Fiction: Tribes of Gypsies

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

Surviving Christmas (2004)

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

Castle: Secret Santa (2012)

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

White Christmas (1954)

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

Christmas Music From Old Time Radio

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

Olive, the Other Reindeer (1999)

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 ha

Fiction: Scrap

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 ma