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After-Holiday Clearance

January 1st, 2007

I intended to blog about a variety of things during the long (but not long enough) holiday week, but I’ve simply been doing a lot of stuff lately. Not important stuff, mind you. Much of it involved shopping, as well as hunting for loose change to goose up our final take for the end of the calendar year.

I also spent quite a few hours volunteering at one of our local gaming stores by sorting through the umpteen billion Magic: The Gathering cards boxed up in the store room, pulling out those worth selling and dumping the rest in the famous “penny box.” Mind you, this task wasn’t completely altruistic, because it gave me first crack at the “good stuff.” And now, I have several hundred more cards to mix into my personal stash.

Today marked the official end of the Thiel household holiday season with the traditional putting-away-of-the-tree. This year it was a bit easier as we bought some nifty storage reels for the light strands. The living room is back to normal, and all is right with the world.

But before I move on to 2007, here are some Christmas leftovers:

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One of Vic’s favorite holiday specials is the Rankin/Bass animation classic Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. It’s sort of Santa: Year One, with a puppet Fred Astaire retelling the “true” origin of Claus. Some of the details are a bit dubious; for example, Santa began to climb down chimneys because the naughty Burgermeister Meisterburger ordered the citizens of Sombertown to lock their doors. You see, Meisterburger (who pretty much had to grow up to become a Burgermeister) outlawed toys after tripping on one and breaking his leg. Most people would probably not decide that toys hate them after such an accident, but most people are not named Meisterburger.

Another addition to the Santa legend is Jessica, the proper schoolmarm whose fiery red hair is the only thing that isn’t somber in Sombertown. It must be said that Jessica is pretty hot for a puppet. I’m not saying that I’ve ever Googled “naked Jessica Claus” or anything, but she’d certainly be on the front cover of the Rankin/Bass pin-up calendar. Jessica, as you might imagine, learns to let down her hair (literally, as all proper schoolmarms must) and embrace her handsome rebel-with-a-sack-of-toys. Naturally, she becomes Mrs. Claus, and when last seen, she’s put on about fifty puppet pounds. I can just hear St. Nick saying, “Hon, don’t you think you’re packing it on a bit?” If I’ve learned anything from this film, it’s that women may start out a Jessica, but in the end, they all become Mrs. Claus.

An unusual aspect of this story is that the villainous Burgermeister is not only never defeated (he drives the Claus crew all the way to the North Pole), but that good only triumphs because evil eventually kicks the bucket. In one of the most anticlimatic endings ever, the voice of Fred Astaire tells us “the Meisterburgers kinda died off and fell out of power. And by and by, the good people realized just how silly the Meisterburger laws were. Well, everybody had a wonderful laugh and then forgot all about them.” See, kids, that’s how to win a political conflict: just wait fifty or so years and the problem will sort itself out. (Hey, it seems to be working in Cuba.)

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A couple of days after Christmas, we finally found a Wii for sale. As difficult as it was allegedly was to purchase a Playstation 3, I actually had several opportunities to do so, both before and after the holiday. That was not the case with the Wii. Even now, I’ve found it equally challenging to locate a second controller for the thing.

I’ve never been one for Nintendo’s game systems, but the Wii struck me as innovative and fun. Pretty as it is, the PS3 just seems like more of the same. Wii’s bizarre motion-sensing remote works as advertised, and it’s nice to add a bit of physical activity to the video game experience.

The first game I picked up was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which everyone says is the killer ap for the new system. Not only is it my first Zelda game, but I think that it may be the first console role-playing game I’ve ever purchased. While I am enjoying the tactile sensations of swinging a sword and firing a slingshot with the remote, I had forgotten that playing a Japanese RPG means spending many hours as a big-eyed, androgynous man-child with spiky hair. Oh well, at least I got to name my valiant stallion “Fred.”

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I’ve recently been pulled into another of George Lucas’ money-sucking vortices, this time Hasbro’s Star Wars Starship Battles miniatures game. While I’ve previously flirted with the land-based miniatures game, this one finally hit the button I cannot resist: the opportunity to field a massive fleet of Star Wars ships. While my initial booster buys were frustrating–I managed to pull the same “rare” ship four times out of four–I did eventually manage to collect the majority of the set. Last Saturday I hooked up with another local gamer for a vast conflict between my Separatist forces and his Rebel starfleet. My droid ass was kicked, but all in all, it was a lot of fun.

Speaking of Star Wars games, I also found the brand-new “Classic Trilogy” version of Risk. This is the fifth Risk variant I currently own, and the second with a Lucasfilm theme. The previous Clone Wars edition offered a straightforward two-sided conflict that I found wanting, but this looks to be an improvement with the addition of a third faction (the Hutt gangsters) and a Death Star or two to liven things up.

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When the best DVD boxed sets of the year are tallied, one that is sure to be unfairly overlooked is the recently-released compilation of the ’80s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. Not only does it include all of the episodes (several of which I never saw back in the day), but also a radio-style dramatization of the never-produced final chapter which would have sent our intrepid child adventurers home. Plus, coolest of all, it includes a hardcover supplement to the paper-and-pencil RPG with complete stats for all the characters and a mini-adventure. Neat!

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That’s about all for the moment. Tomorrow it’s back to work, and while I’m dreading the concurrent loss of free time, I’m looking forward to ramping up my plans to promote WILL-TV’s airing of the new Doctor Who series, which we’ll premiere in March. I intend to make sure people know that it’s coming…

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