I was a little apprehensive about this year’s decision that my cousins and I would be cooking Christmas dinner for the family (not my idea). Fortunately it all went smoothly and, beyond the logistics of juggling limited oven space, it is hard to understand all the fuss if the work is shared a little. And if you have home-made chef’s hats. I remain utterly sceptical about celebrating anything with turkey — there is a reason we do not eat the blandest bird in existence the rest of the year — but the secret to a great Christmas meal seems to be coating absolutely everything in goose fat.
The best new tradition that emerged under our watch was using The Final Countdown as the soundtrack to lighting the Christmas pudding, of which no doubt G.O.B. would have heartily approved. My uncle Rajan’s absence was keenly felt even when not addressed directly, but it was good to have the family together and it was strangely comforting to know a similar feeling was shared by my family overseas with their own empty chair.
Whilst I enjoy the real world parties, New Year’s Eve may be my least favourite day on social networks. I think there is a lot to be said for using the arbitrary calendar marker as a time of reflection over the previous year, but most of the myriad potted life summaries that litter facebook that day tend to be irritating works of fiction because: (a) capturing 31.5 million seconds of human experience in a couple of paragraphs is an exercise in futility; and (b) writing for public consumption has an understandably self-serving goal entirely to different to one’s deeper personal reflections. Were I to write my own “2013 in review” it would probably be something like this:
I spent this year on a rock that feels increasingly small, hurtling around a gigantic ball of fire at 30km/s.
Inexplicably, I somehow managed to hold on.
Actually, that sounds rather apt.
Wearing t-shirts emblazoned with logos are a fine way to voice your support for your favourite bands, films and, these days, videogames. However it can be a little too obvious. Enter Last Exit To Nowhere, a couple of guys who screen print high quality t-shirts for fictitious brands from classic films. Realising recently that, with my working life now filled with suits indefinitely, I actually need very little casualware, it became easier to justify buying more unique items like these which better reflect me. Hence I can now proudly advertise Lacuna Inc (Eternal Sunshine) and Genco Pura Olive Oil (The Godfather). Now that’s more like it!
Recent goings on I haven’t mentioned yet include a Christmas cake competition on Boxing Day, stemming from an earlier discussion of whose was best. I found myself on the judging panel largely on the basis of my guaranteed impartiality, since there was no chance of me liking any of them (Sri Lankan style Christmas cake traditionally includes both fruit and nuts, two ingredients I strongly contend have no place in any cake). Judging primarily on texture and taste I was thus singularly objective. That which I least disliked clearly deserved to win. The four contestants could not have been more competitive, and the tension only mounted over a great dinner cooked by Kirsty. Ultimately it was my mother who emerged the deserving victor. Moist and with well balanced flavour, I still think it tasted awful, but it was the best of the bunch.
Just prior to Christmas I caved and picked up the full band Guitar Hero: World Tour kit. With a slightly discount on account of Zavvi’s hardships, it remained expensive but had dropped into the realms of viability. With time off to spend with family it seemed like an obvious choice. For those wondering why I went with this rather than Rock Band, the answer is the quality of Red Octane’s hardware, both the sturdy drumkit with raised cymbals (it sounds like a small detail but makes a big difference) and the large guitar with a touchpad. Compatible with Rock Band 2 (at least on the 360) I fully intend to pick up the game for the additional songs and the wealth of DLC which the guys at Harmonix have a much better handle on. However it was not until the Hydes visited that we had a real band atmosphere going. Three instruments rocking out together gives the game a very different vibe, though sadly no one has been brave enough to add vocals to the mix. The mic is lonely so volunteers are very welcome.
For the gaming achievement whores lovers out there, flash game Achievement Unlocked is a must play. Ostensibly a basic platformer with an elephant and some spikes, the real goal is the meta game with 100 achievements to collect as quickly as possible. This commences instantly for the heady challenge of “finding the main menu”. There is also a hints page which gives details on how unlock all 100 and there is, of course, an achievement for using the hints page…