Holiday Review

Well, there’s another Christmas come and gone. And a new year will dawn in a couple of days. I hope you kissed someone special under the mistletoe, ate entirely too much, and maybe even made an ass of yourself at a large family gathering. That’s what the holidays are there for, after all.

My holidays were fun, even though they veered off course a time or two.

The holidays started with the launching of a new tradition. My sister arranged a “Cousin’s Cocktail Christmas Party” and it was a great success. We got together with our cousins and their spouses/partners for some drinks, snacks, and general merriment. We then went to a comedy club to yuk it up. It was fun. Some of my best memories of Christmases past are of playing with my cousins. Our parents would get us all done up in fancy little outfits and try to impress upon us the importance of “behaving ourselves” at the dinner.

cousins at christmas

And obviously we’ve all grown up a whole lot since those days, but one thing that hasn’t changed is how much fun I still have with my cousins.

cousins christmas

Overnight we were harassed by an ice storm of disastrous proportions. We woke up to a world that had been completely consumed by ice.

ice storm

ice storm 2

ice storm 3

The storm took down countless trees and power lines. Over 250,000 homes in the city were without power for anywhere from 24 hours to a week. My cousin Ryan slept over at my sister’s place after the Christmas party, and awoke the next morning to find a tree had fallen onto his girlfriend’s car.

tree on car

The storm wreaked absolute havoc on the city, and I was glad to head north and out of the icy mess for a few days. But the fun just didn’t stop coming. On Christmas Eve I got sick. Really sick. Feverish, coughing, totally congested. I felt like a bag of assholes. My dad cooked up a feast and I barely even nibbled at it. My appetite was nowhere to be found. We then went to my mom’s for drinks and board games, which I normally really enjoy. But instead of having a bunch of Christmas fun with my family, I sat on the sidelines bundled in blankets, sweating buckets while a perpetual coughing fit racked my body. I was one pathetic sight.

On Christmas day, I was supposed to accompany D to his family get together. But I felt so goddamned shitty I couldn’t even get up off the couch without draining the last vestiges of my strength completely. I had to choose my battles wisely. D went on without me, and I stayed home. I laid on the couch and watched the entire 6 hours of The Stand miniseries on DVD. I had just finished the book, and my mom had the DVDs of the miniseries, so she let me borrow them. And they came in handy, that’s for damn sure.

The following day I felt well enough to go to lunch with D and his dad. At least I could be a part of some of his family celebrations, for his sake. But we didn’t do a lick of Boxing Day shopping. I usually love getting out there with all the other crazies, ripping shirts off of shelves like a maniac and bitching about getting cut off in the parking lot by some asshole who isn’t even looking. Jesus, he isn’t even looking! What is he, BLIND OR SOMETHING?

But even though I wasn’t in peak physical condition for enjoying the food, the shopping, or the gatherings, I was still plenty good at enjoying presents. And you know Smash loves presents. Just a recap for anyone who may not be familiar with this facet of my personality: I FUCKING LOVE OPENING PRESENTS. I can’t stand unopened presents. They make me insane. My fingers positively itch with the desire to rip and tear if they get within five feet of something that’s been wrapped up. It’s a compulsion.

I opened a lot of great gifts this year.

presents

Some of the gift highlights:

Star Wars Salt n Pepper Shakers!

star wars salt and pepper

Enormous Batman Mug!

batman mug

New Hobo Mittens!

mittens

Bitchin’ New Watch!

watch

A Big Bottle of Booze!

booze

His and Hers Robot Pillowcases! (My friend The Magpie embroidered these for me and they are absolutely stunning, I fucking love them to bits.)

pillowcases

And A Shitload of Chocolate!

chocolate

And I got tons of other great stuff too. I’m lucky. I have a lots of people in my life who love me and want to give me things that I love for christmas. Things that make me squeal with delight like a little kid. I’m probably the easiest person on the planet to buy gifts for. I’m easily pleased and I’m not picky. If I can have a thrilling time shredding a gift of its wrapping, I’m set. And as much as I love tearing into a pile of presents, I love giving great presents too. I know that everything I picked out for my loved ones this year was well received and will be cherished forevermore.

Even though the weather was truly frightful and my immune system totally flaked out on me, I managed to find some enjoyment in the holidays this year. Got some fantastic gifts, started a fabulous new tradition, and I took some time to plan my next big moves for the upcoming year. I’m really looking forward to the new year. I’ve got big plans brewing for 2014. It’s going to be my year. I’ve got a list of goals a mile long and I am going to be dogged in my pursuit of every single one.

Peace out 2013, it’s been a slice.

Summer Reading Roundup

I fucking love reading. I love it so goddamn much.

When I was younger I practically consumed books. The newest R.L. Stein was lapped up hungrily, then washed down with a healthy double digest of Archie. When I wasn’t acting a total nuisance to my parents, wreaking havoc on the household with my sisters, I was quietly stowed away in some corner of the house with my nose buried in a book. You name it, I read it. Dr. Seuss, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley Kids, Roald Dahl, Goosebumps, Tales of Redwall, Hardy Boys, Pippi Longstocking, and The Chronicles of Narnia. All present and accounted for.

I especially loved books in which teachers were aliens, people turned into animals, or ventriloquist dummies came to life at night. Those were the best books. Filling my head with fantastical stuff of that variety is probably why I’m such a weirdo today…

I’d even read at night, when I was supposed to be sleeping. It was stealth reading. I’d stand by the window, balancing precariously on the nightstand, and push the blinds aside. I pinned them against the glass with my shoulder to keep them out of my way. Then I’d tilt my book in just the right way, letting the glow from the streetlights outside illuminate the pages. And I’d stand there reading until I was tired. I’d have to be careful not to lose myself completely in my book, otherwise I might not hear my parents checking up. I couldn’t get caught, that would be big trouble. But it was worth the risk, and I loved every minute of it because I was greedy for reading.

And to this day my greed for reading has not yet abated.

I tend to read a lot more in the summer. Seems odd, I know. But there’s something about a spectacularly hot summer day that drives me to read. Summer is hardly even underway, but I’ve already burned through a bunch of awesome shit on my summer reading docket. The stuff I’ve been reading lately has been so fucking rad. So good that I’m reading on the subway to and from work. Which I normally wouldn’t do because its not enough time to really immerse yourself in the story. And you always get cut off, having to leave the train, at the most ill-timed moments. But I can’t help myself! The stuff I’m reading is too good. I just can’t wait another second to get back into the thick of it.

I have to share it. I can’t keep all this goodness to myself, that just wouldn’t be right. So if you’re looking for something really rad to read this summer, then I’ve got just the thing for you. Providing your tastes run a little oddball like mine, naturally.

SMASH’S SUMMER READING ROUNDUP

1) American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

American Gods

This one is going to take you for a wild ride. It’s the story of Shadow, a man whose life is irrevocably changed by a chance meeting with a mysterious stranger. A stranger who introduces him to a motley assortment of Gods who were brought to America by the immigrants of our history books. Belief in these archaic gods has dwindled dangerously, putting them at odds with the gods of our present day. A war of epic proportions is brewing, the outcome of which could be catastrophic.

It’s riveting. Written in such a way that reader is directly deposited into Shadow’s shoes from the start. We meet our protagonist, and we immediately sympathize with his plight. When his journey begins, it’s confusing and weird at first. You’re confronted and confounded by a number of strange characters. You’re not sure what’s happening or why, but you know that all of it is totally illogical, nonsensical. Through the myths, legends, and tales of the immigrants that brought their gods to America which are interspersed with Shadow’s narrative, you begin to see. You’re awakened. Things start to click, and you start to believe. You see, you experience, you learn, and discover the power of faith right along with Shadow.

It’s strange and quirky, brimming with intrigue. It keeps you hanging on, worrying and wondering how it will play out. Simultaneously surprising and amusing, it’s worth your time. Gaiman is a masterful storyteller, and if you’re not familiar with his work then you need to get familiar.

I loved it. I give it a 9/10.

2) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game

Ender’s Game

Ender Wiggin is taken from his home and all that he knows at the tender age of six. Because it is believed that he is the militaristic genius who can save earth from impending doom. He’s taken to battle school where he is mercilessly trained by his superiors in the art of war. The world government believes that they need to groom remarkably bright and capable children for a life of military success to protect earth from alien invasion and the subsequent domination or annihilation of the human race that is sure to follow. And they are coming, it’s irrefutable. A child of staggering strategic genius is our last resort. Will he rise to the occasion or get crushed by the onslaught of challenges heaped upon him at battle school?

I mean, come on. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This is the quintessential work of science-fiction. Space travel, aliens, intergalactic war, cutting edge weaponry, null gravity fight sequences, and more! This book has got it all. It’s fast paced and exciting. Ender is an awe-inspiring character. His brilliance knows no bounds. But for every soaring success he experiences, Ender is met with shattering lows. His success comes at the cost of his innocence. Earth’s safety is insured through the manipulation and exploitation of a little boy whose been robbed of his youth, forced to grow up way too fast. Literally, the weight of the world is on his shoulders. You want him to succeed, but you pity him. And you’re appalled by the measures taken by the commanders to groom Ender to perfection.

I simply could not put this book down, it is an absolute treasure. And I’m really looking forward to the movie adaptation later this year. Perfect score, 10/10.

3) Desperation by Stephen King

Desperation

Desperation

There’s something evil afoot in Desperation, a small town in Nevada. More evil than you could possibly imagine. One by one, road weary travellers are picked up on interstate 50, just outside of town, and taken into the custody of the town sheriff. A family on vacation, a young married couple, an aging writer, and the town drunk are tossed into jail cells and terrorized by the maniac sheriff. But little do they know, he’s the least of their worries.

It’s everything you’d expect of a King novel. Grisly and gripping, sparing not a single gory detail. It’s frightening, but you can’t stop reading. There’s a creepiness about it that really burrows into you. I read this book over the course of two weeks. I do the bulk of my reading at night before bed. Which probably isn’t wise with horror fiction, but I couldn’t stop myself. And it had an impact, that’s for sure. Every night for the two weeks that I was reading this book, I had nighttime episodes, completely unbeknownst to me. It was only when D commented on it that I found out it was happening. He asked me what was up, said I’d been weird at night lately. When I asked him weird how, he told me a number of bizarre things. I was screaming bloody murder in my sleep, flailing my arms wildly. A couple of times I also leapt out of bed in a panic, pulling back the curtains and screaming at the bedroom window. I’d have a total freak out and then go back to sleep like nothing had happened. It was Stephen King, working his creepy magic on me. As soon as I finished the book, the nighttime episodes stopped.

It’s thrilling, it’s chilling, it’ll literally get inside of you. It’s not my favourite work by King, a little too heavy-handed on the God and prayer stuff, but it was a worthwhile read. If you can stomach horror fiction, then go for it. I’d say it gets a 7.5/10.

BONUS: D and I watched the made for T.V. movie version once I’d finished the book. It was spectacularly cheesy. The only real scares coming in the form of creepy crawlies. Snakes, tarantulas and scorpions. Watching that shit wriggle around on-screen scares the bejesus out of me!

4) Batman: Haunted Knight by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Batman: Haunted Knight

Batman: Haunted Knight

This is a compilation of three Batman Halloween Specials written and presented by the iconic Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. While working on these three tales of Halloween in Gotham City, Loeb and Sale were inspired to create The Long Halloween, which is my favourite Batman story to date and one of the most beloved works in the Batman canon. My favourite of these three stories is the second one, “Madness”, in which Batman squares off with The Mad Hatter, a psychopath whose moniker is derived from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He’s a challenging enemy for Batman because the reference to Carroll reminds him of his mother. Fighting Mad Hatter dredges up painful memories. The flashback sequence of Bruce reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with his mother just hours before her untimely death is gut-wrenching. We see the charming and precocious Bruce interacting freely with his mother, the emotional barriers we are accustomed to with Bruce Wayne have yet to be constructed. It makes you wonder what might have been, and if you love Batman as much as I do, it tears at your heart.

The artwork is sublime, and the stories are highly enjoyable. Easily, 8.5/10.

5) Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan Jr.

Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 Unmanned

Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 Unmanned

A mysterious plague has wiped out every single mammal with a Y chromosome on the planet. All of the men and male animals, dead. All of them except two. A young man named Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. For some reason they survived, as did all of the females. Yorick is now the last man on earth, and that is some serious shit to deal with. He’s got to keep his ass safe while trying to figure out what happened. It’s not exactly the repopulation fantasy some would think. It’s a hellish nightmare, every day a struggle to survive in an unfamiliar world. A world overrun by unruly, grieving, angry females trying to cope with what happened. Feminist extremists, power-hungry female politicians, and deadly secret services agents are engaged in a power struggle of epic proportions. And word’s just gotten out that there is a live human male roaming around…

This is a newly discovered series for me. I had been hearing nothing but good things about it, and I can happily say that all of the praise is warranted. It’s original and unique. The first volume in the series setting up what’s sure to be a remarkable adventure.

I can’t wait to rush out and grab the remaining volumes! Undoubtedly, 9/10.

So there you have it. The best of what I’ve been reading this summer. I can only hope that maybe there’s something there that piques your interest. Or maybe you’ve already read some of these titles. That would be even more rad because if you have we can chat all about it!

Or maybe you’ve got some totally awesome recommendations of your own that I can add to my list?

This is Living

It’s dark and dingy. The only lights in the place focused ominously on the stage. Creating ambiance. Hinting of things to come. We wait, our hearts heavy with the burden of expectation.

That last group really sucked. They assaulted our ears with their shitty timing and even shittier stage presence. They did care though. They seemed to love being up there, if the twenty-minute encore was any indication. At least someone was feeling it. We sure as hell weren’t. The silence following their departure from the stage a sweet reprieve.

Then it starts. A hulking, bearded mass of a man takes the mic. A thunderous clash of drums and guitars commands our attention. And our attention is rapt the instant the set begins. Fists clenched and face contorted with feeling, the singer wracked the crowd with the primal screams erupting from the molten-metal core of his being.

This is it. This is what we came for. A kick-ass metal show.

As I stood there swaying with the music, watching our friend Jim own the stage, I thought about how amazing it felt to be there supporting him. How vastly his band had exceeded our expectations. How impressive they were. Every note an indication of how much passion these guys have for their music and the time they’ve spent perfecting it. I was astonished, we all were.

Jim’s band, Sinthetik, was astounding. They melted our faces and blew our minds with their badass sound. They were raw and unforgiving. They were melodic and mesmerizing. Their shit was tight.

It made me feel alive. It made me feel invincible. And it made me want to live my life with the same ferocity of the music. So I did.

After the show, we heaped our praises on Jim, and made our way to the bar up the street. The Magpie. My friend The Magpie’s namesake. It was dim and inviting.

I laughed with my friends, tossed back my drinks, and danced with abandon.

at the magpie

enjoying some drinks

drinks

Magpie and I

It was an amazing night. The metal show the perfect catalyst for my weekend of living it up.

The next day brought with it another flurry of activity. D and I had tickets to the Toronto Auto Show, and we were planning on watching the hockey game at Joce’s place. We picked ourselves up and shook of the grime of the night before. We made our way down to the auto show.

We came into direct contact with approximately a billion people at the show. It was insanely crowded. But through the throngs of auto-crazed maniacs, I was able to snap a few pics.

ferrari

McLaren

mercedes

My personal favourite is the massive Mercedes van. Seriously, if you’re going to drive around looking like a sex offender, you may as well do it in style.

We powered through the exhibits. Although it was fun, we were relieved when it was over. We probably should have gone during a weekday.

Our next priority was making it over to Maple Leaf Square by 4:00pm so we could score some free tickets to the hockey game that night. Neill texted us about it earlier in the day, the ticket giveaway, and since we were going to be in the area anyways, we figured we may as well try. Also, since we were planning on watching the game at Joce’s, wouldn’t it be awesome if instead we showed up with tickets and told them we were going to the game instead? Hells yeah, that would be so awesome!

Carlton, the Toronto Maple Leafs mascot, was going to be at Maple Leaf Square at 4:00pm. And if you could find him, you could have tickets to the game. Not to worry, we found Carlton.

Carlton

We also ran into Batman while we were there. So that was awesome too!

toronto batman

He’s really into hockey.

I should also point out that the game was actually held in Ottawa. But since Ottawa is a bunch of dicks and tried to ban Leafs fans from their games, Toronto decided to show their fans some love. Admission to the game was free, and you got to watch it on the jumbo-tron. And every person at the game got a free 24 ounce fountain pop, a slice of pizza or hot dog, a bag of popcorn, and a candy bar. So screw you Ottawa! We’re gonna make it on our own.

at the game

And we had an awesome time. It felt great to be a part of something like this. To stick it to the man. Leafs fans or not, you simply cannot segregate or banish willing fans from the games. What were you even thinking Ottawa? What a boneheaded thing to do.

The Leafs did lose though. And it was an embarrassing loss. I’m not even a Leafs fan, but I am a fan of a good time. Going to the games is fun, and people should not be denied admittance to them based on their fandom. That’s so ridiculous.

It started with the casual acceptance of an invitation, and became one of the most outrageous weekends of my life. When adventure beckons, I come running.

I love my friends, I love my city, and I love living.

My Desert Island Films

Tyson over at Head in a Vice featured my picks on his Desert Island Films segment. I really enjoyed taking part in it, and this has been an incredible experience. I want to thank Tyson for his continual efforts to really connect other bloggers with one another and for creating a comfortable place where we can all share our thoughts and ideas about the movies we love.
Head in a Vice is an awesome blog, Tyson is a really awesome dude, and if you’re looking for a rewarding blogging experience you should consider participating in this segment.

Head In A Vice

desert island

Smash from Smashing Through Life! has kindly submitted her Desert Island Films. Read on for her choices and reasons, and be sure to check out her site.

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Monster Jam!

Do you ever find yourself in a funk? Just a generally shitty funk, for no significant reason at all? I did. I was all kinds of shitty funky at the end of last week. Work just felt kind of sucky. Things weren’t going according to plan. I felt disorganized and disheveled. It was just a crappy feeling, and I had a crappy attitude that was bogging my awesomeness down. Everything I did and said was blah. It was the worst. I went home Friday after work and resigned myself to a crappy night of laundry and eating dill pickle chips.

This was a funk that even dill pickle couldn’t cure. We’d have to call in the big guns on this one. The very enormous and loud big guns…

I woke up on Saturday morning and I felt different. Something had changed. That cloud of bullshit that had been following me around since Thursday, it was gone. Hey, and it looks like the weight of the world decided to take the day off too. I felt lighter. Better. Happiness was creeping into my heart again. A little smile tickled my lips. A memory scratched at the back of my brain. Something important. Something fun even, I think. Realization dawning, a spark of excitement…

Yes! Fucking yeah! This is the best day ever!

I’M GOING TO FREAKING MONSTER JAM TONIGHT!!!!!!!!

That’s the ticket. Nothing like some high-octane, tire on dirt-ramp action to make you feel alive! And dammit I felt alive again, for the first time all week. I cart-wheeled my jive turkey ass out of bed and greeted the day with a self-assured flourish. I’m going to fucking Monster Jam tonight, so all you troubles of yesterday can suck it.

Ooo, I just got a tingle. Telling your problems to suck it feels great! I’d been letting them get the better of me, but not today. Not on Monster Jam Saturday.

Joce scored the tickets to Monster Jam from her work. They were amazing seats and they were free. She’s got some sweet hookups for swag at her job. But she only had one extra ticket. So it was either me or D. I practically frothed at the mouth for the opportunity to see the monster trucks in action. It was an easy sacrifice for D. Besides the first hockey game of the season was on Saturday night. He could just grab some beers and buddies and have a great time watching the game at our place.

I met up with Joce and Harry for dinner and pre-drinks. Then we grabbed some roadies (drinks for the trek to the stadium) and hopped on the subway. I’m just going to put this out there, I love how easy it is to drink on the transit in a big city. Nobody gives a shit. I mean if you see a TTC worker, hide your drink. But other than that, ain’t no thang.

As soon as we set foot in the stadium we could hear the trucks. They were insanely loud! Good thing we’d packed earplugs. I was shaking with anticipation, I just knew this was going to totally rock!

The air was so thick with fumes and fuel, it was like breathing in testosterone. It was everything I’d ever imagined a monster truck jam to be and more.

monster jam stadi

My inner geek was also very pleased to see a Batman Monster Truck. That’s like the best possible combination of words ever. Batman Monster Truck. Yeah, you’re gonna want to soak that awesomeness in slowly. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew and get hysterical. Ah, fuck it. Life is for the living, right?

BATMAN! MONSTER! TRUCK! FULL BLOWN GEEKY HYSTERIA!

batman monster truck

Batman ripped the shit in the qualifier. He had the fastest time to beat. But he wound up coming in second place to Bounty Hunter. He put on a good show though. And we cheered him on every bit of the way. Then he totally shit the bed on the freestyle and fucked up his truck. He barely even freestyled for 20 seconds before he was sent off to the truck graveyard:

batman going to the graveyard

Some of our other favourite trucks of the night were Grave Digger, Northern Nightmare, Metal Mulisha, Rap Attack, and Krazy Train. Watching the races was fun, but the freestyle was crazy! We saw so many awesome jumps and wrecks. It was truly gory, without any actual gore.

This is Grave Digger getting some sick air off the school bus:

grave digger truck

And here he is about to totally mash the CP24 truck and some shitty yellow car:

grave digger jump

He was so totally awesome! He put on a really great show and got the crowd excited.

My favourite wreck of the night had to be Rap Attack. He tried to go over a jump, but just didn’t have the juice to make it all the way. He was standing straight up on his back tires. There was a moment of horror and uncertainty when we didn’t know if he was going to fall forward or come crashing backwards on top of himself. He wasn’t impressing us too much with the freestyle, he didn’t have as good of a run with it as some of the other trucks did. But I got a good video of the wreck:

It was an action-packed night, and it was just what I needed. Thanks for the invite Joce. I owe you guys a round still, don’t let me forget.

drinking at monster jam

Call me if you’re thirsty!

Smash’s Traditional Christmas

I’m not talking about your grandma’s gingerbread kinda traditional. I’m talking my brand of traditional. Which, can best be described as gift swap hysteria on my part and determined long-suffering on D’s.

The most important element of my holiday celebrations is the lengthy battle over when we will exchange gifts that D and I engage in every year. The I-Just-Can’t-Wait-Another-Day-If-There-Are-Presents-With-My-Name-On-Them hounding that, admittedly, D has put up a very brave fight against every Christmas since 2006. However, D has not yet been able to come up successful with the ever so crucial December 25th exchange victory. Much to my delight, I am still the unseated champion. I’ve won every battle thus far, and am happy to announce that the tradition lives on!

I have this need to open gifts. It’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember. Actually, need is a gross understatement of what it is. Compulsion would also be putting it mildly. It’s equal parts insatiable curiosity, hyper-active desperation, and feverish excitement. And the very second I catch wind that there are gifts for me kicking around the house it becomes an all-consuming inferno inside of me, burning up every ounce of sanity I’ve got.

I’m sure my mom thought that I’d grow out of it over time. I’m certain she held out a hope as long as she possibly could. But somewhere down the line she just had to accept it, and had to get more clever at circumventing it. If she couldn’t extinguish the flames, at least she could keep them at bay with frustrated threats and double doses of household chores.

I remember the elaborate schemes my sisters and I hatched for finding and opening gifts before Christmas. For spying on our parents, trying to catch a glimpse of the things they brought home from the store. We were certain that every shopping bag was loaded to the brim with toys, and ripe for the picking. We were young and full of vigour. Okay, fine it was sugar. Sugar-fueled vigour. We devised master plans. We whispered in secrecy. We crept through the house with purpose and stealth. We did these things because we wanted presents. Needed presents.

They grew up and out of it, but I never did. As we entered our teens their interest in scheming waned, but mine never did. They started wanting to sleep in on Christmas morning, but I just couldn’t. I was on my own now. My co-conspirators just didn’t want to conspire anymore. But that’s alright, I worked well on my own too.

If no one was home and I got near the tree I’d shake, rattle, tap, rumble, and even sniff all the gifts under the tree. Could be perfume, right? Gotta sniff it to be sure! If I knew that my parents were going to be gone for a while and my sisters were out, sometimes I would even peel back the tape. Gently now, don’t want to leave any signs of tampering. I could unwrap the end of a gift and make my guesses based on box labels. If the present wasn’t taped down too tightly I might even be able to slide it out a few inches for a better look. When this method was discovered by my mom she started thwarting it by wrapping the gifts in additional boxes. She might put a DVD in a Triscuit box, or a book in a tin that once held cookies. Filling them with newspaper so I couldn’t guess what the gifts were by shake alone.

Every year that I got sneakier, my mom got more vigilant with gift disguises. One year, she even wrapped a tiny bottle of perfume for Mar in an old pizza box. Like a pizza that had been delivered to our house months earlier. I bet she’ll laugh, remembering this. How crazy it used to be.

These days I’m sure my mom is thankful that I’m out of the house. She can actually enjoy the days leading up to December 25th and wrap presents normally. She can relax, because I’m D’s problem now.

My work with D has been infinitely easier than with my mom. Not to undermine his abilities as an opponent, but he just doesn’t have as much experience dealing with my fervour as mom does. And he stands to gain so much more. The temptation for the gifts I’ve got waiting for him and my petulant charm have always gotten the better of him. I’ve been able to coax, convince, and persuade him into an early gift exchange every year. My personal best is Xmas ’09 when we exchanged gifts on November 28th. Yeah, I’m that good. The longest I’ve ever had to wait was December 21st.

The first Christmas we were together was easy. We’d been dating for five months, and we’d said “I Love You” to each other for the first time at the beginning of December. We were still in new-couple euphoria and D would have done anything to make me happy. A giggle here, a tickle there, some kisses peppered in for good measure. Then just a pinch of suggestion. I was subtle, I didn’t need to overplay my hand. We exchanged gifts on December 17th that year. And D hadn’t even begun to realize the depths of my insanity.

I just kept wearing him down, year after year. He’d get tougher and I’d get more wily with every passing Christmas. This is the first year that I’ve really been worried that I might not win. He was quite stern about finally having an exchange on the 25th. I’d have to really bust my ass to make an early exchange happen.

Cue the disastrous hangover I had last Friday after my company Christmas party. I came home so goddamn drunk on Thursday night, it was a miracle I’d even made it home. While I was out, D had been wrapping. Perfect, the gifts were ready to go. The next day I was hurting, for reals. My head ached, I’d spent a fair amount of time barfing, and had to leave work early. When D got home I was cuddled in bed with Harvey, pathetic and useless. He pitied me. “Opening the gifts might help”, I suggested.

Before I knew it we were tearing our way through the gifts. Success! The exchange for Christmas 2012 took place at 7:00pm on December 14th.

To the victor go the spoils:

calendar

The awesomest white-board calendar of all time! I shall record all future schemes here from now on.

tv shows

Some HIMYM and Sunny for laughs, always a solid gift.

lego batman

Lego Batman 2 for my Nintendo DS!!! Oh fuck yes! I was so happy when I opened this one. I’m deeply invested in putting Lex Luthor and The Joker behind bars on my daily commute now. They’ve been manufacturing Kryptonite together, and I don’t like where that’s headed.

the dark knight rises

Another gift that made my heart melt. Damn, D knows me so well.

comics

Because I just don’t have enough Batman in my life. Volume 2 and 3 of “Batman: No Man’s Land”. Currently working my way through volume 1. Great work D!

And the best of my haul you ask? A little Cinderella story to warm the cockles of your heart. A little stocking stuffer really wowed me this year:

drunk dice

Yeah, it’s Get Drunk Dice! I can’t even tell you how much I love the little cartoon dice that’s puking up his beer. And the whorish looking lady dice, ever so gracefully pouring beer down her gullet. I want to party with these dice characters. Right now. Oh, and I haven’t even pointed out the best part yet:

drunk dice rules

The back of the package displays the rules to the game. Oh, but what’s that on the bottom you see? The fine print, which clearly states “Not to be played with alcohol”. The game is called Get Drunk Dice for fuck’s sake! How am I even supposed to win the game if I’m not getting drunk? What do you propose I get drunk with instead? Orange juice? Kit Kat bars? Sunblock? I know the company that makes this game probably did this to avoid a lawsuit, but I just can’t think of anything more contradictory than the packaging on this game. If a box of condoms had a disclaimer saying “Not to be used for sexual intercourse”, it could not be more ridiculous than this.

The gifts have all been sufficiently exchanged, and now we’re contemplating packing up the Christmas tree this weekend because it’s getting in our way and Harvey keeps trying to eat it. All before December 25th. My burning desire to tear open gifts has been sated, and now I can relax. I’ll think I’ll have a few drinks, roll the drunk dice, and tell D how rad I think he is.

harv

That’s my idea of a traditionally awesome Christmas!

Fangirl’s Delight

I am still reeling from my trip to the theatre tonight. My body is just thrumming with unadulterated triumph! I’m not even going to bother trying to figure out the perfect word to sum up Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises because I’m too pumped for that right now. In the words of a fellow moviegoer exiting the theatre tonight, it was “fucking awesome”. But don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil any of the magic so rest assured that you can read on unfettered by apprehension. I’m not going to go into an analysis of the movie, dissect the plot/characters, or offer any sort of critique of the overall meaning/message. What I’m focused on today, is the concept of hype…

I have been madly in love with Batman ever since I first discovered the campy old television series on Saturday morning when I was very very young. Batman and fruit loops on a Saturday morning. In my opinion life just doesn’t get any better than that when you’re a 5 year old fangirl in the making. I’ve seen all the movies, watched the cartoons, read the comics, had  the action figures, played the videogames (LEGO Batman for DS is pretty much the raddest game ever), and I even had fucking Batman POGS for Christ’s sake. I vividly remember watching Batman Returns at the drive-in with my parents and sisters in the summer of 1992 when I was 5.

I soaked up every ounce of it. Oh the ways that movie incited my rambunctious imagination and slaked my hunger for the Caped  Crusader! I remember being thrilled when I found out we’d be seeing it at the drive-in, a dream come true. There was so much hype surrounding its release, and it certainly did work wonders on me. All the hype astronomically increased the bat-fervour brewing within.

Flash forward 20 years and not much has changed. A new Batman movie hitting theatres, and an absolute TON of hype sweltering me at every turn. I was itching for this one, absolutely itching! The dramatic conclusion to Nolan’s visionary take on my all time favourite superhero… my heart is still all aflutter thinking about it. And the hype, working its old magic once again.

I tried desperately to convince the boyfriend to go to the trilogy screening with me on Thursday night so we could see it at its midnight release. The trilogy was a special event only playing at certain theatres so when I found out that our local Silvercity was showing it I went into overdrive trying to sell the idea to D. Unfortunately for me though, we had two drastically different takes on it:

Me: ALL THREE BATMAN MOVIES!!!!! ALL THREE BATMAN MOVIES!!!! This is will be the greatest fucking event of my life. It’s now or never, we have to, just HAVE to do it!!

D: 8 hours straight in a movie theatre? Have you lost your fucking mind? That is my nightmare.

Me: But I’m a major Batman nerd, babe. This is just something you have to do for me. Suck it up and do it! It will be so fun, it’s an experience like nothing else!! PLEASE!

D: But I’m an old man, babe. I’m tired just having this conversation, and you’re acting like a maniac.

The last time I pleaded my case that hard for something was probably back when I begged, BEGGED my mom to let me stay up all night watching all 5 Planet of the Apes movies on cable when I was 7. Yeah, we won’t get into it now but suffice it to say the heights of me nerdiness are dizzying. In the case for the apes marathon my youthful excitement actually worked and mom let me have at it. Guess I’ve lost my touch though, because D got the better of me this time. He reasoned that we needed to be rested for my sister’s Jack ‘n’ Jill on Saturday night, and that going to work Friday morning on 3 hours of sleep just wasn’t going to be good for either of us.

Cooler heads prevailed, and I bought tickets for the Sunday night show instead. And hours later, I’m still breathless and racked with awe. I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but at the end of the movie my eyes fucking welled up. It just gets you!

I’ve been reading volume 1 of Knightfall again just to preface myself for this movie. Getting my head really into the zone, you know? I’ve trawled the ends of the internet over and back again reading anything and everything to do with this movie. Checking out the stills, reading blogs, countdowns, tracking reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve just been stewing in Batman for months, working myself into a frenzy.

Hype is a double-edged sword. Hype can amplify your expectations to unreachable highs, and take you crashing down to unfathomable lows should it not be rightly warranted. Hype is the tool most commonly utilized by the studios to put the asses in the seats. Hype garners new fans, sets the blogosphere ablaze, and contributes significantly to the overall reception of the film. We’ve all been touched by the ups and downs of hype at one point or another. From the complete debacle of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace to the utter glory of The Dark Knight, it plays a critical role no doubt.

For me, hype is where the magic is. I love letting the hype wash over me. Tonight I was practically freebasing hype, and the high was divine! When the credits rolled, I felt complete. A satisfying conclusion indeed. This isn’t the greatest movie of all time by any means. It’s fucking awesome for sure. But the real magic is in letting yourself indulge in the hype. Just savour it and permit it free rein to rose-colour your perception of the film. Therein lies the moviegoing magic.

These so-called critics who set out to “critique” and “review” these films need to stop taking themselves so seriously. Going to the movies is about getting lost. Loosen up already you fucking thesaurus loving posers, and just have a good time.

The Dark Knight Rises takes the cake this week for me, it’s just so friggen’ breathtaking! If you’re a long time Bat-fan, seeing this movie just feels like coming home. I’ll be parceling the residual effects of my Batman hype out over the next couple of months to give myself a jolt of awesome when needed. And I’ll lay me down to sleep tonight with visions of Batman dancing in my head.

P.S. Robin can suck a dick.