Sunday List: Special T.V. Christmas episodes for my gift-wrapping this year.

Even though I’m not a Christian I still get together with the family for the day and exchange presents. I usually wrap them on Christmas Eve, and while I do I still want to get in the mood by putting on Christmas specials from specific television shows. I don’t bother with the traditional specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’m referring to Christmas specials of some of my favorite television shows. In other words, I stick to what I have on DVD because I like the rest of the shows, anyway. I figured that tonight I’ll post a list of the special episodes that I watched on Christmas Eve. Because, you know, it’s getting late in the day when I wrote this and it’s an easy list to make.

  1. XMas Marks the Spot from The Real Ghostbusters. I admit it, I’m not a big fan of the movies. I like everything there is to like about them (even the new one) but not as much as everybody else seems to. But I was always a big fan of the cartoon show when I was a kid, and that fandom partly carried over when I became an adult. In this episode the Ghostbusters inadvertently travel back in time and catch the spirits of Christmas as they were about to teach Scrooge his lesson, thereby killing Christmas. In present day Egon has to go into the containment unit and rescue the spirits within a time limit while the other three go back to Victorian England and try to pass themselves off as the spirits in order to help Scrooge. Other than being well-written by J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame, there isn’t anything particularly great about this episode more so than any others of the show. But it works.
  2. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire from The Simpsons. There were several Christmas episodes on The Simpsons over the years. I picked not only the first, but the first episode of the entire series. While I recognize that the show got technically better as it went on (although I dislike the look of the show when they went digital), for some reason I like the look and feel of the early days, when it felt more like a sitcom and was before it got crazy. Again, there’s nothing especially great about this episode over any other from season one.But it’s fun to go back and see what the show looked like while they were still developing it.
  3. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol. In this standalone (not belonging to any season) episode of the British sitcom Blackadder, Ebenizer Blackadder is the nicest man in the whole of England. As a result, he gets taken advantage of by everybody else and as a result both he and his servant Baldrick are dirt poor. Blackadder gets a visit from a Christmas spirit and sees visions of his ancestors and far-future descendant, learning that by being mean they got whatever they wanted and lived in relative luxury. This episode is fun because not only to we get to see new scenes featuring Blackadders II and III, we get a twist on the traditional Christmas Carol parody: by being too nice one gets taken advantage of but by being mean one gets rewarded, at least in his family. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol is one of the funniest episodes of the entire run of the show and is worth checking out.
  4. The Christmas Lunch Incident and Winter from The Vicar of Dibley. I love The Vicar of Dibley. Dawn French is awesome. And considering that the show is based around the lives of a vicar in a small village and its inhabitants, the Christmas episodes were bound to pull out all of the stops. In the first, the Vicar agrees to a series of separate lunches as a result of not wanting to hurt anybody’s feelings. In the second, the church council decides to put on a nativity play on a farm with a very pregnant Alice Tinker as Mary, who ends up giving birth for real during the performance. These two episodes are hilarious while delivering messages of warmth and kindness.
    I forgot that there was a third Christmas especial in the series. There’s always next year.
  5. Christmas Crackers and The Father Christmas Affair from Are You Being Served?. If you haven’t detected theme developing it’s that I’m a big fan of British sitcoms, at least older ones. Are You Being Served? was the first one I watched on a regular basis and I know every episode inside-out by this point. There were actually four Christmas specials; however, they weren’t so much as specials about Christmas as they were specials that were made at Christmas time. They usually involved more song and dance than the usual episodes of the show. Christmas Crackers went through a series of Christmas jokes and ended with the cast suddenly singing over a horn ensemble while in costume. The Father Christmas Affair (which is normally not shown on PBS because it includes a character in blackface) has a song-and-dance routine with only a few of the cast members singing to the song “Mammy” and ends with everybody entering a competition to become a Father Christmas for the department. There are better episodes in Are You Being Served? but these are still enjoyable. And I want that costume that Mr. Humphries wears in the first one.

Sunday List: Top six changes coming to this blog in January.

Not wanting to leave this blog alone, I have some changes in mind to implement in January. I know, I have another Sunday list before then, but as that’s on Christmas, if I even have time to write a blog post that day I’m going to likely make it themed. So I’m writing this one now.

One thing that I’m not doing is paying for an easier domain name. I know it’s a bit awkward now, but unless I start making money on this blog I don’t see the point in spending money on something I’m really not going to get anything from unless it’s charity. But today’s blog post isn’t about New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I present the top six changes coming to this blog at the beginning of the year….

…Okay, New Year’s Eve is on a Saturday night this time. I might not be well enough right at the beginning of the year. But it will be around then.

  1. I’m dropping the Self-Discovery Saturday. Like the Nerdy Saturday posts before it, it’s just becoming too hard to sustain. I’m sure I can integrate that theme into other blog posts. However, I may still do something for the next two weeks, or at least something somewhat related.
  2. I’m dropping the Sunday Lists. Again, it’s hard to sustain although slightly less so. Once I come up with a list it’s usually pretty easy-going, but it’s hard to come up with a topic sometimes. Besides, I’m starting to think of lists as more of a format than a theme for a day. I’m opening myself up to using them within the other days’ themes instead. I don’t have plans for what I’m going to replace the Saturday and Sunday theme with yet.
  3. For the first two months, I’m going to switch the Monday Book Reviews to something else. “Monday Book Thoughts” don’t quite have the same ring to it, but I have other reading to catch up on that I don’t want to write full reviews for. I’m not sure how much reading I’m going to do in February as I’m going to take part in the RPM Challenge again. Either way, the reviews will return in March.
  4. I’m going to redesign the look again. There’s no real reason other than I just want to do something different. I definitely want to update my profile picture. I also know that when I share my blog posts on Facebook there’s no picture anymore as I deleted the picture I was using for that. I’m going to have to figure out how to replace it.
  5. Speaking of pictures, I’m going to use more. This blog is my writing practice. But it’s not very visually stimulating. When I read it I’m getting bored. Could that help me get readers? I don’t know. But it will make it look better, at least to me.
  6. I’m going to ease up my personal word-count restriction. If a blog post needs to be shorter, it’s going to be shorter. I usually can get pretty verbose, so five hundred words usually aren’t hard for me, anyway. But I’m done straining myself to fill out the rest of a blog post just because I got it in my head that I have to have so many words. If I have a daily word minimum as a writer, than why I am I dedicating so many to the thing that’s not my main project?

“Sunday” List: Top five reasons to get up at three in the morning today.

For some discernible reason I woke up just after two in the morning. It’s nearly an hour later and I can’t go back to sleep. Considering I usually get up at five-thirty I decided to just stay up. I know I’ll regret it on the other end of my work day, although I know I’m not going to have a physically active day as I have to run the front end again. One of the things that was keeping me awake was thinking about all of the reasons that it might be just as well that I get up. So I’m turning that into this week’s “Sunday” List. I present the top five reasons that I’m getting up so early today. (Exciting topic for a blog post, isn’t it?)

  1. I can write this blog post. It seems to be a running theme lately that I can’t get to a particular day’s blog post, only to publish it the next morning. I don’t have any real excuse this time other than I couldn’t think of anything for yesterday other than I had a lot of things to do and didn’t try to think of anything for a topic until it was too late. Even then I was running dry with ideas. So not only do I get a second chance by getting up early, I have a topic.
  2. I can get started on the next one. Speaking of which, I can get “caught up” on my blog posts by getting started on today’s book review. I don’t intend on writing the whole thing right off, but a beginning to the review came to me so I might as well jot it down so I have a head start on it so I can finish it when I get home from work. That is, of course, if I don’t fall asleep as soon as I get here. For those interested, this week’s book review is of The Spy by Paulo Coehlo.
  3. I can read this week’s issue of The New Yorker. Over the past few months the e-reader edition of The New Yorker has been released later and later in the day on Sundays. It now comes out around eight in the evening, which is half an hour before I go to bed. As a result I don’t get to read the whole thing in one sitting like I used to. I don’t necessarily have to but it is nice to get caught up on one aspect of my reading so I can read one of the numerous books on my Kindle at work instead, or perhaps listening to podcasts so I don’t fall behind on those, either. Either way, I can satisfy my compulsion to read as much of the magazine before my work week this morning.
  4. I can leave early for work. Never mind the reasons that I might have for wanting to get to work early. I’m not even so sure that I will. It snowed overnight and it’s supposed to turn to rain at some point today. I don’t know what road conditions are like. Why risk my life rushing to work? I can get ready for work a lot earlier than I usually do so I can play it safe.
  5. It’s probably better for my health. I’m sorry to be wishy-washy to use the phrase “I seem to remember reading somewhere” and not citing my sources, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that studies have found that it’s bad for one’s health to go right back to sleep if one wakes up after so many hours. Sleep getting interrupted is bad for the health, but going back to sleep for just a few more hours is worse. I’m sorry that I can’t cite my source for this as I really don’t remember where I read this. I think it was The New Yorker but I get the feeling that it may have also been The Huffington Post. Either way, it was a few years ago now. I’ll let you do the research. The point is that I probably would have allowed myself to go back to sleep if I could, but if this study is correct than I have some sour grapes to use here.

Damn, this topic gave me much more material than I thought it would. Time to down my first cup of coffee of the day and get on one with things.

Sunday List: Top five reasons why I haven’t blogged since Tuesday.

I know that I’ve been silent over the past few days. But instead of another regular blog post stating that I resolve to do better, I decided to take advantage of the format that I use on Sundays and present my top five reasons for not publishing blog posts since Tuesday. Are these legitimate reasons for not blogging or are they justifying laziness, or a combination of both? Who cares—at least I’m getting a topic out of it for today.

  1. I didn’t have anything for a Writing Progress Wednesday, anyway. I’ve discussed in my last post while I haven’t been working much on the screenplay lately. I’m still waiting for feedback from others before I progress with it. At least, I hope so. If I don’t hear back from anybody soon I’ll get back to it myself. But I really would like the input of the others I sent it to or am about to send it to. Still, in the meantime I think I’ll go back to looking at other works I’ve taken a break from. Perhaps I’ll have new insight into how I can make those projects publishable.
  2. I worked on Thanksgiving. So what? I normally work on Thursdays anyway. But I worked a later shift than usual because of our different store hours, and I had to get up early the next morning. Besides, I don’t normally publish something on Thursdays so I didn’t dwell on it.
  3. I worked on Friday. Again, so what? In case you somehow managed to avoid all of the ads, it was Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. On top of going in to work early, I had to run the front end all day. By the time I got home I was fried. I had no ambition to work on the vampire story that I’ve been publishing. Besides, when it comes to the last item on this list you’ll probably understand why I didn’t want to work on that story this week anyway.
  4. My family celebrated a belated “Thanksgiving” on Saturday. I had thought that this might provide a topic for a Self-Discovery Saturday blog post. But we were all at my father’s house until around my usual bedtime, and I decided I wanted to go out to town for a beer afterward. But aside from one brief conversation about politics, I really didn’t have much to go on for such a topic anyway.
  5. I was trying to finish Prince Lestat before the end of the weekend. Actually, I was hoping to finish it Saturday morning but didn’t make it. I finally finished it today. It wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be, especially as the only other book I read by Anne Rice so far is Interview With a Vampire, which I found much more enjoyable. Nonetheless, the new book in The Vampire Chronicles comes out on Tuesday and I hope to read it in time for the next Monday’s book review.

Things will return to normal, with a review of the book Loner by Teddy Wayne.

Sunday List: Top Five Movie Sequels I’d Like to See.

I’ve read and heard a lot of complaints about how there’s no originality in Hollywood anymore, considering all of the sequels, reboots and adaptations that are released to theaters in recent years. While none of these things are new, it feels like we’re getting inundated with a whole series of rehashed stories and characters that just won’t die. I say fine, while we’re at it, then let’s make some decent sequels to great movies that aren’t getting this treatment.

I put together my own fantasy list of films I’d like to see sequels for. I’m sure that none of these will get made. In some cases the people responsible for making them have already said that they aren’t willing to work on sequels. In some cases these are older movies and the sequels would have only worked if they were made years ago. But I can still have my fantasy movies, can’t I? So here are my top five wanted (though unlikely) movie sequels.

  1. True Stories. David Byrne said he won’t make a sequel to this movie. And I’m perfectly happy with it on its own. But there’s a lot of potential for somebody to go back to this fictional town thirty plus years later and see what the residents and their grown-up children are up to. The original movie had a lot of characters based on stories Byrne read in tabloid newspapers at the time. I would think that now with the Internet there would be plenty of source material for even more wild characters. Oh, and it would provide a reason for more David Byrne songs.
  2. Big Trouble in Little China. I agree with the statement Kurt Russell made about the remake: wish it well, but there’s no point. I’ll watch it if it looks interesting but part of the charm of the original film was the atmosphere that only films made in the eighties can have. I would have liked to have seen a direct sequel made by John Carpenter. Sure, Lo Pan died at the end, but some of his followers survived. Couldn’t they try resurrecting him? That, and I felt cheated that snow wasn’t covered by one of the Storms.
  3. UHF. I’m cheating a little bit here. I just want another Weird Al movie in the same vein as UHF. It can be a spiritual successor, if you will. The plot of the first movie was barely there and largely forgettable, and there aren’t UHF stations anymore. Then again, perhaps George becomes a YouTuber?
  4. Napoleon Dynamite. It surprises me that this hasn’t already happened. Not only was the movies a big success, there’s plenty of room to make more in that world. Yes, I know there was the animated series. It’s just not the same.
  5. The Transformers: The Movie. “What are you talking about? They’re already working on the fifth one!” I hear you (probably not) say. But I’m not referring to the live-action toy commercials that are being made today. I’m talking about the animated toy commercial from the eighties. For many of us who grew up at the time, the movie was the pinnacle of the animated form of The Transformers. Yet it wasn’t a box office success, which didn’t prompt another film. Sure, we got the third season of the show which acted as a sequel in a way, but aside from a few high points it didn’t really live up to the standards set by the film. But I would take this sequel even further: instead of picking up the story where the Rebirth miniseries left off, have the sequel completely ignore the American cartoon. This would allow writers to forget the Quintesson-origin story and incorporate Primus into the animated universe. Okay, now I’m really nerding out and I reached my word count. I’m going to end with that.

Sunday List: Five “lesser” goals.

I’ve published blog posts with lists of larger goals which I want to achieve that will change my life in large ways, such as getting a better job, sell my screenplay, and so on. But there’s other, lesser things that I feel will also better me as a person. I say “lesser” not to diminish their importance but to refer to priority. While I feel that these are just as important in the long run as my larger goals, they can be put off when the larger goals need to take priority in my schedule. As usual there’s no specific order in terms of magnitude as I present my five “lesser” goals that I wish to achieve.

When making my list I noticed that the following feel more like resolutions than goals. The difference in my mind is that goals have a timetable to stick to, whereas resolutions are the broader ideas that generate goals that follow. But as I don’t have any desire to make timetables for the following, plus the fact that I’m bad at following my goals’ timetables anyway, I’m grouping them together under the same category… in my mind, at least.

  1. Take up classical guitar again. I dropped classical guitar practice over a year ago. I took a break so I could focus on writing but also because I felt that I was only practicing classical in order to go through the motions. I didn’t think that I was getting anything out of it anymore. I’ve come to the conclusion recently that the best way to test that hypothesis is to take up the practice again, and see if there’s any difference, in terms of my playing or improvement of my character. I’ve clipped my right-hand finger nails since I gave it up last year, but as I’m not planning on making a career out of playing classical music or even recording any, I’m not worried about it.
  2. Write more poetry. I’ve tried this before but had a hard time keeping it up. As a writer it doesn’t hurt to explore other forms of writing, and who knows? I might get some published. Again, this could also just improve my character. The same goes for visual art, such as drawing, which was a hobby I abandoned once I reached adulthood. It’s time to set aside a time of day for each interest. Perhaps when I first get up in the morning, before I go to work?
  3. Catch up on my reading. This is the hardest with all of the other things I want to do. Besides that, what do I mean by “catch up” on my reading? If I have no obligations to read for any school assignment or anything, what’s the rush? The problem is that I have a list of books that I’ve intended to read for a long time that I haven’t gotten to yet. A lot of them are sitting on my Kindle and I haven’t even started them yet. That’s not to mention all of the books that I wanted to start reading once I started researching Goth subculture. Reading for my Monday book reviews felt like it was getting in the way of this goal. I could just abandon my rule of reviewing new releases in order to both exercise my reviewing skills while also catching up on my book collection. Or I could also look into audio books. I could just sit down and get own with it instead of thinking too hard about it. That’s probably the obvious solution that I keep avoiding.
  4. Write more music. This goes along with the poetry and visual art, but music has always been more of a hobby to me. Even when I gave up a lot of my musical activity to focus on writing, I still felt like music provided an outlet to express myself in ways that writing could not. Besides, I have no intention on giving up Shadows of Immurement, or, if Mike is willing, Popkin-Salvador.

Five thoughts about “Doctor Strange.”

Earlier today a friend and I went to see Doctor Strange, the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I don’t usually post movie reviews and I usually make lists on Sundays, so tonight I’m offering five thoughts on the movie. You could say that I’m just making an outline for a review and am being too lazy to actually write it out. You’re probably right. But I’m more or less picking five thoughts on the film at random. I’m also leaving out a lot of stuff as well. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

  1. I’m fully aware of the controversy surrounding the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, and it didn’t bother me. I know that many people have had a problem with the “whitewashing” of an Asian character, as well as changing its gender. At the same time I know that the director of the movie offered a pretty lame excuse for doing so. I really do sympathize with those who take offense at this, even though I don’t have a horse in the race myself. But honestly, I’m such a fan of Tilda Swinton that I forgot all about it.
  2. I wish I had another beer or two before watching this one. Out of all of the Marvel movies, this one is the “trippiest” so far. I could understand what was going on. But I would like to see the movie with some sort of mind, or at least mood alteration before going in. Oh, and by the way, my two-nights-a-year regarding alcohol went right out the window. There’s always New Year’s.
  3. I did have a problem with one scene in particular. Despite all of the fantastic effects in this film, there was one moment which I thought they fell short. There’s a moment in the film when all of the characters are on a giant stone disk in the sky (well, sort of the sky… hard to explain) and their circling each other discussing the situation before they start fighting. In the background the skyline of New York City has been completely distorted and is facing in all different directions. Yet, even with all of the advancement in this area of movie-making technology, I could still tell that they were in front of a green screen. It didn’t help that the villains looked like they were rejects from the Mortal Kombat movies. It ended up feeling like a scene from a 90’s Saturday afternoon martial arts show than a big budget motion picture.
  4. Despite the above two comments, I’m glad I saw this on the big screen. Overall, the effects are amazing. I’m glad that they finally got around to putting this character in a movie and that this was the one that we got. I’m wondering if I would still like it on my small television at home, though. This movie is yet another reason why I need to pay off my credit card bill and buy a big screen T.V.
  5. Overall, it was a fun movie. I always liked Marvel’s celestial characters and the related story lines, that they’re getting close to the Infinity War that they’ve been building up to with the Cinematic Universe. This movie does feel like a step in that direction while at the same time holding it’s own. They do beat the morals of the story over the audience’s heads a bit too often, but I don’t watch superhero movies for substance. I expected fun escapism going into the theater, and that was what I got.