Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nightmare Before Christmas

Last night, Christmas Eve Eve, I put on Mr. Bean and wrapped presents for 2.5 hours.
Because I had yet to find the time to sequester Frau Punkinstein away long enough to do it.  She read some of The Hobbit (for she watched the trailer the other day and is excited, although it is a year off) and fannied about on her computer while I wrapped.
And wrapped.
And taped.  And watched Mr. Bean.

Then, once the wrapping was done we settled down to view The Nightmare Before Christmas because, let's face it, we are weird like that.
Or so I think.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Full decorations!

Finally we've gotten the outdoor decorations up and finished filling out the interior.

Our traditional Christmas cow and her little trees, now joined on a blanket of snow by spiral trees.
We went with a more subdued Candy Cane garland wrap, three lighted wreaths and three big snowflakes.  Frau Punkinstein figured it would be bright enough without adding more strings of lights.

And let's face it, it is.

Frau's industrious and crafty thinking provided this wreath with its decorative look.  Brass balls still visible, thankfully.
Every year we say we want, will get, should have an inflatable yard decoration, either for Halloween, Christmas or both.  This year we went for it.  She loves snowpeople and Home Depot had a reasonably priced 7 footer he is during the day.
Here he is at night.

Two interior views.  On the top you will see our stockings.  One for her, one for me, and a collective stocking for the furry kids (4 cats, 1 rat and 1 dog, so obviously it is the biggest).  We don't have a mantle.  We don't have a fireplace so a mantle would just be an extravagance.  I wish we had a fireplace.  And a mantle.  And lived in a different neighborhood.
And lastly we have Gnomish Santa's Snowperson Posse.  Look at that Santa and tell me there is not gnome blood in there.  These are some really nice snowpeople pieces.  They deserve a mantle.

Keep your Jul Log lit.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The lights start coming on...

Here are some of our decorations.  We are adding more (as of this writing we've finished adding them, but suspend disbelief with, won't you?)

Our tree lit
And a better view, in a soft glow...note the Frosty colour change snow globe thingie.  It is motorized to swirl itself as well.  Yay technology juxtaposed with the nature imagery in the background.

Fiber Optic carousel of musical joy.  Literally.  Among the tunes it plays, in rotation, is a portion of the 4th movement of Beethoven's 9th.

Snoopy at the piano with Woodstock.  This plays music when the not-so-subtly labeled button is pressed.  Of the tunes it plays is, of course, "Linus and Lucy" which is the classic Charlie Brown song.  Which is odd as Schroeder is supposed to play the piano, but what the hel, the Charlie Brown Christmas special was from 1965, you can't expect kids today to know that.

My Old World green robed Santa.

One of two white robed Winter Wizard Santas!

And the other.

Yes, that is a glass Nativity scene.  Yes the camel is not officially part of it.  I can not prove or disprove the presence of a camel-leopard at the original event.  Perhaps it is a Christmas Miracle!

My wreath has brass balls hanging from it.

Our Rudolph decoration with Santa and the Bumble!

I've more, but that is for later.
Keep your Yule Logs lit.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Hello and welcome to part 2 of Busch Gardens Christmastown with your host, Herr Punkinstein.  In the previous installment you were treated to scenes of Busch Gardens decorated for Christmas leading up to the Festhaus, where I had my dinner.  Come along for the remainder of the journey.

Look!  Festhaus!  Decorated trees abound.  The usual wonderful German Sausage sampler platter is replaced during the Christmas season.  Or rather it is modified.  See the normal menu that runs from opening day through Howl-O-Scream features a sausage sampler platter that includes a smoked sausage, a bratwurst, a knackwurst, German potato salad, red cabbage, sauerkraut and a roll.  During Christmas they put a Christmas Turkey Dinner on the menu.  You can still get the sausage platter, but your side are now mashed potatoes and gravy and vegetable medley (which is two types of green bean and some carrots) and a roll.  Not as tasty.

Oh, tannebaum?  Yes.  And after dark it has a synchronized music-light show.

Interior of the Festhaus decorated with hanging baubles. 

A crappy shot of the Festhaus interior because even now, after all this time, I don't really know how the camera works.

Tannenbaum at night.  This is after we've eaten, and sat and waited for the "Deck the Halls" show, which replaces the Halloween show, which replaces the normal operating season's Polka Show.  It's not a bad show really with its medley of Christmas songs and "poor man's Rockettes" dancing.

This is a nice shot of the exterior of the Festhaus with its "snowflake" lights that move across the facade.

Frau Punkinstein took this snap of the Bavarian alley at my request.  On the left and into the background you see the store that sells the clocks/steins/nutcrackers.

My wife just really liked this tree and wanted a picture.

Santa's Workshop by night.

The Beer and Pretzels part of Oktoberfest (formerly Bavaria) where Frau Punkinstein molested the statue of Frankenstein's monster during Howl-O-Scream.

As we approached the bridge that lead to Italy (a section lit mostly in white and gold) I took this picture of the trees across the water.

The streets of San Marco.  In keeping with the Italian flavor the colors are brighter (white and gold) with emphasis on the "religious" aspects of the holiday vice the benevolent gift-maker of the Frozen North.

This tree (seen in close-up below) is an example of the effort the park goes to in bringing the holiday spirit alive.

That's a lot of lights.

Water rides are always favorites of hot summer days in a theme park, but once the summer season ends they are usually left alone.  The log flume and roman rapids, for example, sit idle for the Halloween and Christmas seasons, but not so with Escape From Pompeii.  At Halloween Pompeii becomes a walk-through haunted house attraction and for Christmas...

It gets lit.  The draped white lights stand in stark contrast  the flowing blue lights where the water flumes would be and the soft glow of the purple trees.  Giant Santa is just surreal bonus, really.

Polar bears.

Giant Santa, lord of the Polar Bears.  Don't think to hard on this.  We are still in Italy, and yet we've turned back to the North Pole setting.  Just go with it. It really is an attractive display.

The train: Motion Shot

The train has been lit in lovely blues and purples and reds and this would all be clear had I taken these shots while it was standing still.  I had literally minutes to accomplish this.  Nope.  I decided to shoot it as it passed.  Clearly I do not understand optics.

Scotland by night.  Blue trees, white trimmed buildings and dangling snowflake-lights.

These would be the dangling snowflake lights I told you about.

And here we are in Dickens's England.  A cup of hot wassail in hand (not pictured) we head toward the exit gates at a leisurely pace.  The wassail at BG Christmastown is potent, despite being non-alcoholic, but tasty.  A blend of hot apple cider and spices (which certainly includes cinnamon and orange essence) it is a fair version of the seasonal classic that Frau Punkinstein puts together in a crock pot at home (only with a bottle of red wine to boot).

Exactly what it looks like.  Dickens era London Carollers.  They sang well, but when a dude in shorts walks past it really breaks the suspension of disbelief, yeah.

Until next time, keep your Yule Logs lit.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kicking off the Xmas Atmos

Greetings, Friends.

Monday night we went out to our usual annual Tree spot, across from the YMCA, where the money for the trees goes to charitable donations.
It scares me to think what Goggles is thinking as she looks at the sacred tree
Here is our little tree, roughly 6 feet and a few inches.  Simple, douglas fir, I think.
Smells good.
Aaaahhhh, a Morlock!  (1960 version, not that shite 2002 version)
Frau Punkinstein also wanted a wreath for the front door, which I agreed would be a nice touch.  Green wreath, red door.  It all comes together.

Decorating began tonight, but it will take several days to get everything together proper.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

And now it's time for...

Another boring edition of "When I was a kid" that attack of nostalgia guaranteed to make you wish the speaker was dead rather than regaling you with some disjointed half-memory of a time that never actually was!

In the 60's the roots of the organization that is now called Greenpeace were formed to protest US nuclear testing.  Early efforts by the organization were focused on anti-nuke policies, and this was their primary focus until the 90's when it became an all-encompassing Pro-Earth organization.  This is not to say that individual members or spokespersons were not already interested in Global Warming or preserving the rain-forests or saving the mastodon, this is simply the point where the organization as a whole shifted its focus from the narrow to the global.
Why shift?
Well because they won.  And like any organization that completes its goal, rather than disband they shifted their goals to allow unlimited lifespan by choosing a goal that could never be achieved.  Taking a page from the US government.  Very clever.
How?  What do you mean "how did they win?"?  The Cold War ended, of course.
With the USSR changing toward more Western-friendly ideals, the loss of some of its republics, and the US military showing in Gulf War 1, it was over by 1992 completely.  Years of fears of atomic war, nuclear winters, mutations and biker gangs roaming the desert for gasoline were all put away and Grunge entered the picture to ruin music forever.
The greatest loss of this new nuclear-fear-free time?
Apocalyptic Fiction, of course!
When I was a lad you could tell any story if you set it in the 21st century and after "World War 3" which was synonymous with "Nuclear War".  Man, we looked forward to it.
It spawned some great things like...
Mad Max:
Technically the setting is about the aftermath of an energy crisis, but by Road Warrior (Mad Max 2, internationally) big bombs were used by the two great post-nuke-apocalypse.  Biker gangs, especially in the second film, roaming creating havok, wearing assless chaps and feathers.  Humans huddling together for survival, worshiping wrecked airplanes and burned out tellies.  Oh, it was brilliant.
Since Godzilla and Them! we've had the joys of atomic mutation that creates giant monsters to ravage our world.  Many a good post-apocalyptic tale featured at least 1 giant rat/bunny/lizard to menace the heroes.
Car Wars:
Steve Jackson's board game for automobile combat simulation was a product of the very early 80's and saw many iterations as the years rolled on, including a personal favorite Commodore 64 game called Autoduel.

I played that game so much in my formative, pre-high school years.  Of course games like Carmaggeddon and Twisted Metal would come along to up-the-carnage-ante for car-warrior games, but the original by Ultima creator Richard Garriot, is, to me, still the benchmark.
Gammarauders:  A board game from TSR, loosely connected with their Gamma World product (the name, post apocalyptic setting, but in reality it was its own storyline, setting and product), Gammarauders featured a background "world book" written by the great Jeff Grubb (well, great to RPG pen and paper nerds of my generation, at least) and featuring more tongue-in-cheek humor than one can shake a stick glowing with nuclear radiation at.  Gammarauders featured giant, mutated animals that were also beweaponed cyborgs being guided by humanity's survivors all seeking to recreate the Golden Age, which was their misunderstood idea of what the world had been like "before the bomb".  In essence of world of 1950s and 1960s pop culture kitsch.  It was brilliant.

Look at that.  How can you not love anything with a giant penguin and a cyborg t-rex (named Elvin, by the way) and a hovering tank that looks oddly like a classic T-bird?

These are the losses I lament.  I was never afraid of a nuclear war...I welcomed it.  Unlike my parents, who remembered the days of "duck and cover" and actually thought the Ruskies were going to attempt to invade their homes, I grew up at the tail end of the Cold War era, the unfortunate Greenpeace years.  Unlike the children of a previous generation, who had the Space Race to inspire their dreams of the future (always Looking Up, to the skies) and had heroes like Captain Atom, a Space Race hero if I ever saw one:
The original Charlton Captain Atom, not the compromised, deconstructed, DC bullshit
I had the horrible post-nuclear future to look forward to...and dammit I wanted it!
Attempts have been made since the big CW ended to create classic post-apocalyptic work, mostly in the "retro-kitsch" sense.  I point to 1998's Six-String Samurai, which explicitly states that it takes place in an America that was partially conquered by Russia in the late 50's.

This film is a retro-kitsch lover's dream, but is a single blip on an otherwise uninspired post-apocalyptic landscape.  When the Cold War ended, taking the threat of Nuclear Apocalypse with it, everything changed.  Bond films began to suck so abysmally that nothing could save them.  The post Cold War Bond films are charybdic...and that's being nice.
Even Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, with its two-fisted, pulp look at the "evil" Ruskies of the 1950's could not bring back the joy I once felt regarding this era.  Although it was nice to see it and I thought it funny that there were minor complaints from Russia about the portrayal of the Russians in the film.
Too bad, Ivan, that was the era.
Actually, I miss you guys.  Please come back, Ivan, in all your Hammer and Sickle Glory.  Fiction has been empty without our big old buddy Bear to threaten our way of life...which is already dangerously close to...oh no, is it true...
It couldn't be...
Damn you, Khrushchev!  Very clever, Nicky, very clever indeed.
All those sleeper agents...really did run for political office after all...
Where are my guns and my giant lizard?

Probably with my rocket pack and raygun.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Is this the greatest Nutcracker of the them all?


No, wait...
Let it sink in a bit.


No fooling; I love nutcrackers.  I don't know why.  Maybe it is the way they combine militaristic imagery with a lack of belligerence.  Maybe it is the insane look on their faces with the giant toothy smiles.  Maybe it is a dim memory of my childhood or a racial memory.  Whatever the reason, I love nutcrackers.  At least around Christmas time I do.

I saw this particular nutcracker for sale at Christmastown BG and then looked it up online and here it is.  A wizard, in purple, with an owl.  That is awesome, that is.

This may be the greatest nutcracker of all time, and I am saying this full in the knowledge that there exists an Elvis nutcracker that I have seen with my own eyes.

Keep your yule log lit.