5 Great Christmas Movies That Aren’t About the Holiday

Image by Jamie Davies via Unsplash.

Christmas is a time in which we think of others and give back to our community in some way. It’s also a time of joy and laughter, bringing friends and families together for the holidays.

This week, I thought I would do something a bit more casual. Everyone has their list of annual Christmas movies – the classics. Is there a better way to bring families together than to watch a holiday classic? Well, maybe you’ve exhausted your usual movies and need something fresh.

There are some great Christmas-themed movies that often get overlooked. This is because they take place during Christmas, yet have little to do with the actual holiday. Yet people still find an excuse to watch Die Hard every year.

So if you’re looking for a “new” movie appropriate for the season, maybe give one of these a shot. Regardless of what tech you use – DVD, Blu Ray, Netflix, etc. – gather the family, turn on the TV, and enjoy one of these five underrated holiday movies.

NOTE: You may want to put the little ones to bed before watching these movies!

1) Gremlins

Gremlins (1984).

Probably the most family-friendly movie on this list, Gremlins blends elements of horror and comedy into something special. When Billy’s dad is out looking for the perfect Christmas gift for his son, he happens upon a cute pet. Unfortunately for Billy, his pet is actually a monster that can spawn other monsters to wreak havoc on the town.

Gremlins offers a black comedy style mixed with a Christmas Eve setting. If you’re looking for a movie that fits the atmosphere yet offers something different for the holidays, check out this movie that has Steven Spielberg as producer!

2) Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon (1987).

An apparent suicidal jump brings Murtaugh and Riggs, two incredibly different cops in L.A., together. They soon find out that the victim was likely poisoned, leading to a chase against numerous bad guys involved with a heroin-smuggling operation. Over time, they’ll have to learn how to get along with each other… unless one kills the other first.

A handsome Mel Gibson combines drama and comedy with the most hideous haircut of the 1980s. That pretty much sums up this terrific, yet cheesy, action flick. It’s super fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously. Plus, it takes place during Christmas. What’s not to love?

3) The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

What do you get when you combine Tim Burton’s dark Halloween-like visuals with a Christmas theme? Batman Returns. Oops, wrong movie! But still an excellent one, all the same (consider that a bonus sixth entry). No, I’m talking about The Nightmare Before Christmas, Burton’s stop motion musical masterpiece.

The imagery in the film is incredibly dark and likely frightening for children, but no more so than Gremlins. In classic Disney tradition, the film boasts a number of catchy songs and a Christmas atmosphere that would feel right at home over the holidays.

4) The Shining

The Shining (1980).

When an aspiring writer, Jack Torrance, became the caretaker of an isolated hotel during the Christmas season, he didn’t know that it would be haunted by the spirits of people that died there horrifically. The previous caretaker killed his family and himself after the bitterness of isolation and the supernatural forces haunting the hotel drove him insane. Now, the same thing might be happening to Jack…

While The Shining isn’t exactly a horror film, the way it plays with the psychosis Jack experiences due to isolation parallels a familiar experience that we’ve now been exposed to thanks to COVID-19. The film is fantastic, if a bit overrated, and perfectly fits the tone of Christmas from a darker perspective.

5) Black Christmas

Black Christmas (1974).

This one is definitely not for the kids! Imagine being stuck in a sorority house for the holidays. You lock the doors and windows from an outside threat… only to realize that the threat has been inside with you all along.

This is the premise behind Black Christmas. The 1974 edition of the film is one of the finest horror films ever crafted, equally disturbing and magical. The movie develops the community into one that’s believable, and the dramatic irony involved with the girls not knowing that the killer’s in the house with them allows the movie to become something entirely original. It only helps that the movie has one of the best endings in horror movie history.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

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TechKNOW Tomorrow – Medicine That Can Alter Your DNA

Imagine having a child with an extremely rare disease caused by a genetic mutation. You go to every doctor in the city with the hopes of at least identifying her condition. None of them seem to have the answers you seek. Until you come across one who gives you some unfortunate news: your daughter has an extremely rare illness that has no known cure. Even worse, because it’s so rare, there may never be a cure!

This would be a parent’s worst nightmare. Surprisingly, it happens more often than you would think. There are numerous diseases in our world that haven’t even been identified yet, let alone cured. Whether it’s due to limited resources, a lack of studies, or unavailable technology, numerous people die every year from genetics-related diseases.

You might be surprised to learn that recent breakthroughs in medicine may soon be able to solve this problem.

The Case of Mila Makovec

In early 2017, a little girl named Mila Makovec was suffering from a genetic disease called Batten disease, which “progressively damages brain cells and leads to death by adolescence“. As the disease wasn’t very common, little research had been initiated in finding a cure. A team of neurologists offered to help the girl and managed to create a strand of RNA which would potentially mask the deadly mutation in the girl’s DNA.

Within a year, the team was able to synthesize the drug and get it approved for trials by the FDA. Keep in mind that this process regularly can take up to twelve years, including trials and distribution time, of course. It wasn’t long after testing the drug that the neurologists noticed dramatic improvements to Mila: she was suffering from less seizures, she could stand and walk with assistance, and her condition had mostly seemed to stabilize.

While Mila still isn’t cured, the fact that these scientists were successfully able to prevent her symptoms from worsening by slightly altering her DNA is an incredible feat. It’s only a matter of time before a cure will be available for this disease that few have heard of.

Altering Your DNA

So what does this mean for the future of incredibly rare genetic diseases, then? With the recent success of the drug used to treat Mila, we may start seeing other rare mutations being treated to save lives. More clinical trials and a rapid production in the speed of treatment, for instance, can save lives before these diseases have a chance to progress too far.

With gene replacement, gene editing, and antisense on the horizon, we may soon start seeing treatments that “can be programmed, in digital fashion and with digital speed, to correct or compensate for inherited diseases, letter for DNA letter“.

What might be problematic with this notion is the fact that most genetic mutatuions are induced by nature, either hereditarily or over the course of one’s lifetime. Ethically, how can we alter someone’s genes if nature chooses them for a rare disease? Who are we to mess with natural selection? Should we not merely be observers?

The argument against this idea is that we have already messed with nature in irreparable ways. We’ve destroyed forests and animal ecosystems for the sake of human comfort, driven numerous species to extinction, and developed medicines to help us live much longer.

We’ve also seen restoration projects with trees being planted, endangered species being monitored and protected, and humanitarian aid delivered worldwide thanks to the wonderful work of non-profits. With this in mind, adding curable genetic diseases to that list doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – Unhackable Internet Is on the Way

Image by Markus Spiske via Unsplash.

We’ve seen it countless times in the TV shows and movies that we watch: someone with a hood covering their face types rapidly on a keyboard and random code appears on their green computer screen. It looks like gibberish to most of us. The person hits one final key – “Enter”. Suddenly, they’ve successfully hacked into one of the government’s most secure systems (e.g., the NSA or the FBI), causing death and destruction through cyberterrorism.

Hollywood has a way of romanticizing or glorifying the reality of hacking. The process is actually a lot more difficult than it sounds and happens far less often than you’d expect. Governments employ software engineers – or “hackers” – to protect their mainframes from potential cyberattacks.

The majority of criminal cyberattacks, then, actually involve the average home computer, not advanced government systems. Inexperienced users who go to places like the dark web are those at the highest risk of being hacked.

Sounds scary, right? What if there was a form of internet that was virtually unhackable?

The Quantum Internet

While the internet is generally safe due to the process of encryption that many websites go through, there’s a point where they might be open to potential hacks. As information is transmitted between computers and servers, there’s a point where it can be intercepted. If there are any noticeable vulnerabilities in the code, a hacker can exploit them and invade a user’s system.

Image by FLY:D via Unsplash.

Over the last couple of years, there have been plans to create internet that transmits so fast, it’s virtually impossible to hack. This is because it travels faster than the speed of light! Through a process called quantum superposition, a particle can exist in two different states at once, creating tighter security.

Of course, it’s not quite ready for the public yet. This is because quantum internet would require a great deal of network equipment in place. Our current infrastructure isn’t compatible with quantum internet, meaning it will have to practically be developed from scratch, unfortunately.

Where It’ll Exist and When Will It Be Ready?

Researchers in the Netherlands are currently building a network that will connect four cities in the Netherlands exclusively with quantum technology. The tech will rely on a process called quantum entanglement in which the photons that transfer data “can’t be covertly read without disrupting their content”. This could mean that quantum internet will be available throughout several areas of Europe in the near future.

China has also recently finished a quantum internet project stretching from Beijing to Shanghai, though it doesn’t exclusively use quantum tech. That means while cyberattacks are a lot less likely, there are still some vulnerabilties that attentive hackers will eventually be able to exploit. China may be working towards true quantum internet soon, however.

Other countries have already developed strategies that they hope to receive funding for. The United States Department of Energy (DOE), for instance, “lay[ed] out a blueprint strategy for the development of a national quantum internet” at a press conference that took place at the University of Chicago.

Similarly, Canada is working on its own research into quantum internet using infrastructure from space launches which will cover a larger radius than on land. Professor Thomas Jennewein of the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) is leading a project that will have a network transmit a signal to a microsatellite, which is then transmitted to another microsatellite over a long distance, and finally to the second network.

Image by NASA via Unsplash.

Any “attack, manipulation, or copying of the photons can be immediately detected and overcome”, meaning user data will safely be able to travel distances up to 200 km. It will supposedly even be able to transfer over hostile territory without any risk!

This news comes with a significant but – we will be waiting at least five years before seeing any of this implemented worldwide. And when it finally comes to market, governments will definitely have access to it first. For the rest of us, we might be waiting a long time before quantum internet arrives and we can feel entirely safe with our online activity.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.