Showing posts from December 7, 2014

Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Ceremony

Erin talked a bit about our trip to Leavenworth already. I'm picking up the story at about 4:15 pm.

We are on the east side of a very tall mountain, so it's getting dark.

Neither of us quite expected the slush to be as thick as it was, so my feet are wet, and our hands are cold. We've been standing or walking for most of the last five hours.

And we're making our way towards the crowds.

Yeah, if we'd wanted a good view, we would have had to stand in the cold a lot longer than either of us were in the mood for at that point in the day.

We staked out an okay spot, and waited.

And waited.

And tried to hear what was going on.

There was some singing, and some speeches, and finally Santa!

Yeah, I know, a little bit of an anticlimax.
Next, if I recall the series of events correctly, some people played alphorns, which was pretty cool, although I could barely hear them. Then it was time for, according to the description of this event in the flyer about the festivities: "…


It was December 6, 2014. Saint Nicholas Day.

We decided it would be a good day to go to Christmastown. Or at least the Western Washington Bavarian equivalent, also known as Leavenworth. The town sits just on the other side of Stevens Pass. To put it another way, this is a place that's pretty much guaranteed to get a white Christmas.

We probably could have survived the drive there and back in our Honda Fit, but we didn't feel like chancing it. Instead we bought bus tickets. This, of course, extended our trip length by an extra two hours or so, since it meant we first had to head to Seattle Center to catch the bus before the three and a half hour ride to Leavenworth.

All in all, this took us more than fifteen hours: not exactly a short excursion. Fortunately, it was pretty awesome. Even more importantly, it was Christmas.

When we reached the frost line, it felt like we were approaching the North Pole. Not the real North Pole, obviously; more like something out of a Rankin/Bass …

Wilfred: Confrontation (2013)

There are the Christmas episodes you seek out, then there are the ones you trip over. I've been slowly making my way through the series, Wilfred, and I stumbled across a holiday episode in season 3.

First a few words about the series. More specifically, this is the American remake of an Australian show with the same name. It follows Ryan, played by Elijah Wood, a disturbed former lawyer who perceives his neighbor's dog as a grown man in a dog suit.

Just describing the bizarre premise doesn't do the series justice. This is far stranger and darker than it sounds. It regularly delves into existential questions, as Ryan attempts to determine whether his experiences are mystical in nature or if he's simply losing his mind. The series's tone oscillates between dark comedy and psychological horror.

This episode is surprisingly restrained, though it ventures into some dark territory. It's Christmas, and Ryan's family is reuniting for the first time in years. Wilfr…

This American Life Christmas Podcasts (1995 to 2013)

This American Life is one of the better radio shows/podcasts out there. I got hooked on the show last year. At times, the series can be whimsical, sad, funny, and dark. They've got almost two decades of episodes archived online.

I decided to go through and listen to all of the holiday episodes. While there hasn't been one every year, they've got quite a few of them kicking around: nine in all, unless I missed any. At an hour each, that's quite a lot of public radio Christmas. I started with the most recent then worked back to the beginning.

Act 1: Christmas514: Thought That Counts (2013)
As is typical for the show, it's broken into a number of stories (or "acts," if you want to maintain Ira's terminology). This time it's three "acts" plus a prologue. Four stories in total.

The prologue is actually a little different this time: instead of a single short, it's several, and they're peppered throughout the episode. These are about te…

Book Review: The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries (Part Four)

This year, I am taking on The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, a 674 page tome containing 59 individual stories about the Christmas season. Conveniently, it’s broken up into blog-post sized sections. This is section five.

An Uncanny Little Christmas

The Haunted Crescent, Peter Lovesey - Okay, yeah, I like it. Nice unexpected twist.A Christmas in Camp, Edmund Cox - Huh. Very odd. Problematic.The Christmas Bogey, Pat Frank - I don't know why this is in this section, but it’s funny and cute.The Killer Christian, Andrew Klavan - Not bad. Not a style I enjoy. But not bad.The Ghost’s Touch, Fergus Hume - Also not bad, though a bit obvious.A Wreath for Marley, Max Allan Collins - I expected a dark twist, instead I got a solid sweet period Christmas Carol.

This section focused on ghost stories. The two I liked least of these tales were "A Christmas in Camp" and "The Killer Christian". The first is from 1911, and has all of that awkwardness about British authors writing…

Duck Dynasty: I'm Dreaming of a Redneck Christmas (2012)

The best thing I can say about this episode is that it isn't, strictly speaking, unwatchable, and even then the statement is made at what I consider my most generous of moods. But it is, of course, Christmas, and at Christmas we should be charitable and giving. So I will give the Robertsons this: their Christmas episode was not literally unwatchable. It was merely crappy. Idiotic. And stupid.

I should most likely add this represents my first real experience watching the Robertson clan, unless you count the Youtube video that got Phil Robertson suspended from A&E for a few weeks. The experience was not quite what I'd expected.
The only thing I really understood about the series Duck Dynasty was that it was a reality show staring a family of millionaires bearing an odd resemblance to ZZ Top who'd made their fortune producing duck calls. As it turned out, I was slightly off: this wasn't remotely a reality show.
It pretended to be a reality show, but the situations we…

Semantics and Pagan Holidays

One of the fringe benefits of managing a seasonal holiday blog is the steady supply of free pet peeves. While it certainly doesn't top the list, I've recently been devoting an unhealthy amount of time fixating on the following phrase: "Co-opted pagan holiday." Normally, one should avoid unhealthy things, but since Christmas is a time for indulgence, perhaps you'll indulge me while I permit myself a short rant on the subject.

First, a disclaimer. I've probably been guilty of abusing the term once or twice myself on this blog. I don't recall using it (or the even harsher term, "stolen") in anything other than a joking context, but - if I have - it was an oversight, an error, or I was being an idiot. Because claiming that Christians co-opted or stole pagan holidays is misleading.

You'll note I didn't say it was wrong. From a factual standpoint, it's neither true or untrue. You could assemble a number of experts who agree on every releva…

Mixed Nuts (1994)

Mixed Nuts is a mid-90's comedy starring Steve Martin ostensibly about a non-profit suicide-prevention line on Christmas Eve. I say "ostensibly" because the premise isn't actually all that central to the movie. It's somewhat baffling, actually: they set up the idea of a suicide prevention line, use it to deliver a handful of jokes, then more or less abandon the concept halfway through. It's not "officially" dropped - there's no plot reason for it to be removed; it's more like they ran out of material.

Instead, we focus on a series of subplots revolving around the characters. First, there's Steve Martin's crumbling life. His girlfriend dumps him, he's in danger of losing the office location (and by extension, the non-profit), and he starts doubting his ability to help people. There's no drama here: it's mostly an excuse for him to do his usual shtick.

Next, there's Rita Wilson, playing a fairly boring love interest fo…

The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries: It Happened One Night Before Christmas (1995)

I imagine that the people who own the Looney Tunes IP, or anything like it, are always over a certain barrel. You have these iconic characters that people love, or at least feel affectionate nostalgia for. But they’re tied to these very pat, repetitive plots. Smart character outwits dumb character, who gets blown up/dropped off a cliff/something heavy dropped on them. Prey character outwits or out-lucks predator character, who gets blown up/dropped off a cliff/attacked by bigger character/otherwise injured. Rinse. Repeat.

So if you’re looking to make something new with these characters, you have to wonder: do you stick with the tried-and-true formula, despite the fact that it’s not really enough to sustain a longer-than-three-minute runtime? Or to you step out of the box and give the characters more depth, more backstory and different, more complicated plots? Or, as is the case here, do you try to have your cake and eat it too?

This show has an extremely odd premise. The main charact…

The Lion in Winter (1968)

The Lion in Winter is a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family coming together for the holidays. There are a series of mishaps, comic interactions, and details laid out about the character's histories and relationships. The parents are separated but still have feelings for each other, the children have long since chosen sides, and someone's ex-boyfriend shows up and humiliates everyone. Without a doubt, it's firmly entrenched in the sub-genre of dysfunctional family Christmas dramedies.

The first element that makes it infinitely more watchable than almost every one of its competitors is that it's set in 1183, and the family in question are the British royalty. The more important factors are that it's brilliantly written and features a cast of legendary actors. Katherine Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton... it doesn't get much more impressive than that.

The script is adapted from a play of the same name which only predates the movie b…

Comic Review: Krampus! #1-5

2014, written by Brian Joines, Illustrated by Dean Kotz

You know Krampus by now, right? You probably do if you’ve been hanging out on Mainlining Christmas long. So you know that Krampus is a demon companion of Santa/St. Nicholas, who punishes bad children at Christmastime.

He’s also the star of this extremely fun comic series.

Think of every winter/christmas related character you can. Now expand your horizons a little and you’ll start to get an idea of the world of Krampus! The first issue opens at a dead run to establish the world and the plot premise. Someone has stolen the power source of the Secret Society of Santa Clauses, made up of Christmas gift-givers from across the world. Desperate, the Santas turn to their long-time enemy to help solve the mystery.

The snarky infighting among the Santas is plenty of fun, with the main focus being on Father Christmas from Britain, Sinterklaas from the Netherlands and Hoteiosho from Japan, with many of the others taking sides.


Snoopy's Countdown to Christmas Ornament

I found this lingering on a Walgreens shelf marked 75% off and was too curious to leave it there. The back of the package is impressively direct: this is unapologetically marketed towards parents utterly sick of answering the question, "How long until Christmas?" I'm also kind of impressed with how direct they are on what this thing can (and can't) do. The back reads more like an FAQ than selling points, informing you before you buy that it's incapable of handling dates before October 1st (which is unfortunate - how cool would it be if it reset to 364 days at midnight on the 26th?).

This is ostensibly intended as an ornament, though I think it would look awful on a tree. You really want this pushed up against a wall to hide the fact it's only half the figure.

You can get a sense for how this is set up above. The batteries and controls are hidden beneath a panel that requires a screwdriver to remove. This probably counts as a feature if you have young kids, s…

Raggedy Ann and Andy in The Great Santa Claus Caper (1978)

Okay, I had no memory of ever having seen this, but it was very familiar by the end, which makes me think I must have seen it at some point. In the annals of Christmas TV Specials, there’s a reason this one doesn’t make the list of classics. However, there are bits that are clever, and it’s nice and short.

The special opens by introducing us to our villain, Alexander Graham Wolf, aka Big Bad. He’s got some sort of weird plan involving the North Pole and Santa, and it’s all very unclear. It’s clear enough, though, to reindeer Comet, who zips off for reinforcements to save Christmas. Since she can’t carry anything too heavy, Comet chooses two rag dolls and a rag doll dog for her helpers. Not the smartest member of the team, our Comet.

They get back to the North Pole to investigate. Santa and company have all gone to bed (at like six hours to Christmas! This was the most unbelievable part of this for me), so Wolfy has free run of the workshop. He sets up a giant expanding machine-

I thi…

New CD's - 2014

And when I say "New CD's," I of course mean really old music.

It looks like we're adding an additional 245 songs this year through albums we mainly picked up at used book and consignment stores for between $1 and $3. We bought a handful at yard sales over the summer.

Let's see how much of this year's haul is something I'll ever intentionally put on again.

You Sleigh Me! (Various)
Not a bad start, all things considered. This mid-90's compilation from Atlantic features an assortment of their artists mostly playing classic or traditional songs, along with a couple of original pieces. As is always the case with new versions of old songs, it all comes down a simple question: did they bother to do a distinct version, or did they just copy an arrangement that's been done to death?

In this case, they put in the effort, and some of the results are phenomenal. Mary Karlzen's "Run Rudolph Run" puts a country-rock spin on the song. Likewise, whi…