New Year’s Greeting #3: Erica Joy’s resolution for 2014

This is Erica Joy’s only resolution for 2014. I like the way she thinks:

erica joy's 2014 resolution

Click to see the original post on Google+.


Craigslist ad of the day: Free office chair, slightly used, needs spot cleaning

free office chair

Click the ad to see it on Craigslist.

Your definition of “slightly used” and “spot cleaning” may differ from that of the chair’s current owner.


New Year’s Greeting #2: Lillo Chiarenza gives you his heart and accordion

lillo chiarenzaThis is the Accordion Guy blog, it’s only fitting that I post a New Year’s greeting with accordion. Let’s go with a much better accordion player than I: Lillo Chiarenza, who recorded this for 2014 — Cuore e Fisarmonica, which means “Heart and Accordion” in English. Enjoy, and buon anno!

If you’d like to hear more of Lillo, check out his YouTube channel, Amarcodéon.


New Year’s Greeting #1: Captain Picard’s Advice

2014 - make it so

Set course for the New Year…engage!

Here’s a little bonus: Patrick Stewart doing a little tribute to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry…


Holiday downtime amusements, part four: George R.R. Martin’s “Red Christmas”

Like Santa, George R.R. “Game of Thrones” Martin will give you what you want. Unlike Santa, it comes at a price…

george r.r. martin - red christmas


Holiday downtime amusements, part three: Boxing Day greetings and Neil Gaiman’s reading of “A Christmas Carol”

Boxing Day: Woodcut illustration of an old British Boxing Day.

Today is Boxing Day up here in Canada, as well as in a number of Commonwealth countries. There isn’t a definitive theory on the origin of the term, but a diary entry from Samuel Pepys tells of “Christmas boxes” of gifts and money being given to tradesmen on the first weekday after Christmas as a “thank you” bonus for their work throughout the year.

Photo of the Boxing Day crowds at the Eaton Centre, circa 2007.

Boxing Day at the Toronto Eaton Centre, 2007.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; click to see the source.

These days, it’s a shopping holiday like the American Black Friday, but without the body count (7 deaths, 90 injuries since 2006). Many stores are offering their wares at cut-rate prices and featuring loss-leader items to lure you in, and most malls and shopping districts will be crowded today. For many Canadians, with the obvious exception of those who work in the retail or restaurant industries, it’s a day off.

Whether you’re enjoying some downtime or working hard on Boxing Day, have a good one! This downtime amusement’s for you.

neil gaiman

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, the odds are pretty good that you’ve heard of Neil Gaiman. Those of who you enjoy comic books and graphic novels know him from his work redefining a number of characters for the better, including Marvelman, Black Orchid, Marvel Comics’ 1602 series, and The Sandman, which is making a fair bit of news in the film world these days. Fans of genre novels know him from Good Omens, American Gods, Coraline (which became a great stop-motion animated film), Anansi Boys, and The Graveyard Book (a goth-y twist on The Jungle Book). He’s even written some screenplays, having written episodes for Babylon 5 (Day of the Dead, a.k.a. the Penn and Teller episode), Doctor Who (The Doctor’s Wife), and for Coraline.

a christmas carol

Last week, he gave a reading of Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, at the New York Public Library. He even dressed up as Dickens and read from a “prompt copy” of the novel, a version of the story with notes by Dickens himself meant for public readings. The event was hosted by Molly Oldfield, author of The Secret Museum, who introduced the event with a description of how Dickens would prep for his readings of his novels, which included some pre-show boozing.

Gaiman’s storytelling chops and accent are perfect, and thanks to the miracles of the internet and SoundCloud, you too can enjoy it!


Holiday downtime amusements, part two: The Star Wars Holiday Special

star wars holiday special ad

In 1978, Star Wars had been out barely a year. In fact, owing to the long runs movies had in theatres — even the least successful movies lingered for months — you could still see it at your local cinema, even though it had been out for a year. George Lucas was already working on The Empire Strikes Back, but there was so much demand for more Star Wars that they couldn’t turn down a request for a TV special. In those pre-World Wide Web, pre-Netflix, pre-DVD days — hey, VCRs were still pretty rare creatures back then — TV was a bigger deal than it is today, and a Star Wars TV special was a guaranteed cash cow, no matter how rushed and terrible the end product was. And wow, was it rushed and terrible.

bea arthur at the cantina

Even as an 11-year-old, I could see the warning signs as soon as the voice-over announcer got past the stars of the films and started introducing the other actors — Bea Arthur, Art Carney, and Harvey Korman — that this was going to be yet another cheeseball variety show that just happened to have a Star Wars veneer sloppily applied to it. And it was just that — two hours of big 1970s stars doing song-and-dance routines, with just enough appearances from the characters from the films to hold it together as a Star Wars show. Even they weren’t enough, so they invented a family for Chewbacca, which ended up making much of the show an exercise in Wookie pantomime.

leia and c-3p0

Even our film heroes weren’t at their best. Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill was recovering from a motorcycle accident and had to wear a thick layer of makeup to cover up the damage, and Carrie “Princess Leia” Fisher’s addiction was beginning to kick into high gear, and it shows.

Watch! Cringe! Enjoy!

In her defense of the Holiday Special, Bonnie Burton points out that one of the best things about the recording that’s been floating about the ‘net for years is the fact that the ads and announcements from the commercial breaks were preserved. Some enterprising soul has taken those commercials and other interstitial bits and put them into a single YouTube video: