Posts Tagged ‘shopping


Universal Rule of the Universe #78:

Blake’s Universal Rule of the Universe #78

Sometimes the express lane just isn’t fast enough. Stores should have a “Super-Duper Express Lane” for those customers wearing anxious expressions and buying nothing but a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

Read the rest of the Universal Rules of the Universe right here!


Everything But Imaginary #471: Shopping at the Con

This year’s Wizard World New Orleans was held at the beginning of December… not the optimal time, perhaps, but it did allow something that I’ve never done before. At this year’s convention, I did some Christmas shopping. Here’s how to do it…

Everything But Imaginary #471: Shopping at the Con


Things I DON’T like about Christmas

As you’ve probably heard right now, I love Christmas. I love it in a totally unironic, unapologetic way. I love it so much that I’d help coordinate Dickens’s three spirits to new misers every year. I love it so much that I know not to wish for it to be Christmas every day, because I’ve seen enough cartoons where that happens to know that would be disastrous. And in fact, I suspect most people reading this love Christmas too. Even those who claim to hate Christmas secretly love it, because it gives them an excuse to complain loudly to anybody who will listen how much they hate Christmas. They’re like hipsters that way.

But that doesn’t mean I love everything about Christmas. So for the sake of you Scrooges out there, I thought today I would point you towards a few of the things about Christmas I could do without. None of these are particularly original suggestions, but they’re mine, consarn it. Some of the things I really hate are…

Christmas Shopping

I love to give gifts. I love handing over a brightly-wrapped package to a loved one and seeing their face as they tear it open, and I love putting on my own most charming smile as I hand over the gift receipt so they can exchange it. But I hate the actual shopping process. I don’t really like crowds in the first place, so wandering an Old Navy packed with enough people to keep an NBA franchise in a small market city is horrifying to me. Because although I subscribe to the theory that people, at heart, are basically good, I also subscribe to the theory that most people immediately between myself and whatever my goal of the moment is are raging morons. I hate having to elbow my way past sixteen people to see if they’ve got the particular aroma of soap at Bath and Body Works that showed up on my sister-in-law’s Things I list. I hate those who block the aisles with huge shopping carts at awkward angles that clearly aren’t moving any time soon because they’ve just pulled out their cell phones and started a conversation about the LSU/Alabama rematch. I think people who get into the “10 Items or Less” line with 11 or more items should be shot. Out of a cannon. At a brick wall.

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but I’ll tell you this: if I was in charge of shopping, all express lane cash registers would automatically shut down after the allotted number of items have been scanned in, and the cashiers would be instructed to tally up the items scanned thus far and tell the perpetrator to take the rest of their crap to the end of the line.

And while shopping online has helped this situation considerably, there are still pitfalls — like figuring out what to get for everybody. My father is one of the hardest people in the world to shop for. If I get him books I think he’ll like, he never has time to read them. If I get him DVDs, he never has time to watch them. I have no idea which tools he already has or needs, and I don’t even know if he needs a left-handed or right-handed triple-ground flange escalator. I am lost.

As a corrollary to the shopping situation, I also hate…


You know how stupid people are in stores? Put them behind the wheel of a car and their IQ automatically drops another 37 points. There are special places reserved in Hell for those who cut off six cars to advance twelve feet in heavy, slowly-moving lanes of traffic. It’s catercorner to those who tailgate, next door to those who cut in-between cars just because they aren’t tailgating, and down the block from the spot for those who think turn signals are a quaint anachronism that aren’t really necessary because they’re so damn awesome everybody should just get out of their way on general principle.

I realize that none of these particular complains are specific to the Christmas season, but they are without a doubt multiplied this time of year. More people on the road translates to more stupid people on the road. The great Dave Barry once said that, in traffic, anybody who drives slower than you is an idiot and anybody who drives faster than you is a maniac. I would amend this slightly. I believe anybody who drives slower than me is an idiot and anybody who drives faster than me is a maniac.

The Christmas Shoes

You know this song. Adorable waif shows up in a store on Christmas Eve. He goes to the clerk with a pair of shoes and about eleven cents and a gum wrapper in his pocket, and asks if that’s enough to buy them for his sick mama, who’s about to go meet baby Jesus. People cry and we all learn a Very Important Lesson.

Look, I’m all for Christmas stories having a message. In fact, I think they should have a message beyond just, in the words of the immortal Animal from A Muppet Family Christmas, “Gimme Presents!” But no storyteller should resort to something so painstakingly manipulative as a chronically dying mother get his point across. The song is specifically and deliberately structured in order to make the listener feel like a pulsating burlap bag of horse crap in the hopes that they will call their mamas and tell them they love them and buy them copies of the CD.

And the worst part is that the damn song is now stuck in my head. Okay, I’m gonna have to blast “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” while I write this next one just to get rid of it…

ABC Family’s Definition of “Christmas”

I respect the ABC Family network for loading December with Christmas programming, and for how heavily they promote it. I love the fact that they give us marathons of Rankin and Bass specials, original holiday movies, and so much other content.

On the other hand, certain things just don’t fit their definition. Sure, there’s a December scene in most of the movies, but Harry Potter? NOT a Christmas film. No matter how many of the movies you show in a row. The same goes for the marathons of Pixar movies. You’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody who loves The Incredibles more than me, but it’s still not what I’m going to put on if I’m in the mood for some holiday cheer.

I’m not saying that ABC Family should avoid showing these things during the month of December. Let’s face it, if we didn’t allow them to show Harry Potter movies they’d lose their entire weekend lineup twice a month. But if you’re going to do that, don’t bill it as a “Christmas” marathon.

People Afraid to Say “Christmas”

I’m not talking about the whole “Happy Holidays” thing here, guys. Honestly, that doesn’t bother me in and of itself. I recognize that there are many celebrations, both religious and secular, that take place this time of year, and I fully support everybody’s right to celebrate whatever they happen to believe in or hold traditional. What bothers me, though, is when I feel like somebody is going deliberately out of their way to avoid saying the word “Christmas” or allude to anything even remotely connected to the holiday, as though it were some horrible, verboten topic that everybody knows about but doesn’t actually want to mention, like the real reason Uncle Walter keeps ordering little sailor outfits from those Japanese websites.

To fully demonstrate my point, I’d like to point out last year’s chief offender from my primary nerddom of comic books: the DC Universe Holiday Special. Comic companies have done holiday specials for years, of course, most of them featuring several stories with multiple characters and, most of the time, showcasing various holidays. Again, that’s cool. I don’t mind a Hanukkah or Kwanzaa story, I don’t mind seeing the  Justice League ring in the New Year or the Avengers sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. But if the idea is to be inclusive, Christmas is traditionally included as well, right? That’s… that’s what “inclusive” means, it means that nobody gets left out. I know, I gave it to my 11th graders in a vocabulary quiz.

The six stories in this comic book included a winter solstice story set in caveman times, a western Hanakkah story, a Superman Thanksgiving story, a story about the Shi’a Day of Ashra and Easter (combined), a story of the Vernal Equinox, and a far-future story where all holidays have been mashed together into one generic “Holiday.” Seriously. That’s it. The word “Christmas” never appears in the book, nor “Yuletide,” or even “X-Mas.” No image of Santa Claus, not a tree, not a trace of Christmas lights, not a bloody snowman. Even the Easter mention was in passing. Christmas was so conspicuous by its absence that it couldn’t have been a more deliberate snub if they’d had Sarah Silverman urinate on a Nativity scene. It’s a damn far cry from the classic 70s story where Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes actually took a spaceship to look for the Star of Bethlehem.

(In all fairness to DC Comics, they did also publish the Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special last year, which starred an alien driven by greed who comes to Earth and suffers a horrendous and hysterical misunderstanding of Santa Claus. And speaking of Santa Claus…)

The Santa Clause

With all due respect to Tim Allen, this makes me want to crack people over the head with a yule log. I know the problem didn’t originate with his movie, but it certainly seems to have gotten worse since then, so let’s get something straight, people:

The Santa Clause is either: A) A series of Christmas films starring Tim Allen as Santa Claus or B) The specific clause featured in said series of movies that leaves someone beholden to become the new Santa Claus if they put on the suit of the previous Santa Claus should they meet with an untimely end.

That’s it.

The name of the person himself? SANTA. CLAUS. With NO “E.”

It’s the English teacher in me, guys, but it drives me bonkers. It’s a spelling error and I keep seeing it again and again and again and — argh! There’s a spot in the Special Hell for people who do this too. If Santa CLAUSE was coming to town, I’m imagining a lawyer driving in with a briefcase full of legal papers that are going to indemnify you in the case of Nicholas Vs. Guy With a Slippery Roof. If you see Mommy kissing Santa CLAUSE, that means she’s got her lips caught in a DVD case and you need to call 911 again.

Get. It. Right.

Okay, that should be enough evidence that not EVERYTHING about Christmas fills me with joy and revelry. Just most of it. And if you’re missing out on any revelry yourself, here’s an inexpensive way to get a little…

My eBook, A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas, is now available in the Kindle Store, the Barnes & Noble Nook Store, on your iPad bookstore, or for every other eBook format at! This eBook contains the entire short novel A Long November, PLUS eight additional short stories of the holidays, including the short story “Lonely Miracle,” set in the world of my novel Other People’s Heroes. That’s nine stories for just $2.99, friends. Check it out, tell your friends, and Merry Christmas!


Universal Rule of the Universe #71

Blake’s Universal Rule of the Universe #71

71. If I buy something from your website, you don’t need to start sending me your paper catalog. I no longer need paper catalogs. I have the internet.

(I’m lookin’ at you, Oriental Trading.)

Read the rest of the Universal Rules of the Universe right here!



A Long November Part Nine: Celebrations (Evercast #10)

Here we are, friends, the final chapter of A Long November! Duncan and Josiah’s race to the Winter Palace comes to a conclusion, the truth about Duncan’s reformation is revealed, and we discover once and for all if our curmudgeonly friend can find room for Christmas. Plus, an old-fashioned Blake Rant about the perils of Christmas shopping!

A Long November Part Nine: Celebrations (Evercast #10)

Theme music by Jeff Hendricks. Evercast logo by Heather Petit-Keller. Additional music: Merry Freakin’ Christmas by the Mydols & Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Opp Sept Demo, provided by the Podshow Podsafe Music Network.

Send your e-mails to

A Long November, along with eight other Christmas stories, is now available free of charge as an eBook from If you’ve got a Kindle, iPhone, Sony eReader, or virtually any other eBook-reading device, you can add the book to your device. Visit the book’s page at!


Christmas Shopping: A Quest

I very rarely Christmas shop anymore. At least, not in the traditional sense. I don’t like crowds, I hate trying to find a parking space, and sifting through thousands of items trying to find just the right one holds no appeal to me whatsoever. There’s a reason that the week after Thanksgiving’s Black Friday now begins with a day called Cyber Monday. Shopping online is far more convenient, far less frustrating, and quite often, much cheaper.

A few years ago, my buddy Mike called me up and asked if I would be willing to brave Black Friday with him. He needed a new receiver for his home theater set up, and he was hoping to get a good deal. Being a good friend, I agreed. We wound up in Best Buy, where we found that the entire store had been laid out in a labyrinth of sorts, and just like a classical labyrinth, one would have to walk the entire length of every aisle in the store in order to escape with your purchases. There was a swarm of people there, a mob in fact, and Mike and I had to charge through, pushing and shoving far more than polite young men such as ourselves are wont to do, before we finally found the electronics section… and didn’t find the component Mike wanted. We wound up driving an hour out of our way to a smaller electronics store that was also having a sale. Mike found exactly what he wanted with almost no fight at all. That store is out of business now. Go figure.

Since then, it’s all been online shopping for me. And sites like Things I Want have made it even simpler since one of my relatives found it last year. My entire family, and most importantly, my girlfriend are all on it now. Some people would argue this takes the fun out of Christmas shopping. I say these people are clinically insane. The shopping is the one part of Christmas that I’ve never enjoyed.

This is not to say I never buy anything in a store around Christmas. Far from it. But I never venture into a store with a list, desperate to find just the right thing for just the right person, because chances are I already got it online. When I’m in a store, I typically buy things that are Christmas-related. DVDs, books, CDs or trinkets to review here on the site, or things that I just think are cool. The other day, for example, I found a small Whitman Sampler tin with Charlie Brown and Snoopy, two of the greatest comic strip characters ever, featured both in their original incarnation from 1950 and their final incarnation in 2000, just before the death of creator Charles Schulz. You don’t often see the two depictions next to each other, but with next year marking the 60th anniversary of the comic strip, we’re seeing more and more cool Peanuts stuff hit the stores.

But I digress. I had hoped to take care of all my shopping this year the week after Thanksgiving, but as you may have heard, I suffered a series of catastrophic computer failures throughout the autumn months that pretty much ensured I would instead be spending the bulk of my November paycheck on a new laptop computer. This is the part that sucks about getting paid only once a month. The good news is that our usual payday, the 20th, happened to fall on a Sunday in December, which meant we’d get it on the preceding Friday. I’d have another paycheck and two whole extra days before Christmas. I managed to get a few things during the month, but yesterday when I got home I hopped online and ordered the lion’s share of what I was planning to give this year, and all but one item is guaranteed to be delivered by the 24th. Of course, it’s entirely possible that on Christmas Eve I’ll be posting a rant about not getting my packages on time, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

This morning, old Mike called me again and asked if I’d be willing to take a run with him to pick up his weekly comic books. I said I’d be happy to, if he didn’t mind stopping at a Best Buy. (That’s right, our previous experience did not sour us on Best Buy. Quite the contrary, I take personal credit for the fact that Circuit City shut down, because after a few nasty experiences there I boycotted it in favor of Best Buy entirely). We got in the car and headed out, and as we drove, Mike commented that “at least it’s not Black Friday.”

And, because God has a sense of humor, this is exactly the moment that we ran headlong into the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“Yeah, you know that Black Friday isn’t actually the busiest shopping day of the year anymore, right?” I said. “The Saturday before Christmas is.”

We got home after several hours and a few unexpected adventures, and I now officially only have one item left to purchase. I know exactly where I have to go for it, but there was no way I was going to subject Mike — or myself — to the mob we’d have to fight. I’ll take my chances going Monday, when most of those loons are back at work.

And then when I got home…

I got back from our little excursion to find something really great in the mail — a large package from Thom Zahler of one of my favorite comics, Love and Capes. As you may have heard, early this year Zahler made an irresistible offer to fans: a chance to be drawn onto the cover of issue #12 of the comic. This was the big wedding issue of Mark Spencer, alias the Crusader, and Abby Tennyson. I’ve spoken at length before of just how much I love this comic book, so I’m not going to get into it again, but I am gonna talk about just how damn cool it is that Erin and I got to attend the wedding. We’re both huge fans of this comic, and to see ourselves not only on the cover, but also in the crowd in the interior of the comic (not part of the original package at all) made me absolutely giddy.

For the price of our admission, Erin and I got drawn onto the cover with such notables as Felicia Day and Dwayne McDuffie, and we also got two autographed copies of the comic and two autographed prints of the artwork, suitable for framing. I bought this around Valentine’s Day, but getting it in the mail was like an early Christmas present. Thanks again, Thom, not just for making such an incredible comic book, but for allowing us to be a small part of it. If you haven’t read it yet, the wedding issue is available in finer comic shops right now, or you can order back issues, the collected edition of issues #1-6, and assorted clothes, pins, and goodies from the Love and Capes online store. Seriously, people, I cannot recommend this comic book enough. Go out and get it now.

In fact, one could say it would make a perfect Christmas present for the comic geek on your list, couldn’t one?

May 2023

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