Wii Holidays

Among my friends, many of them professionals in the video game industry and therefore extremely hardcore gamers, the Wii has a very, very bad reputation. Bad graphics, stupid control scheme, no good games, annoyingly family-friendly, etc. It's not hard to come up with a quick and dirty list of all the Wii's problems. And it's a common complaint to hear these guys say, "I haven't touched my Wii in months," after which they usually make a joke about how dirty that sounds.

And I get it. After Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and maybe a handful of other hardcore games, there just aren't a ton of truly next-gen Wii games to appeal to the fan of Fallout 3 and GTA. I've experienced it myself: I was recently trying to buy a Wii game as a gift for some friends, and I found myself in Best Buy wandering the aisle really not able to find anything remotely "respectable" (from my perspective as a former game critic). It was all this casual crap and Nintendo games they've already played. So I get that it's hard to see the Wii as the savior of the game industry that the rest of the world views it as.

But if the Wii phenomenon isn't something special, then why, during my recent Christmas visit to my old home town, where I stayed with a few different friends, was the Wii turned on in their households, with various combinations of family members playing games on it, for hours and hours at a time? I was shocked. My friends who don't even use cell phones were playing Mario Kart with their kids all morning long. They even asked me to help them hook their Wii up to the Internet. My other friends who only play PC games are obsessed with Animal Crossing -- but they're not using the snazzy new multiplayer. No, instead, they sit there as a group watching each other run around town picking up shells and writing real letters to buddies in town. They even correct each other's spelling in said letters that will only ever be read by computer-controlled characters. They do not seem to mind the fact that the game has not genuinely been upgraded in the 6 years since it originally came out, and that its graphics have hardly changed. Members of both households went out in the days after Christmas searching for more Wii Remotes.

These Wiis are not collecting dust, and their owners aren't complaining about the lack of good software for the platform. They may not buy quite as many games per year as the hardcore crowd, but I was excited to see over-30-year-olds who haven't touched a console game since the 80s eagerly opening up their (or their kids') shiny new video games on Christmas morning and popping them in their Wiis. The other strange thing? I don't think it occurred to any of them to make a joke about how dirty that sounds.


Thanksgiving Catering from Bi-Rite

Ever since before Thanksgiving, I've felt insanely busy so I'm only now getting to write about the holiday. I hosted Thanksgiving at my house, with family visiting and also Crispin and Shoe and their partners. You'd think we'd have done at least a bit of gaming, but neither my planned Rock Band session nor the awesome board game 25 Words or Less ended up happening. We did have a kids table, though. I think Crispin and Shoe both kinda wanted to sit there, but it was occupied by real kids.

I got the food catered from a very beloved local market, Bi-Rite. I was really happy with the oven-roasted Diestel Ranch turkey, which was cooked to perfection and only needed reheating. Their garlic mashed potatoes beat mine easily (we had two versions because I hadn't realized we'd ordered some). I'd probably rate their wild mushroom bread stuffing and wild mushroom & Zinfandel gravy a 6.5 on the old EGM scale (in other words: Fine, but not something you get really excited about, while actually lacking a few key ingredients that would have made it good). And while their butternut squash soup with fresh sage was really good, I wasn't even able to serve it with the Thanksgiving meal, because adding soup bowls to the table settings would have just been too difficult. The best dish, in my opinion, was the roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts with meyer lemon butter. Which is a line, I think, that if my brussel-sprout-loathing childhood self had read, she would have been terribly disappointed in what she would eventually grow up into. But to my childhood self, all I can tell you is that as long as you demand fresh, locally grown brussel sprouts prepared in a simple, classic manner that highlights their distinctive flavors, you'll probably never have to eat them, because your parents will be freaked out at your apparent early-onset food snobbery. The menu also included a cranberry and honey-tangerine relish, which sounds good but I somehow forgot to try.

The other thing I thought was a bit weird about their menu was how they delivered it in tons and tons and tons of plastic containers, which made it a pain to transfer to serving dishes and heat up (and seemed environmentally rather negligent). But I hope other people who ordered the catering realized, as we did, that the Bi-Rite containers made perfect to-go packages for departing guests.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

(Ramah packaged them up smashingly in her inimitable way.... I really wish I had sent home more of those little containers with her and the human food-vac, Crispin Boyer.)

We also had a plethora of pies and cakes.

Thanksgiving 2008
Originally uploaded by marytsao.

And though our pies came from all kinds of fancy bakeries and stores (including Bi-Rite and Mission Pie), I can say that in blind side-by-side taste tests, the scrumptious (and gigantic) Costco pies won unanimously in both the apple and pumpkin categories.