FEAST OF STEPHEN 


This is the first year I've been able to muster any sympathy for the pathetic crybabies who always whine about Christmas being 'depressing.' Candy, carols, colored lights, celebrating another year in which you managed to not die … what's not to love? But in the aftermath of 12 months filled with disasters – both natural and otherwise – I can kinda see how the concept of making merry might seem bittersweet at best.

So try this escape clause on for size. I absolutely, positively guarantee that, if you channel all your holiday-season energies into procuring the perfect gift(s) for ME, you simply won't have the time to be distraught.

For starters, there's always:

THE NIGHT STALKER/THE NIGHT STRANGLER (DOUBLE FEATURE), Columbia Tristar Home Video, $9.99 at Best Buy, various locations; KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER, Universal Home Video, $27.99 at amazon.com

I'm trying hard as hell to get behind ABC's update of the classic Night Stalker TV movies and short-lived series. I don't especially mind the show's 're-envisioning' as a moody X-Files wannabe, or even the transformation of supernatural-news reporter Carl Kolchak into a brooding young hunk. What galls me is the idea that Kolchak – who, as played by Darren McGavin, was a driven, middle-aged loner who sacrificed his personal life to bring the truth about monsters to an endangered public – now buries his own stories, certain that his readers aren't 'ready' for them. Nice tribute to the fourth estate, ABC. Having the classic source material on DVD would be just the reassurance I need that the tireless crusading of newshounds like McGavin is the only thing that stands between our vulnerable society and an uncredited extra in a werewolf mask.

ONE WAY TICKET TO HELL … AND BACK, THE DARKNESS
Atlantic Records, in release Nov. 29

The follow-up to 2003's Permission to Land has all the signs of a sophomore debacle: interminable delays, vanishing bass player, 'voice problems,' etc. Still, it's the sequel to one of the only non-catalog CDs I've bought in about half a decade, so how disappointed could I reasonably be? And that title is the best quasi-retarded arena boast since Spinal Tap declared 'Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight.'

ENLIGHTEN
www.enlightengamesinc.com, $29.99

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of sleepovers at the home of my dear, hyper-religious grandmother, whose idea of kid-friendly pastimes included pearls like The Ten Commandments Game. By an early age, I had thus mastered the art of spinning the spinner and clawing out my own eyes in liturgically surfeited boredom. Now my adult world is about to be rocked by Enlighten, a board game that, its makers say, is 'taking people on a spiritual journey to explore the world's religions.' Players travel around the globe, learning about other's beliefs, debating theological tenets and 'act[ing] out sacred rituals.' (Here's hoping there's a plastic tarp included to soak up the goat's blood I don't want on my carpet.) But who can scoff at creator Christa Reynolds when she says the point of the game is to expand one's personal perspective 'without devaluing your beliefs our anybody else's'? In other words, after a few rounds of this sucker, you'll be able to converse pleasantly and intelligently with fundies, Zionists and human bombs of all denominations. How enriching.

THE COMPLETE NEW YORKER: EIGHTY YEARS OF THE NATION'S GREATEST MAGAZINE, Random House, $61.11 at Borders Books & Music, various locations

Just one year ago, I thought it was the height of unattainable luxury to have all of The New Yorker's editorial cartoons collected in one print/disc leviathan – until an indulgent reader floated me the thing, and I had to change my definition of beautiful excess. Now I have to get my head around the concept that every page ever printed in the magazine has been collected on eight DVD-ROMs. Every single page? Can they even do that? Sounds like a crucial turning point in my grand scheme to never again set foot out of my house. Of course, to make full and proper use of the collection, I'll also need a home computer, which I'm sure some deep-pocketed fan will happily provide. Otherwise, I'll have to sneak this stuff into the office on Sundays, and that'll blow my well-established cover that I'm surfing for porn.

GIFT CERTIFICATES TO THE GAP
www.gap.com

I have the same reservations about buying winter clothes that most of my friends have toward forging relationships with members of the opposite sex: They may look great on you in the current moment, but why spend all that money on something you're only going to get to wear for a few weeks, tops?

The answer, dear reader, is gift certificates to the Gap, which enable you to shoot your wad on coats and sweaters (metaphorically speaking, of course) without suffering too much guilt from knowing that they'll be spending more time in the closet than Tab Hunter.

MONKEY PORTRAIT
www.monkeymuseum.com, $60-$500

No household is complete without a professionally crafted portrait of the man or lady of the manor. And given the zoo-like state of most Orlando-area rentals, the most appropriate immortalization is one generated by the good folks at Monkeymuseum.com. All you do is supply a photo of yourself or a loved one, and the Museum's artists return an image of the subject as a happy primate. Though I'd love for you to spring for the $500 it'd take to render my chimped-out self in the form of a top-of-the-line custom painting, I'd be willing to settle for the $60 11-by-17-inch poster. My list of acceptable monkey templates, however, is almost ridiculously finite: I only want to be depicted as either Curious George or Tom Feeney.

KISS: ROCK THE NATION LIVE!
Image Entertainment, in release Dec. 13

These mercenary cocksuckers canceled their last area concert date mere hours before showtime for 'medical reasons' – i.e., they were sick of looking at empty seats. I vowed then and there that my 27 years of funding their perpetual adolescence and failed attempts at mogul-dom had reached an end. If, however, it's you ponying up the cash for this DVD substitute for The Gig That Never Was, I can keep my promise while still getting to hear 'Deuce' for the 145,373rd time.

BATMAN: THE COMPLETE 1943 MOVIE SERIAL COLLECTION
Columbia Tristar Home Video,
$19.99 at Best Buy, www.bestbuy.com

Sure, Batman Begins and the new special editions of the Burton/Schumacher flicks doubtlessly make for superior viewing. But if my friends and family don't already know that I expect to see them under my tree come X-mas morn, they can count on receiving hot slag in their stockings next year. Your mission, then, is to supply me with this simultaneously released World War II artifact – never before available on home video – which is amazingly replete with a whole mess of unedited ethnic slurs, including (reportedly) the Caped Crusader's warning to the Boy Wonder that 'all Japs are devils.' Hey, completism and political correctness don't always mix.

A FITNESS-CLUB MEMBERSHIP TO ANY GYM THAT MEETS MY NEEDS

Come on, you can't be terribly surprised that anybody who namechecks KISS, Batman, The New Yorker and Darren McGavin on his Christmas wish list is a 98-pound weakling. (OK, it's actually 140 pounds – but believe you me, it's all bone and water.) At the age of 40, it's finally dawning on me that I many not want to spend the rest of my life looking like a prepubescent shortstop with asthma. What I need is a one-year membership to a workout center that's well equipped, affordable and convenient to both my home and place of business. I'll leave it to our many wonderful advertisers to determine which of them best fits the description.

WORLDWIDE PEACE, UNIVERSAL HARMONY AND ABIDING RESPECT FOR THE RIGHTS OF ALL LIVING CREATURES

If you can't find one of the two Night Stalker DVDs, I'll take this instead. I think they sell it at Target, www.target.com. sschneider@orlandoweekly.com

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