Every year, at around this time, I make a Greed List of everything that I could possibly want for Christmas. This is for two reasons: I’m hard to buy for, and I’m hard to stop.
The “buying for” sounds like it should be easy. After all, I’m continually gushing about my hobbies and media loves to anyone who listens. Anyone here not know that I like Doctor Who? Anyone here unaware that I play Magic? So how hard could it be to buy for me?
As it turns out? Very. Since I’m so entrenched in my hobbies, you pretty much have to be a fellow expert to know what things within that hobby I like or dislike. My Mom would mutter, “He likes Doctor Who!” and then be barraged by a list of twenty-five years’ worth of episodes.
Which one should she buy? How would she know? So I write them down.
The other problem is that in the rare simple things that I enjoy, like videogames, I am far too buyish. “This is the greatest videogame ever!” I cry, and before you know it I’ve bought it for myself. And then there’s nothing left to purchase for Christmas!
So the Greed list. Every year, I make a big list. And because I feel guilty over giving people a huge list with no context, I began to provide commentary on why each gift was so neat, and what it was, and pretty soon my friends started asking to read my Greed List because, well, it was a snapshot of Where The Weasel Was This Year. So now I make it public.
This year’s longer than ever, because we’ve been poor and I haven’t bought as much as I’d like. I rarely pull the “it’s my blog” card, but you know… This is my blog. So if you don’t like it, scroll right on by.
The usual exhortations of world peace and the resurrection of my Uncle Tommy and my Grampop and my Gramma in good physical condition can be assumed. If you can sell my novel to a publisher for me, that should also be assumed as not only the best Christmas gift I would ever get, but a Lifegift.
MAME Cabinet ($600 - ???)
When I was a child, I lived my life one quarter at a time. It’s almost impossible to explain to the kids who grew up in the age of endless Nintendo and Playstation games, where $50 will buy you as many hours as you care to have… But in the creaky beginning days of videogames, the arcade was the only avenue you had to play games. You had what the local arcade decided to rent, and you could only rent small portions of the game’s time – if you were good, you might get as much as five minutes at a shot, but sometimes your hard-earned quarter might vanish in the course of an instant.
But you had to have it. You had to have that thrill.
Still, even though now I can play all the damn games I want, there’s something about the power of the videogame cabinet. I mean, I can download the software for Ms. Pac-Man and play it on my laptop, but having to navigate the maze with my arrow keys lack class.
Thus, I want a MAME cabinet – a wooden arcade frame with a joystick (and sometimes a trackball) that you can place a computer and a monitor inside. I don’t need the computer or the monitor – I have a backup for that – but I do need the empty frame and whatever doodads you need to hook up said joystick to the PC.
I’ll take it from there. Trust me.
The Doctor Who Mega-Collection ($680)
What follows on this list is gonna be a lot of Doctor Who DVDs. Why the sudden resurgence of interest in Doctor Who?
Well, Doctor Who is a show that played for twenty-five years over in England. The theme is that a mysterious man called “The Doctor” travels through time and has adventures, and – for purposes of plot continuity – the Doctor regenerates into a new identity (and a new actor) whenever he is put in a fatal situation. The series died in the mid-90s, and was revived by the BBC in a fantastically-popular renewal that completely changed the tone and yet kept the heart.
But the history of the old pre-renewal Doctor Who is still filled with a lot of quality stuff – and better yet, the BBC knows how to produce discs with fantabulous extras, turning what might be a marginal purchase into something filled with wonder and glory as they show you not just the show, but how the show was made.
This collection may seem expensive – and it is! – but it’s a one-stop shop for my Doctor Who needs, giving me every pre-revival show in existence in one package. I own some of them, sure – but the other thirty or forty that this would bring would still make it a bargain. It would contain every other Doctor Who disc on this list.
I don’t expect it. But it’d be cool.
Ptolus, by Monte Cook ($120)
As of this point, you do not know what Ptolus is. All you know is that it costs about $120, and that it is #3 on my list. And when I tell you what it is, even the most jaded of you will probably cough and splutter in disbelief:
It’s a roleplaying game.
“But Ferrett,” you say. “I know that RPGs are expensive, but my God! You’re spending $120 on what is, essentially, just a big damn book! Does it give you a massage or something?”
It does not give me a massage. It gives me a city.
See, the point of roleplaying games is that for a couple of hours, you pretend to be another person in another world. Most of the books designed to sketch out what that other world is have been comparatively light on details; by comparison, a travel guide written RPG-style would fit all of England into about 100 pages with illustrations. Ptolus is an experiment in roleplaying, where they attempt to give you all the details you’d need of one city.
It’s large. And it’s obscenely detailed. And it’s written by the man who created my favorite roleplaying setting of all time, Planescape. Thus, I want to have it because not only is it something that sounds neat, but because there is so little experimentation in roleplaying that I want to support any folks who’d do something nutty like this.
Pure Ducky Goodness, by Dave Kellett ($15)
The strip this collection is based upon is called Sheldon, and it is perhaps the most consistently funny clean comic strip in existence. And, thanks to the decline of newspaper circulation, it is available exclusively online.
Now. I could simply go through the man’s archives and get my fix of Sheldon, a fine strip about a multimillionaire child, his talking duck (and the duck’s pet gecko and pug), and his long-suffering grandfather. But considering that I prefer my comic strip reading on paper and it gives the man who creates this excellent thing some much-deserved cash, this slots neatly into the #4 section onto my list (and the #1 most-affordable thing).
Order of the Stick: On the Origin of PCs, by Rich Burlew ($20)
Order of the Stick is another webcomic, and it is without a doubt the best-plotted strip online today. OOTS is the story of a bunch of dungeon adventurers, all drawn in a clean, attractive stick figure format, and the strip mixes hysterical takes on roleplaying with actual novel-style plots in such a way that I deeply wish I could be him.
This book, unlike Dave Kellett’s book, contains strips that you cannot get online. It is in fact a prequel book, and I desire it dearly.
This is simply a very, very good horror movie done by a man who specializes in H.P. Lovecraft adaptations. The story is simple: a man and his girlfriend get into a shipwreck off of a secluded New England town. The town? Not what it seems.
Beyond that, I shall not say. But given this movie’s low budget, it did a surprisingly good job at teasing out the slow crawl that good Lovecraft, with all of his otherworldly horrors and the terror of the insignificance of man, brings.
Doctor Who: The Three Doctors ($20)
This is the first individual Doctor Who DVD in the collection, and I put it here almost solely because of the extras. The story itself – a time-travelling loop that brings together the three disparate personalities of the first three doctors for a bizarre teamup – is pretty good for its time. But the extras, which show the long history of Doctor Who (and a snippet of the long-forgotten first regeneration of the first Doctor, thought lost forever when the BBC wiped its archives to save on videotape), are among the best you will find for a TV show.
Neverwinter Nights 2 ($50)
I hear it’s a great computer game. My new computer has some sort of glitch where I will have to switch out the videocard soon, so this isn’t as high as it could be, but I still possess the need to covet.
Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth ($20)
This is an early Doctor Who, and it’s notable because it has its monstrous villains, the mechanical Daleks, invading Leicester Square and rolling down the halls of parliament. Surprisingly sophisticated stuff for 1960, even if at the time it was still very much a kid’s show.
Doctor Who: Earthshock ($20)
Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani ($20)
These both feature the hapless fifth Doctor – who was notable because of all the Doctors, he was the most fallible. Other doctors were paternal and always correct in their assumptions, but occasionally – and just often enough to make you worry about him in every episode – the fifth doctor would get it drastically wrong. In these two extra-packed DVDs, the doctor gets it wrong once, causing the death of one of his traveling companions, and gets it right for the wrong reasons in one of the best Doctor deaths – sorry, “regenerations” - of all time.
Complete Peanuts Boxed Sets ($40 apiece)
I grew up with Peanuts and Charles Schulz. These tomes are a magnificent project: They are gathering every strip that Schulz ever wrote, in chronological order, and restoring them to their full glory. In this, you can see the evolution of a cartooning master – and here you see him as he approaches the peak of his form. Daddy want.
Final Fantasy XII ($50)
Perhaps the most ironically-named videogame series of all time, the latest Final Fantasy release is what it’s always been – a railroaded series of leveling-up combined with beautiful graphics. Still, given that the FF series usually features solid, intriguing (if sometimes bizarre) plots, I’ll take it.
Now that I am playing physical Magic more, I need more physical Magic cards to play with. The prices on these cards vary daily, but I will be happy to get as many or as few of them as you see fit – as long as you buy them from my employer, StarCityGames.com.
If you’re looking for cheap, some of these are very cheap, and I don’t mind getting just one. Well, the first one isn’t cheap, but hey.
4 Kokusho the Evening Star
4 Twisted Abomination
3 Wall of Souls
2 Stuffy Doll
4 Seedborn Muse
4 Sakura Tribe-Elder
2 Pernicious Deed
4 Darksteel Colossus
4 Forgotten Ancient
3 Cytoplast Root-kin
4 Plaxcaster Frogling
1 Simic Sky Swallower
3 Protean Hulk
4 Complete collection of any of Ravnica’s bouncelands (Boros Garrison, et al)
Oldboy: Deluxe Collector’s Edition ($30)
A movie from Korea, it might as well have been imported straight from hell. This is the twisted story of a man who is kept trapped in a hotel room for eight years for no reason that he understands, and what happens when he gets out to find the men who jailed him. It is incredibly sick.
I wonder what treasures the two bonus discs will have.
Animaniacs, Volume I ($30)
Pinky and the Brain ($30)
The Animaniacs should have been as drastically bad as Tiny Toons, Warner Brothers’ botched attempt to create a “new generation” of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. But for some reason – perhaps because the writers and animators were sick from working on the distinctly second-rate stuff of Tiny Toons – the Animaniacs recreated most of the magic from those early, zany 1940s cartoons.
These two go together, since I can’t imagine just getting one of them; the Animaniacs were the cartoon that spun off the magnificent Pinky and the Brain, which featured a pair of lab rats plotting to take over the world. I’ll understand if you don’t want to buy them both at once, but if you don’t see the genius in the phrase “a pair of lab rats plotting to take over the world,” I don’t understand you at all.
Doctor Who: The Green Death ($20)
The third doctor – a fancied-up action man – deals with a rotting plague. Jon Pertwee is one of my favorite doctors just because Doctor Who was so different when he was at the helm, and it shows here.
South Park, Season 8 ($40)
South Park is one of those shows you either get or you don’t; it’s got some of the most cutting commentary on television today, but it’s buried underneath a lot of gross-out humor that puts people off. Trust me when I say it’s far smarter than you’d think it is. As an extra-special bonus, this was the last season to come out before I got TiVo, so I haven’t seen all the episodes on this disc!
Schlock Mercenary: The Blackness Between, by Howard Tayler ($15)
Another webcomic drawn by a master. But why is this so low on the totem poll? Is it because the author, Howard Tayler isn’t as funny as Dave Kellett? Or is it because he’s not as plotty as Rich Burlew? Well, as it turns out, he isn’t, but that’s because I consider both Rich and Dave to be the absolute best in their fields, which is no ding upon Howard because he is the tops in a field of his very own: he can write excellent space operas with killer character development and scientific gags.
Alas, the reason this is so low is because I have already read these strips online. They are reprints. Had I not read them already, this would be above both Sheldon and Order of the Stick because damn, the man can do funnybooks like nobody’s business… But I have, and so it falls here.
Simpsons, Season 9 ($35)
Ah, you crazy Simpsons. Here you can see the crest of the wave where the Simpsons had pushed past their peak and began the long slope downwards. I certainly won’t be clamoring for Simpsons, Season 17. But still, even though it wasn’t as good as it had been, at this point the Simpsons was still the smartest, funniest comedy on television.
I’m gonna be honest: this is the worst movie of all time. In fact, it’s so bad that it passes through a peculiar parallel universe and comes straight back to “good,” transforming from a poorly-acted drama into the frickin’ funniest comedy ever.
It’s this low because I won’t watch it myself all that often. I’ll just be inflicting it upon my friends.
Ringu Anthology of Terror ($40)
They did a fine job at porting the original “The Ring” over to an American audience, but the sequel? Ironically, though it was helmed by the original directory of the sequel to the Ring, not so much. This series features the existential meta-terror of the original Japanese movies, including a third that I have never seen.
Doctor Who: The Beginning Collection ($40)
I only kind of want this. But it features the first Doctor Who episode ever, and since I’m holding a Doctor Who marathon for some friends in January I’ll probably wind up buying this anyhow, since it’s not on Netflix. You could save me some cash!
Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks ($20)
The fifth doctor faces off against the series’ most iconic villains.