Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Maybe it's my old age.  Maybe it's a shade of PTSD from when I hit that deer almost 2 years ago.  Maybe it's because the first real cold spell of the year always brought out a raft of car problems in my old Dodge Neon that I could barely afford to fix.  But for the past few years, whenever that first snowfall comes, I start to get really, really, really nervous about driving.  Especially driving into the city.  What if I break down on the side of the road when it's -40 out?  What if I slide through an intersection into oncoming traffic?  With everything that can go wrong when you drive in the winter, most winter days I feel more like just hunkering down on the couch rather than going out.

But I like to watch movies.  And movie theatres are in the city.  Suck it up, soldier.

And so, this past Saturday, with a bundle of nerves as my co-pilot, I headed into Edmonton.  There were a few things I needed, and a movie to be seen, so I was off.  I recently had the tires rotated and some leaky tires patched up on my car, and ever since then, the acoustics have been off.  My car just doesn't sound right.  I'm certain everything is fine, and it's just because the tires are different now, but it's enough to drive up my paranoia.

But I just turn up the music to drown out the sounds of the road, and just keep moving forward.  Having been binge-watching the Rocky franchise on Netflix, I spent the 99¢ to get Gonna Fly Now on iTunes.  A good, inspirational tune for when things are rough.  Yeah, it's cliched, but cliches become cliches because they work.

I've said before that I tend not to fret about spending too much money in the city if I buy at least one thing I genuinely need.  Lucky for me, this was a day of mostly things I need.  Now that winter is here, and I'm sliding off the boots and switching them out for shoes more and more, the socks wear out quicker.  So I bought some new socks.  And then some pants I liked were on sale, and some shirts I liked were on sale, and I just kind of lost myself.

From there, did a quick browse through Best Buy.  I always feel kind of sad when I walk out empty-handed, but there's really not much on my Blu-Ray shopping list right now.  From there, it was a hop, skip, and a jump to my beloved West Edmonton Mall.

The Mall is currently undergoing some renovations, and there's nothing wrong with that, although it does throw off my routine somewhat.  Down in the food court, they got rid of the fountain that used to be there, replacing it with a sunken seating area.  I decided to eat my lunch down there in order to take in the new ambiance, and I quickly had kudos for the Mall as to what they have down there.  They have cellphone charging stations.  Electrical outlets that also have USB ports built in, so you can plug in your wireless devices and charge them up.  Now that's a public service in this day and age.

Browsed through the Mall for a bit.  I decided I may as well start working Phase I of my Christmas shopping into the day.  As I blogged in the past, I tend do my Christmas shopping in 2 phases.  Phase I is just browsing and window shopping, getting ideas as to what to get people.  Phase II is when I've got that stuff figured out and actually buy the stuff.  Lots of others must have that idea, as the Mall is starting to fill up with the holiday shoppers.  I think I saw the ad somewhere that yesterday was when Santa made his big arrival at the Mall.  We may roll our eyes, but the Christmas shopping season is here.

Finishing my browse, I glanced at my watch and saw my movie was about to start.  I usually don't eat at the movies anymore.  With my preferences for matinees, I just find that I'm full from lunch.  However, now that I'm all bundled up in winter gear, I found that browsing in the Mall dehydrated me somewhat, so I hit the snack bar to grab a frosty beverage and some Twizzlers.

So what film was I heading off to see?  Well, with my love of Disney and superhero movies, you just know that Big Hero 6 was on my radar for this holiday movie season.

Big Hero 6 Movie Poster

When Disney bought Marvel Comics about 5 years ago, everyone started wondering if this meant we'd get some Disney animated films based on classic Marvel characters.  Everyone was surprised when Disney animation dove into the Marvel archives and surfaced with Big Hero 6, a barely-remembered mini-series from the 2000s.  That was a time when anime was starting to dominated cartoon line-ups, so Big Hero 6 wound up being Marvel's interpretation of many of the superhero tropes from Japanese pop culture.  There was a guy who turned into a Godzilla-like monster, a boy and his robot, a Sailor Moon-esque "magical girl," and such-forth.  So what did Disney do with this?

In the city of San Fransokyo (a mash-up of Tokyo and San Francisco), we're introduced to Hiro Hamada, a science prodigy who finished high school at 13.  Fascinated with robotics, he now makes his money hustling in back-alley robot fights.  One day, he visits his equally-prodigious brother Tadashi at the university lab where he works.  This really sparks Hiro's imagination, and he begins applying himself to get into the university.  He makes it with his invention of microbots...tiny thought-controlled robots that can do pretty much anything you imagine.  The project gets Hiro in...but there's a fire in the lab which destroys his microbots and kills Tadashi.  A few months later, a villain appears, using Hiro's microbots.  Hiro deduces that someone stole his tech and started the fire to cover it up.  Accompanied by his brother's greatest invention - a health care robot named Baymax - Hiro convinces the rest of Tadashi's friends to weaponize their projects and become a superhero team to bring Tadashi's killer to justice.

This is just a fun movie, if it does fall into some of the regular cliches of the superhero genre.  But it's so fun.  And I love the characters that make up our 6 heroes.  It really does make me long for the days of when Disney's latest animated epic spawns a Saturday morning cartoon, because we barely get to know any of the other heroes outside Hiro and Baymax, and I would have liked to see them developed more.  And, even though the connection to Marvel has been really downplayed (much to the anger and annoyance of some Marvel fans), they still manage to work in some of Marvel Cinematic Universe hallmarks such as a gratuitous Stan Lee cameo. 

Yup.  It was just fun.  I give it 3 out of 4 Nibs.  A complete review is up over on the ol' website.

A scene from Feast:  Winston the puppy ponders his empty food dish.

Oh, and as has become Disney tradition now, it starts off with a new animated short film.  This one is called Feast.  It's a relationship as told from the point of view of a puppy and the table scraps he gets fed.  It is unbearably cute.

With the movie done and my artistic soul fulfilled, it was time to head home.  But not before one last stop was made.  I was getting the warning lights on my printer, so it was time for that most valuable commodity of all:  printer ink.  $70 for the ink cartridges for my printer.  But, since I bought my printer brand new back in January, and only now is it running low on ink, $70 for a year's worth of ink is a pretty good deal.  Besides, I'll be sending out Christmas cards soon.  I've got mailing labels I'll be printing up this year, so my wrist will be thankful for that.

I returned home, once again able to drown out the different sounds of my car with the Nerdist podcast.  And when I made it home, I sat down to watch something very special.  Back on Tuesday, the 1966 Batman TV series was finally released on home video.  I don't own it yet, because it's a $200 set (if you're thinking about a Christmas present for me), however a friend did buy it, and he was kind enough to give me the code for the digital copy.  So while I don't have the discs, I can watch it streaming from the cloud.  With this in hand, it was finally time for closure.

One of my earliest conscious memories of television is watching a rerun of Batman  on the old Sunday morning TV show Switchback.  There was one cliffhanger that haunted me to this very day.  In this episode, the Penguin attempts to go straight, but Batman and Robin suspect it's a charade.  The Penguin is holding a carnival to raise money for charity, and Batman and Robin begin snooping around.  But, the Penguin gets the drop on the Dynamic Duo!  The Penguin strings up Batman and Robin behind the shooting gallery and then, out front, makes a friendly wager with Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara.  If they can hit the bulls-eye, the Penguin will make a generous donation to charity.  But, behind the targets, are the tied up and helpless Batman and Robin.

Yup, that's the deathtrap in this one:  the Penguin is going to trick Commissioner Gordon into shooting Batman!

That cliffhanger haunted me for years.  Probably because the unconscious Batman and Robin, strung up behind the shooting gallery, their feet gently swaying, looking as though they'd been hanged, was such a haunting image.

So, after seeing this episode of Batman at the tender age of 4 or 5, I finally got my closure.  How did Batman and Robin get out of this one?  Well, even though they looked it, they weren't unconscious.  They were able to lift their feet in the air, and deflect the bullets with their steel-toed boots.  The impact dislodged the Batknife that Batman kept concealed in his glove, which he was then able to use to cut himself and Robin free.

Closure.  The end.  Batman got out of his jam, and I survived a wintry trip to the city.  It's a fear I'm going to have to get over soon, as the winter blockbuster season is here, and holiday shopping needs to get done.  I'm thinking about taking the first week in December off to focus on that stuff.  Thanks to proper planning, careful incorporation of stat holidays, and just a plain ol' workaholic nature, the Company tells me I've used only three days of my three weeks of vacation time in 2014, and they'd like me to get more off the books before the year's end.  The fear of snowy roads and wintry city streets is something I'll continue to face before things are done.

Fear, for the most part, is a good thing.  It keeps us awake.  It keeps us alert.  It keeps us from doing stupid things.  But you know what they say about good things:  you can have too much. 

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