Tag Archives: nintendo

The Nintendo Entertainment System Power Set, Part 1

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Once upon a time, while perusing craigslist, I came across an ad for a “Nitendo” for sale. It said it was still in the original box, came with several games still in their boxes, and the asking price was pretty good.

My own childhood Nintendo didn’t survive years of brutality, blowing, and the ultimate crashlanding into the yard sale heap. In my teenage years, I never imagined that one day, nostalgia for my youth would come back and bite me in the ass. I wanted Nintendo, again. I emailed the seller with a few questions.

tasha2hottie@yahoo.com wrote back to me almost immediately. Her further descriptions were still not very elaborate, and her spelling still not very good, and she had no use for punctuation or uppercase letters. Needless to say, the purchase could have been awkward.

But it wasn’t, and tasha2hottie saved everything, even the original styrofoam packaging. It was as close as I was going to get to that first time experience of opening a new NES. Even the tag from Caldor was still on there. Here are some pictures and memories of the NES Power Set –

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1988 was first time I saw a Nintendo. I sat breathlessly on the floor, watching my dad’s friend play Top Gun and Super Mario Bros. I had completely missed Atari, being too young, and though I had seen video games before in the arcade, I was usually intimidated by teenagers playing them. Seeing video games in the living room, on a television was exciting.

I watched Mario leap on the flag pole and slide down, and then trot towards the castle. It was amazing. I could hardly compare it to anything I had experienced, but cartoons were the greatest thing I could think of–and this was better “This is better than cartoons,” I announced. The friend laughed. I didn’t understand why. It really was. It was better than anything.

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That December, the Nintendo Power Set was released, bundled with Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet, the Zapper, and the Power Pad. By the time of the Power Set’s release, Nintendo was mainstream and affordable to everyone on the block, not just the rich family. It was still $149 dollars, nearly $300 in today’s dollars.

My parents warned me that even Santa had a snowball in hell’s chance of getting one, and not to be disappointed if Santa didn’t bring one at Christmas. A lot of kids believed that Santa’s elves made the toys, but I knew better than that–Santa actually shopped at Toys R Us after midnight, and just because he could fly and shit didn’t make him superhuman. So I cut him some slack. The Nintendo was hard to get.

But I wanted one bad. I didn’t want it because I wanted to brag about it in school. And I didn’t want it because it was expensive, or because it was the coolest. I wanted it because it seemed like a dream, something magical and possible, and yet beyond this world. 8-bit games look pedestrian now, but back then, they validated my beliefs that there were things beyond this world that were real.

Some magicians could do real magic. At Disneyworld, cartoon characters walked alongside humans. At the Power Plant, there was a real leprechaun. Santa shopped at Toys R Us. Michael Jackson could walk forwards and backwards at the same time. Video games existed. These were things that were really real, and knowing this, I felt safe. I felt confident. I felt forever.

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Then one night, in what seemed like the middle of the night, my mother woke up me and my sister. She never woke us up for anything–not even New Years–but she was barely able to contain the excitement in her voice. “Dad got one,” she said. I didn’t have to ask what it was. I may have cut Santa some slack, but only because I knew my Dad could do it.

He had spent the evening secretly calling all the toy stores, even all the way out in West Virginia. And when a Toys R Us out there had one, he figured he could make it out there in 90 minutes before they closed. He went to another state to get the Nintendo–even Santa Claus, Kris Kringle himself, didn’t do that kind of thing.

Nintendo was a family affair; we all played it, even Mom, who seemed to like it most of all. We even watched the Fred Savage movie, The Wizard, together as a family. Then right after it ended, we popped Super Mario 3 in the NES to try that flying trick. The Nintendo wasn’t just a toy. It ranked somewhere in between the dog and the cat as a member of the family.

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As much as video games are a part of my life, I didn’t grow up to become a gamer, and in fact, I never owned a Super Nintendo until last year. I never even played an N64, GameCube, or Wii until a few months ago. I wasn’t even that great at video games. I’ve never beaten Super Mario Bros. I suppose I could, but I get too frustrated with that Princess being in another castle bullcrap.

And today, with the Wii, I’m still trying to figure out all this Princess Daisy, Princess Peach thing. Where is Princess Toadstool, and who the hell is Princess Daisy? I’ll tell you what else I’m trying to figure out–where did the AI get all those blue shells from in Mario Kart? I’m also trying to figure out how it thinks I threw the ball over there, when clearly I’m waving this wand RIGHT AT THE MIDDLE OF THE TV.

The most awesome part was it looked as though the Power Pad has never been used:

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It looks factory-packed in there, nice and undisturbed, like a little baby snuggled in a cardboard box. I don’t want to take it out, it would never go back in. You’d have to have the patience of Mother Teresa to press out the air and re-fold the Power Pad back into this box, and I barely have the patience for WAVING THE WAND RIGHT AT MIDDLE OF THE STUPID TELEVISION.

Besides, I haven’t yet desired to relive my youth of pounding on the Power Pad. For you kiddies, the Power Pad was a bit like an early version of the Wii Fit. It “tracked” your movement to simulate running and jumping movements on screen. Except I’m sure now that it didn’t work at all. And yet, as a kid, I believed in it deeply, and so I pounded away. It was almost a evangelical experience, hammering my feet on the pads until I was exhausted and near collapse. By this point, I’d be breathless and coughing, but still wanting to play, so I’d cheat and pound my fists on the pads. But every kid knew that trick.

So check back for Part 2. In Part 2 of my big freaking NES post, I’ve got a lot of vintage advertisements and posters, and perhaps several paragraphs detailing my amusement over the fact that the word “relentless” appears several times on the original Tetris box.

You want relentless? I’ll tell you what’s relentless–the bitch that is the AI in Mario Kart Wii.

PS: There’s a peek of Part 2 on Surfing Pizza’s Facebook. It’s kinda like subscribing to Nintendo Power. Get Behind The Surfing Pizza Before You Get Behind The Post. Something like that.

Hii Saved Me

I haven’t been buying as much crap and trinkets. I’m not losing the passion, I’m just going to the beach next weekend, and have been saving all of my allotted money for the boardwalk arcades and junk shops. So I’ve been passing up flea market gems, new flavors of Pringles, and the onslaught of bootleg Michael Jackson merchandise flooding the streets of Baltimore. It took every fiber of my willpower to pass up buying a homemade, computer-printed picture of Michael & Bubbles, framed in a dollar store frame, from a man with two teeth over on Pratt Street.

Every fiber.

The thing is, Michael was in one cut-out circle, and Bubbles was in the other. They weren’t even in the same picture! It could have gone on the mantle place, if I had one. God Bless that man for making it.

But I had to save my money. I’m hardcore about the boardwalk arcades, see? In comparison, the girlfriend will meekly pull out a $1 bill to exchange for quarters, and try her hand at the claw machine. I pull out a $20. I wait all year for this. It’s vacation. Some people like to relax and drink margaritas. I like to curse at the claw machines and have my fortune read by mechanical gypsies. Incidentally, I also enjoy margaritas. And when you combine margaritas with mechanical gypsies, incidentally, I gain the magical power to levitate 2 inches off the ground.

Yet, the other week I found a piece of crap that I couldn’t leave behind. A piece of crap that I needed to buy.

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This is, simply, “the greatest ripoff of Nintendo by Christianity since the unlicensed Bible Adventures for the NES.” And yes, I’ve been planning that line ever since I bought this keychain. I especially love the touch with the word “Hii”, as though the Jesus weren’t clearly a Mii, as though it were needed to drive home the point that this is specifically a Nintendo-based faith product.

What if God played the Wii? And what if God made a Mii? What would he call it? And what if God was one of us? Just a slob like all of us?

And what would Jesus do? Make an unlicensed product to ripoff and capitalize upon a popular gaming system in order to indoctrinate children and earn profits?

I’m being far too cynical–wait a moment while I go to look up John 3:16, to find a mentioning of the pronoun “Hii”.

As you can see, there are many reasons why I couldn’t pass this keychain up. I was just too amused with it.

Well, now I’m going to tell you the story of the time a woman tried to save me at Wendy’s. I guess I looked like I needed to be saved. I had blue-streaked hair and wore cargo shorts–cargo shorts of course being a target that Christians are trained to look for–the number one place where teenagers hide drugs. On this particular visit to Wendy’s, I was also wearing a Prince t-shirt. I looked like the Devil.

At the time I thought I was special, because religious people used to come up to me all the time. I possibly even thought it was really all the work of God. I was not humbled or inspired by this. Instead, I figured it all into my egotistical image of self. I was so damn important, God was reaching out to me at Wendy’s. God wanted me. Me. Me. Me.

I was 19 and weighed all of 120 pounds. Now I realize Christians are trained to prey on the young and weak-looking. They never try to save me now–probably because of the madman look in my eyes that dares people to approach me. Either this, or God decided to stop feeding into my expanding image of self-importance.

But there I was at Wendy’s, eating a spicy chicken combo with a Biggie-sized order of fries and a tub of Diet Coke. I was munching away at the overcooked and rubbery sandwich, dipping my fries in honey mustard, and wiping my grease-smudged fingers with a single yellow napkin. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large woman across the restaurant staring at me. Large would be the only adjective appropriate to describe her. Staring would be the only present participle.

Instantly, I knew. I just knew. “Oh, shit,” I thought. I knew she was going to come over to me. I began to eat slower, so as to not have a mouthful of chicken when she arrived. She was dressed in a nautical-colored muumuu, which possibly had leopard spots. She wore glasses, and had long mousy hair. She moved across the restaurant in slow motion, a tray of fast food in her hands, her muumuu flowing behind her. I wiped the grease from my mouth, swallowing the last sinful bites of spicy chicken and warmed lettuce.

It was happening. Again. There I sat alone at a small, two-person table. She sat down, at my table, her tray touching mine.

“I just wanted you to know, that God compelled me to come here. I was just sitting there eating, when suddenly God told me to come sit with you. He wants me to tell you he loves you.”

“Thank you,” I said. What else could I say? She was so sincere. I was so innocent, back then, save for the menacing Prince t-shirt.

And with that, she took her tray, and went back to the other side the restaurant, her muumuu swirling around her trunk-sized legs.

I shrugged and resumed eating my fries. There were a lot of them left–afterall, they were Biggie-sized. Biggie sizing–always seemed like a good idea when the cashier asked, but in the end, was always a very bad choice. God really must like me, reaching out to me at this hell hole. Hey, some people find tumors in their chicken sandwich. I find Jesus in mine.

Memories of The Sega Game Gear

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Here is the Sega Game Gear, a piece of equipment I once considered to be the pinnacle of technology, simply because I could play Sonic in the backseat. Then again, I once considered a lot of things the pinnacle of technology: 8 bit graphics, the Power Pad, color screens on computers, blue Kool Aid, the MexiMelt, portable CD players, and then 16-bit systems. I had no idea what technology could do to top these things. But then came portable video games. While the first true handheld electronic game came out in 1977, Mattel’s Auto Race, the first time I ever heard of such a technology, it was the Nintendo Game Boy.

All children, except one, had a Game Boy. And that child was me. Everywhere else, glue-eyed kids pushed their A Buttons and D Pads, in school, on the bus, even in line at the grocery store. But I was forgotten and left for dead, only to subsist on regular old Nintendo on regular old TV, stale biscuits and water.

But there was still hope; there was Christmas, that one redeeming day of the year where you could equalize your social standing through material goods. By then, the Game Boy also had competitors, the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx handhelds. I would have to choose wisely, scanning the toy catalogs and studying the commercials.

The Sega Game Gear came out asking why anyone would want to play something the color of creamed-spinach. They went straight for emotions, calling Nintendo crap. The technology on all Sega systems was superior to Nintendo, with better graphics and sound, but Sega didn’t bore people with technology jargon in their marketing. They made it simple: “Sega does what Nintendon’t.”

The Game Gear commercials portrayed zombified fat kids playing Game Boys, their worlds in black and white. Only a lone rebel with gel in their hair dared to play the Game Gear, their world turned on and awash in color–32 colors in fact. Take the following commercial, where a bovine-looking kid beats himself in the head with a stiff, dead squirrel in order to see his Gameboy in color:

Our consoles, ourselves. I knew who I wanted to be. I was a lone wolf, the rebel with gelled hair, an ahead-thinker. And I’d never, ever touch a dead squirrel. You could get rabies. I chose the Game Gear.

The Game Gear had a 3.2 inch screen, utilized a landscape shape to prevent hand cramping, had impressive backlit technology so that you could even see the game screen in the dark, and weighed a ton with 6 AA Batteries. Welcome to the Next Level.

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I got 3 games–George Foreman’s KO Boxing, Sonic Chaos, and Ren & Stimpy’s Quest for the Shaven Yak. Dead squirrels, shaven yaks, and hedgehogs with attitude–that was the Sega Game Gear.

I had been most excited about the Foreman game, having longed for another boxer to admire after my parents said I couldn’t like Mike Tyson anymore. The big assignment that year at school was the Fifth Grade Research a Famous Person at the Library. I had wanted to do Tyson but my mother wouldn’t let me, and she forced me to write about Mother Theresa instead. I thought my mother was cruel for making me learn about some nun. But Mike Tyson had done something bad, even warranting his removal from Punch-Out.

So I needed George Foreman. Too bad George Foreman’s KO Boxing is one of the worst boxing games of all time. Still, I admire his lean grilling machines. You know, I admire Mother Theresa too.

The main problem with the Game Gear was the cornucopia of batteries you needed to run it. It only lasted about 4-5 hours on 6 batteries, compared to the Game Boy’s efficient use of four batteries which lasted up to 10 hours. So if you’re calling this thing a portable gaming system, understand that it was only portable for about five hours–unless you had a stockpile of Duracells, and if you’re a kid, you’re unlikely to have a stockpile of anything. Then again, if you’re a kid, where are you gonna go for so long? I might have taken this along on a holiday trip to the mountains once or twice, but most of the time, I played Shaven Yak under my bedsheets. I had the AC Adaptor.

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The adaptor was sold separately, meaning you had to save your money for a stupid plug, or you had to waste a Christmas present on a stupid plug. It’s as sneaky as the Genesis coming with only one controller. Now I knew what they meant when they said life was unfair, my first taste of the real world, this and the time I wasn’t allowed to have a glow stick at the circus.

As an adult, I find the Game Gear unplayable, none of the games worth squinting at a 3 inch screen for longer than 7 minutes. But the cartridges are just adorable:

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No, you know what? They’re not just adorable, they’re darling. The design of these darling things is great–light weight, come in darling little cases, and they load in and out of the system easily. I could just eat them. Sega’s marketing strategy was to give away the razor to sell the blades: selling the Game Gear for a relatively cheap $150, but all the games for $29.99, which is about as much as a video game today.

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And like any Sega system, they also offered a crapload of expensive “options” that you could upgrade your system with–peripherals, attachments, and Gucci bags. There was the car adaptor, a screen magnifier, and my favorite, a TV tuner. Imagine hooking in a tuner, earphones, and a magnifying glass to your Game Gear. You’d look like an astronaut ready for take-off. All of this to watch your favorite show on channel 9, the only thing the tuner barely picks up.

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So you were all hooked in, figeting with the tuner, and getting a fuzzy channel 9 only. Watch your favorite shows! It seemed so novel. Except, you know what? Your favorite show isn’t on channel 9. No one’s favorite show is on channel 9. Then you’d realize this TV tuner sucks. Wish you’d saved your money for the AC Adapter instead. Life sucks and this is crap.

I’ve been there, kid. I’ve been there.

Putting Nintendo’s Psychic Game To The Test

Taboo The Sixth Sense is a forgotten treasure trove of crappiness. Taboo is a tarot card simulation and random lottery number generator game that was released for Nintendo in 1989. I decided to play the lottery with Taboo on my side. Inquiring minds, Weekly World News, and all three of you reading want to know … will I win with Taboo’s lucky numbers?

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But first, let’s look at the history of Taboo. Over the summer, I had found this strange, occult-looking NES game at the flea market. It’s all here–the foreboding font, creepy sun, dried blood stain. I’m fairly certain it’s a stigmata on the cartridge, corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus.

What the heck is this thing? After paying a dollar for it, I spent the rest of the flea market imagining it was not even real, but instead a mysterious cartridge that would give me the winning lotto numbers and then vanish, or at least turn into a Gremlin.

I had never heard of Taboo–and you probably hadn’t either–because it sold poorly upon its release. No shocker there; the thing isn’t even a game–a non-game which cost $40 in 1989. Back then, you saved up your allowance for half a year in order to afford that kind of money. What a sad day it would have been to have picked out Taboo, only to find out there was no game to play.

Aside from the cost, another reason it sold poorly was that parents avoided this game. On the back of the box was rare parental warning for the generally G-rated Nintendo. NO players under 14 years old, the box read, a ballsy move for Nintendo, considering twelve-year-olds were their demographic. The box was also riddled with hokey warnings like USE TABOO AT YOUR OWN RISK.

The game also contained some violent and religious imagery that might convince you to try drugs or sleep around. At the very least, it could fuck your life worse than any Ouija board ever did.

Reading the manual was a part of the Taboo experience, as it was filled with ominous quotes designed to psych kids out, about “mysteries and untold riddles encoded in the minute electronic circuitry of today‚Äôs high tech components,“. Taboo was really the result of the modern miracles of technology & science meeting the ancient miracles of THE OCCULT.

So I think this is how you were supposed to play Taboo–you had to gather over all your little friends, or if you had none, you rounded up the dog, your sister, a pack of Big League Chew. Then you went in the bathroom, summoned Bloody Mary, and made your sister cry. Then you went downstairs, loaded up the NES, held the flashlight to your face, did the FOR-EV-ER gag a few times, and then turned on Taboo.

Lights out. That’s the only way to play Taboo.

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Next, let’s look at the gameplay. The startup screen is pretty cool. The music is appropiately eerie, and actually really great. You’ll notice the totally creepy skull in the O up there–

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Freaks me the heck out. The eyes even flicker red. Next an ominous, Pink Floyd-esque warning scrolls across the screen:

all that has been
and all that will be
is here for you know
dare you glimspe the future
dare you even ask

Then you get to put your name in. I always felt a little acknowledged when the game let me put my name or initials in.

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You’ll be tempted to spend 3 minutes pondering a good question to ask Taboo, just incase all this tarot card hodge podge is actually true. But don’t bother–Taboo won’t ever get around to answering it. Next is an excruciating scene where Taboo shuffles the cards and lays them out, one by one. You can’t skip it and it’s slow as balls.

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Finally, we get to some fortune telling and Satanism. One by one, the game lays out a card with a freaky 8-bit picture (<—666th word), and reads it.

The tarot cards are chockful of Engrish Gems like:

“Presently influencing you is bringer of news and detail”
“The distant past foundation is reward of hard work and perseverence”
“Within your present frame of reference is scholarly or respect”
“Your Immediate Influence is no longer interested in anything”
“Others view you as suspicion, doubt or fear”

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I love this scary ass wizard. It means death for sure. All the cards mean death, of course. This game is evil. It makes me want to do drugs and sleep around. And drown puppies in the blood of babies.

Most of the fortunes in the game are overwhelmingly negative, with things like you will lose your job, your family, and your faith in humanity. My favorite is “others view you as suffering or loss.” Fantastic.

Taboo has a lot against it, like not being a game, and not making any sense whatsoever, but it makes up for all of this by having violent, evil-looking graphics, which were rare for NES.

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A fetal looking skeleton with a pick axe! In a Nintendo game! It was my 2nd wish to the genie and it came true! Compared to what they have in games today, this looks like a Disney Princess, but I’ll tell you what–a lot of nerds will complain that Nintendo is/was too cutesy and cuddly. That’s when you break out this evil shit, and you tell them that Taboo The Sixth Sense is the beating heart of darkness itself.

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Here Nintendo went a wee tad cuddly by having the Hanging Man hung from his ankle instead of his neck. But clearly, HE’S STILL DEAD.

Finally, after all that dabbling in the occult, you take the natural next step. You gamble. Taboo lets you customize what you want and then gives you some magic numbers. Which I did. I played through Taboo 5 times. I got a lot of fortunes, all of them promising sickness and death, and then I got 5 sets of lucky numbers. I played a dollar on each set, spending 5 dollars on this entry. I did it for you. But were they really lucky? Did I win any money???

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…..
…….
………
………..
????????

The answer is yes. I did win. SEVEN WHOLE DOLLARS. Whoopie. It would have been funny not to win, and it would have been amazing to win big, but 7 bucks is just kinda crappy. In a desperate attempt, I took my winnings and put it all-or-nothing in the scratch offs machine. I got nothing. And I guess, in that way, it’s a suitable ending for THE SURFING PIZZA’s review of Taboo The Sixth Sense. Thanks for reading. Watch out for that wizard tonight in your dreams.

SURFING PIZZA’S CHRISTMAS HAUL

I got so many awesome gifts that I probably don’t deserve. I dig these gifts so much, I wanted to show them off. Blogging and gifts, goes together like crackers and cheese.

First, I got a Wii. What a surprise! The parents gave it to me. They must like me, or are trying to buy my silence on this blog. I got it for my birthday, which was yesterday, the 29th. My birthday is sort of like the Keno bonus to Christmas. We had dinner at a seafood restaurant which has a killer harpoon on the wall. The 29th is my mother’s birthday as well. She got a gleaming penguin cookie jar. The thing reflects the light of Jesus. The waitress would come over with drink refills and comment on the gifts. She liked the penguin and Wii. Now, you know you got someone a good gift when the waitress provides special oohs and aahs.

In the photograph, also shown are the other video game-related gifts I recieved for Christmas: Donkey Kong Country for the SNES, and The Ultimate History of Video Games.

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I’ve never played anything more advanced than a 16-bit, and the Sega Genesis still feels daringly new to me. As you can see, I’m still playing with cartridges. (That’s playing with power.) I feel bad because I was going to spend the evening reaquainting myself in Donkey Kong Country, but now I’m going to spend the evening making a Mii and trying to bowl with it. Somewhere in there I have to do stupid shit like eat dinner and do wash.

I’m eager to try out some of these newfangled games. Now I just need to take out a small loan to afford a decent selection of games and extras. I’m researching right now what will be my best investments. The Wii remote charger? Do I need it? The classic controller? The Wii fit? Mario Kart is the only sure thing. What should I get?

I got some other very cool toys–a Venom figure with 45,350 points of articulation, an Indiana Jones Cairo Swordsman, a Wall-E figure, a Jurassic Park ViewMaster gift set.

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Waitaminute. I said a JURASSIC PARK VIEWMASTER GIFT SET. Holy shit! It is so rad. Here’s a closeup. It’s a truly inspired gift from the girlfriend.

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I also got some new pals to invite to my tea parties — a Jabba Buddy, a plushie Jaws, and a one-eyed monster. Who knew they could make Jabba, Jaws, and cyclopses so damn cute? Apparently, the girlfriend gave me the cyclops “because it looks like [me].” Maybe in the mornings.

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In the educational gifts department, I got a book about what The Simpsons teaches us about science and a DVD of Sea Monsters:

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And before you think I’m some kind of 12 year old trapped in a 28 year old’s body, I also got some adult gifts, but I just don’t think a picture of Dream Foams “the cadillac of slippers” and a new black sweater is going be of much interest to anyone. The stitching in that sweater is top notch though. But oh I did get some running shoes too. One of The Pizza’s New Year’s resolutions is to go from deep dish to thin crust.

And here’s another adult gift, this totally cool bottle opener dude:

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I love Bottle Opener Dude as much as the Wii. Almost.