The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

December 22, 2009

Deck the Halls with Something or Other – A Roundup of Questionable Holiday Decorations

Filed under: Holidays, shopping — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:41 am

As the guy in the red suit on the right is more than happy to remind you, Christmas is only a couple of days away.  It’s the season we wait all year for, the time of year when friends, family and others gather around the cozy little fireplace they build each year out of 12-packs of  Coca-Cola and an LCD television.  From there, they…  Wait, what do you MEAN you don’t build a fireplace out of Coke every year?  How do you even celebrate Christmas without the Fireplace of Coke?  No, I’m NOT crazy enough to use a real fireplace, you know how much of a fire hazard one of those things is?  And do those bricks contain enough caffeinated beverages to keep you awake until New Year’s Day 2013?  Didn’t think so. 

If you haven’t gotten around to doing your Holiday decorating yet , you should probably think about getting it done pretty quickly.  I should probably confess that I haven’t done any yet here, since the last time I tried pulling out the fake Christmas tree that gets stored in the Closet of Oblivion out on the back porch, it had a rather significant string of lights out AND a shockingly large spider which had taken up residence in the box, and I suspect at this point I might as well just get another one (which at this point probably means to grab one on closeout on the 26th.  Fortunately there’s still plenty of options available out there for your decorating.  Unfortunately, most of those options are somewhat less than ideal.  Although I’m probably just a bit late with this one, I thought this might be a good time for a roundup of some of the odd, kitschy, unusual or just plain tacky Christmas decorations that I have observed over the course of the Holiday season.   You will find this roundup after the jump.

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December 19, 2009

It Always Gets Cheaper AFTER You Buy One

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:13 am

Nearly two years ago on this Blog, I made a post that discussed in some length the tendency for technology to get cheaper as time goes on.  I noted in particular how quickly it seems that things get cheaper AFTER you finally get sick of waiting around and make a purchase.  At that time, I cited the 32″ LCD TV that I had in my living room as my primary example of this.  The original post can be found here (egregious spelling errors and all, one of these days I’ll learn to spellcheck before I post,) but to make a long story short, back in January of 2008 when I wrote that post  I was discussing (or, some might say, complaining) about  how the 32″ LCD television that I had gotten a screaming bargain on when I paid $800 for it in early 2006 had become so much cheaper in the ensuing two years that it was starting to look like something of a ripoff in comparison.  At that point, if you looked hard enough, a 32″ LCD television could be had for as little as $500 (although $600 was more likely,) and at the time I also noted that even the brand name models like Sony and Samsung, even though they still carried a distinct  price premium over the lesser-known brands, were also becoming a lot more affordable.  Of course, none of this really did me much good after I had jumped in already and paid a fair bit more money for the one I had.  As someone who tends to spend way too much time messing with technology of one sort or another, I knew that this was nothing new, and that no matter when you buy, there will always be something bigger and cheaper, usually within weeks of when you buy.

Of course, this trend is nothing new.  Over at tvhistory.tv, I found an RCA advertisement from 1960 on this very subject.  From the ad copy, we find out that in 1955, a 15″ color TV (which was very much in its infancy at this time) was selling for $1,000 (a whopping $8,072 in 2009 dollars, according to this inflation calculator,) and just five years later, a “big screen” 21-inch color television could be had for $495 (which is “only” $3,617.68 in 2009 dollars.)  These prices were, of course, out of the reach of many people, but a much more reasonable 19″ black and white Zenith television could be had for $259.95 in 1961 (still $1,881 in 2009 dollars, but at least we’re in the ballpark for what a typical American family might be able to save up for.)  There a lot more information on the relative sizes and prices of televisions over the years at this page.  One thing that’s interesting to note is that even back then, Sony products commanded a significant price premium over other brands, as a 19″ Sony color TV from 1974 is listed with a price of $590 (equivalent to $2,589 now,) while an 18″ Emerson color TV from 1972 is listed for $359 ($1.858 in 2009 dollars.)  Sure, you had the occasional Madman Muntz severely undercutting the competition by basically cutting every single corner he could possibly get away with (a practice which ultimately came to be known as Muntzing,) but in general, televisions were very expensive items for quite a long time.   Needless to say, things have gotten a bit cheaper since then.

The fact that we are currently well into a major shift in the television industry as a whole is also helping to bring prices down significantly.  Just a decade ago, the vast majority of  TVs being sold were still CRT-based, and unless you were messing around with projection systems, 32 inches was considered to be a big screen.  HDTV was still a curiosity, and most people thought that plasma displays would become the dominant technology when HDTV did catch on.  Now that we’re there (mostly, there’s still a distressingly large quantity of standard definition only channels in my cable lineup) LCDs have basically taken over the majority of the TV market, relegating plasma displays to a rather small niche.  In the process not only have the displays gotten progressively larger, but they just keep getting cheaper and cheaper.

 Which brings me to this.  Although for the most part I’ve found that my 32″ LCD worked just fine for its purpose, there have always been a number of issues with it that have annoyed me.  For one thing, it’s a little bit short in the input department.  It only has one HDMI port (although I only have one device using HDMI right now, that could easily become three,) One of the two component inputs will display only in 480i resolution for some unknown reason (which makes it, well, pretty much useless for 99% of the devices out there that would use a component input in the first place, although fortunately a Wii does fit into the 1%) and it just barely missed the point where they started making digital tuners a standard feature in TVs  (around here, Comcast seems to be doing their part to make sure THOSE are completely useless too, but that’s a rant I’ll leave for someone else.)  The input problems I could deal with since I could manage to get everything to work (and even sneak in an old Sega Genesis for some completely inexplicable reason) on the inputs I had,  but there was another issue that caused even more problems:  I could not find a single universal remote that would work with the TV.  Although ViewSonic is a reasonably reputable brand when it comes to PC monitors, their efforts in televisions have been minimal at best, and even though some of the universal remotes out there have the ability to control televisions from brands that haven’t existed since the Eighties, but none of them (with the possible exception of the hideously expensive Logitech Harmony remotes) seem to have any idea what a ViewSonic TV is.  This meant it generally took two remotes to do anything. 

While all of these things were basically minor nuisances, for some time now I have been watching as bigger TVs keep getting cheaper, until I finally decided to see if could come up with something good at one of the Black Friday sales this year.  It turned out I didn’t even need to wait that long.  The Saturday before Thanksgiving, thanks to a number of stores that had decided to start some of their Black Friday sales early, I managed to come up with this 40″ 1080p Sony TV at Best Buy for a mere $600 and tax out the door.  It wasn’t really all that long ago that people would think you were as crazy as that Muntz guy if you said you could get any 40″ LCD for that price, much less a Sony.  Granted, this is an abnormally low price for this particular set (which sells somewhere in the range of $700-900 normally,) and this is pretty much the base model 40″ TV Sony sells right now (a high-end 40″ Bravia XBR set can go for as much as $1,500 right now,) but compared to my old TV it’s so much of an upgrade that I could care less if there are better models out there.  In addition to the obvious increase in size and pixels, there’s the fact that this one has more inputs (3 HDMI, 2 component inputs that actually display proper resolutions for component input, composite/S-video and VGA,) it switches resolutions and inputs without annoying 5-second delays in between and menus that won’t disappear from the screen until you change the volume to get them to go away (in fact, the user interface is so much nicer than the one on my old TV it’s ridiculous,) and I can actually get the TiVo’s remote to control this one too.  Of course, with all that technology come a few inevitable hitches, and a little bit of reading after I made my purchase revealed one of them:

    

It turns out this particular set has some issues with unwanted screen dimming as a result of a feature which automatically adjusts the backlighting based on the lighting of the room, but those could be fixed by updating the TV’s firmware.  This actually turned out not to be too much of a pain (the fact that I had a compatible flash drive on hand already helped, I’m sure) but when you think about it, you probably wouldn’t have to go back too far to find a time when someone would have thought you were speaking gibberish if you told them you needed to update the firmware on your television.  With just about everything loaded with electronics these days (even the freakin’ toaster has a cancel button on it now)I suppose such things have become inevitable, but it’s still a little bit odd to see tasks that used to require a team of trained programmers to execute showing up in everyday household electronics.  Even so, it only took a few minutes to do this, and so far I’ve found the new TV to work quite well.  There’s just one little problem left:  What the heck am I supposed to do with the old one? 

I suppose it’s all relative, but even for being an LCD television, the old one’s a bit of a beast.  Compared to a CRT of similar size it’s practically nothing (I’ve helped move some of those big-screen CRTs out of second-floor apartments with exceedingly narrow staircases, and I have to say that’s an experience I’d prefer NOT to repeat if I can help it,)  but this one still has to weigh a good fifty pounds.  I could put it in the bedroom where sets like this end up, but that would require getting another  cable box, and the cable outlet in the bedroom is in just about the most inaccessible part of the room for that anyway.  Besides, I don’t need to be watching TV in bed anyway.  Aside from that, there isn’t much else I can think of besides possibly hooking it up to my PC and using it as a second monitor…

On second thought, maybe I better rethink that one.  Oh well.  Anyone want to buy a slightly used television?

December 18, 2009

Looking for a Pizza? Name Your Price.

Filed under: Food — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:54 pm

As anyone who has ever been mixed up with the VanderHoeven family (or the Aquabats) is well aware, Friday is pizza day, the best day of the week.  In fact,at least once a year,  Pizza Day practically becomes a holiday in this family, although it’s actually pretty rare for it to be that formal (or that dutifully observed, for that matter.)  In fact, I’d say I really don’t eat pizza quite that often, and when I do, usually I’ll stick to either the stuff from the store (also known as “The Stuff the Rats Run Around In” within our family, but there’s a long story behind that one) or from a Take ‘n Bake place.  It is only rarely that I find myself truly unmotivated enough to actually order pizza delivery, mostly because it’s so expensive, and because I can usually at least manage to drag myself out of the house long enough  to go find something edible.  Tonight ended up being one of those rare occasions, thanks to another all-too-frequent instance of working late and bit of wandering around after work got me home fairly late this evening, so I decided to opt to just get something delivered from the local Pizza Hut (yes, they did reopen in a different location a few months after their old place in Redmond Center got torn down, but this one’s a takeout/delivery only location.)  Since only an idiot would order directly off the menu from one of these places (don’t ask) the first thing you do when you go to the online ordering site is go look for the specials.  And Pizza Hut, it seems, has plenty of them:

 

Let’s see…  There’s a large 1 topping pizza for $10.99, a medium 3-topping pizza for $10.99, and a large 3-topping pizza for, you guessed it, $10.99.  But what if you need more than one pizza?  Well, they’ve got you covered there too:

Thanks to the MAJOR SAVINGS! being offered here, you can get 2 large 3-topping pizzas for $23.99, or 2 large 3-topping pizzas for $24.99.  Who knew that ordering pizza delivery involved such difficult choices?  And that’s not all of them either.  You might notice the coupon for a 3-topping pizza above also includes an option to add a second large pizza for $8 more, which would get you two large pizzas for $18.99.  And although it’s not shown, there was yet another coupon on the site offering a package deal of 2 medium pizzas, an order of breadsticks and a 2-liter Pepsi for $14.99, with the option to upgrade to large for $4 more, bringing the total price to $18.99 (although that coupon is good for takeout orders only, which would defeat the whole point of being lazy and ordering pizza delivery in the first place.)  If you’re ordering pizza delivery in the first place, it’s because you’re trading price for convenience, but with all these choices, how is someone supposed to figure it all out?

December 15, 2009

Curiosity Fried the Cat to a Well Done Crisp

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:59 am

“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

At some point during my youth, I made an ill-fated attempt to make it through the seven Chronicles of Narnia books.  Although I grew up as something of a bookworm, I seem to recall I made it through about two and a half of the books (give or take a few hundred pages or so)  before my notoriously short attention span was exceeded, and the books ended up on a long forgotten shelf somewhere.  This was, of course, long before the Harry Potter books showed up, and cunningly managed to get kids glued to far longer books than I was used to (I don’t think any of the Narnia books was really all that long, if I recall correctly.)  Needless to say, I remember little of this, but about the only thing that did stick out was a scene from The Magician’s Nephew in which the two protagonists enter a hallway in the palace of a long-since destroyed kingdom, finding a large number of what appears to be people frozen in time.  In this room is a golden bell with a sign containing the poem above.  To make a long story short, someone gets driven to distraction by their curiosity, ends up ringing the bell, and unleashes some sort of horrendous evil on the world.  I should really make another attempt to read these books somewhere along the line so I actually know what I’m talking about here, but in a nutshell, that’s seems to be what happened.

The reason I bring this up is because of the sign above, which showed up today on one of the doors at my workplace.  One of the first things someone would notice about the place where I work is that unlike most workplaces, there aren’t a whole lot of cubicles around.  Sure, they do still manage to find a few dark corners of the building here and there to stick some cubes for the contractors and vendors (which is, of course, where I almost always end up in these places,) but most of the employees in the building either share or have their own offices.  This means that there are a lot of doors in the building that all look the same.  In fact, I’d say that there’s probably upwards of 100 doors on just the one floor of the building I happen to work on.  You don’t really notice them after a while…  At least not until they put up something like this notice on one of them.

I’d say that I probably pass by this particular door at least five times a day, without giving anything but the most fleeting of passing thoughts to it.  Of course, once someone puts up a big, ominous-looking notice on the door, that changes everything.  All of a sudden, there’s ADVENTURE behind that door.  Sure, it’s the type of adventure that almost always ends with tragic results, smoldering hair and lengthy OSHA investigations, but there seems to be something built into the human psyche that craves this type of thing.  Since I have absolutely no reason to enter this particular room at any time (and I’d probably find it locked if I tried anyway) I have no idea what’s actually inside there, but somehow I suspect that it wouldn’t be any less dangerous for someone such as myself to enter this room at any other time than it is right now.  It’s just that the big ominous sign on the door makes it all that much more enticing for some unknown reason.  It’s the kind of thing that makes six-year olds think that matches would make an entertaining plaything (and to be honest, it does kind of have a point on that one, just don’t tell that  to any of my future offspring,) and compels people to jump into the lion pen at the zoo because they think that somehow they’re special enough that the lions won’t believe that they just ordered room service.  I suspect that in most of these cases copious quantities of alcohol frequently contribute as well, but those seem to only occasionally show up at my workplace.

Even so, now that they’re sticking giant warnings on the door, I find myself somewhat curious about what’s actually in there.  I’d like to think I’ve got enough common sense to know that there’s probably a significant quantity of fiery doom which awaits me if I dare to tempt it (and presumably plenty of trouble with HR if I managed to survive that,) but try as I might, that foolhardy little bit of daredevil curiosity residing somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind just won’t seem to go away.  It’ll probably slink back off into the shadows soon enough once the signs go away and the door goes back to being just another big chunk of wood in the hallway.  But somewhere along the line, I just know it’ll be back at a particularly inopportune time.  Maybe I better go play with matches for a while, just to be on the safe side.

December 13, 2009

A Tale of Taillight Trouble

Filed under: Cars — Brian Lutz @ 12:31 am

Back when I used to drive around my old beater Camry, I would usually find out that I had a burned out taillight when one of the local police officers pulled me over to point it out (and presumably also to figure out how many outstanding warrants they had on me.)  I can’t say I blame them (after all, there’s a good chance I was lowering the property values of the neighborhood just by driving through it,) but I never actually got ticketed for any of the times I got pulled over for this.  I suspect that the car’s tendency to burn out taillights on a regular basis probably wasn’t helping matters much though.   Changing the bulbs was a pretty serious pain too, as the unopenable tailgate, tight spaces and even tighter sockets made the task far more trouble than it should have been, a problem which became most evident when I managed to have the burned out bulb break in my hand and leave a nice  little gash in my pointer finger, from which I still have a nice little scar. 

So when the time comes to replace a burned out bulb on my current car, the job should be a whole lot easier, right?  First of all, a handy (read: annoying) warning light on the dash tells me when I have a burnt-out bulb somewhere, a feature which removes the need for the participation of law enforcement agencies in the process.  Unfortunately, it also proves decidedly unhelpful in telling exactly which bulb is the one that has failed.  If it isn’t something obvious (you’d probably notice pretty quickly if you didn’t have a turn signal) there’s always the option of hooking up the car to the computer via a somewhat expensive diagnostic cable, but my Dad happens to have one.  Assuming you can navigate your way through the slightly convoluted software it’ll tell you exactly which light happens to be burned out, plus half a zillion other things that might be wrong with the car (hopefully not all at the same time.)  Anyway, I had managed to figure out which bulb was the one in need of replacing, and I knew I happened to have one around the house somewhere from a previous bulb replacement, but a rather thorough search through my apartment failed to turn up the location of this bulb.

At this point, I could have easily wasted half my Saturday trying to find the bulb I had, but I had other things I needed to get done, so it was off to the auto parts store.  I find that I rarely have reason to visit any of these since I got my current car a couple of years ago, partly because it’s under warranty (and has been pretty reliable, at least in terms of engine/mechanical parts during that time)  and partly because I seriously doubt any of the auto parts stores in town would stock anything more complicated than windshield washer fluid for my particular vehicle.  After all, even though my car isn’t anything too fancy, it IS still red and European, so it comes with all the parts costs with only half the prestige.  Normally on the rare occasion I would need to visit the parts store, I’d go to the one on the other side of town, but since I was trying to get this done as quickly as possible.  so I decided to try the one that’s a little bit closer. 

Normally at the auto parts store, there’s a number of books hanging off the shelves that contain self-serve information on the various maintenance parts one might need for their car (stuff like filters, wiper blades, lights, and other things like that.)  Although it does take some digging through the book to figure out the right part number, it makes it relatively easy to find this.  It turns out that the store I went to apparently doesn’t believe in these things, because there wasn’t a single one of the things anywhere in the store.  I suppose if I had any clue what I was actually doing I would just know this info in the first place, but even then, the part numbers in this store seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with the part numbers used anywhere else in the civilized world, so it probably wouldn’t have done any good anyway.  The only way I was going to be able to figure out anything would be to have someone look it up.  Two wiper blades, an alternator and a semi-lengthy discussion on the merits of particular snow chains later, I was finally able to get the part number, and $2.18 later, I was finally out the door, having spent much longer in the process than I would have if I had just gone to the other store in the first place.  Lesson learned, I suppose.

Once I returned home, I set about the task of replacing the bulb.  Sure enough, as soon as I went to grab the necessary tools, the bulb I had on hand mysteriously appeared in a place that I probably would have looked if I had been paying attention in the first place, upgrading the whole parts store trip from “misadventure” to “fiasco”…  Or so it would seem.  The actual bulb replacement is relatively straightforward on my car, but there are a couple of tools needed, and a bolt that needs to be extracted from a tight space.  A little bit of tinkering around and several trips back into the house for different tools later, the taillight assembly came off the car, and the replacement bulb went in.  I got everything put back together, put the key in the ignition to check, and…  The bulb warning was still on.  Double-checking to make sure the connector was reinstalled correctly, I went back to check, and found that the other bulb in the assembly had decided to choose that particular moment to burn out, thus making it necessary to remove the whole assembly again.  Fortunately the other socket takes the same bulb, and for some odd reason I just happened to have a couple of extras on hand. 

Finally, the second time around both of the bulbs decided to work at the same time (although I did plug in the assembly by itself to test this BEFORE reassembling everything again) and I finally managed to get the annoying warning light off the dash for the time being.)  Of course, as you’d expect for any halfway decent car these days, the manual recommends just letting the dealer take care of this.  If not for the fact that they’d probably charge some particularly horrendous amount of money, I think I’d be half-tempted to just let them go ahead.  It’s not necessarily a complicated job to do this… At least not until I manage to find half a dozen ways to complicate it unnecessarily.  Still, I do suppose that I managed to avoid maiming myself in the process this time around, so that’s got to count for something, right?

December 6, 2009

…But it’s a DRY cold.

Filed under: weather — Brian Lutz @ 5:40 pm

After having spent the last 31-and-a-half years hanging out in this planet’s Northern Hemisphere, I suppose that by now I should have figured out somewhere along the way that it tends to get cold around here in December.  This November arrive with its usual complement of rain and wind (including sustained high winds for the better part of a week up North of here)  but never really got all that cold, with daytime temperatures hanging out in the low to mid Fifties, and overnight lows never really threatening the freezing point.  Then December first came around, and with it came one of those big Arctic fronts that show up around here in the Winter and generally make a mess of things.  This one, on the other hand, somehow managed to not really bring a lot of moisture along with it, so for the past week or so it’s been rather dry (and even occasionally sunny) here, but it’s also been reallyfreakin’ cold at the same time.

Exactly how cold this is depends, of course, on what one’s definition of “really freakin’ cold” happens to be.  Some people who live in warmer climates might be heading for their jackets  the minute the thermometer hits 59 degrees  (I was going to take a cheap shot at California here, but then I remembered that the four hours of waiting in line at CBS Television City to go watch a taping of The Price is Right a few Januarys ago wasn’t exactly one of the warmer  experiences I ever had.)  By the same token, you probably wouldn’t need to go too far North of here to find someone that would be out working on their tan in sunny 34-degree weather.  In fact, if it weren’t for all this Arctic air we’ve got hanging around it actually would be rather nice weather for this time of year.  And if there was any moisture behind all this cold air we’d probably have six inches of snow on the ground by now and be well on our way to a repeat of the mess that was last December.  The weather reports say that we should be clear for the next few days which should hopefully be enough time for the cold air to move out before any significant moisture arrives in the area.  Basically, for the time being, all we have to worry about is cold, and plenty of it. 

Unfortunately, it does look like we’ve got a few more days of the stuff to deal with at this point.  The weather forecast is calling for a high of 31 degrees tomorrow, and are predicted to remain below 40 degrees through this Thursday.  Then on Friday it’s supposed to get a bit warmer (emphasis on “a bit”) but there is the possibility of some snow (which would be relatively short-lived) around that time.  In other words, you might want to keep a few extra blankets handy.  And don’t forget the ice scraper…

December 5, 2009

This Christmas, Give the Gift of Filtration

Filed under: Advertising, Holidays — Brian Lutz @ 3:12 am

Not sure what to give your sweetheart for Christmas this year?  Look no further than the gift-giving experts at the local Volkswagen dealer for all your Holiday needs.  If you watch TV around this time of the year, by now you’ve probably seen about half a zillion of those thoroughly clichéd “give someone a new car for Christmas”  commercials (complete with the luxury car in the driveway with the big red bow on it) that have been done to death by now.  Oddly enough, this e-mail, which I received in my inbox yesterday, isn’t one of those.  Instead, their gift suggestions seem to be a bit more, shall we say, unconventional.

I guess we can skip the costly auto loans and the ridiculous giant red bows this Christmas, because apparently all your sweetie wants this year is oil filters and floormats.  In fact, that’s such a wonderful, brilliant, guaranteed not to leave me sleeping on the couch for a week idea that I’m going to call them up at $shop.phoneService and order right this very minute…  Or at least I would if I could ever figure out how to dial that dollar sign thingy on my phone.  On the other hand, if for some reason you managed to put off your Christmas shopping until AFTER the last minute (I wouldn’t recommend it, by the time you find yourself wandering the aisles of the Rite Aid at 9am on Christmas morning you can safely assume that you’re pretty much doomed) these people just might be able to bail you out.  Just order by December 31st, and they’ll deliver by Christmas (although we can safely assume that there’s got to be some sort of charge involved here if you’re going to get the thing delivered by last Thursday.)  Whatever your shopping end up being, just remember that clean oil is an investment that will last you a lifetime (or 5,000 miles, whichever comes first.)

December 2, 2009

You’ll Sell Your Eye Out, Kid.

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:36 am

With Thanksgiving and Black Friday now officially in the books, the Christmas season is once again underway.  That means it’s also time for Christmas movies.  Since I’m not big on movies in the first place most of these I could either take or leave, but I do have to admit a certain fondness for A Christmas Story one of the (somewhat) more recent entries into the pantheon of Holiday Classics that originally opened to little fanfare and modest earnings, but has steadily gained popularity over the years through the magic of cable TV networks with lots of time to fill up.  To be honest, I’m not big on movies in general (and Christmas movies in particular) but one way or another, I always seem to end up watching this one at least once a year during the Holiday season.  Most Christmas movies these days tend to fall into a few general categories:  Angst-riddled yet vaguely heartwarming Santa-related drama, over-the-top syrupy CG animated Santa-related drama, or preachy consumer-related drama.  This particular movie isn’t exactly free of any of those (well OK, I don’t think there’s too much syrupy Computer animation here) but it does manage to be rewatchable at least once or twice a year, memorable enough that after a couple of viewings you’ll practically be able to quote along with the dialog, and you can pick it up at practically any point in the movie and still be able to follow along.  All in all, if I’m going to have to sit through one or two Christmas movies a year, this one is as good as any.

Of course these days,  no good movie goes unovermerchandised, and as I’ve found over the course of what little Christmas shopping I’ve done so far, this one is no exception.  Of course you can find the movie on DVD just about anywhere you look around this time of year, but it seems that more recently, a significant quantity of merchandise related to the movie has begun to appear in stores.  I could almost see actually buying a t-shirt like the one above, until I realize that it would most likely end up spending 364 days out of every year (give or take a day or two)  sitting in the drawer and being vaguely unfashionable.  Maybe you really needed an excuse you could wear it to your gun safety class just to be ironic, but somehow that just sounds like a thoroughly bad idea. 

My crummy cameraphone picture aside (I really should have a talk with the big guy up North about that one,) one of the more “popular” items (at least in terms of quantity of merchandise available) is the movie’s “major award” leg lamp that would be every bit as  tacky in the modern living room as it was in the movie’s vague late Thirties to early Forties timeframe.  While I do suppose that electric sex glistening in the window sells, I have no idea what you’d actually buy one of these things for.  For a mere $400 or so, you can even buy a full-size replica of the actual movie lamp, complete with the FRAGILE (so you know it must be Italian) shipping crate.  If you’re going to pay that much for one of the things I won’t judge you, but at least try not to break it, OK?

If you don’t have that much money to spend on one of these lamps (or a replica set of nightmarish pink bunny pajamas,) you can get one of the things in sleep short form as well. I suspect it would be a lot easier to bury these ones in the backyard if tragedy were to befall them (and no, I’m not going to elaborate on that one.)

Finally, there’s this.  I’m not sure why exactly someone needed to create a train set based on the movie (apparently not based on anything which was actually in the movie, just based on the movie for some vague reason.)  And for a mere $149, it can be yours to cherish for about three and a half weeks out of the year and leave in the box in the attic for the other eleven months or so.  And yes, it comes with its own leg lamp too; in this case, it’s enshrined in the boxcar.

Shockingly enough, about the only thing from the movie that hasn’t been merchandised to death (just) yet is the Red Ryder BB gun so fervently desired by Ralphie Parker.  People might be surprised to find out that you can actually still buy these, but they don’t seem to come with any evidence of any sort of movie tie-in.  On one hand, this might just be because nobody’s figured out the potential yet. but more likely it has something to do with the fact that “You’ll shoot your eye out” doesn’t exactly make for a great marketing slogan.  $40 will get you your own Red Ryder BB Gun, evil parents or Santas notwithstanding.

If for some reason you actually end up wanting any of this stuff, it turns out there’s a whole online store dedicated almost entirely to Christmas Story-related merchandise.  In the interest of time I’ll refrain from going into too much detail, but they’ve got everything movie related that you could possibly ever want (or not want but somehow end up buying anyway,) right down to Lifebuoy soap imported from England for your soap poisoning needs.  Just remember, you’ll sell your eye out, kid.

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