I’m not entirely sure if I’ve made it clear in my CHUD Blog or not, but I love doing lists.  Sometimes I like the idea of being brief and concise within a structured, multipoint, bullet structure.  I find that it allows me to keep things short and simple, and at the same time works better for readers with shorter attention spans (like my own).

Since I’m spending this week trying to get back into the swing of things like life after having a two-week holiday, I thought it might be easier for everyone involved if I just concocted a ten-point list for this week’s installment.  Of course, pretty much everyone else is doing already doing lists like “Top Ten Films of 2010”, “Top Ten Biggest Achievements of 2010″, Top Ten Best Things That Happened to Me In 2010”, or “Top Ten Magical Creatures I Got Into Fist Fights With In 2010”.

So instead, I decided to think smaller.  I’ve already written quite a bit in this blog about major things that I’ve enjoyed or even been thankful for.  Are they important?  Sure.  Absolutely.  But sometimes it’s all about the little things – the small details, the trimmings, the garnish, the piping.  That said, my first official post for the New Year will be a top ten of the little moments from 2010 that made the big ride through the year me never made contact more bearable (in no particular order):

1.  Christmastown, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg

With as disappointed as I was with BG’s Howl-O-Scream last October, I wasn’t feeling too hopeful for their special Christmas event in December.  I mean, how much fun can you have just walking around a park decorated in lights in the freezing cold?

The answer?  Quite a bit, actually.

I was pleasantly surpised and rather impressed with the seasonal offerings Busch Gardens put forth this past December.  The atmosphere and ambiance that blanketed the entire park was palpable – and as one who loves the Christmas season it put me in the perfect mood.  What I loved most about it wasn’t the food, the treats, or the shows (though each of them were quite good), but the fact that even after the park filled up with folks I never felt crowded.  And here’s why – during the normal operating season, most of what going to BG entails is fastpacing it from one ride to the next and then waiting in long lines.  There really is no time to enjoy the park.

For Christmastown, since most of the rides are closed (especially of the important ones – i.e. roller coasters), attendees get the chance to do something they hardly ever get to do – just relax and stroll around the park at their leisure.  The lights in each country were of different colours and themes, making the whole experience – dare I say it – magical.  I honestly hope to be able to make it back there this Christmas.

2.  Mr. Plinkett’s Movie Reviews

I was introduced to movie-breakdown maven Mr. Plinkett towards the beginning of last year.  Housed at Red Letter Media, this guy is incredible.  He manages to effectively pick apart the films he reviews in such an efficient and thorough manner, while at the same time mixing enough humour and oddity to make it all entertaining.  In the guise of a slovenly, pizza roll-eating, possible homicidal maniac, Plinkett gained popularity when he effectively tore apart the first two Star Wars prequels.  His continued efforts since have been nothing short of incredible.  And to add a cherry to that sundae, his review of Episode III just became available right before the New Year!

3.  Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

I’ve always been a fan of old-school video-gaming.  From PONG to Super Mario Bros., I grew up on the classics.  And while Donkey Kong is probably my favourite classic arcade game, I certainly can’t ignore the greatness that is Pac-Man.  So, when Namco finally made the Championship Edition available for the PS3 a couple of months ago, I snatched that sucker up.

And I’ve been completely addicted to it ever since.  The one true sequel to Pac-Man, Championship Edition DX takes the gameplay we’re all familiar with and overclocks it.  Adding chain-chomping and other new tricks to the mix, this game is good for a spending an hour on or just a few minutes.  There is plenty of content here to unluck and play through that will take hours alone, but the simple draw of controlling a yellow disk around a maze to eat dots and ghosts creates enough replay value on its own.

4.  Flash Gordon Watchalong

This was probably the most fun I had online in a long time.  On December eleventh I got to participate in my first-ever CHUD watchalong.  The Film – Flash Gordon.  With constant commentary from a few of us flooding the watchalong thread for the film in the forums, it was simply an incredible experience to be chatting with fellow Chewers as we all sat in our homes around the world and watched a classic, sci-fi cheese film.  Not only did it allow me to get to know and hang with some of the other denizens of the CHUD forums more, but it also gave me something more to do on a Saturday morning than just… sleep.  Special thanks to Richard Dickson, Judas Booth, mcnooj82 and Ratty for making this experience a fun one.  Looking forward to doing this again soon.  And Ken?  No worries on missing this one, mate.  We’ll team up on the next one.

5.  Acting/Writing

A small respite from the rest of life, I’ve come to enjoy my time playing actor and writer quite a bit.  Both allow me the freedom to stretch my creative muscles, and they also allow me a means of escape for awhile.  Last year alone I found my options expanding, from writing this blog for CHUD to finding my face on the cover of a DVD release for a series of short films.  I’ve even managed to get in on a sweet tag-team review with fellow Chewers Mike’s Pants and Ken Savage.  The film?  Commando – probably one of the best eighties action flicks ever made.

Now, with 2011 already in full swing, I have high hopes that both side projects will continue to sweeten my next trip around the sun.  And hopefully, maybe they’ll even prove to be more lucrative.  There are certainly plenty more options coming up the pike, like writing for GUY.com.

6.  An Audience

“I don’t find the creative process in itself rewarding enough. I have to be honest. I want to reach an audience.”

I managed to finally catch the Robin Williams film World’s Greatest Dad while I was on holiday for Christmas and New Year’s.  Quite an impressive, powerful film.  One of the things that stood out to me the most was the fact that Robin Williams plays a poetry teacher in a private school that is also trying to make his way in the world as a writer.  Unfortunately, everything he has ever submitted has gotten rejected.

I really identified and felt for his character.  The quote above is one of the first things he says in his narration when the film opens.  It really struck a chord with me.  Don’t get me wrong – I love to write.  I love the creative process.  But I think he makes a point – at some point in your written ramblings, you start to wonder what the point is when the only audience for your work is you.  At this point, do you become like George McFly (high school years)?  Do you just write and write and let it all just sit and collect dust?

I’m pretty certain I don’t have a large audience for my stuff.  I know there are a few of my friends who read my work when they have time and remember to, but I’m not an idiot – my readership is small.  Don’t get me wrong – I truly appreciate the folks who actually do take time to read and in some cases even comment or start a discussion on things I write.  But I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to reach a wider audience.  I want to be able to write things that spark thought and discussion and reaction.  I want to move, inspire, and reach people.  I’ve spent a long time grappling with this issue.  This past year, though, I have found that there are more out there that read my work than I thought.  Between my blogs and the web comic I used to do, it’s a wonderful feeling when I guest at cons and someone comes up to me to tell me they love my work.  And to have a decent group of people come to your panel to listen to you blab for an hour about writing characters?  It’s a pleasant surprise, and a wonderful feeling.  I’ve stopped wrestling with the fact that I don’t hear much feedback on what I write now, because I’ve found that they are out there and are slowly growing in numbers.  And eventually I’ll find my audience.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if the folks who do read could spark a little more discussion.

7.  Pumpkin-flavoured Anything

I’ve found that there are two sides of the fence in regards to this food of the gourds.  Much like the Elvis/Beatles conundrum, folks seem to be either into sweet potatoes or pumpkin.

And holy crap, am I a pumpkin man.

I dunno why, but I just love this stuff.  Ever since I was a kid I’d get extremely excited when Thanksgiving rolled around just for the sake of being able to have pumpkin pie.  You can take that sweet pootato and chuck it out back – pumpkin’s where it’s at.

Nowadays, there are tons of foods that can come pumpkin-flavoured now – ice cream, donuts, fudge, coffee beverages, Pop Tarts.  It’s like the world realized just how great this stuff is and authorized its use in everything.  And I couldn’t be happier.  What do sweet potatoes have?  Oh, still just pie and as its own dish?  Damn.  That’s too bad.

Suck it, sweet potatoes.

8.  Matty Collector Figures

People are going to get sick and tired of hearing me talk about these damn things, but as an action figure collector, I find that there is no better place to collect action figures from than Matty’s site.

Ghostbusters and He-Man – two of my favourite properties – make their homes at this site.  And I look forward every thirty days for the chance to snatch up whatever exclusive figs they have coming out for that month.  And now that I have paid for the subscription services for each line, I won’t have to pull my hair out so much in the process of trying to procure said figures.  All I have to do is sit back, relax, and wait for them to show up at my door.

Kinda hearkens back to the days when I was a kid and I used to mail-away for exclusive Star Wars figures.  Still fills me with the same excitement these days, too.

9.  Netflix

Alright, I’ll admit it – it took me quiet some time to come around on this service.  Before Blu became the hi-def format of choice, I would usually just buy the DVD of whatever movies I wanted.  Not really a big fan of renting, I found that if I wanted to see a flick or if it was an old favourite that I didn’t have yet, I’d just go purchase it.

But once I started upgrading to Blu, I noticed two things began happening.  One – with discs being more expensive, I had to be choosier about what I bought.  And two – there would be days that I would look at the collection I had and not find a damn thing that I wanted to watch.  Nothing was jumping out at me.

Then Netflix became available on the PS3.

They were offering a month trial, so I said what Jack Burton always says at a time like this.  I gave it a shot, and I’m glad I did.

I only opted for the streaming service, but I’ve found this to be extremely valuable on its own.  For a great low price, having Netflix allows me to continue to be choosier about my Blu-Ray flicks and still be able to check out stuff I was curious about.  And the nostalgic goofball in me loves all of the old flicks and TV shows I can just pop a squat on the couch and watch whenever I want.  Netflix also is the perfect solution for when I can’t find anything to watch in my own collection.  Not once have I not found something that tickles my interest when I start browsing the service for something to watch.  I’m even finally going back and watching old episodes of 21 Jumpstreet again – something I’ve been wanting to do for the past couple of years.

Thanks, Netflix.

10.  LEGO

Some people like putting together model planes.  Some folks like model railroading.  Others enjoy putting together little villages and dioramas.  And some folks just like cheese.

That last one had nothing to do with anything.

I love to build things also, but my materials of choice are LEGOs.

I absolutley love LEGO.  Been a huge fan since I was a wee lad when I had a very large bin filled with various brick shapes and colours.  Despite the fact that I had absolutley no skill and my parents often found themselves limping from foot punctures, I would spend hours upon hours snapping those things together.

Of course, in the past several years the Danish company has done a lot of expanding, picking up several popular licenses and offering up kits that come with intructions on how to build them.

And boy, has that made it easier for doofuses like me to feel better about myself when I attempt to make something.

My vice of choice in the plastic brick world is collecting the Star Wars LEGO sets.  And I don’t mess with no prequel or Clone War crap, either.  I have a large number of Original Trilogy sets and even a couple of expanded universe kits.  And I love building them.

AT-AT, The Millennium Falcon, Jabba’s Sail Barge – all the ships and diplays I own are a blast to build.  And the final satisfaction of seeing a completed icon from the Star Wars universe in all its plastic glory is a nice feeling indeed.

I’ve also found that nothing helps me relax more than being able to sit down in my living room with something pleasant playing on the TV while I take some time to put together a ship or playset that comes from one of my favourite trilogies of all time.

Well, relax when I’m not cursing in frustration when I can’t find the damn piece the instructions are directing me to use.