5 Characters We’d Like to See Added to ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has only recently released but already the Nintendo Switch fighter has shattered records in the gaming community. With Persona 5’s Joker reveal recently during The Game Awards, the Big N has proved that anything is possible in the realm of Smash. That being said, there are even more characters that have yet to be announced! We’re ready to get our hopes crushed into dust because here are the five characters we’d like to see added into the game – no matter how unbelievable!

And no … we’re leaving Waluigi out of it. Sorry, dudes.

Slide 1 of 5Geralt of Rivia from ‘The Witcher’

You may laugh but let’s be serious for a second. The Witcher’s Geralt of Rivia has already invaded the new SoulCalibur and Monster Hunter World. Basically, the hunky badass is a whiz when it comes to falling into portals by accident – so why not the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate portal? 

Let’s be real – he’s got mystically in-line attacks, the character is canonically never where he is supposed to be, and he’s just really freaking awesome. If you can look me in the eye and say Geralt wouldn’t be cool in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate you’re either a liar or a serial killer and I don’t have room for that kind of negativity in my life. 

Moving on …

Slide 2 of 5Crash Bandicoot
Nintendo eShop

I know I’m not alone in wanting Crash. Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to about fantasy picks has agreed that his spinning attacks would be perfect in the world of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. With how successful his remaster was, it’s clear that the Crash Bandicoot love is real and could we just take a moment to imagine his Final Smash being him donning a golden Aku Aku mask liked some deranged psychopath? Like … HOW COOL!? 

But seriously, seeing all of the different locations that this franchise has gone in, the world is limitless as far as what kind of stages he could offer the fighting game. He’s a dream pick for many reasons, not just fandom love. Epic stages, badass fighting style, and he’d actually counter the pre-existing fighters quite well! 

Just think about it, Nintendo…

Slide 3 of 5Jonesy from ‘Fortnite’

So I know this one probably won’t go over well with everyone, despite Fortnite having the largest player-base in the world, but come on! Even if you’re not a fan of the Battle Royale game, you can’t ignore what a huge impact the online title has had in gaming in 2018. It even made Sony do a 180 on their “no cross-play, huehuehue” stance – so you know it’s got some power! 

The cartoonish art style of Fortnite would play very well in the world of Super Smash, and his Final Smash could be a deployed Port-a-Fort or something as equally weird yet oddly appropriate! 

Slide 4 of 5Leon Kennedy from ‘Resident Evil’

With all the hype surrounding the Resident Evil 2 remake, Leon Kennedy would actually be perfect. That, and the Resident Evil hotti… um, totally capable human being has already been in one crossover this year with PUBG. He’s got cool gears and gadgets, a huge fan-base, and he could very easily be worked in as one of the more realistic characters for the franchise without being totally out of left field. 

Just saying.

Slide 5 of 5Solaire from ‘Dark Souls’

Come on, you had to have seen this one coming. With Dark Souls being THE game that all other games seem to be compared to, plus with the title also being on the Nintendo Switch, just think about what an AMAZING crossover this would be to have Solaire praising the sun all over the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate stage?!

I don’t even need to sell this one. This dude already has his own Amiibo, so make it so Nintendo. We’re waiting. 

Of course there are so many characters I’d love to see make their way into the game, but I figured I wouldn’t bore you with too many of them (*whispers* Commander Shepard from Mass Effect please), but I’d definitely love to hear what some of YOUR dream picks would be! Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below, or hit me up over on Twitter @DirtyEffinHippy!

How this 38-year-old is making 6 figures freelancing on Fiverr

At that point, Feldman was bringing in $7,000 to $8,000 a month from his copywriting services. Now, Feldman has expanded his writing services and offers sales copywriting (priced at $5 for 20 words), Amazon product descriptions (prices run from $45 to $85), SEO blog posts and articles (priced at $100 for 1,000 words) and building WordPress websites (priced at $495). His profile boasts over 1,000 reviews, with a rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars, many of which note that Feldman is easy to work with and responsive.

Feldman says his clients are wide-ranging, and he does everything from writing website copy to marketing materials to social media posts. Once, he even wrote a 50-page corporate sustainability report for an international oil company, a project he recalls took him weeks (that one was under-priced, he notes, adding that he only made around $1,000). Feldman’s average selling price for an order is $57, and at all times, he usually has around 20 to 30 orders in his queue. His day is peppered with work, but he chooses to stay up late, sometimes until midnight or later, to work on orders so that he can spend time with his family when the kids are home from their school day.

“On average, I probably spend around 50 hours a week working on Fiverr,” Feldman says. “It’s pretty much seven days a week because inquiries and questions keep coming from customers. However, Fiverr does have an out-of-office feature for holidays and vacations. This Christmas break, while I’m not putting on my out-of-office feature, I plan to set longer deadlines for myself (and clients) so I have time to spend with my family.”

In 2016, Feldman brought in $24,000, and in 2017 that number spiked to $75,000. For 2018, as of early December, Feldman has made $125,000 on Fiverr. He also recently teamed up with someone else he met on Fiverr, and the pair launched a digital marketing agency about six months ago, offering services like copywriting and web design.

“I think freelancing definitely is the future, especially with the access everyone has now to the internet, social media, everything has just exploded,” Feldman says. “And everyone can hang up their sign — like there’s nobody telling you that you can’t do anything.”

While the money is great — and has enabled Feldman’s family to take a recent vacation to Hawaii — what he loves most about freelancing is the freedom. He enjoys working from home; it allows him to get his two kids (12-year-old Jackson and 10-year-old Sophie) ready for school in the mornings, grab lunch with Melissa and coach his son’s basketball team. Now, he’s much happier than when he was toiling away in a cubicle.

“It was a good paying job, good benefits, good pay,” Feldman says of his previous career in finance. “I lived in a really nice neighborhood, drove nice cars. People would look at me and think ‘Oh, that guy’s got it made,’ which, I did. But I was like dead inside…and so my advice is, just don’t spend any more time doing what you don’t like. There’s opportunities out there.”

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The Best Romance Novels Of 2018, According To One Of The Best Romance Writers

Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News

When I was asked to compile a list of the best romance novels of 2018, my first response after accepting was to completely freak out. How could I have taken on such a monumental task? I would have to develop some Johnny 5–worthy speed-reading skills to read EVERY ROMANCE NOVEL written this year. I would have to craft a list that would appease everyone, with books that every reader would enjoy!

After taking a metaphorical chill pill, I realized that the books I chose would be my favorite romance novels. They would embody what I love about the genre, which is what I’ve been doing in my recommendation articles and social media posts for years. So, what are my criteria for a fantastic romance?

  • FEELS. I enjoy a romance that leaves me awash in joy and hope and resolve, and also (before we reach the “Happily Ever After” or “Happy for Now” ending) in the agony of sweet, sweet angst. I love a book that makes the reader feel like any damn thing is possible through the power of love and friendship.
  • Characters that stick with me. If I’m still wondering what so-and-so is up to a week later, as if we’re friends and they’re real people I know, that author did a heck of a job.
  • Tension. The book should layer these elements so that at some point I’m screaming, “Kiss! Hold hands! Tell her you love her! Put me out of this misery!”
  • Hot, emotional sex. If there is sex (not all romance requires it, just as not all relationships require it) make it sexy and emotionally satisfying — and I better not doubt consent for a second.
  • Chemistry and banter. Though sex isn’t required, chemistry is! I love feeling the pull of a connection between the protagonists, how they fit together even if they aren’t aware, and how they make each other’s lives better (even though sometimes they will make each other miserable).

Below you’ll find 13 of my favorite romances of 2018. There are of course more — but this list is a great start.

Tempest is the most fun, feminist romance I read this year. In this American West–set historical romance, Regan Carmichael answers an ad looking for a mail-order bride, not because she needs a husband but because the wealthy and self-possessed young woman is in search of adventure. Her taciturn husband-to-be, Dr. Colton Lee, is a widower with a young daughter in the Wyoming territory, and he’s looking for a demure wife. He gets Regan instead — a woman who accidentally shoots him during their first encounter because she’s in the middle of fighting off bandits.

I loved watching this family grow together, with Colton learning to overcome his ingrained patriarchal ideas and Regan finding a new family and community — the book is full of fun secondary characters. I also enjoyed the quiet moments in the story, and how Jenkins masterfully shows the ways Colton and Regan make marriage work for them, as individuals, and the ups and downs that come along with that. This book was like a slice-of-life anime in book form for me, which is honestly the highest praise I can give a romance. It made me laugh, cheer, and blush (because Colton may be reserved, but not when it comes to getting down to business with his new bride).

Get it from Amazon for $5.71, Barnes and Noble for $5.99+, or find it at an independent bookseller or your local library.

Mina V. Esguerra is one of the strongest and most unique voices in contemporary romance today, and this book is a sterling example of that. This romance follows Ben and Naya, two thirtysomethings in Manila, conflicted over what to do with their lives. Ben has been fired from his job as a speechwriter for a Philippine senator, and he wanders onto the Metro Manila tour guided by Naya. They eventually figure out she’s his former coworker who quit because of an awful boss; she’s now doing tours as a freelancer because she loves her city and showing people cool things.

Part of the book follows the course of that one day, and how the worst day of someone’s life can become one of the best. A one-night stand leads to reconnecting months later, and of course an HEA (or, for those who might not know, a Happily Ever After). The chemistry and deliciously realistic banter — something found in all of Esguerra’s books — make this romance great, but the two characters are searching for something familiar to so many of us: the balance between chasing your dreams and paying the bills, and reconciling that with reality. This book is funny, sweet, hot, and inspiring, and it will also probably make you want to take a visit to Manila.

Get it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble for $3.99+, or find it at an independent bookseller or your local library.

After winning the lottery with her two best friends, Zoe Quinn has quit her job as a corporate attorney but can’t quite do anything with her life. Zoe starts a “guilt jar” where she writes down the names of the people she’s hurt so she can apologize to them. At the top of the list? The O’Leary family, whose settlement she handled at her law firm. When she goes to apologize, she meets their son: tall, hot, and angry Aidan O’Leary, who tells her if she wants to apologize she can pretend to be his fake fiancé, which he needs for a chance at winning a competition of sorts. Aidan should hate Zoe for how she hurt his family — he kind of hates everything after losing his twin brother. But as they grow closer while working toward Aidan’s goal, he realizes hate is the last thing he feels for her, and they help each other grow in ways that surprise them both. This book is hilarious and moving and sexy, with a focus on strong female friendship, guilt that’s hard to let go of, and one of the most realistic, and ultimately romantic, fake fiancé setups I’ve ever read.

Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $3.99+, or find it at an independent bookseller or your local library.

(Note: Technically this novella came out in December 2017, but it was after most best-of lists had already been completed. Thus I am counting it as a 2018 release.)

Austin Chant’s writing feels threaded through with magic, and this romance — which contains elements of fantasy, gothic, and Western — is a shining example of it. Both of the main characters are trans and bi: Roy is a ranch hand who holds himself away from his fellow cowboys for fear they’ll discover his secret, and Cecily is a witch who has suffered a great loss. When tragedy throws them together, Cecily sacrifices something dear to her to save Roy, and during his convalescence their love blooms. Their romance is sweet and gentle, the world-building is unique and captivating, and the story is a beautifully written meditation on moving on from loss.

Get it from Amazon for $1.99, or find it at your local library.

I expected a fun, fluffy rom-com, and this novella is that in many ways, but like the best of its genre it also left me crying in the club (or rather on an airplane, where I was reading it). Julian Fong has taken over as CEO of Fong Investments after his father’s heart attack a few years before, and given how much he works, he seems to be heading in the same direction. His family, part of the lively and fun supporting cast, insists that he take two weeks off to just enjoy himself and get some rest (they literally lock him out of his office). Julian finds relaxing impossible, and randomly asks Courtney Kwan, a woman he has seen enjoying the small things in life, to teach him to do the same.

Courtney, a biomedical researcher, laughs at the idea of being Julian’s manic pixie dream girl, because she has cyclical depression that doesn’t respond to treatment and is about to enter another cycle. This is why she savors the small, everyday joys: because sometimes she can’t, no matter how hard she tries. She also never wants to be in another relationship again, as she believes it’s a danger to her mental health. Julian and Courtney’s relationship is entertaining and sexy, and their happily ever after is incredibly moving — love can’t cure depression, but Julian is determined to learn what he can do to help Courtney and to stay by her side, and his support is the cherry on top of the HEA sundae.

Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $3.99, or find it at your local library.

While most romances focus on the tension and ultimate joy of protagonists finding the partners that make them better people, Rochon writes a moving romance that starts 17 years into a couple’s life together and asks: What happens when a perfect marriage and perfect family are not so perfect? Harrison and Willow Holmes have had a great marriage — he’s an important lawyer, she’s a star stay-at-home mom to their two children, and they’ve barely ever even argued. But when a sudden unease and dissatisfaction leads to their estrangement, they have to learn to communicate — really communicate — or their marriage won’t survive.

Rochon handles this story so well — the couple’s fairy tale anniversary trip to Italy provides a sexy and romantic backdrop but also isn’t a cure-all to their problems. The secret shames that have motivated their careers and personal ambitions, and how those unspoken traumas and self-imposed standards were slowly eroding the foundations of their marriage, are revealed slowly. Their frustrating inability to just open up is all too real — and thus more rewarding for the reader when they finally do. Rochon’s books are always witty, hot, and engaging, but I particularly loved this look at what happens after the fairy-tale ending, and how she shows recommitting to love can be just as romantic as finding it for the first time.

Get it from Amazon for $4.99+, Barnes & Noble for $4.49+, or find it at an independent bookseller or your local library.

After some rude (i.e., harassing) questions from a coworker and constant pressure from her family to date and have children, econometrician Stella Lane — who is more comfortable with statistical analysis than sex — hires escort Michael Phan to show her how to be better at sex, so that she can be better at dating, and thus achieve the goal of finding a partner. Michael is smitten at first sight with Stella, which is something he isn’t prepared for. Stella — who, like author Helen Hoang, has Asperger’s — is more comfortable with Michael than any other man she’s dated, but she still has an aversion to sexual touch. Michael’s immediate care and concern for her as they work through it is swoonworthy. Stella upgrades their deal from sex practice to a practice relationship, and we all know how that plays out. Hoang builds their growing relationships — with each other, their families, and themselves — so wonderfully, and their dark moment, when all seems lost, is shattering. When they eventually reunite, knowing themselves and what they want better, you can’t help but close the book feeling better about the world. The smoking hot sex scenes are an additional incentive to read!

Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $9.99+, or find it at an independent bookseller or your local library.

This book has it all: alternate history Edwardian world, magic system world-building, murder mystery, family drama, examination of class systems — did I mention magic? — and a sweet male/male romance. Miles Singer is a poor doctor working at a veterans hospital after the war, hiding his healing magic to avoid detection as he helps soldiers who’ve returned from the war with a terrifying malady. Miles hides his magic because he doesn’t want to be found by his family, who would force him to serve as a magical “battery” to his much stronger sister. The mysterious Tristan witnesses Miles use his magic, Miles’s sister discovers him, and… I won’t reveal too much because I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are magic, mystery, secrets, and love in this book, and that’s everything you need to know before reading and enjoying it.

Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $7.99+, or find it at an independent bookseller or your local library.

9. Ivan by Kit Rocha (aka Donna Herren and Bree Bridges)

Rocha’s Sector One — the postapocalyptic setting for the Gideon’s Riders series — gives futuristic-sci-fi-romance-meets-lush-historical-romance vibes that make for addictive, highly enjoyable reads. In this book, Ivan is the stoic, intense, and deadly bodyguard chosen to protect Maricela, sister of Gideon Rios and thus a princess of Sector One. Of course, there is near-excruciating sexual tension between them, but Maricela is off-limits, since she’s set to be married to a potential suitor — and because Ivan knows he’s barely good enough to be in her presence, let alone touch her. But touch they do, in explosively hot sex scenes characteristic of Rocha’s writing. Their star-crossed love seems like it can’t have a happy ending, but in the end, both generational trauma and aristocratic tradition can’t stop true love.

Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $4.99+, or find it at an independent bookseller or your local library.

In Riley’s inclusive Regency romance we meet Ester Croome, the sheltered daughter of a wealthy textile merchant. When Ester learns her father is going to marry her off to a man she despises — one who she is sure will cheat on her — she refuses to consign herself to an unhappy life. Her friend has been searching for a husband through marriage advertisements, and when they learn the man Esther has swooned over for years — Shakespearean actor Arthur Bex — Ester takes her friend’s place. Riley’s writing is lyrical and engrossing, and it’s a fresh new take on the familiar Regency romp to Gretna Green. Sheltered Ester is a blackamoor, and once on the road she learns that life is very different when she’s away from the protection of her powerful family. Arthur is also hiding things from his new wife — like his involvement in the abolitionist movement. Seeing Ester’s growth, and her and Arthur coming together as a true couple, makes this historical romance a must-read.

Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $3.99+, or find it at an independent bookseller or your local library.

Rosa Fernandez is “the responsible one” of her three sisters, having taken on their mother’s role after her death in a car crash years before. Rosa is shy and bookish, though she has a passion for poetry and one man in particular: family friend Jeremy Taylor. When she and Jeremy share a night together at her sister’s wedding, Rosa’s carefully planned life comes down around her ears when, despite taking precautions, she becomes pregnant. Jeremy, determined not to be a deadbeat like his biological father and not to disappoint his mom and wealthy stepfather, is down on one knee as soon as he finds out.

Though both have had long-standing crushes on one another, the pregnancy both brings them closer together and makes a relationship more difficult: Rosa refuses to be anyone’s obligation, or to marry out of necessity and not love, and Jeremy’s desire to be a good man makes him unable to see the forest for the trees. When her extreme morning sickness forces her to rely on Jeremy in addition to her family, they grow closer and eventually manage to find common ground — though class differences, hormonal mood swings, Catholic guilt, and past trauma are roadblocks to their happily ever after.

Get it from Amazon for $3.74+, Barnes & Noble for $3.99+, or find it at an independent bookseller or your local library.

Dr. Sloan Copeland, a young heart surgeon and single mother to 6-year-old twin girls, is thrown completely for a loop when her nanny disappears without warning. She needs someone caring, competent, and trustworthy to watch her girls, and Rafe Whitcomb is all of that with some extras: a tall, tatted-up, motorcycle-riding, ginger-haired Adonis. He can also bake, braid hair, and co-wash. I mean, SWOON. There’s an instant attraction, which they acknowledge and eventually decide to act on, taking things somewhat slowly as they bond over the reality television show Sloan watches to decompress. This book is filthy fluff, one of my favorite combinations, and Weatherspoon’s signature scorching hot sex paired with a caretaker hero and fun cast of supporting characters will leave you feeling happy and satisfied when you reach the last page.

Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $4.99+, or find it at an independent bookseller or your local library.

This funny, sexy, and subversive take on the “biker bad boy” trope is fantastic. Pinky Grover thought she’d escaped her dead-end town, but her mother’s illness forced her to drop out and head back home to help at her family’s Indian restaurant — a favorite of the local motorcycle gang, who double-fist mango lassi and Kingfisher. Trucker Carrigan, town bad boy and gang member, is not someone Pinky needs to be crushing on, but she is, and his sexy taunts don’t make things easier. Shared comic book nerdery leads to a night in the back of his truck — but when the gang’s HQ is raided and Trucker disappears, that’s the end of that. Or is it? This quick, entertaining read packs humor, heat, and surprising twists on the way to Pinky and Trucker’s HEA.

Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $0.99, or find it at your local library.

Alyssa Cole is an award-winning author of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. Her contemporary rom-com A Princess in Theory is a 2018 New York Times Notable Book. Her Civil War–set espionage romance An Extraordinary Union was chosen as the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award’s Best Book of 2017 and the American Library Association’s RUSA Best Romance for 2018. Her books have received critical acclaim from the New York Times, Library Journal, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, Booklist, Jezebel, Vulture, Book Riot, Entertainment Weekly, and various other outlets. When she’s not working, she can usually be found watching anime with her husband or wrangling their menagerie of animals.

Alice Walker Criticized After She Endorses Anti-Semitic Book

Photo: Getty

The New York Times is defending its decision to run writer Alice Walker’s recommendation of a book authored by a known conspiracy theorist and anti-Semite.

Walker, whose work as an activist, novelist and poet is widely beloved and referenced, recommended David Icke’s And the Truth Shall Set You Free in the Times’ “By the Book” series. The weekly column asks notable personalities to dish on books and writers who have influenced them or that they’re currently reading. Icke’s inclusion stuck out to many—and as the Guardian writes, the author and public speaker has “long propounded a series of conspiracy theories in his work that many see as antisemitic.”

The Washington Post pulled one excerpt from And the Truth Shall Set You Free, which reads:

“I strongly believe that a small Jewish clique which has contempt for the mass of Jewish people worked with non-Jews to create the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Second World War.”

The Post notes that Icke also wrote that “Nazi extermination … was ‘coldly calculated by the ‘Jewish’ elite.’”

Walker, who said the book was on her nightstand, said the British author’s books invoke “the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about.”

Icke’s work is “a curious person’s dream come true,” she added.

While many were offended at the book’s very inclusion—and what it said about Walker herself—some also expressed disappointment with the Times for not qualifying the controversial work.

“By the Book is an interview and portrait of a public person through the lens of books; it is not a list of recommendations from our editors,” a spokesperson for the Times wrote in a statement following the backlash.

“The subject’s answers are a reflection on that person’s personal tastes, opinions and judgments. As with any interview, the subject’s answers do not imply an endorsement by Times editors,” the statement continued, adding that editors do not “offer background or weigh in on the books named.”

“Many people recommend books Times editors dislike, disdain or even abhor in the column,” the statement read.

It should be noted that this isn’t the first time Walker—whose Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple, is considered a cultural touchstone—has been accused of anti-Semitism. The most galling example may be a 2017 poem entitled “It Is Our (Frightful) Duty,” which begins as a defense of Palestine (and, ironically, against accusations that she’s an anti-Semite) but quickly devolves into a tangled, messy takedown of the Talmud, a Jewish religious text.

At one point, Walker writes:

For a more in depth study

I recommend starting with YouTube. Simply follow the trail of “The

Talmud” as its poison belatedly winds its way

Into our collective consciousness.

Writer Roxane Gay and filmmaker Rebecca Pierce were among those who critiqued and expressed disappointment in Walker, especially considering the importance of her work in addressing racism and misogyny.

As the Post notes, she’s professed her admiration for Icke’s work before, comparing the conspiracy theorist to Malcolm X.

From the Post:

“Do I believe everything? I don’t think it matters,” she wrote, recommending videos of Icke’s appearances to her followers. She once recommended a video of a conversation between Icke and Alex Jones, the conspiracy kingpin and founder of Infowars. “I like these two because they’re real,” she offered.

All I want for Christmas is my two dream cars

It’s that time of year again, where we find ways to avoid doing any actual work for the couple weeks leading up to the holidays, surfing Amazon or eBay for toys, checking our favourite clothing retailers online for advance Boxing week sales, or just spacing out while watching ASMR videos. (How is that a thing?) Well, that’s just flat out unacceptable, because if one of our writers is wasting time, of course we automatically want to make them write something about it. Well, these are the Driving team’s fantasies about what they wish would show up wrapped in car-themed wrapping paper under their Christmas tree of Festivus pole.

David Booth

So, I probably shouldn’t double up on the bikey thing and ask for a new Schuberth C4 Pro helmet. And I already have a Dainese D-Air racing suit. So, tossing the decision over to the left side of my brain — that would be the hemisphere that garnered the mechanial engineering degree — I think I want an Oasser mini air compressor. Now, admittedly, it’s probably something I’ll never need. Most of the cars I drive are testers with roadside assistance and run-flat tires and, besides, how often does one really need a portable air compressor.

But I just love the Oasser’s ingenuity. The darned thing is tiny, yet can pump up full-sized truck tires. It’ll pump out 120 psi of pressure, but is powered by a little itsy-bitsy lithium ion battery. You can even preset the desired air pressure and let the Oasser do its job unattended. There’s also a built-in high-lumen flashlight, just the thing when you need to pump up a tire on the side of a deserted rural sideroad (don’t ask my how I know this would come in handy). Best of all, it’s less than a hundred bucks which means my penny-pinching significant other — she’s on sabbatical for a year — could afford to surprise me without breaking the bank (that aforementioned helmet would set her back more than a grand and the cheapest of Dainese D-Air leather suits blow through the $2,000 mark).

Cheap and ingenious: The perfect Christmas gift for paranoid gearheads.

Graeme Fletcher

2019 BMW M5 Competition

2019 BMW M5 Competition

Derek McNaughton /


What I want and what I get for Christmas are two totally different things. I want a BMW M5 Competition finished in a Marina Bay blue, but with my luck I’ll be unwrapping the proverbial lump of coal! Since it emerged in 1988, the M5 has been the benchmark by which all others are judged, and simply because it’s both a track-ready missile and a grocery-getter at the same time. Outwardly, the Competition does look slightly sportier than the regular M5, but it remains the ultimate sleeper. It does not scream “look at me” like a Lamborghini, it just does its thing. But the look is deceiving — the reality is, the Competition is about as subtle as a sledgehammer!

Where the mortal M5 makes do, words used advisedly, with 600 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque at 1,800 rpm, the Competition gets an additional 17 hp. Fire that lot though an eight-speed automatic, a reworked xDrive that includes a rear-drive only setting (gulp!) and a modified suspension, and you have a car that rockets to 100 kilometres an hour in 3.1 seconds, which is enough to satisfy the inner driver in anybody! Likewise, it chews up decreasing corners and spits them out in distain. However, the fact it doubles as a family sedan, and does so without feeling like a tetchy racehorse that’s being reined in, is what makes it so special. Just leave mine in my driveway with a big red bow on the roof. The beauty in all of this is that, for a few days at least, my wish will come true — I get to test my car of choice this festive season!

Jil McIntosh

Hey, Santa, despite what you’ve heard, I’ve been a good girl this year. So I was wondering if you could bring me a car cover for my hot rod. I know you can get cheap ones, but I have nice paint, and I’d like one that won’t scratch it (because then I’d have to ask for another paint job next year and that means I’ll have to be good for another 365 days).

And if it’s not too much to ask, can I have a cordless work light too? The ones with cords are always getting in the way, and one that just recharges and clamps on wherever it’s need is beyond way-cool. I have all the tools; I just need the light to see what to fix. Thanks, Santa – next time you’re in the neighbourhood, I’ll take you for a ride.

Derek McNaughton

Lee Valley NWS pliers

Lee Valley NWS pliers

Lee Valley

What we want for Christmas, and what we can actually have, are always two different things. Yes, I’d love to have my departed dad home with my sons for the holidays, love to have my step-mum recognize everyone who comes to visit her Christmas day, love to have a Guards Red 991 Porsche GT3 with black wheels and manual transmission find its way to the garage.

Realistically, what I’d very much like to see is the nine-piece, contractor set of NWS pliers from Lee Valley, which includes slip-joint pliers, straight combination pliers, needle-nose and offset needle-nose pliers, plus a couple of others. All of which will come in handy when I finally find the 1967 big-block Chevelle restoration project I’ve been dreaming about. Failing that, just about anything that will contribute to even greater garage organization would be a huge hit — small cabinets, hooks, hangers, towel dispensers etc. Got that, boys?

Costa Mouzouris

At the top of my holiday wish list is something a little different — a motorcycle tour with Edelweiss Bike Travel. The Austria-based company has been offering all-inclusive motorcycle tours since 1981, and today covers destinations around the globe.

Edelweiss tour packages range from seven to 14 days, and include a motorcycle, lodging, a tour guide, breakfast and dinner, and a chase truck to carry my luggage to each day’s destination. That way, I can really exploit the handling of my chosen two-wheeled travel companion. I don’t really mind riding in a group, or following someone knowledgeable in the selected region, which takes the tedious task of planning a route off my hands.

The tours are pricey, starting at about $3,000 per person, exclusive of air travel to the chosen destination, but they alleviate the worry and hassle of shipping my own bike, which for now, sits silently in the garage right now waiting for the spring thaw.

Clayton Seams

There are many shiny objects I’d love to see under an NHRA Christmas tree, but my latest gearhead infatuation is Brooklands books. These books, so-named after their publisher, are super nerdy compendiums of period road tests on a certain car. See, when someone drives a 1963 Corvette today, all they talk about is how it’s quaint, it smells like gasoline, and the brakes not being as good as those on a Lexus. But the road tests of these classics when they were new are far more in-depth and unstained by the rose-tinted glasses of millennial hipsters like myself.

Brooklands books, some of which have been out of print for over 20 years are still being made and they have literally hundreds of titles covering any sort of car you may be interested in. From 1950s Thunderbirds to first-and-second-generation Mazda Miatas, there’s a Brooklands book for pretty much anything. As such, I can’t get enough of them and though I already own upwards of 40 of them I could always use one more. Maybe one on the Triumph GT6 or Plymouth Barracuda.

Nicholas Maronese

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4


Why would someone who has an actual classic car want a car video game for the holidays? There’s a very simple explanation for that: Forza Horizon 4 is not just any car video game. It’s a sandbox-type game that lets you explore a virtual world – in this case, a microcosm of Great Britain across spring, summer, fall and winter, with the seasons changing once a week – in a digital classic car. There’s a wide variety of events besides straight-up races, and a huge online community. I really love it for the car customization options, including a detailed paint job editor I often take full advantage of. The other explanation? I just finished Forza Horizon 3. And, of course, my actual classic car is hibernating all winter long.

Nick Tragianis

Usually, I don’t ask for much during the holidays — and seeing as Forza Horizon 4 is already spoken for, I’ll have to defer to my backup. See, my personal toy is a 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata. It’s a lovely little thing, but one particular issue becomes readily apparent while driving in the dark: The stock, sealed-beam headlights suck.

But that’s the beauty about round, seven-inch sealed-beam headlights concealed in popup housings: It’s a very common size in the Jeep and classic car communities, and installation is a straightforward, plug-and-play job. And really, quality kits aren’t prohibitively expensive. Sure, you can go all-out on a sweet LED setup, but I like effective and period-correct modifications on my car. Call me weird, but did an NA Miata come with LED headlights back in the 1990s? Thought so.

Thankfully, Hella makes an affordable, street-legal kit — with glowing reviews, pun intended — that will convert my little Mazda’s sealed-beam headlights to accept H4 bulbs. Win! Oh, and don’t worry — I won’t be one of those tools who run HID bulbs in halogen housings.

Jonathan Yarkony

Lego Technic Bugatti Chiron

Lego Technic Bugatti Chiron


Well, if we were playing Dirty Santa I’d be stealing Derek’s Guards Red 991 Porsche GT3, because, damn, that thing is fine. But despite my affinity for Porsches, and the availability of an excellent LEGO Technic set for the 911 GT3, I find myself oddly drawn to the Bugatti Chiron LEGO Technic set released earlier this year. They both have thousands of pieces making it a great project to put together with family over the holidays, but there is something about the lines and colour of the Bugatti that just works for me and would look great on the bookshelf.

Five things to do before you pack your bags for an overseas retirement

To all those who make the big decision to retire abroad, Cynthia and Edd Staton say, “Congratulations!”

90-day checklist of tasks to help orchestrate your move.

Before you go

A typical pre-move to-do list will include some of the following:

• Sell house. Contact realtors.

• Pare down all that stuff. Hold an estate sale.

• Cancel subscriptions.

• Renew driver’s license and passport.

• Figure out a plan for your mail.

You’re also going to need to prepare for the other end, and online is a good place to start. The U.S. State Department has information on retiring abroad, including links to resources on visas, medical insurance, paying taxes and voting while overseas.

The website International Living likes to use local correspondents in many countries to detail their personal experiences and share helpful tips. Escape Artist is a somewhat more money-focused site with info for expats. Expatistan and Numbeo are two sites that give cost comparisons and prices for living in hundreds of countries.

Here are five key topics to focus on.

Houston pastor on $200K Lamborghini gift: ‘It wasn’t a pastor that bought the car. It was a husband’

An associate pastor at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church who caught heat for buying his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini Urus is now defending the move, saying, “it wasn’t a pastor that bought the car, it was a husband that bought the car.”

Pastor John Gray, who leads his own megachurch in Greenville, S.C., said in a 23-minute Facebook Live video that he bought the car using funds from other ventures — citing his book deals, a reality TV show on the Oprah Winfrey Network and being “wise with savings and investments” — and did it to mark the couple’s eighth anniversary.

“The stories that I hear, and I’ve tried to not listen to it, but one of them is, ‘pastor buys his wife, you know, this expensive car,'” Gray said. “First of all, it wasn’t a pastor that bought the car. It was a husband that bought the car. Get that in your spirit.”

He continues: “I’m a husband first. Don’t confuse what I do with who I am. What I do is, I pastor God’s people. Who I am is a husband and a father, and I’ll do anything to honor them, and I won’t ask permission from anybody to do it.”

Gray initially set off the social media backlash when he posted a since-deleted viral Instagram video that shows him surprising his wife, Aventer Gray, with the car and saying, “You light my fire, let this Lamborghini light your fire, baby.”

The video immediately prompted people to question whether Gray had spent money from his church to pay for the car — he did not, Gray said in his video monologue — along with criticism for what some said was a showy display.

Gray addressed much of the criticism in the Facebook video.

“All my life I’ve had dreams. Everybody should have dreams, things that they fight for,” Gray said. “See, cause here’s what I know: Life is not promise. You can be here today and be gone tonight. The reason why my wife and I wanted to have an eight-year wedding celebration is because I needed a new beginning. Eight is the number of new beginnings. … it is a constant reminder of what God completed and what God will begin again.”

Gray has previously defended preachers such as Osteen who live lavish lifestyles, telling The Greenville News last year that “if you work hard and pay your taxes, then you should be able to live where you are able to afford.”

He acknowledged, though, that pastors “do have a responsibility to be wise with the things that they have.”

Some people criticize megachurch leaders who show off their riches, contending that the practice is unbecoming and out of step with the message they preach from the pulpit.

“I do, however, see something wrong with people who will pimp the church and pimp people and manipulate emotions to enrich themselves,” Gray said. “That I do have a problem with.”

In his Facebook Live video, Gray said he is not a “pulpit pimp” or “prosperity preacher.”

Osteen, who teared up at Gray’s pastoral installation service in South Carolina, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Aventer Gray, meanwhile, posted on Instagram defending the move, posting a list in all caps of Gray’s numerous other sources of income.

“MY HUBBY IS A HARD-WORKER, HE WORKED HIS WHOLE LIFE AND HE SAVED TO BLESS HIS WIFE!!!” Aventer Gray wrote. “Gives away cars, full houses of furniture, coats off his back.”

She compared him to professional basketball players, too, noting that she doesn’t “see anyone screaming about how basketball players drive what they do while you paying $$$ to see them play in arenas and on fields.”

So-called prosperity preachers, whose message centers on the belief that God wants people to achieve financial and material gain and donate to the church, actually make people more likely to be overly optimistic and exhibit risky financial behavior, according to a University of Toronto study released last month.

The researchers cited Osteen’s church as an example in their study.

Here Are CapRadio’s Favorite In-Studio Music Videos Of 2018

This year has seen a bumper crop of local bands come through CapRadio, from Tiny Desk contestants to artists we’ve long-wanted to book to drummer Alfonso Portella appearing again and again as though he were cursed to roam only these halls. It’s been such a reward to make connections with these artists and we’re looking forward to even more in 2019.

The Insight and Hey, Listen! team loves bringing local musicians into the studio to perform live and talk about their latest projects. Insight producer Cody Drabble and Hey Listen! host Nick Brunner put together a list of their favorite performance videos of 2018.

Makebelief — “Bad Remember”

Is it cheating to start this article with a debut entry? NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest put Schuyler Peterson on our radar. He writes and performs under the name Makebelief. Peterson is one of the most emotive performers to come through CapRadio this year, twisting his face and mouth to create the warped, woozy electronic sounds on his tracks.

POOR Majesty — “Patience”

Adrian Gilmore (aka “POOR Majesty”) is part of the Sacramento hip hop group Tribe of Levi and appears on tracks with artists like Bru Lei and Mahtie Bush. “Patience” is from his upcoming record, which Gilmore plans to release in the spring of 2019. 

Listen to POOR Majesty’s full CapRadio interview and performance on Hey, Listen! here.

Lillian Frances — “Phone, Keys, Wallet”

From an inability to roll her “Rs” to how harvesting vegetables robbed her of the ability to play guitar, the music of Lilian Frances is both playful and personal. The Davis musician says this track is “about the things that we lose.” It comes from a performance she recorded with us in advance of the release of her E.P., “Timeism.”

Listen to Lillian Frances’ full CapRadio interview and performance on Hey, Listen! here.

Topograf — “Dreams”

Kevin and Alyssa Stefanescu make music filled with lush, warm electronic textures which comes through loud and clear on their in-studio version of their track, “Dreams.” Topograf recorded for Hey, Listen! this summer in advance of their E.P. release.

Listen to Topograf’s full CapRadio interview and performance on Hey, Listen! here.

Evil Seagull — “Words”

Anne Healey, aka Evil Seagull, performed “Words” during her May 21st recording at CapRadio. I love the spartan setting for her performance on “Words.” It captures the somber and arresting nature of the song. Healey released her E.P., “The Philosophy of Evil Seagull,” this year.

Listen to Evil Seagull’s full CapRadio interview and performance on Hey, Listen! here.

SpaceWalker — “Het Heru”

Hip hop punk unicorn SpaceWalker performed her Tiny Desk Contest entry, “Het Heru,” this spring. She stacks interstellar beats one element at a time into a heavenly crescendo of chanting and freestyling.

Listen to SpaceWalker’s full CapRadio interview and performance on Insight here.

Tre Burt — “Undead God of War”

Tre Burt’s new debut album, “Caught It From The Rye,” is a mix of political commentary and “bitter love songs.” It’s a powerful record from an artist articulating a vision of the present moment with a sound rooted in American folk, blues and soul.

Listen to Tre Burt’s full CapRadio interview and performance on Insight here.

Honyock — “Patron”

Indie rockers Honyock brought their dreamy guitar driven single, “Patron,” this summer. After a U.S. tour to support their albub, “El Castillo,” Honyock is already hard at work in the studio this winter working on a follow-up record.

Listen to Honyock’s full CapRadio interview and performance on Insight here.

Sparks Across Darkness — “Nice to Meet You”

Hip hop artist Sparks Across Darkness shared his first full-length album, “Obscura,” this summer. His introductory single, “Nice to Meet You,” showcases his charm and lyrical wit, with help from his fellow emcee TIP Vicious.

Listen to Sparks Across Darkness’ full CapRadio interview and performance on Insight here.

The Philharmonik — “Colors”

Soul and hip hop artist-producer The Philharmonik made a splash with his self-titled debut album this spring. He draws inspiration from a wealth of musical influences to make songs that paint a positive vision of how life ought to be with honesty and moral conviction.

Listen to The Philharmonik’s full CapRadio interview and performance on Insight here.

Honorable (Non-Musical) Mention: Khalypso — “Conversations About Home”

Operation FreeSoul poet Khaya Osborne delivered the emotional impact of an unforgettable song in her performance of her poem “Conversations About Home.”

Listen to Operation FreeSoul’s full CapRadio interview and performance on Insight here.

So much of how we book these performances is by artists reaching out to us. If you’d like to be considered for a Hey, Listen! in-studio performance, drop a line to [email protected].

Gashi Isn’t Afraid to Cry

This return to the classics feels like fashion’s way of coming home, reverting back to the comfort of familiarity. Gashi has his own sources of comfort: Super Nintendo. Michael Jackson. McDonald’s. Home Alone. Coca-Cola. The Disney series Dinosaurs. To Americans, this might sound like a list of clichés, but when you’re a young immigrant in an unfamiliar space, the cultural pillars can evoke a sense of belonging. “That’s what brings back my childhood memories,” Gashi explains.

Throughout our conversation, Gashi keeps saying thank you. He repeats it at least three times before I even begin asking questions. Later, when I tell him that a story he shares is sweet, he thanks me again. It’s clear that after a long journey, Gashi’s grateful to be where he is. In previous interviews, he’s spoken of meeting JAY-Z at a book signing and slipping his CD between the pages; JAY signed the book and promptly tossed the CD in the garbage. Now, Gashi is a member of Roc Nation (he mentions that he and Hov have never discussed their first encounter), preparing to release his second studio album, STAIRS 2.

The album is about a trap rapper who gets stuck in a time machine and is forced to make ’80s music, which sounds like a lot. But that’s Gashi; he doesn’t believe in genres anymore, which he attributes to the open-mindedness of 2018 listeners. The soft-spoken rapper’s own music library doesn’t subscribe to any one sound—Maverick Sabre, Njomza, Young Thug, Dua Lipa, and Ella Mai are his current favorites, and Phil Collins, The Police, and Otis Redding are long-time staples. His 2016 EP, STAIRS, features the lo-fi trappy beats and croon-rapping associated with genre-bending “emo rap.” STAIRS 2, which features production from DJ Snake, London on da Track, and Black Coffee, will follow in those footsteps.