2019 Christmas Album Hall of Fame Inductees

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Merry Christmas, folks, and RIP to the patron saint of the Brian’s Den, George Michael. It’s my great honor to present the 2019 inductions into the Christmas Album Hall of Fame. Founded last year, the Massapequa, New York landmark is opening its doors to welcome another class of legends. Icons who were left out in the cold on the first ballot get the relief and affirmation they’ve been seeking their entire careers and get a free trip to beautiful Massapequa. Visit Massapequa, because I get a tax break if enough people do.

The criteria for induction remains the same: some random combination of impact, sales, ubiquity, and general goodness. The biases of the committee, unfortunately, cannot be fully erased. Apologies to all the Dylan-heads out there. We’ll start with the Veteran’s Committee selections just to get them out of the way.

Veteran’s Committee Selections

Frank Sinatra- A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra

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There, your grandpa and/or overly proud Italian-American dad can stop boycotting the Hall now. Listen, I don’t care about Frank, so I just picked the first one that came up. Deal with it.

Signature Song:

Phil Spector- A Christmas Gift for You

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People forget Phil Spector killed someone, but that doesn’t disqualify him from the Hall. Our standards are pretty low, here, especially when the music is good. Nothing like a good old compilation album, even if everyone on it is an old singer you’ll be shamed for not knowing even though it’s pretty reasonable not to know who any of these people are. Origin album for a bunch of songs you’ve heard before.

Signature Song:

Only two this year, despite Louis Armstrong & Friends’ What a Wonderful Christmas receiving the necessary amount of votes. The Hall Chairman (me) hates “Zat You Santa Claus?” so passionately he refused to let it in. Shame.

Modern Entrants

Wham!- Last Christmas

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I’ll be honest, I don’t know what A-sides and B-sides are and how these old record sales work, but this was sold as a single, so it counts. I was outvoted last year, but without the obvious inclusions of the inaugural class, Wham! breezed through the voting. We all know that briansden69.com was founded on the eve of George Michael’s death, but don’t think that this got in for sentimental reasons. It got in because it’s one of the greatest original Christmas songs since color television was invented. Pour one out for the GOAT.

Signature Song: I wonder what it could be?

Michael Bolton- This is the Time: The Christmas Album

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Bolton. Christmas. Need I say more? No, I don’t. It’s in. He gets a little ahead of himself with two original songs, but the rest is pure Bolton. “O Holy Night” has never been the same since he hopped on the track, and his “White Christmas” is legendary. Putting this album on makes me want to get a perm-mullet and walk sensuously through the snow wearing a peacoat and boots that are a little too expensive to be wearing through inclement weather.

Signature Song:

Cee Lo Green- Cee Lo’s Magic Moment

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I don’t want to use hyperbole, but I think this might be the most underrated Christmas album ever. If Bublé is the king of retail Christmas, this album is the prince. Don’t believe me? Just think back to all the Christmas shopping you’ve done in brick and mortar stores since 2012 and realize how many of these songs you’ve heard. The answer is all of them. He completely flipped the “White Christmas” game on its head, which is enough to merit induction on its own. We value positive innovation, here.

Signature Song:

Leona Lewis- Christmas, With Love

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I honestly don’t know why L.L. isn’t the biggest star in the world, because she dominates every single song she’s ever recorded. Her voice is like a long gulp of water straight from a melting ice cap running down an Alpine stream after you just woke up but didn’t drink any water before bed so you’re unbelievably parched. I would listen to her sing absolutely anything. I would listen to her sing my 8th-grade science teacher’s evaluation of me that recommended my high school put me in the general group instead of the honors class and be thrilled about it. I would listen to her sing a collection of responses to any Star Wars Reddit post and be overcome with emotion. But yeah, this album’s awesome. It even has a good original song! That’s hard in a post “All I Want For Christmas” world.

Signature Song:

Various Artists- A Very Special Christmas

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Just a massive cast coming together to make the first in a long series, either the first or second is still the best. The first was selected, because why not go with the original? I admit that I couldn’t tell you much about the pop culture landscape of 1987, but how the hell did The Pretenders and Alison Moyet end up on the same album as Sting, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Spingsteen, U2, J.C.M. (John Cougar Mellencamp for the uninitiated), Bob Seger, and Bryan Adams? Let’s have some higher standards, here. Also, I’ve never listened to Bon Jovi’s “Back Door Santa” because there’s no way it could ever live up to my expectations of what it should be.

Signature Song: (reluctantly)

U2 sux, don’t @ me.

Kenny G- Miracles: The Holiday Album

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Our final entrant barely edged out *NSYNC’s Home for Christmas, because apparently the rest of the voting committee thinks that it “sucks.” You can’t teach taste, I guess. Special shoutout to YouTube comments on videos older than 15 months old saying “anyone here in 2019?” I’m here, man. I’m here. Anyway, your boy Kenny G. Don’t let anyone ever tell you Kenny G isn’t a force to be reckoned with. All he does is put out albums that do huge numbers, and Miracles is no different. Weird cover aside, it was the highest-selling Christmas album in two different years, which is pretty crazy when you think about the fact that it’s a Christmas album from Kenny G. He’s an easy target, but you can’t tell me that smooth soprano sax doesn’t hit you in your loins when he really gets it going. Miracles is pure “dang, can’t believe how hard it’s snowing out. You might as well stay here in this cabin with a big fire going” music. All the classics plus an original song that you can ignore because it’s Kenny G.

Signature Song:

Another year honoring beautiful Christmas albums in the books. If your favorite didn’t make, it’s probably time to ask yourself why you have such bad taste in holiday music (for housekeeping purposes, the two last cuts were the aforementioned *NSYNC and The Three Tenors’ A Tenors’ Christmas, which was bogged down by a never-ending tracklist) (Shoutout Jose Carreras. Everyone always talks about Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, but there had to be three tenors for The Three Tenors to be The Three Tenors. Don’t forget about my man Jose). Just make sure to visit the physical location in Massapequa, New York so I can get a tax write-off.

Merry Christmas

NFL Picks Week 16

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Sup pussies,

It’s your boy Santa, only this year I’ve been crushing my keto diet and am totally shredded. I’m talking yoked. Even the reindeer look like they’ve been mainlining HGH, but that’s just how dedicated they are to keto and Crossfit. It’s Christmas, so you know what that means: I’m about to visit every house in the world in one night and delicately arrange large and unwieldy presents underneath everyone’s tree. But newsflash, fatties- you’re not getting that new iPad. My factory doesn’t make that shit anymore. You’re getting workout gear. You’re getting a Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE Home Gym no matter what you asked for unless you asked for a Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE Home Gym, in which case you’re getting a Bowflex Revolution Home Gym out of respect. I’m no longer accepting cookies, either. You leave out some snickerdoodles or some carrots for the reindeer and your ass is getting the biggest piece of coal you’ve ever seen. You leave out keto foods in 2019. Red meat, salmon, eggs, butter (grass-fed only or even your dad is getting shut out in the present department), nuts, and ‘cados are the only things I eat now, and the deer are the same. Mrs. Clause gave Rudolph a parsnip and now he’s at home on the bench. Sorry, I only have space for winners on my team.

As is it Christmas, I’ve been keeping my list. It’s kind of what I do. I’ve been paying particularly close attention to the NFL this year, and have compiled a complete breakdown of the games this week based on who’s been naughty or nice. It’s a foolproof formula that even you carb-brains could figure out. Little known fact about Keto Santa: I’m actually a sharp. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about every single bet I’ve ever made and the performance of each of my 45 fantasy teams after I bang out a couple sets of curls. Alright, done. That’s 10,000 today. Gotta stay grinding. As a special gift to you, I’m giving you a look behind the curtain. A glimpse into how the sausage gets made. Here’s my 2019 Week 16 NFL Naughty and Nice List. Do with it what you will.

  1. Saturday NFL games- Nice
  2. Three NFL games on a Saturday- Nice
  3. Houston Texans playing on Saturday afternoon, allowing them to practice for their inevitable Saturday playoff game- Naughty
  4. Deshaun Watson- Nice
  5. Jameis Winston- Nice
  6. Jamies Winston first-quarter interceptions- Nice
  7. Jamies Winston second-quarter interceptions- Nice
  8. Jameis Winston third-quarter interceptions- Nice
  9. Jameis Winston fourth-quarter interceptions- Nice
  10. Bucs’ remaining receiving corps- Naughty
  11. Texans -3 over Bucs- Nice
  12. Patriots’ advance scouting team- Naughty
  13. Pats’ giving the Bengals some shine by allowing them to be the latest team to accuse them of wrongdoing- Nice
  14. Pats’ winning the division for the millionth time despite being awful on offense and getting less than 75 total yards against the Bills- Nice, I guess
  15. Bills Mafia- Naughty
  16. Sean McDermott complaining on the sideline- Naughty
  17. Pats -6.5 over Bills- Nice
  18. Rams’ intestinal fortitude- Naughty
  19. Nick Bosa’s current mental state- Sorry, Keto Santa sticks to sports
  20. Kiara Mia’s influence on this 49ers season- Nice
  21. Niners winning 13 games and being the 5 seed- Naughty
  22. 49ers -7 over Rams- Nice
  23. Giants +2.5 over Redskins- Naughty
  24. Christian McCaffery getting 100 catches again- Nice
  25. The other 105 players on the field for Panthers-Colts- Naughty
  26. Colts -7 over Panthers- Naughty
  27. Duck- Naughty
  28. “Renegade” becoming a Steelers thing out of nowhere, then every broadcast talking about how “Renegade” is a signature Steelers thing constantly- Naughty
  29. The entire history of the Jets franchise- Naughty
  30. Steelers -3 over Jets- Naughty
  31. Mike Thomas getting 15 catches a game- Nice
  32. Drew Brees padding stats for so long we’ve forgotten how much stat-padding he’s done- Nice
  33. Titans’ home field advantage- Naughty
  34. Trying to tackle Derrick Henry- Naughty
  35. Titans’ playoff hopes- Pretty Naughty
  36. Saints -3 over Titans- Nice
  37. Lamar Jackson- Nice
  38. Lamar Jackson shattering defenders’ ankles- Naughty
  39. Baker Mayfield- Naughty
  40. Every Baker H8r- Nice
  41. Browns- Naughty
  42. Ravens -∞ over Browns- Nice
  43. Bulletproof Coffee- Nice
  44. Bengals vs. Dolphins- Was a lot nicer two months ago
  45. Fitzmagic revenge game- Nice
  46. Dolphins Pick over Bengals- Nice
  47. Falcons -7.5 over Jags- Naughty
  48. Broncos -7 over Lions- Naughty
  49. Chargers -7 over Raiders- Naughty
  50. Awful 4 o’clock games- Naughty
  51. Russell Wilson- Nice
  52. Every Seahawks player fumbling on every play- Naughty
  53. Seahawks being the number one seed despite fumbling every play and never winning a game by more than one possession in a really weird way- Nice
  54. Bengals almost beating Seattle in Seattle in week one- Naughty
  55. Kyler Murray- Nice
  56. Kyler Murray- Naughty
  57. Cardinals +9.5 over Seahawks- Nice
  58. NFC East- Naughty
  59. Talking about the NFC East- Naughty
  60. Cowboys -1.5 over Eagles- Nice
  61. Mitch Trubisky being drafted over Pat Mahomes- Naughty
  62. Being reminded that Mitch Trubisky was drafted over Pat Mahomes every two seconds- Naughty
  63. Matt Nagy’s ability to gameplan beyond the first 15 plays- Naughty
  64. The reasoning behind not just scripting more plays if the first 15 always work so well- Naughty
  65. Chiefs -6 at Bears- Nice
  66. The “6” key on my computer being sort of jammed- Naughty
  67. Aaron Rodgers- Naughty
  68. Aaron Rodgers’ family- He’ll never know
  69. Packers +5.5 over Vikings- Nice

That’s it. If you’re wondering where you fall on this list, too bad. I haven’t checked The List twice yet, which means it’s not public domain. I’m a little behind this year after the budget cuts. Fewer of your little shithead kids believe in me now, which means my resources are down, too. That’s why I switched to keto. Figured children would be more likely to believe in a sculpted Adonis who looks like 2009 Dwight Howard than in a fat old man. Hey, dad, maybe take your stupid kid’s phone away and do some real parenting. The earlier they stop believing in me, the earlier they come to you when they’re disappointed in their present haul. Just some (keto-friendly) food for thought.

Merry Christmas, losers.

Introducing the Christmas Album Hall of Fame

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Folks, it’s almost Christmas. Less than a week, in fact. That means only one thing: it’s time to talk Christmas music again. If you remember Last Christmas, you know I laid out the case for Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red as the best Christmas album of the last 33 years and included some other modern classics. This year I thought I’d take the logical next step and create the Christmas Album Hall of Fame.

What is the Christmas Album Hall of Fame, you ask? Well, if you’re familiar with the concept of halls of fame, it’s that. It’s just a place where the best of the best are enshrined for eternity. Where is it? Why, it’s where all music lives, silly. In your heart. Also the physical location is in Massapequa, New York. The real estate was cheap, there.

Anyway, without further ado, I present the inaugural class in the Christmas Album Hall of Fame. There aren’t any specific qualifications, per se. It’s album sales, its’s cultural impact, it’s general quality. It’s kind of when you know, you know. And luckily for you, I know good Christmas albums. It’s what got me onto the selection committee, in the first place.

Veteran’s Committee Selections

Much like in sports halls of fame, the Veteran’s Committee exists to recognize the titans of years gone by. The names that may have been forgotten by the modern game, but whose importance and trailblazing cannot be overstated. In other words, it’s just old stuff.

Elvis- Elvis’ Christmas Album

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As the highest selling Christmas album of all time, Elvis probably would have made the Hall without the help of the Veteran’s Committee, but why leave it up to chance? Feel like we don’t talk enough about Elvis anymore. Guy was a legend. Used to make sandwiches out of whole loaves of bread and was always strapped. Sounds like someone who lived his life in the spirit of Christmas.

Signature Song:

Bing Crosby- White Christmas

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The ultimate one-trick-pony. Did Bing Crosby every do anything besides White Christmas? I’ll never know. But did he really need to? When you’ve got the hottest grainy audio of all time, I think one pitch is all you need. I can practically smell this album, and if you don’t know what I mean by that then you don’t have white grandparents.

Signature Song:

Johnny Mathis- Merry Christmas

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A staple of this man’s car rides to said grandmother’s house for Christmas, Johnny Mathis snags the final Veteran’s Committee spot. Many people were looking for Frank Sinatra to be the Veteran’s Committee’s third selection, but a shocking eleventh hour change in the voting propelled J-Math to the top. Can you really blame them, though? No one sounds more like snow and hot chocolate.

Signature Song:

 

Modern Entrants

Kelly Clarkson- Wrapped in Red

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I think I’ve gone into this enough.

Signature Song:

Céline Dion- These Are Special Times

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You knew the queen was getting in first ballot. If Wrapped in Red is the best Christmas album since “Last Christmas,” These Are Special Times is the second best. It’s a little bloated, which is just about the only negative. So many absolute bangers and powerhouse performances (what a surprise). It’s heavy on the religious songs, but if you’re against that you’re not a true Christmas music fan. 90% of this album is pure heat, and since there’s about 100 songs that’s a pretty good ratio. I mean, a song with Céline AND Andrea Bocelli? Someone pinch me, because I must be dreaming.

Signature Song:

Impossible to pick just one, but for the end note alone-

Or the hilarity of a French-Canadian power ballad diva singing “Feliz Navidad”

Michael Bublé- Christmas

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Listen, the guy’s the King of Christmas for a reason. Fire voice, fire album. Pure, uncut Christmas spirit. No one has ever paired their music to the retail consumer experience better.

Signature Song:

Mariah Carey- Merry Christmas

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Eli Manning is going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. The same logic applies here. Not a ton of highs, but man. Were those highs the highest highs ever.

Signature Song:

Josh Groban- Noël

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Josh Groban is so underrated. We as a society have kind of forgotten about him, and that’s a travesty. He’s got one of the best *Googles* tenor and/or baritone voices of the modern era. You’re really gonna sit there and tell me you didn’t blast “You Raise Me Up” nonstop when it came out? Because I don’t believe that. Not for a second. Anyway, Noël is a real gem of a Christmas album. Banger after banger after banger. And the features? Faith Hill, Brian McKnight, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? Be still my beating heart. Like Céline’s it’s got a lot of religious songs, but I can only take so much “Santa Baby” before I need some piety in my life.

Signature Song:

or from the deluxe edition re-release

The Beach Boys- The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album

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You may think this would fall under the Veteran’s Committee’s jurisdiction, but it was already penciled in for induction before the V.C. had their vote. The Beach Boys are kind of weird in that normal people don’t care about them at all but music hipsters can talk for hours about how genius they are and criticize you for only knowing their early stuff. Anyway, this is a fire album. Always nice to insert a little energy into a genre that can be pretty heavy most of the time. Definitely one of the most influential Christmas albums of all time, too. According to my research (off the top of my head) it’s the first time an artist experimented with classics and put their own spin on well known hits. It’s ubiquitous now, but someone had to be the first to do it. Also people forget Mike Love is Kevin Love’s uncle.

Signature Song:

That’s it for the first ever inductees to the Christmas Album Hall of Fame. Did your favorite not make the cut? Too bad. This is the first ever class, not everyone can get in. Maybe next year Michael Bolton will get in (spoiler alert: he will). Don’t forget to stop in the next time you’re in Massapequa. Admission’s dirt cheap. I also get a tax break if the Hall brings enough people into the city, so keep that in mind.

Merry Christmas, and remember, always listen responsibly.

Is Elf on the Shelf Just a Front for NSA Surveillance?

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I’ll keep this short since I know everyone is busy doing things like “spending time with their families” and “enjoying the Christmas season,” but it’s never inappropriate to get a little woke. In my learned opinion, Elf on the Shelf is an extension of the Patriot Act put in place by the NSA to destroy the seeds of terrorism at the child level.

It’s pretty simple: Elf on the Shelf watches over kids and tells Santa if they’ve been naughty or nice. But there’s a pretty big flaw in that logic: Santa already knows who’s been naughty or nice already. He’s been able to magically know the morality of every child on Earth for hundreds of years. You’re telling me that the Santa cannon is changing because of a 2005 book/toy combination? Please. Santa doesn’t need Elf on the Shelf and never has. So why does Elf on the Shelf still exist? An unspoken agreement between corporations and parents to drive retail sales and keep kids well behaved? Maybe. But I think there’s a bigger game at play. Who else could benefit from this kind of unchecked surveillance? The government probably could. And when was the Patriot Act, a countrywide effort to increase surveillance and national security, ratified? 2001. And, despite civil liberty concerns, when was it re-upped? 2005. And Elf on the Shelf first came to stores in 2005? I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call that merely a coincidence.

Think about it from the kids’ point of view. What’s the most important thing in the world to them? Getting a bunch of awesome gifts for Christmas. Even if you’ve been indoctrinated from birth by a terrorist cell’s sick manifesto, being seen as “nice” in Santa’s eyes is priority number one. Are you gonna start planning a mass murder in a public place if you know Santa’s watching? I’m not. Not in a million years. Elf on the Shelf is a brilliant ploy by the NSA, because no one would ever expect the NSA to get involved in holiday affairs. Sure, there’s still terrorists out there. But if that one little terrorist kid thinks twice before executing their hateful scheme, that gives the NSA plenty of time to send agents to eliminate the threat. Sure, you hear about a lot of terrible things these days, but think about how many you haven’t heard about because of Elf on the Shelf. I’m all for privacy and personal liberty, but I also like being safe. So thank you for exploiting our children’s unwavering belief in the power of Santa, NSA. You’ve made this Christmas a safe one.

NFL Week 16 Picks

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‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the league,

NFL bettors were stumped and feeling fatigued;

Their bet slips were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Brian would soon be there;

The readers were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of Colts +14 danced in their heads;

As I climbed into my officially licensed NFL sheets,

I remember I had Vikings -9, what a treat!

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew with concern,

Wondering if Broncos +3.5 would give me heartburn.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,

Gave the luster of mid-day to the Falcons +6 below;

When, what to my wandering eyes should appear,

But Pats -13 and eight tiny reindeer,

With a big, handsome driver, proud as a lion,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Brian.

More rapid than Eagles -9 his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Bears -6.5! Now, Lions -5! Now, Chargers -7!

“On Chiefs -10.5! On Niners +4.5! Jimmy G, oh good heavens!

“To the top of the window! To the top of the wall!

“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves before Panthers -10 fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With a sleigh full of picks- and St. Brian too:

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I raised up my head to avoid getting a flag,

Down the chimney St. Brian came with his bag:

He was dressed in full pads, from his head to his toes,

A playcalling sheet in hand so he knows all the throws;

A bundle of winning picks was flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack:

His eyes- they were dull from all the concussions,

He launched head-first at receivers, what repercussions?

In thought, his mouth was scrunched up like a toad,

Then he exclaimed, “I like Rams -7, even on the road!”

I knew he loved hot dogs, so I put out a fresh batch,

As he ate one, he mumbled, “Man, was that a catch?”

He had a cherubic face, and a little round gut

That shook when he laughed at Browns scuttlebutt:

He was chubby yet ripped, a game-picking savant,

I’m still grateful for the time he gave Cowboys -5 to my aunt;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, he was totally zen,

And filled the stocking with picks; he loved Steelers -10.

Before flying back up the chimney, he gave me a note,

It said, “Take Giants +3.5, then buy yourself a new coat.”

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team, “play through the whistle!”

And away all they flew, like the down of a thistle:

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight-

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

BONUS BOWL PICKS

  • Temple vs Florida International +7
  • Central Michigan vs Wyoming +3.5
  • Texas Tech vs South Florida Over 66
  • Army vs San Diego State -7
  • Appalachian State vs Toledo -7

If You Say Die Hard is Your Favorite Christmas Movie I Hate You

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Imagine this scenario, if you will. You’re at a Christmas party. Or any party, or any kind of social gathering. Somehow, the topic of Christmas movies comes up and everyone is saying their favorites. The old guy says It’s a Wonderful Life, the token millennial says Elf, there’s plenty of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Feeling anxious, you think about what you’re about to say. Tired of living in the shadows, you decide to be zany to get a few laughs and stand out. “Actually, Die Hard is my favorite Christmas movie.” The guy who never goes online gives a chortle, but everyone else, including me, hyper-aware-of-everything-that-goes-on-online-and-is-thus-never-impressed-with-anything guy, rolls their eyes. “Here we go again,” everyone says. “What’s next? He gonna ask if a hot dog is a sandwich?”

The “Die Hard is a Christmas movie” argument has been around for a while, now. I’m pretty sure it was around online when I was in high school. But it’s pretty inescapable, these days. Everyone thinks they’re the most clever, funniest person to ever walk the planet when they proclaim that Die Hard, not whatever your preferred version of A Christmas Carol, is the best Christmas movie. Dish even has Santa saying it in their new commercial. It’s absolutely everywhere. And it’s just so goddamn lame. It’s just another thing that people latch onto to seem cool online. Everyone wants to be part of the in-crowd, and the fastest way to join the smarmy, elitist culture that is the Die Hard Christmas gang is to say things like “Die Hard is my favorite Christmas movie,” “Nickleback sucks,” and “Ben Affleck as Batman is terrible.” And it’s tiring, too. Ever met a Die Hard Christmas Guy? No one has ever felt stronger about anything than they feel about the fact that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. If you say one thing to challenge them, they’ll go to the ends of the earth to show how wrong you are. People who call Die Hard their favorite Christmas movie almost singlehandedly take all the joy out of Christmas.

Before we go any further, I think I need to clarify something: I’m a huge Die Hard fan. I named John McClain as my number one action movie character of all time. Die Hard is the greatest action movie of all time and one of the five most influential movies of all time. 75% of action movies made after Die Hard was just Die Hard with a different skin. It’s one of the most important movies ever made. That’s why I get pissy when people call Die Hard a Christmas movie. It cheapens it. When’s the last time you thought about (forget watched) Christmas Vacation in July? What about The Santa ClauseJingle All the Way? Christmas movies are so specific to Christmas that they don’t resonate whatsoever if watch them at any other time of year. Christmas is literally the central plot point to every Christmas movie. If it wasn’t Christmas, all the movies you know and love wouldn’t happen. What happens to Die Hard if it doesn’t happen on Christmas? Anything? There would be some hoops to jump through narratively, sure. But the central plot doesn’t change at all. Nakatomi Plaza could have been held up any day that all the top executives were all there. The fact that it was Christmas was only window dressing.

Listen, if you really think calling Die Hard is a great Christmas movie is the highlight of your year, I won’t fight you. If you truly believe Die Hard belongs in the Christmas movie genre, go for it. I’ll judge you and I’ll hate you, but I won’t stop you. Just know that by doing so, you’re ruining the very movie you claim to love. Die Hard is timeless. It shouldn’t be shackled by the Christmas movie label. It’s great no matter what time of year you watch it. It’s great in March. It’s great in September. And yes, it’s great in December. Don’t insult the greatest action movie ever by insinuating that you can only enjoy it during Christmas or that some Christmas message is the main point of the movie. That’s just asinine. Die Hard is about one man waging a guerrilla war against a small group of terrorists and killing a dozen men singlehandedly. That doesn’t sound like Christmas to me.

I’m Sick of People Calling Christmas Sweaters Ugly

Anyone who knows me knows I love Christmas. I love the traditions, I love the food, I love the snow, I love all of it. Well, almost all of it. There’s one small detail that really gets under my skin: Christmas parties. Actually, let me re-phrase that. I hate Ugly Sweater parties. Why, you ask? Everyone knows I love getting festive and dressing up in eye-catching outfits. Seems like a perfect fit. And it is. I’m just sick of people calling the sweaters ugly.

I mean, look at this:

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You’re telling me that’s ugly? I see a smart looking sweater that perfectly captures the spirit of a Nordic Christmas. That’s a money sweater that I wish I had. That’s not ugly. And what about this?

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That’s a good looking sweater, right there. Love me some maroon. It’s the most underrated winter color, IMO. Looks great in any situation. Does that look like the fact of a woman who thinks she’s wearing something ugly? I think not. Don’t like reindeer for some reason? Well, Christmas sweaters have a pretty deep design pool to draw from.

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That’s what I’m talking about. If anyone can look you in the face and call this ugly, they’re probably getting visited by three ghosts when they go to bed. Wearing something like this puts some pep in your step and gives you a better outlook on life. If you hate that, then you’re the ugly one, friend.

To make one thing clear: I’m only talking about legitimate sweaters. Knit sweaters that have lives of their own and tighten and loosen at the drop of a hat. Not these new age “ugly christmas sweaters” that everyone’s pedaling that are just sweatshirts with a small design steam printed on. It’s always novelty designs or pop culture references or something. You’ll see something online saying something like “New Ugly Christmas Sweaters On Sale Now!” and it’ll be something like this:

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That’s a sweatshirt, fool! That’s not a Christmas sweater. If you roll up to my Christmas party and you’re wearing this? Sorry, but you’re getting left out in the cold. A good rule of thumb: if it has a Gildan tag on it, it’s not legitimate. The design has to go all the way around and it has to be knit. There’s no comparison. Sweatshirts look bad. Sweaters look good:

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Mazel tov to anyone lucky enough to have a sweater that looks this good. This is the perfect Christmas Holiday sweater. Subtle, understated, and gets people talking. Try walking into a party wearing a lame sweatshirt and starting conversations with people. Can’t imagine it’ll go well. But if you’re wearing that? First they compliment on your sweater, you say thanks, they ask where you got it, you give a vague answer so no one can find it and replicate your style, then next thing you know you’re talking about net neutrality and the meaning of life.

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This sweater will get you respect, it will get you friends, it will get you a significant other, it will get you happiness. Can’t imagine a better garment than that. And people want to call these ugly? You try knitting a sweater while perfectly capturing the whimsical reindeer in its natural, snowy habitat on a red or green background. Would you like it if someone called it ugly? I doubt it. Calling these sweaters ugly is like calling Christmas itself ugly. I don’t think I need to say why that just wouldn’t be okay. Christmas sweaters are Christmas, and if you don’t like them or think they’re ugly, post your address in the comments so I can come fight you.

In case you somehow haven’t gotten me a Christmas gift yet, just throwing this one out there.

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Unpopular Opinion: Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red is the Best Christmas Album of the Last 33 Years

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As many of you certainly know by now, we’re smack dab in the middle of Christmas SZN, which means it’s prime time for Christmas music. There’s a lot of great Christmas music out there, and, if you’re somehow new to the genre, it can be a little overwhelming. The market is pretty darn saturated (it’s still one of my biggest dreams to record a Christmas album. That’s how I’ll know I’ve made it. Just imagine the cover of Brian’s Den Home for the Holidays), and it’s very easy to go down the wrong path. Luckily, I’m a bit of a Christmas music expert, and, in the spirit of the season, I’ll gladly give my two cents on what kind of Christmas music you should be listening to. Now, you can go anywhere on the Internet and find Christmas album rankings, and all of them will have the same five ones and it’ll just be the most famous ones and all that. But here’s a little tip you can only get here: Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red is the greatest Christmas album of the last 33 years. Why 33 years? Well, 33 years ago, this was released:

Enough said. With some notable exceptions, the majority of Christmas music was written before “Last Christmas” came out. So, for the most part, it was an even playing field for everyone who released a Christmas album afterwards, unless they felt like experimenting and releasing a new song. Some of these new songs worked. Most don’t. So, in the interest of creating the biggest pool from which to draw inspiration, only albums released after 1984 should be considered for the true connoisseur. Sure, there are some high quality pre-Wham! Christmas albums, but if half the songs you know and love haven’t even been written yet, what’s the point? I’d feel like I was cheating you, Christmas music neophyte, if I suggested a Johnny Mathis album that didn’t have a cover of “Santa Baby” included. Feel free to listen and enjoy, but some of the older albums have a much purer, more concentrated Christmas feel to them. Most of the time, only the more seasoned Christmas music listeners can handle the hopeful, more innocent, less cynical sounds of Bing Crosby and the like. We all know better than to feel optimistic about stuff these days, right? Every day was sunshine and rainbows for the folks in the 50s, and their Christmas music reflects that. So, modern=better.

I know what you’re thinking. “There must be a million Christmas albums released since 1984. What makes Kelly Clarkson’s the best?” Well, I’ll get to that shortly, but first I need to give out some honorable mentions, because there’s a lot of good Christmas albums out there. Two things to remember: 1. This is albums, not songs. I’m sorry I didn’t touch on your favorite song even though it’s really popular. That just means the rest of the album stunk. 2. This is non-religious only. There’s some hot, hot religious-only albums out there, but I figured I’d stick with the mainstream, mall soundtrack fare (for posterity’s sake, my top five religious Christmas songs: 1. O Holy Night 2. Oh Come, All Ye Faithful 3. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 4. Angels We Have Heard On High 5. The First Noel). Most Christmas albums worth their salt have at least one religious song, anyway, so the singer can show off their range. It goes without saying, but if you like “Dominick the Donkey,” “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas” you should be euthanized.

Honorable Mention

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Mariah Carey-Merry Christmas

Need to give a shoutout to Mariah for the unquestioned GOAT secular Christmas song. “All I Want for Christmas is You” is somehow both the most overplayed song of all time and the one song in the world that never gets old. It’s a musical triumph. I’ll be totally honest, I’ve never listened to the rest of the album, so it could either be horrible or I could have picked the wrong album to base this whole post around. I’m gonna assume it’s just okay outside AIWFCIY, so I think it’s fine putting it here.

Best Song:

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Leona Lewis- Christmas, with Love

Man, I thought Leona Lewis had next in 2007. She’s got some serious pipes and I have no idea why she’s not the biggest star in the world now. Oh, well, at least she released a great Christmas album. Three original songs seems like a little much when two of them aren’t great (“One More Sleep” is my jam), but the rest of it is pure heat to warm up even the coldest of winter nights.

Best Song:

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*NSYNC- Home for Christmas

If you don’t like “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” you can go ahead and stop reading this right now.

Best Song:

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Michael Bublé- Christmas

I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t mention the unofficial voice of Christmas, Michael Bublé. Somehow he only has one Christmas album despite the fact that you can find a Bublé cover of essentially every Christmas song ever made somewhere online. Pretty sure 90% of the Bub-god’s salary is made in late-November and December, and for good reason. This is a classy album that perfectly serves as inoffensive background music, but definitely lacks the kind of spiciness other albums have.

Best Song:

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Various Artists- A Very Special Christmas 2

This kind of represents the entire Very Special Christmas franchise. Despite my hatred of of “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” I’m a sucker for star-studded ensembles. Very Special Christmas is essentially just a Christmas music greatest hits album, so it’s kind of cheating a little bit, but it’s still great. Very Special Christmas 1 is disqualified for having “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” on it, but 3 is also excellent.

Best Song:

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Michael Bolton- This is the Time

Michael Bolton is a god who came to Earth to give soulful, sultry ballads to the masses.

Best Song:

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Various Artists- Christmas on Death Row

Just the album cover alone gets this a mention.

Best Song:

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NewSong- Sheltering Tree

Just kidding.

Best Song:

Alright, enough of the also-rans. Let’s get to the reason you’re here: Kelly Clarkson Wrapped in Red. What sets it apart? Why is it so great? Well, for starters, it’s a prime time name. Wrapped in Red just screams Christmas. It’s a miracle it hadn’t been taken before 2013. Next, the album cover is perfect (see top of page): simple, elegant, festive. That’s all you need. The back cover brings it too:

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Before purchasing this Christmas album, I wasn’t really in the spirit of things, but now that I’ve seen this picture of Kelly Clarkson playfully blowing snow in my face, I’m definitely ready for Santa to come down my chimney! But what really matters is the music, and folks, it doesn’t disappoint. Full disclosure: I’m a huge Kelly Clarkson fan and am almost definitely overrating this album, but I trust my own objectivity to know good music when I hear it. And there’s a lot of good music here. The title song isn’t great, which, admittedly, kind of throws a wrench in things, but it quickly picks up. “Underneath the Tree” is criminally underrated. Sure, it’s only four years old, but it has to be put in the same category as the modern classics.

So good. Then, if your spirits are riding too high, you can slow things down with another good original, “Winter Dreams.”

Just makes me want to cuddle up with that special someone (theoretically, of course). I like my Christmas songs to either get my toes tappin’ or to be slow and a little melancholy-but-not-really-since-everything’s-happy-during-Christmas. Wrapped in Red does that throughout. When it comes to covering the classics, it’s really just about song selection. At this level, everyone can sing, so as long as you just pick good songs and don’t try to “make them your own” (see: Christina Aguilera “O Holy Night”) you should be good. “White Christmas,” “Silent Night,” Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” are all elite Christmas songs. Kelly Clarkson could smoke a hundred packs a day, never sleep, and drink a gallon of coffee a day for the next year and still have a dominant voice, so when she gets ahold of your favorite Christmas hits good things happen. No, not every song is perfect. But the bad songs are like 6s or 7s out of 10. Still decent, and it just makes the great ones stand out more. I think I’ve made a pretty convincing argument, but if you still don’t believe me, go and sit by your Christmas tree. I don’t care what you do. Read, watch TV, just look at your phone, whatever. Just as long you put this album on. If the combination of Kelly Clarkson and Christmas trees doesn’t get you in the most festive mood you’ve ever been in, you’re a bigger grinch than the Grinch himself. Wrapped in Red is the perfect Christmas album. Kelly Clarkson: GOAT of American Idol, and now, GOAT of Winter.

My Christmas List

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Dear Santa,

I hope this finds you well. I understand this is a busy time for you and your staff, but, assuming you’re reading this, it appears I was correct in assuming my oversized envelope labeled only with magazine cutout letters spelling “I have Mrs. Claus” caught your attention. I realize it may seem extreme, but you do what you have to to stand out. To clarify: I do not actually have Mrs. Claus, so if she is currently missing, I would appreciate being removed from the suspect list. Thank you.

Anyway, as I’m sure you know, it’s the Christmas season. And, again, as I’m sure you know, the Christmas season is all about other people to buying you things. Or something. Either way, you’re the man to turn to when it comes getting stuff you want without paying for it, so I figured I’d drop you a line. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I have been good this year. I rounded up my change to help St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital the last time I went to the mall, I exposed a deep-seated conspiracy that goes back decades, I helped prop up the struggling hot dog industry, I saved New York City, and I recycle. Sure, I’m not perfect. I don’t always come to a complete stop at stop signs. I downloaded some music without paying for it. I speak to my family only slightly more often than Aaron Rodgers does. But I think you’ll find the good far outweighs the bad, and that I’m more than eligible for a haul of Christmas gifts. And while this is more of a guideline than a list of demands, I would prefer if you kind of stick to the script. I know it’s your workshop’s specialty and all, but I’ll be pissed if I get some crappy wooden toy. It’s 2017, the last thing in the world I need to a wood dog with wheels that I can pull around. Just give me coal instead, at least it has a practical use. Anyway, without further ado, I present my 2017 Christmas List.

  • A ton of money
  • My own Chick-fil-a franchise
  • A Japanese Cherry Tree sapling imported from Tokyo
  • The complete Take That discography
  • A signed copy of The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance
  • 20 more years of Tom Brady
  • A pony
  • One of the Crown Jewels, don’t really care which
  • A stylish collection of ascots so I can add some smoking lounge chic to my wardrobe
  • Gold
  • Frankensense
  • Myrrh
  • A couple Bitcoins
  • A Nintendo Switch with Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey
  • An end to fast food regionalism so I can have In-n-Out, Whataburger, Bojangles, Raising Cane’s, Zaxby’s, Cook Out, and every other Southern place without having to base a vacation around trying them
  • An all-expenses-paid vacation to go to every regional fast food place in America
  • An apparel and shoe sponsorship with Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour
  • Musical talent
  • A saltwater aquarium complete with a full range of fish. Seahorses are most important aspect
  • An appointment with the Pimp My Ride crew
  • A 10-day contract with literally any NBA team
  • Make UConn men’s basketball better
  • A role as whatever superhero is left in the next round of Marvel movies
  • A pair of game-worn Pitbull gloves
  • Access to the Book of Secrets
  • Tickets to Hamilton so I can tell people I’ve seen Hamilton
  • Matchstick Men on DVD
  • Russia to get re-instated into the Olympics so there’s someone to root against
  • Russia to win the World Cup in the most obviously rigged way possible because it would actually be kind of funny
  • A job as a nature documentary cameraman
  • My own used car dealership
  • A better cable company than Optimum
  • A private jet
  • Some kind of holiday in August
  • To find a hidden oil reserve in my backyard
  • A better feel for interior decorating
  • A lifetime supply of Cheez-It
  • A lifetime supply of DiGiorno
  • My own Margaritaville location
  • A time machine
  • Another time machine that I can give to a responsible person to undo anything I would do using my time machine
  • Better WiFi
  • A complete brontosaurus fossil
  • Someone who follows me around telling me not to eat all the really unhealthy stuff I eat
  • My own house flipping reality tv show
  • A good app idea that someone else designs but I get to sell
  • An English bulldog
  • Some new Transformers. Don’t know what they’re like now but I want to get back in the game
  • Another pony so the first pony has some company
  • My own Domino’s franchise
  • Diplomatic immunity in every part of the world except New England
  • A Manhattan brownstone
  • No more automated calls
  • A maid who’s only job is to fold laundry
  • The eradication of Dominick the Donkey and everyone who likes it
  • World peace and all that
  • An authentic Turboman

Continued on next three pages. Make sure to read all of it.

Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas,

Brian

I Would Like to Wish Everyone a Merry Hawaiian Christmas!

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Mele Kalikimaka, everybody! What a beautiful day to celebrate one of the most important days on the calendar. Hawaiian Christmas. What’s that? You’ve never heard of it? That’s a shame. It’s a truly wonderful holiday. A joyous occasion where we, the faithful public, celebrate the birth of the White Kahuna. The one sent from above to dazzle us with pinpoint accuracy and a mastery of the Run and Shoot offense. Today, we celebrate the birth of the greatest college football player of all time, Colt Brennan.

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Now, a short trip down Google Lane will tell you that his true birthday is August 16th. Well, what holiday worth it’s salt takes place in the middle of the week? That’s why Hawaiian Christmas takes place on the closest Friday to August 16th, so you’ll always have a long weekend spent living on Island Time, to go with the quiet midweek vigil you hold for the true date. And if the 16th falls on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday? Well, that’s grounds to take the whole week off, friend. Hawaiian Christmas is a time for leisure, merriment, and goodwill towards men. Your boss will understand.

The most important question facing a Hawaiian Christmas neophyte is, of course, how to celebrate. It’s quite simple really. The first step is to put on your finest Hawaiian linens. The more complex the pattern, the more bold the color scheme, the better. I’m partial to tropical flowers, birds of paradise, sea turtles, and perhaps fruit, myself, but Hawaiian Christmas is not a time for criticism. Wear what you will, as long as it’s in the spirit of things. Grab yourself a mai tai or two (more on that later), and settle in on your most relaxing beach chair for the most important part of any Hawaiian Christmas, watching a ton of Colt Brennan highlights. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen first.

You might need to take a cold shower if you get too deep into the rabbit hole, but hopefully you have access to a beach and can take a quick dip in the water. While his highlight videos are undoubtedly mesmerizing, don’t get so engrossed you lose track of time. Hawaiian Christmas dinner takes a while to cook when done right, and you certainly don’t want to lose track of time. While our savior typically feasted on helpless WAC opponents, cannibalism is unfortunately frowned upon during Hawaiian Christmas. So, instead, prepare a traditional Kalua pig. You’ll need a full pig and a pretty big pit and a bunch of hot stones, and you’ll need to learn a difficult and very specific cooking method that you’ll probably never use in any other scenario, but it’s worth it to impress your friends. Gather your family and any neighbors too lazy to cook their own pig and sit around the fire pit telling tales of gridiron glory. Traditionally, this is also where you engage in the ceremonial Hair Bleaching, so you too can look like the Heisman Finalist himself.tumblr_lmkx4zlahb1qapl86o1_500

Most pigs are probably going to be about 260 pounds, so when you add in all the tropical-themed side dishes, you’ll have plenty of leftovers! The White Kahuna isn’t an advocate for moderation.

Speaking of moderation, the most controversial part of the holiday comes at night. Here at the Brian’s Den, we would never dream of condoning drinking and driving. It’s a reckless, dangerous, and foolhardy decision. But, as with all great heroes, Colt Brennan is a flawed man. His DUI arrest is a dark mark on his otherwise spotless record. To walk in his path is to admit your own weaknesses and faults, which is the first step to personal growth. A true celebrator of Hawaiian Christmas knows how to honor the White Kahuna and keep the non believers safe, so find an abandoned patch of beach, woods, field, anywhere where you won’t have any company. Get a golf cart and your closest friends, and just drive around. If you’ve been observing Hawaiian Christmas customs all day, you should be sufficiently impaired. It’s a great time that I officially condemn, but it’s better than driving your actual car. Feel free to engage in golf-cart centric shenanigans into the wee hours of the morning, just make sure to be wearing your Hawaiian Christmas garb, so any passing law enforcement officers will know you’re merely recognizing the significance of the day.

The last part of any good Hawaiian Christmas comes the next morning. All you need to do is fail to make the NFL. Easy enough on paper, but you’d be surprised how many people mess it up. Now, go out there and have the best Hawaiian Christmas you’ve ever had. Mele Kalikimaka, indeed.