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Showing posts from December 23, 2012

Santa Claus Delivers Pornography to Minor

CNN is reporting that Santa Claus personally delivered a Nintendo 3DS to a child containing pornographic imagery. The 3DS was purchased - by Santa or one of his elves - from a GameStop. Against North Pole policy, the gaming system was purchased refurbished: the imagery had been installed by a previous owner.

GameStop has apologized for the mistake and has given a replacement system - along with additional merchandise - to the family.

The North Pole has yet to issue a statement.

So I've Been Thinking....

I know I said I'd see you next year, but that's days away, and... I missed you guys. Besides, I've got something to say.

When we started Mainlining Christmas, Lindsay and I discussed, among other things, what would and would not constitute a "Christmas movie." It's not as easy to delineate as you'd think. Originally, I excluded Die Hard, reasoning that an action movie wasn't a Christmas movie, regardless of when it was set. We went ahead with it this year for a few reasons, not the least of which being that we wanted to watch something good.

But there's more to it than that. As we've covered more and more classics, the line's gotten blurred. Holiday Inn is considered a Christmas classic: hell, it's where the song "White Christmas" originated. But Christmas actually only represents a small portion of the film's time and attention.

The rule of thumb I've been using so far has been that if something feels like it's q…

See You Next Year

Those of you hoping Christmas would be cancelled this year were once again disappointed: despite opposition to the holiday from both secular groups opposed to the fundamental religious nature of the holiday and religious groups angry about the fundamental pagan nature of the holiday (this is my personal favorite example), and the prophesied end of the world, Christmas came just the same.

Of course it did. Christmas is a cultural juggernaut ten-thousand years old. It's survived the fall of empires and religions. When early Christian leaders tried to destroy it, it ate their savior and took his name. It's the granddaddy of all holidays, the mother of all festivals, and the drunken, lecherous uncle of all celebrations. As long as the seasons change, Christmas isn't going anywhere.

Oh, and we're still here, too.

That's right: not VeggieTales nor Barney nor Adam Sandler could break our commitment to the true meaning of Christmas, whatever the hell that is. Mainlining Ch…

Lindsay's 2012 Wrap-up

I don’t have a ton to say about this year. I was very busy through most of the Thanksgiving-Christmas run, so getting all of the Mainlining done was more work than I remember it being in past years. I’m still getting used to our new home on the West Coast, so I couldn’t go to my normal shopping destinations, etc.

Anyway, this year we watched 92 separate things, which is a new high-water mark for this blog.

Breakdown:
Shorts: 3
Movies: 18
Episodes: 51
Specials: 20

Erin bought way more Christmas music than we have in past years, I reviewed more books and comics, and we posted more often overall.

I don’t know that we saw anything this year that I’d say belongs among the best of the best, but we did have some in the running for worst of the worst.

Some of my favorite new things from this year were:
Bump in the Night: T'was the Night Before Bumpy
Die Hard (okay, this could be best of the best)
Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned
Nature: Christmas in Yellowstone
Paddington: Christmas
The X…

25 Christmas Eves: A Retrospective

I wanted to say a few parting words about this series, both because I'm proud of it and because it was a pretty intense experience. I don't have exact notes on this, but this definitely felt like the vast majority of time I devoted to the blog this year.

By my calculations, I wrote more than 55,000 words of fiction for the blog this year. The total word count for the stories published is actually a little more (just shy of 58,500), but three of these stories were started last year, then finished and published this year. If you're interested, those were "Mistletoe", "One Night in Bethlehem", and "Tribes of Gypsies". Actually, Mistletoe's inclusion on that list is misleading: I had a version started but completely rewrote it from scratch. The first third of "One Night in Bethlehem" was already done and was basically unchanged. "Tribes of Gypsies" gets complicated. I had about a quarter of it done, but that got overhauled …

Tenth Doctor Christmas Specials! (2005, 2006, 2007)

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You knew we were going to get to these eventually. They’ve actually been on the list since the beginning, we have them on DVD, but we kept holding off on them, keeping Doctor Who as a sort of fallback option for when we ran out of other stuff or got too tired of terrible things. And then that didn’t happen. So one day last week we just decided to finally re-watch these.

Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion (2005)

I have very fond memories of the first time I watched this episode. It introduced David Tennant’s Doctor and I loved it. I loved it a little less on this viewing. The murderous robot Santas and trees are still fun, but a lot of this hour is humans being whiny. Whenever Tennant is on it really picks up, but there’s a big boring chunk in the middle without him. The writers were still sort of trying things out with Ten at this point; his character doesn’t solidify for a bit, and that adds to the surreality of watching this episode. Plus the end with Harriet Jones is kinda nasty an…

Fiction: One Night in Bethlehem

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We're finishing 25 Christmas Eves up the only way that seems appropriate. We've looked at quite a few Christmas Eves so far, but it's time to take a gander at the granddaddy of them all. So, without further ado, Mainlining Christmas presents the greatest story ever told... now improved.
By: Erin L. Snyder
Based on a TRUE story
The innkeeper was a fat man, and he was exhausted. These were the first two observations going through Joseph’s mind upon setting eyes on the owner. And why shouldn’t he be tired? It was late – nearly midnight. And here was a couple, the woman clearly in labor, on his doorstep.

The innkeeper rubbed his eyes. He didn’t wait for Joseph to start in. “Look, kid. We’re full up. Sorry.”

“What? You can’t be,” Joseph said. “You must have, what, two dozen rooms in this place. Who’s renting two dozen rooms?”

“Almost three dozen,” the innkeeper corrected him. “And it’s these damned stargazers. Pouring in from every town for a hundred leagues. Astrologers, astronomer…

Tales From the Crypt: All Through the House (1989)

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This is only the second episode of Tales From the Crypt produced, and it was directed by Robert Zemeckis (keep in mind this is Zemeckis in '89, back when he making the Back to the Future movies and still awesome; not the current Zemeckis who's been producing CG abominations). I saw a handful of episodes of Tales From the Crypt back in the day, but I certainly never watched religiously. Actually, I suspect I would have watched it religiously had I been able to, but I never had HBO growing up (this also means the episodes I did get to see were tragically edited for content). Lindsay tracked this down on Youtube, and we just finished watching it. I'm really, really glad we did: it was a lot of fun.

The episode starts with a woman brutally murdering her husband for the insurance money while her daughter's asleep. When she tries to dispose of the body, an ax murderer dressed as Santa Claus shows up. As you can probably tell, there's not much in the way of plot here. Th…

Itsudatte My Santa! (2005)

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Japan has an incredibly bizarre relationship with Christmas. Without getting too involved in the details, the holiday has been appropriated and transformed into something akin to Valentine's Day. That said, they do seem to understand what Christmas means to Europe and America and the concept of Santa Claus. They understand, but they clearly have no problem reinventing it as something completely different, as they did in the two-part OAV, Itsudatte My Santa! I suppose I should mention the first episode is based on a manga.

Before we go on, I want to make it clear the episodes we saw were dubbed, not subtitled. Setting aside the fact dubbing is usually pretty bad, it injects an element of uncertainty around whether or not what we saw accurately reflects the original. There were plot points and ideas here that seemed absurdly random, which adds to my skepticism. I tried to find some indication online as to whether this was accurate or not, but I had very little luck one way or the o…

Craft: Archangel Statue

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One more Angel before I leave you for the year. This one was actually the inspiration for the whole project... I bring you, Archangel! (Somewhat gender-bent)

Like the others, this project started out with a statue I bought at a craft store.

I sanded it down and primed it with my plastic-friendly spray primer:

The next step was painting all the silver areas. I got the depth of color I wanted by starting with a coat of dark blue, purposely dark in the cracks and rubbed partially off of the raised designs:

The silver got the reverse: only lightly in the depths and bright on the high parts. Then the rest of it needed paint.

A good deal of paint later, and I'm very happy with the finished product.

Die Hard (1988)

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We held off on this one for a few years, because it kind of felt like cheating. But, when you look at it, Christmas permeates Die Hard a hell of lot more thoroughly than it does Holiday Inn. There's a lot of Christmas woven into Die Hard's soundtrack. Along with the background of the Christmas party and the (brilliant) elevator sequence, it gives the entire film a holiday feel.

Beyond that, Die Hard is arguably the quintessential action movie. At the very least, it's the quintessential action movie of its generation, and it could easily be the best action ever made.
It's been a few years since I last watched it, and it holds up marvelously. Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman are both amazing in their respective roles as the ultimate cop and robber, and they've got great material to work with, thanks to some fantastic writing and directing. Decades of knock-offs would follow this, but none would figure out what made Die Hard work as well as it did.
There's a lot tha…

Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Invasion of the Secret Santas (2008)

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Batman: The Brave and the Bold isn’t just a mouthful to say, it was quite a fun show. I really liked the crazy balance they tried between darker plotlines and zany villains, with both real emotion and corny dialogue. It’s a take on Batman that I really like, casting him as stoic and determined, maybe a little too serious, the guy who all the young heroes look up to, and the older heroes are jealous of.

This episode (after the cold opening with Blue Beetle helping take down Sportsmaster) focuses on Red Tornado’s desire to feel some Christmas spirit. Since I’ve gotten used to the version of Red Tornado in Young Justice, it was a bit surreal to watch this now, but I got into it pretty quickly.

I really liked the subtle musical allusions to A Charlie Brown Christmas at the beginning of the episode. Batman’s flashbacks (now Christmas-related) are a bit on the melodramatic side, but not terrible. Red Tornado and Batman are up against Fun Haus, who seems to be a villain unique to BATB, a m…

Book Review: A Christmas Memory

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A Christmas Memory
Truman Capote, 1956

Premise: A ostensibly autobiographical story about an unlikely friendship. The narrator, known only as “Buddy”, describes his memories of celebrating Christmas with his best friend, an older relative whom no one else seems to understand.

This was recommended to me by a friend, and I’m so glad I sought it out. It was just lovely.

‘Buddy’ and the elderly woman called only “my friend” have a lot in common; they are both thought of as strange and they both have a rather whimsical view of the world. The relationship here is touching and sad, you only get little subtle snippets as you follow them through the ritual of making holiday fruitcakes for all the people they like. Not “friends”, but rather shopkeepers and politicians and other public figures; anyone who they feel a connection to or think could use a fruitcake.

The larger family seems to be somewhat low-income, but not poverty-stricken. It’s worse for the two main characters, though, who both re…

Fiction: Tribes of Gypsies

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It's day 24 of Mainlining Christmas's "25 Christmas Eves." Today, I've got another science-fiction story, this time set a bit further out. It's called "Tribes of Gypsies," and I think it's one of the better ones. Tomorrow, we'll wrap up this series with something... a little different.
By: Erin L. Snyder
If I’m going to hold the books someday, I have a lot to learn.

Today is December 24, and tomorrow is Christmas Day. It’s an old story, and the old ones are hardest to grasp. Truth and myth are entwined; fable and metaphor are one and the same with description. Learning the words is easy. Memorizing is only a matter of time. But untangling what is from what’s said is a skill my grandfather spent his life mastering.

There were never such things as dragons, but there are fish large enough to swallow a man whole. Alligators are not mythical; vampires are. There are wolves, but not werewolves. I spent weeks studying the writings about dinosaurs b…

Surviving Christmas (2004)

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Movies like Surviving Christmas make me reflect on the nature and meaning of awfulness as a quality in and of itself. Too often we revert to an overly simplistic formula, where movies are merely judged on how "good" they are. But things like Surviving Christmas highlight the weakness of such models: they suggest that a movie can be no worse than "not good." Or, to put it another way, nothing below zero.

This isn't to say Surviving Christmas is the worst thing we've ever seen or even the worst this year: it isn't, not by a long shot. There were two or three funny lines in the movie, and that's more than I can say about many comedies reviewed here. And there's nothing technically offensive about this: no gross-out humor or anything.
But that's what makes this movie so interesting from an academic standpoint. I've seen Christmas movies which weren't funny at all. I've seen things that were as boring as watching paint dry. I have a …

Castle: Secret Santa (2012)

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I haven’t been keeping up with Castle this season, so I don’t know whether this is normal now, but this was heavier on the melodrama than I really like.

Now, there was also plenty of charm in this episode, particularly at the beginning. Castle and Beckett investigate a dead man in a Santa suit who, predictably, fell mysteriously out of the sky. The case is interesting, and the banter is fun, but all the little sad subplots about the various characters got a bit tedious. Not every named character needs angst!

Plus, I am really tired of Beckett having only the one character trait for every occasion. (Best line of the night: after Beckett explained how the long-ago death of her mother keeps her from enjoying Christmas, Erin leaned over to me and whispered “So she became...a BAT.”)

All of that said, I did still enjoy watching this. I don’t know how much fun it is in total for someone who isn’t familiar with the show, but Erin seemed to really enjoy the first half or so, although by the …

White Christmas (1954)

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As White Christmas opens, the film proudly announces that it was produced in VistaVision, which research tells me means that it was filmed in a special widescreen process that gave exceptionally high resolution for its time. While the Netflix version that we watched occasionally lost some of that gorgeous resolution, the care and artistry that went into this picture was still very apparent.

The plot is simple on the surface: Burl Ives and Danny Kaye play a pair of friends and showbiz business partners who fall for a pair of sisters who are a singing duo. On that level, it seems similar to Holiday Inn, the classic holiday musical which White Christmas (the song) originated in. But the experience here is miles above the earlier film.

For starters, all the characters are actually characters. The pair of guys are army buddies as well as business partners and that affects the plot throughout. The secondary romantic pair make it their business to get the primary pair together, and it was a…

Christmas Music From Old Time Radio

I stumbled across this the other day, and it’s AMAZING.

http://jack_benny.podomatic.com/entry/2012-11-17T18_11_43-08_00

It’s a compilation, in podcast form, of a bunch of classic radio recordings of Christmas songs which originally aired between 1944 and 1952. They aren’t all winners, but they’re really interesting recordings.

At least listen and marvel at the very beginning: Bing Crosby reciting the “GI Night Before Christmas.” Talk about your gallows humor... The “Jingle Jive” is a great version of Jingle Bells. Whenever the Sportsmen quartet comes on, you know they’re going to shill Lucky Strikes cigarettes. You get a bit of Bing Crosby and Jimmy Stewart singing Baby, It’s Cold Outside together.

The “Rudolph Jive” is amazing. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would have just become popular in 1950, and Bing Crosby and Judy Garland see nothing odd about making adult jokes and adding a totally great ending to the song.

These are all live radio recordings, I think, so sometimes the sing…

Olive, the Other Reindeer (1999)

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Olive, the Other Reindeer is an animated special produced by Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, and features Drew Barrymore in the lead role. With that kind of muscle behind it, you'd expect Olive to be pretty good. And you'd be completely and totally wrong.

The design and animation tops the long list of problems plaguing this thing. The majority of the special is done using 2-D animation on 3-D environments. The backgrounds are fine, if underwhelming (think video games from a decade ago). The characters, on the other hand, are astonishingly and unbelievably awful. The special is based on a picture book, which uses highly stylized two-dimensional images that resemble (intentionally) something a kid might draw. The special attempts to recreate this effect and winds up with something resembling what a first-year college student might animate. It's painful to look at. A few years later, this would probably have been done in Flash, and the results would have…

Fiction: Scrap

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We're almost done. This is day 23 of "25 Christmas Eves," my series of genre fiction about Christmas Eve. This one's called "Scrap." It's a short piece of SF. I think it qualifies as cyber-punk, in fact. Enjoy. By: Erin L. Snyder
The box was four inches across, and the wires sticking out of the bottom were frayed. Its battery was long gone, so Ail pulled the cord connected to her hip pack. She sighed - if she connected it directly, it might short and fry the board. She could always hold off until she came across a breaker. She flipped the device over in her hands and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. If the damn thing fried, it fried. What would she be out? A forty-dollar piece of junk she’d just picked up. What’s forty dollars buy you, anyway: burger and a Coke?

“Mother. I located several phones.” The voice came from beneath a pile of rusting electrical equipment.

“Fine. Pull them into the clearing. And I’m not your mother,” Ail said.

“That makes me sa…