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Archive for December, 2008

the abv entertainment of 2008 award

I’ve been struggling to make my “best of entertainment 2008” list. Either there was a serious lack of quality entertainment this year, or I just spent way too much time reacquainting myself with things that used to entertain me. This is the time when I usually make my big (to me) ENTERTAINMENT VALUE OF THE YEAR! (notice the all caps, that makes it important) announcement. What will it be? Will the winner be a movie? A book? I know, you are waiting with open-mouthed suspense. Or was that a yawn? Anyhow, let’s move on and mow down all my contenders for EVOTY.

Movies: We saw no movies this year. None. In fact, I think the last time we stepped foot in a movie theater was for that James Bond movie. No, not that one. The other one. I don’t think we even watched a full movie on cable tv, despite the fact that we have about 50 movie channels to choose from. This was a year of “get up and go” which left very little time for “sit down and watch.”

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t intrigued by some movies that were released in 2008. I’ll eventually get around to watching Dark Knight and, I might throw caution to the wind and actually go to a movie theater to see Milk. I just dread the thought of paying 10 bucks to have some idiot on a cell phone or a chair kicker or stale Milk Duds ruin the movie experience for me.

Television: I gave up on both of the Chef Ramsey shows I loved in previous seasons; Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen. Shtick gets old after a while, and Gordon Ramsey is all shtick. If I want to watch some guy cursing and screaming in a kitchen, I’ll just go over to my parents’ house while my mother is trying to “help” my father prepare a holiday dinner.

I watched no broadcast tv shows. There’s not a sitcom, crime drama or otherwise that I would set my watch for. Everyone tells me “You have to watch such and such a show. HAVE TO.” No, No I don’t. I know what’s out there in sitcom land. I know what’s out there in reality tv and shows where people talk to ghosts and where horrendous crimes are committed and mysteries are solved by pretty girls and hot guys in under an hour. I know because I listen to my coworkers converse every morning and wonder if Hallmark makes a card for “Sorry your really good friend was gunned down by a guy in a clown suit” until I remember the people they are talking about are not real, but from their “stories” and it makes me glad I don’t watch any of that. What I did watch: Lots of food shows. Ace of Cakes, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, any of those shows about the history of specific foods (hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream), and my favorite food/travel show, No Reservations. Nobody wants to talk about Anthony Bourdain at the water cooler. Probably because he never solved a crime.

I do admit that my television entertainment tends to run sort of low-brow and I don’t know if that makes me better or worse than my coworkers, but hey, at least I don’t base my days emotions on who got kicked off American Idol. Shows that interested me this year (and past years): COPS never gets old. I don’t know what it says about me that I consider some meth head from Broward County running down the street half naked entertaining, but I do. Ninja Warrior, Intervention, anything with “World’s Wildest” in the title, anything that takes place in a prison, anything on the History channel and, by default (meaning, when I lose control of the remote), the Military Channel.

Books: I must have had very little downtime in 2008, because I read a lot less. And what I did read was not very new. I went through the entire Christopher Moore catalog, read two bios on Teddy Roosevelt, re-read two graphic novels, Blankets and Watchmen, and, for “I need a smile” reading, went through a bunch of Pearls Before Swine anthologies. Does spending the day reading 140 character dick jokes on Twitter count as reading? If so, I’m a prolific reader.

While there wasn’t really a best book of 2008 for my list, there was definitely a worst. I forced myself to read Twilight, just so I could review it. When I say it was a struggle to get through this drivel, I mean I felt like I should have nailed myself to a cross after martyring myself just so I could say: WORST. BOOK. EVER. WRITTEN.

The Internet: I read some blogs, watch a bunch of videos where strange women did strange things with pudding and cakes, gave up my TotalFark membership and got addiced to Twitter. I’m not sure if that’s so much entertainment as voyeurism.

Music: I bought no albums that were released in 2008. I purchased quite a few single songs, and some CDs that came out years ago, and some CDs to replace things I only had on vinyl, but no current music. Which is a complete anomaly for me. But in looking through a whole bunch of “Top 50 of 2008” lists, I can see why I didn’t buy anything. I don’t know 98% of what’s on those lists. All those bands like TV on the Radio and Kings of Leon all blend into one sound for me. I’m out of the music loop for the first time ever, and I’m ok with that.

There are a few albums that came out in 2008 that I still need to listen to/buy: Portishead, Nick Cave, Beck, Radiohead.

I did enjoy a few single songs here and there. Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” got about 200 plays on my iPod. Kevin Rudolf’s “Let it Rock“was pure fun, even if I thought the Lil’ Wayne part ruined it. I love Airborne Toxic Event’s “Sometime Around Midnight,” but the video makes me want to punch the singer in the face and tell him to man up.

I spent a good portion of my listening time this year revisiting old albums, which is what led to This is not Pitchfork. It’s good to get reacquainted with old friends when you’re having a hard time making new ones.

Gaming: This is where my true entertainment was found in 2008. We stole my son’s Xbox and played through all three Halos. We got a Wii in February and while Super Mario Galaxy was fun, and the bowling and boxing made for good family time, it was Mario Kart and all the Lego games that sucked up most of our time. For the record – Star Wars Lego: AWESOME. Indiana Jones Lego: MORE AWESOME. Batman Lego: Not so awesome.

And then Left 4 Dead came out and we bought our own Xbox because my son is addicted to NHL ’08 and we couldn’t steal his.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is where I finally found my ENTERTAINMENT VALUE OF THE YEAR.

Left 4 Dead is, simply, the best game I’ve played in forever. Or at least since the first Zelda. It’s fun, it’s fast paced, the controls are simple (important for someone like me who still thinks the original Nintendo had the greatest controller ever), there’s no complicated storyline and…ZOMBIES.

This game is nothing but a killing spree of the undead. And we play it every spare minute we have. We have given up eating, sleeping and sex to spray zombies with automatic gunfire. I have spent hours just trying to get my head count shot up. I have startled the witch, been vomited on, got beaten to death by the Tank and called Zoey a health pack stealing whore more times than I can count. I am always Francis, Todd is always Bill, and together we run through a world filled with smokers and hunters and places filled with guns and ammo in search of safe houses. We have played every level a zillion times and we keep going back for more. I’ve perfect my pipe bomb throwing strategy and reveled in the power of a shotgun blast to the head and ok, maybe I have set my teammates on fire with a misplaced Molotov and maybe I hear “FRANCIS!” a little too often when I engage in some friendly fire, but I’m working on my aim!

How often do we play? I see the hunter in my dreams. I hear the witch in the wind. Just yesterday, I saw a guy on the roof of a building and my first thought was to shoot him. One day, we were in a parking lot and some big, fat guy came waddling toward us. Todd and I both shouted at the same time, “BOOMER!” How much fun is it? We bought Fallout 3 and neither of us have played it yet, because we can’t stop playing this game.

Left 4 Dead is the most fun I’ve had playing a video game since I walked out of the 2D scroller world.

And so, I award my Best Damn Thing in 2008 Entertainment to Left 4 Dead. Everything else can suck it.

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is it over?

Been taking a little blogging break while winding down from Christmas. Christmas is over, right? Can we stop playing Christmas music now?

I’ve still been writing music reviews, however.

Since Christmas: Def Leppard, Styx, Minor Threat, David Bowie and Eagles of Death Metal all at This is Not Pitchfork.

I shall return here tomorrow. In case you missed me.

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Merry Christmas

May your day be merry and bright.

no teenagers were harmed in the making of this card

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RIP Kitty

RIP, Kitty

Kitty died yesterday. She was hit by a car while I was at work. By the time I got home, the neighbor’s son had already taken her away, which I’m grateful for.

We had her a little over three years. Her original name was Master Shake. Then we changed it to Yoshi. At some point, she just became Kitty, which she seemed to like.

She started out as an indoor cat. When she escaped one day, she got a taste for the outside world, and realized there were other kitties around. So we started letting her out and she quickly made friends with the slew of cats on our block. Sometimes her and the cat next door would just sit on the lawn together and people watch.

My favorite thing about her was the way she would walk the dog with me. One day I was walking Lili around the block and I noticed she was following us, lagging a little behind sometimes and then running to catch up to us. She began to walk with us every day and all the neighbors thought it was amazing that she would walk with us.

She was a good cat. She brought me dead birds and mice and as much as I was grossed out by it, I knew she meant well. She was a great friend to Lili; they’d spend a lot of time wrestling in the living room and when she got tired of the pouncing and swatting, she’d jump up on top of the couch and look down at Lili like “You can’t get me now!”

We’re going to miss her a lot. The dog is really going to miss her. Kitty was Lili’s playmate and kept her company while we were at work.

Natalie will miss snuggling with her.

nap

I feel almost silly mourning so much over a cat. But she was part of our family, a presence in our house that will be missed. It’s going to be a long time before I stop thinking I hear her outside waiting to be let in, before I stop expecting her to see cuddled up on the couch in the morning on her favorite blanket, before I can get rid of the drawer filled with cat food.

Goodbye, Kitty. You were awesome.

[An album review in Kitty’s honor: Stray Cats]

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summer songs for a winter’s day

In case you missed it, This is Not Pitchfork has a new home. Latest reviews: Toadies, Saturday Night Fever, Refused, Radiohead, Beach Boys.

It’s 18 degrees outside and a cold wind is making it feel like Antarctica. What this day needs is summer.

The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon
Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
Ramones – Rockaway Beach
The Undertones – Here Comes the Summer
Sly and the Family Stone – Hot Fun in the Summertime
Type O Negative – Summer Breeze
War – Summer
Len – Steal My Sunshine (this one’s for Todd)

That’s all I’ve got time for, as I have to head out into this freezing cold. I’ll add more later, feel free to contribute your own summer songs.

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This is Not Pitchfork has it’s very own home now. No more Blogger.

Thank you to WordPress for making it so easy to import the posts AND the comments. And thanks again to Host Matters for awesome hosting and service.

Check it out, let me know what you think. The paint is still wet.

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This is Not Pitchfork has it’s very own home now. No more Blogger.

Thank you to WordPress for making it so easy to import the posts AND the comments. And thanks again to Host Matters for awesome hosting and service.

Check it out, let me know what you think. The paint is still wet.

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it was hiding under the tree

and a partridge in a pear tree

All it took was some pretty lights.

We made hot chocolate and Rice Krispie treats, put on some Christmas music and decorated the tree. It was a nice, cozy family evening and as soon as we turned the house lights down and the tree lights up, my Christmas spirit exploded in a mess of gushy sentiments.

It looks like Christmas. And with a winter storm on the way, it feels like Christmas. Taking a vacation day today certainly helped as well, as a build up of work related stress wasn’t helping my grinchiness.

Thanks for all the helpful comments yesterday, especially Kristine, who reminds me of the old “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” commercial. Without the product placement.

Now, if I could just find my motivation the way I found my spirit, I could actually use this day off to get a lot of necessary Christmas stuff done.

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it was hiding under the tree

and a partridge in a pear tree

All it took was some pretty lights.

We made hot chocolate and Rice Krispie treats, put on some Christmas music and decorated the tree. It was a nice, cozy family evening and as soon as we turned the house lights down and the tree lights up, my Christmas spirit exploded in a mess of gushy sentiments.

It looks like Christmas. And with a winter storm on the way, it feels like Christmas. Taking a vacation day today certainly helped as well, as a build up of work related stress wasn’t helping my grinchiness.

Thanks for all the helpful comments yesterday, especially Kristine, who reminds me of the old “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” commercial. Without the product placement.

Now, if I could just find my motivation the way I found my spirit, I could actually use this day off to get a lot of necessary Christmas stuff done.

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Warning: It’s long, it’s rambling, it’s not proofread.

I came to terms with something today. It was not so much a self revelation as an admittance of something that’s been lingering deep inside for many years. I’ve been keeping it at bay, reluctant to tell anyone what I was feeling, hoping that it would pass and I would never have to utter these words out loud.

I hate Christmas.

There, I said it.

I didn’t always hate Christmas. When I was a kid it was all Santa and presents and 500 hundred cousins gathered in one place. It was snow and caroling and completely magical. Even after I learned there was no big, fat jolly man hopping down my chimney every year, I still found magic in the holiday. It was the feel of everything around me. I loved how the world seemed lit up and everyone was caught up in the joy of the season. I suppose this was before I became a cynical realist. When you’re a young idealist, you can put a Pollyana spin on anything.

As I got older, Christmas lost some of its charm, which is just the natural progression of things. It wasn’t until I had kids of my own when I started to drive myself crazy every year, starting in November. I had to make the perfect Christmas. I had to get the perfect presents and a perfect tree and the day had to be absolutely without flaw. It had to be the way my parents set it up for me; presents overflowing under the tree, a house full of decorations, a steady stream of relatives stopping by to say hello and there’s always desserts on the table and hot chocolate at the ready and everyone is full of Christmas cheer. And it had to be the way society set it up for me as well; my kids had to scream in glee at every present opened. My house had to look like something out of a fairy tale. My cookies had to be perfect, my company polite, my smile ever present and our entire Christmas season full of perfection.

I have based the entirety of my Christmas expectations upon hazy memories of Christmas past, coupled with the lie of Christmas Perfect that mass media has foisted upon us. Was Christmas ever perfect growing up? Probably not.

Every year as an adult I would wonder – what is this all for? Why do we shower people with gifts on this holiday? Why do we spend over a month getting ready for this one day? I’m not a religious person, in fact, I’m agnostic. My family are all Catholics, but no one ever stresses the religious aspect of the holiday. It’s about the presents, the food, the family. Which is all well and good. I love family gatherings, especially when there’s a veritable buffet of food involved. But the presents? Every year that I head out Christmas shopping I have that moment when I stop and think to myself, why am I doing this? Why am I stretching my budget and practically going into debt to give my children the most perfect gifts ever, to give everyone in my family presents when I gift them all year long? Birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s and Father’s Day, plus the sheer amount of crap I bestow on my kids throughout their lives?

I do it because it’s expected. I do it because it’s what my parents did for me. I do it because I don’t have the balls to say to my family “this year, let’s just give each other the gift of love and family.” So I go about the business of making it all happen. I don’t want to disappoint. I don’t want to break with tradition or rock the Christmas boat. I have to buy and wrap and decorate and force this cheer upon myself and my family, when all I want to do is stop looking at my shopping list, stop stressing about the gifts I bought and the gifts I didn’t buy and the time.

Seven days til Christmas. The countdown is everywhere. On the tongues of kids, on the front page of the newspaper, on the television, in the windows of stores. That “ONE WEEK UNTIL CHRISTMAS!” is not a sign of excitement to me. It’s a reminder of all I haven’t done. We have yet to decorate the tree. We barely got any lights up on the house this year. I have presents left to buy, nothing is wrapped, and with each day comes the worry that I didn’t do enough. Will they be happy with what I am giving them? What the hell am I going to get my father, the most difficult man to shop for? Do my kids know how much I spent on those big presents they wanted? Can you put a monetary value on what is supposed to be a moment of giving from the heart?

The time crunch is getting to me. I lay awake at night thinking of all the things I haven’t done yet. And then, before you know it, the day will have come and gone. It will be Christmas night and all the presents are unwrapped and the food is devoured and while everyone is snug in their bed sleeping off a holiday drunk, I’ll be sitting on my couch, staring at the Christmas tree, wondering how it all came and went so fast, and for what? It seems almost senseless in retrospect.

I look at all the Christmas commercials and ads and think, where are all the crying kids? Where are all the too drunk adults? Where’s the kid who is locking himself in the bathroom crying because he got clothes when he wanted a video game? Where’s the cousin who stupidly reveals a family secret at the dinner table? Where’s the family with the mother who is crying as the kids head off to their father’s house for a separate Christmas Day? Instead we get the perfect husband who buys his presents his perfect wife with a shiny new Lexus. “I love you so much, I gave you a gift that’s going to add $300 a month to our bills, in honor of Jesus’s birthday!” We get the perfect mother who bakes with her kids and does Christmas crafts with them and never loses her patience or hits the bottle of gin when the money gets tight and she wonders how she’s going to afford that toy that “Santa” promised her little girl.

Maybe I come off as bitter. Maybe I am. My ghost of Christmas past could dredge up some awful memories if I let it, most of them as an adult. Those memories color a lot of my reactions and they force me to do two things: overcompensate with others, and berate myself. It’s my own fault that I let things in the past have rule over my present, I’m aware of that. But those things are just part of my Christmas stress, not the whole of it.

Christmas was probably never perfect in my life. I mix nostalgia up with memory and they combine to give me this glazed over version of what my childhood Christmases were really like. In my version, we are all Norman Rockwell, when in reality, we were more Griswald. Yet every year, I force myself to go for the Rockwell version, where life is lived in this static snow globe, where everything remains beautiful and wonderful and is never tainted by tears or arguments or mistakes. I am living in a past that never existed, and I’ve based my entire present upon that.

Yes, there are things I like about Christmas. I like the pretty lights. I love the absolute joy on a small child’s face when they spot Santa at the mall. I like spending time with my family. I love the way the Christmas tree looks all lit up in the living room. One of my favorite things to do is to just sit on the couch late at night when everyone is sleeping and stare peacefully at the blinking lights on my tree, so pretty with all the perfectly wrapped presents sitting underneath. It’s my moment of pure nostalgia, where I remember the parts of Christmas past that were almost perfect, where I forget I have holiday photos and home movies of crying children, where I forget all those Christmases I was so disappointed; in myself and in life. You’d think it would be easier to enjoy Christmas now that I’m happy. But I can’t. I’m too stressed out once again trying to create the perfect Christmas that will never happen.

I don’t like the pressure I put on myself, nor the pressure my own family unwittingly puts on me. I don’t like the shopping, I don’t like wrapping presents and I don’t like trying to come up with the perfect gift for each person I love. I don’t like spending all that money and time and energy for one day. I don’t like trying to live up to expectations that are too grand to ever accomplish and I don’t like that I still force myself to do it even though I know there’s no such thing as perfection.

I don’t like Christmas.

There, I said it.

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