Movies I’m looking forward to: “A Christmas Carol.”

I realize that for a lot of people it’s a tad bit early to be talking about the upcoming Krismas season, but the first wisps of crisp autumn air in September always get my mind thinking along those lines so you’ll have to bear with me. Of course this year has been pretty damn cool all year long so you should probably be thankful I’m only just now starting to think about it. Oddly enough, for someone who considers himself quite the skeptic, one of my favorite seasonal stories is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I’ve read the book many times over the years and I often watch the various productions put to film with my favorite probably being the one starring George C. Scott back in 1999.

Now Robert Zemeckis is going to give it a shot with yet another motion captured computer generated 3D animated version of the film (which seems to be the only kind of film he makes anymore) starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth. And it looks like it just might be a new favorite. Check it:

I was disappointed with Zemeckis’ adaptation of The Polar Express mostly because the story required quite a bit of stretching to turn it from the wonderfully illustrated children’s book (which I own) into a feature film, but also because the computer animation fell victim to the uncanny valley effect. The motion capture was wonderful, but the eyes seemed dead and zombie-like. One of the ways to avoid the uncanny valley is to go for a more stylized look which is what they appear to have done for A Christmas Carol. So far it’s looking pretty good and will probably be a must-see for me this year.

 

Krismas 2008 loot report.

I’m several days late getting the annual Krismas loot report up, but I’ve been taking advantage of the time off from work to catch up with friends and family I’ve not seen in awhile. Spent a couple of days this past week hanging out with Bob and my brother-in-law joined us for New Year’s Eve. What little computer time I’ve had has been spent playing WoW or CoD:WaW.

Krismas itself was enjoyable as always with my in-laws and several SEB readers playing Santa for me this year. This year it was all about the DVDs/Blu-rays and books as I received several of both. DVD-wise I got the most recent Blade Runner collection of movies with something like five different versions of the film including Ridley Scott’s director’s cut, The Frighteners Director’s Cut, Hitman Unrated, the fourth season of Doctor Who, and first seasons of Freakazoid and Invader Zim.

In books I got two-copies of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book so I’ll have to see if I can return one of them at some point, Stephen Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell, Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind, and the Windows Command Line Administrator’s Pocket Guide. Gadgets I got included a Pirates vs. Ninja’s RC toy, The Doctor’s Fob Watch toy, a new PS3 controller, Bluetooth headset, and Bluetooth Blu-ray remote to make watching movies on the PS3 a little easier. And finally I got a new Krismas ornament for the tree along with some homemade cookies. No new video games this year, but plenty to keep me busy for awhile. I’m already halfway through Kluge and am enjoying it immensely. Again I’d like to thank the several SEB readers who were generous enough to send along a present as it was a very nice surprise.

So what did you guys get?

Once again it’s time for Melvin the SEB Cat’s Annual Holiday Message…

Over the river and through the woods…

Looks like things have cleared up just enough to allow for the annual trip up to my parents place for Krismas Eve dinner. With the weather being so crappy over the past couple of days we weren’t certain if we’d be able to make the trek safely or not. From Ann Arbor it’s a good hour and a half drive and with the freezing rain we were getting last night we were thinking we might have to stay home. Right now, though, we’re up to our high temp of the day of 38 degrees Fahrenheit and the roads look to be relatively ice free. Or at least Courtney and I will as Anne has to work today. My sister and her husband will be present, but we haven’t heard on if my brother and his family will make it up yet. Wes is also working today it seems and as such may not make it up. Family friends who usually drop by are also either questionable or no shows at this point which, given the fact that things are likely to freeze over tonight when the temps drop back down, is understandable. Still it’ll be good to get what parts of the family we can together for a few hours as it’s so rare we’re all in the same spot at the same time these days.

Tomorrow morning we’ll get up and open the handful of gifts we have under the tree which consists mostly of the couple of items we got Courtney, the half dozen or so you folks were so generous to send to me, and Courtney’s gifts to Anne and myself. The presents are a little sparse compared to years past, but we’re back out under our own roof, the bills are pretty much up to date, we’re relatively healthy, and we’re all together and those are arguably the best gifts one could hope for. After doing our small gift exchange in the morning we’ll be heading over to Anne’s parents place for Christmas brunch and the gift exchange there. To keep costs down us adults drew names this year and set a limit on how much to spend. Anne is working tomorrow as well so we won’t be able to stay too long before heading back to Ann Arbor.

On the plus side it looks like Anne and I may have a little spare money to take advantage of the After Khrismas Sales to pick up a little something something for each other. We won’t be opening them up on Krismas Day, but better late than never I always say. It’ll also be one of the first times I’ve had any money to spend on an After Krismas Sale. May see if I can’t pick up a few sets of LED Krismas lights on sale in preparation for next year. I want to have enough strings to do up a couple of windows in lights as well as the tree. All in all it should be a very good Krismas in spite of the tough times everyone is facing at the moment. I’m feeling very grateful for the family I have, both immediate and the extended family that includes the SEB Regulars who drop by to see what nonsense I’m spewing each day.

Posting has been light the past couple of days because I’ve been fairly busy running around getting last minute stuff done with the family and it’ll probably continue to be light until at least Friday, but I’ll try to get a few more things up when I can. For now I’ll leave you with my sincere hope that you’re enjoying your Krismas Eve as much as I am.

I’m not dreaming of a white Krismas…

… because I don’t have to dream. The not-quite-winter winter storm that was blowing across the country last week made it to Michigan over the weekend and left even those of us here in the southern region with at least a foot and a half of snow. This is the view from my front door Sunday morning:


Click to embiggen!

Today it’s snowing some more. The weird part is that it’s wasn’t, and still isn’t, the stereotypical big fluffy flakes you normally associate with lots of snow, but lots of wussy little flakes reminiscent of sugar substitute that sting your face and are generally annoying as hell. Normally you’ll get an inch or so out of those, but it just kept on coming and we ended up with a metric assload of the stuff. It’s also been bone bitingly cold as of late with temps not reaching far out of the teens, if at all, during the day. It feels more like February than December.

On the plus side it does feel like the Krismases of my youth. It’s entirely possible that I’m not remembering them clearly, but it seems we had snow like this a lot more often when I was a kid. Of course Pontiac is a bit further north than Ann Arbor so it’s possible we did get more snow, but the past decade or so it seems like we get dumped on with a foot or two in November that lasts three days tops and by Krismas we’re lucky if we have a dusting of snow. This feels like Krismas. Though ironically it may end up keeping us from visiting with my folks come Krismas Eve as the weather report guys are predicting freezing rain that day. Winter has come early to Michigan.

Updated: Just checked the weather and we’re under yet another winter weather advisory until 7PM tomorrow night:

… WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 PM EST WEDNESDAY…

THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW… SLEET… AND FREEZING RAIN IS NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 PM EST WEDNESDAY.

PERIODS OF SNOW ARE EXPECTED FROM LATE THIS MORNING THROUGH TONIGHT. SNOWFALL WILL BE MODERATE TO HEAVY AT TIMES… DROPPING VISIBILITIES TO LESS THAN ONE MILE. SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 5 INCHES WILL BE POSSIBLE THROUGH EARLY WEDNESDAY MORNING. IN ADDITION… THE SNOW IS EXPECTED TO MIX WITH SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN LATE TONIGHT… BEFORE CHANGING OVER TO MOSTLY RAIN BY WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON.

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW… SLEET… OR FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES… AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.
More Information

… ANOTHER WINTER STORM TAKES AIM AT SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN…

.A PROLONGED PERIOD OF UNFAVORABLE WEATHER CONDITIONS WILL OCCUR TODAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY AS A COMPLEX WINTER STORM TRACKS THROUGH THE UPPER MIDWEST. A WARM FRONT PRECEDING THE SYSTEM WILL SLOWLY LIFT ACROSS SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN TODAY AND TONIGHT… BRINGING WITH IT SEVERAL BANDS OF SNOW. THE PASSAGE OF THESE BANDS ACROSS THE AREA WILL PRODUCE PERIODS OF MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOWFALL… WITH ACCUMULATIONS GENERALLY RANGING FROM 4 TO 6 INCHES BY 700 AM WEDNESDAY MORNING.

THE MAIN SURFACE LOW IS THEN EXPECTED TO TRACK NORTHEAST THROUGH SOUTHERN LOWER MICHIGAN ON WEDNESDAY BRINGING A SECOND ROUND OF WINTER WEATHER TO THE REGION. BY THIS TIME… ENOUGH WARM AIR WILL HAVE SURGED NORTHWARD TO ALLOW SNOW TO MIX WITH SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN. THIS WINTRY MIX OF PRECIPITATION WILL MIX WITH RAIN TOWARDS THE OHIO BORDER. AREAS NEAR AND NORTH OF TRI CITIES WILL REMAIN PRIMARILY SNOW… AND THE POTENTIAL EXISTS FOR ADDITIONAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 6 INCHES FROM WEDNESDAY MORNING THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING. FOR LOCATIONS ALONG AND SOUTH OF I-69… ADDITIONAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS ARE EXPECTED TO REMAIN LESS THAN 3 INCHES… WITH LIGHT TO MODERATE ICE ACCUMULATIONS. TRAVEL WILL BE DIFFICULT ACROSS THE REGION TODAY AND WEDNESDAY.

Jinkies!

Ghosts of Krismas Past: Scans from 1983 Sears Wish Book.

The folks at The Retroist have an entry up featuring scans of the video games and systems offered in the 1983 Sears Wish Book:


Click to embiggen!

Man does that bring back memories. 1983 was the year the video game market cratered and it looked like home systems would be nothing more than a passing fad. It took Nintendo’s NES to get the ball rolling again in 1985. That didn’t stop me from drooling all over these pages hoping that I’d get a cartridge or two as Christmas presents. The full article has 19 pages covering all the consoles available at the time including the venerable Odyssey II and the various offerings from Coleco. Remember the Colecovision? I do, one of my friends owned it and it was amazing how well it reproduced arcade titles. You can also see the Atari 5200 we bought just in time to have it go tits up.

Yes, there’s nothing like looking back fondly at games your kids wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole these days to make you feel old and wistful.

I think I’m done with C7 bulbs after all…

I go out and buy a third string of C7 lights tonight to go with the other two good strings I have so the tree will be nice and bright. I also bought some spare bulbs to replace any that aren’t working in the older sets. I get home and start working on the first string only to have it blow the fuse in the string. So I replace the fuse and start again and it blows again. Turns out there’s a bad socket on that string which will only light if you twist the cable a certain way. So that means I won’t have three strings of lights on the new tree at all and will have to try and make just two strings stretch. Probably for the best as the box says you shouldn’t have more than two attached anyway. Here’s the final result:


Click to embiggen!

Well fuck, that’s not very bright at all. This tree is bigger than our last tree so I suppose that’s to be expected, but dammit if I don’t feel disappointed. It doesn’t help that the older of the two sets I put on blew a fuse during testing as well ensuring I couldn’t use the third string with the one bad socket if I wanted to because I’m all out of friggin’ fuses. The really annoying part is that the store had boxes of LED strings with 60 lights on a 22 foot string. The lights are smaller than the minis, but damned if they aren’t bright as hell and you can safely attach up to 43(!) strings of them together. They were going for $8.99 a box, about $3 more than the set I ended up buying, and I figured two strings would probably fit the tree while three would’ve been perfect. I wouldn’t have any twinkle lights in the bunch, but I would be cutting way back on the energy being used by the tree. Of course that’d be nearly $30 in lights when I really shouldn’t be spending any money at all. So I decided to be good and just buy the set I’d gone there for. Which of course ends up with me blowing fuses left and fucking right. I love my C7 bulbs, but they’re getting to be too much of a hassle. I’ll have to watch for deals on the LEDs after Christmas and try to snatch up as many as I can.

This is one of the recurring themes in my life. I get these great visions of how things’ll be so fantastic when I get done putting my best effort into them and they never quite turn out as grand as I envisioned them being. In my youth I’d spend hours working on some bit of art or some project that I’m sure will just stun everyone that sees it and it usually ended up being a crushing disappointment. I’m less crushed by them today only because I kind of expect to be disappointed, but it’s still damned annoying and it really puts a dent into my enthusiasm to even try some days.

For now I’ll have to learn to love my darker Krismas tree. Maybe once we get a few ornaments on it’ll look a little better.

SEB Krismas Gift Guide: The ultra creepy “Hug Me Pillow.”

Know someone who is lonely? No one to hold them while they sleep at night? Do they long for the loving embrace of at least one quarter of a person? Are they not easily creeped out by weird design choices? Got $30 bucks? Then we have the perfect gift for them! 

It’s the Hug Me Pillow and it’s available for a mere $30 right now. Just check out this totally non-creepy shot of it in action:

But don’t take our word for it that this is the finest cure for loneliness ever invented! Just check out these testimonials:

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Keeps me company!,  Jun 7, 2006
By Anonymous from Alaska

I bought this pillow to keep my company on nights when my husband, a correspondent for the Trans-Alaskan News Network, was out of town. The pillow exceeded even my wildest expectations. I’m told the pillow was modeled after Brad Pitt, and I believe it! When I first nestled against the soft, but firm chest of my new “husband” I slept better than I ever had before. Now I don’t mind when my husband goes out of town!

Overall Rating:  5 out of 5
What an awesome pillow,  Jul 14, 2008
By WPCexpert from Arkansas

My husband ordered me this pillow for our two year wedding anniversary (cotton anniversary). It works for me in so many different ways, he is military so is constantly deployed so now I have a sleeping companion. It also works well for those nights when he is getting too overheated to snuggle and I can snuggle with my “man”. I absolutely love this pillow I sleep with it every night and can barely stay awake once I lay my head on this wonderful invention.

All the comforts of a fellow human being without any of those pesky adultery issues! ORDER YOURS TODAY!

And the tree starts to take shape…

Not sure why, but our Canon digital camera is starting to act up. Sometimes it powers right up and works just fine and other times the image sensor gets all garbled and any pictures taken are also garbled. We’ve had it a long time though, bought it back when 4 megapixels was brand new and we’ve gotten our money’s worth out of it, but it means that we didn’t manage to get any pictures of the Krismas tree in its pathetic “before” state. We did manage to get a couple of it after we’d spent some time fluffing out the branches to make it look more like a tree and not some post-industrial nightmare of a tree. Here’s one with Courtney peeking out from behind:


Click to embiggen!

As you can see it looks pretty good once you get done fiddling with it. Sucker’s big too. Next step is lights. The two strings of C7 bulbs I have now aren’t going to stretch the whole tree. I’ve got two more strings of that sort, but one is too short and the other has some bad sockets so I’ll see if I can’t find a set of C7 lights on sale to put up on the tree. The snowflake tree topper is still in good shape and working properly so I don’t have to worry about that. After we get the lights on tonight we’ll do the decorations.

And on a completely unrelated note I wanted to share one of the comment spams SEB got hit with last night. It was caught by the Akismet spam filter and it was one of three left by the same person. It’s clear from the first two that they were trying to make the comments fit the entry posted to, but by the third one, on the entry about Siskel and Ebert’s review of A Christmas Story, they gave up trying to make it sound authentic and left the following comment:

This is a nice video and story.. Well congrats you’ve made a article..

Because you know I just live to be congratulated for making an article.

It’s starting to look a little bit like Krismas…

We finally bought a new artificial tree today. Did you know it’s almost impossible not to find one that doesn’t come pre-lit with miniature lights? I hate mini-lights on a tree as it makes it look dark. The one exception would be if the lights were LED, but that’s relatively new and all the trees I found that had LED lights, and there weren’t any in the local stores, started in the high $200 to low $500 range and there was no way in hell I could afford that. We ended up with a seven and a half-foot tree that came with fake berries and pine cones on it because it was the only one Home Depot sold that didn’t already have lights in it and it was on sale. One thing I really like about it is that it’s one of those where the limbs are permanently attached to the trunk so I don’t have to separate out which limbs go where. Just stick the three pieces together and fluff out the branches and you’re set. I’ve got it up now, but the branches aren’t fluffed yet because I want to take a pic of how pathetic it looks and then how nice it looks once I’m done. I should have that completed tomorrow night.

The other thing that happened recently that made it feel a bit more like Krismas was the arrival of a package from Amazon.com addressed to me. I hadn’t ordered anything recently so I wasn’t expecting anything so it was a pleasant surprise to open it up and find it contained three Krismas gifts from SEB member EyesOnly. This did much to cheer my spirits which have been a bit under the weather lately with stresses over the job and the holidays. I haven’t opened them yet as they are festively wrapped and I figured I should wait until the 25th as is custom, but I wanted to thank EyesOnly for the generosity which came at just the right time to help lift my mood.

Lastly we got more snow over the weekend and it’s looking pretty nice outside right now. Not so much that it’s troublesome getting around, but enough to bring back fond memories of Krismas long past. Quite a few folks have their Krismas lights out as well so I think it’s time once again for the annual call for Best and Worst Krismas Light Displays. Start looking for houses with especially well done or awful Krismas displays and get snapping with your digital pics and add them to the SEB Flickr Pool and I’ll start another thread soon for folks to post links to their favorites in.

And one more thing, SEB is once again sporting it’s Krismas template. If you haven’t stopped by lately then drop in and have your eyes damaged by the holiday spirit.