Game of Thrones

After visiting a friend’s mom in West Hollywood this morning we found ourselves leaving her house bearing the figurative and literal fruits one scores when parting with any grandmotherly woman.

The spoils consisted of a bunch of grapes, bag of oranges, homemade BBQ sauce, some books on figure drawing, and a cubic meter of toy castle parts. If you are like me and grew up on the ever-so-useful imperial system of weights and measures, you are incapable of visualizing just how much space this bag of toys will consume in your house. Using standard conversion algorithms it works out to about one bathtub full.

The Child was pleased to score a sack of make-believe ramparts, walls, towers and drawbridges so numerous she could make a snow angel in them once spread out on her floor. Let me put it another way: once spread out on her floor, The Child made a snow angel in the castle parts.

Before The Spouse comes home to discover that a third of our living space is now a miniature medieval dwelling we set to playing out a fantasy set in the noble days of yore.

It was about one minute in that I realized humanity is inherently evil and civilization is doomed. As soon as our little city-states were set up we found ourselves immersed in a hostage situation. Her town’s Princess Zelda invited my ruler, Skang the Pig, over for tea. As soon as he was in the courtyard the drawbridge went up and a lion pounced on him. Skang’s grand vizier, Mustachio, demanded to know what was the meaning of such treachery and was given a list of demands from Princess Zelda. If we wanted our “pig god” back we’d have to pay a tribute of most of the blocks (not the plain wood ones, Dad, colored blocks) and some applesauce. Mustachio paid up but was then banished (read: hurled) on to the top bunk bed and ridiculed loudly.  The Child, might I remind you, is three years old and not a fan of cartoons with deep political intrigue. (Also, I have yet to read her a Dune novel.) How she instinctively knew to jockey for power in a world populated with Fisher Price Little People is almost beyond me.

capture of the pig god

I say almost because I remember when my brothers and I played with Legos. The hefty box of them (more of a chest, really) would be upended on the floor and then we’d spend a frenzied minute scrabbling for all the best pieces. Once everyone had a pile of the unique bits, regular building would commence punctuated by barter and negotiations for the needed/wanted materials in our respective hoards.

NOTE TO MY BROTHERS: I still have some benders and a telescope left and I’d be willing to let them go if you’d join forces with me in laying siege to Princess Zelda’s castle so I can get Skang back.

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Snooze Your Own Adventure – Part 3

When we last left our tale The Child had just maneuvered her three heroes – Bededdee, Bolenarrow and Strong Don – through the dark forest to the Dark Tower of Klippons.


As our heroes enter the tower they see two paths: one leads up, the other down. There is a staircase winding up through the interior of the ruined tower and a doorway set into the floor by the entrance. Our heroes can explore the tower or continue on to the underground path. The Child chooses to explore the tower.

The wise wizard Bededdee advises caution before plunging headlong into the caverns that lead to the legendary pool. As they climb the stairs Bolenarrow sees a room at the first landing and the party begins to explore. The room is full of books and old scrolls. Bededdee sifts though room looking for clues when there is a shriek from the far corner. A giant book is trying to bite Bolenarrow. Strong Don pins the book against the floor and Bolenarrow rolls clear.

Bededdee reads the open pages of the monster book and after a few moments tells Strong Don to push a heavy table on to the book to keep it trapped while they run out of the library. Bededdee tells the others what he discovered reading the monster book.

“The book was a record of the elders of Klippons. It said they used the power from the Pool of Radiance to build their world and rule the land but something went wrong. The power of the Pool began to warp first the people of the land then land itself.”

The party continues to the top of the tower where they come to the throne room. The ceiling walls have been shattered as if there had been a huge explosion. The Child demands that we pause to look for interesting rocks/stones. While searching the wreckage our heroes discover treasure!

Ceremonial armor and weapons that decorated the hall were buried in the rubble. Of the items that survived the catastrophe, Bededdee chooses a small silver buckler, Bolenarrow takes a breastplate and Strong Don chooses a pair of wrist protectors. With this new information and treasure, the party descends the tower and prepares to enter the caverns that lead to the legendary Pool of Radiance.

More dad! What happens next?
I don’t know, go to sleep, we’ll learn more tomorrow.
What is a buckler?
It means a small shield, that’s what Bededdee got
Can I borrow yours tomorrow?
I don’t have one.
What kind of dad are you if you don’t own a shield, even a small one?

DadisthenewMom is speechless.

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Snooze Your Own Adventure – Part 2

When we last left our tale The Child had just conjured up three legendary heroes: Bededdee the Wizard, Bolenarrow the Elf, and Strong Don the Fighter.

The story begins with our three heroes meeting at an inn when they overhear an old man entertaining a crowd with tales of mysterious events in a dark forest…

“Once, when I was a lad, I wandered off into the dark part of the forest near the ruins of the city of Klippons and there I found a tall, strange tower made of shining black stones. There was a faint blue light coming from tower and I saw shapes moving around in the windows, but not human shapes. Creatures! Things not from this world I tell you! Monsters and magic to be sure and I reckon that tower is sitting right on the site of the legendary Pool of Radiance”

Our heroes overhear this old man’s tale and decide to seek out this Pool of Radiance. They begin their quest as many do: singing, laughing and full of excitement at the prospect of an exciting adventure. Everything is going well until they spot a troll in the distance. Our heroes can ride around or confront the troll. The child chose to send Strong Don to confront the troll.

Strong Don climbs a hill to get the high ground and his silhouette against the setting sun looks to the troll like a charging titan of a monster. The troll panics and runs, dropping a sack he was carrying as he flees. Our heroes can search the bag or continue on their way. The Child Chooses to search the bag.

What our heroes find in the bag is less than amazing. The troll bag is full of troll food (according to The Child that means ‘cooked rocks, old timey fish bones and rotten carrots’). They continue on to the darkest part of the forest.

Before long they arrive at a tower. It is just as the old man from the inn described – made of glossy black stones and emitting an eerie blue light. Our heroes prepare for the next part of the adventure as the enter the Dark Tower of Klippons.

The Child’s rendering of the dark forest, the Tower of Klippons and the path leading to the  Pool of Radiance. I helped!

P.S. The Spouse points out that the trees, drawn in black and therefore correctly representative of a dark forest, also happen to look like palm trees. California is influencing my child’s art and world view. For the better, I assure you.

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Snooze Your Own Adventure – Part 1

The Spouse and I take turns putting the The Child to bed. This is a fair and balanced system designed to give each other a break from pleading with our daughter to “just go the fuck to sleep.”  I was, long ago, barred from any attempt at lullabies (“Dad, your songs sound like things are breaking.”) and to be quite honest I only know so many bedtime stories. The tales I’ve been trying to make up have had a specific effect. For instance:

The first time we went to Disneyland my daughter saw the big princess castle in the middle and shrieked, “Dad! It’s Princess Zelda’s castle! We can ask her about fighting Gannon!”

Yup, I’ve been rummaging through the mythos of my own upbringing to amuse The Child and send her off to sleep.  I spent my youth plugged into a Nintendo and internalizing the animated “classics” of the 80’s*. I also read the nerdiest of books: sci-fi, fantasy and choose-your-own-adventure. Due to my class schedule and some busy spouse work nights I had a few shifts in a row of putting The Child to bed, so we began crafting the greatest story ever told. Let me introduce you to:

Bolenarrow – An Elf warrior dressed in green – speedy and agile.

Strong Don – A Fighter of great power wearing pink – resilient but simple.

Bededdee – An aged Wizard in blue – fragile but wise.

This is Bededdee. She drew the characters. Thats right, my child ‘rolled’ these three unique entities. D&D style we set off and at each major crossroads The Child would make a choice or come up with a solution.

Stay tuned as the journey unfolds.

* A brief list of some 80’s cartoons of which I have an encyclopedic knowledge: Transformers, Macross/Robotech, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, Muppet Babies,  Super Mario Brothers, Dungeon and Dragons, Smurfs, David The Gnome, Mysterious Cities of Gold, Silverhawks, Fraggle Rock, Inhumanioids, The Real Ghostbusters, Inspector Gadget, Gummi Bears, The Littles,  Denver The Last Dinosour, Everything Hannah Barbara, M.A.S.K,  Danger Mouse, C.O.P.S, Jetsons, BraveStarr, Duck Tails, Laser Tag Academy, Star Blazers, Ghost Busters, Captain N: The Gamemaster, Tigersharks, Dino Riders, Jem, Snorks, Kissyfur, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Monchichi, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light
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12 Reviews of Christmas – A Garfield Christmas

The Holidays may be over, but DadisthenewMom presents a YoungestBrother reivew of a holiday classic.

 

 

 

 

 

I guess I’m the Garfield expert in my family, and being the authority on this subject, I’ve been tasked with writing a review of The Garfield Christmas Special. It should be noted that attempts to find coherence in the following word pile will be futile.

 

So let’s start with some background information. Before writing this, I was under the impression that this was the only Garfield television special ever made, which was surprising, given the strip’s popularity, and that Charlie Brown has had tons of them. What made it even more surprising was that Garfield and Friends, the syndicated TV show, ran for seven seasons. It turns out that there were over a dozen Garfield specials produced, yet this is the only one that people have actually heard of. After watching The Garfield Christmas Special, I can see why that is. Even without having ever seen any of the other ones, I can tell you that they’re probably terrible. An examination of The Garfield Christmas Special will tell us why.

I know many people who have very fond memories of The Garfield Christmas Special, and not without good reason, but it’s definitely not in the same league as something like How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Personally, I have very few memories of it. I can remember watching it over ten years ago, but I’ve retained so little that I might as well have never
seen it. While watching it this time, the only thing that really jogged my memory was Garfield climbing the tree to put the star on top. I can vividly remember watching the tree shaking back and forth and being nervous that ornaments were going to fall off.

The easiest (read: laziest) way to analyze this thing is to pick it apart by going over a checklist of the good and the bad:

 

The Bad:

  • Music – The music in this thing is baffling. There are three or four original songs written for this special, but  I don’t know why they exist. It’s not bad or annoying; more confusing, than anything. The only thing I do know about it is that it detracts from the show.
  • Animation – We’ve all seen cheap animation before, and while this certainly isn’t the cheapest I’ve seen, it’s not about to win any awards. It’s got that standard I’m-Painfully-Aware-That-I’m-Watching-A-Television-Special-Because-This-Was-Clearly-Drawn-By-Polio-Stricken-Koreans look to it, and I don’t need to tell you that that’s not enjoyable to look at.
  • Plot – The plot is that Christmas happens. On Christmas Eve, they eat. Then they go to bed. The next morning they open presents. Roll credits. The entire time I was watching it, I had a weird detached kind of feeling, and I’m just now realizing that it’s because there isn’t a plot. The thinking behind this special was to show Garfield experiencing Christmas. The entertainment value would be derived from watching what he or anyone else did or said in any given generic Christmas situation. You might be thinking that Garfield’s present to Grandma, and everything that involved, was the plot, but that’s not true. That’s one small thing that happens, and it accounts for about three or four minutes of the show.

The Good:

  • Jon and Doc Boy – I very much identify with Jon and Doc Boy, because they’re overgrown manchildren who spend most of Christmas forcing their parents to continue following the same traditions they did when they were six. This is exactly what Christmas is like for me.
  • Odie secretly making a present for Garfield – Throughout the 20 minute show, Odie goes into the barn a couple times to secretly make a scratching post for Garfield. This is mild entertainment at its most mild.
  • Garfield’s present to Grandma – This is generally the first thing that comes to mind when people think of The Garfield Christmas Special, and it’s certainly the best thing about it. I have to admit that it got a little dusty in my apartment when Grandma was talking about her dead husband. Maybe because it just comes out of nowhere. One minute they’re singing some lame generic Christmas carol, and the next an old woman is looking out the window from her rocking chair and lamenting the sorrows of old age. On Christmas morning, Garfield gives her some old love letters he found that were from her late husband. I’d describe it as heartwarming, but I’m not a one-word review excerpt appearing in the trailer for a movie about a heroic dog

 

A simple perusal of these lists will tell you exactly why no one remembers any of the other Garfield specials: The things that were good were small and very specific, while the foundations of the program – the music, animation and plot – were crap. It’s very likely that the other specials had these same problems, but failed to have any small good or
memorable moments like this one did, and that’s why no one remembers them. Overall, I’d say it’s worth a watch. The bad parts don’t ruin it, and there are enough good parts to keep you going through its very short runtime.

Rating: 4 out of 6 Lasagnas.

 

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12 Reviews of Christmas – Knott’s Berry Farm’s Snoopy on Ice Christmas Thing

DadisthenewMom and TheSpouse review the holiday movies and shows our daughter forces us to repeatedly suffer through.

We saw It’s Christmas, Snoopy on Ice! or whatever the title was. Frankly I can’t remember the exact title as I was too busying mouthing the phrase “WTF” to TheSpouse over its excessively loud holiday soundtrack (we’ll get to the music in due course). So this yuletide treat isn’t exactly a movie or show in the strictest sense, but our daughter did make us watch it, and it was unbearable.

We took a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm during our holiday family time to ride some rides and soak up the warm December day. That’s right, warm. At first I thought a sweaty Christmas would feel odd and lack the usual festiveness, making for an un-jolly time. Not the case. It’s a blast. Smell you later, Midwest Winter, smell you later forever.

One problem with this particular amusement park is that the mascot is the entire Peanuts Gang. Aarrr, I hate those guys so much… Thankfully the park itself isn’t crawling with those performers in fork-lift sized foam costumes Peanuts Gang-ing up on parkgoers. So even if you hate them (I do! So much!) it IS possible to ride and be amused all day while seeing only the occasional picture or statue of those bulb heads. There were a couple of fun rides, we met some nice kids, The Child saw and decided to become a blacksmith – all in all a pretty decent time. But then she got tired and wanted to sit through a show.

Knott’s Berry Farm offers two entertainment choices during the Dec-Jan season: It’s Christmas Charlie Brown Stage Show, and It’s Christmas Snoopy on Ice. Good Grief. For The Child and me this was our first foray into the world of ice-based theatrics. Hopefully it will be my last. I’ll give you a brief synopsis of this train wreck instead of a critique as that would be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. No, easier than that. It would be like standing next to a barrel.

As the theatre fills with super excited park folk ,the staff is selling those annoying light up things. You know those things? They light up and they’re annoying? Well they’re for sale! After a while the lights dim (or at least I assume they did, it was hard to tell with all those light up things…) and Charlie Brown and Linus Van Pelt come out to say the following:

  • “Is this anyone’s first ice show? (CROWD CHEERS) Haha, of course it isn’t.”
  • “Please make note of the exits as the nearest one might be behind you.” (CROWD CHEERS)
  • “No flash photography.” (CROWD WAVES ANNOYING LIGHT WANDS MANIACALLY)
  • “Due to musical copyright law, video taping is strictly prohibited.”(CROWD CHEERS)

After they waddle off the ice stage a group of mediocre ice dancers and one semi-pro ice master do ice dancey stuff to Christmas music. Occasionally a guy in a Snoopy costume will slowly (I assume blindly) glide across the stage while the performers who can see what is going on skate to avoid him. A well-loved and oft-repeated flourish of these icerinas involved comically miming the sweat from their brows after each phrase. TheSpouse and I weren’t sure if this move was supposed to signify “Come on all y’all, show me some light wands!” or more like “Thank gawd all y’alls sea of light wands didn’t send me sprawling into the first row.” The fairly competent ice jumper, whose name I believe was Santino Flamboyante, did all the big tricks – the spin, the jump spin, the double jump spin jump axel spin. These were fairly impressive feats considering the rink was the size of a highschool drama stage.

During the set changes between songs those foam costume freaks got the spotlight and recited something Christmasy. At one point, Linus does his monologue on shepherds being afraid, but really gets behind the words “god” and “lord almighty.” I mean he REALLY digs into them. Each time he does so he receives a moderately offensive STANDING OVATION. That’s two superlative audience reactions in the space of about 45 seconds.

30 live and confused doves are then released during the finale.

Rating: 1 out of 1 Mound of Coal

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12 Reviews of Christmas – A Charlie Brown Christmas

DadisthenewMom and TheSpouse review the holiday movies and shows our daughter forces us to repeatedly suffer through.

“It’s a holiday merged into an existing pagan feast thanks to Emperor Constantine, Charlie Brown!”

Caveat: Bah Humbug, I admit. But A Charlie Brown Christmas is the consummate cautionary tale against acting kindly during the holidays. His attempts to spread happiness and goodwill amongst his fellow melon-headed chums nets him abuse, insult, abandonment and ultimately a biblical verse regarding frightened shepherds. Look at the cover. He’s about to cry right on the cover of the damned thing!

I hate this cartoon.

Firstly, I hate Charlie Brown. Everything about the comic and cartoon is infuriating. I can sum up the entirety of Mr. Schultz’ work in this concise statement: “Nice Guys Finish Last, Praise The Lord.” See what I did there? Snuck in a little lord-praising at the end to make the first part seem a little less horrible. If you’re into god then by all means praise away, but what really bothers me is using it as a get out of jail free card for an absence of narrative structure or substance. It’s no deus ex machina Mr. Schultz – Whoa! See what I did there? I’m so clever…

I’ve heard a lot of people lately talking about how they love this cartoon. LOVE IT! Why, you ask? The lessons it teaches kids they respond. What lessons? All in all, Chuck B. suffers some pretty outrageous slings/arrows while endeavoring to be a decent bloke. Is this a lesson on turning the other cheek? Well, this pink-cheeked and red-assed (he’s run out of cheeks) little bald freak makes it through the holiday gauntlet and for his labor receives Luke 2: 8-14 (imho, the dullest biblical quote on the market). Then they all sing around the tree. What lesson did we learn here today kids? Be horrible and have a party or be a wimp and cry in the snow – both end in caroling.

It’s been established that The Child saw through this boring shit storm fully a year ago. That alone earns her a pony.

Cons: Is a Charlie Brown thing
Pros: Music by the Vince Guaraldi Trio

Rating: Zero Anything out of Any Number Of Those Things

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