Everyone knows the gag by now. 2016 wasn’t a year, but a malevolent entity sent to spread misery and pain to all mankind.
It was just a silly meme people used to ease tensions after another shitty thing happened, but it’s just as true that 2016 really was a bumpy road, full of awful news and unexpected deaths.
But was it ALL bad? Hell no! To close out 2016, here are 11 things that I actually LIKED about it:
#1: Rogue One!
I ended up enjoying Rogue One even more than The Force Awakens, and that’s saying a lot.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to like it so much. The movie’s core conceit sounded a bit humdrum to me, and I just never imagined that they’d be able to shoehorn the story into Star Wars canon and have it feel organically integral. I’m crazy enough about Star Wars to happily devour anything under its umbrella, but I figured that this would be a movie only for people like me.
I WAS SO WRONG. It’s legit great. Like okay, it does kind of take a while to get going and there were a few threads left dangling by the end of it, but so much of it is fantastic, and the last act had my whole theater inching out of their seats. By the end of it, I felt like I’d ridden five roller coasters and suffered six breakups.
(Also: I loved Jyn, Chirrut and Director Krennic so much that I’d already list them among my favorite-ever Star Wars characters.)
#2: The Return of Hi-C Ecto Cooler!
God bless Coca-Cola for bringing back Ecto Cooler, which as of this writing is wrapping up its second (and perhaps final) run. If you see it in stores, BUY IT, because it’ll be gone before you have another chance.
With the new Ghostbusters movie acting as a natural prompt, Ecto Cooler’s return seemed like a now-or-never proposition. Still, nobody could’ve predicted how seriously Coke would take the revival: Ecto Cooler came back in juice boxes AND all-new cans, along with the full complement of social media pushes.
I’ll never forget the day me and Jay drove to some faraway movie theater just so we could be among the first to taste the green goddess again, nor will I forget the conversations I’ve had with fellow fans who just couldn’t believe that this was actually happening.
Now several months into its return (and hours shy of its second death), we’ve all started to take Ecto Cooler for granted. That’s natural, but make no mistake: If you’re even 1/20th as wild about Ecto Cooler as I am, all of those rumors and confirmations and in-store sightings and Amazon Pantry orders were all part of a weirdly communal pop culture event that none of us will ever forget. Read More…
It’s Friday night. Only half the presents are wrapped, and only half the mushrooms are stuffed. As usual, I have a million things left to do before my family’s Christmas Eve party. Between now and then, I’ll be lucky if I get four hours sleep.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The preparations actually began yesterday, with me zipping from one store to another, looking for those last gifts, and that stupid parsley, and oh God, how did I forget the wrapping paper?
My first stop was the liquor store. I wanted to knock that chore off the list as early as possible. Have you ever gone to a liquor store on Christmas Eve? Holy hell, it’s the worst.
The tequila is for me and my girlfriend. These days, that’s all we really drink. My family is more into assorted wines and fruity cocktails, but since I drink to excess on Christmas, I prefer to avoid spirits that are 100% guaranteed to give me a hangover. When my head hurts, I am so fucking whiny.
The spiked eggnog is for anyone who wants it, as are the bottles of Prosecco. (Never had Prosecco? It’s like the champagne version of wine. Good stuff!) Read More…
I wanted to get one more catalog review done before Christmas, and I think we’re ending with a doozy. (And also a DaZoo, but that joke won’t become funny until you’re a thousand words in.)
Behold, the 1986 Sears Wish Book! This was a big one, guys. Action figures as a concept were at peak heat, and toy companies were literally going for broke.
It’s not simply that there were so many action figure lines competing, but also that they were all so different. It’s easy to see why many people my age cling fiercely to this hobby: We grew up when action figures were the best game in town, and even if they rarely are nowadays, we’ll always know what they can be.
Below are nine highlights from the ‘86 Wish Book, covering everything from Transformers to space cadet Cabbage Patch Kids. Even with all of this, I could easily do another 5 articles from just this one catalog.
Now among the most famous Masters of the Universe collectibles, Eternia was as much a white whale in the mid ‘80s as it is in 2016. Added to the toy line well after its popularly peaked, Eternia also suffered from a retail price that still sounds extravagant.
Essentially a cross between a model train set and Disney’s monorail, Eternia was doubtlessly ambitious, but perhaps too much so. With the older Castle Grayskull playset, you could throw that thing off the roof and it’d still work the same. Eternia was more of a house of cards, even if some of those cards were demonic spires, and the joker was Blue Simba. Sneeze at this playset, and you’d be left with 400 mini playsets.
Course, what may have been flaws in 1986 are big huge plusses in 2016. As a display piece, Eternia is one of the best toys of the ‘80s, and also the one that doubles best if I want my action figures to solve crimes at the spooky theme park.
Boxed specimens now sell for over two thousand bucks, so if you know anyone who has one, beg for money. Read More…
Time to break out the super old cookbooks again!
As longtime readers know, I never let a holiday season slip by without trying out some old and iffy recipes. These are typically plucked from the pages of ‘60s and ‘70s cookbooks, back when chicken drumsticks looked like Flintstones food, and every other meal involved some kind of gelatin.
Below are five more dishes that I’m classifying as “holiday appetizers,” even if Better Homes & Gardens didn’t. If you’re not interested in recipes for tomato-pineapple juice, come back tomorrow for something else. This is how I celebrate Christmas, so this one’s just for me!
These little heart attacks are deliciously decadent. You take one of those refrigerated biscuit can/tube things, cut each biscuit into fourths, and then slather ‘em with a mixture of melted butter and blue cheese. Toss those messes into a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, and out comes an army of oily-salty-cheesy puffs.
The official directions more or less instruct you to drown the biscuits in butter and cheese, but I’d suggest a more modest brushing. Go way heavier on the butter than the blue cheese, because melted blue cheese is basically liquid salt, and using too much of that will render even these heavenly baby biscuits inedible.
SCORE: 8 out of 10. Would make again, would eat again. Read More…
He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special premiered in December of ‘85, and I was one of the presumed millions who watched it with their jaws to the floor. He-Man, in prime time?! That was huge!
The special featured just about every character from both He-Man and She-Ra’s cartoons, even if most of those appearances were of the cameo variety. In bigger news, we learned that Skeletor and Hordak both served a higher power, Horde Prime, who was sort of like a Godzilla-sized Dr. Claw.
Still, the most memorable part of the special was Skeletor’s turn to heroics. For one night only, Skeletor went good, too filled with Christmas spirit to let his giant yelling robot boss eat a pair of innocent children.
(Not a Christmas since 1985 has gone by without me and my older brother randomly quoting Skeletor’s lines from the special. “I don’t LIKE to feel good! I like to feel EVIL!”)
The whole special now lives on He-Man’s official YouTube channel. (Yes, He-Man has a YouTube channel.)
Course, if you’re like me, these 1980s Christmas specials don’t pack the same punch without their original commercials. Like I get that McDonald’s may very well still advertise during A Charlie Brown Christmas, but if I don’t see Ronald McDonald teaching a sad boy to ice skate, it just isn’t the same.
Luckily for me — and soon for you — a generous reader donated a copy of the special’s original 1985 broadcast, complete with every commercial. Oh my GOD, guys. It’s an absolute parade of the best ‘80s toys, with all of the major toy companies treating He-Man’s Christmas special like it was the goddamned Super Bowl. Hey, in their world, it kinda was.
Below are all six breaks from the hourlong special, with over twenty different toy commercials. (Ironically, none of the commercials featured He-Man or She-Ra figures. Even back then, you weren’t allowed to advertise toys connected to a particular show during that show. Mattel countered by advertising fucktons of Barbie dolls instead.)
Commercial Break #1:
Sectaurs, Peaches ‘n Cream Barbie, Robotech, Capsela
In the first break, that Sectaurs commercial hit me hardest. I’ll spare you another Dino Drac diatribe about how amazing Sectaurs toys were, but it’s worth noting that even a shitty action figure line would’ve made its mark with commercials like this.
The bulk of Sectaurs commercials were episodic, with a vaguely consistent story woven through umpteen product shots. I submit that more kids paid attention to that story than whatever came out of the actual Sectaurs cartoon series. Read More…
Christmas is a little over a week away. I’m horrified. Counting Halloween’s early burn, I’ve spent nearly five months using holiday nonsense to spackle every crack in my heart — “spackle every crack in my heart” of course being an unused lyric from the back pages of Whitesnake’s 1986 communal tour diary.
Come January, I won’t know how to live. There needs to be a support group for people who become too dependent on window clings and thematic M&M’s to go on without them. Preferably one that considers itself more of a club, and offers laminated membership cards to all confessors.
All I can do is make the most of the season while it lasts. Below are five more Christmassy junk foods that have helped to turn December into Decembooyah.
Dum Dums Holiday Pops!
These absurd candies actually debuted last year, but if you think I’m gonna let that minor detail keep me from gushing over a bag of Christmas-flavored lollipops, it’s fisticuffs for us.
Aside from the always-welcomed “Mystery” pops, there are eight exclusive flavors in the mix, ranging from potential rebrands like “Merry Cherry” and “Sugar Plum” to clearly custom additions like “Gingerbread” and “Hot Chocolate.” I know this hasn’t been a funny paragraph, so picture me using it in a speech with an oddly accusatory tone.
Of course, the folks at Dum Dums HQ didn’t need to do nearly this much for a holiday spinoff. I’m amazed that they could even come up with eight distinct Christmas flavors, let alone produce them. I’d tip my hat to the Spangler company, but I can’t wear hats without feeling like I’m trying too hard.
GRADE: A+. Read More…