Monday, November 28, 2011


As with Howl-O-Scream, Busch Gardens puts on a seasonal celebration for Christmas that they call Christmastown.  Christmastown opened on the Friday after Thanksgiving and like a Black Friday sale at your favorite electronics superstore, it was packed to the limit in a short time.  As with Howl-O-Scream the park had to close the front gate due to reaching capacity.  Most of the rides are closed during Christmastown. During Howl-O-Scream the water rides are closed but the roller coasters and such stay in operation.  With Christmastown a few more coasters are closed to make ready for the off-season and some of the carnival games are replaced with crafts and merchants, some local and some from out of state.  This is pretty cool, really, as I support small businesses and like to see a thriving cottage industry...yeah, I used to go to ren wanna make something of it?
Pardon my misplaced belligerence.  Please come with me and enjoy my poorly snapped photos of our family trip to Christmastown on the day after Thanksgiving. 
We were still sated from our huge meal of roast boar's leg and venison sausage cornbread stuffing, cranberries, roasted vegetables, deserts and chicken.  We needed a good long walk.  We set out in the SUV around 1:30 PM and headed up to Williamsburg, normally a mere half hour drive, but we hit massive traffic that slowed our trip.  As it was we arrived at the parking lot gate around 2:30 PM with the park proper opening at 3:00 PM.  Once we had gotten past baggage check and into the gate it was 3:15 and things were open for business.  We started in England, as that is the entrance and made our way toward the Festhaus for a bit of dinner.  Of course that is not as simple as it sounds as the Festhaus is on the complete opposite end of the park, meaning we had to travel through other locations, which you can see in the pictures below:

A simple stream in fall.  This is past England and Scotland and heading to Killarney.

The Killarney gate as seen for Christmas.  I admit that Killarney at Halloween seems more appropriate somehow.

I've never, to my knowledge, noticed this bench before.  Perhaps it is because there has usually been more to distract me.  I believe this is chunk of Arsehenge, very famous in the British Isles.

The Irish carollers performing Greensleeves.  Or at least one of them is.  The young lady announced the tune, then let the guitar player play for something like 2 minutes, finally joining in as I walked off, bored.

In case you are wondering, I'm looking at a penny I had just smashed in that shop behind the tree. 

Canadian tree deer! 

Another shot of the "New France" decorated flora.  New France (Canada) is already a rustic, trapper, smokehouse sort of place, so this feels very 'American'.

If you've read the Celtic Pumpkin Howl-O-Scream articles you no doubt recognize the entrance to France.  Where once stood a giant Grim Reaper now stands a giant snowman, smiling and violating the park's policy on smoking in other than designated smoking areas.

This is a shot to the right of the snowman (as you face it) where the really cool hearse was during Halloween.

Ahh, Germany.  The Germany sections are my favorites, I admit.  Here where the vampires greeted you during October we now see steadfast Nutcracker Soldiers.  I like nutcrackers as they are militaristic and have an old world charm.  Plus they remind me of parts of my childhood.  In the Germany section there is a store that sells them, along with steins and clocks...but more on that below.

A nice tree.

Family photo.  Not pictured is my mother-in-law, whose addiction to snapping photos meant that she is the one holding the camera.  I'm trying to move so you can see the elf back there sawing on a piece of wood.

I mentioned the store that sells nutcrackers and clocks and such.  The picture above and the two below are inside the shop.  It is three shops linked together internally, one selling nutcrackers and smokers and with a dedicated Christmas ornament shop in the back; one selling clocks (cuckoo and otherwise) and one selling steins and hats.  Inside the nutcracker shop, at the very back, is the ornament room, flanked by two representations of Santa.  Above we see Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, a patron of children, thieves, whores, sailors, and various other things.

And here is the rustic fertility figure, a sort of Green Man Father Christmas, that stands opposite St. Nicholas of Myra, and represents the other of the great Santa components.  The Christian and the Pagan, standing face-to-face, guarding the Christmas room.  I don't want to challenge beliefs and notions here, so moving on...

A surfeit of Santas.  I like the variation with Old World, New World and others.

The North Pole in front of Santa's Workshop

The Workshop (2 views)

Inside you can sit on Santa's lap, if that's your taste, and times being what they are...

Buy a lollipop, win a Frosty.  If you are lucky.  I meant to take a shot for Frau Punkinstein because she likes snowmen. 

So that's part 1.  It is still daylight and, much as we saw with Howl-O-Scream, we haven't made it to the Festhaus yet.
Please do check in for part 2 and keep your Yule Log lit.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving gorging complete

The roast boar's leg was amazing.  My wife's efforts (and my own, however small) did not go unappreciated.  We had to marinate the leg overnight in a red zinfandel and spice mixture, then score it and clove dot it, basting throughout, but the meat was tender and succulent.
Along with this we had cornbread stuffing with venison sausage in.
A bread pudding (normally I find vile, but again, Frau Punkinstein has magic cooking powers), a chicken and dressing (made by my father in law), deviled eggs and some watergate salad (by my mother in law), a great pineapple 7-up cake by the ever-stoic Rob, and some other vegetables we put on the table.  My wife's cranberry sauce, which she always makes herself, so it is sweet and tart and delicious.
And my dad came to see us, but he made a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee first to provide for me a personal favorite I never get:
Fried Apple Pies!  Obtained from the Apple Barn in Sevierville, TN.  Oh, man...

So all in all, it was a good day.
Today we are going to Busch Gardens for Christmas Town's opening day.  I will do a report over on Jul Pumpkin later, when I have pictures and something to report.

Hope you all enjoyed your feast.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

And done

Today has been a day that mixes sadness with exhaustion.  Today I took down the last of the outdoor decorations and stowed them in the attic.
All that remains is Chauncey, his crows, the maize and the Harvest sign.  Whew.  I am sweating.  It is warm in Tidewater today and the attic even more so.

The lingering fall decorations will serve as a happy reminder of the Halloween season as we head toward the gorging season.
All hail the wild boar to come!

Oh, and Frau Punkinstein purchased a bag of cranberries today at the grocer.  We don't do the stuff from a tin.  Not on a holiday, at least.

I kept my pumpkins lit for 5 solid days this year.
Ha Ha!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Deadlands or Ghostbusters?

I am betting that question made no sense to you.
I will elucidate.

Frau Punkinstein and I want to do some gaming with some friends, but we are not sure what to play.  That it will be a Savage Worlds game is almost certain, but which one?  Or will it be a homebrew?
Frau Punkinstein loves steampunk and clockpunk, but has said she is open to anything as long as it isn't sci-fi, flying around in space.
No space pirates then...right.
I am in a cowboy mood thanks to Hell On Wheels and the usual bio-rythmn cycle that brings me around to cowboys at regular intervals.  Deadlands has steampunk, clockpunk, mad science, monsters, zombies, is a western game by default, even has magic.  What more could you want?
Oh, you want a mech fighting against ninja assassins and dragons while a wizard faces off against an eldritch horror and the cleric holds back the zombies?
Yeah, it's got that.  The mech is steampowered, driven by an insane scientist, the ninjas are, well, ninjas, the dragons are either giant gila monsters or sea monsters, the wizard has exploding cards in one hand and a sawn off shotgun in 'tother and the eldritch horror is the spawn of a gigantic worm that lives underground in the desert, and the cleric is a tough-as-nails preacher and he's holding back the zombies (who are undead rail workers) with his righteous faith and a stout piece of hickory. 
Nice, yeah?

But I've also got an idea for Ghostbusters...and it just might work.  The equipment is in the Horror book, and I can certainly whip up a few extras...
So now I don't know.

Could always go superheroes...but is that what people want? 

Have to check with my mate, Will on this one.  But he's pretty much "open to anything" on this point.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hell On Wheels Premiere

Well Pumpkin Fans, I can now say what I thought of last night’s premiere of AMC’s newest series Hell On Wheels.
Ted Levine (left) and Anson Mount (right) in the series premiere of Hell On Wheels

If you ever watched the award winning HBO series Deadwood then you have some idea of Hell On Wheels.  Just as Deadwood started with the introduction of classic cowboy hero Seth Bullock who left his job and home to move to Deadwood and set up a dry goods store, our story starts with the hero, somewhat less classic, Cullen Bohannon, entering the moving town of Hell On Wheels (the rail spur for the Union Pacific railroad’s transcontinental effort).  Well, not really.  It opens with our hero at a church, then cuts to Colm Meaney (who played SCPO Miles O’Brien in multiple Star Trek series) as the rail baron who is making an impassioned speech to potential investors.  What follows is the clear cut identification of this baron as a vile robber baron as he bribes a senator to get the contracts he wants. 
Then we go to Hell On Wheels via train where we learn some important things about our hero, like he is angry at God so is sort of an atheist.  As the episode continues we learn that our hero is:
1.       Former Confederate soldier
2.       From Mississippi
3.       Who grew tobacco
4.       And owned 5 slaves
5.       That he paid wages
6.       Because he set free his slaves a year before the war when his  Northern wife convinced him that slavery was an evil institution
7.       But he fought in the War Between the States out of a sense of Southern honor
8.       He’s out to kill the men that harmed his wife and caused her to commit suicide (which he later learns was outright murder and then fails to find out the name of the Union sergeant that led the men/did the deed)
Pretty good, right?
Tom Noonan (right) as the intense preacher

Oh but there is more.  A tent revival preacher (played by genre favorite Tom Noonan [Manhunter, Wolfen, Monster Squad]) and the whores who don’t take kindly to churchin’.  Cheyenne who clearly don’t want the white man’s railroad to encroach into their territory.  A husband and wife surveyor team (the husband seeming to have contracted consumption [I have no proof it is consumption, but in these westerns it is always consumption]) with the husband killed by a Cheyenne brave and the wife wounded but killing the killer and escaping with the all- important maps.  An ex-slave who puts no faith in the white man’s promises (he disses the Emancipation Proclamation, and as the 13th Amendment has yet to be ratified, his suspicions have some credence) but who is clearly meant to be our other male lead.  We have the Rail Baron’s voice overs and soliloquies as well.  This is, like Deadwood before it, not a cowboy series but a drama series that is set in the west.  The western genre supports more than the simple shoot ‘em up, ride into the sunset works of Sergio Leonne, the success of Deadwood proved that, so Hell On Wheels is not out of its element in being a western drama.  Weren’t Gunsmoke and Bonanza, decades ago, examples of dramas set in the West rather than simply westerns?
Well, I think they were.
Would you buy bonds from this man?
Set in the year 1865 (as far as I can tell) the show seems concerned with bad feelings and dramatic tensions following the Civil War.  This will provide us with conflict, which is good.  Our hero, Cullen Bohannon, is a mix of decidedly non-PC characteristics (Confederate, former slave owner) and all too PC concessions (married a Northerner who showed him the error of his ways) and classic ‘anti-hero’ tropes (angry at God, loss of faith), which we’ve seen before.  To some degree the main characters are merely stereotypes of what we have come to expect from an AMC drama regardless of setting (The EVIL robber baron, the spiritually wounded anti-hero) and there is a real risk of Elam (the ex-slave played by hip hop artist Common) becoming a confused character, switching between his understandable anger and mistrust toward the white man, who once kept him and his people in bondage, and a more “supportive and understanding” role with echoes of Morgan Freeman’s Ned in Unforgiven. 
Bohannon (Mount, left) and Elam (Common, right) not yet the boon companions I feel sure they will become due to the laws of dramatic inevitability and trying to seem "edgy"

The language is particularly nice and feels like a mixture of modern hipster slang and original lingo from the era.  I hope it holds out.  Fan favorite Ted Levine was great in his single episode performance as the vile, but intriguing Johnson, who hires Bohannon on to the railroad and his role as the McGuffin to keep Bohannon at Hell On Wheels was not unappreciated.
Finally Anson Mount is a fine choice, I feel, for the lead.  His accent and mannerisms seem authentically southern; if not authentically Mississippi and I look forward to seeing the character develop in future episodes.  The actor is, by his own admission, a Southerner (see the official website Q&A for more details) and his bio says he is from Tennessee, so I am apt to believe him.  (Okay, I am unabashedly Southern, I admit it, so I like having a “hero” from my section of the nation)
The show combines human stories (revenge for a dead wife, revenge for a lifetime of mistreatment) with a national event whose importance should not be understated and for which we don’t have enough good television, that being the building of the transcontinental railroad.  Speaking prophetically Durant (Meaney) notes that regardless of all that is done, history will paint him as a greedy villain.  In this overly PC world in which we now live, where we must apologize for things that even our ancestors probably didn’t do (I honestly don’t know when they came over), it is all too common to vilify such an endeavor as the transcontinental railroad and what it meant for this nation, the lives that went into making it, and yes, the corruption that is the cornerstone of everyone government protect from building dams to social security.  Maybe, and I hope it is true, that Bohannon and Elam retain, in their characters, that honor that they have eluded to thus far, to keep the show palatable to people who don’t enjoy history for what it is: a tale of what was, told by people who imagine what it should have been.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu

Frau Punkinstein has put in the order for the Thanksgiving menu.
Leg of wild boar, venison sausage, some sides.  She does a great cranberry sauce (not from a tin, I assure you).

We have ordered from Broken Arrow Ranch, which you can find at their WEBSITE.
I love the pig.
Piggie piggie piggie, oi!

Just the notion of wild, not raised in the deplorable conditions of the modern pork industry (thank you Britain for that, really), pork fills me with excitement.  The venison is just a bonus.

Now I am an animal lover...but also an animal eater.  It's all circle of life and whatnot.  It's not like the boar is my totem or anything.  But I do love some pig.
I am loving these boots.  I won't lie.
On a side note: Hell On Wheels premieres tonight on AMC.  I'm quite excited about it.  Since I saw the first commercial I have wanted this thing to premiere.  I do enjoy Westerns (and even more Weird Westerns) and this looks a gritty western to me.  Let us hope it does not disappoint.  I'll do a little review when I've seen enough to know.

Keepin' it lit here, boss.

Keep it lit.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Spirit of Halloween Passed

Had to take down some of the inside decorations tonight.
And I had to mow the lawn.
Our Jack O Lanterns have been disposed of.  This is sad, but since mine was starting to look like a toothless old man, it was time.
It is sad, I admit it, but I enjoy the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons as well.
I am beginning the transition over to Jul Pumpkin, where I will chart some Yuletide thoughts and ideas.  Not that I won't have things to say on the CP, but it usually becomes more "things that are annoying me" or stuff like that.
Then deep in the winter I will, invariably, forget how hot and sticky summer is, start missing the beach and become PIRATE PUMPKIN, not that I change the name or anything.  I just end up talking lots of pirate bollocks.
So see you on the Jul Pumpkin, I hope and stay tuned for interesting musings here on the CP.