Sunday, December 27, 2015

Stunt Zombie's Christmas Fallout 2015!

Hello all! I hope you all had a merry Christmas or happy holiday. I know I sure did, even if I had to wake up at the ass crack of dawn to work the day of. That's okay though, because when I got home, my lovely wife had a nice big Bloody Mary and a delicious breakfast waiting for me when I walked into the door. You can't ask for much more than that. 

This year, we decided to go a little lighter on the presents. As we get older, we find ourselves wanting less and less stuff. Closets and bookshelves are already full to overflowing, and I hate adding to the clutter. So, the Christmas haul was a bit smaller, but by no means was it less awesome. 

The stocking's always come first. It's been a tradition since I was young, and it continues to be one among Chelsea and I. This year, I got a fancy new Star Wars stocking. It's even in my favorite color! Double win! And, where there's a stocking, there's candy..

There's a little bit of everything in there. My perennial favorites, Reese's Peanut Butter trees, as well as some Star Wars Jelly Belly, TMNT chocolate, candy pizzas and tissues, Avengers chocolate and sour straws, and Justice League fun dip type stuff. It's enough to either rot my teeth, or give me a heart attack before New Year's Eve. Probably both. I'm just a little ashamed to admit that there was a lot more in that stocking when I first opened it. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, that box of Star Wars gummies is empty. 

I also got my yearly allotment of Royal Dansk Butter Cookies. I sang the praises of my favorite cookies last year, and my feelings toward them haven't changed. I can't bring myself to eat them any other time of the year, and it really doesn't feel like the Christmas season if I don't have a tin of these to munch on when I'm watching Christmas Vacation. Chelsea also gave me one of those sausage and cheese sampler packs, another one of my seasonal favorites. Speaking of sausages and cheeses..

My mom gave us two more of those Hickory Farms packs, along with what has to be the largest cheese and sausage sampler packs I've ever seen. This pack came from a company called The Swiss Colony, and it looks like it has enough to feed a village. This isn't even everything, since we've been munching on it since Christmas Eve. Oddly enough, even though it contained no less than 4 pounds of pasteurized cheeses and salted meat, they didn't include any crackers. Weird. The Swiss Colony sampler also included various snack cakes, chocolate covered nuts, jellies, and some Christmas colored gum drops. It's a one stop shop for your entire cocktail party. 

We also got three large containers full of nuts. At this rate, I won't have to buy any snacks until April or May.

Okay, this is the last of the food, I promise. You can't walk into a grocery store without tripping over something with Star Wars plastered all over it. Even Campbell's got into the act, slapping droids and Stormtroopers on cans of chicken soup. The small tin in the middle is full of cotton swabs, not mints as I originally expected. Last, I got a small tumbler emblazoned with characters from the original trilogy. That's one thing I've noticed about all the promotional tie-ins. They don't seem to feature any of the new characters. Strange..

If this year had a theme, it would definitely be Star Wars. This shirt was a gift from one of Chelsea's friends, and it's already becoming one of my favorites. It's sort of a mashup between Darth Vader's helmet and the Death Star. I'm realizing how much of a missed opportunity it was for the Empire to not make the Death Start's look like a giant Vader head. There's no way a ragtag bunch of Rebels would ever mistake that for a moon. Now I can't stop thinking how awesome it would be to have a gigantic planet destroying Vader face flying through space. 

He died 15 minutes into Return of the Jedi, but that hasn't kept Boba Fett from showing up on just about everything. I normally get annoyed by these kinds of mashups, but I'll make an exception for this one. I can sort of picture Boba tearing around Tattooine in his roadster, listening to some tunes, and just letting his helmet air out. Note to Disney: There's no need to go back and add this to the original movies. Don't make the special editions more special-er. 

Books! Not a year goes by without me getting books, and you won't hear me complaining. I wanted Archie Vs. Predator because it sounded utterly ridiculous, and it really was. Don't go in looking for a smart read, because you won't find it here. What you will find is a lot of stupid, gory fun. The unbeatable Squirrel Girl collects the first few issues of her regular series, and it has quickly become my favorite new comic. It's nice to be able to read a comic about a female superhero, and not feel perverted because her costume only covers her crotch and nipples. If I had one main complaint about comics, it's that some of them take themselves way too seriously. Not a problem with Squirrel Girl. It's easily the funniest book I've ever read. I laughed out loud quite a bit while I was reading it, prompting my wife to ask me what was wrong. You'd think I never laughed around her..

The book on the bottom is the comic adaptation of the first TMNT movie. I've owned the adaptation of the second movie since it came out, but this one always eluded me. This is the hardback version, and I'm looking forward to seeing if there were any scenes that weren't in the movie. I, Zombie isn't based on the show of the same name. Rather, it's told from the perspective of the undead. I haven't had a chance to crack it open yet, but it sounds like it's going to be a fun read. Maybe I'll do a book report when I'm done. 

Moving on, we have something sharp and My old digital Casio is still ticking, but it's looking a little rough. So, Chelsea bought me a watch that can take a licking and keep on ticking, and look good doing it. She also gave me the little Buck knife there, because it's not always polite to whip out a machete when you need to slice some sausage and cheese to put on your crackers. 

Last, and certainly not least, an Amazon Kindle! I actually already have a Fire, but trying to read books on the damn thing gives me a headache. If you're outside, you might as well forget about it. So, Santa Chelsea was nice enough to slip one of these under the tree for me. I'm a voracious reader, so it'll be nice to not have to worry about stacks of books sprouting up all around the house. 

So, there you have it. Another year, another Christmas gone by. The day after is always the worst. The radio stations stop playing Christmas music, stores start putting out Valentine's day crap, and all the turkey stuffing is gone. It's like waking up from a dream where you're rolling around in money, only to wake up and find you were just lying in a pile of bills. You shouldn't let that diminish the love for the day. If anything, we should embrace it, and try to pack as much enjoyment in as possible.  

If you'd like to see some other Christmas fallouts, the go check out these other blogs. Some haven't posted their hauls yet, but you should just go check out their blogs anyway. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas Eve!

It's the 24th of December, and almost 80 in my house. The wife and I took the dogs for a walk earlier, and we managed to break a sweat. In other words, it doesn't feel much like Christmas. Still, we're doing our best to stay in the holiday spirit.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Force has awakened. Thoughts on Star Wars and Episode VII

Hey guys, I'm not sure if you've heard, but there's a new Star Wars film that's just been released. I had told myself that I was going to wait a while before I went to see it, in order to let the crowds die down. Then, curiosity got the best of me, and I discovered a theater that allowed you to reserve seats. I probably don't need to tell you that my mind was quickly made up, and my tickets were soon ordered. Sure, it was an hour and a half away, but this was going to be my first time seeing a Star Wars movie in a theater, and I was willing to make the trip.

That's right, my first Star Wars experience in a theater. I was only two when Return of the Jedi was released, so I was still a bit too young to go see a movie in a public place. In fact, I wasn't even introduced to the series until 1989, when Return of the Jedi was the Sunday night movie on NBC. Even at the ripe old age of 8, there were still parts that scared me. I'd have nightmares about being chased by the Rancor, all while Jabba's laughter echoed through the hallways. I still enjoyed the film, but it never really made an impact on me. I didn't pretend my G.I. Joe's were Jedi's, and Cobra Commander never teamed up with Darth Vader. It never bothered me that the movie seemed to start in the middle of the story. I had skipped to the last chapter and didn't even realize it. It would be another couple of years before I would see A New Hope, and even then, I never put the pieces together. That movie was Star Wars. The one I'd seen years earlier was Return of the Jedi. Why would I think they were connected? It wasn't until my early teens that I was introduced to the trilogy as a whole, and that's when my love for the series began.

It's strange to think that I "discovered" the series so late in life. I began to see just how influential it had been. It also opened my mind to a whole new world of toys I never knew existed. At that point, it became a yearly tradition for me to watch the entire trilogy either the day before Thanksgiving, or on Christmas Eve. Sometimes I would watch it on both holidays if I had the free time. It's funny, but my late discovery of Star Wars sort of set a precedent for me always being late to the party. I had missed out on the craze, and the only toys to be found on store shelves were a handful of Bend-Ems.

That trend would continue through the release of the special editions, and the prequel trilogy. By that point, I was too busy with work and college to worry about a galaxy far, far away. When I finally saw the new movies, it didn't just feel like someone had let the wind out of mysails. I felt like they rolled them up, tossed them in a fire, and scattered the ashes. Over the next few years, there would be rumors of a new movie in the works, but after the travesty that was the prequels, I wasn't sure I wanted more Star Wars films.

Fast forward about 10 years, and I found myself sitting in a theater Thursday night with my wife and 65 other people, watching Episode VII scroll up the screen. I had been cautiously optimistic over the teasers and the trailers, and I had managed to avoid seeing any spoilers. In my mind, Star Wars and I had been broken up for a while, and I was giving her one more chance. I'm glad to say, that it was a great date, and I'm looking forward to seeing her again. In other words, Star Wars is back.

I loved the new characters, especially Rey, Finn, and the ace X-wing pilot, Poe. There was a chemistry there that was sorely lacking from the last batch of movies. It was great to see Han and Chewie again as well. They felt like an integral part of the story, rather than being shoehorned in as fan service. The new Sith Lord, Kylo Ren, actually felt like he posed a threat to the heroes, and I'm looking forward to seeing his character grow over the next couple of films. Everyone seemed like they were having a great time, and it showed in their performances.

If I had one complaint about The Force Awakens, it's that it didn't really introduce anything new to the story. The First Order, though it seems to be a much smaller entity right now, still feels like the Empire. I don't want to give anything away, but the Imperials really do like ball shaped weapons.  The whole deal kinda felt like A New Hope 2.0, but I would gladly take that over A Phantom Menace. I've seen some people complain that there was some contemporary humor that seemed out of place, but I can't say I remember seeing anything that jarring.

In the end, The Force Awakens looked, sounded, and played out like a Star Wars movie should. It was like seeing an old friend that's been away for twenty years. And I for one can't wait to get reacquainted.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Town of Exmore Christmas Parade

I have to admit, I've never loved parades. I've always watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but it was mainly because I was hoping to get a glimpse of a float of my favorite cartoon characters. It was well worth sitting through a bunch of soap opera stars or daytime tv hosts, for a chance to glimpse live action versions of He-Man or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Okay, and it was always kind of cool watching the Spider-Man balloon crawling high above the crowds.

This being the Eastern Shore, our parades are just a bit smaller. And you're more likely to see Santa wearing waders than you are to see Spider-Man floating overhead. 

The route is only a mile or so long, and runs down Main St. in Exmore. Many years ago, even before I was born, that road was part of the main highway that ran the entire length of the Shore. Now it's little more than a side street, home to the handful of businesses that still occupy the streets of Exmore.

The majority of the parade was made up of fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars from the local stations. It makes sense really; they're already covered in shiny chrome, and lit up like Christmas trees. All they have to do is give the trucks a good cleaning, get in line, and flip a swtich. Instant Christmas! 

It's not just emergency vehicles that take part in the parade though. Many of the local businesses and churches also put together floats. Obviously, they're not as elaborate as their Macy's Thanksgiving Day cousins. Most aren't much more than tow behind trailers with a few pieces of garland and folks wearing Santa hats. Still, it's nice to see folks getting into the holiday spirit. 

This year also saw the inclusion of a few classic muscle cars ( I badly wanted to snatch the driver out of that Camaro and ride off into the moonlight), and a couple of motorcycle clubs. Sure, they aren't very Christmas-y, but then who doesn't love a good burnout? Nothing says "Happy Holidays!" like clouds of burnt rubber floating down the street. Even the town's employees took part in the fun, showing off their donut skills on their zero turn mowers. 

You know, when I said you shouldn't expect to see floats full of characters in the Exmore parade, that wasn't completely true. There was one truck that caught my eye as it drove down the street, and it wasn't just because it was completely covered in lights. 

Oh my god, there's so much to love about this float, from the large inflatable R2-D2 and Yoda on top, to what appears to be a Stormtrooper masked Darth Vader. Or maybe it's Captain Phasma. Shit, why did my photos have to turn out so blurry? Either way, there looks like there's at least three of them on there. I'm not sure who the portly fellow is to the left, but if I had a guess, it would be Uncle Owen. A bit of an obscure choice, but I'll go with it. There's a couple of Leia twins as well. Apparently Queen Amidala isn't the only that uses doubles to throw off her enemies. My favorite costume of them all, has to be that Chewbacca, who seems to have started dressing in Obi-Wan's robes, and carrying a lightsaber. If that happens at any point during the next trilogy, I'll likely get kicked out of the theater for squealing loudly with delight. Sure, they may have been a little off on the details, but at least this group had fun with it.

Santa wasn't far behind the Star Wars group, and I have to say, it was a bit of an underwhelming finish. Then again, it would have been hard to follow up that float with anything but an actual flying sleigh with magical reindeer. And really, that was about it. There weren't as many participants this year, which makes me worry about the parade's future. Hopefully there will be enough people to keep it going for next year.

If not, at least I got to see Chewbacca become a Jedi Knight. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Hostess gets minty!

Hey everyone, it's Christmas! That means pumpkin spice is replaced with peppermint, and there's pine trees and snowflakes on every package. Keep on going and read about 700 words about minty snacks that usually aren't minty.

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