Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas Tale, Sweaters, & Porgs

I sat down to write a real blog post the other day and realized that I don't really do that anymore.  Anything I have to say is easier (and more profitable, thanks to a couple of messed-up fans of the Dunesteef) to just record and insert in a podcast somewhere down the line.  In fact, I have at least two little rants that I recorded and await use in an episode that runs short (which seems unlikely, considering the last three shows I've edited have all run long).

But I'll try one more time, though I am tempted to just turn on my microphone and spend the next twenty minutes on the post (since typing it will certainly take longer, and I can't do something else while I'm writing).

Traditionally, my family has always gotten together for a Christmas party at a member of my mother's side's house (the Mexican side) and ate posole* and exchanged white elephant gifts as a get-together, and we've done it since I was a little boy and my grandmother Tita was alive (although in her day, she preferred to make tamales** and nobody else really makes them anymore).

The last few years, it has been somebody's job to tell a story during the white elephant exchange, and every time the storyteller says "Right" the group passes their present to the right, or "Left," they pass it to the left.  I don't know how fun it is, but it's at least potentially so.

Last year, I was asked to present the story, so I quickly sat down and wrote a children's holiday story about a little boy trying to find somebody to wish a "Merry Christmas" to (apparently Trump and Kirk Cameron were right, and there was literally nobody celebrating Christmas in the boy's town, vexing him greatly).  I made sure to liberally include the words Right and Left, so that pandemonium would ensue.

The story wasn't particularly good, but someone apparently remembered it because, a couple of days before the party, I was informed that in addition to providing something called Pomegranate 7-Up (it actually exists, though I couldn't find it at Walmart when I looked), they wanted me to tell another story.

Well, not to be accused of only pretending to be a writer, I sat down*** and wrote a much more grown-up tale about a young woman, new at her job, who goes to the office Christmas party, and terrible things keep happening to her new (expensive) sweater.

My mom suggested, when I told her the premise, that I insert the names of all the children that would be present into the story, so that they would pay attention while I was reading.  This was vexing because I worried that a) the more grown-up story would be offensive to somebody, since I have always been offensive (and ever shall be, Spock), and b) that using the names of the people present would offend someone because, in the past, it has.

I called my aunt (one of those I deemed most likely to be offended), and asked her about the second part.  She assured me that everybody would love it, and no one would be upset, so I sat down again and finished the story, swapping out the characters' names with the kids that would be there, naming the main character Katie after my cousin's oldest daughter.

Oh, I almost forgot, my niece and I had gotten it into our heads that it would be fun to, just once, have an ugly sweater theme for the get-together, and to my surprise, everybody went along with it.****  Because of that, I got the inspiration for my story, and was impressed by how all-out most of the guests went, either buying something awful, or decorating their own sweaters with bells, ribbons, holly, and in my uncle's case, with a string of Christmas lights.

I couldn't quite manage to come up with a second sweater as garish as the first, but I still think mine was unsightly.

Here is a photo of the group at the end of the night:

My story went over well, even though I recognize it was too long (but I had written it, and would be damned if I was gonna waste even more time cutting it down like something I'd done for a contest).  I only worry that next year they'll want another one, and I'll feel the need to outdo myself by including rhymes or something.

Oh, I was gonna say something about Porgs, the annoying/cute little bird-creatures in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.  I don't think they should be capitalized, since they're just animals (you don't capitalize "womp rats," do you?), but you capitalize Wookiee, so maybe alien species names are automatically capitalized, like Martians.

My sister had a baby this year, and I got him a little stuffed Porg for Christmas, which he promptly put in his mouth.

But hey, TOY STORY 2 taught us that that's where toys long to be.

I was at my family cabin at the end of August, and driving home from there, my cousin called me to ask if I had gone to the second Force Friday (a silly event Hasbro puts on to make available all the new Star Wars merchandise from their upcoming movie).  I was at the one for THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I had missed this one, but I stopped by the nearest Walmart to look things over and buy up whatever I couldn't live without (in this case, it was a new Rey figure, which still sits, headless on my desk, because I can't figure out how to get the alternate head on, and am too cheap to buy a dremmel).

There was way too much stuff to buy, with a big display right in the middle of the main aisle (not even the toy aisle even), with pretty much everything still there.  Except for one thing: someone had bought up the plush Porg animal I had been hearing rumblings about since that Vanity Fair pictorial that had one in it.

Well, I got it into my head that Porgs just might be the big thing people were wanting this Christmas from the new movie, and maybe I should buy as many as I could.

It wasn't hard.  Every store had their version of the porg--large ones, talking ones, moving ones, tiny ones, ones with hard plastic eyes, ones with soft felt eyes, ones with yellow around the eyes, ones with white in their place.  And Target stores apparently even gave out huge (four foot tall) Porgs to one "lucky" customer at their Force Friday event (I saw one on eBay for a five hundred dollars, and another for seven hundred).

All in all, at one time, I had between twenty-five and thirty Porgs, and I never once considered taking a picture of me covered with them, like something out of a 21st Century "Trouble with Tribbles."  The best I could manage was this selfie of me with the deluxe, expensive one (which I only sold two of, leaving me with some overpriced electronic critters with absolutely no neighbors):

Because, kids, I was right.  Even before the movie came out, I discovered that Target's talking one ($19.99, but on sale for $17.99 for a week) was nowhere to be found, and soon, even the ugly Disney Store one was selling out.  As the 25th of December got closer and closer, the demand got greater, and inexplicably, my asking price got larger and larger.

In the end, I not only sold out of every Porg I had (except for the one in the above photo), I had to refund a guy's money because I sold one more than I could find (I did find it after Christmas, and somebody still bought it at the inflated "last-minute desperation" price).

Now, I realize that it's possible that somebody reading this is thinking, "You jagoff, YOU'RE what's wrong with America/Christmas/Capitalism/Star Wars today!"  And to that, I can merely shrug.  If I had any qualms about reselling rare (or "rare") toys, I'd have stopped the first time someone referred to me as "a fucking scalper."

I have made a pretty penny on this sort of stuff before, and it's actually kind of fun.  But I have literally BOXES filled with worthless unsold items I was wrong about, or held onto too long, or paid too much for and was unwilling to take a loss on, or simply was too lazy to put up for sale and now nobody gives a tinker's bell about.  If that doesn't make me less of a jagoff, well, I'm okay with it.

Porgs have been controversial (heck, all the THE LAST JEDI has been).  But me, I flippin' love 'em.

And ugly sweaters too, before I forget.

Rish Benjamin Porgfield

P.S.  I do wish I'd done this in audio instead of typing it.  I gave myself twenty minutes to do it, shrugged when that twenty was up . . . and typed this sentence an hour later.  Sigh.

*A soup made of (either white or yellow) hominy with lettuce, tomatoes and salsa.

**You know what those are, right?

***The night before, it's always last minute for me.  And when I complained to Big about it, he said, "Well, you always boast that you love deadlines, so eff you."  Although he may not have said the eff you part--it was a bad connection.

****Finding ugly sweaters turned out to be a fun activity, with us going to thrift stores and trying to find the most gaudy, tasteless, or simply wrong-colored.  My mom and I hit one and bought some for her, my sister, brother-in-law, other sister, and brother . . . which I insisted he would never, ever, ever wear, because he's too cool for such things.  I turned out to be wrong (though he did take it off as soon as the photo was taken).
The first time we went looking in second-hand stores, I found one with a fireplace, snowflakes, bright gold buttons, and the American flag (inexplicably) that I knew would win the contest as soon as I laid eyes on it.  It was so ugly as to be used in an old "Saturday Night Live" sketch with Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon pretending to be NPR broadcasters.  I tried it on, and actually felt embarrassed to have it on me, but knew that we'd never find its rival (before I took it off, I also ran to storage to see if my uncle's old Judy Garland records were still there . . . which they were, thank you very much).  We also picked out a sweater for my two nephews and one for my niece.
Unfortunately, because they were from a Goodwill-type location and hence had that smell (you know the one), my niece made sure to wash all the sweaters, and when they were put in the dryer, my abominable sweater shrunk not one size, but several sizes, until it was too small for me to even TRY to wear.  Luckily, it was perfect for my nine year old nephew, and he wore it proudly . . . and won the Ugliest Sweater prize at the end of the night.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Rish Outcast 96: A Very Outfield Christmas

So, here's a quickly cobbled-together Christmas episode I recorded after being sick for a week.*

I say a few words about Dickens, "A Christmas Carol," and ask Fake Sean to join me in the holiday.  I'd assure you that, had I not gotten sick, this episode would be a lot better . . . but I think you and I both know that isn't true.

Go ahead and download the episode HERE.

I tried (and tried, and tried) to do a video portion of this episode, and could never quite get the hang of it.  But I did sit down and edit my little excerpt as best I could, if you'd like to see how that went.

Oh, and here's a link to my Scrooge-related story "The Present of the Christmas Ghost."

*Basically, I messed up (again), and got myself behind schedule.  So, we'll run with this episode this week, next week's episode next week, and last week's episode the week after that.  And THEN, we'll get to that show that got bumped in October.  Maybe.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

I Perform "The Christmas Abomination" by Heather Shaw & Tim Pratt

Way back in 2010, I got picked to narrate the holiday story "The Christmas Mummy" by Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw.  It was one of the first projects I got tapped to perform by myself, and despite my then-inferior sound quality, it became a perennial favorite of discerning listeners everywhere.*  Also, the story was pretty great.

Well, here we are a seven year later, with every cell in my body now different than it was, and I got asked to voice the sequel, "The Christmas Abomination from Beyond the Back of the Stars."  Short title, but sweet. 

It picks up a couple of years after the first story, and brings back all the characters** for an amusing island get-together over the holidays.  Everyone's involved in a ritual to either summon or placate an ancient evil from a dark place between worlds, including the delightful-to-perform Doctor Moriarty.**

I was happy to come back to do this story, and I can only hope that this one becomes somebody's tradition like the first one.  Maybe Heather and Tim will collaborate on another of these someday.  Stranger things have happened.

You can find it at THIS LINK.

*It's the story I get the most compliments on, which leads me to think it's the one the most people have heard my narration of.

**I had to go back and make note of how I voiced each of these characters, then attempt to replicate them a year or two down the road.

***I really ought to upload my attempt(s) to pronounce "Peshtirimobdybelig."  It should entertain somebody other than me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Rish Outcast 95: Occurrence in Hall B

Here's a Broken Mirror story I wrote this year, along with a (probably) overlong explanation.  , based on the line "One by one, all the lights in the hall went out . . . except one."

If you want to download the episode directly, Right-Click HERE.

Sick of money?  Support me on Patreon HERE!

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Rish Outcast 94: Mister Brightside

This was supposed to be my Thanksgiving show, but alas, I'm still a week behind from October.

Rish tries to stay positive, and talks about being an extra in a commercial.  And Fake Sean's gotta be down, because he wants it all.

If you wanna download the episode, Right-Click HERE.

If you wanna support me via Patreon, Right-Click HERE.