Monday, December 29, 2014

Management Recommends: Christmas 2



Ha, okay, not really. But, 'round these parts, we keep the tree up till a bit after January begins. In fact, here's a pic from last weekend...




You might notice Dark Shadows on the television there. I'll get to that later. First...

Yeah, uh, sorry, didn't  get back to my pre-Christmas writings after all. With only Christmas Eve and Christmas Day left, there was just too much to do! You know how it is! In fact, I still have a ton to do in terms of cleanup and catch up, but tonight, I'm gonna try to get you all up to speed, at least with my holiday goings on. I'm gonna try my best to get to everything. Well, I mean, I can't get to my New York trip or my long overdue Disney World trip continuation tonight, those require their own posts. And I still wanna talk about the toys I'm currently mad about collecting, but that also should be saved for later. Tonight though, hopefully I'll have the energy not only to write about Christmas, but also my recent Seattle visit, my trip to the Texas Renaissance Festival, and whatever other little things I can squeeze in. So, let's turn the clock back a bit and get started, and hopefully you're not out of the holiday mood just yet!




I'm gonna kick things off with my favorite place to visit here in Austin, the Alamo Drafthouse. Gonna start there because I attended four quote-alongs this holiday season, starting with two that go all the way back before my mom arrived for Thanksgiving (but after Halloween, so they still count). These first two weren't holiday-themed, but they certainly were awesome! Now, the pic above is me chilling at the Jackalope before heading over to the Ritz. Below are those pre-show clips we always get to see. Can you guess what the feature film is going to be?


 



Maybe a look at our free Action Pack props will help...




Oh, crap, the ticket is right there.... Well, yeah, my sister and I went to see the quote-along screening of...




If you're wondering why the lights are still on at this point, it was a pre-show sing-along of the Firefly opening theme.




And there's the name of sci-fi/comic geekdom's current film-god on the screen above. I could swear I had more pics from this screening, but I lost so much in the computer crash of '14, that I guess I gotta make due. Sorry, no pics of Summer Glau after all. Trust me though, she remains a goddess. And the film was great. Though, gotta say, the Action Pack has been choosing great movies for these quote-alongs, but they're not always the kinds of movies one has the urge to quote-along with. Or maybe it's 'cause I'm not a total Firefly nerd, ha. I mean, a film like this might have a few quotable lines here and there, but true quote-along movies are more like Army of Darkness, Spaceballs, Three Amigos, Ghostbusters and Star Wars. They should try some Muppet movies too, instead of just relegating them to the free kids' morning shows. Sometimes, we go to these quote-alongs and find the movie's lines don't offer up well to quoting, or they are just too engrossing for folks to really get into the quoting aspect. That seemed to be the case with the two non-holiday films we went to see. Serenity, which I just talked about, and...

...oh, wait, just found this...


Somethin' for the ladies and somethin' for the fellas! Or, you know, whichever is your preference. I suppose we're supposed to be drooling over the ship's older ladies instead, but when do I ever? Ha, nah, they're hot too. But, you know, Summer Glau, c'mon! Sooo my type.

Anyway, as I was saying, the next film, also fantastic, but again, not really one that lends itself to a lot of quoting. Still, I think it does much better in that department than Serenity. In fact, I think with this one the main reason the audience was pretty quiet was because it was just too good to talk over! Back to the Future on the big screen! Damn!

Now, we actually barely made it to this one, that's why I'm showing you a pic from the end of the screening rather than the intro, which we completely missed. It was at the Ritz again, downtown, in the smaller theater (as was Serenity) which we had never been in before these two screenings. It's pretty cool though. Very intimate, tiny audience and close screen, like a private party. The traffic was crazy that night though. There was some event downtown. I forget what.




As usual, we got some free props. They've been pretty repetitive lately. Often, we get glow necklace things, almost always, bubbles, and lately, these scratch and sniff cards that are interesting but rarely work very well. The bubbles are always fun though, and in this one we got cool little skateboard key chains reading Action Pack, though I wish it said Back to the Future as well. We also got that awesome "Save the Clock Tower" flyer. And, I still can't figure out how mine got wet! No, the bubbles weren't leaking, and I was very careful with my water glass! 




Oh well, after drying, it still looks good and suitable for framing! Really need to scan mine into the comp so I can make more if I ever want to, ha. Oh, that's my sister's hand below, not mine.




Now, holiday quote-alongs, of comedies at least, are always good, unless your audience is particularly shy or obnoxious. We had some trouble with that in ours. I'd blame the tiny Ritz theater, but we only saw the first film in that one. The second was over at the new South Lamar location. That's the one that's a bitch to find now, even though it's nice once you do. But, yeah, first, back at the Ritz to see "Elf", one of my favorite Christmas films (not just because Zooey Deschanel is at her hottest in it), which was, again, in the smaller theater.


Oh, look, I appear insane in the pic below. I've been quite sleepy this month, so if I don't open my eyes wide, I look stoned or start to show my age a little. As opposed to looking like a little boy, which I do most of the time when I'm not sleepy. A giddy little boy with mustache stubble.




Anyway, that's me in front of the Ritz. And that was a crazy night, because it was the weekend, I THINK, and 6th Street was crawling with drunken, slutty people, all dressed as Santa or elves, or something of that nature. Hot when it came to the ladies though. You may or may not know, but I have a serious costume fetish. Maybe THAT'S why I'm making that face! Moving on... Elf Quote-Along preshow!








And then, the big show! Pretty awesome costumes on our hosts at these Action Pack shows lately!




 Had the usual fun games, too! Fun, that is, if you stay in your seat and don't participate. This poor group had do eat spaghetti with maple syrup and chug a Coke. Keep in mind they might have already ordered quite a bit of pricey food and drinks at their table, ha, which only makes their nauseating task much sadder!




Free gifts were given, as per usual, too. Again, the meh scratch and sniff card (a fun idea in theory, I'll admit), the bubbles that I always enjoy, and this time, they felt the need to give us a cheat sheet. I guess they were a bit discouraged by audience participation lately. However, I've been to some quote-alongs that go quite well. It really does depend on a few factors. Of course, sing-alongs are probably the best for audience participation. I attended a Newsies one once that went great! I really wanna go to one of those pop Christmas music video sing-alongs! And one of the best quote-alongs I've been to was for Mel Brooks' Spaceballs. "Elf" and the other holiday film we saw this season, "Scrooged", should both have been pretty decent for quoting along with though. The problem this time was that the audience was shy or something, ha. Still, it wasn't TOO bad. But I remember going to Christmas Vacation last year, and that went really well! So, ya never know, I guess. Back to the props though, yeah, there is always at least one that is extra nice. We liked the little bell ornaments we were given with this one, even if they did have tags on them that made it clear they were intended for a wedding reception, ha.




Oh yeah, they also gave us cotton balls. I'm not sure what we were supposed to do with those except hold them on our fingers. I didn't catch the explanation at the beginning, but I don't think they intended us to eat them. We were given white balloons as well to blow up and use in a mock snowball fight. That was pretty fun! Overall, it was a very fun night! And so was our final quote-along for this year...




Like Elf, "Scrooged" is another top favorite Christmas film of mine. I remember seeing it in theaters when it came out. I remember cuddling to it a couple years ago by the Christmas tree with the only person I've ever dated. Man, I miss those sweet legs across my lap..., and let's face it, with a combination of Bill Murray and the greatest Christmas story ever written, you can't go wrong. It's a brilliant movie, and so much fun! Also, free props!




That's obviously not me, that's our host for the evening. He was kind enough to pose for us, and man, that is one kickass Scrooged hat! I really need to go get a couple of top hats from that hat store downtown. They're not cheap, but I want a black one for Christmas and a brown one for Easter. Anyway, we didn't get any Tab cola, but we did get those towels, and bubbles, and those popper thingies that shoot tiny streamers.




Pretty cool! And the Bubbles were perfect for this particular film. Lots of fun! I get stupid enjoyment from bubbles, I guess, ha.




 As for the movie, well, I don't know what to say. If you haven't seen it, I'm not sure what you've been doing with your life. It's fantastic. It's A Christmas Carol set in 80's New York and starring Bill Murray. It's got Carol Kane, Buster Poindexter, Karen Allen, a ton more recognizable faces, hilarious lines, and awesome visuals. It's a masterpiece.




And, that was our last bit of the Drafthouse this year, I suspect, with only a couple days left of 2014. Here's a look at some of the lovely decor at the Ritz to end that subject on. Remember, whatever the season, there's usually something great going on at the Drafthouse to celebrate it. If you wanna keep up with what's going on though, you really gotta check their website EVERY WEEK. Otherwise, you could miss something great! For example, I miss their Cartoon Cereal Parties almost every time! It drives me nuts! Granted, it would be hard for me to get off work on a Saturday morning anyway, but still! I might be able to pull it off!

Now, by the time we went to those holiday Drafthouse screenings, Thanksgiving had come and gone, and our mom had already been in town for a while. As I posted about already, we also attended Austin's Trail of Lights, an event I highly recommend around the holiday season, especially if you can go on a weeknight when it's free. And, I believe it was the night before that on which my mom and sis went to the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting in downtown Austin. I did not attend this year. I worked that day and was too pooped to party afterwards, though I had attended it last year, and it was nice. I didn't see all of it last year either though. Apparently, there's a big sing-along outside before the tree is lit, and I missed that part. I don't remember much, except that there was a street of stands that was nice to stroll through outside the capitol building, though not as impressive as what I saw in Georgetown a few years ago. Anyway, here are some pics my sis brought back from this year's event.





























And that was that. Wish I could tell you guys more about these pictures, but they seem pretty elf explanatory. Seems like it was a pretty decent event.

Something else we did this holiday season, possibly before the Capitol Tree Lighting and the Trail of Lights, I really don't remember exactly, was head out to Plantersville for the last day of the big Texas Renaissance Festival. Now, that was a real hoot indeed!

If you've never been to the Texas RenFest (though most people I've talked to in Austin have), let me tell ya, in my case at least, it was not at all what I was expecting! I expected a bunch of tents in a clearing in the woods, where Lord of the Rings fans were roleplaying, demonstrating medieval craftmanship and selling their wares. This place was so much more! I mean, seriously, this was like a fully established amusement park, though very light on rides and more about the shops, food, live-performances, and strutting around in your latest cosplay, which wasn't always very Renaissancey. I saw a couple of Boba Fetts there. I'm getting ahead of myself though...

Now, this is the recent trip where the virus attack on my computer, sadly, claimed the most pictures. Pretty near all the photos I took were lost. We were only able to salvage the few I had posted on Facebook (which were not the best ones of the day) and some from my sister's phone. Some truly great photos of some truly great stuff were lost forever. I've just had to accept that, begrudgingly.

But, working with what we have... We headed out on the long drive on a Saturday afternoon. We had a hotel room booked and planned to go to the festival the following day. This was to be the final day the Festival would be open this year. The RenFest is open for 8 weekends in the Fall, and the weekends, as I understand it, can have various themes. This being the final weekend, there was a Celtic Christmas theme. I think I've got that right. I'm remembering what my sis told me. She had been to the RenFest once or twice before. This was my first time. Anyway, as I said, it was a bit of a drive to get out there, 2 or 3 hours, I don't remember exactly,  and our GPS was really taking us to parts unseen, for us, anyway. A bit creepy after dark, but we made it there. We passed some interesting small towns along the way though. Check out the cool window display we saw in the most memorable one! There's like a car from the 20's in there...





Eventually and thankfully, we came to our hotel. And it was snazzy! La Torretta Del Lago! I forget the name whenever I'm trying to tell someone, but this pic helps...




The hallways have that great "The Shining" feel to them, ha ha.




Below is our only surviving photo of our room. It was gorgeous though. The living room, the bedroom and the bathroom were all roomy and beautiful! This is no economy hotel though. A stay here can be pretty pricey. My sister knows how to get great deals though. I need to get some info about that from her sometime, ha.




After checking out our room, we explored the hotel. It's right on a huge lake, and there was a very cool piano bar on the second floor.





The next morning, Sunday, we checked out, hit up a Whataburger for breakfast, and headed out to the Renaissance Festival. But first, we took in the view from our room in the daylight...




Below is my first look at the Renaissance Fair. We weren't even inside yet, and it was already darn impressive compared to what I expected! 




Seriously, the entrance below reminded me so much of a Disney park. According to my sis, this place had grown a lot since her previous visit, which was just a year or two ago. Wouldn't surprise me if they DID try to make this a year round, full-on theme park someday. It would need more rides and bigger shows, but I could totally see it happening. 




One of my first sights upon entering was on my left and is now pictured below. Not a bad first impression. Two cute wenches. The one on the right was downright stunning. And I probably had an even better, closer picture too, before the big virus incident. I have no idea what they were selling in their stands though, or if those were just information booths or what. This place was no slouch for gorgeous ladies though! They were everywhere, both working at the Fest and attending, and many were in gorgeously sexy costumes. I particularly liked the fairies running about, but I have a weakness for that sort of thing. The wenches were gorgeous too though.




Below is one that really got me though. She was adorable, even with short hair, which I'm not a big fan of, ha. She was selling something at a cart, but also waving mistletoe over the heads of couples to get them to kiss.




I see below that Snoop Dog did well with a couple of barbarian ladies there....





I was really impressed with the layout and construction of this place. Wish I'd had a map, because it was easy to get lost, but I just didn't think it was going to be this developed of a place! I didn't expect real buildings! The shops were full of fascinating stuff, especially a lot of authentic clothing, hats, boots, etc..., but I was flat broke that weekend and the prices were steep! 




There were various entertainers performing throughout the park (yeah, I'm just gonna call this a park, like I would if I was talking about the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT). The ventriloquist comedy show below was one of them. One should be forewarned though, that after any show, the tip hat will be passed around, ha. This is another difference from visiting a true theme park. These folks are making their living this way, so, you know, be prepared for that if you're gonna watch a show. I hardly ever carry cash these days, so when this sort of thing catches me by surprise, I can feel like a major heel.





Below, I'm waiting to see a performance from this great bagpipe band called "Tartanic". We probably had a video of them performing, before the big computer virus disaster...




There's Tartanic performing below. Seems our only surviving image of the band in action lacks a visual of their very charismatic leader. Wonder where he went to in this shot, ha.




Gypsy carts are just cool, especially canary yellow gypsy carts...




I THINK I mentioned they did have some rides here. For the little ones, there were rides like this. In another area, we also were surprised to see camel and elephant rides that seemed to allow adults as well. But the park also had various types of swing rides, and there were various games, especially in the Sherwood Forest area, which included an archery range and a dunking booth. By the way, have I ever mentioned, I'm descended not only from archers, but residents of Knottingham as well?! Though I don't recall of the archers were the same ancestors as the folks from Knottingham, ha. Still cool though. 




In some of these pics, you might notice some folks in costume. Some of them work at the park, but not all. As I said, anyone can come dressed up, preferably in something Renaissance or Medieval.





Below is my sister posing with a pirate. We have no idea if he worked there or not, ha. I didn't get a chance to put together a costume for this particular trip (I will next time, hopefully), but I did lend my sis my Robin Hood hat, and with that she really managed to throw together a great look at the last minute. Doesn't hurt to have a crazy huge wardrobe, I guess, ha ha. Me, I just have a lot of hats. 






Check out the Celtic Santa below! Man, I am soooo annoyed! I took a photo with him, and it was so cool, or so I'm told, but I never even got to see it! It got destroyed by the virus, and I hadn't even checked it out yet! I just uploaded the pics to our tainted computer (which works like a dream now that I've fixed everything) without even looking at that one first!











Oh, of course, my sister's Santa pic survived!...




Screw it! Here's my Santa pic!




It's always a bonus to visit places like this in the holidays. Lots of extra decor, festive goodies, Christmas trees, Santa Claus... After we took these shots, we headed over the the chocolate stand for some hot cocoa with a bit of a peppermint hit. It was great, even if I'm not big on mint in general and would prefer my cocoa straight.





Oh, I nearly forgot! There was this trail through the woods. I forget what it was called, the magical trail or something (they also had a wedding chapel nearby, also very cool!). Anyway, we walked the trail and at first were like, "Oh, it's just a lot of little seating areas," like benches and stuff. But, when we were almost to the other side, we did see some cool stuff! A display of ancient relics (fake ones, but still cool), a minstrel playing on the side of the trail, and the coolest thing, a secret fairy dance before a thrown where sat a beautiful fairy princess! It was a gorgeous sight, and yeah, we took pics, and yeah, those were among the pics that were lost forever! Argh! I lost some of my most-wanted pics from this trip for sure! Just to give you a better picture of what it was, these were performers dressed (very impressively) like fairies, and they were teaching little girls in the crowd of passers by to do the fairy dance and whatever, like when you see the Jedi Training Academy at Disney World, I guess, ha. Actually, they had something like that too for knights in a different part of the Festival. Anyway, yeah, this was a very cool sight, and it sucks that I have no pics for you, and for me, but I'm glad I remembered to tell you about it!

Well, we later had dinner at a barbecue place with belly dancers for entertainment, and at least I still have a few of those pics! I'm pretty sure the three performers were sisters, as they looked somewhat alike. The (seemingly) youngest one was uber-cute! She's the closest one in the pic below, the one most in front. Probably had better pics before though, ha. It was quite the entertaining show, let me tell ya!







We followed dinner with a bit of jousting.














Then a bit more wandering through shops. I got separated for a while. I discovered an online friend I'd never met before from an Austin cosplay group was there too, and we said hello briefly. I was awkward, because I suck at meeting new people, but also because she had a friend with her who looked like the Little Mermaid in a fairy costume, and that's one form of kryptonite that's particularly potent against me. Sorry, no pictures of her unless I steal them from her Facebook, and even if I did that, I wouldn't blow my cover by sharing them here, ha.




As dusk set in, the Christmas lights really made the place gorgeous!














We were about ready to see the fireworks and head back to Austin, but there was still some time left. This is after I'd been recovered from getting lost, and in my loneliness, purchasing a funnel cake that was a little under-powdered and overly cold. We found our way to a sing-along pirate show in a dining area that was quite impressive indeed!









Amazingly, I even have a video of this one!


video



Now, after the pirate show, we went back to the jousting arena for an excellent fireworks finale to end our day at the Texas Renaissance Festival!








And it was quite a day indeed! I'm definitely looking forward to going back eventually, next time in full medieval regalia! Or probably dressed as my ancestor, Robin Hood. And, hopefully with a Maid Marian, or even better, a fairy princess on my arm! If not, there are plenty of lovelies at the Texas Ren Fest, I guarantee that! Be sure to check out their site, texrenfest.com, for more info!

And that's all I'm gonna be able to make it to tonight, gang! The time just flew by! Hopefully, I'll have time to talk about my Seattle trip tomorrow, as well as my own Christmas here at home, but we'll see. If not, well, I'll post it anyway, even if it's in early 2015, ha ha! Bye for now!