned between his ear and shoulder, while he clutched the steering wheel. On the other end of the line, his ex-wife was just as stressed.

“Yes, Mark. I know what time it is. And I’m sure I’m ruining your plans to spend Christmas Eve in a bar. But right now, I really need you to step up and be a father for Tom.”

“So now I’m Tom’s father again,” Mark said. He regretted it as soon as he said it, but it was too late. He cringed for the worst, but Patricia only sighed.

“Look. Jerry’s brother is back in the hospital, and... I just think it would be better if Tom wasn’t here in case things get worst. I…

Frasier: Miracle on Third or Fourth Street (1993)

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The episode opens with Frasier excited about spending Christmas with his family. There's a sequence at his office Christmas party introducing several elements: there's a drunk woman he's supposed to drive home, Ross got him a better gift than he got her, and one of his coworkers wants him to take his Christmas shift.

Only one of these actually extends beyond the opening sequence and influences the episode at all. The others, which feel like plot hooks, just evaporate. I'm not really complaining: the amorous drunken woman and a gift imbalance aren't exactly episode premises I needed to see developed, but I'm baffled as to why they were included then left unresolved.

Frasier gets home and receives some bad news: his son will be spending Christmas with his ex-wife instead of him. This leaves him depressed, which leads into a fight with his father. Rather than go to the family cabin, Frasier decides to work on Christmas (yeah, that required us to sit through the o…

Cheers: The Spy Who Came in for a Cold One (1982)

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I have fond memories of Cheers, but, judging by this episode, the show doesn't hold up thirty years later.

The plot of this episode is kind of a jumble. A man comes into the bar right before Christmas acting mysterious. He "accidentally" lets it slip that he's a spy to Carla, who becomes fascinated with him. She informs the rest of the bar, who crowd around the guy and start asking questions.

The majority of the characters either accept his claims at face value or laugh them off, but Diane, being a know-it-all, needs to press. She catches him in his lies, which cause him to leave humiliated. The others berate Diane, because clearly she was wrong in calling someone out for lying to try and pick up a woman.

The character returns and the twists start coming. First he's convincing Diane that he's a poet, which humiliates her. Then he tries to convince Sam he's rich, and he offers to buy the bar for two million dollars. Of course, he actually is rich, but by …

Good Versions of Boring Songs

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As part of the Mainlining Christmas project, I listen to a lot of Christmas music, far more than some people would consider reasonable. Some of my friends had shared their sympathies, and so I took an informal poll of least favorite holiday songs. My plan was to find versions of these songs that were great, without completely abandoning the song in question. That means no complete rewrites, no parody versions.

That was the plan, anyway. But what I discovered, as I listened through many versions of each song, was that, except for one unique case, I actually don’t have a problem with many of these songs. In fact, I really like most of them! Is Mainlining Christmas changing my brain? Am I going soft? Or is my love of music overcoming my distrust of the holiday?

In any case, wherever I can, I’m still providing you with what I think is a great or a unique spin on each song below, along with my rationale for liking it.


Santa Baby
I don’t understand my friends’ problems with a lot of these s…

That '70s Show Christmas Episodes

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Remember That ‘70s Show? That freaking show ran FOREVER, but it was one of those things you always could turn on and it would usually be funny. There were a total of five Christmas episodes over the eight seasons, and they were all pretty enjoyable to watch.

That '70s Show: The Best Christmas Ever (1998)
It took us awhile to get into this episode from the first season. As the complications and subplots mounted, we were amused, but weren’t engaged. By the end, though, it started to come together. Among other threads, this followed Eric’s attempt to throw a Christmas party (with beer) in the basement, Red having to work Christmas Eve, and Hyde trying to impress Donna with a gift. Not a bad little Christmas episode.

That '70s Show: Hyde's Christmas Rager (2000)
By the time we were watching this one, we were back in the rhythm of the show (and we were watching a later episode, so the quality had picked up a little). I know I’ve seen this episode before: it's about the boys get…

Fiction: The Carnival of Father Christmas

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It's day of twenty of 25 Christmas Eves. Just five more stories to go after this one. Today, I thought I'd try my hand at steampunk. Hope it meets your expectations.


By: Erin L. Snyder
“Attention! Tonight’s Father Christmas March has been called off due to weather! Christmas Eve is cancelled! Once again, the March and carnival have been cancelled!” The man yelled his news through a bullhorn from the back of a steel carriage, which puttered slowly past what remained of the Tildrick Thread Factory, condemned after a fire six years prior. From the roof, a young girl ran along a path of board and boxes which marked areas unlikely to collapse. A patchwork of holes on either side demonstrated the importance of this precaution. The path ended at the largest hole, where a ladder had been propped up against the edge. She grabbed hold and started down.

There were a half dozen kids near the bottom, most about her age. She ignored them and darted towards the far wall, where she found her …