Posts

Showing posts from 2015

Cards Against Humanity: Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah

Image
I'd hoped to get to this by Christmas, but the eighth day didn't reach me in time. I just got it today (12/26), so I'm wrapping up this article and posting it now.

I've only played Cards Against Humanity once, and I'd describe the experience as somewhat mixed. Cards Against Humanity is an intentionally offensive card game where players try win points by shocking or disturbing each other. I don't actually own a copy of the game though I do now have an expansion (more on this later).

This promotion ostensibly has nothing at all to do with the game, though. The company advertised that, for fifteen dollars, they'd send people eight "sensible" gifts over the month of December. While I'm not a huge fan of the game, I've been extremely impressed with other promotions the company has done over the years, so I signed up.

I honestly had no idea what to expect. I hoped for something fascinating but half expected eight pairs of socks.


Night One
I got …

Reflections On Another Christmas Gone

Image
It was a close one this year, what with the Grinch armed with a machine gun holding Santa Claus hostage in the old McCallister home. For a while there, it looked like Christmas might have to be cancelled. But some quick thinking from Dooley and the Christmas Narwhal saved the day, and...

You know what? I don't need to recap this. You caught the news last night; you know the gifts were delivered, the Grinch is safely back in Arkham, and Santa Claus destroyed that asteroid before it reached orbit. We don't need to go over all the details or spend more time mourning Donner.

What matters is Christmas 2015 came on schedule, and - aside from a few mishaps - it was a merry one. Here at Mainlining Christmas, we spent the season as we always do, force-feeding ourselves holiday cheer. Overall, our slate of movies was surprisingly good this year: we really weren't expecting that.

That's not all, though. We hung out with reindeer, marveled at sculptures of Christmas dinosaurs, we…

Is It Really Christmas Already?

Image
It seems like it was just Black Friday last week.

Even though we crammed a lot of holiday cheer into this season, our list-of-things-to-watch is only getting longer. As I mentioned this year, researching one holiday special keeps leading us to more and more. Netflix sees our patterns and recommends more Christmas-themed stuff. We buy obscure movies and specials all year long whenever we find them cheap. So don’t worry about us running out of material anytime soon.

The thing that most surprised me this year was how many honestly enjoyable, quality movies we watched.

Some of the highlights of this year for me were:

Meet Me in St. Louis - a classic movie musical, expertly crafted and gorgeously filmedThe Apartment - another classic, this one quietly subversive, biting, and extremely clever8 Women - a french film about family, anger, passion, and the judgement of women by womenMrs. Santa Claus - a sweet family musical about feminism and social justice in the 1910s, starring Angela Lansb…

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Image
I'd been meaning to rewatch Edward Scissorhands for a while, though I bumped it back because I was a bit skeptical of its status as a holiday movie. Now, I feel pretty confident describing it that way.

The movie opens with a brief frame story of an old woman telling a story to her granddaughter. Since we're talking about holiday connections, I'll add that it's snowing outside and the patterns on the wallpaper bear a resemblance to the Star of Bethlehem.

We soon cut to Peg Boggs, an Avon saleswoman going from door-to-door in a town of pastel houses laid out on a curved road ending in a cul-de-sac. It's a sunny, bright day in what looks like a suburb of LA in the 1960's. When she doesn't have luck with her neighbors, she turns her attention to a giant castle atop a dark mountain that sits just beyond the cul-de-sac.
You really have to admire Burton's flair.
She drives up and discovers a courtyard of stone gargoyles and meticulously maintained topiary bus…

Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas (2009)

Image
This is adorable. It's adorable and charming and whimsical and sweet. It's fun and it's funny, it's safe for all ages without being insipid.

In short, it's quality children's programming.

I've seen a few episodes of the show this special is spinning out of, because I watch kids' shows on PBS. If my vague recollections are accurate, this is equivalent to an especially good episode.

The special opens with some friendly narration explaining how excited George is about Christmas. Soon he wakes up and runs into the other room to jump on the Man with the Yellow Hat, only to be told that like yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, it is not yet Christmas. The Man (it's so awkward to call him that, but take it up with H.A. Rey) gives George a chart to track the rest of the days (12) until the big day, and reassures him that they have a lot to do to get ready, so the time will pass quickly.

Cue the first musical number! It's all a…

A Cadaver Christmas (2011)

Image
We've had this one sitting in our DVD stack for more than a year after picking it up for a buck or two at a dying video store. We meant to watch it last year, but decided at the last minute we didn't want to devote our limited time and energy to something that looked quite this unpleasant.
We assumed too much. A Cadaver Christmas is far better than I'd seriously hoped for. It's not a great movie - 'good' might be pushing it - but it's a solid low-budget indie horror/comedy. In fact, as long as you preface it with 'low-budge' and 'indie,' you don't have to qualify the label 'good' any further. Within its limitations, it's a resourceful, fun movie.
The back of the packaging describes it as "A cross between 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'Night of the Living Dead'", which I think is more than a little misleading. I'd describe the zombie aspects as being more in the vein of Evil Dead 2 than Night o…

Unaccompanied Minors (2006)

Image
We shifted this to the top of our Netflix queue after seeing it on a list of relatively well-known Christmas movies (Lindsay and I are geeks and therefore completists: the notion there are any famous holiday films we haven't gotten to continues to torment us). We knew the premise, which centers around a group of kids stuck at an airport on Christmas Eve during a blizzard, and felt like we had a pretty good idea what to expect.

Fortunately, we hadn't realized this, unlike damn near every other holiday kids movie, was directed by someone competent. It turns out that the reason all those other movies suck isn't the premise; it's that they're written and/or directed by hacks. This one, improbably enough, was made by Paul Feig. Oddly enough, this is the first of his movies I've seen, despite hearing good things more or less across the board.

Before I get into the film, I want to say a few things about the short story it's based on, a non-fiction piece that appe…

Nerdtivity: Landing Bay

Image
I know I'm repeating myself here, but since then I picked up a DS9 set, and I figured that would make a better space ship manger than the nativity scene I used last time. I was never really happy with that picture, anyway.

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Image
I read and watch a lot of things. Most of us do, today. Which is why it's so special to find something I've never seen that is this magnificent.

I had a general awareness of Meet Me in St. Louis. I know the Trolley Song. I know the history of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (more on that later). But I'd never sat down and actually watched the movie.

Now I want a copy to put into permanent rotation. This isn't just me speaking as a lifelong fan of movie musicals; Erin loved this film as well.

For one thing, it's beautiful. The Technicolor is sumptuous, the use of light and shadow evocative and delicate. The sets and costumes are extremely detailed (it is a period piece, after all).

The writing and performance is wonderful. The script is clever and quick and the comedy hasn't diminished with time one smidgen.

The plot is simple and charming. It's based loosely on a series of short reminiscences about living in St. Louis in early 1900's, and follows o…

Fiction: Old Gods of the North

I wanted to push the boundaries a bit for this piece of short fiction and try writing a Christmas sword & sorcery. Here's what I came up with:


Old Gods of the North
By: Erin L. Snyder

Alnur’s knees shook as he knelt. He felt old joints pop and his muscles creak. He dipped one hand into the desert ground and clutched a handful of sand, which he brought before his eyes. Grains sifted between his fingers as he studied them in the dim light of the setting sun. He squinted to be sure his hopes weren’t deceiving him. “There is magic here,” he proclaimed in a booming voice. Behind him, the consumists chattered their teeth in a sign of applause.

“Kill them!” the consumist named Ducoris exclaimed. Like the others, he wore dozens of necklaces, sashes, bracelets, rings, and other assorted objects. “That we might take sustenance from their corpses and send their souls to the fields promised to the devoured!”

“No!” another shouted. “Leave them a touch of life. Their journey will be easier,…

The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood (1965)

Image
Wow! Late in the season, a tip came through about a crazy-looking little-known TV special, so we tracked it down. And it was unexpectedly delightful!

This musical-comedy-fantasy is the type of thing that wasn't uncommon on television in the 60's, although it's all but unknown today. It stars Liza Minnelli and Cyril Ritchard. (If you don't know the latter, he won a Tony in 1955 for playing Captain Hook on Broadway. If you don't know the former, I don't know how to help you.)

From the start this is a bit of a subversion: the wolf is the narrator of this piece, here to explain 'what really happened.' He's living in a cage in the zoo, but he's sick of being ostracized from society because of the Red Riding Hood story.

Ritchard as the Wolf is exquisite. His dialogue is snappy, his mannerisms right on that line between charming and creepy. His costume includes big sleek sideburns, large pointed ears, and a furry suit jacket. He introduces the premise…