Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas time is (almost) here

You know that tingling sensation you get when you lick a fresh 9-volt Duracell? Imagine that feeling in your stomach. That's how waiting for Christmas felt like when I was a kid.

I don't know if I ever got any sleep on Christmas Eve. Back in the days before insomnia, I could count on two sleepless nights a year: the night before the first day of school and Christmas Eve. The difference: Christmas Eve usually didn't involve a lot of thinking, "Oh God, what are they going to do to me this year?"

Instead, it was all about potential; the unknown. When you're a kid, you don't think about budgets or supply and demand; it's all about the magical list you penned faster than any homework assignment could ever be done, even at gunpoint. It's the time that you simply ask for what you want without thinking about how much things cost or how unlikely it is that you'd get it.

It was almost like magic.

Well, magic fueled by a week of Christmas specials on CBS, with the bongo-fueled special presentation intro.

My brother and I -- when we shared a room -- would talk about what we thought we were going to get until we finally fell asleep despite all the kid-adrenaline. And after a few hours of sleep, we were wide awake again, eager to head out into the living room to see what Santa brought us.

In what we assumed was a cost-saving move to offset the expenses of toy production, Santa always wrapped our presents in layers of tissue paper. You could just see through it just enough to have an idea of what the present was.

Our stockings would be bulging with candy, socks and for some reason I never quite understood, a tiny bottle of after-shave. Maybe Santa was trying to tell us that we stunk. I don't know.

My brother was always trying to get out there before anyone else.

"I'm gonna go see what we got!" he'd whisper.

Then I'd remind him that our parents wouldn't be up for another 2 or 3 hours and he'd scowl at me.

I still remember the year we got the Hall of Justice from the Super Powers Collection. It was the one toy we wanted the most. We had most of the Super Powers figures already, and now we'd have a cool playset for them to hang out in.

When opened, the Hall of Justice had a jail cell (with a trap door) for any villains who meandered by, a meeting table for four (you know Superman always got first dibs on a chair) and an elevator that led to a landing pad for the Supermobile (or if you had a good imagination, Wonder Woman's invisible jet).

And if that wasn't cool enough, when we opened the box, out came the last three figures we needed.

A Christmas miracle.

So now I'm gearing up to celebrate Christmas with my own family, which means one non-TNT viewing of "A Christmas Story," complaining that they showed all the Christmas specials too early again and some serious eating.

But the thing I'm looking most forward to is watching my son open his presents. I can't wait to see his face when he sees what he got.

In fact, I probably won't be able to sleep on Christmas Eve because of it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Random thought

At what point exactly did "American Pie" decide to challenge National Lampoon for the throne of Once (Arguably) Funny Franchise Now Offering Crappy Direct-To-DVD Movies?

And Eugene Levy, why? Really. Why?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pac-Man fever

I think it will be hard to explain to my son when he gets older just how popular Pac-Man was in its heyday.

You had your Pac-Man cereal, which was essentially sweetened Kix with marshmallow bits. The Star Wars cereal a few years back was similar to Pac-Man cereal -- or at least was close enough for my brother and me. After it had been out for a while, General Mills made a concession to all the Ms. Pac-Man fans out there and added marshmallows with a "shocking pink bow."

I don't know that I was as excited as this commercial would expect you to be, but it was still pretty good.

There was, of course, a Pac-Man cartoon, which featured Marty Ingalls as the voice of our hero. I'd love to say that it was a groundbreaking cartoon worthy of many repeated viewings, but, well, it was teamed up with the Rubik the Amazing Cube cartoon. That right there shows you the state of Saturday morning cartoons in the mid-80s. Cool song, tho.

Yes, there was Pac-Man pasta. Another brief offering from Chef Boyardee, I don't know if I ever got this as a kid. The only Chef Boyardee product that I really liked was UFOs, which had giant cheese ravioli motherships along with the regular pasta spacecraft. But if you ever wanted to see a cartoon character based on a video game shill for bland pasta, hey, all you have to do is click play.

"Pac-Man Fever" by Buckner and Garcia, was a hit single that was the first big indicator of the yellow one's fame. Imagine someone writing a song about Monopoly.

My favorite Pac-Man tie-in was the board game, which you can read about in great detail at X-Entertainment.

And I've already mentioned the cool Super Pac-Man scratch-off cards.

The hardest part, though, will be explaining how a game this popular was one of the worst games for the Atari 2600.