Just forget the words and sing along

Monday, November 06, 2017

Icy Road to Ragnarok

Well, Halloween is officially in the rear view mirror, which means it's on to Christmas!  We've already had the first couple of Christmas craft fairs in the region, and the Town of Barrhead had their Christmas parade back on Friday.  When I saw that Athabasca University was having their annual Christmas craft fair at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex on Friday afternoon, I thought I'd swing up to Athabasca and check it out.

I don't go back up to Athabasca that often, ever since I transferred down to Westlock almost-5 years ago.  (It'll be 5 years come February!)  I go back up maybe once or twice a year, and it's almost-always because the Athabasca station needs an extra pair of hands for an event.  But I was feeling nostalgic for the Athabasca University Christmas Craft Fair.  I was at the very first one 11 years ago, when it was just a half-a-dozen vendors in the AU's lobby.  Now, it's across the road at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex, and they fill the whole darn field house.  It's been fun watching it grow.

So, Friday afternoon, I hopped in my car, and headed north to Athabasca.  I've always been nervous about winter driving ever since I hit a deer with my car almost-5 years ago.  But, 511 Alberta said the roads were good, I've got a new set of tires on my car, so I figured the drive up to Athabasca should be pretty uneventful.

I was somewhere between Perryvale and Colinton.  I rounded a bend to see a car in the oncoming lane, and his lights were flickering like crazy.  I figured he must have an electrical problem or something.  I focused my eyes back on the road, and there, laying in the middle of my lane, was a dog.

I jerked my steering wheel to the left to avoid him.  I jerked my steering wheel back to the right to get back in my lane.  All seemed fine...until I realized the back end of my car was still jerking to the right.  I lost control of the car.  I'm sliding down the highway, fishtailing like crazy.  Everything gets kind of blurry.  I remember seeing a ditch.  I remember seeing a car in the oncoming traffic lane.  I remember seeing the other ditch.  I remember thinking, "This is it.  I'm headed for the ditch."  But then my car finally came to a stop, about six inches from hitting the ditch.

The guy who was driving behind me came to a stop.  He comes running up to me and knocks on my window.  "Are you alright?" he asks.  I just start stammering.  "Yeah...yeah.  There was this dog and I tried to get out of the way."  The dude with the flickering lights comes running over.  "Did you see the dog?  I was trying to warn you by flashing my lights!"

Anyway, I moved my car so I wouldn't be blocking traffic, and then I just sat by the side of the road for a while to calm down.  I tell ya, there was this, and I hit that deer, I think the animals are trying to tell me I'm not supposed to go back to Athabasca in the wintertime.

I finally made it to the Athabasca Regional Multiplex, ran into an old buddy in the parking lot, and after telling him this story, I said, "After what I went through to get here, this had better be the best damn craft show ever."

And it was a pretty good craft show.  Came back with a pretty good haul.  There was a beef jerky guy there who I ran into at the Westlock Ag Fair, who makes great beef jerky, so I treated myself to some.  Ran into a guy I used to work with when I had a second job at Buy-Low Foods.  Now he does the Farmers Markets and the craft shows peddling his kettle corn, so I treated myself to some.  The Athabasca Pottery Club was selling some of their pottery, and they talked me into a bat-shaped Christmas tree ornament.  Perfect for the Christmas tree, or maybe a Halloween tree.  Oh, and I found something that I think will be a perfect Christmas gift for Dad, so I've officially begun my Christmas shopping.

But before I left for Westlock, I decided to check out something at Canadian Tire.  Earlier in the day, one of my Star Wars action figure collecting sites lit up with news of a Star Wars action figure set available exclusively at Canadian Tire.  Now, "Canadian Tire exclusive" is a phrase that has never popped up in my days of collecting Star Wars figures, so I had to check this out.  And yes, the Athabasca location had it in stock, but I chose not to buy it.  I figured I'd already spent enough at the craft fair.  Besides, I've got about $10 in Canadian Tire money in a jar next to my piggy bank.  I think I know what I'll finally use it for.

Needless to say, took it nice and slow on the drive home to Westlock.  And took it nice and slow on the drive into Edmonton the next day.  Since I bought my Dad's Christmas present, I figured I'd buy the presents for my nieces.  I'd known what I wanted to get them for Christmas ever since it went on sale back in the spring, so I figured, "Why keep waiting?  Let's buy it now!"  And I did.  Three people checked off my Christmas list this early into November!  Let's see if I can keep it up!

Then off to my usual haunt of West Edmonton Mall.  They don't have the Christmas decorations up yet, but they do have the usual Christmas pop-up stores, like Hickory Farms and the calendar stores.  Did some browsing in the Disney Store, and had to keep my wallet tucked away.  As Disney does own Marvel and Star Wars, they've usually got some really cool exclusives, and I liked their latest.

So you may remember Disney's toys-to-life game Disney Infinity.  Disney officially pulled the plug on it about a year ago.  Browsing through the Disney Store, I see Disney has kept the art style of the Disney Infinity figures alive in a new, Disney Store exclusive line of action figures called "Disney Toy Box."  They've got nine offerings to start.  Representing Pixar is Woody, Jesse, and Buzz.  Representing Marvel is Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Hulk.  And representing Star Wars is Kylo Ren, Rey, and a First Order Stormtrooper.  No doubt some of those figures will find their way to my collection.

A quick stop in the food court for lunch.  Trying to expand my horizons a little bit in the food court as there's so many new chains starting to pop up.  Last time I was at the mall, I spied a new chain called Pannizza that I wanted to try.  It's the Subway model, applied to pizza.  You pick your crust, you pick your toppings, the clerk puts it all together for, and then runs it through a Quiznos-style oven.  Voila!  One baked-before-your-eyes personal-sized pizza.  I sampled the Aloha Pizza, which is what they call their Hawaiian Pizza.  I rather enjoyed it, so I could see myself dining there again in the future.  Might not get the combo meal, next time.  Good pizza, so-so fries.

Speaking of Hawaiian pizza, how's my petition to get a Heritage Moment about it's creation going?  Huh...still stalled at 10 signatures.  Moving on.

You know what the West Edmonton Mall food court is missing?  A good chip shop.  I don't think there's been a place to get fish and chips there since Fatburger replaced Joey's Only.  Sorry, I'm watching You Gotta Eat Here! while I write this.  They just did a Montreal chip shop, and now I want fish and chips.

But as you know, all trips to the city for me invariably wind up in the movie theatre, and I bet you know what I was out to see this weekend.

Thor: Ragnarok poster

I really enjoyed this new chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It's easily the best of the Thor films.  It's more in tone with Guardians of the Galaxy than the other two Thor films.

When last we left Thor at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, he went off on a quest to learn more about the Infinity Stones.  But, he got sidetracked along the way, finding the Nine Reals in chaos and whispers of a pretender on the throne bringing about Ragnarok -- the end of days to Asgard.  Returning home to Asgard, Thor promptly unmasks Odin as being Loki in disguise.  Turns out Loki's rule has weakened Asgard's defenses from Hela, the goddess of death.  She returns with a vengeance, claims the throne of Asgard, and begins putting plans in place on conquer the universe.  Thor winds up stranded on the world of Sakaar, where he must make alliances with friends both old and new, and fight his way back to Asgard, defeat Hela, and stop Ragnarok from happening.

Man o man, this film is good.  All of the new characters are great.  Cate Blanchett is wonderful as Hela.  Marvel really hasn't given us a villain who relishes in being evil, and Hela does.  Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, the ruler of Sakaar, is very Jeff Goldblum.  Returning characters are good as well.  We finally get to know Hulk as a character, and there's some good brotherly love between Thor and Loki that looks to finally send Loki down a path of redemption.

Not much to quibble about.  As we saw in the post-credits sequence of Doctor Strange, Doctor Strange does show up, but his appearance serves pretty much the same function as Falcon in Ant-Man.  He's just here to remind you of the bigger cinematic universe at play.

And there's just so much good.  I love the synthesizer-heavy, prog-rock inspired score.  Marvel is certainly getting their money's worth out of The Immigrant Song.  And we're far enough along in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that every callback and in-joke to a previous film is a delight.  I wonder if Hulk fighting that giant wolf was purposely meant to be a reference to 2003's Hulk where Hulk fought some gamma-mutated giant dogs.

It was a good year for Marvel.  I give it 4 out of 4 Nibs.  Full review on the website.

And that was Saturday day.  Sunday morning was spent writing this blog.  It's lunchtime, now, so I'm going to see if I can find me some fish and chips. 

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