The Nike Basketball Christmas Pack 2010-2015. An Overview.

What?! They have Christmas sneakers now? Yep. Kids these days. Seems like they could use some holiday opinion-ing.

Nike’s basketball branch has been releasing a “Christmas Pack” every year since 2010. Each of their “signature” athletes gets a Christmas colorway. From 2010, that’s been Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant. Though he had a “Christmas” colorway last year (actually more of a “PE,” or “player edition,” which saw formal release later in the year), Kyrie Irving wasn’t part of the 2014 marketing blitz. This year, he is.

Onto the reviews:

2010

sgsdg hgdshdh e
KD 3, Kobe 6, LeBron 8V2

Not much Christmas-y about the bright yellow (and now dated-looking) KD 3s, but the Kobe 6s are considered classics, and have been nicknamed the Kobe 6 “Grinchmas.” Red and white clearly get the point across on the LeBrons which really kicked off the mid-[sneaker]-career golden age for Lebron James (8 V2, 9, 10, 11), though the black mid-sole looks out of place and not very festive. Evaluating on just on a hit-or-miss ratio,  a weaker than it sounds: 2 out of 3.

Overall: ***

2011

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KD 4, LeBron 9, Kobe “System Supreme” 7

I’m never digging a strap on sneakers, but the usually under-used copper color on the KD 4 looks quite warm and, thus, Christmas-y. I wouldn’t say that copper is the warmest metal (hello, that’s nickel… duh). Again, LeBron James isn’t messing around: lots of red and green on the 9s, with a “frosty” (read: transparent blue-ish rubber) sole. Kobe Bryant is doing… that over there from that weird time period when Nike was using very thin flywire in the paneling itself instead of on or around the paneling (the LeBron 8 V2 is the same way. Look at the LeBron 11, below, for comparison). A stronger 2 out of 3 than 2010.

Overall: ***½

2012

LeBron 10, Kobe 8, KD 5
LeBron 10, Kobe 8, KD 5.

Look, the Kobes and KDs just… are. They’re neat, but not festive. BUT, those LeBron 10s with the metallic red with green laces and transparent green rubber; the full length max zoom air; the backwards swoosh (back when that was actually notable); the ruby-colored plastic support above the speckled mid-sole… Christmas! Let’s take a closer look:

nike-lebron-x-10-christmas-2012-541100-600-02

A REMARKABLY strong 1 out of 3.

Overall: **** on the strength of the LeBron 10 alone.

2013

Clockwise from left: KD 6, LeBron 11, Kobe 8
Clockwise from left: KD 6, LeBron 11, Kobe 8

The best of Nike’s Christmas packs so far; Kobe’s doing whatever he’s doing over there, so let’s ignore him while we focus on the others. Each deserves a deeper dive.

KD 6 – metallic red and mint green with gold accents. That’s “Christmas” with a capital “let’s all gather by the fire and sing Christmas carols.” Some finer points: the “KD” badge in the heel decorated with Christmas lights (!), the “snow” flecks on the green mid-sole, and the flannel pattern on the heel. Oh, wait, they also included an “ugly sweater” pattern in retroreflective (“3M”) ink on the medial side, so it only shows up if the light is just right.  Perfect. (though maybe so Christmas-y it may look out of place on December 27)

kd6-2 KD6-1

LeBron 11 – lots of green and snowy scenes to be found.

lb11-1

Overall: ****½ Kobe’s too good to be celebrating Christmas, I guess.

2014

2014
KD 7, Kobe 9 Elite, LeBron 12

Whoa! Three Christmas-themed sneakers in the “Christmas Pack” for once. Kevin Durant went with an “eggnog” theme with his. The strap is unfortunate, but it’s neat execution if you like your sneakers to be two-tone. The white of the front is actually an off-white, eggnog color. Kobe Bryant has a quite festive Christmas stocking theme that is executed nearly ideally (the black carbon fiber sticks out visually, but Nike wants the carbon fiber to look like carbon fiber). Finally LeBron James has a white birch tree printed pattern (think of birch bark). The ad copy is a bit… convenient “white birch like he saw when he was a kid in Akron!” or something like that, but it works. A big 3 for 3.

KD 7 detail:

kd7

Kobe 9 Elite detail:

K9

LeBron 12 detail:

LB2014

Overall: ****½ None are as nice as the Christmas-themed options in the 2013 pack, so a tie is in order.

2015

LeBron 13, Kyrie 2, KD 8, Kobe 10 Elite
LeBron 13, Kyrie 2, KD 8, Kobe 10 Elite

Nike’s theme this year is “Fire and Ice.” Notice two white and blue colorways (ICE!!!) and two black and red colorways (FIRE!!!). Of note is that the medial sides of the KDs and Kobes don’t match the lateral sides:

KD (this is the same pair of sneakers!). The medial is completely different. The speckled pattern on the mid-sole is supposed to be hot coals… hmm. Close enough.

KD8-1

Kobe: red on the medial side, black on the lateral side. Funky.

Kobe-2015

Somehow, white and blue are 2015’s “Christmas Colors.”

Some details of the LeBron 13 — brr! But some neat snow and ice details in the fabric:

lbj2015-2 lbj2015-1

And to give him some attention, here’s a close-up of the Kyrie 2 — eh, a lot of textures going on there. Good execution on both the “cold” and “snow monster with a taste for mammal blood” themes [check out that strap]:

kyrie

kyrie3

Despite the KD 8 and Kobe 10 being very cool (pun!) models, these colorways are not Christmas. I don’t love the whole blue and white thing, but it’s growing on me. A very weak 2 out of 4 hit to miss ratio.

Overall: **½ This isn’t a good year for the Christmas Pack. Sorry, Nike.

Here’s the Phillies 2012 Stars & Stripes Hat (Minus any Stars & Stripes)

2012
As has been the pattern since 2008, Major League Baseball will be using special hats for Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and September 11 as part of their “Stars & Stripes” program. Mixing the design up every year, they’re actually eschewing the namesake “stars and stripes,” replacing them with a digital camouflage pattern. (Let me say that I think it’s the Army’s “Universal Camouflage Program,” but military uniforms are outside my uniform wheelhouse. In terms of straight-up trivia, I’d give the designers lots of credit if the camouflage pattern for the Blue Jays followed one of Canada’s CADPAT designs or if the Padres used one of the US Marines’ patterns instead of what I assume is the US Army’s pattern, but it doesn’t look like either is the case.)

History

click to enlarge

This year, thankfully, MLB says they will donate “ALL NET PROCEEDS” from sales of the hat to the Welcome Back Veterans fund (previously, Kyle gave MLB heat for the shamelessness of contributing only $1 from a $37 MSRP item in order to play the “for the troops” card).

The Stars & Stripes hats are made in China, unlike the normal on-field New Era hats which are made by folks you’d normally see when there’s an aggressive Clint Eastwood voiceover talking about it being half-time or 7th Inning Stretch or Second Intermission in America. USA!

So… how do they look? In a word, ugly. Oddly, instead of just framing the camo pattern with the normal white of the “P,” they added an extra blue stroke on top of the white to frame the camo. Odd (and unnecessary). With just red and (generally green) camo, I’m stretching, but you get a nice “Christmas comes to Winter’s Bone” effect. Red+Blue+Camo? Nope. Looking through the rest of the league, they just look like dirty versions of the normal hats. Also, like the Phillies, other teams, such as the Blue Jays, have gotten vestigial strokes added to the design for some reason. 

For some positivity, a detail I’ve always liked on the Stars & Stripes hats is that they also drop-in the pattern in the “batterman” logo on the back of the hats, and they’ve continued that this year.

Looking at the Phillies hats since 2008,  the 2009 hat is the best (being that it looks just like the normal hat, minus the red button on top) with the navy blue 2008 as runner-up. 2010 is hideous and 2011 looks missed the retro fad by about 4 years. For those interested in such things, the 2009/10/11 versions are easily found on ebay, but the 2008 hats are extremely rare (as in there hasn’t been one on ebay in either hat size I can wear in the last 3 years). Last season,  I offered a middle aged man at a Phillies game $60 for the one he had one his head, and he even knew not to sell it. I am not proud of any part of this anecdote…

Anyone out there planning on buying one of these? If so, you can line Kyle’s pockets by clicking this link to purchase.

Pictures via lids.com and the very cool, but not-updated-since-2o1o Fittedelphia, which chronicles Phillies hats made by New Era.

**

UniDiction 2011: Week 16 – Eagles vs. Cowboys and Week 15 Round-Up

follow me on twitter (@dancfuller)

Again, the Eagles one, I won. Good deal.

Week 15 Round-Up

Throwback_7A little more uniform action in Week 15 than we’ve seen in a while. The Chargers wore their powder blue throwbacks, which are better than the normal Chargers uniforms, but like some of the other (loud) throwbacks (Bucs, I’m looking at you), they’re best as a “two games per year” sort of combo.

Red_red_2The Cardinals wore solid red again (three weeks in a row). Repeating myself, these look awful, though the red pants mean that the rare, trivia-riffic white over red combo may yet make an appearance.

 

Throwback_2Finally, the Rams, the team with a bajillion uniform combos (and that actually pretty much all of them, unlike the Titans), brought out their throwbacks last week. They’re nice, but loud enough that they’re best as a (say it with me) “twice a year kind of alternate.”

 

Week 16 UniDiction – Cowboys vs. Eagles

Of course, this game will be visual deja vu to week 8, as the Cowboys are a White at Home team. Of course, I hadn’t unveiled my snazzy new UniDiction format back then, so I’ll let the picture speak for itself. Even though I dislike (hate?) the Cowboys, I have to begrudgingly admit their uniforms are pretty nice.

Week16

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Cowboys blue uniform set is almost completely incongruous with their normal white uniform set, and I’ll gladly point out the issues at great detail below.

Comparison

The Eagles will be in their best combo, green over white, which is a 22 point sort of uniform.

I’ll also point out that games like this are the reason it’s stupid that the Eagles chose not to wear an alternate jersey this year (whether black or last year’s throwback). It’s like they’re not interested in making money.

Predicted Score

Cowboys 18

Eagles 22

Merry Christmas! (for the record, I’m not above commentary on Santa Claus’ uniform if there’s a desire from the readership….ha!)

****

A pretty good-looking football game, as usual between these teams.

Kraft Jet-Puffed StackerMallows

In the long-standing tradition of foodstuffs that have been created just so that someone can write “new” on the label, and people can have the illusion of convenience (but in most cases are just pure stupidity), comes Kraft’s new Jet-Puffed Stacker Mallows.

When someone tries to create something new that is designed to have an easier functionality than what is currently available, he must first identify what the problem is with the way that a product or service currently exists or operates. In some cases, where there isn’t much of a problem, but companies are looking to sell something, they can find the tiniest inconveniences and blow them up to ridiculous proportions.

In this particular case, Jet-Puffed has decided that putting marshmallows on a S’more is too difficult a task to accomplish due to the fact that they are ROUND, and stacking a flat object is much much easier. While I can’t argue with this logic, and their attempt to solve this problem is understandable (even though YOUNG KIDS have been able to accomplish S’more making for FOR-EVVV-ERRR), what they’ve come up with is completely underwhelming.

What would you think of if asked to imagine a marshmallow with flat sides? This thing that looks like tofu floating in hot chocolate? This disturbing image? Heck, even the fictional Stay Puft brand actually makes square marshmallows (or at least the omniconsumercorportaion does). Alas, no, THIS is what they came up with.

 

This is what marshmallows look like when stepped on. You want to eat a stepped-on marshmallow?

It’s not that hard to make square marshmallows. And it probably would be easier to make them on an assembly line than round ones anyway: just make a large mallow sheet and have a grid come down to cut it into squares. What Jet-Puffed seems to have effectively done here is take their regular marshmallows and put them through some kind of press, squeezing all of the air out and leaving their product a rubbery tile of something or other. Even worse, the increased surface area to volume ratio means that there is much more of the confectioners sugar-type coating that is aimed to prevent the marshmallow from sticking. This, in turn, dries out your mouth and leaves a gritty residue inside of it. It is not an appealing taste sensation.

But that’s raw. Mallows could also be eaten in a molten state, roasted over a fire or microwaved. How would they fare this way? Well, as far as roasting them goes, it would be nearly impossible to put one of these on a stick and hold it over a fire. The thinness would give them little or no support on the stick and they would fall off, on the dirty ground, leaving your kid in state of sadness worse than this stupid kid or even this. Do you really want to be the guy who makes the mets miss the postseason because of flat marshmallows and dead Santas? I didn’t think so.

But how exactly ARE stackermallows effective? On the back, three “recipes” to make S’mores are listed: Microwave (which this seems to be made exactly for), a toaster oven (which i guess could work)… or wrapping a pre-made s’more in foil and putting it on a grill. How is that last one easier or more fun than this? And even with the microwave or toaster oven option, they’re missing the most important part: regular marshmallows have flat tops and bottoms that allow them to stand on their ends on the s’more as they currently are. They’ve completely made up this stackability problem and are trying to sell you something completely unnecessary, re-inventing the wheel, almost literally.

Basically what I’m saying is that Jet-Puffed ruined my childhood and owes me an apology*.

*not really

Kraft Jet-Puffed Stacker Mallows get 0 stars for basically being flat, rubbery, smushed, airless, grainy tablets trying to pass as marshmallows. Jet-Puffed is trying to sell a fallacy that making S’mores is difficult and their product makes that process simpler, when in reality, it probably is no easier. In addition, they deprive you of one of the biggest joys of eating marshmallows, roasing them over a fire, and then sticking the flaming wad of sugar in your sibling’s face.

Z2K9 — The Day the Music Froze During the Loading Screen

Update 1/1/2009: All better. The thing “fixed” itself. I was this close to composing a strongly worded letter written under only natural light.

In the time between beginning this post and finishing it, it looks like Microsoft formally announced a solution to the issue, the always exciting “it’ll fix itself tomorrow.” Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that I want to listen to my party mix now. Anyway, um, enjoy the increasingly less relevant post below.

I’ve stood by my MP3 player for more than one-and-a-half years. The 30GB Zune isn’t the prettiest, thinnest, or most useful MP3 player, but I like what it does and how it does it. I spent a lot of time getting the video compression settings “just right,” and I didn’t need to purchase wrist weights to “maximize” my runs. I’ve gotten used to people confusing it with a dumbbell but I have never had the “I think someone stole my mp3 player,” panic because I know my husky baby isn’t going anywhere, if only because it would be a real burden for a potential thief if he or she needed to scale a fence.

My previous MP3 player, the geek approved Rio Karma served me just fine (though a few minor repairs) from 2003-2007, at which point it started turning into “computer junk,” component by component, necessitating a new player. Microsoft’s been good about updating the original, 30GB, player even though it’s now one-and-a-half generations old. I can’t argue with that, and the free Zune Software/Music Player is actually a program I’d whole-heartedly recommend to anyone, whether he owns a Zune or not. Everything was going swimmingly – the only real issues I had were occasional freezes (which disappeared with the latest 3.1 firmware) and a totally buff right bicep. This morning, I saw that one of the “tech news” websites I visit was reporting “Hundreds of 30GB Zune Players Fail Across the Country.” I have one of those. Uh-oh.

zune crash
Probably not the sort of top 10 list for which they hoped.

Skimming the article, I saw that the problems started around midnight PST last night, and most users experienced the freeze as their greeting as they turned on the device this morning. Of course, I still hadn’t turned it on, but I was watching The Matrix last night, and needless to say, perhaps the computer gods were not happy at the ending (with Neo’s bring the physical virtual and verbal smackdown to computer program) and were taking their vengeance. Being that guy, I decided I wanted to see the crash myself so I could poke around at it. Well, I succeeded in seeing it crash/freeze, but that was about all she wrote. Apparently, one can disassemble the player, change the computer calendar to any date but 12/31/08, unplug and replug the battery, then reassemble and use it just fine with no issues, but I decided I was done losing tiny screws when I decided the Rio Karma wasn’t worth fixing.

For a device considered not very popular, the news certainly got around. CNN posted a front page link (below “the fold,” though) to a brief writeup. (Now, to the doubters’ credit, the time between Christmas and New Years is ridiculously slow for the news.)

In terms of why it crashed, December 31, 2008 is the 366th day of the year. Odds are it has something to do with something in the software planning on each year being 365 days. Not the most exciting bug, but an easy one to forget to check for. Of course it could be an ugly coincidence, but Occam’s Razor, people.

I was going to write here about how it could be a challenging bug to fix because the devices didn’t even get to the point where the firmware updates can be initiated and it could be a support disaster, but being that the darn thing will apparently fix itself, I’ll spare the words. (Note to Microsoft employees: I have no idea if that little spiel back there about “doesn’t even get to the point where the firmware updates can be initiated” is even remotely accurate. I’m just counting on all 7 of the readers of this site nodding their heads and saying, “that Dan. He knows about computers.”)

Star Rating is pending the results of tomorrow’s self-update, but let’s not jump to any conclusions.

**

Two stars – nice it sort of fixed itself, not so nice that I actually had to say, “well, I have that song on my MP3 player, but unfortunately, it’s not going to work until noon tomorrow.”

BUT, I have seen some pretty good overly dramatic names for the “situation”: Z2K, Z2K9, ZUNEPOCOLYPSE. I guess give credit for the “social” for making enough noise the problem to be seen in more places than just some isolated support forums.

Of course, none of the postings made any mention of Judgment Day or this being Skynet’s first move, so I’m not completely impressed. That said, in terms of a future where our ground up brains might be used to fuel Gregorian Calendar does help me sleep better at night.

2006-07 Academy Awards Nominations


This year, the movie that I chose to not see, but still complain about is “Dreamgirls”, a movie that wasn’t even nominated for best picture… and I’m not really even complaining about it… which makes me feel real strange.

The academy awards nominations came out this morning. And for some reason I decided that I don’t really care this year. It’s weird because I don’t know why. In fact, I wrote most of this review on Sunday, before they were even announced. I’ve become jaded to the whole celebrity scene this year, and I’ve stopped seeing this show as an affirmation that the movies that I enjoyed over the past year are good, and more as a means of keeping up the guise of celebrity importance. (review of the near future: celebrity feuds)

Maybe it was seeing people argue about which movies deserved which awards the way I used to, and thinking, “Wow, do these guys see how completely stupid they look, rooting for something that they think they have partial ownership in, just because they kinda liked it? Did I look that stupid, phony, and in over my head when I was complaining about how undervalued “The Man who Wasn’t There” was, or how that ridiculous “THEY MAKE THE RAIN AND SAY IT’S RAINING!!!” rant from Cold Mountain won good ole squinty-eyed Renee Zellweger her academy award? Well, chances are I did for the last one, because I totally used to do an impression of that was intentionally unintentionally hi-larious, and which has since failed the test of time, seeing as how nobody even remembers the movie a mere two years later. This also goes to show the unimportance of these awards, because I highly doubt that all the people that argue about these sort of things could even tell me without looking it up, who hosted the 2001 awards (held in 2002), let alone who won best actor and actress. Whoopi Goldberg hosted by the by, and I don’t even think I could tell you what movie won best picture ( Chicago maybe?) let alone the acting awards. The only reason I remember Whoopi is because my friends and I were watching in a TV lounge filled with people who actually thought she was funny. We couldn’t take it and ended up leaving in a huff. That’s beside the point.

All this is not to say that I’m not going to look and see who’s nominated or who wins. I’ll probably even watch the show. But at this moment, writing this review, do I think it’s worth having an Oscar “party” or doing an awards pool (in which I have participated numerous times)? Not really. Do I find that a little disheartening? Of course I do. Three years ago at this time, I was in the center of celebrity culture. I was in the bleachers for the Screen Actor’s Guild red carpet. I stood by the limo security checkpoint at the Golden Globes to get a glimpse of anybody relatively famous. I can’t say for sure if I would do it again. Maybe just to say I did it. Then again, I never really got “star-struck” to begin with. Most of the pictures I took of people were either for bragging rights, or because I knew friends might want them. But still, even the following year I went in on an Oscar pool.

What’s my point in all this? I’m not quite sure. All I know is that at this specific minute of this specific day, I’m thinking to myself “Don’t we have enough other things to be interested in or worry about than awards for millionaires (I know that the tech award winners are mostly non-millionaires, and the people who make the shorts and documentaries are probably even less well-off) we’ve never met and mostly think they’re better than us anyway?” I suppose you could argue the same of sports, but to me the difference is that football and baseball are designed to be competitions, and film isn’t, or at least shouldn’t. Why should it matter to us if a movie we like wins an award? Shouldn’t liking it be enough? Maybe it’s the validation that comes with being behind something that is regarded by professionals to be the best. Maybe it’s the ability to say to our friends “I totally knew Marcia Gay Harden was gonna win for Pollack, even though I’ve never even heard of the movie because it sounds boring and was only playing in 8 cities”, thereby coming off as knowledgeable, even though you just got lucky or read a newspaper article. Maybe it’s just that feeling that you know a lot about a subject, even if you really don’t, but just know a little bit more than your friends. Besides, ten years from now, “Saving Private Ryan” will be remembered even though it lost to the completely forgettable “Shakespeare in Love”, which was lauded by the pretentious set.

This pretentiousness is something that the Oscars and other awards do spur on, and I guess this is where my whole complaint starts. Soon enough, the debates will rage over which arthouse movie that nobody was able to see was more overrated, which one deserves more attention etc. And all these people will be arguing over the fact that we love a movie that we haven’t even seen, just because of the talent attached to it. And that “you’re” (the royal “you”) stupid and less important because you’ve never even heard of it. And that’s just wrong. I really don’t want to do that again. (Update: I was flipping through the morning shows today to see if anyone was talking about the noms, just to prove my case, and the new FOX morning show had on their two Oscar Experts… two women who looked to be a mere few years older than I am. Of course there were raving about how great Helen Mirren was in “The Queen”… and to make matters worse, the audience erupted in applause. Now, you have to be sure that in this situation, maybe 25 percent of the audience at most has seen this movie, and the rest are either being egged on by the stage manager/audience warm-up guy, or just don’t want to seem like they don’t know anything about anything. Strangely enough, I’m looking at the box-office tallies for this weekend, and “The Queen” is actually playing in more theaters than “Children of Men”, “Alpha Dog”, and “The Good Shepherd”.)

And maybe I’m upset that somehow I’ve grown to see something that I used to see as the Holy Grail of Film-making achievement now as a way to sell movies that otherwise wouldn’t have an audience. I mean, would anyone have gone to see “The Last King of Scotland” otherwise? It’s all part of the self-promoting hype machine, and I don’t know if I’m still down with that. Maybe in a case like this, yes, but that silly red carpet image stuff always seems to undermine the gravitas of the “talent-based” awards.

As for the specific nominations themselves, they seem generally fine across the board, as far as the movies that I’ve gone to see, and those are really all that I can discuss.

**

The 2006-07 Academy Awards Nominations get two stars for being a way to generally promote smaller, higher-quality movies. As far as awards competition goes, I’m not really a fan of how devisive it makes people, including myself, about movies we like, versus ones we aren’t planning on seeing, but dislike just for the sake of it . As far as this year’s specific award nominees go, I’ve got no major complaints, other than the lack of “Children of Men”, but I can live without it, knowing how the voting process, and awards campaigning go. Oh… and the fact that THREE freakin songs from Dreamgirls are nominated…. now that’s something genuine to dislike… but still, does it really matter?

16 Favorite TV Moments of the Year


“Remember the time when somebody put a big yellow bullseye in the middle of our living room?”

Alton Brown’s Feasting on Asphalt– Alton Brown is a certifiable genius. Just watch any episode of Good Eats . I feel smarter every time I watch his show, so to combine that knowledge with a wonderfully-shot and incredibly interesting motorcycle trek across the backroads of America in search of local specialties is extremely compelling, especially in the last episode when Brown suffers a broken collarbone in a nasty wipeout in the Nevada desert.

Craig Ferguson interviews Lauren Graham ” I’ve lost my love for Conan O’Brien’s show for some reason. Not that it’s not a good show, I just can’t take it every night of the week. He just seems too wooden and it’s like he’s always forcing his conversations with the guests. Craig Ferguson however is naturally funny and conversational, even if nowhere near as slickly-produced. The opening monologues are probably the most obvious example of the difference, with Ferguson’s stream of consciousness rant, as opposed to Conan’s formulaic one line setup followed by one line punchline. Anyway, this interview is the best example I’ve seen of why Ferguson ‘s show has become more entertaining, even if the production values are about one-tenth of Conan’s.

Tim Russert interviews Barrack Obama on “The Tim Russert Show”” An hour and a half with the biggest “rock star” in politics, and probably the most universally admired since Kennedy (maybe?)” interviewed by Tim Russert? How can it go wrong?

Red Sox win the World Series on LOST– With all the Red Sox won the World Series. Way back in the first season, Jack had explained that his dad had always said the Red Sox would never win a championship, as a way of saying that things could never change because fate ruled everything. Henry knew Jack wouldn’t believe him, so he played the footage of Joe Buck calling the last out of the final game. In addition to proving that the “others” have contact with the outside world, this is incredibly important as to Jack’s outlook on the world, and watching this magical sports moment (one from another network, no less) again just gave me goosebumps.

Edgar Dies on 24– In a year where killing off characters for ratings has become vogue (something that 24 managed to do countless times), this one is probably the second most shocking and well-done. (no, I’m not talking about the LOST deaths, see below). Granted, the guy who played Edgar had a clunky acting style, but the network handled it without blowing the surprise (something that promotions departments have forgotten how to do lately…. cough, cough, Heroes…cough), and it was emotionally resonant. The problem with it, like with all things that happen on 24, is that four weeks later in our time, it’s only four hours later on the show, and while we’ve totally put the death behind us, the people on the show shouldn’t have, but do, even though it’s not realistic”. Not that anything else on the show is realistic.

Zayra Performs on Rockstar:Supernova– I couldn’t decide whether to put this in the good section or the bad one, so I did both. I wrote about her in my review of Rockstar:Supernova, and placed video links in my worst 15 moments list. Just incredibly strange, yet compelling television.

Claire wakes up on the morgue table on Heroes– On a show known for its shocking endings, this was the best. A character who can heal herself fell and landed on some spike or something, and died temporarily. At the end of the episode, somebody takes the spike out of her head and walks away. Her eyes open up and the camera pulls out to reveal that she’s on the autopsy table with her chest cavity wide open. Great visual, and stunning end to an otherwise mediocre episode.

The Office- Jim kisses PamAfter more than a year of building to it, it was the moment we all were waiting for. This season, however, even though they handled the post-kiss stuff well, I find myself rooting for the other girl instead of Pam.

Lem Dies on The Shield– the single best death on TV this year. Hands down. Under investigation by the Internal Affairs Dept. and the crazy/awesome Forest Whittaker, one of Michael Chiklis’ team members goes into hiding, and eventually meets his tragic end. I won’t spoil how, but suffice it to say, Vic Mackey is gonna be on a rampage this season.

Colbert interviews Washington D.C. representative– Stephen Colbert interviews the D.C. congressional representative and proceeds to tell her that D.C. doesn’t count because it’s the United STATES of America . This segment is a fantastic example of how quick and brilliant Colbert is, and what makes this show so great.

30 Days goes to Mexico and India– The only socially conscious reality show out there (I don’t give credence to the manipulative Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), one episode had a border patrolling minuteman live with a family of immigrants. At one point he went to Mexico , to see where the family “lived” before they moved. Neither side was unlikable, and they both learned from each other and created a fantastic friendship. In another episode, a laid-off telemarketer travels to India to work there for a month. What makes this episode so unique is that they were there during the riots that ensued when an extremely popular actor died, a big story that nobody reported here in the states.

Fear Factor is cancelled ” the most despicable show on TV (aside from Nancy Grace) finally saw the end of its run. Don’t fear, you fans of people eating horse anuses; you can still watch it in syndication somewhere.

Bill O’Reilly town hall on Oprah-It’s interesting to see Bill O’Reilly in an environment where he’s not just yelling at everyone, and where people aren’t rightfully attacking him. Intelligent discourse is absent from his FOX NEWS show, and he’s always calm and on the defensive when on Letterman, but can barely get a word in edgewise. When put in a townhall setting on Oprah (there were actually men in the audience), he actually had a few valid points, as did the audience members who disagreed, but most of the time it didn’t devolve to a shouting match. I think that’s because when he’s out of his element (“on the attack” on his show) he knows that the best way to come out of an interview is to be low-key and let the other people look like idiots for their unwavering attacks on him. He’s still a blowhard and sees everything in black-and-white, but it was actually interesting to see people in her audience (and not elite and/or trailertrash white people) agreeing and defending him against others in intelligent ways.

Scrubs”- “My Lunch I was gonna put the “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom” episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, but then I remembered that my favorite episode of “Scrubs” aired this year. As a testament to how good this episode was, it has the highest amount of reviews of any “Scrubs” episode, on tv.com, and the second highest overall rating. The end of this episode just floored me, and it makes me wonder even more how John C. McGinley has never gotten ANY award nominations for the show.

Grammy Performances– Absolutely stunning performances at this years Grammys. From a brooding Springsteen, to Mary J. Blige somehow upstaging Bono in their duet, to Christina Aguelera proving why Britney will never be number one, the Grammy Awards managed to deliver the musical moments once again”. If we forget the awkwardness of seeing Paul McCartney perform with Linkin Park and Jay-Z.

South Park Cartoon Wars– South Park shows why it’s the best and smartest animated program on TV. In a forty-minute span, the show takes on Family Guy’s writing, the Muslims who got pissed off at those cartoons from Denmark, the people who got pissed off at the Terrence and Phillip special from 1998, the networks’ refusal to air anything that might offend somebody, the Hollywood types, the people who like family guy, and the fact that Bart Simpson used to be considered “edgy”. And they do it all with a completely organic story, and characters that react as they normally would in the situation. Oh” and manatees.

The 2006 Fuller Christmas Letter

Look, we have a new design! If there are any issues with this new layout, please (please, please) leave a comment so I can fix it. It looks fine on my computer, but maybe it doesn’t on yours. Please let us know what you think – Positive, Negative, Who Cares – in the comments section for this review.

What with my mom using a computer relatively regularly these days, she’s made a habit of writing a Christmas letter every year to stuff into Christmas cards. I’ve long been on the record about the, well, “impersonal-ness” of Christmas card letters, but at the end of the day, is a general letter any more impersonal than the simple signatures at the bottom of any Christmas card? Eh, not really. Two (three? – maybe four? – god, I’m old) years ago, I actually made a deal with my mom that I would write the letter for the cards, mainly because I had complained about the content in years past. She sent my letter out indiscriminately with the cards, so I’m sure that my tale of how my brother had become an unsuccessful comic artist/writer probably fell upon many a “not getting the joke” ear. Anyway, that’s in the past, so here we are at 2006’s letter.

Nate still hates Christmas.

First, let it be known that I don’t feel bad reviewing my mom’s letter – as my mother, she should expect no less from me. Whatever the star rating I assign, she should simply say, “well, that’s Dan for ya.” In her defense, this the first year that both my brother and I have been completely out of her hair, both having completely moved out years and (almost) a year ago.

On to the letter (note: my comments are in pop-ins, so be sure to hover over what look to be links):

MERRY CHRISTMAS – HAPPY, HEALTHY 2007

The usual busy-ness has overtaken our lives despite our empty nest. Gordon’s mother passed away in Wilmington in March after her 16+ year siege of dementia or Alzheimer’s. It took about 4 months to know that working weekends & holidays were no longer for me, as much as I enjoyed it. Our business and my new (in August) Nursery School director/ teacher position, trying to rebuild the program, at our nearby church, Mon.-Fri., and painting our new kitchen trim/doors/walls keep me hopping. Sept. & Oct. were crazy with 3 part-time jobs. I left the organist position 10/31.

We celebrated 3 November weekends by going to the Delaware shore – visiting relatives, to Gordon’s take-in father, now 90, in So. N.J., and to Longwood Gardens!

Our business went through a few slower months again this year, but Gordon keeps busy. We were fortunate to have work, while other shops were extremely slow or dead. We’re dinosaurs. Dealerships, as you know, give huge, extended warranties on new vehicles. There are dealer-only repairs due to technological restrictions. The trend is for repair information to be restricted or unavailable- e.g. our ’97 Volvo wagon.

Brian and Beth are fine, in Oxford (near the very recent Amish one-room schoolhouse tragic shooting). She’s made a great recovery from thyroid cancer surgery/treatment, enjoying her new, administrative job with the same hospice. Brian, a Nationwide Ins. senior claims adjuster, is in Chester County, also. We plan to see more of them on our weekends! Brian and Dan live 40 minutes apart.

Dan lives in Media, an hour+ away from us, and is a project manager for LaFrance Corp., Concordville, PA. He works in its factory in China, a 45 minute ferry ride from Hong Kong, a few times a year for a few weeks. Interesting work, but definitely a company city in a ‘third world’ area, he says. After five VERY hot, humid summer weeks, he preferred his three weeks during a very warm, not-so-humid fall. He and his high school friends premiered their new movie, Franklin II, this Saturday night at a church in Bethlehem. They have a good time. It’s not serious movie-making, but with serious production values, I guess. His website is emptybookshelf.com.

Come see our kitchen some time. Primer White (2 coats on walls & trim, which our 2nd contractor custom-made to cover #1’s mistakes takes time!) is looking pretty good. But that’s another story. The year of our totally incompetent contractor-thief is over! I’m jealous of all you handypeople!!

Sorry to be late, but the best to you in 2007!

Love,
Peggy and Gordon

end of letter
***

The 2006 Fuller Christmas Letter receives three stars. There was nothing patently untrue or unnecessarily subjective in it, though the details which make my life more difficult (such as the whole putting the ‘works in China’ part before ‘for a few weeks each year’) makes my Christmas season filled with too many conversations that start with “So, Dan, I hear you’re in China most of the year” then me following with, “well, I’m there less than two months per year…I’m in the US most of the year.” Minor grammatical quibbles aside, it provided a fair update of the Fullers for 2006AD.

I’ve never been known for my punctuality, so I cannot deduct any points for the fact that the cards will be going out during Epiphany instead of Advent/Christmas.

15 Favorite Sports Moments of the Year


You know, if we would’ve sent Sacha BARON Cohen instead, he probably wouldn’t have fallen.

Indy-Pittsburgh Divisional playoff game-Most exciting football game of the year. With the Steelers threatening to put the game away with under two minutes left, (after a disputed non-interception call, an Indy touchdown to put the game within three, and Peyton Manning getting sacked on his own three-yard line on fourth down) Jerome Bettis fumbles at the Indy 1-yard-line. Indy recovers and the guy runs halfway down the field. He’s beaten everyone except Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger who’s run diagonally across the field to tackle the guy returning it, whose wife stabbed him in the leg the night before. With 17 seconds left, Mike Vanederjagt misses a 46 yard field goal which would’ve tied it. Pittsburgh goes on to win the superbowl.

Endy Chavez catch– Game seven of the Divisional series. Tie Score. Shea Stadium. Mets outfielder Endy Chavez goes back to save the game and makes the catch of the yea,r 3 feet over the fence to rob Scott Rolen of a two-run home run for the lead. If the Mets would have won that game, it would go down in the history books.

Tigers beat the Yankees– the underdog team with less than half the payroll dominates the Yankees, sending them home. The best part is Kenny Rogers (not that one) on top of the dugout spraying the crowd with champaign.

U.S. women’s curling team– I watched a TON of curling during the Winter Olympics. I know, I know” it’s boring. Well it can be, but it was always on, and I grew attached to the U.S. women’s team.

Ryan Howard hits 3 home runs in a game– MVP Ryan Howard carries his team to victory with 3 home runs and 8 RBIs in a game. Also of note is the Home Run Derby contest, where he demolished the competition in the last round, and finished by hitting the “hit it here” sign.

Dodgers hit 4 home runs to tie and one in extras to win– Surging into the playoffs, The Dodgers were losing in the bottom of the ninth, until back-to-back-to-back-to-back homeruns tied the game. In the 10th inning, San Diego was up by one run, until Nomar Garciaparra hit the game winning home run.

Travis Pastrana Motocross double backflip at X-games- I don’t usually watch the X-games, but it was on when I was working one night and I caught a ridiculous maneuver. As his competitors watched, rooting him on, Travis pulled off a motocross double backflip, something that’s never been done, and could’ve killed him.

Vince Young beats USC– In the College National Title Game, Vince Young singlehandedly beats the top-ranked team in the country (one with two heisman winners on it) on a fourth down with 18 seconds left by scrambling to the end zone.

UCLA beats USC– Arch-rival UCLA upsets top-ranked USC to block the University of Spoiled Children Trojans from making a third national title game in a row.

Miami beats Chicago Bears– The Miami Dolphins, a 2-6 team, and the franchise with the only unbeaten season in history faces off against the 8-0 Chicago Bears and comes up with a win. Only in the NFL.

World Baseball Classic begins– After Baseball was discontinued from the Olympics for some inane reason, Bud Selig and some other people created a once every four years world tournament. Bravo.

Kobe scores 81– Despite the fact that I’m not the biggest basketball follower, scoring 81 points in a game is a totally insane achievement.

Tiger hits a bogey off a roof– In a classic display of why he’s the greatest, Tiger Woods totally screwed up off the tee and hit the ball onto the roof of a nearby building. The placed the ball on the ground by the building, but still far off the course. To finish only one stroke over par’s a strong achievement.

Agassi plays two classics at U.S. open before retiring– In his last tournament ever, Agassi gives us an unbelievably intense 5 set match, and then goes out in a tough four in the next round. I don’t watch a lot of tennis, but that five-set match was as captivating as anything I’ve ever seen. What made it all the more dramatic was that if he lost, his career was over. And when it finally was, he went out like a pro.

World Cup game– While the Finals game was great and intense (being decided by penalty kicks, and France’s star Zidane headbutting that guy, and the Australian team came out of nowhere to advance to the second round, I think that the U.S.-France game was my personal favorite. The U.S. team lost its first game and looked terrible, but in their second game they managed to tie the second place France team that won all of its other games, save the Finals. Granted, the goal that U.S.A. scored was actually an “own goal” from the France team, but they played most of the game with only nine people. A valiant display from an overall underacheiving team.

15 Least Favorite TV Moments of the Year

The first in a series of end of the year lists. Sorry for no star ratings, but all of these would fall between zero and one star.


“Are you aware that we have a sketch about Commedia dell’arte?”
“Sure. I love the works of Moliere and his contemporaries”
“Since most of them aren’t familiar with 17th Century French theatre, we should maybe do something our audience might actually enjoy, or find funny?”
“It’s Italian, and you know, you should really stop dangling your modifiers like that”
“HAHAHAHAHAHA. You’re an hilarious writer who is a thinly veiled representation of our show’s creator.”
“God I hate reality shows.”

Runners up:

Fox cancels ‘Arrested Development’
– Granted the ratings were bad, and viewership was leaking due to mishandled promotions/timeslots and the overall nature of the show, but it was still sad to see it go.

Oprah making a big deal over the fact that that guy’s memoir wasn’t real, even though it still was an inspirational story.

Megan Mullally upstages Meat Loaf – Megan Mullally has a talk show… a really annoying one, and when Meat Loaf came on to perform from ‘Bat Out of Hell 3’, she had to jump in and sing the last part of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” with him. If it was anyone else, it might not have seemed that bad, but she did it in a way that screamed “it’s all about me!”. Talk shows should be about making your guest look interesting, not feeding your huge ego. It just came off as incredibly awkward.

The finalists… in no particular order.

‘My Super Sweet 16’– The new king of hated television. Why should I watch rich, obnoxious people demand things of their parents in a manner worse than Veruca Salt? Because I’m supposed to root against them? It doesn’t seem that way, instead encouraging kids to be ungrateful and rude.

Nancy Grace– Any single show will do, but I’d go with the one where she accused someone of killing their own child during an interview (Nancy accused her during the interview; she didn’t kill the kid during it), leading the woman to shoot herself. Way to go Nancy . You inadvertently killed someone.

Gwen Stefani performs at A.M.A.s ” From the moment they said she would be debuting her new hit, I knew there was gonna be trouble. Sure enough, there was yodeling, there were Asian girls in lederhosen with blonde wigs, there were sheep. Completely strange, and completely awful.

Chevy Chase on ‘Law and Order’ RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES!! Chevy Chase plays a washed-up star of some sort who gets arrested for killing a Jewish person. The writing is awful, the story was awful, and even the acting was atrocious. Not only that but it made the Mel Gibson story out to be a lot more than it actually was.

Connie Chung Goodbye Song– Connie Chung and Maury Povich apparently had a show together. Take a guess how long it lasted. On her last show, she got up on top of a piano like a lounge singer and began to wail (and I mean wail) out a rendition of ‘thanks for the memories’. It became a moderate internet phenomenon because of how awful it was.

Any episode of ‘The War At Home’
– Just plain awful” they took Arrested Development off for this?

Roger Daltry as the Makeup Killer on ‘CSI’– On thanksgiving night, I watched CSI for the first” and hopefully last, time. Roger Daltry played a mobster who these four guys thought was dead. Then years later he got his revenge on them by dressing up in fat suits and disguising himself as women in order to kill them. Not sure why one of the greatest frontmen in rock history would decide to do this, but I guess the royalty checks he gets for them using his songs is probably a good bet.

‘Celebrity Duets’– Take ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and mix it with ‘American Idol’. What do you get? This craptacular hour of awful celebs singing awfully was thankfully over after only a few weeks. I guess that’s what you get when your judges are Marie Osmond and Little Richard

Tony dies on ’24’– Unlike Edgar’s death, this one was handled incredibly poorly. Tony was the only character besides Jack Bauer left from the first season. He was universally loved by this point, as Jack’s right-hand-man. He spent half the season unconscious and then he gets up to try and kill the man who killed his wife. He lets up for national security reasons, and gets stabbed with a hypodermic needle of death. He falls over dead, and nobody mentions him ever again. Completely unnecessary, not as dramatic as it should’ve been, and ambiguous to the point where the audience doesn’t even think he’s dead. Why keep him alive but unconscious for all those episodes if you’re just going to kill him as soon as he wakes up?

Zayra on ‘Rockstar: Supernova’
” Strange vocals from someone who wants to be a rock star. I can’t believe the producers picked her over someone more qualified, even though she makes for great, yet horrible TV.

‘Studio 60’ tells us we’re idiots
” It seems like every week, ‘Studio 60’ is talking down to the mainstream public and treating Hollywood like the be-all-and end-all of civilization. I’ve been to California . People there aren’t all that smart.

Dane Cook returns to ‘SNL’
– If you didn’t think his first time (a mere months earlier) hosting the show was funny, you won’t be surprised at the results of this show. Another long “stand-up” set as his monologue, more gay voices, and one of the worst sketches I’ve ever seen. It went so far as to try to explain away it’s awfulness at the end, with a self-aware “lantern“, but that’s like using a suction pump to stop the bleeding.

‘Seventh Heaven’ returns from the dead
– it was finally cancelled. That awful show about the perfect and huge family with a one-parent income”. Until the CW executives saw the ratings for the series finale. Now, with almost the entire original cast having moved on, the Camdens have 4 random street-teens living with them for some reason. Just have the second series finale already.

WWE; Degeneration X drops feces on the McMahons– Wrestling fans have dealt with a lot of crap (no pun intended): The Katie Vick Story, The Gay Wedding Story, Al Wilson, Eugene, Paternity in a suitcase Ladder Match” but dumping a pile of feces on the boss’ family tops everything. When people ask me how I can defend that, I have no answer.

‘High School Musical’– The biggest phenomenon in all of TV this year saw awful acting and writing manage to hypnotize “tweens” everywhere into making the soundtrack the year’s top-selling CD. Every time it airs, it’s in the top 20 cable shows of the week, even though these people have seen it 20 times each.