Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Fallout '10!

Well, it's after Christmas and ALMOST 2011, so I guess it's the right time to show y'all what I got for Christmas.

Bur first, I went over my uncle's house for Christmas Eve Dinner, and like the photog that I am, I took pictures of the spread:

Spinach Balls that were surprisingly excellent.

Shrimp Scampi and rice balls. It's quite obvious that no one can resist my uncle's succulent balls.

Here's some baby back ribs. Not pictured: Meatballs, another helping of my mom's stuffed mushrooms, and Filet mignon, which was the big hit of the dinner.

And here was the main attraction. It was a good Christmas. Now on to Christmas itself, and here is my spread:

DVDs and Vidya games! From top to bottom: Venture Bros Season 4.1 (awesome), Donkey Kong Country Returns (also awesome), Scott Pilgrim vs The World (the DVD version!), Kirby's Epic Yarn (pretty damn good game), and Super Mario Galaxy 2 (a sequel to a Mario game?! It happened) Not pictured: Chrono Trigger for the DS that was given by my friend Steve.

I also partook in my annual tradition of scratching off all the scratch-off lotto tickets from my Scratch-off Lotto Ticket Santa Advent Calendar, where all 24 slots are filled with tickets, and then I wait until Christmas Day to scratch them all off. I won $14.

Not pictured: Meta Knight bragging about his new Hess Truck in front of Dennis
I also got the 2010 Hess Truck! The plane is totally kickass, but I think the space shuttle still beats it. Yes, my other annual tradition will continue without Nana. I miss her.

And here's the highlight of my gifts: A hot sauce gift pack. No idea where it came from, but here it is. Note that these aren't novelty "Hot For The Sake of Hot" hot sauces. These are hot sauces of the "actual hot sauces that you put on stuff and eat it" variety. I tried the garlic sauce a few days later, and I thought it was quite good.

Stuff that's not pictured: Money, a Buffalo Wild Wings gift card, a gift card to Smokin Al's (my favorite place), and a Shick Hydro 3 razor (annual WTF gift...I already have 3 razors).

I also really need to mention that my area of Internetland was hit by that huge blizzard earlier in the week. This was the snow drift in my backyard:

Note: This is FOUR FOOT DEEP above-ground pool.
Fortunately, this pic was taken 2 days after Christmas and we had plenty of leftover food, so we sadly didn't resort to cannibalism. Maybe next year.

Speaking of last year, this is the last post before the ball drops in a few hours! I want to thank you all for the great year, and I'll see you in 2011!

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Better Know a Christmas: Australia

G'day mates, it's almost the Big Day, so let's see how they celebrate Christmas in another part of the world? Today, we're going to the Land Down Undah to see how they deck the halls in Australia.

But first, here are the other Christmases that I've Better Known:

Great Britain

Since Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere, this'll be the first Christmas that I've better known that takes place during the Summer, which as you all know is the domain of the Heat Miser.

Now you have TWO songs stuck in your head thanks to this entry!

As such, the Aussies don't associate Christmas with snow, sleighs, and all that. That would be silly. Down There, Santa rides a dune buggy led by a team of kangaroos, all named Bruce (who don't fly, but CAN jump mildly well). Well, there was that ONE year when Santa rode a water ski pulled by a team of koalas, but that didn't end well...

"My god, this is absolutely horrible news! We won't remember a name like Santa Claus at all! Let's just call him Bruce to avoid all the confusion."

And while we up North murder innocent pine trees for their Christmas celebrations, the Aussies are just like those poor souls in the year 3000, where douglas firs are extinct, along with any hint of modesty.

The Prime Minister enjoying Christmas

It turns out they mostly prefer artificial pine trees, with the occasional tree built entirely out of beer cans.

"Problem, Yank?" "Nah, It's pretty big..."

Because Australia was founded by British convicts, their version of the holiday takes many cues from the UK (which I covered before. Yay for extra plugs! Wait.), like eating Christmas Pudding, having a full-on Turkey Dinner if they decide not to eat BBQ, embarrassing office Christmas parties, and the kids play some good-'ol games of Knifey-Spooney. And instead of using bells or crackers to make noise, they just use didgeridoos.

A traditional performance of "Bruce The Red-Nosed Chazzwasser."

There's also the region-specific foods, like Mangoes and Cherries because...why not? Hey, why not just leave Santa Bruce some Vegemite and Fosters while you're at it? You know, they don't even get the good Christmas specials until April because, like I said, it's Summer down there and they show nothing but reruns!

For all y'all, be lucky that you live in a place that celebrates Christmas in the Winter, you could be Australian. Or live somewhere between the Tropics of Cancer & Capricorn.

So there you have it, another Christmas Better Known. This will sadly be my last entry before The Big Day, work and all that kinda made me slack off on entries. And it's a good thing, too, because I'm currently on the run for mocking Australian Christmas. The punishment is a booting to the butt.

Disparaging the Boot is a Bootable Offense. For goodness sakes, it's on their flag!

See y'all for the Christmas Fallout Entry! Have a Merry Whatever You Celebrate!

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

It's one week until the Big Day, and I've been having a few thoughts on my mind:

1) I don't know when I'll do another part of "Better Know a Christmas." My work schedule became rather hectic and the days where I AM free are times when I just want to sleep or do something else. I do guarantee that they'll continue. The next one's about Australia.

2) We're one week away, and I STILL haven't bought the new HESS Truck.

The Hess Truck's Back, and It's Better Than Ever! it's stuck in your head, too.

It's even really awesome this year. Look: A Jet on a Flatbed. I know it doesn't seem like much, since in past years we got race cars, motorcycles, helicopters, jeeps, fire trucks, race cars inside bigger race cars, even a goddamn space shuttle. But...there's a jet plane! With the HESS logo on it!

I think the main reason why I haven't got it yet is because, well, the HESS Truck was something my Nana always gave me for Christmas, and this is the first Christmas without her. I should at least honor her wishes and make the trek to a HESS station myself this time.

3) You know what I've never had before? Eggnog.

"'Tis the season, Marge! We only get thirty sweet noggy days. Then the government takes it away again."
Yep, I have yet to participate in the good ol' holiday staple where people decide to drink pancake batter for a month out of the year. I think that this is the year that I finally try it.

To my readers: What does it taste like? And what should I pour into it for maximum drunkenness?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas in The Heart & Other Awkward Christmas Albums

I love Christmas, so much so that I just like to yell "CHRISTMAS!" to anyone I meet. Especially babies. They seem to need random screaming the most these days.

But today, in lieu of a "Better Know a Christmas" entry (ok, work schedule made me tired this week. I'm sorry.), I'll blog about some of the stranger Christmas albums that I've come across. Now, as the music snob that I am, I don't own MANY Christmas albums, so these are just a few that I feel that really need some exposure to the 12 of you who read this thing.

If you ever want to make your closest friends & relatives avoid your house during the month of December, put on one of these babies.

Christmas in The Stars

Fun Fact: This was John Bon Jovi's first album.
Ah yes, the infamous Star Wars Christmas Album. Not to be confused with the "Star Wars Holiday Special," which is much more intolerable than this. Many of the songs showcase the singing chops (or rather lack thereof) of C-3PO & R2-D2, plus a few other generic droids that have probably been given interesting backstories thanks to the Expanded Universe. Featuring such heartwarming classics such as "Bells, Bells, Bells," "What Can You Get a Wookie For Christmas (If He Already Owns a Comb)?" and "The Odds Against Christmas," the Jedi in all of us will be delighted to know that the prequels aren't the only blights on this great franchise.

Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics

Yes, this is a real album cover.
Now here's an album I physically own, the album South Park put out. Quite a few years back, the show created an episode that promoted said album, showcasing many of the filthier songs that reside within it, such as "The Dreidel Song," "Christmastime in Hell," and the song EVERYONE remembers:

Merry Fucking Christmas, as sung by Mr. Garrison. Interestingly enough, this WASN'T the most vulgar song on the album. That honor belongs to "The Most Offensive Song Ever"...which was sung by Kenny.

For the episode itself, there was a great Christmas medley performed by Santa and Jesus in the form of a horrible lounge act that got cut thanks to rights issues. I blame it on Santa still being pissed off that there are only 4 songs about him, in comparison to the 800 that feature Jesus.

There's also a few songs that are only on the album, and they get kind of depressing, which is really saying something considering that most of the popular classics are incredibly schmaltzy and tearjerking. Songs like "Dead, Dead, Dead," an uplifting folk song about how we'll all be dead someday. Did I mention that this guy is backed with a chorus of children? Yeah...I'm gonna move on to the next bit.

Christmas with The Chipmunks

I love 60's Alvin & The Chipmunks the best. There, I said it.
Love them or hate them, EVERYONE has this album. Seriously, go into that place where you keep your records, cassettes, CDs, or hell, even iTunes, and it'll be there. Trust me. I used to like them as a kid, but their nails-on-a-chalkboard voices started to grate on me as I aged. It also doesn't really help that their popularity goes through 20 year cycles. Just look: They started in the 60s, got a new show in the 80s along with the introduction of The Chipettes, and then the current live-action abomination we have now. What will the 2020 version of the 'munks bring us? I have no idea, but I'll bet $30 right now that it involves Ireland somehow.

But, as I said in this entry, the famous "Chipmunk Christmas Song" lends itself to corruption quite well. For my imaginary screenplay, it's incredibly easy for me to imagine it playing during a murder spree. Said murder spree will likely begin when someone when someone asks me, er, someone about Theodore's version of "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth."

Christmas in The Heart

Which one is Bob Dylan? You'll be surprised at the answer.
It's always best to save the best for last. I don't think this album is horrible, nor do I think that Bob Dylan is a bad singer. He isn't, and the overall instrumentation of each song is fantastic. But believe me when I say this: this album is one of the most unintentionally hilarious things that I've ever listened to.

Because this is a Christmas album, it's packed to the brim with the classic schmaltz that the holiday brings, like "The First Noel," "The Christmas Song," and whatnot, but what sets this album apart from "Generic Holiday Hits #87" is that someone is actually singing. Yes, it's truly a nice change of pace hearing songs from someone who doesn't need autotune or overbearing sluttiness to sell records. Dylan is a living legend, and you can feel genuine enthusiasm and emotion into every note that comes out of him. And it's his voice that truly sets this apart from me, sounding much like a blender grinding up a whiskey bottle. It's pretty much what I imagine Lady Gaga's true voice to sound like, really

So when he sings one of the depressing songs, you can honestly tell that he wants to down a couple of bottle of jaeger the second he's done with the record, and when he gets enthusiastic and happy, you can't help to dance and sing along. According to my dad, this is the only album in existence where "I'll Be Home For Christmas" sounds like a threat. I love my dad.

But that gravelly frog-cutting-logs-with-a-chainsaw voice makes me giggle in manner where your mom is like "Shut up, you can't laugh in Church," even through "Hark The Herald Angels Sing."

Suffice it to say, this entry has all been one elaborate essay to expose you all to my favorite song on the album: "Must Be Santa."

A mish-mash of polka, drunken chicanery, and lyrics that welcome the appearance of Santa, I have to sing along to this song whenever I hear it. I love this video, too and you could almost swear that Tom Waits is the person singing and not Bob Dylan. Gotta love the random old guys dancing, not to mention the inevitable brawl that ensues while the polka band is rocking out.

My favorite lyrics come at the two minute mark when he starts naming Santa's reindeer: "Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen / Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon / Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen / Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton." Okay, this HAD to be the result of an ad-lib, because it's the only part of the song that generally makes no sense and is never mentioned again. This all gives credit to my theory that this isn't Bob Dylan at all, but some hobo the producers dragged out of an alley in the dead of winter to produce a Christmas album in exchange for a bottle of whiskey.

And I absolutely love that.

Got any weird Christmas albums that you've come across? Share it in the comments!

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Better Know a Christmas: Germany

It's December fine readers, and you know what that means: The return of "Better Know a Christmas," my special series of entries about how Christmas is celebrated by countries that aren't America.

To get you up to speed, here are the Christmases that I've better known already:

Great Britain

Today we start the 2010 Christmas season with one of my favorite countries: Germany.

You might be surprised to know that many of our modern Christmas (or how they say it, Weihnachsten) traditions began in Germany. Take for example:

As seen in "A Very Dennis Christmas Special."
The Christmas Tree, or as they say "Tannenbaum." Yes, in a land where trees, booze, and lumberjacks are plentiful, it was only a matter of time until someone got drunk enough to chop down a tree and drag it into his house to decorate it. All in the name of Jesus, I guess. You might also find it interesting that the insipid "O Christmas Tree" song is also German, translated word-for-word from "O Tannenbaum." There's three syllables in each word, so it's only natural that whoever translates things (I still say it's the Babelfish) would take advantage of the connection.

The tree itself is trimmed on Christmas Eve, without the children being involved. It turns out they're not supposed to be in the same room, as the tree is enchanted with some elf that "loves" children that won't go away until its tree is decorated with loads of crap.

Because Germany is one of those countries that aren't in the Western Hemisphere, they also celebrate St. Nicholas day, December 6th. Only there, it's called "Nikolastag," where St. Nicholas travels to the houses of good boys and girls to give them gifts the night before the big day. If the kiddies are good, they get gifts in their shoes. If they're naughty little boys (or girls), they get twigs instead.

How does St. Nick know if you've been bad or good? It turns out that the Naughty/Nice list owes its origin to Germany, too, only here it's a book full of sins. If you appear too often in the book, then you get the twigs. Leave it to good ol' Germany to inspire frightening imagery for mundane punishments.

But if you DO get twigs, there's another chance for material wealth. On Christmas Eve, Germany heralds the arrival of its version of Santa, Weihnachtsmann, who, as the Simpsons have shown us, has two eyes in the back of his head.

It might not look like it, but this is the back of his head!

I'm not clear on any stories that involve Weihnachtsmann having a demonic helper with him like in other European countries, but not unlike Link and certain annoying fairy, he does have an Angel buddy named Christkind, sent down to Earth from Jesus himself to deliver gifts. Presumably ones that don't involve twigs or XBoxes. I assume Christkind delivers intangible gifts like learning how to dance or getting your uncle to strop drinking for a minute.

But here's another Christmas tradition that started in Germany: Advent Calendars. For those of you not in the know, Advent is that time between the First and 24th of December, mostly there to remind you that you have a certain number of days left to go Christmas shopping before society deems you an ungrateful douchebag for waiting too long. Advent itself is counted down in the form of calendars, and these range from mantle knickknacks, to Lego boxes, to Playmobil Boxes, to the ones that everyone is familiar with:

Those cardboard calendars filled with those crappy chocolates. Whichever one you choose, they all work the same: As each day passes, you open up the little box with the corresponding date and you enjoy the goodie inside. With those chocolate're pretty much taking a gamble on whether or not today's chocolate will be your last. I've yet to find a single person who likes them...yet they fly off the shelves every year.

Germany's advent gave us another Christmas tradition: The Wreath. Again, drunks, lumberjacks and trees have something to do with its origin. For each Sunday in December, one of the wreath's four candles are lit up. When all four are lit up? Hell if I know, I doubt you can summon an elf with one of those. I don't even think a Dog would want to save it, and they've devoted an entire movie of one saving Christmas Vacation.

While we got wood on our mind, with all the trees that haven't been decorated laying around, Germany also gave us the Yule Log. No, not the dessert (That's French. I'll get to that country later), but the log itself. Britain might have claimed to start the tradition first, but it's since been discovered that its roots lay in Germanic Paganism. So in my book, the score goes to Germany.

You know you're from New York when a log burning on your TV set means it's Christmas! WPIX (aka Channel 11 aka WB11 ak CW11 aka Pix11) plays it every Christmas morning, and it's an awesome substitute for the real thing!

And finally, we can't talk about Christmas without talking about the food. The traditional German Christmas Eve Feast is commonly referred to as, and I'm not making this up, "Dickbauch." But get your mind outta the giblets, it means "Fat Stomach." It's called that because of the belief that if you don't eat well on Christmas Eve, you'll be haunted by demons during the night. I'm already on board, Germany, there's no need to convince me further.

And every awesome part of a German meal is here: sausage, beer, reisbrei (a sweet cinnamon bread thing), sauerkraut, beer, maybe a suckling pig, and beer.


On Christmas itself, the feast has many of the above but with added goodness like Goose, Boar's Head, and marzipan, along with baked goods like "Christstollen" and "Dresden Stollen." I looked up what they're known as in English, and "Christstollen" is the name given to Yule Log, the dessert. On the other hand, you might want to know what "Dresden Stollen" actually is: FRUITCAKE. Score another one for Germany! Why am I so enthusiastic about that?

On that subject, we also have Gingerbread. Gingerbread itself doesn't originate in Germany (it's more of an Armenian/French thing), but the Germans did develop the type of Gingerbread used for houses, like this one:

As seen on my other blog "In 10 Words"
People who realize that their gingerbread served better as a construction material than as an edible dessert remind me of the Doozers from Fraggle Rock. Interestingly enough, Doozers also remind me of Christmas. I'm going to find some to trim my tree with. And when I say "trim," I mean impale them on small hooks and hang them on a dead tree for the next three weeks.

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