In which our intrepid hero gets as far into the Yuletide spirit as he can—without sacrificing a pig to Freyr, that is.

Okay, I admit it. As cynical as I can be about my family, and about Christmas, I felt the joy of the holiday season. Maybe it was the oysters-in-salami that did it.

After packing the larger of the two bags I brought up here full of presents and puddings1—and cabbing it to Nerang for a lift after missing the train—I finally got to see my aunt’s new apartment at Tweed. Very big. Great views. I am officially jealous.

I polished off lunch reasonably effectively, sent about 30 SMSs to various people, wished my morning cousin2 Merry Christmas and farewell, and laid down for a nap. And had a very strange dream about a group of retired Croatian soccer players trashing an island retreat in the Torres Strait.

I woke up as my afternoon cousin2 arrived; an SMS woke me as they crept past my room. I wandered out, waved hello, messed up my bed-hair further yet and tottered to my aunt and uncle’s expansive balcony for a cigarette.

A couple of rain drops dotted the edge of the balcony. And then lightning struck the building.

A bit over a week ago, on my last workday for the year, something in the elevator electricals caught fire in my office building. Firemen ushered us out onto the street, seriously limiting the amount of last-minute crap I could get done before my holidays.

Down the hall from my office is a pole-dancing school, where a group of women were having a hens’ party. As soon as the firemen arrived, they all squealed in delight. When the firemen asked them to evacuate the building, the words "Take it off, love!" echoed down the hall. It took a few minutes’ negotiation before the hens realised that their visitors were, in fact, firemen—and not the entertainment.

Amusing stripper anecdotes aside, I’m getting away from the point, which is this: over the past fortnight, I’ve had an electrical fire and a lightning strike in buildings that I’ve been in. A third such incident will be taken as a serious omen.

Anyway, the night proceeded relatively sedately. Of note were my grandmother, who, despite barely being able to lift her arms, somehow managed to pile my plate with meat until I nearly felt like bursting; and my cousin’s Danish wife, who playfully threatened to pull her daughter’s legs off and beat her about the head with them—which goes to show that no matter how wussy you think the Danes are, give them ham at Yuletide, and they go all adorably Viking on you. Shayne, take note.

Once I got home, I sorted through presents that were returned unopened due to family political reasons3 and went over the Christmas gifts I’ve received thus far:

  • book vouchers;
  • movie vouchers;
  • two six-packs of Cascade Light;
  • a set of dragon bookends;
  • a huge cat mug with matching saucer;
  • a portable DVD player with built in 7" screen;
  • The Daily Show’s Indecision: 2004 on DVD; and
  • a bank cheque for $100.

Not one of these gifts was embarrassingly uncool. I’m happy with all of them. Even the Cascade turns out to be a good thing. I really don’t want to carry anything so bulky back with me, and—save for tomorrow—my schedule is pretty packed from now until when I return to Sydney.

I have nine bottles left, and if I tried to fit nine bottles of full-strength beer around my traditional Boxing Day shopping and movie extravaganza, I’d end up a right mess. Hell, I’d probably be forcibly ejected from King Kong for making lewd (and loud) suggestions to Naomi Watts, and if it was a hot enough day that I was dehydrated, I could possibly get arrested for making inappropriate comments about the kids in Harry Potter.

I’d hate to think that my last words as a free man would be something along the lines of: "Go on, Weasely, you slack turd! Pound that bitch, Hermione! Any other grown man in this cinema would!" And then realise that I’d made the terrible mistake of getting Emma Watson mixed up with Emily, again. Oops.

With this in mind, I sat back with a slice of Christmas pudding, two Pizza Pockets, a bottle of chocolate milk and a glass of apple-and-pear juice and put Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in the DVD player.

How cool is this movie? I can just imagine the huge budget that must’ve gone into making that thing look so cheap—and, therefore, authentic. It was worth buying for cheese alone; Sky Captain features all the best and worst tropes of the futurist sci-fi subgenre4:

  • pulp superscience;
  • a mad scientist villain, full of remorse for his failed vision;
  • a brave and dashing hero;
  • his technical genius sidekick;
  • an attractive, headstrong heroine-cum-love interest (who, incidentally, also happens to be a pathologically dedicated reporter);
  • an old acquaintance who just happens to be able to bring massive military force to bear at the drop of a hat;
  • another acquaintance, who is a drunk and/or lech;
  • positively atrocious exposition;
  • treacherous Asiatics;
  • Shambala, AKA Shangri-La, AKA Eden; and
  • treacherous Asiatics. Yes, I know I mentioned it twice, but how often do you get to hear the phrase "treacherous Asiatics" these days, even in satire?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed today, against all expectations. I think I’ll go for a swim, then turn in for the evening, to drift away unto the Land of Nod.

A Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

1: Incidentally, on the subject of things both cakey and Christmassy, I have to quote the following passage from über-game designer Robin D Laws’ blog:

I am not too worried about the so-called War On Christmas, as trumped up by various FOX pundits. The holiday can take care of itself. Far more insidious is the War On Fruitcake. For too long has this noble seasonal dessert been maligned by the Liberal Media! Incessant joking about the indestructibility and infinite re-giftability of Christmas cake have poisoned an entire generation against this sublimely heavy, old-school treat. Have we become a nation of children, afraid of its profoundly paradoxical nature, of its simultaneous seriousness and overpowering sweetness? Have we lost our resolve as a people, that we quail in the face of a few booze-soaked glacee cherries? Our authenticity is at stake, when we pursue the crude surface charms of Hershey’s kisses and gummi Santas, yet turn up our noses at the stalwart fruitcake. We must draw a line in the sand against this anarcho-communist-fascist plot against all that is right and good. Oh, Bill O’Reilly, when will you awaken to the true nature of the threat?

2: Two of my cousins—brother and sister—can’t really be put in the same room together without trying to kill each other. Kylie usually does the Christmas thing in the morning and leaves around lunch; Tony stops by with the wife and kids for dinner. This is the way of things. It shall not be questioned.

3: Note to self: Must blog primer on my family politics.

4: Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but there is actually a subgenre of sci-fi called Futurism. It was part of the whole Futurist school of art, literature and architecture that grew up in the 1920s and 30s, and was popularised by Amazing Stories‘ founding editor, Hugo Gernsback. Think of it as conceptually pre-Steampunk, but chronologically post-; Futurism was invented long before Steampunk, but is set just a bit after. Sky Captain mentions, however, that it’s set after two World Wars, which puts it firmly in the Two-Fisted Pulp Science sub-subgenre, a la Red Alert or Gear Krieg. Speaking of the latter, I wouldn’t mind a game right now: "You vill tremble before ze might off mein azzembled Panzerkampfern! Ha! ha! you feeble Englander schweinhunde!" Tee hee.