Now that some time has passed since Leonard Nimoy’s death and we’ve all had time to process, can we discuss the infamous “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” that he recorded? I mean, it’s been featured on everything from Entertainment Tonight to Brother Wease’s shows as Exhibit A of celebrity awkwardness. But have we ever taken an honest look at it?

The truth of the matter is this: people hate nerds. And before the Internet, nerds had no particular recourse. We all had to just sit and take it while popular culture beat up on everything science fiction and fantasy that lacked the necessary gravitas. Even Star Trek TOS, which for the most part received popular respect, remains the go-to nerd semaphore.

Meanwhile, the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins is an actual ballad in the classical sense. Everything about it, including Nimoy’s baritone voice, is authentic to the genre. It is a storytelling song with a simple melody and repeated chorus. It uses minimal harmony and focuses instead on the basic melody and simple rhythm. It is, in short, everything that modern American music is not. The whole genre is an open target for nerd jokes.

So, put Spock together with a classical ballad and it is practically an anti-nerd singularity. A perfect storm of geek that combines both science fiction and fantasy with a healthy scoop of awkwardly-uncool music. Of course, everybody laughs at it.

On the other hand, this video does not help one bit. Who the hell choreographed it? And had they ever heard of either a Hobbit or J.R.R Tolkien before preparing for the show? I doubt it. Because Bilbo is not, as the choreography suggests, a flaming-gay Keebler elf on Molly. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: some of my best friends are gay Keebler elves with a taste for Molly.

Leonard Nimoy and some Hobbits. I guess.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, people. What the shit is this?

If this video seems awkward and silly to you now, just imagine what popular culture would have done with it in the homophobic 60’s? It just seems to confirm and amplify the unmanliness of geek culture. Even if he got to spend several hours in the company of comely lady dancers, I suspect even Nimoy himself knew this wasn’t the way his imagined hero was supposed to have been portrayed. Even as he spent who-knows-how-many hours filming this god-awful segment for some long-gone variety show.

Personally, I think Spock got robbed. I think he recorded a perfectly good song about J.R.R. Tolkien’s diminutive hero that he spent a lifetime having to defend as “just good fun,” whenever some jackass reporter wanted to poke geek culture in the eye. I think that more than any other hero of the sci-fi genre, Leonard Nimoy took a heaping helping of shit to defend not simply his artistic vision, but an entire culture that wouldn’t get it’s chance to speak for another forty years.

I’m not suggesting that we declare The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins as the geek national anthem. But after more than forty years, I think we can give ol’ Spock a break on this one. He wrote a decent song. It was never going to top the charts. Let it go.

I’m one of those people who has no problem admitting that I adore Christmas, whatever it’s shortcomings. I don’t care if some people get all riled up at the mall (probably more myth than fact). I don’t mind that every television show and commercial is themed to the season. But there is one thing I do mind: shitty movies masquerading as “holiday classics.”

Every season, we are assaulted by all kinds of saccharine, syrupy-sweet Christmas garbage on TV. The whole thing is like Lifetime and Disney Channel had a particularly irritating baby. But DFE is here to help you out. Below is a list of my favourite awesome Christmas movies that get at the real meaning of Christmas: getting shitty with those you love and watching television. Without further ado:

DFE’s Top 10 Awesome Christmas Movies

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas – A classic for a reason

A Charlie Brown Christmas, DFE's Awesome Christmas MoviesYes, you have to say it. Especially for us X-Gen’ers, there’s simply no quality Christmas without a visit from the ugly kid with the big nose, as Peppermint Patty would say.

This is one of those holiday traditions that I don’t feel the least bit bad about getting excited for as a grown-ass man. It’s got about everything you could ask for in a Christmas movie, plus to be honest, a bit more Christianity that I would have preferred. Let’s skip to the presents!

2. Die Hard – the anti-Christmas choice

Die Hard, DFE's Awesome Christmas MoviesWhile some may object to citing Die Hard as a Christmas movie, it does absolutely qualify. Without the added drama of Christmas bliss, disrupted, would the movie be the same? I think not. If John was not visiting his lost love on the most sentimental of holidays, would the tension be as high? Clearly not. We could as easily discount it as an action/adventure movie because it is so clearly a Christmas movie.

And speaking of movies technically during the Christmas season…

3. The Poseidon Adventure – the Christmas of watery doom.

The Poseidon Adventure, DFE's Awesome Christmas MoviesHere again, we can make the argument for the anti-Christmas movie. Does anyone really get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the idea of people climbing (unsuccessfully) for their lives up an inverted Christmas tree? Perhaps, but those are the type of people we like to keep in special rooms.

The Poseidon Adventure is probably the best-done disaster movie of it’s era, yet another one in which a rash of similarly-themed movies came out. Poseidon benefits from a pretty high-calibre cast, including Earnest Borgnine and his character’s Hooker with the Heart of Gold, Stella Stevens. This will not be the last lady of the evening to feature in this list.

But again, the pathos of a Christmas celebration gone horribly awry is just too important to the plot to be ignored. Plus – hey – the Christmas tree thing is pretty bitchin. Amirite?

4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles – the Christmas prequel

Planes, Trains and Automobiles, DFE's Awesome Christmas MoviesThis one is really a Thanksgiving movie. But because the T-Day celebrations kick off the holiday season, I really feel like this one counts. Plus, this might be the funniest in a long line of hilarious John Candy movies. So funny in fact that it was completely ripped off just recently in the Galfanaikis flick Due Date.

Steve Martin plays a classically-80’s overworked business man who is trying to get back home to Chicago from yet another string of meetings and travelling when he runs into the obnoxious, hapless mess of a salesman played by John Candy. Candy’s character is everything Martin’s is not: unapologetically goofy and self-effacing. Through the classic “series of unfortunate events,” it becomes impossible to separate the two… however much Steve Martin might have preferred it.

5.  Christmas Vacation – our model of Christmas excess.

Christmas Vacation, DFE's Awesome Christmas MoviesHow does one blend the self-defined risk of Christmas light electrocution and the existential threat of feeling abandoned by the Big Boss at your second-rate job, then sprinkle in a healthy dose of an alcoholic Randy Quaid and a dash of sewer humor and make it all come out awesome? Well, it helps to be National Lampoon, but beyond that you’ll just need to watch the movie.

The continuing adventures of the Griswold family – featuring a young yet incredibly unchanged Johnny Galeki – take them back to their very own Chicago suburb home, where they will be serving up the Christmas dinner for the family.

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas – the Whooville follies.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, DFE's Awesome Christmas MoviesAnd no. I do not mean that shitty John Kerry Jim Carey movie. The real, original version. With the one and only Chuck Jones directing. What makes this movie so kick ass is that you get to revel in the Grinch’s mean-spiritedness as much as in the “redemption” at the end of the movie. You even get to find Cindy-Loo Who’s crying kinda funny.

And then you get to get the “aww!” at the end of the movie and let your friends know you’re not that mean. No, really.

7. Trading Places – Ophelia the Christmas Hooker

Trading Places, DFE's Awesome Christmas MoviesWhat could be more Christmasy than a tale of deception, character assassination, social darwinism, racism and of course, the Hooker with the Heart of Gold? If there is such a thing, I don’t know if I could handle it.

Besides which.. whose been putting their Kools out on my rug?

Actually, I’d call this movie much more of a Christmas movie than any of the aforementioned non-Christmas movies, because in this case, Santa plants drugs in Billy Ray Valentine’s office desk drawer. And hey: isn’t that what Santa’s all about? Leaving presents for all the good little boys and girls? I thought so.

8. Elf – Does Santa know you left the workshop?

Elf, DFE's Awesome Christmas MoviesLet’s just say this and get it out of the way: every Christmas movie in 20 years has gargled dead monkey balls except this one. If that seems harsh, you’re wrong.

Will Ferrell’s guileless, child-like elf Buddy is a pitch-perfect reproduction of the Larry Roemer / Rankin and Bass television shows that dominate all our childhoods (Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, etc). But in the context of a heartless publishing house in midtown Manhattan, his innocence brings everybody around him (save for one 27 year old ex con) to the brink of madness.

It’s just a hysterical romp (if I can say that word) that I’ll gladly watch several times between now and Christmas.

9. Scrooged – because real greed has an American accent.

Scrooged, DFE's Awesome Christmas MoviesWe get that Ebenezer Scrooge is supposed to be a bit of a jerk. But honestly: being a jerk in Elizabethan English is a lot less impactful these days than it used to be. What we need is an updated Scrooge that speaks to what greed and heedless cynicism looks like. We need someone who shows no real compassion or empathy for his fellow humans. Someone who only treats humans as statistical slaves to their baser emotions.

What we need is a television executive.

Enter Bill Murray as “Lumpy” Scrooge, the once-loved, twice-dejected television executive with a drive for ratings and a complete disregard for the well being of his rodent actors. Lumpy is doing what a lot of us do during the holiday season, and burying his memories of a happier past under mountains of work. But this year, three ghosts, one woman and Bobcat Golthwaite will not let him forget.

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without Carol Kane.

10. The Ref – familial dysfunction is funny.

The Ref, DFE's Awesome Christmas MoviesThis one is the movie that only I seem to remember. It was a flop. It died an untimely death. And I will make it my mission to bring it back to cultural life, because any movie that stars Dennis Leary, Kevin Spacy, Judy Davis and the inimitable Christine Baranski has got to be worth a watch.

I’m probably showing off my generational roots by loving this movie. It’s about as 90’s as it gets, with all the mean-spirited falseness of that decade on display. The movie’s hero is a crook. The Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote is a shiftless alcoholic Baby Boomer named Gus. The antagonist is all the dysfunctional ugliness of a family that might seem to have everything as they slide by in their SUV. And the conflict is a family trying to act casual while they are prisoners to two jailers: Dennis Leary and their insufferable relatives.

Oh, Christ! Now, you gotta pack an even smaller version of your stuff. Only the stuff you know you’re going to need:

  • Money
  • Keys
  • Comb
  • Wallet
  • Lighter
  • Hanky
  • Pen
  • Smokes
  • Rubber
  • and Change.

Well, only the stuff you hope you’re gonna need!

The above George Carlin quote has been my go-to checklist for leaving the house since well before I should have been listening to George Carlin. But look at that list?

Money? Sure, but I can pay for my Starbucks with my phone, so maybe not. Keys, comb, sure. But the wallet? I’ve got Google Wallet.. on my phone.

Lighter? Smoking is bad for you. Hanky? Seriously, that’s just gross: use Kleenex. Don’t need a pen because I’ve got ColorNote. Smokes… right, bad for you.

Rubber? Maybe for some of you. And change? Again, I’ve got my phone for that.

In fact, modern technology – really, my phone – has obviated four items on Carlin’s Important Ten. Add in our modern culture, and you’re down from an Important Ten to a Handy Three.

Well, that just sucks. But I suppose you’re less likely to forget three than ten.

The thought occurred to me recently, as I’ve been watching a lot of Seinfeld for the first time in a few years. It is painfully obvious: there’s no way kids even get what Seinfeld is about. The human emotion and impulses remain the same as they ever were. But at least two-thirds of the plot devices used in the show are completely, totally irrelevant.

Lost and separated in a mall parking garage? Text your friends. Stuck at a Chinese restaurant with Elaine’s dad, wondering where she is? Check her last check-in or call her. Dating a two-face? Instagram it or it didn’t happen.

Boom. Humor averted.

Even the lowly knock-knock joke is something I suspect kids won’t really get anymore. Why bother knocking on the door when you already texted that you had arrived before leaving the car?

It’s enough to make a chicken just stay the hell on its own side of the road.

Having spent the better part of three years actively participating in social networking in Rochester, I begin to see a pattern emerge whenever something really big happens. Whether it’s the Park Avenue Festival (big, but annual) or Barack Obama coming to town, we basically have three faces we like to show the public whenever Awesome Event X happens.

There are of course more faces than three. And no one person fits into one face all the time. But there is a consistent triumvirate, nevertheless, as predictable in its presence as it is in its temperament. I thought I’d outline them here for the sake of discussion.

The Sunny Optimist

Here’s an Instagram of a receipt for SPF1000 Rochester-approved sunscreen! Because it is #AwesomeToBeAlive when #EventX is happening! So cool, man.

This irrepressible soul wants to share their enthusiasm for all things Event X, no matter how trivial or meaningless. The Sunny Optimist knows that stuff like this doesn’t happen every day and you have to make the most of it. There is no countervailing fact or inconvenient truth that cannot be swept under the rug for the sake of enjoying ourselves in this, our most blessed moment. Cheer up, everybody! It’s Event X!!

The Chain-smoking Ennui-ite

For chrissakes, people. Its just the frickin’ #EventX. Who really cares? All this does is screw up traffic, and I’m late for a proctology exam.

Oh, this weary world of “special” events. Nothing ever changes for the CSE. Even when change happens, it happens exactly as they thought it would. Big deal. And anyway, the Ennui would like to point out that everything about this event is a sham in the first place. And all of the people gushing over it are just stupid. And they wish they could just ignore all this annoying Event X traffic, but how? Shut off Twitter and Facebook? That’s crazy talk. Oh, this awful world.

The Boy (or Girl) Who Lost Their Balloon

Why can’t anyone be happy that #EventX is happening? Why, oh, why, oh WHY??

This might be thought of as “the sweet spot” of Rochester social media event thinking. This person is 100% on-board with Event X. He or she truly wants to be part of the fun.

Sadly, they simply. can. not. It seems that others in the crowd, whom Lost Balloon deems insufficiently joyful, have prevented their happiness.

That there are people who disagree with or question their otherwise-boundless joy is so upsetting to them, that they feel the need to call out – usually in generic and unspecific terms – everyone who can’t seem to see how awesome Event X is. They have to take time out of their busy schedule of frolicking in the wonderfulness of Event X to get pissed off at everyone else ruining their good time.

If every staffer on Barack Obama’s bus tour opted to block the #roc and #POTUSroc hashtags, you could hardly blame them. But like it or not, Rochester’s gotta be what we are. And even when we’re bitching, we do with hysterical style. So, there’s that.

So. Congress has done its level best to ruin your holiday. Basically: it has done nothing, and that’s all you need from Congress, these days. This time, nothing has turned into a doubling of the interest rate on your student loan.

While the media squawks on about the effect student loan interest rates will have on new students, very little attention is being paid to the fact that, long after you graduate, you’ll still be paying off your student loans.

Loooooong after.

In fact, some estimates say as much as a billion dollars in unpaid student debt exists in this country, with about 37 million borrowers.

So kick back and relax. Get ready to spend the rest of your days paying off those loans. And while you’re doing that, Jillian and I have prepared a Spotify set list to help inspire, enrage, sympathize and in some cases, enable you through it all. Enjoy!

14. Pink Floyd Money

Tom – For those of us old enough to have owned a Walkman (dear god, did I just write that?), no such list would be complete without Pink Floyd’s 7/8 time classic, Money. From the first sampled ::ca-ching:: of a cash register to the driving insistence of the tell-tale funky, cocksure bass line, there is something about this song that tells you right away that you’ll now be marching to the beat of the cash. Whether you’re leading that parade or getting dragged along in the rear doesn’t matter. You will march:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Xl6NfQyNLto

13. Plain White T’s – Happy Someday

Tom – “I’ll be happy someday.”

Relax dude. No, you won’t. Hope you find your life enriched by that advanced degree in Medieval dance music. Because Great Lakes Higher Education would like a word with you about your two months past due balance.

12. Fountains of Wayne – Strapped for Cash

Tom –So, your buddy just got out of prison and needs you to pay back that loan? Oh, if only this wasn’t so familiar a scenario to me. And if you’re just graduating from college, brace yourself! You, too, will be “robbing Peter to pay Paul” like the protagonist in this Supertramp-inspired song.

11. Fiddler on the Roof – If I Were a Rich Man

Tom – Fair question:

“So what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?”

Topol starts us out straight away with a plaintif question for his god. It’s a simple question, but the rest of the song, in which he fantasizes  about his awesome rich existence, never mentions “I wouldn’t have to go a week without my anti-anxiety medication so that I can afford to pay the loans that are giving me anxiety.”

10. Donna Summer – She Works Hard for the Money

Tom –So hard for it, honey. So seriously? How ’bout a little debt relief for the waitress with a Masters in chemistry? This is not someone whose service you want if you’re a member of the House of Representatives and have a weak constitution for exotic brews of restaurant cleansers.

Actually, I just love this song for the first 12 seconds of extra-synthy, extra-dramatic intro. For a second, I couldn’t tell if this was a Donna Summer song or the intro to an ’80’s PBS show about computers…

9. Cyndi Lauper – Money Changes Everything

Jillian – Yes, Cyndi, it sure does. This little 80s gem pays homage to a wonderful mindset many of us Americans still share, and that’s “buy now, pay later”. Whether it’s shacking up with the unemployed dude down the street or signing on the dotted line for an exorbitant amount of student loans at the tender age of 18, chances are, the money portions of these decisions will be making a much larger impact on you later down the road, just as Cyndi warns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eebu7sM2QbM

8. James Brown – Give it Up or Turn it Loose

Tom – For no apparent reason other than fuck yeah, James Brown:

7. The Beatles – Can’t Buy Me Love

Tom – No, money cannot buy you love. Which is nice, because you won’t have any, regardless.

Do your best to embrace this carefree, non-materialistic attitude early, because your iPad requires a wireless contract. Otherwise, it’s just one more paperweight in your broke-ass studio apartment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1DoYhOM77Q

6. Notorious B.I.G – Mo Money, Mo Problems

Jillian – Oh, Biggie. I admit it, when this song made its debut, all I could think was “Poor rich rapper, rolling in money, cars, and women. Yes, those certainly are problems – jerk.” These days, though, I think Biggie may have been on to something; however, if it were up to me, I would have called the song “Mo Money, Mo Debt” or “Mo Money, Mo Taxes”, but those just don’t quite have the same ring, do they?

5. They Might Be Giants – Minimum Wage

Tom – Embrace it. Minimum wage means minimum loan payments. Remember when you were encouraged to go to college so you could earn more money? Now because of college, maybe it feels like, for a little while at least, it might be best to avoid your high-income future.

4. Hoyt Axton – Boney Fingers

Jillian –I grew up with this song on my parents’ turntable and the upbeat tune will definitely fool you. This song is chock full of all the little things that go wrong and make adult-life terrible, always circling back to the mantra,

“Work your fingers to the bone, and what do you get? Boney fingers!”

It’s not that we don’t work and earn a paycheck, we just don’t see much, if any of it. And hey, if you’re on that “Income Based Repayment” system for federal student loans, don’t worry! If you earn a raise, you get to pay more in student loans each month! At least Hoyt leaves us with hope, adding in “maybe things will get a little better in the morning.” We’ll see, Hoyt. We’ll see.

3. Steely Dan – Black Friday

Tom – Lest we forget, your local banker is the one guy not upset by raised interest rates. The same raised interest rates that will bring you to sobbing, Ramen noodle slurping destitution will be purchasing him a new set of golf clubs and a hooker.

Some of those bankers will know enough to get out right before the bubble bursts, just like on the infamous Black Friday. Donald Fagan recounts:

When Black Friday comes, I’m gonna collect everything thing I’m owed. And before my friends find out, I’ll be on the road.

2. Stevie Wonder – Money (That’s What I Want)

Jillian – So do the loan collectors and your government. See, we’re not really all that different! At least Stevie sympathizes with us. Maybe we can’t all follow in the footsteps of Stevie Wonder, but if you’re looking for a tune to snap you out of the overwhelming debt blues, this one will at least have you singing and dancing around your kitchen, and that’s a step in the right direction.

1. Tennesee Ernie Ford – Sixteen Tons

Tom –I remember laughing at this song when I was a wee lad. Once I started piling up a heap of debt, I wasn’t laughing anymore. But if you’ve gotta cry over your mountain of debt that you cannot make a hole in, do it with the best, Tennessee Ernie Ford.

I’ve been a horror movie fan for as long as I can remember. Over the course of many discussions, one common theme I’ve recognized in scary movie lovers is the older we get, the more the movies frighten us. I could have had a Silence of the Lambs/Rosemary’s Baby/Hellraiser all-day marathon and more when I was 13 and not bat an eye. Today? I’ll keep my fiancé up all night because of the house noises I think I hear or because I just can’t turn my brain off after watching something like that. Why? Simple – I understand more than I did back then. The very same thing can be said about my relationship with the ocean.

I had my first yearly family vacation to the beach when I was barely 5-months old and apparently, I was hooked instantly. Each year, we’d travel to the same place and I’d be one of those kids with balls of brass, charging right into the waves, not caring how deep the water was, how big the waves got, or what kind of creatures were near me. Now, you’re lucky if I get past ankles deep in the water, and this is why: the ocean is full of weird shit that I want nothing to do with.

4. Sheepshead Fish: because human teeth belong in humans.

Dude. Uncalled for.

Look at this guy – just look at him! No, it isn’t photoshopped; those human-like teeth are real, and they aren’t some freak-show accident, either. Unfortunately, this weirdo, known as the sheepshead fish, is fairly common; however, he won’t cause you to trip balls and he’s also not a hermaphrodite, so hey, there’s that.

3. Two-headed Shark: because fuck no.

Let’s just say, this one looks like it was made to attack mammals.

Then, we have this – er – these little fellows here. Yes, ladies and gentleman, we have a two-headed shark. While we may not see them very often, two-headed sharks, snakes, and even lizards are not overly rare; we just don’t see them often because they tend to die shortly after being born.

2. Cannibal Lobsters: because if you’re too eager to wait for the clarified butter, you don’t belong near my ankles.

This is what Wegmans looks like in horror movies.

Who could forget this? The touching tale of the cannibal lobsters in Maine. Apparently, overly warm water environments lead to cannibalism. Sure, unless you’re a lobster, you probably have nothing to worry about, but who really enjoys swimming with cannibals of any sort? Certainly not I!

1. The Ugly One: because anything that can survive Lake Ontario waters is probably undead.

Those beastly fangs. Those soulless eyes. And he’s not even from Buffalo.

I suppose I could be thankful I live in Rochester and therefore, hours away from any creepy underwater creatures, but nothing is ever that easy, now is it? I don’t know about you, but I still haven’t forgotten about “The Ugly One” – Lake Ontario’s very own mutant ninja…whatever.

I’d rather see all of the above in some terrible, barely B-rated made-for-tv SciFi movie than swimming past me and nibbling at my toes when I’m trying to keep cool on a hot summer day. With that said, I know as soon as the weather is right, I’ll be back at Charlotte Beach. We all have our weaknesses, isn’t that what horror movies are all about?

Happy SciFriday, Everyone!

Although I admittedly feel the need to use it in professional circumstances (ie, work email exchanges with clients I’ve never met), I can’t stand the greeting “happy holidays”, but not because it makes me feel religiously slighted; no, I think it just makes me sound like a pretentious asshole. Happy holidays! Season’s greetings! Look at me, I’m politically correct! No one shall feel offense to my cheery, generic, void of any creativity well wishes! Barf.

Anyway, despite my distaste for the “happy holidays” bullshit, I’ve found that it actually does have one solid redeeming purpose, all political crap aside. December is full of weird, random holidays, and this is a great way to incorporate every single one of them! Sure, we have the obvious ones like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, but those are just the tip of the ice berg! Let’s take a look at a few of the lesser celebrated December days, shall we?

Festivus, December 23.

Festivus is a secular holiday celebrated as an alternative to participating in the pressures and commercialism associated with Christmastime. Practices include the airing of grievances, which occurs over a meal with everyone informing everyone else how they’ve disappointed one another over the course of the year, and the feats of strength, which involve wrestling the head of the household to the floor. Although Festivus was introduced to popular culture by a Seinfeld episode in 1997, it has been celebrated by Seinfeld’s screenwriter’s family every year since 1966.

Boxing Day, December 26

Growing up seeing “Boxing Day” on the calendar always led me to believe Canadians were bad asses who headed to the boxing ring to duke it out every year the day after Christmas. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I learned the childhood dream crushing truth; Boxing Day isn’t about the sport of boxing at all. No, Boxing Day actually finds its roots quite literally in “boxing” as in the day everyone boxes everything up. Apparently this is worthy of a bank holiday, but hey, who am I to argue with an extra paid day off?

Saint Stephen’s Day, December 26, 27, or January 9

Although no one can really agree which day to celebrate it on, Saint Stephen’s Day is pretty cool. This public holiday, celebrated in many Eastern European countries as well as Ireland and Wales, commemorates the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen. Common celebrations include parades, festivals, and a gigantic feast appropriately known as the Feast of Saint Stephen. Former Welsh traditions included bleeding out livestock and beating late risers and female servants with holly branches, although these festivities were discontinued in the 19th century. The popular Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslas” tells a heartwarming tale of the Feast of Saint Stephen, sans bleeding livestock and holly branch beatings.

Whether you light a menorah, decorate a Christmas tree, or beat your loved ones with seasonal flora, from the DragonFlyEye family to yours, we wish you an honest, heartfelt, “Happy Holidays!” What are some of your favorite offbeat December customs? Share your best, nontraditional traditions below and we’ll share ours, too!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope. It’s Pac-Man! Perhaps everyone’s favorite ghost gobbler from the 80s isn’t making a comeback to our television or computer screens just yet, but that’s okay. He’s found a much larger place to reside: in one of Saturn’s moons.

Scientists with NASA’s Cassini mission have spotted this second Pac-Man shaped feature on the moon Tethys in Saturn’s system. That’s right; this is not the first Pac-Man on the moon. The first space Pac-Man was found on Mimas back in 2010. According to Carly Howett, lead author of a recent paper in the online journal, Icarus,

“Finding a second Pac-Man in the Saturn system tells us that the processes creating these Pac-Men are more widespread than previously thought. The Saturn system – and even the Jupiter system – could turn out to be a veritable arcade of these characters.”

The Pac-Man shapes were found in thermal data obtained by a composite infrared spectrometer with the warmer areas making the Pac-Man shape. Scientists theorize that this is caused by the high-energy electrons bombarding the lower latitudes on the forward-facing side of the moon as it orbits Saturn. In turn, this bombardment then converts the area into hard-packed ice. As a result, the altered surface does not respond to heat or cooling as quickly as the rest of the surface.

Although you have to admit that Pac-Man in Space would be a pretty cool video game plot, this finding actually paves a lot of ground for future research beyond gaming. The origins of this particular Pac-Man provides scientists with deeper insight into how planets and moons are shaped, as well as the diversity of the processes in Saturn’s system. Moving forward, as Cassini project scientist, Linda Spilker says it,

“Future Cassini observations may reveal other new phenomena that will surprise us and help us better understand the evolution of moons in the Saturn system and beyond.”

To Saturn and beyond? For Pac-Man, anything is possible.

I would consider myself to be a pretty casual reader of J.R.R. Tolkien by the standards of many of my friends. I’ve read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and about as much of The Silmarillion as I have read of the bible, for many curiously-similar social reasons. And I think that one of the chief troubles with that main body of Tolkien’s work that’s now Peter Jackson’s purview is that The Hobbit was written for a child. Christopher Tolkien, to be exact. And that type of writing is quite different from the very adult and richly-human LoTR. And there’s a lot of singing. Fairly goofy singing, if the truth be told.

The Hobbit in its novel form reads not only like a children’s book, but also like a video game. Each new trouble – and there are a remarkable number of them – is brought on in sequence. There is almost no narrative sense to the constant barrage of Orcs, Goblins, Trolls and Storm Giants. Really: there never was meant to be, this being originally a series of letters home from a soldier in the First World War to his son. Keeping a little one entertained was the goal. Making that whole thing seem sensible to adults is a daunting challenge.

Also: for we, the Children of the Cable, there is the matter of the Rankin / Bass adaptation. A horribly childlike take on Tolkien if ever there was one. Lame enough to be off-putting to an eight year old, as I recall.

So a Peter Jackson take on our dear Uncle Bilbo was both exciting and nerve-wracking to me.

But the first installment of the series is actually a very good bit of cinema. Three hours and I never got bored, never got burnt out on the action. Peter Jackson does an able job of marrying the seriousness of the One Ring with the intrinsic silliness of a Hobbit on an adventure. The adult themes of a gathering threat in the East, the potent evil of the One Ring and the coming treachery of Saruman are all subtly inserted into the story in ways that sort of shake the viewer out of the more childish scenes.

Yes, there is singing, but the movie never really descends too far into a musical. The two tunes sung in the movie, both by Dwarfs, are more like a montage video. They set a scene rather than dominating it.

I saw The Hobbit with a few friends, many of whom I was surprised to learn had never really read the books. For them, the One Ring was actually more of a mystery at the end of this movie than at the end of The Return of the King. So, that may not say much for Jackson’s story telling. But these Tolkien concepts are not easily summarized as anyone with a particularly nerdy friend can certainly already attest. My friends, for example.

As for the whiz-bang of another Jackson blockbuster, the movie also delivered. The biggest wow factor of the movie was for me the animation of faces. The work begun with Andy Sirkis’ portrayal of Gollum in the first trilogy continues is able form in the second. Look for the Goblin King for a particularly convincing example of what I mean.

It really feels odd to have The Hobbit broken into three pieces like it is, but again: three hours worth of movie and I never got bored. But it is clear that in order to add the adult themes to this story, some extra scenes such as those in Rivendale or featuring Ratagast required a lot more time in the movie than I remember them taking up in the book.

But let’s be honest: I was like twelve when I first read the book. I’m pretty sure I skipped a few pages.

We all have our flaws. Some love too quickly. Some love too deeply. Some love the wrong species. It happens.

And in China, there is an old story about a scholar and a mystical white snake who fall in love. This story has apparently evolved over the years into many different interpretations, including horror stories (the scholar is unaware that his love is the White Snake) and classical Romeo and Juliet meets Snakes on a Plane love story.

I’m not at all sure which interpretation, if either of those, is represented by Jet Li’s newest venture. Which ever one is most appropriately adorned with explosions and kick-ass kung-fu ass whoopin, I presume. Either way, the trailer promises lots of action, lots of Cirque du Soleil style colorfulness and a lot of feminine tongues of extraordinary length. All things considered, this seems like a potential win for the horny and the high. Speaking of which, don’t forget to tell the Democrat and Chronic(le) you’d be OK with voting to legalize weed:

Call me crazy, but I’ve never really been able to “get” the whole Thanksgiving thing. As a kid, I found the holiday annoying because it meant my cousins and I (which in reality, just meant me I since I was the youngest and smallest) would get stuck washing a ton of dishes while the adults napped. They would of course always wake up right around the time the dishes would be done and want coffee and pie which would then mean more dishes to wash, so yeah – I can’t really remember ever looking forward to Thanksgiving.

As an adult, I still have trouble wrapping my head around it. Never mind the fact that the holiday’s historical relevance makes no sense whatsoever, I’m just not a fan of gorging myself to the point of being stuffed , nor do I enjoy shopping, so for me, it’s always just been a random paid holiday, which is fine in my book. Sure, taking inventory of the things you’re thankful for is great practice, and since I couldn’t care less about the holiday for myself, I plan to spend it volunteering somewhere, which I’m sure will be a great way to spend my time. However, as a whole, I still give Thanksgiving a giant WTF. Sorry, Mr. Turkey.

While I may not be big on Thanksgiving, I do very much enjoy both music and embracing the ridiculous things in life; and what says “Happy Thanksgiving!” quite like a playlist full of the worst songs ever to make their way into your ear canals? According to us here at DFE, nothing! So that’s exactly what we’re doing – Turkey Day Turkeys, coming your way just in time for Thanksgiving 2012!

If you’re like me and the biggest celebration you have on your Thanksgiving agenda is a Bloody Mary while watching the Macy’s Parade (and I know there are at least a few of you out there!), help us rack our brains for the best – and by default, worst – songs you’ve ever heard in your dentist’s chair or gyno’s waiting room and let us have it in the comment section below! At the very least, it will give you something to torture your dish washing slave younger cousins with after your dinner buzz.

So, Spotify friends, to keep up with the list, subscribe to our set list here.

Once again, Halloween has come and gone, but the spooky holidays aren’t over just yet. In fact, we are currently still in the midst of one, or two, depending how you view it. As per Mexican, Guatemalan, and Bolivian tradition (among others),  people across the Western Hemisphere are paying homage to lost loved ones in observances that began yesterday with All Saints Day and continue through today with All Souls Day, more commonly referred to as the Days of the Dead.

While the Halloween we celebrate was not directly influenced by Day of the Dead, it has adopted some of its customs, most notably the enjoyment of sweets, costumes, and macabre icons.  Hurricane Sandy may have put a damper on many youngsters trick-or-treating plans this week, but for those who celebrate Day of the Dead, this holiday represents much deeper roots that could not be canceled or delayed.  Elio Masferrer, an anthropologist who focuses on Mexican religious studies explains,

“In the European-Christian notion of death, our loved ones go far away and we’re left to survive on our own. But in the Mexican case, in Andean countries, the world of the living and the dead co-exist. The living seek help and protection from the dead, especially on Day of the Dead.”

Day of the Dead is viewed by many as a re-encounter with lost loved ones, and, despite its name, is a joyful holiday and celebration of life. Traditional celebrations include picnics in cemeteries, parades, gravestone decorating, and feasts. The most popular symbols associated with Day of the Dead are sugar skulls and marigolds.

Although Day of the Dead celebrations in Rochester are not quite the same, they aren’t nonexistent, either. If you’re looking to get out and about tonight, check out the Outer Body Masquerade Ball tonight at Max of Eastman Place to celebrate Halloween, Masquerade, and Day of the Dead all in one.

Remember – no matter what the retail stores tell you, it’s not Christmas yet, so make the most of this fun and spooky time before Turkey Day while we still can!