Christmas is one the way

On the Ball column by Craig Lindsay, Dec. 2 Grand Forks Gazette

Hard to believe that Christmas is less than a month away.

It’s never too early to stress about what to get far away relatives you only see once or twice a year. At least with guys I have some clue on what they might like but for my nieces, while they’re all off to university and so it’s a bit of a mystery.

For my mom, while I see her more often but I’m still clueless when it comes to Christmas. I may go with gift cards for my nieces. At least I just have to narrow it down to one store. That’s a little easier than they can pick what they like. My mom likes knitting, puzzles and British mystery shows on PBS so hopefully I can figure something out.

Speaking of British mystery shows on PBS, I always find it interesting how my mom screams whenever the violent (and usually off-screen) murder takes place. This happens on each and every one of these shows so I don’t know how it can be a surprise. Since getting Optik TV with Netflix and HBO, she has opened up her programming a bit. When my dad was around he ran the electronics like a dictator. Heaven forbid if someone tried to change the channel when hockey or golf was on.

With a little help, Mom has become quite adept at both the computer and the television. She is now able to check email, banking, weather and her favourite news sites with relative ease on her tablet computer. Managing all the channels with Optik TV is a breeze and Mom is a whiz now.

She’s still a little reluctant to use the PVR (personal video recorder). This is my favourite feature of my TV experience. I would die without being able to tape Walking Dead and Game of Thrones to watch 30 minutes later at my own leisure. I just have to remember not to go on any social media until I watch.

People just love to put spoilers up. I guess it’s natural to want to discuss a show after watching it and share your experience. All it takes is for someone to write OMG and if I know they watch Walking Dead for example I can assume a favourite character has died. So then I’ll watch the episode thinking: is this the scene where they die? What about now? Annoying to say the least.

Anyways, back to Mom and her TV. While the menu has the OnDemand channels right there next to the other channels. No having to go to another menu. It’s convenient too that almost all the episodes of many great shows are available. I’ve even got Mom watching some of my favourite HBO shows like Boardwalk Empire and The Knick. She loves the period costumes and sets, both of which both shows do very well.

Boardwalk Empire is set mostly in Atlantic City in the 1920s and is about gangsters and their attempts to bootleg liquor. It features real-life gangsters such as Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. The Knick, as I have written about before, is about a New York hospital at the turn of the century.

One new Netflix show I have started watching is Marvel’s Jessica Jones, which is about a superhero living in New York.

Superhero might be a misnomer. She has superpowers but she also has anxiety issues and a drinking problem. Those issues stem from her battles with the big bad villain, a (at least early in season one) mostly unseen telepath who can control people’s minds. His victims, including Jones, are often abused in horrible ways.

As much as anything, this show shows how someone who can lift a car and jump a tall building in a single bound is helpless against someone who can control her mind and make her do things against her will.

For us video game fanatics, Christmas is already here. After months of having almost no decent releases November comes with a bang. I’ve already spent many good hours on Halo 5 and Fallout 4, both of which are great. Halo 5 is another great online futuristic shooter, whereas Fallout 4 is a single player game set in a post apocalyptic future in which you battle giant super mutants, even bigger deathklaws, and a lack of good Wi-Fi.

Other great games are the latest iteration in the huge Call of Duty series, Black Ops 3, as well as an online Star Wars game called Battlefront. Both look really good and are selling like hot cakes. There’s also a new Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid.

To be honest, games and shows are nice but being with family is really the best gift anyone could ask for. As I get older it is certainly something I have come to appreciate more and more.