The Feast & The Familial

When I was a kid I was under the mistaken impression that our local Italian Heritage Festival (celebrated each Labor Day Weekend for four decades) was one of a kind, the only such celebration in the entire country. I’m not sure where I got that idea, but as an adult I learned that not only are there other Italian Festivals, but apparently some are bigger & better than ours. Ah well…so be it. At any rate, a couple of years ago our festival premiered a rom-com called Feast of the Seven Fishes, which was filmed locally just a few miles up the road. I was unable to attend the showing for reasons I won’t bore you with, but recently I found the movie on Netflix, and while it doesn’t exactly mirror my childhood experience it hit enough of the right beats to make me just a bit wistful.

 

My father always called Christmas Eve one of the biggest nights of the year in the Italian culture. My great-grandparents emigrated (separately) from San Giovanni i Fiore in the southern Italian region of Calabria and settled here in northcentral West Virginia. They had a dozen children, all of whom are gone now, but their descendants continued the Italian Christmas Eve tradition.

 

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a celebration commemorating the wait…Vigilia di Natale…for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. It was introduced in the United States by Southern Italian immigrants in New York City in the late 1800s. Eating seafood on Christmas Eve comes from the Catholic practice of abstaining from eating meat on the eve of a feast day. Since no meat or animal fat can be used on such day Catholics instead eat fish (typically fried in oil). The seven fishes allegedly represent different things, depending on which source one believes…the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, the seven days of Creation, etc. Seven is an important number in The Bible for multiple reasons. Having said that, the truth is that most Italian-American families deviate from the formula in one way or another…some serve more than seven seafood dishes, while others serve less.

 

Now here is where it gets weird…my family isn’t Catholic. I am sure my great grandparents were, and some of my extended family still are. However, my paternal grandmother wasn’t Italian, and it was she (along with several of my great aunts who married into the family) that was the churchgoer. Back in the day when she & my Papaw got married our small town had only one church and it was United Methodist. Nowadays the trek into the city where there are multiple Catholic churches is about five miles…a ten minute drive. But for Grandma and the rest of the family a century ago it was quite a trip, so it was just easier to go to the church right down the street. When my parents got married my mother started attending the same United Methodist Church, and several of my cousins did the same. I’m still related to half the congregation, which makes it extremely difficult to meet a woman.

 

At any rate, our Christmas Eve fishfest always started in mid-afternoon, and we didn’t get home until close to midnight. My grandparents lived about a mile away in a cozy coal company house because Papaw and his brothers were miners. The cooking was done in the kitchen, but there was a small dining room where we ate. Well…where the adults ate. There wasn’t enough room for everybody at the big table, so there was a kids’ table in the kitchen. My grandparents had to put picnic benches around their table to accommodate everyone because they didn’t have enough chairs…sitting in the living room and eating while watching TV simply wasn’t done back then. As a child my most fervent wish was to eat at the big table with the adults, and when I finally achieved that goal as a teenager it was a proud moment. I don’t recall everything that was on the menu, but we always had fried (breaded) oysters, calamari (squid), whiting, and baccala (salt cod…not to be confused with the Greek dessert baklava). There were meatballs and mashed potatoes as well, and my mother always made a big salad with all kinds of meat & cheese (topped with Italian dressing of course). For dessert we always had German chocolate cake (made from scratch) and my grandmother’s homemade pita piata, which is an Italian nut roll made with raisins, lots of spices, and I’m pretty sure some sort of booze is in the recipe as well. The German chocolate cake confused me as a child because we were Italian. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that it’s a specific type of chocolate.

 

Now you’d think that the food would be the highlight of this extravaganza, but you’d be wrong. My father has told me over & over for decades that nothing is more important than family, and nothing drove that point home more than Christmas Eve. There were so many people packed into that little house. My great aunt lived right next door, and at some point in the evening her kids & grandkids would come over to visit us, and vice versa. Another great aunt lived just up the road, and oftentimes we’d visit that house as well. My maternal grandmother was widowed, so my paternal grandparents were kind enough to include her in our celebration, and only now can I truly appreciate how generous that was. She was our family, so she was family to them too. My grandfather, uncles, cousins, and father would all gather around the table after dinner and play poker, and another rite of passage for me came when I was finally allowed to participate in that game…it made me feel all manly & tough. More than any piece of fish or slice of cake that’s what I miss the most…having all of those important people in my life gathered together in one house enjoying each other’s company…talking, laughing, embracing. I wish I had a bunch of pictures & video of all of those Christmas Eves, but I don’t.

 

At some point when I was in high school or college (my memory is a bit fuzzy) the Christmas Eve fishfest was moved to my aunt’s house. It was still great, but lost a little pizazz since those other households weren’t next door or just up the holler (yes…my grandparents and much of the extended family lived in a holler…and it was a magical place, a great neighborhood). Still, the evening was always fun. But then we started losing people…my Uncle Peck, my little cousin Levi, my second cousin Jimmy, my mother, my Papaw Jim, my Grandma Pigott, my Grandma Mano. We soldiered on until 2019, when my aunt was just too ill to continue.

 

So now I spend my Christmas Eve at home by myself. No oysters, baccala, or German chocolate cake, but more importantly no mother or grandparents. In a perfect world I would have married and continued the tradition with my own children, inviting my Dad, sister, and nephews to celebrate at my house. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, that natural order of continuation hasn’t come to pass, and in a year of isolation due to the global pandemic and my own health issues I am feeling nostalgic. When I watched the Feast of the Seven Fishes film I must admit that it had me a bit verklempt. The 20-something main character has a meet-cute with a pretty girl and invites her to his family’s fishfest, and I can imagine a sequel wherein three decades later they are married and celebrating Christmas Eve with their children & grandchildren. Perhaps someday one of my nephews will marry and we’ll have some vague facsimile of The Feast at their house. I can be the crazy uncle to their bambinos and get to enjoy Christmas again thru children’s eyes, which is the way it is supposed to be. Above & beyond my own desires I want that for my father. As much as I miss our tradition I know it is an even bigger void in his life (although he’d never admit it), and I’d love to see him enjoy another Christmas Eve surrounded by love, laughter, food, & fellowship. Until then I have my memories, and I am so damn thankful for a family that always made the holiday so special. I miss them, but understand how blessed I was to have them in the first place.

 

Merry Christmas Manoverse. I hope now more than ever we all appreciate what is really important. Gifts are nice. Lights are pretty. Music & movies have the ability to touch our soul. Food keeps us alive and is a pleasantly tasty experience. But nothing is more important than family, so hug your spouse, smother the little ones in your life with kisses, appreciate your grandparents while they are still around, enjoy your aunts, uncles, cousins, and whoever else you consider La Famiglia. Take pictures & video. Capture those memories. Decades from now you’ll be glad you did. Viva bene, spesso l’amore, di risata molto. And never forget the true reason for the season…the birth of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.

It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Covid

Citizens of The Manoverse may recall that I enjoy a good parody song, and while I’ll never approach the skill level of Weird Al Yankovic or country crooner Ray Stevens there are occasional moments of inspiration. An old axiom says that sometimes we have to laugh to keep from crying, and I have been quite amused by some of the more creative merriment that has grown out of this global pandemic we have been battling since last spring, so much so that I decided to marry that train of thought with my fondness of parody and love of Christmas carols. I don’t assume the end result is all that memorable, but perhaps it will provide a chuckle or two in the midst of a stressful day, which is all I can really ask. Allow me to give a shout out to composer Robert Meredith Willson, who wrote It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas in 1951, and Perry Como, who sang the most popular rendition. I seek not to steal their idea, only to borrow & pay homage to it.

 

 

It’s beginning to look alot like Covid

Everywhere you can’t go

Take a look at the emergency room, full of doom & gloom

With shortness of breath and runny noses all aflow

 

It’s beginning to look alot like Covid

Locks on every store

And the only sight to see is a view of the street

From your own front door

 

An N95 mask & hazard pay

Are what essential employees want to assist

Toilet paper & hand sanitizer

Top nearly every grocery list

While Mom & Dad can hardly wait for home schooling to desist

 

It’s beginning to look alot like Covid

Everywhere you can’t go

Social distancing is a thing, unless you are protesting

No church, no weddings, no funerals, & no shows

 

It’s beginning to look alot like Covid

Soon a new year will start

But the thing that’ll change the scene is a brand new vaccine

Until then we must remain six feet apart

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Covid

No crowds anywhere

And the coolest thing will be when each other we can see

Back in the public square

Y’all know what needs cut?? My hair!!

The Year Without A Sammy Claus

In 2009 I conceived the idea for the Sammy Claus Wish List, an irreverent, witty, yet occasionally insightful poke at notable entities thru the prism of what gifts they might deserve for Christmas. The List became an annual tradition for a decade, with the exception of 2015 when I spent the entire holiday season in the hospital. I’ve rarely had a problem finding suitable material, and the project was never a burden until last year when I found myself struggling just a bit to find the Christmas spirit, but I powered thru and Sammy Claus delivered his yearly epistle. However, there will be no such conquest in 2019. Last year I alluded to the 1974 Rankin/Bass classic The Year Without A Santa Claus in which Jolly Old St. Nick isn’t feeling very festive and decides to skip Christmas…atleast until Mrs. Claus steps in and engineers a change of heart with reluctant assistance from The Miser Brothers. A year later, sans aid from a wife or anyone else, Sammy Claus is taking a pass on the holiday.

 

I’ve tried to determine the exact reason for my lack of Christmas spirit, but the fact is that there are a bunch of little things that have built up over a long period of time. After all, I had to fight thru holiday apathy a year ago, so this didn’t happen yesterday, but the feeling of indifference is definitely more pronounced this year. I didn’t even bother to put up my humble little Christmas tree or the few decorations I have. It just felt pointless.

 

I’m not angry at anyone and I don’t feel particularly sad or depressed, but I do admit to feeling more lonely & lost than usual nowadays. The general idea of “Is this all there is??” is something I ponder occasionally. I’m bored with life. During this holiday season that has manifested itself in different ways. There have been a few events that I had the opportunity to attend but skipped for no real reason other than I just preferred to stay home. I have watched some Christmas movies and listened to some carols, but not to the degree that I’ve enjoyed them in the past. I mean really…how many damn times are AMC or Freeform going to air Christmas Vacation, The Polar Express, Home Alone, & Elf?? I always liked those movies, but let’s ease up and not beat the dead horse on a daily basis. Shopping has never been fun at Christmastime, but with my nephews fully grown men now and no other small children in the family I just don’t even bother doing much at all. The past couple of years I actually baked cookies, but in 2019 I took the easy way out and bought treats from others.

 

Citizens of The Manoverse will recall that I lost my beloved dog Rocco less than two months ago, and I think that may have something to do with how I’m feeling. It’s not that I’m curled up in the fetal position bawling my eyes out 24/7. I miss the little guy but life moves on, right?? However, it’d be dishonest to deny that Rocco’s death hasn’t greyed the skies in my world just a bit.

 

You may also remember me occasionally mentioning the annual Christmas Eve Fish Fest our extended family has always had. It’s a smaller version of the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes, and our family has been celebrating the occasion since before I was even born. Heck, I think it was a thing before my father was alive. That’s a long time. Anyway, I’ll spare y’all the whos, whats, & whys, but our Christmas Eve tradition is ending. In my 47 years on the planet I can only remember missing it twice…in 2008 when I was laid up in a “skilled” nursing facility, and in the aforementioned 2015. Back in ’08 I remember praying for just one more opportunity to have the Fish Fest because at the time my paternal grandmother was 94 years old. We were blessed to have Grandma Mano until her passing in 2012, so I got my wish & then some. It is for that reason that I have no complaints. Things happen. Circumstances change. We have to roll with the punches. I don’t know whether I will begin a new Christmas Eve tradition or just stay at home watching Ralphie & George Bailey, but either way it’ll be fine. Still, it’s difficult to see a beloved family custom pass into the ether.

 

In the past I’ve joked…sort of…about being one of those people who could pass away quietly and no one would notice until a putrid stench begins emanating from the apartment. Truthfully, my situation isn’t that pathetic. My sister & I communicate pretty regularly & I talk to my Dad almost every day. I’ve got a couple of neighbors that I interact with almost daily. I suppose if I didn’t show up to work there are people who might wonder what’s going on. However, there are friends who I used to talk to or chat with often that have cast me aside, and I don’t know why. I’m far from flawless, so it isn’t inconceivable that someone would decide that I didn’t need to be part of their life anymore, but I guess I like closure. Get mad at me. Tell me why you aren’t talking to me anymore. Perhaps we can resolve the issue, or maybe we won’t…either way I’ll know what’s happening, which is better than being left hanging.

 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention church…or more specifically a lack thereof. Because of my odd work schedule I haven’t attended church in probably a year & a half, and I think that lack of…connection…has been deleterious to my spirit for awhile. It’s not that I’ve lost my faith, but as the second chapter of James tells us “faith without works is dead”, and in the same way I feel like faith without fellowship with other believers praying, worshiping, & singing is kind of like food without flavor & nutrients…calories that’ll keep you alive but isn’t quite as appealing as one would prefer, and that lack of flavor is certainly felt more keenly during the holiday season.

 

One thing I cannot be sad about is the weather here in northcentral West Virginia. It’s been cold outside (especially early in the mornings), but I’ve been wearing my sunglasses in the afternoons and it’s going to be 50+ degrees on Christmas Day. That may upset folks who buy into the romantic notion of a white Christmas, but I’m perfectly happy with sunshine & dry roads, though I will concede that it doesn’t feel very Christmasy.

 

Will Sammy Claus be back again someday?? I hope so, but I make no promises. I’d like to think that next Christmas I’ll be as excited as I used to be and recapture some of those old magical feelings. However, I realize that may be a tough sell. I don’t see my life changing all that dramatically. Family & children are the lifeblood of a Merry Christmas, and those things don’t seem to be in the cards for me. Nevertheless, there are other ways that life can change & improve. God is faithful. God is powerful. God is in control. Just because I’m not in the mood to write or be particularly mirthful at the moment doesn’t mean I won’t find renewed joy in life in the future or become a perpetual Scrooge for Christmases Yet to Come. If tales like A Christmas Carol & The Grinch Who Stole Christmas teach us anything it is most certainly renewal & redemption. Ecclesiastes 3 says “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven… a time to break down and a time to build up… a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to mourn and a time to dance… a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing… a time to gain and a time to lose…a time to keep and a time to throw away… a time to keep silence and a time to speak”. I truly believe in the miracle of Christmas and sincerely wish the happiest of holidays to everyone, even if I’m not really feeling it myself.

35+ Days of Christmas on WSAM

Some years back I spoke my peace about Christmas Creep, and since then it’s just gotten worse. The holiday season pretty much starts in October now, which means that television networks like Hallmark and Freeform have already been airing Christmas movies for awhile. However, as much as I adore this time of year and love watching such films, I’ve always had an issue with the way AMC, TCM, and other such channels do their programming. Other than starting way too early I believe they make three key mistakes.

First of all, their definition of a Christmas movie is decidedly…avant-garde. Frozen?? Harry Potter?? Toy Story?? No…just…no. Just because a film is animated and/or produced by Disney doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. Hallmark obviously produces their own holiday flicks, but for the channels that show old big screen classics there are plenty of legit choices that fit the criteria.

Secondly, when the month of December hits I want wall-to-wall Christmas movies. I understand counter-programming. I get it. Some folks aren’t particularly into Christmas and they want some entertainment too. But for a television station…particularly one that is primarily dedicated to movies…I feel like it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Are you in or out?? Don’t air a great old Christmas movie then follow-it up with a tepid rom-com or a western. You’re creating a vibe…ambiance… a certain kind of mood. Even amongst the Christmas sub-genre there can be synergy. I am not familiar with all the ins & outs of television programming, but I think the powers-that-be can do better.

And finally, I realize that Christmas movies are a relatively finite category. There are only a handful of really good ones, and they mostly fall into one of three groups: wacky family hijinks, Santa Claus stories, & adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Having said that, I still believe that any TV channel dedicating itself to holiday programming can do better than showing the same few movies over & over & over again until even the most ardent fans become a little bit tired of them. In the recent past Freeform has aired Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, & The Polar Express about two dozen times…each. That’s ridiculous.

Citizens of The Manoverse may recall that a few years ago I came up with a weekend movie marathon for Christmastime. So I began to ponder the idea of expanding that concept. What if I owned a TV channel akin to AMC, TCM, Hallmark, or Freeform?? How would I program an entire month+ of holiday classics?? The first thing I had to do was establish some rules:

  • My holiday programming begins the day before Thanksgiving and ends a couple of days after Christmas. It runs on weekdays from 4pm-Midnight(ish), with expanded weekend hours.
  • Movies would air unedited. I am not advocating rampant profanity or other adult content, but is that really an issue with most Christmas movies anyway?? It has always driven me nuts when Freeform edits references to Jack Daniels & Wild Turkey in Christmas Vacation. There are more objectionable scenes in random commercials for pete’s sake. I’m also not a fan of cutting the infamous “blackface” scene in Holiday Inn. Societal norms evolve…oftentimes for the better…but I don’t believe in censoring a movie made darn near a century ago just because our collective belief systems are a bit different nowadays. If you are so overly sensitive that a two minute scene in a movie offends you that is your problem.
  • And lastly…the big one. After compiling a list of movies & television specials for this exercise I gave myself a limit of five airings. No matter how awesome a film might be I think seeing it five times in the space of a month is quite enough. I grew up in an era when It’s A Wonderful Life was on literally every day…multiple times per day…the whole month of December. I have spent the past two decades enjoying TBS/TNT’s 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. I have no issue with any of that…I am simply taking a different approach.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday        11/21

4pm            Free Birds

6pm            Dutch

8pm            Home for the Holidays

10pm                   Scent of a Woman

 

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. – Henry David Thoreau

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Day       11/22

3:30pm      WKRP in Cincinnati S1E7 “Turkeys Away”

4pm            Holiday Inn

6pm            Grumpy Old Men

8pm            A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving     

8:30pm      Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

10:30pm    The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

We eased into our merry month of holiday goodness with some Thanksgiving gems. Free Birds is a 2013 animated tale about turkeys traveling back in time to prevent their brethren from ever becoming the holiday’s main course. Dutch is an early 90’s dramedy starring Ed O’Neill (Married with Children’s Al Bundy) as a guy who offers to pick his girlfriend’s son up at his private school in Georgia and drive him back to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Home for the Holidays is a mid-90’s ensemble dramedy about a family getting together for Thanksgiving, notably starring Robert Downey Jr., Holly Hunter, Claire Danes, Dylan McDermott, Charles Durning, & Ann Bancroft. Scent of A Woman paints outside the lines a little bit, but does take place at Thanksgiving. Ditto for Grumpy Old Men, which has scenes set at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles is a beloved Thanksgiving tradition in my house, as is Turkeys Away, probably one of the greatest sitcom episodes of all time. I’m never quite sure where The Nightmare Before Christmas fits in, but I suppose it’s worth a couple of viewings.

 

 

 

Friday        11/23

4pm            Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Holiday Inn        

10pm                   Miracle on 34th St. (1947)

 

Christmas is not just a time for festivity and merry making. It is more than that. It is a time for the contemplation of eternal things. The Christmas spirit is a spirit of giving and forgiving. – J. C. Penney

 

 

 

 

Saturday    11/24

Noon          The Year Without a Santa Claus

1pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

2pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

3pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

5pm                   Miracle on 34th Street (1994)       

7pm            Scrooge (1951)

9pm            Christmas with the Kranks

 

Trading Places stars Dan Aykroyd as a wealthy businessman & Eddie Murphy as a fast talking con artist who are both manipulated by two rich old geezers into switching societal roles as part of a bet they view as a sociological experiment. It was Murphy’s follow-up to 48 Hrs. and preceded Beverly Hills Cop. Is it a Christmas movie?? Ehhh…close enough for me.  Holiday Inn has scenes set at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and every other major holiday on the calendar, and it introduced the world to White Christmas, which has gone on to become the best-selling Christmas song of all time. The Lemon Drop Kid is a criminally underappreciated Bob Hope offering from 1951 in which he stars as a loquacious hustler who crosses the wrong gangster and must come up with the $10k he screwed him out of by Christmas Eve. When his department store Santa con doesn’t work out The Kid launches a scheme to raise money for a fake retirement home. Hilarity ensues. It is pretty much impossible to find The Lemon Drop Kid on television or elsewhere, but I would absolutely change that because it is a fun movie that deserves some attention, plus it introduced the world to the classic carol Silver Bells. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol is a holiday episode of the British television show Blackadder, starring Rowan Atkinson. In this special episode Blackadder is the kindest & most generous man in England, but everyone takes advantage of him, his business isn’t doing well, and he’s miserable & lonely. On Christmas Eve a single spirit essentially shows him what life would be like if he were mean & uncaring like some of his ancestors, and he becomes convinced that everything would be awesome. It is a clever interpretation that turns Dickens’ A Christmas Carol upside down. Speaking of A Christmas Carol, the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim is generally regarded as the best by many, and so it’s a big part of our special month.

 

 

Sunday      11/25

Noon          The Star Wars Holiday Special

12:30pm    A Charlie Brown Christmas

1pm            All I Want for Christmas

3pm            Christmas Every Day

5pm            Four Christmases

7pm            Fred Claus

9pm            Frosty the Snowman

9:30pm      Scrooge (1951)

 

The Star Wars Holiday Special aired only once…on November 17, 1978, which was about a year after the first film but a couple of years before The Empire Strikes Back. It received such negative reviews that it has never been on TV again and is a rare find, but since Star Wars is a much bigger deal now than it was then I think it’s time to bring the Christmas special out of the moth balls. It can’t be any worse than the prequels & sequels, right?? Vince Vaughn is a guy that many people either love or hate, and I happen to like the guy. Not all of his movies are winners, but both Fred Claus and Four Christmases are worth an airing or two during the holiday season. All I Want for Christmas and Christmas Every Day are made-for-TV movies that originally aired on ABC Family (now Freeform) back in the early to mid-90’s. They’re cute & entertaining enough that I’ve retained a certain level of fondness for them over the years, and I believe others might enjoy them as well. Christmas with the Kranks is based on John Grisham’s 2001 novel Skipping Christmas and stars Tim Allen & Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple whose plan to ditch the annual holiday hullabaloo in favor of a tropical cruise doesn’t quite work out. It isn’t the greatest Christmas movie, and at first I kind of hated it…but it has begun to grown on me.

 

 

Monday     11/26

4pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

6pm            Scrooge (1951)

8pm            Trapped in Paradise

10pm                   Santa Claus: The Movie

 

Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel, & reindeers, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas. – Ronald Reagan

 

 

Tuesday    11/27

4pm            Deck the Halls

6pm            The Santa Clause

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

 

Trapped in Paradise stars Nicolas Cage, Dana Carvey, & Jon Lovitz as three dimwitted brothers who rob a bank in a small Pennsylvania town on Christmas Eve then are unable to leave. They are befriended by the super friendly & naive citizens who don’t realize that they’re the bank robbers. Deck the Halls stars Danny DeVito as a guy determined to make the Christmas lights display at his house so dazzling that it can be seen from space, and Matthew Broderick as the tightly wound neighbor hellbent on stopping him. Neither are considered good movies by critics or the viewing public, but I don’t mind watching them once or twice this time of year. For some strange reason only 2/3 of Tim Allen’s Santa Clause trilogy…the original & the third one…currently get a lot of play on television. I seem to recall reading somewhere that feminazis & other social justice warriors have an issue with the second film, but I rather enjoy it. I mean…it’s a trilogy, right?? I readily admit that the first Santa Clause is far & away the best, but I also think it’s pretty obvious that The Mrs. Clause is much more entertaining than The Escape Clause. Not even Martin Short & Alan Arkin could save that one. Still though, all three need to be a part of our celebration.

 

 

Wednesday 11/28

4pm            Scrooge (1970)                                                 

6pm            Frosty the Snowman  

6:30pm      Disney’s A Christmas Carol

8:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas

9pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

9:30pm      The Lemon Drop Kid

 

Once again, we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.  –  Dave Barry

 

 

 

Thursday 11/29

4pm            Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

5pm            The Star Wars Holiday Special    

6:30pm      The Lemon Drop Kid

8:30pm      A Christmas Carol (1938)

10:30pm    A Christmas Carol (1984)    

 

I wrote about my favorite adaptations of A Christmas Carol four years ago, so I won’t go into full rehash mode here, but a little clarification couldn’t hurt. The 1938 version is a sanitized, family friendly movie starring Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge. The 1984 version was a made-for-TV movie starring George C. Scott as Scrooge that didn’t start airing annually again until 2007 per an agreement with Scott’s estate. The 1970 version is a musical starring Albert Finney as Scrooge. Patrick Stewart starred as Scrooge in a made-for-TV movie originally aired on TNT in 1999. Disney’s screen capture animated version was released in 2009 and stars Jim Carrey as Scrooge as well as other roles.

 

 

Friday 11/30

4pm            Mixed Nuts

6pm            Lethal Weapon

8pm            Die Hard

10pm                   Bad Santa

 

Wow…talk about a weird Friday night!! Mixed Nuts has an all-star cast, including Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Garry Shandling, Juliette Lewis, Adam Sandler, Robert Klein, Rita Wilson, Rob Reiner, Parker Posey, Jon Stewart, & Liev Schreiber. That’s quite an eclectic lineup. It is an alleged comedy about a suicide hotline that has been evicted from its office space on Christmas Eve. There are a lot of subplots & hijinks, but I’ll spare you the details. Mixed Nuts has been mentioned as the worst Christmas film of all time, but I’ve seen worse and believe the impressive lineup of performers alone merits a viewing or two, even though all of that talent adds up to shockingly little  entertainment. Bad Santa is a bit too vulgar for my tastes, but it has a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered by some to be a modern classic. Few seem to engage in the same good-natured debate about whether or not Lethal Weapon is a Christmas movie in comparison to the annual arguments for & against the worthiness of Die Hard to be considered thusly, but for our purposes both are included as an action packed & mildly violent break from the typical sentimentality of the holiday season.

 

Saturday 12/1

Noon          Mickey’s Christmas Carol   

12:30pm    The Star Wars Holiday Special

2pm            Disney’s A Christmas Carol

4pm            It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

6pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

8pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

10pm                   Scrooge (1970) 

 

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. – Calvin Coolidge

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 12/2

Noon          The Muppet Christmas Carol

2pm            Jingle All the Way

4pm            Scrooge (1970)

5pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

7pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

9pm            The Ref    

 

I fondly remember watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol when I was a kid. It’s only a half hour long, and let’s face it…Ebenezer Scrooge is a role tailor made for Scrooge McDuck. It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is a Muppet homage to It’s A Wonderful Life in which Kermit is on the verge of losing his theater and a guardian angel shows him what life for his friends would be like if he’d never been born. There are a lot of human performers, including Whoopi Goldberg, David Arquette, Joan Cusack, & William H. Macy. I assume that movie was made based on the success a decade earlier of The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine as Scrooge. I am generally not a fan of remakes, and nothing can touch the greatness of the original Miracle on 34th Street, but the 1994 version is decent enough. My love for The Ref goes all the way back to its initial foray onto home video in the 90’s. Denis Leary stars as a burglar forced to hold a bickering couple and their dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve. You won’t see it on television all that much, but I always seize every opportunity to spread the word & encourage folks to seek it out during the holiday season.

 

 

 

Monday 12/3

4pm            Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

4:30pm      The Polar Express

6:30pm      Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

7:30pm      How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

8pm            Frosty the Snowman

8:30pm      Mickey’s Christmas Carol   

9pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

 

Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.  – Helen Steiner Rice

 

 

 

Tuesday 12/4

4pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

4:30pm      Rise of the Guardians

6:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas

7pm            The Santa Clause

9pm            Scrooged

 

Mr. Krueger’s Christmas is a half hour special produced by the Mormon Church that initially aired on NBC in 1980. Unfortunately you’ll have a difficult time running across it these days, but if it were up to me it’d become an annual tradition. Jimmy Stewart stars as an elderly janitor living in the bottom floor of the building that he takes care of, and he is a very lonely man desperate for human interaction. The story depicts Willie Krueger having Walter Mitty-esque dreams on Christmas Eve, including singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and being part of the manger scene on the night of Christ’s birth. It is a well-written & very poignant story with a fantastic message. Rise of the Guardians is an animated tale about Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, & The Sandman recruiting Jack Frost to help them wage battle against The Boogeyman. I saw it when it hit theaters a few years ago and my biggest takeaway was wondering why Alec Baldwin decided to give Santa a German accent. It hasn’t really made much of a holiday pop culture impact, but that could change.

 

Wednesday 12/5

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

6pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Ref

 

Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection. – Sir Winston Churchill

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/6

4pm            White Christmas

6pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

8pm            The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

10pm                   Scrooged 

 

We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/7

4pm            Arthur Christmas

6pm            Trapped in Paradise

8pm            The Ref

10pm                   Silent Night, Deadly Night

 

I’m not a horror movie fan by any stretch, but 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night is cheesy fun for fans of the genre. It tells the story of a boy who witnesses his parents being murdered by The Jolly Old Elf, then grows up to become a psychotic Santa himself. There were four sequels produced. We’re not including them here, but you’re welcome to check them out if that’s the sort of thing that you’re into. Arthur Christmas is an animated tale about Santa’s inept son Arthur and his Christmas Eve mission to deliver one present that was inadvertently left behind at The North Pole. It has a really unique vision of what The North Pole & Santa’s toy enterprise might look like, and depicts the role of Santa Claus as a generational title passed down from father to son.

 

Saturday 12/8

Noon          The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

1pm            It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

3pm            White Christmas

5pm            Santa Claus: The Movie

7pm            The Bishop’s Wife

9pm            Jingle All the Way

 

Jingle All the Way is another not-so-great movie that has grown on me just a bit. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a negligent Dad trying to track down the hottest Christmas gift of the year for his son, and Sinbad (whatever happened to him??) as the wacky mailman who keeps getting in the way. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is an 80’s Rankin-Bass production of a children’s book written by L. Frank Baum (author of The Wizard of Oz). It is essentially another Santa origin story. The Bishop’s Wife stars Cary Grant as guardian angel sent to provide some guidance to a clergyman & his flock, but things get weird when the angel is smitten with the minister’s wife. A remake called The Preacher’s Wife starring Denzel Washington & Whitney Houston was made in the mid-90’s, but no one knows why.

 

Sunday 12/9

Noon          Holiday Inn

2pm            White Christmas

4pm            Elf    

6pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

8pm            A Christmas Story

10pm                   Scrooged

 

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality. – Washington Irving

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 12/10

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

6pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

8pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

10pm                   Home Alone

 

I don’t think Christmas is necessarily about things. It’s about being good to one another. – Carrie Fisher

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 12/11

4pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

5pm            The Ref

7pm            Elf

9pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

 

 

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. – Bob Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 12/12

4pm            The Polar Express     

6pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

8pm            A Christmas Story

10pm                   Home Alone

 

The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin. – Jay Leno

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/13

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

6pm            A Christmas Story

8pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

10pm                   Elf    

 

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live. –  George Carlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/14

4pm            The Family Stone

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Die Hard   

10pm                   Lethal Weapon

 

Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. – Norman Vincent Peale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 12/15

Noon          A Christmas Carol (1938)

2pm            Frosty the Snowman  

2:30pm      All I Want for Christmas

4:30pm      Christmas Every Day 

6:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas 

7pm            The Family Stone

9pm            Die Hard

 

I bought my brother some gift wrap for Christmas. I took it to the gift wrap department and told them to wrap it, but in a different print so he would know when to stop unwrapping.  –  Steven Wright

 

 

 

Sunday 12/16

Noon          A Christmas Carol (1999)

2pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

3pm            A Christmas Carol (1938)

5pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

7pm            Mickey’s Christmas Carol

7:30pm      Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

8pm            Scrooge (1951)

10pm                   Scrooge (1970)

 

Ever wonder what people got Jesus for Christmas? It’s like, “Oh great, socks. You know I’m dying for your sins right? Yeah, but thanks for the socks! They’ll go great with my sandals. What am I, German?” – Jim Gaffigan

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 12/17

4pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

6pm            Trapped in Paradise

8pm            Fred Claus

10pm                   Four Christmases

 

The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that he might offer up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas. – Rev. Billy Graham

 

Tuesday 12/18

4pm            Christmas Every Day 

6pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

8pm            Frosty the Snowman

8:30pm      How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

9pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

9:30pm      Scrooge (1951)

 

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. – Garrison Keillor

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 12/19

4pm            The Polar Express

6pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

7pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

8pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

10pm                   The Family Stone

 

The only real blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart. – Helen Keller

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/20

4pm            White Christmas

6pm            The Polar Express

8pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation       

10pm                   The Ref

 

The Magi, as you know, were wise men…wonderfully wise men who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. – O. Henry

 

 

 

Friday 12/21

4pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Scrooged

10pm                   Santa Claus: The Movie

 

Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends. – Margaret Thatcher

 

 

 

 

Saturday 12/22

Noon          Fred Claus

2pm            Santa Claus: The Movie

4pm            All I Want for Christmas

6pm            Disney’s A Christmas Carol

8pm            Home Alone

10pm                   Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

 

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! – Charles Dickens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 12/23

Noon          Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

1pm            The Year Without a Santa Claus

2pm            Home Alone      

4pm            Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

6pm            The Santa Clause

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

 

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. – Clement Clarke Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve

Noon          Elf    

2pm            The Santa Clause

4pm                   Scrooged

5pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

7pm            A Christmas Story

9pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

 

 

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play

And wild & sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

Christmas Day

11am                   How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

11:30am    A Charlie Brown Christmas

Noon           Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

12:30pm    Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

2:30pm      A Christmas Carol (1938)

4:30pm      The Polar Express

6:30pm      White Christmas

8:30pm      Disney’s A Christmas Carol

 

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly. – Andy Rooney

 

Wednesday 12/26

Noon          Home Alone

2pm            Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

4pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

6pm            Elf

8pm            A Christmas Story

 

Perhaps it is because I don’t have children or work in retail and therefore don’t suffer some of the burnout & fatigue that others do as the holiday season draws to its conclusion, but I usually feel a general sense of melancholy when the clock strikes midnight on Christmas night. All the sudden all of the hoopla is over. Radio & TV stations resume regular programming. Some folks take down their decorations immediately. Well that’s not how we roll here ladies & gentlemen. We’re going to wean ourselves off of the holiday high we’ve been on for the past month and have one more day of Santa Claus, Ebenezer Scrooge, & general Christmas merriment.

 

Thursday, 12/27

Noon          Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July

1:30pm      Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

2:30pm      New Year’s Eve

4:30pm      When Harry Met Sally

6:30pm      Holiday Inn

8:30pm      Sleepless in Seattle

 

Christmas may be over but technically it’s still the holiday season. In the old days people used to celebrate The Twelve Days of Christmas (you may have heard a song about it). Those don’t even begin until what we know as Christmas Day and conclude on January 5. Don’t worry…I’m not going to take things that far. However, even in modern times most of us reserve a bit of the ol’ festive mojo for one more round of frivolity, and so we will conclude our holiday celebration with a day of entertainment revolving around New Year’s Eve/Day or atleast having scenes centered on it. I am certain that most are familiar with the offerings suggested here, but I will dive into 2011’s New Year’s Eve just a bit. It’s one of those rom-coms with a large ensemble cast and interweaving stories, all taking place on…well, I’m sure you can figure it out. It’s not a great film, as evidenced by an atrocious 7% Rotten Tomatoes score. Newsday called it “a perfect example of why the adjective Hollywood is so often used as a pejorative”. The New York Post said that it is “a soul-sucking monument to Hollywood greed and saccharine holiday culture”. Our old pal Ebert wondered “How is it possible to assemble more than two dozen stars in a movie and find nothing interesting for any of them to do?”. But it is that all-star cast (including Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Robert DeNiro, Josh Duhamel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Hilary Swank, Zac Efron, Katherine Heigl, Michelle Pfeiffer, & Jon Bon Jovi) that is the draw, and I feel alright throwing it in amongst a few other movies that are certified classics, kind of like how a single horn player who isn’t really that talented can just kind of blend in & disappear amongst a large orchestra.

 

 

 

This concept could certainly be modified annually. Most of the movies & specials we’ve chose wouldn’t change all that much from year to year, but there would be nothing wrong with the occasional addition or subtraction. I’d put this lineup against any station out there and am confident that it would be considered by most to be superior to any alternatives. Having said that, I’d love to hear from The Manoverse. What has been included here that you don’t enjoy all that much?? Did I miss something that should be given some love?? As opposed to my viewpoint, do you like watching some holiday classics almost daily each December?? Which adaptation of A Christmas Carol do you prefer?? What is your stance on Die Hard as a Christmas movie?? Leave me some comments and let’s have some back & forth.

Merry Movie Mayhem: An Introduction

A big chunk of 2016 here at The Manofesto was dedicated to 80’s Movie Mania, a competition honoring the best in 1980’s cinema that was ultimately won by The Blues Brothers. In the process of completing that project an idea came to me that it might be fun to do the same kind of tournament with Christmas films, and so we shall.

 

Merry Movie Mayhem will differ from its predecessor in that it will move much faster. The goal is to complete the project by Christmas Eve. That gives us less than a month to discuss & appreciate 64 films & TV specials. Yes, that’s right…I am making this an all-inclusive battle royale comprised of Christmas movies, animated television specials, & even a few nods to Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. It just feels like the right thing to do.

 

Each film or show has been placed into one of four divisions: Candy Cane, Eggnog, Mistletoe, & North Pole. Choosing the entrants for this tournament was a tougher task than I’d imagined. Probably ¾ of the choices were obvious, but others…not so much. However I don’t think the final pool leaves considerable room for debate. That being said, if I have left out one of your favorites please let me know. I always enjoy feedback from The Manoverse.

 

In the first round I have included, when possible, the film’s ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. Unless otherwise noted this is a cumulative score received from critics, with 60-100% being “fresh”, and 59% or below being “rotten”. In some cases, particularly with animated television specials, no Rotten Tomatoes score is available, and in a few instances there are no critical reviews but an audience score is given. I don’t pay too much attention to these scores because oftentimes critics can be somewhat highbrow and not at all in touch with what most folks enjoy, but they are a useful tool in some situations. Also, I have included the name of the director, but what I find interesting is that not a lot of bigtime film raconteurs have helmed holiday themed films. These movies that so many of us love don’t seem to be all that respected by the Hollywood literati. Perhaps it is indicative of a general Godlessness, or maybe, because of preconceived notions of what a Christmas movie should be, creative “geniuses” find the parameters stifling. Whatever the case may be, with few exceptions the general achievements…or lack thereof…of the director outside of the film being discussed has very little bearing on the outcome.

 

Before we dive in I will give you a sneak peek at the contenders. Merry Movie Mayhem includes:

*16 takes on the Santa Claus mythos

*11 different adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

*13 entrants that were made in the 80’s, 13 produced in the 90’s, 15 made before I was even a gleam in my Daddy’s eye, & a surprising 20 that have come out in the 21st century (which, to be fair, now encompasses nearly two decades)

*19 films or specials that utilize animation

 

I adore Christmas movies, and since you’re here reading this I assume you do as well. So, let us spend this holiday season on a journey together…a quest to pay respect to and express admiration for films & specials that have stood the test of time, with the ultimate goal of narrowing the field and crowning one winner as the merriest movie of them all. Adeste Fideles. Feliz Navidad. Buon Natale. And God bless us…everyone.

 

Thoughts On Christmas Shopping

ArtificialPre-LitTreeAnd so it begins. Today is Black Friday. Yesterday most of us celebrated, in some form or fashion, our most underappreciated holiday…Thanksgiving. We got up early for the big parade, we watched a lot of football, and we chowed down on turkey, stuffing, sweet taters, & pumpkin pie. By now though we have moved on. A Christmas movie or two has been watched. Carols are being played. Trees & other decorations are already up or soon will be. We are in full throttle Christmas mode.

 

bf1It is commonly stated that today is the busiest shopping day of the year. I have my doubts about that, but I suppose it is a nifty marketing ploy. Some of you may have already been shopping last night/early this morning. Black Friday has become such a hyped event that the sales now begin the day before, but traditionally…and I use that word with some level of revulsion…it has been a midnight or later kind of thing. Apparently lots of folks are really into it. My old buddy Tony V. in Florida LOVES Black Friday. He plans an intricate strategy. Where he’s going. What he’s buying where. Maps out the route. Gets all the sales flyers & coupons as soon as they become available weeks before. His Black Friday battle plan is better than the U.S. exit strategy from The Middle East. The Pentagon should probably hire him as a consultant. Conversely, I couldn’t possibly care less if a $1000 television is available at WalMart for $35. Perhaps bf2that reflects badly on my grasp of economics, but I prefer to look at it as a prudent decision to be home in my warm bed at 3am snuggling with Rocco and having Wacky Dreams instead of traipsing around battling the elements & encountering humanity wallowing in avaricious excess. I have pondered the idea of participating merely as a sociological exercise, but I always talk myself out of it. If that ever changes citizens of The Manoverse will surely get a firsthand account of the occasion, but don’t hold your breath.

 

There was a time…long ago in the halcyon days of childhood…that I did enjoy the hustle & bustle of the mall at Christmastime. However, a) I didn’t have to drive on slick roads…that was my mother’s problem, b) I didn’t have to find a place to park, c) being in large crowds was fun & exciting, not like now when it is a reason to double the dosage of my blood pressure meds, d) my shopping list was very small & inexpensive, & e) I was a kid who didn’t know any better. Now?? I don’t even enjoy the mall on a boring macysTuesday afternoon in the middle of spring, so the idea of going there when it’s actually crowded & noisy makes me nauseous. There is ONE exception. The local United Way has a spot in the middle of the mall where volunteers from its organizations will wrap your presents for a small donation. They even use ribbons & bows, and I like ribbons & bows. They’re festive. Wrapping gifts isn’t really a talent I possess, so I happily fork over a few bucks to have someone else with such skills do the job for me. I choose a day when the weather isn’t horrible, park as close to the appropriate entrance as I can get, take my plunder to the aforementioned location, and wait patiently until they are done. Then I take my lovely wrapped bundles and get out of Dodge as quickly as possible. Doing this on a weekday does minimize the agony just a bit, and I am lucky to have had employment situations for much of the past two decades that have enabled me to go about things in this manner.

 

angelNow my mother…God bless her soul…always did Christmas shopping the smart way. She’d begin the task as early as the previous spring. I would be totally surprised by a gift on Christmas morning because it was something that I’d casually mentioned wanting back in March and had almost completely forgotten about by the time the holiday season rolled around, but Mom had taken note and bought the thing not long after I’d expressed interest all those months ago. She was the BEST gift giver. Mom would give us things we never knew we’d always wanted. Looking back I now realize that the only reason she endured the hellish retail scene in December was because my sister & I needed/wanted to go. She was already done!! She put up with the mall for US!! What a great mother.

 

driveI know a lot of people that refuse to be confined by the limitations of the local mall or other nearby stores. I live about equal distance…a couple of hours give or take…from both Pittsburgh, PA and West Virginia’s capitol city of Charleston. Both offer much more retail variety than our small town, and some enjoy spending a day or even an entire weekend making the trek to take advantage of that expanded assortment of choices. Not this guy. Because of an auto accident many years ago I have a rather debilitating driving phobia, so the thought of braving the highways & byways of Pittsburgh terrifies me. But even if that weren’t the case I just don’t believe those places have anything THAT great to justify the trip. They pretty much have the same stuff we have here…just more of it. Atleast that’s what I tell myself to justify not being adventurous.

 

shop1Of course shopping malls & retail outlets have largely been rendered pointless because of one thing…The Internet. Yes friends, online shopping is where it’s at!! I already began Christmas shopping earlier this week right here in the comfort of my humble Bachelor Palace. Obviously one can peruse the big sites…Amazon, Ebay, WalMart, etc., but really you can find just about anything in cyberspace if you are persistent in the search. You are only limited by your imagination & bank account. Not only does Christmas shopping online offer almost limitless possibilities, but there are other benefits. You aren’t restricted by the time constraints of when stores open or close. I’m a night owl, so much of my shopping will be done in the wee hours of late night/early morning. Depending on the rules & regulations of your job you may be able to knock out some of your list while at work, atleast on your break or lunch hour. Almost everyone has access to a computer or smartphone at all times these days, right?? You might even make a purchase or two while sitting in traffic!! How cool is that?? Being productive is a good thing. And these trinkets, knick-knacks, deliver1baubles, & doodads that you order are delivered…usually right to your front door!! That’s awesome, especially as the weather deteriorates in December. One just needs to be careful and allow enough time for delivery. Sure Amazon will usually have your stuff to you in just a few days, but a more obscure site won’t be quite so expeditious or will make such rapidity cost prohibitive. There really is no downside to this Internet thing other than identity theft.

 

I do suggest that, even if you’re shopping online, have some kind of strategery. Make a list of who you listwant to buy gifts for and how much you want to spend, both individually and in total. We still have to pay our rent or mortgage, put gas in the vehicle, feed the dog/cat/ferret/fish/amphibian, eat, & buy toiletries. Christmas doesn’t make that stuff go away. Be smart.

 

snoopI do not believe that there is anything wrong with asking someone what they want for Christmas. Ideally if it is someone you are close enough to want to buy a Christmas gift for you have some inclination of what their interests are or what they really need, but let’s be real…we all know those people that are just so darn difficult to shop for. They might lead really tedious lives, or perhaps they’re just really persnickety and won’t be all that captivated by anything you give them. I’ve bought my father more than one gift over the years that I know has ended up collecting dust in a closet in his house because Dad is just kind of stuck in his ways and doesn’t really have any hobbies. When he was young & spry he was a golfer so that was my go-to every Christmas, birthday, & Father’s Day…golf balls, golf tees, golf clothing. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Sadly those days are gone which makes things a little more challenging, but I still manage. Anyway, if you’re not sure what to get someone ask them…they might surprise you with an idea. Or they might stonewall you with platitudes like “I just want your friendship” or “You don’t need to get me anything. I’ve already got everything”. That’s the kind of stuff I say because I hate being asked what I want for Christmas. It’s awkward. If you run up against someone like me you’ll just have to be a little more Machiavellian in your inquiry.

 

gift-cards-overhead-1-250What about gift cards?? Ehhhhhhh……I go back & forth on this discussion. I think in the right situation with the right person a gift card is acceptable. However, it can also be lazy, uninspired, & totally lacking in imagination. Proceed with caution.

 

VegasExperiences make really cool gifts. Concert tickets. Movie tickets. Game tickets. Plane tickets. Vacation getaways. Although it helps if you’re wealthy if you are giving a trip as a Christmas present. If you’re rich and like to give away vacations please leave a comment on this post. Let’s be friends.

 

 

Of course I want to be REALLY clear about something…Christmas is NOT about shopping or gifts. My nativityinclination is to assume that everyone knows that, but I have to remind myself that everyone doesn’t. A couple of millennia ago a Child was born in a stable. That Child was the Son of God, born with the express purpose of spreading His Word to the masses and then dying for OUR sins. I respect anyone’s right to disagree but I will not apologize for my beliefs or hide behind closed doors whispering to other believers.

 

Wow, that got heavy, didn’t it??

 

merry-christmas-bells-2Okay, so we’ve got about a month of this Christmas thing. There will be music. There will be movies. There will be horribly mawkish drivel on The Hallmark Channel. You will eat cookies & pies and gain weight (don’t go to the doctor for a check-up until spring). And yes, there will be shopping. Is Christmas too commercialized?? Clearly. Have we minimized Jesus in favor of Santa Claus?? Probably. We can play a part in correcting those problems on an individual basis. Having said that, the old maxim “’tis better to give than receive” has validity. Buying someone a Christmas gift is a way to show that we love, respect, & appreciate them. Be prudent. Be original. Show discernment. Enjoy. It’s Christmas…have fun. God bless.

Starbucks, Righteous Indignation, & The War On Thanksgiving

starbucksOn a cool day in the early spring of 2008 I ventured out into the world. This is notable because it was my first time behind the wheel of a car in over two years after having been laid up in hospitals & “skilled” nursing facilities and being homebound due to medical issues that I may have mentioned here once or twice and may or may not talk more about some other day. But since that is not the focus of my current mission I shall move on. At any rate, in the two+ years that I was out of commission (I call it My Unfortunate Incarceration) a couple of things had changed in my modest little hometown…we had gotten a Blockbuster Video and a Starbucks!! Now I realize that may not seem very stimulating to most, especially since Blockbuster has since gone out of business and every town in America seems to have multiple Starbucks at this point…but almost a decade ago this was a big deal in my world. First of all this town isn’t that exciting. It’s Mayberry-esque, except with meth clinics, unethical politicians, homeless people, & strippers. Secondly, I had been locked up alone & bored for more than two years. My life consisted of Becker reruns, nurses, & MySpace. Upon that initial re-entry into blockbustersociety just about anything would have seemed fun, and experiencing two places that I’d always heard about but never been to sounded awesome. Blockbuster turned out to be much like other video stores I’d frequented only twice as expensive. I never went back. And since there was still the slightest remnant of winter in the air & I’m not that much of a coffee guy I decided to get a hot chocolate at Starbucks. I quickly surmised that I had a box of Swiss Miss packets at home that tasted a lot better and were way cheaper. I’ve never been back and hadn’t really given Starbucks much thought…until recently.

 

There is a “controversy” brewing (HA!! Pun alert!!) due to the fact that Starbucks has apparently dissed Christmas and will be using plain red cups this holiday season.

 

O M G !! The HORROR!!!!

 

Y’all know I’m not big about in-depth research, but I am assuming a couple of things. First, I guess Starbucks writes the customer’s name on their cup?? Is this to avoid confusion?? Is it some sort of self-esteem/validation thing?? I have no idea. Secondly, Starbucks must have previously had more festive cups at Christmastime and has decided to go simple & basic this year, kind of like when Regis Philbin popularized solid color ties about 15 years ago.

 

jf2I gleaned the name thing from online “preacher” Joshua Feuerstein, a dude known for posting evangelically themed videos on YouTube. He’s what my old ESPN nemesis Colin Cowherd would call a “backward hat wearing guy”, a fashion choice that speaks poorly of an adult male’s maturity & intelligence (George Carlin once called it an abomination). On top of that Feuerstein evokes a faux radio/preachy voice and looks disturbingly like alleged actor Kevin James (aka Paul Blart Mall Cop). The combination is creepy to the point of distracting from his message, and now that message is a movement wherein one would go into Starbucks and tell the barista (is that the right terminology??) that their name is Merry Christmas, thereby “tricking” the server into writing Merry Christmas on the cup. Inspired?? Subversive?? Rebellious?? Clever?? Well, maybe if you’re a ten year old whose idea of cinematic genius is Jurassic Park or someone who ever thought boy bands were cool. To most of us grownups it seems a bit juvenile.

 

My man Rush Limbaugh calls our nation The United States of the Offended, and he isn’t wrong. Now, let’s be honest…there are things about which Christians have a right to be perturbed. God, Jesus, The Bible, & anything related to Christianity has become a bigger target with each passing year over the past few decades. That’s not imaginary. But questions arise. What exactly should offend us?? What should our reaction be?? My answers have evolved a bit over time.

 

As my friend Don pointed out on social media, folks have been disparaging Jesus since His birth. This is not a new thing. In the jesuslmb9th chapter of Luke, when Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village, James & John (aka the Sons of Thunder) wanted to call fire down on them from Heaven (the Biblical equivalent of a boycott), but Jesus wasn’t having it. As a matter of fact, He opined that He had come to save lives, not destroy them. He & His disciples simply walked away and went someplace a bit more receptive. This is something that Christians struggle with…me included. The fact is that not everyone is ready to hear The Good News of Jesus Christ. Some may never be responsive to the message. Does that mean that we just give up?? No…but it does mean that we may need to look in the mirror and re-examine our approach. I disagree with those who whine about Christians “shoving our beliefs down others’ throats”. I don’t think that is the accepted or prevalent methodology. It seems to me that proponents of “alternative”, progressive, deviant lifestyles & principles are much more vociferous in trying to standardize & promote their choices. However, we Christians sometimes get caught up in absurdity like coffee cups, and when we do it certainly doesn’t reflect well on The Lord or accurately communicate His wisdom. Perhaps if we focused inwardly, recognized the plank in our own eye, tried to better imitate Christ, & let our light shine before others, it would be a more productive & fruitful strategery.

 

It is true that political correctness has become a malignant blemish that is slowly eating away at the fabric of daily American life, and God is often the target of the PC Police. It can be frustrating. Yet Isiah 41:0 says “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God”. Jesus tells His disciples in John 16:33 “in the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” 1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to “cast all our cares upon Him”. James 1:19 says that we should be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”. Joshua 1:9 exhorts us to “be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. Exodus 14:14 says that “the Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace”. It is difficult to completely ignore some of the things that go on around us, but we can control our response to those circumstances. I’m not really into boycotts. In this particular case I plan on neither rejecting Starbucks nor telling them my name is Merry Christmas, mostly because I haven’t frequented the place in years and don’t see that changing. But there have been other situations…restaurants that promoted sociopolitical beliefs contrary to my own, actors or singers who spouted some kind of nonsense, retail outlets who donated to causes or candidates that I didn’t particularly like…and it dawned on me that cutting those entities out of my life hurt only me. Does anyone truly believe that a few people getting upset at a billion dollar corporation will elicit some sort of change in policy?? Maybe occasionally, but mostly it is empty, meaningless rhetoric. If it makes you feel better though, go for it…it’s a free country. To thine own self be true.

 

thanksA meme I saw online awhile back said something to the effect of keeping Christ in Christmas means feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, forgiving the guilty, caring for the sick, welcoming strangers, & loving our enemies. I’m not one to rail against many of the secular trappings of our modern Christmas. I dig Rudolph & Frosty, singing carols, drinking eggnog, lights on the tree, & buying nice presents for my family. However, all of those things do seem to have obscured the true meaning of Christmas for many of us. Not only that, but we are in such a hurry to get to all that fun & delight that we almost totally ignore Thanksgiving, which used to be one of our most sacred holidays. The early settlers would have multiple days of Thanksgiving in any given year and they’d spend those days in church worshiping & praising God for all their blessings. When was the last time we did that?? These days retail outlets don’t even close for Thanksgiving and it has been reduced to a parade, football games, a big turkey, & some pie. Gripe all you want about a “war” on Christmas, but ateast it hasn’t been ignored & forgotten simply because no one outside of Butterball, Macy’s, Kraft, & your local grocery chain has figured out how to make a few bucks from it. Myles Standish & William Bradford would be much more horrified by our flippant treatment of Thanksgiving than the lack of snowflakes & ornaments on a coffee cup.

 

In the book of Matthew Jesus talks about turning the other cheek. While I do not believe that this indicates that we should always let people run roughshod over us I do think it means that we should pick our battles and seek wisdom. Way back in the 1960’s The Byrds wrote a catchy little tune called Turn, Turn, Turn, with the lyrics being copied almost verbatim from the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes. In those verses we are counseled that there is “a time to break down and a time to build up”, “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing”, “a time to keep and a time to throw away”, “a time to keep silence and a time to speak”. From everything that I have read the past few days most people with any sense don’t think that coffee cups are worthy of our outrage. It would be more…useful…to go into Starbucks or any other restaurant and buy some coffee or a meal for someone who would legitimately benefit from it. In the upcoming holiday season take time to smile. Wish someone a Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or even just a simple “have a nice day”. Appreciate the lights & music. Eat some pumpkin pie. Praise God. Worship Him. Watch Clark Griswold, George Bailey, Charlie Brown, & Ralphie. Love your neighbors. Pray. Ask for wisdom & guidance. Don’t get bent out of shape about trivialities. Drink a grande, non-fat, soy caramel macchiato if you want. Enjoy. Spoiler alert: Jesus wins. It’s going to be okay.

The Sammy Claus Wish List 2014

Former President Calvin Coolidge once said that “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” It goes without saying that we should be merciful and exhibit goodwill all year round, but hey…if you can only muster such geniality & compassion a few weeks per year then atleast that’s a start and now is the moment. At any rate, it’s time to present the 6th annual Sammy Claus Wish List. Let me remind you that, in my limited role as tree02Sammy Claus, I wield no genuine authority to bequeath these gifts. My job is to make suggestions and hope that the Jolly Old Elf up at the North Pole is a citizen of The Manoverse and deems it appropriate to fill folks’ stockings as I have proposed. In the previous five years we have actually had quite a bit of success. The original list in 2009 hoped that John & Kate and Heidi & Spencer would go away. The fact that many of you are now asking “Who are they??” is evidence of our achievement. In 2010 we requested a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. That new stadium is now under construction and set to open in 2016. That same year we asked for a college football playoff and for Time-Warner Cable to offer the NFL Network. Done and done. In 2012 we wished for the return of Twinkies, Ho-Ho’s, & other delicious snacks that went away when Hostess imploded. Those treats are indeed back on the shelves at your local supermarket. We also hoped for the extinguishing of The Big East in 2012, and not long after that the football conference shut down. Now only a revised and still pretty decent basketball conference (the original idea anyway) remains. Last year we yearned for a new NASCAR champion and we got one. Jimmie Johnson made The Chase but was eliminated. Bob Hope once stated that ““when we recall Christmas past we usually find that the simplest things…not the great occasions…give off the greatest glow of happiness.” Seeing the gifts on this list bestowed in real life makes me happy. Cheerful reading, and may this Christmas season find you blessed & healthy.

 

 

 

The White House
extra sprinklers & fire extinguishers while the current President continues to set fire to the U.S. Constitutioncon1

 

iTunes Users
another free U2 album…whether you want it or not

 

Officer Darren Wilson
peace, safety, & a new job in a better town

 

Star Wars Fansswars
a new hope as The Force awakens

 

Former U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
A happy retirement. Good riddance you old out-of-touch carpetbagger.

 

Fans of Frozen
the wherewithal to let it go

 

Janay Palmer Rice
self-respect, strength, & the courage to eventually walk awayjp

 

Jimmy Fallon
the ability to focus on his guests instead of indulging his own narcissism

 

College Football
a fair, logical, & transparent playoff system

 

The White House
an extra powerful vacuum to clean up as the current President shreds the U.S. Constitutioncon3

 

Former UAB Football Players & Staff
a new home & success in whatever is next

 

Bill Cosby & His Alleged Victims
the truth…one way or another

 

Donald Sterling
tickets to a rap concertsterling2

 

American Schoolchildren
a return to fulfilling & appetizing meals for lunch

 

Kim Kardashian
a pair of pants (size XL)

 

ESPN
more sports, less sociopolitical commentary & obvious bias

 

David Letterman
A happy retirement. You were brilliant for two decades. I’m so sorry you became a weary & bitter old man.letterman

 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
to be trapped in an elevator with Ray Rice

 

John Travolta
reading glasses

 

The White House
extra toilet paper & air freshener while the current President continues to take a huge crap all over the U.S. Constitutioncon2

 

California
lower taxes & rain

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers
a new defensive backfield

 

Business Owners in Ferguson, MO
economic recoveryferguson-looting-4

 

Fans of Honey Boo Boo
books…lots of books…..

 

The View
continued irrelevance & eventual cancellation

 

Florida St. QB Jameis Winston
A short, miserable, unproductive, non-lucrative NFL career. Stupidity shouldn’t be rewarded.

 

Craig Ferguson
Happiness & success in future endeavors. I regret not discovering the hilarity of your Late Late Show until it was almost over.craigferguson_big

 

 

 

As has become tradition I shall end with a quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

Santa-and-Jesus“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”

The 2013 Sammy Claus Wish List

Boys & girls, first a healthy dose of the truth. Sammy Claus has really struggled to find the Christmas spirit in 2013. There are a variety of reasons for that…..a hundred mostly insignificant things that I won’t bore the masses with. Suffice to say that I haven’t always felt the presence of God in my life lately. Now let me be clear… I have never and will never doubt the existence of God. He is real. I have just had alot of questions recently about His role in my life. As usual though it was my friend The Owl who set me on the right path by reminding me that God is in control only if we allow Him to be, and that of course is the issue…..I have not truly let God be in control of my life. That needs to change…..and it will. Maybe we’ll dive deeper into that topic some other time. Now though it is time for the 5th annual Wish List. As always I must remind you that I have no particular power to make these wishes come true and can only hope that The Jolly One himself up in The North Pole is a citizen of The Manoverse and will see fit to help things along. Enjoy…and God bless us…everyone.

_____

Obamacare ocare

repeal

_____

Jimmy Fallon fallon

much success as he takes over The Tonight Show

_____

People who “axe” a question instead of “ask” one dunce

the strength & perseverance to put away those x’s and find their s’s and k’s – I know you can do it

_____

Speaker of the House John Boehner bn

a box of tissues and some testosterone

_____

Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin Tomlin

a spot in the next cast of Dancing with the Stars

_____

Paula Deen deen

the last laugh

_____

Twitter & Facebook twfb

an “Are you sure you want to post this??” button and maybe a 10 minute waiting period

_____

NASCAR smoke

a new champion – Jimmie Johnson bores me

_____

Black Friday thanksgiving-turkey-dinner

a return to normalcy (whatever that means in regards to Black Friday) – let us have Thanksgiving back

_____

San Diego Chargers LB Manti Teo teo

a real live girlfriend

_____

Ben Affleck AffleckBatman

best of luck as the new Batman…seriously

_____

President Barack Hussein Obama & First Lady MeeShell “My Belle” Obama obama

an ounce of class

_____

Autocorrect texting

Extinction. It’s an unnecessary & faulty technology. If you don’t know how to spell you don’t need to own a smartphone.

_____

Alec Baldwin alec

anger management classes

_____

Dennis Rodman rodman

South Korean citizenship. Y’all can have him… he serves no useful purpose here.

_____

George Zimmerman zim

better decision making skills

_____

The Star Trek Franchise trek

an awesome new director now that JJ Abrams is moving on to revive Star Wars

*******************

As has become tradition I shall end with a quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

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p class=”MsoNormal”>“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on SantaJesus764a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”

Heroes & Heels…..A Summer 2013 Retrospective

Well, I guess it is officially autumn. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Pumpkins, sunshiny 50 degree days, candy corn, football, the smell of cinnamon & cloves, warm apple pie, hot vegetable soup, The World Series…it’s all good. But before we fully embrace fall & all it has to offer let us take a moment to say a fond farewell to glorious summer. You may have noticed that I have not done a Heroes & Heels since the May edition. At some point I decided it would be a good idea to wait three months and do a summer retrospective H&H combining everyone who grabbed my attention over the course of three months. Now that the time has come to deliver I’m not so sure it was such a great idea, but nevertheless we shall forge ahead. So as always these are the people…dating back to June…who I feel deserve some measure of admiration or contempt. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

Roy Costner IV

Mr. Costner was the 2013 valedictorian of the graduating class of Liberty High School in Liberty, South Carolina. Apparently Thumbs_upthat school district has bent over and allowed the ACLU and the heinous Freedom From Religion Foundation to push all prayer from any kind of public events. But Costner is the kind of Christian we all should aspire to be and in the midst of giving his school approved (of course) speech at the commencement ceremony he tore up his written remarks, thanked his parents for leading him to Christ at a young age, and recited The Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes it takes courage…and faith…to do the right thing.

 

Aaron Hernandez

If I have to tell you why this moron is here you must have been living in a cave for the past few months.frowny-face

 

The Supreme Court

In June The Supreme Court continued to contribute to the decaying of America by ruling that “married” gay frowny-facecouples are entitled to the same federal benefits as real (one man & one woman…like The Bible says) married couples.

 

Bill O’Reilly

O’Reilly is one of the conservative pariahs…alongside Rush Limbaugh & Sean Hannity…that liberals like Al Sharpton love to Thumbs_updemonize. But it turns out that Sharpton is a liar (shocker!!). After Sharpton twisted O’Reilly’s words one more time back in August O’Reilly responded by revealing that he had once donated $25k to one of Sharpton’s charities to buy Christmas presents and Christmas dinners for hundreds of poor people in Harlem. Oh those evil conservatives!!

 

Montia Marie Parke

Miss Parke is the complete opposite of Roy Costner IV. She is a Minnesota high school cheerleader who somehow frowny-facemanaged to force a mentally impaired classmate into prostitution. To anyone who has ever whined & cried about something called “cyberbullying”…you just need to shut up now. This is actual bullying.

 

Don Thompson

Thompson is the CEO of McDonald’s. In response to a particularly precocious 9 year old’s question a few months ago at a frowny-facepublic Q&A inquiring as to why the fast food giant “tricks kids into eating food that isn’t good for them by using toys and cartoon characters” Thompson assured the little girl that McDonald’s “doesn’t sell junk food” and trumpeted the plethora of healthy options on the menu. You know…like the Premium Southwest Chicken Salad that’s only 450 calories and 21 grams of fat.

 

Pima Community College

Terri Bennett is a nursing student. She requested that the college enforce the use of English in her classes after several of frowny-faceher labs, group studies, & clinicals were conducted in Spanish…a language in which she is not fluent. In response school administrators called Ms. Bennett a bigot and suspended her for 9 months. This college is in Arizona. One of the 50 states of the United States of America…where we speak English. Someone needs to remind the politically correct suits at this school of those things.

 

Maurkice & Mike Pouncey

Maurkice is my boy. He’s a fantastic center for my Pittsburgh Steelers. But a couple of months ago he & his twin brother frowny-face(who plays for the Miami Dolphins) pulled a bonehead move by wearing “Free Hernandez” caps in reference to their college teammate Aaron Hernandez. Sorry gentlemen…I know all about “innocent until proven guilty”, but public sentiment isn’t with you on this one and sometimes it’s best to keep your opinion to yourself.

 

Leah Remini

TV actress & talk show host Remini was one of many celebrities who got sucked into the cult of Scientology. But a couple ofThumbs_up months ago she finally wised up and ditched Tom Cruise, John Travolta, & all their weirdo buddies. Better late than never. Good for her.

 

Michael Dyson

Dyson is a sociology professor at Georgetown University and a frequent talking head on MSNBC. A few months ago, afterfrowny-face the Zimmerman verdict was announced, he made an analogy comparing how black folks felt about that whole deal to how many of us felt after 9/11. I guess it isn’t shocking that MSNBC employs such an offensive idiot, and even less astonishing that he’s a college professor.

 

Charles Dickens Primary School in Hampshire, England

Luke Blagden is a 10 year old student at the school. He was thirsty. It was a hot day. His teacher wouldn’t allow him to get a frowny-facedrink of water. Why?? Because there were a few of his Muslim classmates who were fasting for Ramadan and “it wouldn’t be fair to them” for Luke to be able to quench his thirst. And yet Christians are the ones who constantly get accused of ramming our beliefs down others’ throats. Hypocrisy at its worst.

 

Rolling Stone           

The 40 year old pop culture magazine put Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of its August issue. I suppofrowny-facese we shouldn’t be shocked. This is the same piece of journalistic garbage that once put Charles Manson on its cover in 1970.

 

Holy Trinity School & The Diocese of San Diego

Carie Charlesworth was a 2nd grade teacher at a private school in San Diego, CA…until she was fired in April following a frowny-faceJanuary incident in which her abusive husband showed up at school and the powers-that-be put the whole place in lockdown. Ms. Charlesworth spoke out about the situation this summer. I understand that the safety of the children is one of the school officials’ primary responsibilities, but it seems very very wrong to blame a person for their spouse’s abusive behavior. And we wonder why an estimated 70% of domestic violence situations go unreported.

 

Ashton Kutcher

I’ve never been a big fan of Kutcher. He always seemed like kind of a dufus and none of the TV shows or movies he’s Thumbs_upstarred in have really frosted my cupcake. However, a few months ago he really impressed the heck out of me and probably a lot of other people when accepting a Teen Choice Award. His speech was thoughtful, genuine, & chockfull of sage advice. He told the youngsters in the audience that “opportunity looks a lot like hard work” and said that he “never had a job in my life that I was better than”. He said that “the sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart, thoughtful, and generous” and that “everything else is crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less so don’t buy it.” Then he wrapped up by relaying something he’d learned from late Steve Jobs which is that “everything around us that we call life was made up by people who are no smarter than you and you can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life. Don’t live one, build one.” It may have been one of the best acceptance speeches any artist has ever given, so kudos to Mr. Kutcher.

 

Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum in Marietta, GA

A few months ago 11 year old Lexi Haas and her family attempted to visit the museum while on vacation. Lexi was denied frowny-faceentrance because her wheelchair might dirty the precious carpet inside the museum. Apparently the facility has its own (I assume squeaky clean) wheelchair that handicapped people are invited to use while visiting. As a person in wheelchair I can confidently say that this is unacceptable. I am NOT going to go thru all the hassle of transferring out of my own very expensive wheelchair that is specially fitted for me just for a bit of entertainment. It’s not worth the aggravation. There are other entertainment options. For anyplace to ask a person to do that is extremely offensive. To their credit Lexi’s family declined to pursue legal action and took the high road of simply exposing the stupidity of the museum.

 

Hunter Mahan

Mahan is a professional golfer who had the lead going into the final round of the Canadian Open in July. However, upon Thumbs_uphearing that his wife had gone into labor with their first child 31 year old Mahan immediately withdrew from the tournament and was present for the birth of his daughter. It’s nice to see a pro athlete with his priorities in order.

 

Temar Boggs & Chris Garcia

These two young men were simply helping a friend move some furniture in Lancaster, PA back in July when they were Thumbs_upinformed by police that a local 5 year old girl had been kidnapped. Boggs & Garcia, age 15, took off on their bicycles to search the neighborhood. Upon spotting the vehicle with the girl & the kidnapper the boys gave chase. The kidnapper became spooked and released the girl, after which Boggs & Garcia took her to the police. I never did hear whether the kidnapper was caught, but the important thing is that the little girl is safe. Good things happen when teenagers put away the video games and go outide.

 

President George Bush

In July the first President Bush…at age 89…shaved his head in support of the 2 year old son of one his Secret Service Thumbs_upagents. The little boy is battling leukemia. It certainly makes one wistfully recall the bygone days when Presidents had class & decency.

 

Marlon Wayans

Have any of the Wayans brothers done anything of note since In Living Color went off the air two decades ago?? Anyway, frowny-facethis irrelevant moron had a bit of a meltdown on Twitter after the Zimmerman verdict was announced in July, tweeting things like “the jury just said ‘fuck niggas’!!! We are officially game, like deer” and “black parents hold your kids at home because apparently killing black children is okay”. Maybe if he could act half as good as he overreacts he’d be a working actor and wouldn’t have so much free time to spend on Twitter.

 

Diana Nyad

On September 2nd Nyad became the first person to ever swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without the protection of aThumbs_up shark cage. I am reminded of the Austrian gentleman who skydived from space last year. There doesn’t seem to be any logical reason why these folks do this kind of stuff rather than get a normal job like you & me except that they’re just wired differently. To that I say kudos because it makes the world a much more interesting place.

 

Miley Cyrus

Come on…you didn’t really think I’d forget about this talentless little tart did you?frowny-face?