The Chronicles of a Witty Observer

Archive for December, 2010

Doctor Who’s “A Christmas Ripoff”: A Review

It’s very hard to review something you both loved and loathed.

Obviously, nothing in the entirety of the new Doctor Who series can beat the very first Christmas special that aired: ‘The Christmas Invasion.’ Subsequent Christmas Specials either lacked in the festivity (like ‘The Runaway Bride’, which was more interested in alien-fighting and flaunting Catherine Tate’s comedic timing),  or lacked in originality (i.e. ‘Voyage of the Damned,’ which basically put an extra-terrestrial spin on The Poseidon Adventure with a dash of Titanic). A Christmas Carol, as evidenced by the lack of even an original name, clearly falls into the latter. An eye-rolling remake with some classic Doctor-isms and celebrity guest-stars.

Not since The Christmas Invasion has a companion (or, in this case, two) lasted beyond the regular series’ finale to appear. Amy and Rory Williams were so painfully shoved to the side it almost made me miss them (they key word being ALMOST, but we’ll dive into that one later). Moffat clearly wanted to keep the tradition of a new-but-one-time-only (exception-being-Catherine-Tate-because-shes-just-that-awesome) companion for the holiday special, but with two companions not dead/retired/mind-wiped, where was the room for the fresh young faces?

Oh, sorry Michael Gambon. Did I say young?

Anyway, the entire premise of the special this year was as follows: on some other planet that remarkably resembles Victorian England (what a stretch) a Scrooge-like Michael Gambon controls the skies (in what way?) with some machine (that is never explained other than it’s creation). Amy and Rory, on their honeymoon, are on a star cruise that begins crashing, and the only way to stop it is to be able to land in Gambon’s hood, but he refuses to open up the skies for them…err…because he’s a douchebag.

In comes the Doctor, of course! Using his time-traveling abilities, he has an hour to travel back and forth from present to past in order to attempt to change Gambon as a child and teenager so he isn’t such a prick in the present. Only, unlike the original Dickens tale where the Ghosts and Scrooge merely observed the shadows of Scrooge’s past, The Doctor actually interacted and actively changed the memories of the Scrooge-like Gambon.

That’s…a bit of a stretch, Doctor. A bit of a stretch.

What ever happened to the extremely-cautious do-not-change-the-timeline Doctor of 1-10? Suddenly he’s a time-vortex surfer with the cautiousness of a four-year-old? Most, if not all, past Doctors would’ve probably stayed in the observer-not-interference position, as changing one man’s life could inadvertently see the present as a pool full of ash or a breeding ground for radioactive sabre-toothed tigers.

Anyway, back to the plot, because we haven’t even hit the meat of it yet.

Whilst in the past, the Doctor and young-Gambon come across Scrooge’s father’s collateral room. In this world, ‘collateral’ entails a member of the family taking out a loan being frozen and put in a sarcophagus in the basement. This was referred to as ‘the surplus population’ in reference to the original Scrooge’s words.

That’s…a bit of a stretch, Moffat. A bit of a stretch.

One of these frozen collateral-people is Abby Pettigrew, a hot young female who can sing her little heart out. Here we go! The young n00b fresh on the scene to romance out Doctor and save the day and subsequently never heard of again!

Oh, wait, she romanced adolescent-Gambon. The Doctor romances an off-screen voice belonging to Marilyn Monroe. Oops.

Anywho, they let the frozen girl out every Christmas eve and go places in order to warm-up Gambon’s memories and turn him nice. However, on the eighth Christmas eve, Abby reveals she was actually frozen with an illness and had a week to live (hooray for random popup of unlikely but dramatic clichés!), and she’s down to her last day. Gambon now turns into the cranky old miser anyway and decides to harden his heart, swallow his tears and never let Abby out again.

In the present, Amy, as a hologram from her falling ship, appears as the Ghost of Christmas Present and shows Scrooge/Gambon that there are 4000 people on the crashing ship singing in an attempt to…err….save themselves.

See, this is another spot where the special was incredibly vague. Apparently in this world, singing makes…the…clouds…vibrate or something, and attracts some species of air-fish that swims around. Perhaps a group of people singing would soften up the clouds enough to let the plane land safely. At least, that’s what I’m getting. However, the giant air shark that nearly eats The Doctor can only be calmed by Abby’s operatic voice.

Yes. Giant air shark. I forgot to mention the giant air shark.

That’s…a hell of a stretch, Moffat. A HELL of a stretch.

Let’s wrap this plot up so I can bitch it out! Amy fails, and The Doctor returns as the Ghost of the Future, only, as a twist, it wasn’t to Gambon, but to YOUNG Gambon, and the boy decides consciously NOT to become a bad old man. Thus, Scrooge is redeemed just in time to let Abby out on her last day of life to sing and…um…open the clouds up and let the shark in (I know, I know). All is well, Gambon decides to have his last day with Abby as The Doctor, Amy, and Rory move on once again.

In short, the story failed to grab me. As with what Moffet proved with Series 5, he is no Russell T Davies. The lack of that creativity Doctor Who had become so famous for was just not there. Remakes are for Cartoon Network TV Specials. I expected a little more than Ebenezer Scrooge and the runaway CGI stunt-double from Megashark vs Giant Octopus. I also didn’t appreciate the shoving-aside of the has-been companions in the direct plot in an attempt to keep up with the new-companion tradition.

And let’s not get into the lack of a backstory for this whole concept of it being on another planet, and yet it’s so very clearly an Earth copy with humans and everything. The only way you could infer it wasn’t Earth at all was the flying fish, and they didn’t really hold up much more than a matchlight to the overarching plot. So I didn’t understand why they bothered setting it on a different planet when it could’ve so gotten away with being ON EARTH! Moffet has no problem leaving out the creative aliens and monsters. No need to attempt to give it an extraterrestrial feel (and failing) but simply stating in the prologue that it was, in fact on a different planet.

And yet, it ALMOST worked with me. Why? Well, for starters, that darkest-days-of-winter atmosphere that lacked the past four seasons flooded every frame of this special. I very much appreciate the dark settings and the emotional music.

Another plus was the acting. Not just Michael Gambon, who was cast as Dumbledore II for a reason, but the whole cast (with the exception of what I felt were a few weak points on behalf of Abby Pettigrew’s actor, Katherine Jenkins, who should stick to singing) pulled the thing together. The child actors were great. Even Matt Smith is finally filling the Doctor’s shoes more comfortably. He’s starting to get away from the Tennant-copycat urges and creating his own identity. Aside from a few points that I blame Moffet and not Smith for (like the fact that Eleven seems to be treating humans with much less affection than his past three predecessors), I’m beginning to see this Doctor at long last as more than quirky large-foreheaded, mighty-chinned eye candy.

So, pitting its strengths against it’s weaknesses, I have to come to the conclusion that it’s enjoyable as a Christmas tale, but annoying for those loyal followers like myself who see it as an episode in an overall series as opposed to a stand-alone special. This universe, these characters, everything has been pre-established, and bastardizing their purposes, quirks, and rules is a major problem I have with Moffet’s writing. He can’t re-write a whole world, especially one as complicated and long-lived as The Raggedy Doctor’s.  He’s just lucky he has so many loyal devotees of the series like myself who’ll will stick around until the day he writes ‘Doctor Who vs Giant Octopus.’  Otherwise he probably would sink the series with another season or two.

I’ll give it a C+ for writing, and a B for everything else, because the atmosphere was still great, and the effort was very present.

Oh, and the best line of the whole special?

DOCTOR: “You know what boys say in the face of danger?”
BOY: “What?”
DOCTOR: “…Mummy!”


And Now For Something A Little Different…

As you probably have deduced by my previous blog posts and the overarching themes my posts tend to always circle back to, I tend to stick to media quirks and media-related subjects in my writing and thought processes. And why not, when it’s something that both fascinates me and pisses me off royally? Write what you know…or, rather, not what you KNOW, but what you feel, at least.

Today, I wanted to write something different, but had no ideas. I found a charming little list of blog topic suggestions written by a fellow blogger from the opposite corner of the blogger’s realm. Blog, blog, bloggidy blog, just to add the word in a few more times for good measure.

Anywho, he listed 100 blog topic suggestions. And damned if 75 of those 100 weren’t media-related. Social media, global politics and media, media this and that. So, while I’ve accepted that I feel like I can’t wholly back away from my standard media-rant postings, I can, however, take them in a different direction. Instead of picking on a modern media concept and rip it to shreds, or take a specific person, place, film, or book and rip IT to shreds, I’m going to apply it to a very personal subtopic: guilty pleasures.

Essentially the opposite of what I like talking about, guilty pleasures are those little things that EVERYONE has in some form or another that they are quite fond of, but alas, are ashamed for one reason or another to talk about. Maybe it’s because their friends are a group of pretentious hipsters who’ll ditch you for liking something mainstream, or it’s because your friends ARE mainstream and will ditch you for liking something ‘oddball.’ For me, it’s neither. I can’t really pinpoint why my guilty pleasures are my guilty pleasures, but I guess I can attribute some of them to the idea that not many of my friends would see me as someone who buys into half this shit period. Yes, I, who wails on Disney, tells MTV to go to hell, and rolls her eyes whenever some media-standard ‘hot person’ tries to sell me tampons, toothpaste, or deodorant (except the guy on a horse), do, in fact, secretly enjoy some very media-approved films, music, and activities.

Today, I am coming out of the closet. I will state my case and reveal, for the very first time, five of my innermost guilty pleasures that I’m not sure many people, if ANY people, know about. I will say WHY I like them, but I will not make a defensive case FOR them. Just because these media brainchildren indulge my interests behinds closed doors does not mean that I think they’re quality entertainment or intellectually stimulating. You can adore something and still think it’s crap. And some of these guilty pleasures of mine are, indeed, crap.

Oh, and yes, I really like these things. If anyone has a problem with that, then they can go take a long walk off a short cliff.

*Taking a deep breath* Here we go…

1- Biographies and Memoirs of currently-living celebrities. I was one of the first people to jump on the bandwagon and openly express my annoyance that Justin Bieber, who is possibly in the running to set the record as the oldest pre-pubescent superstar in history, was penning a memoir at the age of sixteen. Oh, and a biopic film. I thought that was just ridiculous as hell.

But not every celebrity is a shallow image-riding piece of tabloid-fodder. Believe it or not, some are actually people who think as normal humans do, ans see their job as just that, a job. I know I stated this in my mega rant at Taylor Swift, but that’s something I do admire, and it’s the memoirs of these people, who tell their stories as if they’re telling us about their day around the dinner table, that I just love. Currently I’m thumbing through a chapter a night of John Barrowman’s first autobiography, Anything Goes (It also helps when I love the celebrity who’s the subject of the book. And if I believed in a male god, he would be John Barrowman). Of course, a lot of Anything Goes is the story of his coming-out and his life fighting the anti-gay crap that’s always floating around. But it’s also about his family, his husband, and his dogs! I mean, he wrote a lot about his everyday life, and while that would be boring to most people, I really enjoyed it.

I enjoy a lot of these. You don’t have to be dead to have a great biography. Just have the soul of a storyteller, and you’re good to go. And if you’re a genuinely good actor, you’ll have the soul of a storyteller. Still, Justin Bieber telling us of the infinite wisdom I’m sure he has in his sixteen years is too extremely stupid for even me to grasp.

2- American football. AND hockey. I’m not going to take a long time to justify this one. In my case, it’s really a matter of two worlds colliding. I am an indie artist to the core, and yet professional sports not only entertain me, but my parents were both athletes, my boyfriend is an athlete, and a few of my friends actually watch sports with me sometimes. Football and hockey have been a part of my existence since birth. Its something you would not expect a drama geek like me to enjoy, but I do. And not just for the strapping young lads in tight knickers throwing balls around. Some people would be surprised to find that a lot of thinking and strategy goes into these games. Unlike high school, your standard dumbass wouldn’t be able to make it too far into the pros. I appreciate that sports can, in fact, be an exciting form of entertainment.

I’ll keep watching, and you can’t stop me. So there.

3- 80s and 90s Teen ‘Dramas.’ This applies to both movies and TV serials. In a way, I’m cheating by saying this is a guilty pleasure of mine, because I don’t always take pleasure in watching shows like Saved by the Bell, Beverly Hills 90210, or movies like Teen Witch (all examples, for the record, I find flat-out silly). I watch them more for the fact that every episode is like a bad social experiment I’m trying to unravel. I could write an entire book on how insulting the media is to young adults, and yet the core demographic for these programs and films are the young adults that are consistently mocked and/or overdramatized. The casts mainly consist of middle to upper-class white teenagers from relatively good homes who either set out to conquer the world with their strange quirks and chain pot-smoking, or make their really quite random and/or whiny problems out to be the end-all of existence.

I also like watching the effects these shows have on their core demographic. It’s like a half-hour hypnotizing session you get for free over the airwaves. Shows and films that oversimplify the teenage experience tend to alter the minds of their audience, if they’re aware of it or not, and changes their priorities. For instance, as a twelve-year-old, I thought very little of romance until I was hooked onto That 70s Show, where every teen character was hooking up with one another, and these pairings provided the backbone for most of the plot for the series. After, I couldn’t wait to get a boyfriend. It was all I thought about for a long time. What kind of person would I have turned out to be had I used those formative years of my youth to obsess over something other than the sex I was attracted to? Would I have taken up rocket science? Biochemistry? Law? I guess now I’ll never know.

But for what they’re worth, teen dramas, especially those from the campy 80s and the grody 90s are fascinating (sometimes) and like watching a car wreck. You don’t want to, but you can’t help but stare, and by then, it’s too late. I think now that the nostalgia factor is kicking in with a lot of these, they’ll also take on the fossil effect, making their popularity rise again.

4- Life in a Northern Town (by Dream Academy). This is about as specific as you’re going to get with me on this topic, and here’s why: this song is one I will literally put on Window Media Player in a loop and have it play nine or ten times when I go to sit down and write something. It’s not a particularly incredible song that leaves you in tears, like practically anything by John Lennon, but there’s some quality to the song that I can’t put my finger on that keeps me listening over, and over, and over, and over. And a lot of people have this song, but for most people their repeat song is something more pop-ish, or catchy, or mainstream.

This song is none of those. I can’t even really put a genre to it (um…80s?). It’s something that you’d hear on one of those old ‘Pure Moods’ albums. And I also don’t just put it on for background music. I will sometimes lose track of my writing when the song gets to a particular place and focus just on the song itself, and this will be the fifteenth time in a row without a break I’ve listened to it in this sitting alone. Call me weird, but Life in a Northern Town is just…my song.

But not the remake. For the record, the remake blows.

And, probably the biggest reveal/shock of all..

5- Lady Gaga.Yes, my friends, I am a Lady Gaga fan. Some of her songs, while not necessarily great pieces of music, are highly catchy. But why I’m such a fan of hers is her balls. Yes, my friends, her balls. She’s got guts coming out the whazoo. She’ll put on a suit of red meat and go claim her Grammys. She’ll shoot a music video surrounded by a bunch of half-naked dancing Hitlers. And she does it all to simply be a testament to the weird. She lets the critics step all over her and shrugs them off, because at the end of the day, she does it all for her causes.She’s vocal about her issues and even treats her fans humanely. That’s nothing short of admirable.

The woman has genuine singing talent, as evidenced by early videos of her performing, but she doesn’t let her career unfold through her talent, but her image, which, sadly, is how one gets ahead in the music biz these days. If the just were true and image was nothing and talent was everything, Justin Bieber would still be a nobody, and Clay Aiken wouldn’t have dropped off the face of the planet. But the Gaga is smart and bends the media to her will. And unlike most of Hollywood, she uses her forces for good.

And with that, ladies and germs, is where I leave you. Before this post gets any longer.


I Need to Stop Worrying and Love the Swift

I think it’s safe to assume that President Obama has been kicked out of office, and America is now being ruled by a cute, blonde, songwriting overlord. I see her in more places than I can possibly fathom. I hear her name in more places than anyone should be allowed to hear it. She’s awful and awfully brilliant. Either that or her publicist is the same one Jesus had.

I think you all know I’m talking about her. –>

Her blue, consistently-scowling eyes judge you from the cover of People every third month. Her music fills your ears with semi-sweet nothings about all of the douchebags she plowed through in the past year. She is an infection that even amoxicillin and/or hiding out in Siberia can’t cure.

She, my readers, is Taylor Swift. The media’s sweetheart. And I am damn sick of her.

She’s Entertainer of the Year for the second year in a row, and while last year she may have deserved it, I cannot understand how the bloody hell she won it for 2010. Her latest album only came out two months ago. Her one film role of the year was in an ensemble drama (that, by the way, was a sad attempt by Hollywood to re-create the much funnier/better-written British film Love Actually). She doesn’t entertain outside of cut a CD per year and tour. She does not have the shock value of Lady Gaga or the tragic teenage-downfall backstory of Lindsay Lohan.

She is in the tabloids more often than not for her many, many month-long relationships with every imaginable teen heartthrob in Hollywood (discounting Rob Pattinson, who prefers the crack-addict look to the pseudo-virginal Southern blonde anyways). She and (insert name here) will go on a few coffee dates, make it onto the cover of People again, and be broken up by the time the moon is full again in some messy way that you’d see more frequently on a teen soap opera. And how does she bounce back from every single one? She writes a song that makes it onto her album.

The moral of the story? Don’t date Taylor Swift, boys…and girls…and humans.

I’m sure she has a stellar personality (don’t they all?), but frankly, other than her poor-me relationship history, I find her to be exceedingly bland. She can sing, yes. But other than a grand old country-warble and the idea that she does, in fact, write her own music (a rarity), she offers little to no entertainment value. The songs she writes, when they aren’t about her most recent boy-toy, are basically Swift trying to paint herself as a 21-year-old wise-woman with all of this world experience about life and love. It all frankly makes me want to vomit.

And yet the girl is everywhere  (and dating everyone)! I was watching my local news this morning, like I do every morning, and the first news story I see isn’t about the latest murder downtown or the price of gas. It was about how Taylor Swift rang in the big 2-1 in Nashville.

On my local news station. The one place I can safely say this media overlord does not belong.

And I find it to almost be proof to why so many people thing society in America is collapsing. For it is a sad, sad day indeed when the top news story on your local station is how Taylor Swift celebrated her birthday this year. It really makes a part of me want to cry.

Celebrities and media stars certainly have their place in our society: on our iTunes playlists and movie screens. I still feel that this constant insistence upon knowing their every move and their every romantic interest is not only overbearing to them, but completely irritating to the rest of us who aren’t interested. And really, who needs to know that Taylor Swift is dating a man ten-years her senior? Who gives a flying fuck?

In Japan, movie and music stars are seen as not two-bit tabloid fodder and after-work gossip at the gym. They are seen as artisans who excel in their craft. That is who they are, and people leave them the hell alone. They will come out for awards ceremonies and promotional purposes, but you don’t see eight-hundred pictures of Tatsuya Fujiwara coming out of a coffee shop with his girlfriend…

*Which is a real shame. There really can’t be enough photographs of this man.*

Why can’t America stop getting all up in our celebrities’ business? Will we ever learn that they really are no big deal, and that their obligation to write music, smile for the camera, and give us a temporary leave from our normal, boring lives is nothing but their JOB, much like the common mechanic’s job is to smile while changing your tires, and we shouldn’t be revering them as gods any more than said mechanic?

I honestly have no answer to this question. You tell me.


Hairs to A New Classic: A Review of Disney’s Tangled


**WARNING: Here be Spoilers for a Film Still in Theaters**

Rapunzel is the latest legend/fairytale of old to get the Disney treatment. And, unfortunately, it got the musical treatment as well. As with The Princess and the Frog, Disney decided to give the classic story a not-so-classic twist, attempted to make the female lead a more feminist-pleasing independent character, add music, and pawn it off as the potential beginning of a new Disney Renaissance. The Princess and the Frog failed to do so, and while Tangled (because keeping the original name wouldn’t attract that much-needed-to-succeed male demographic) was a fun little piece of Disney ingenuity, I feel that ultimately, it will go the same route as its predecessor.

This is not at all to say that Tangled was bad or forgettable by any means. It is due more to the fact that Tangled follows a by-now very standard Disney formula that has long since run its course (which is the reason the Disney Renaissance ended in the first place). The Alan Menken-penned musical numbers were relatively forgettable and arraigned in an astoundingly predictable way. You could predict where the love duet would occur, the silly song would pop up, and where the ‘I Want More’ song’s reprise comes in. Disney certainly isn’t one to make too much of a stretch in that department.

And, of course, we have our very, VERY standard death-fakeout towards the end and our deus-ex-machina pulled out of the writer’s touchas that saves the victim (I, for spoilers’ sake, won’t say who it is) followed by the town rejoicing and the lead couple exchanging vows. I have to admit I rolled my eyes and asked whether or not Disney really expected us of the original Renaissance-era to fall for that one for the…um…ninth (?) time.  Again, it was clear Disney spent more time attempting to resurrect a bygone era with this film instead of creating a new one.

But…I’m not calling this one a failure. And here’s why:

Again, as with The Princess and the Frog, Tangled made a major effort to make its female heroine an actual self-sufficient, I-don’t-need-rescuing, not-Cinderella-esque archetype. And I feel that Tangled’s effort paid off. Rapunzel was enjoyable, and actually pretty real. I found the typical Disney-sue characteristics in her pretty easily, but they were present in fewer quantities than most of the others in recent past (like, for instance, both of her parents are alive, well, and mentally-sound).

She even reminded me, both physically and in some bits of personality, of my Dungeons and Dragons character J, who has long blonde hair, doesn’t wear shoes, and has a hobby of hitting people over the head (in J’s case, with a mandolin).

*Seriously, do you think I have a chance at a successful lawsuit?*

But, for the record, J is a lot darker and much less plucky than Rapunzel. And she’s in love with a mindflayer.

Also, props for not making the animal sidekicks talk. The little chameleon had spunk without a vocal portrayal, and he had a perfect amount of said spunk, not so little that he was irrelevant and not so much that he was as annoying as Meeko from Pocahontas. Though, the horse named Maximus did give me a rather suspicious memory flashback to Altivo from The Road to El Dorado, and anyone who’s seen both movies are probably nodding their heads in agreement with me right now.

Many of the other characters hold their own as well. The male hero Eugene aka ‘Flynn’ (yes, probably as in ‘Errol Flynn’) is the Disney-standard jerk-at-the-beginning who is reformed upon falling in love with our heroine, but there was still something about him that made me not totally hate him. I loved the little running joke with his ‘WANTED’ posters getting his nose wrong.

The villainess, Mother Gothel, seemed like an, again, less-dark version of the already-established Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame. Their stories, according to Disney, at least, did evolve and happen very similarly, and hell, both of them end up dying the same way (I DID say spoilers, after all). Gothel, however, lacked the creative-spins many of the other characters got, and while The Princess and the Frog’s Dr. Facilier made my list of ‘successful’ Disney villains easily, Mother Gothel fell short.

And I will explain my rubric for what makes a successful villain another day.

The story was moderately formulaic, but the little details and jokes made me forget it, and I guess that’s what Disney was going for, so I’ll let it slide this time. Animation was, as usual, impressive. Let’s just pray this one doesn’t fall victim to one of Disney’s infamous make-money-quick, direct-to-video, half-assed sequels written by people commissioned from fanfiction.net.

Tangled is a plucky, cute film to add to the Disney canon. However, don’t expect it to rise to the standards of Beauty and the Beast. If they want to get the edge over Dreamworks again, they’re really going to have to go big or go home. And Tangled wasn’t quite big enough.

But for now, that’ll do, Disney. That’ll do. I’ll give you a B, and I’m a damn tough film critic.


The Top 5 Worst Christmas Songs and Why I Hate Them

Christmas carols have a bipolar effect on me. A few bring up some intense sentimental memories for me, like ‘Angels We Have Heard on High,’ and ‘Silver Bells.’ Most, however, make me want to shoot down Santa’s Sleigh with a grenade-launcher.

Before you even ask, no, I am not Ebenezer Scrooge’s great great…great (?) grandchild. I actually thoroughly enjoy the holiday season. I am a pagan, and therefore Yule means more to me than Christmas, but traditionally-speaking, my family still celebrates a standard Christmas with a tree, gifts, turkey and the ancient festival known as 24 Hours of A Christmas Story on TNT. I do love this time of year. It gives me a feeling of comfort and satisfaction to know that another year has passed without a complete mental breakdown (and boy oh boy did I come close this year!).

But Christmas carols represent a whole other side to the holidays. The side that brings out the crowded shopping malls blasting these simplistic and carefully-secular tunes and the rolling your eyes because your favorite classic rock station won’t play anything else until January 2nd. It’s one thing to casually listen to these songs while baking gingerbread cookies with your mom, but it’s another thing entirely when they are played over, and over, and over everywhere you go without any escape (except, maybe, to your local synagogue).

Also, when you think about it, some of these songs have very…questionable messages that aren’t even that subliminal. These are the songs that seem to be overplayed the most. I hold a select few as far away from my heart as possible, because every time I hear the opening bars to these songs I desperately try to find a different station, only to hear these fuckers playing on every other station I try.

And with that said….

5. Let It Snow. I live the Northeast, so immediately this song’s chorus will strike a nerve with me. Let it snow? In Florida maybe. We have too much of it here already. They can have it.

But listen to the first and second verses a time or two, and tell me you don’t get a mild creepy feeling…

“Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since there’s no place to go….let it snow (etc.)
It shows no signs of stopping,
But I got some corn for popping,
And as long as you love me so….let it snow (etc.)”

Basically, the singer is emphasizing the fact that you’re trapped…alone with him…in his house…because some big Nor’Easter is running up the coast.  Sounds very The Shining to me, buddy. If the guy who wrote this song’s name is Johnny…then forget about it.

His name was Sammy Cahn? Oh, ok. Phew. I was about ready to lock myself in the bathroom…

4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Reindeer!). This is probably one of the first Christmas carols children learn in school. It’s cute, it’s got the ‘differences rock’ message, and the Rankin & Bass film was my favorite growing up.

It’s not the song, but the song’s echoes that middle-school punks who think they’re being funny use to ruin the rest that irritates me. You know which ones I’m talking about. From Pinocchio to Monopoly to George Washington, now I cannot hear that song without hearing those subliminal lyrics in my head my friends taught me in fifth grade, thinking they were being clever. But really, none of it is funny, and it turns the song into a joke. A bad middle-school joke.

And it’s seriously inescapable. This song is forever destroyed in my mind.

3. Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Aka The Christmas Rape Song. I have the feeling this one is a little more recent than many people want to believe. The entire song is a duet between a girl who just wants to leave, and a guy who’ll seriously roofie her drink if it means getting some.

Don’t believe me? Just listen…

“The neighbors might think  (Baby, it’s bad out there)
Say, what’s in this drink (No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how  (Your eyes are like starlight)
To break the spell  (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say no, no, no, sir  (Mind if I move closer)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense in hurting my pride?)
I really can’t stay  (Baby don’t hold out)
Ahh, but it’s cold outside…”

Yeah, nothing says Yuletide like spiked punch and not knowing what the word ‘no’ means.

2. The Christmas Shoes. This one not only is overplayed and repulsive in its overdone attempts to induce sympathy and sentimentality, but it’s story and message are, when you get right down to it, horrible.

For those of you lucky enough to not be familiar with the song, it goes like this: some Scrooge is buying last minute gifts and is stuck behind this kid buying pair of red shoes in line in front of him. The kid comes up short on the price of the shoes, but begs the cashier to cut him some slack because his mom’s sick, might die soon, so he’s buying her one last Christmas gift ‘so she’ll look beautiful’ if she goes to heaven…

“Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight…”

Scrooge II spots him the change and goes about his merry way, touched by the gesture, as does the boy.

So, what have we learned from this song?

A-Apparently it’s perfectly all right to leave your dying mother’s bedside in order to buy her things. In fact, it makes you a better person. And inspirational person. Seriously, if the boy’s dad said ‘there isn’t much time’ shouldn’t you be at home spending those last precious moments with your dying mom instead of partaking in a last-second bout of commercialism?!?!

B-Apparently what they say isn’t true…you CAN take whatever you want up to the Pearly Gates with you…as long as they make you look smokin’ for St. Peter! Does that mean I can take my Coach bag to heaven too? Oh wait, I’m not going their anyway. Nevermind.

1. The Chipmunks Christmas Song. Fuck it. Fuck. This. Song. It’s mindless. It’s annoying. It’s three guys sucking back helium into a recording microphone back in 1958 and some jerk yelling at them.  And it, for some reason unbeknownst to me, is beloved by millions and played no less than fifteen times a day on any given radio station between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think it might have had SOME merit if the lyrics were somewhat meaningful. But the whole song is the chipmunks wanting hula hoops and waiting impatiently for Christmas because Christmas = presents! Yay, commercialism! That’s what Christmas is all about!


Playlist #2

Submitted for your approval is another playlist from yours truly for your enjoyment throughout the week. I know I should post more of these weekly, the semester being over now, but work is going to begin again, and the holidays are fastly approaching (huzzah!). So, you can expect more playlists soon, but probably not until after the new year.

Great songs have great lyrics, but some of my all-time favorites have no words at all. Instrumentals, classic and contemporary, have just as much, if not more potential to induce an emotional response in people. You don’t have the words telling you what to feel. You have to feel it for yourself.

With that said: Seven Kickass Instrumental Pieces (Both Classic and Contemporary), already linked for your convenience/pleasure!

Friday- Destiny’s Path (from the Memoirs of a Geisha OST)- John Williams

Saturday- Carmen’s Overture– Bizet

SundayComptine d’un Autre Été (from Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie OST)- Yann Tiersen

Monday–  Roxie’s Suite (from Chicago OST)- John Kander/Fred Ebb

Tuesday- Finale (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban OST)- John Williams

Wednesday- Trepak/Russian Dance– Tchaikovsky (go ahead, call me cliché)

Thursday- Mausam & Escape (from the Slumdog Millionaire OST)- AR Rahman


Of Dice and Dungeon Masters: Who ARE These People?

When the phrase “Dungeons and Dragons” comes up, what image comes into your mind first? A strange twenty-sided die or some acne-suffering hermit? Neither should. For the realm of role players is vastly different than that of the stigma society placed upon the subculture of role-players.

Dungeons and Dragons is an example of a table-top role playing game (or RPG) in which a small group of people meet to create characters. It is with these characters that the players then go on adventures, usually as travelers.  They are usually at the mercy (or, sometimes the lack thereof) of the leader of this group, or, “dungeon master.” While the core of “D&D” is fantasy-based, role-playing games can manifest in a variety of genres. Some even are based off of pre-existing universes, such as those found in movies or books.

But such an activity has never seemed to enter mainstream pop culture, except perhaps, as one to be ridiculed. It does seem to be, after all, another version of the old ‘make believe’ games everyone played when they were younger. Over time, the media began portraying the game as a juvenile, silly game, and its players as the stereotypical “dorky boy” who would rather slay a dragon than date a girl.

But, in reality, who are these people? Is there truth behind the myths and stereotypes? Who exactly would you find playing Dungeons and Dragons? And, is this subculture that the media presents as an underground group of nerds really so small and underground?

Meg Gresock, an avid player of not only Dungeons and Dragons but other various online role-playing games, explains that in spite of the lackluster reputation, she joins circles for the social experience and entertainment value.

“I’d heard a lot about [Dungeons and Dragons] in high school and on the internet and how much fun it was, but I never played it. Then I came to college and some friends decided to start a game, and I wanted to get in on it to see what it was like,” said Gresock. “And I was definitely not disappointed. It’s so much fun!”

Gresock has encountered some bad assumptions based on the mainstream view of the activity.

“I was talking with someone in a chat room and I mentioned that I played D&D, and the person automatically assumed that I was a boy! When I told her I was a girl, she got confused for a minute, and I think that says it all about what people think about the game and who plays it.”

Another Dungeons and Dragons player, Evian Russo, says that she has come across some negative stigma, but it doesn’t bother her.

“I don’t think anyone who makes fun of D&D players has ever sat down and played the game,” she says. “It’s wicked fun, and from what I see, everyone who gets involved always keeps coming back for more.”

Gresock then went on to explain that she’d gotten involved with D&D partially because of her Aunt’s experience in the past. “My Aunt joined a campaign back when it was still a very new thing, and she loved it.”

Both Gresock and Russo are college-aged women, which would automatically debunk many of the myths on who plays Dungeons and Dragons in the first place. Both women see the activity as a social pastime that is more than meets the eye.

“Yeah, it’s playing pretend in a way,” said Russo. “But isn’t acting the same thing? Doesn’t everyone fantasize? Take your daydreams, add more people and a few monsters and you basically have a circle!”

Gresock saw things a little differently.

“I don’t think of it as just role playing. It takes a lot of problem-solving, social interaction, and some plain luck with the dice to make it far in a campaign. I don’t see how it’s so different from playing Nintendo Wii or poker.”

But where did the outside stereotypes come from? What makes Dungeons and Dragons stand apart from other social activities and the people who partake in them? Coming from someone who also plays in a weekly campaign, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference. Perhaps American pop culture sees Dungeons and Dragons players as a deviance from the ‘norm’ because it is too afraid to see what would happen if it went mainstream. Or maybe it’s just a matter of the inability to break out of a stereotype that has been laid out for two generations, painting the world of tabletop role-playing as an undesirable social pastime.

“I don’t think setting social myths to a particular pasting is just found with D&D,” said Russo. “I’ve always held the assumption that people who play football are mindless jocks who like partying and having sex. It may not be true, but how do I know? I’ve never been on a team.”

Perhaps it is just a case of close-minded people who fear to wander outside their comfort zone. Dungeons and Dragons players come from all walks of life, and see their situation as social in spite of outsiders’ opinions. They are male and female. Their ages span from young childhood through adulthood and beyond. They look no different than anyone walking on the street, and have just as much of an interest in a social life as anyone else.

“Some of us are quirky, no doubt. But I consider that a plus. I’m proud of who I am,” Gresock concluded.

The moral of the story in this case is to not define a person solely by their interests, and likewise, to not judge an activity based on who you think participates. The only way to truly discover who these dungeon-delvers and orc-slayers are is to take a shot and roll the twenty-sided die for yourself.