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.

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 13

turkeyfootballHappy Thanksgiving Manoverse!! Not only do we get to enjoy tasty vittles like turkey, stuffing, yams, & pumpkin pie today, but we get a heaping helping of football during this long holiday weekend. It’s Rivalry Week in college football, so that’s what we are focusing on. Sadly, because of conference realignment, several old rivalries have gone by the wayside…Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, The Backyard Brawl (WVU vs. Pitt), The Border War (Missouri vs. Kansas). However, many remain and this year some of them actually mean something beyond bragging rights. Speaking of which, neither Zach nor myself can brag about last week’s picks, which resulted in me going 3-2 and him trailing at 2-3. I’m still befuddled by what has happened to the Green Bay Packers. At any rate, enjoy food, family, & football, and may God bless each & every one of y’all.

My Season:        34-37

Z’s Season:        26-45

 

 

 

 

 

LSU (-5)              at      Texas A&M

Another rivalry that has disappeared from the schedule is Texas vs. Texas A&M, which not only was played annually from 1915-2011, but was a centerpiece of the plotlsugiving for the 1982 classic musical comedy film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. However, I suppose that LSU is an acceptable substitute opponent for the Aggies. The Bayou Bengals are 6-4 in the midst of a roller coaster season, while A&M has fallen to 8-3 after getting thru the first six weeks of the season unscathed. Losing quarterback Trevor Knight to a shoulder injury hasn’t helped. I’d love to pick the upset because A&M does have the home field advantage, but I just don’t have much faith in their backup QB. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

Washington (-6)                   at      Washington St.

The Huskies are still technically on the outside looking in at the playoff, but for reasons that we’ll get to soon they have to feel pretty confident about their chances of washington2ultimately sneaking in. Winning this game in impressive fashion would certainly help. The 8-3 Cougars aren’t going to be an easy out on their home field, but given what’s at stake I’d be shocked to see Washington stumble. Zach isn’t sold on Washington’s playoff resume, but agrees they should win this game.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

Auburn               at      Alabama (-17)

tideturkeyI wish I could get excited about The Iron Bowl. It has produced some lasting memories over the years. However, ‘Bama has been so dominant auburnturkeythis season that I just can’t fathom them losing this game on their home field. Not only that, but I’d be surprised if it is even close. Zach is an optimist, and though he doesn’t believe there will be an outright upset, he thinks it’ll actually be a watchable & competitive game. To be honest I hope he’s right.

My Pick:     Alabama

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

Michigan St.      at      Penn St. (-13)

Penn_State_logo111111The Nittany Lions have clawed their way back to relevance after…issues…that we shall not revisit. Due to upsetting Ohio St. about a month michstago Penn St. would actually sneak into the Big Ten title game with a victory. Meanwhile, the Spartans have had a terrible year. There’s really nothing else one can say. I’d be very surprised if Penn St. blows this opportunity, especially in the cozy confines of Happy Valley. Once again Zach isn’t predicting an upset but he’s a bit uncomfortable with the points.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Utah                    at      Colorado (-10.5)

Many people may have missed the fact that Colorado moved to the Pac 12 back in 2011. Now they have an opportunity to play in the conference title game (against theutah2 winner of Washington/Washington St.), but they must win this game or else they lose a tiebreaker against USC, who defeated the Buffaloes back in early October. Meanwhile, the Utes come into this game with nothing to gain or lose except pride & bowl position after a stunning loss to 4-7 Oregon last week. A few things are in play here. First of all, I’m not comfortable with the spread. Secondly, I think it is entirely possible that one team in this game is overrated while the other is underrated. I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide which is which. Also, though I’m NOT a conspiracy theorist let’s face it…who would the powers-that-be rather have in the Pac 12 title game…Colorado or USC?? I think that answer is obvious. And finally, Utah’s loss last week isn’t a good think…for Colorado. Do they want to end their season with two losses?? I don’t think so. We’re on the same wavelength here, as Zach IS predicting the upset in this one.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Utah

 

 

Florida                at      Florida St. (-6.5)

Florida_State_SeminolesThe Gators have already secured their spot in the SEC title game, where they will be beaten handily by Alabama. Conversely, the Seminoles florida gators imagearen’t getting anywhere near the ACC title game unless they buy tickets. However, of all these rivalry games this one is near the top of the list as far as records or even the home field being almost meaningless. I feel a disturbance in The Force here. One team has already achieved their goal, the other has nothing to lose. Zach likes the Gators’ defense to get the job done.

My Pick:     Florida St.

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

Michigan            at      Ohio St. (-6.5)

Ohio_State_BuckeyesIt’s nice to have this game matter once again. Really cool. Now stick with me here…this might get confusing. If the Wolverines win they will play michigan-wolverines-fan-gearin the conference title game against either Nebraska or Wisconsin (Wisconsin holds that tiebreaker). If Ohio St. wins and Penn St. wins then neither the Wolverines nor the Buckeyes make it to the title game…it’ll be Penn St. vs. Nebraska or Wisconsin. If Ohio St. wins this game but Penn St. loses it’ll be the Buckeyes facing off against Nebraska or Wisconsin. And oh…by the way…all of these teams are still in the conversation for the playoff regardless of what happens here, although one would have to believe that the loser will be out of luck. I’ve said all along that Harbaugh was ahead of schedule, that I didn’t expect him to have Michigan in the national championship picture quite yet. This game is being played in Columbus, which is huge. I love the fact that they are sticking to the traditional noon kickoff despite it being undeniably the biggest game of the week and an obvious choice for the prime time spotlight. It’s the little things, right?? Predictably Zach is picking his favorite team. Heck, even Stevie Wonder could’ve seen that coming.

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Michigan

Superfluous 7 Best Thanksgiving Pop Culture Traditions

20071121-first-thanksgivingChristmas gets all the really cool stuff…carols, movies, animated specials, Santa Claus. But there are a few pop culture contributions to Thanksgiving, and I’m not even talking about food. Thanksgiving’s origins were actually just as faith-based as Christmas & Easter, but not directly tied to any particular event like the birth or resurrection of Christ. Multiple days of Thanksgiving were occasionally proclaimed by whatever authority figure might be ostensibly in charge of an area to thank God for His favor & bountiful harvest. That’s neither here nor there though, because our purpose today is not to dive into the debatable history of the holiday. Maybe some other time. Over the years much of the spiritual gravitas has been eroded, replaced by the simple yet universal desire to appreciate the blessings of family & food. Along with that other modest rockwell-thanksgivingtraditions have blossomed, mostly frivolous fun but not completely without meaning. We take comfort in tradition, in events that happen each year like clockwork no matter what kind of madness might surround us. I’d be thrilled to see folks get back to the more pious roots of Thanksgiving, and we can each do that on an individual basis. However I do admittedly enjoy some of the more lighthearted peripherals associated with the holiday. It is in that spirit that I present…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Pilgrim, MI…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Best Thanksgiving Pop Culture Traditions:

 

 

 

 

 

7       Home for the Holidays

Why are families in holiday movies always so unhappy & dysfunctional?? I’m not sure it is always what I would consider funny, but it’s usually entertaining in a hhhprofessional wrestling kind of way. This 1995 offering serves us an all-star cast including Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, & Clare Danes. Hunter stars as a recently downsized art restoration specialist going home to spend Thanksgiving with her peculiar family, including a stodgy sister & brother-in-law, a gay brother, & crazy parents. Did you know that the actress who portrays the weird aunt is the daughter of Charlie Chaplin?? To be honest more kudos should be given to the casting director than anyone else involved with the film, and cocaine probably deserves a tip of the cap for Downey’s frenzied performance. I’m not sure Home for the Holidays is particularly remarkable in the grand cinematic universe or even amongst holiday fare, but it’s entertaining enough.

 

 

6       Miracle on 34th St.

I struggled a bit with this choice because it’s a Christmas movie and our present mission is all about Thanksgiving. I’ve said for years that Thanksgiving is almost 34treated dismissively, like a pit stop on the way to something bigger & better. However, the link between the two holidays and the fact that they bookend a month long celebratory season cannot be denied. This 1947 classic in which Santa Claus is “put on trial” opens with a unique look at a certain annual parade that just so happens to take place on Thanksgiving Day. For that reason it is often the first Christmas movie I watch. A couple of things should be noted. First of all there are two versions of the original movie…the black & white edition and a hideously colorized copy. Y’all can do whatever makes you happy, but when I see the colorized film on TV I just keep channel surfing. What can I say…I’m a traditionalist. Also, a remake was made in 1994 starring the lovely Elizabeth Perkins and I have nothing bad to say about it except that it’s a remake. Watch them both if you like, but definitely do not overlook the original in lieu of its modernized rehash. One is a perfectly tasty hamburger, while the other is flawless filet mignon.

 

 

5       A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

It’s probably third on the list of beloved Peanuts animated specials, but that’s okay. Originally aired back in 1973, the story follows Charlie Brown & Snoopy as they charlie-brown-thanksgiving-2015_0prepare a Thanksgiving “feast” that they’ve been roped into hosting by Peppermint Patty and her “friend” Marcy. The dinner hilariously consists of popcorn, toast, pretzels, jelly beans, & ice cream sundaes, which sounds like a meal I might have consumed after a few late nights back in college. All’s well that ends well though, as all the kids end up hopping in the ol’ Brown family station wagon and heading to Grandma’s house for an actual meal. I am always intrigued by the complete lack of adults in the Peanuts world. They are there, but we never see them.

 

 

4       Turkeys Away!!

Practically every television program ever produced has aired Thanksgiving themed episodes, but very few are memorable beyond its initial airing or stand out in the wkrpcanon of the show itself. This is an exception. I have opined previously that WKRP in Cincinnati is an underrated show, but among its four seasons one episode has stood the test of time. Originally aired on October 30th, 1978, Turkeys Away was only the 7th episode of Season 1. That’s like hitting your life’s peak in grade school!! The story follows station manager Mr. Carlson’s idea for the greatest Thanksgiving radio promotion of all time. The entire cast is fantastic, but special recognition must go to Richard Sanders as austere yet clueless news anchor Les Nessman. To my knowledge Sanders was never even nominated for an Emmy, which is criminal. If you are so inclined the show is easily found online, or if you have a streaming device on your TV it is available there as well.

 

 

3       Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

There are very few Thanksgiving films out there, but even if there were alot more I have to believe this would still be the best. John Candy & Steve Martin are a match made in 101117-planes-trains-automobiles-1p.grid-4x2cinematic heaven, carrying what is essentially the kind of buddy/road trip flick that has been done many times over (The Blues Brothers, Rain Man, Dumb & Dumber, Tommy Boy, Sideways, The Hangover) to a higher level. It doesn’t hurt that the film was written, produced, & directed by the incomparable John Hughes. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles subtly & hilariously makes the point that, unlike other holidays when we may get caught up in…stuff…like presents, chocolate, roses, fireworks, or parties, the primary goal for most of us on Thanksgiving is to be somewhere we consider home, amongst family & friends.

 

 

2       NFL Football

Pro football has been played on Thanksgiving since the sport’s earliest days in the late 19th century. The first Thanksgiving football game took place in Philadelphia on lionsThanksgiving Day of 1869, only a couple of weeks after Rutgers beat Princeton in what most still say was the first American football game and only six years after President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday in 1863. The Detroit Lions have hosted a game each season since 1934, and the Dallas Cowboys began their own tradition in 1966. In the past decade a third game has been added to the mix since Thursday night football became a regular part of the NFL schedule. College football is part of the Thanksgiving recipe, but since conference realignment has eliminated some of the best rivalries the impact has been reduced, and regardless of that fact the really big games are usually saved for Saturday. Sure it’s still Thanksgiving Weekend…but it’s NOT Thanksgiving.

 

 

1       Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy’s Department Store was founded in 1843 by a Massachusetts Quaker. A couple of decades later he relocated the store to New York City. A century & a half later, macys3thru mergers, bankruptcies, buyouts, & all the other maneuverings that occur in corporate America Macy’s has nearly 800 stores, but the New York City location has stood tall as the largest department store in the world, taking up over 1 million square feet of space and an entire NY City block. Macy’s acquired a Newark, NJ store called Bamberger’s in 1924 and decided to move its Thanksgiving parade to The Big Apple. The parade’s origins are said to have come from store employees, many of whom were immigrants that wanted to celebrate their new home country, and what’s more uniquely American than Thanksgiving?? Of course it doesn’t take a genius to see the connection between a retail establishment and the kickoff of the big Christmas shopping season as well, which is why this Thanksgiving tradition always ends with the appearance of Santa Claus. The parade was first broadcast on national television by CBS in 1948, although it had been on local TV a few times before that. NBC has shown the parade annually since 1952. From the huge cartoon character balloons (Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Superman, Woody Woodpecker) to the marching bands to the badly lipsynched songs by whatever pop artists are in vogue that year it’s all very old-fashioned & kind of peculiar, but in a good way. Parades are a unique slice of Americana, and this is the biggest parade on perhaps our most singular holiday.

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.

An Ode to The Ghost of Thanksgivings Past

Thanksgiving…one of our most underrated holidays…is in a couple of days. I am looking forward to a pleasant afternoon with family, food, & a little football. I’ll probably watch the Macy’s Parade in the morning and then watch the 1987 classic Planes, Trains, & Automobiles later in the evening. It will be a lovely day…certainly not a bad way to spend one’s time. But it can never be like it once was.

 

My friend The Owl and I have talked a few times about transitions. There is a progression…one that we define as normal…throughout life. A person grows from a tg1baby to a child to a teenager to an adult. Everyone advances from one grade in school to another until graduation, then maybe they go to college, and then finally enter the workforce. Many move away from their hometown to a different city…maybe even another state or country. And most folks get married and have children. Now I do not need or want any kind of sympathy…that’s not what this is about. But since I have not gotten married or fathered children the significance of these transitions has become clearer to me. It makes a lot of sense really. Having children and then eventually grandchildren allows people to see things thru new eyes and re-experience fond memories with a slightly different twist. Not having the prism of new generations to look thru means that individuals like myself only have our memories. It means that things change but they don’t really evolve. It is what it is and that’s fine, but I can’t help but fondly recall the Thanksgivings of my childhood………..

 

My maternal grandmother…Grandma Pigott…lived in town about 20 minutes from our house. She didn’t drive so my Mom or Dad would pick her up (I did the honors a few times when I was older) and bring her to our house the day before and she’d spend the night. She & my mother got up really early on Thanksgiving Day…about 5 or 6am…and put the turkey in the oven. Then they began fixing all the other accoutrements…sweet potatoes, rolls, green beans, corn, extra stuffing besides what was in the turkey, and of course pumpkin pie. By the time I woke up around 8 or 9am the whole house smelled awesome. You know what a house smells like on Thanksgiving. One never forgets that unique scent.

 

macys-paradeDuring my formative years in the 1970’s & 80’s our entertainment options were pretty limited…atleast by today’s macys2standards. Television didn’t have 300 channels. Video games didn’t become popular until I was almost a teenager and I never really got into gaming anyway. We didn’t have The Internet or smartphones. So I am not ashamed to admit that I looked forward to watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Back then I seem to recall that it was hosted by people like Ed McMahon, Bryant Gumbel, & Willard Scott. I always liked ol’ Willard. At any rate, as I got older I began to comprehend how corny the parade really is, and remember being shocked & disappointed when I realized that those people weren’t really singing…they were lip synching!! The horror!!!! But I never stopped watching. I still enjoy watching, although now it’s kind of a nostalgia thing because no matter what kind of new characters they make balloons out of or how many young pop stars are trotted out to make the show seem hip the truth is that it is essentially the same parade it’s always been and that’s just fine with me.

 

I don’t recall what my father or sister were doing while I was watching the parade. My Dad was probably outside doing something manly. My sister was never the domestic type…especially as a teenager…so, while many girls might have been in the kitchen helping Mom & Grandma prepare the feast, I think she stayed holed up in her room being anti-social. Don’t worry though…she became friendlier as an adult. Actually I was more likely to be in the kitchen asking if I could help. If I was as interested in such things now as I was 35 years ago I’d make someone a heck of a husband.

 

The parade always ended at noon (still does) and in our house that meant dinner wasn’t too far away. We normally ate supper about 5 or 6pm on most evenings, but cpon Thanksgiving Day the meal was ready by 1 or 2pm. Not long after the parade was over my paternal grandparents…Papaw & Mamaw Mano…would arrive. They lived “up the holler” just a couple of miles from us. Now I don’t recall if they brought anything else (they probably did), but one thing I do know for sure…Grandma Mano always made chocolate cream pie, and she made it from scratch…even the crust. To this day I have never eaten a pie as good, and I doubt that I ever will.

 

fturkBy this time football was on. There were always two games back then. The Dallas Cowboys played in one and the Detroit Lions played in the other. Their opponents varied from year to year. I am certainly not a Cowboys fan, and at that time I’m pretty sure no one outside of the Motor City gave a darn about the Lions, but it was football and one doesn’t pass up an opportunity to watch football. NBC aired AFC games and the pre-game show was hosted by Bryant Gumbel before he left for the Today Show, as well as folks like Bob Costas, Len Berman, Paul Maguire, Ahmad Rashad, & a few others, while the games were called by legends like Dick Enberg, Don Criqui, Bob Trumpy, Marv Albert, & Merlin Olsen. CBS aired NFC games and their pre-game show had Brent Musburger, Irv Cross, the lovely Phyllis George, & Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, with games being called by…well, I’m sure there were several announcers but the team I remember best is Pat Summerall & John Madden. At any rate, the games themselves were rarely memorable and unless the Steelers were playing I didn’t really care one way or another, but football was & is an undeniable part of the Thanksgiving tradition.

 

I never really got to watch much of the early football game because soon enough dinner was ready. My mother and grandmothers would do the last minute preparations and my sister & I were sometimes recruited to “set the table”, i.e. put out all the plates, bowls, glasses, & silverware. Our kitchen table wasn’t quite big enough for 7 people, but that was easily handled by my father inserting a “leaf”, the one & only time during the year this was necessary.

 

We never made a big deal out of the head of the family theatrically wielding a large knife and carving the turkey while giving some kind of grandiose speech. I think thanksgiving-dinner_1that only happens on TV & in movies. Usually Mom or my grandmother would just cut it into pieces before it ever made it to the table. We had mashed potatoes & gravy (both of my grandmothers made awesome gravy), green beans (not that casserole stuff with crunchy onions), corn, rolls, traditional stuffing, & iced tea. I was never a fan of sweet potatoes as a kid and usually passed on them, although now I really like sweet potatoes. I believe we oftentimes had deviled eggs as well. I don’t recall cranberry sauce being a central part of our meal. It could be that no one made it or it is possible that it is something at which I turned up my nose and blocked out of my memory. I’m still not a fan of cranberry sauce, mostly because I’m not sure why it’s there or how one is supposed to consume it. Am I supposed to eat it with a spoon?? Do I spread it on my roll like jam?? Is one supposed to dip turkey in it?? I honestly have no idea.

 

After saying grace we engaged in polite conversation during the meal, but there was a lot of “pass the rolls please”, “may I have some more potatoes”, “I need some more tea”, & “Mom this stuffing is really good”. What can I say…we had our priorities straight and the focus was on the awesome meal in front of our faces. I usually ate like a pig, not giving a second thought to children in Third World countries who probably hadn’t eaten as much in a month as I was scarfing down in one sitting. That’s the beauty of childhood…complete self-involvement without a care of what is happening outside one’s own little bubble. After dinner the turkey looked like it had been car bombed by the mafia and I was ready for dessert. Two pieces of pie for this kid…pumpkin & chocolate, both smothered in Cool Whip (not that crap in a spray can).

 

familyThe post-dinner festivities were in our living room. I usually tried to watch some football, and I think my Dad and grandfather may have taken a little nap (damn tryptophan) while the ladies were in the kitchen cleaning up and doing dishes. Old-fashioned?? Unevolved?? Misogynistic?? Ehhh…I suppose some people may have that opinion, but it was the way it was. At some point the cleanup was over and we all sat together in the living room…me, my parents, my sister, & my grandparents. That’s what I remember most of all. It’s the memory that makes me happiest & saddest at the same time. I can always eat. I’ve never not had access to food. But those seven people will never be in a room together again. I’ve mentioned this once before in this space:

 

“After dinner we’d all sit in the living room and shoot the breeze, just enjoying each other’s company. As a child I would mostly just sit there and listen as the adults talked about a variety of things. Families have a certain…rhythm…whenever they talk amongst themselves. A stranger coming into the midst of the conversation probably wouldn’t give a rat’s petoot about the topics being tossed about to & fro, but if you’re in the inner circle you get it. Even kids, who probably don’t understand most of what is being said, have a comfort level with the group. It’s like a cold winter night that all the sudden becomes cozy once one slips under the warmth of a soft blanket.”

 

My mother passed on 14 years ago. All of my grandparents are gone. I wish that I had an hour long video of that post-meal conversation that I could just play over & over.

 

At some point…probably about 6 or 7pm…my paternal grandparents would go home. I would eat another piece or two of pie, this time accompanied by a tall glasspumpkin-pie-21 of cold milk, during the evening. There weren’t any other football games and the tradition of playing Christmas movies on television hadn’t started yet (remember…we didn’t have that many channels). We definitely didn’t go shopping and weren’t preparing to do that the next day. I don’t ever remember Black Friday even being a thing when I was a child. So we just relaxed and enjoyed our evening. What a concept, huh??

 

Thanksgiving was over but there was one last memory to create in the coming days. Even though the turkey had seemingly been destroyed there somehow were leftovers, and one thing we did with leftover turkey was make turkey salad. It seems to me that the task usually fell to Grandma Pigott, and she didn’t have any modern gadgets…no Magic Bullet, no Ninja, no Cuisinart, no Ultimate Chopper. What she had, and all she needed, was a big ol’ knife and a hand cranked meat grinder. It took some effort (I helped her a few times when I was a little older) but you know what…that turkey salad was spectacular and nothing one can purchase at the grocery store nowadays even comes close. She would make ham salad the same way after Christmas and it was equally as tasty.

 

Ahhhh those were the days. They may be gone but not forgotten. I’m thankful for the memories, thankful for my family, and thankful that I have the opportunity to forge ahead and enjoy more good times even if they’ll have a difficult time measuring up. May God bless The Manoverse this Thanksgiving.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 5.14

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

*

With Christmas Creep becoming ever so pervasive and Black Friday beginning earlier & earlier I want to take a moment to give kudos to some Thumbs_upestablishments who will NOT be open on Thanksgiving: Costco, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Marshalls, Pier 1 Imports, Burlington Coat Factory, Crate & Barrel, JoAnn Fabrics, TJ Maxx, Barnes & Noble, Sam’s Club, & Home Depot. I have no problem with restaurants being open on Thanksgiving because not everyone has somewhere to go and a family with which to celebrate with the traditional meal. However, I don’t think that retail shops should be open on the holiday.

 

 

 
jesusI get really tired of people yapping about Christians “ramming their beliefs down others’ throats”. Really?? Cite some examples. I suspect that most anything that would be used to illustrate the point would simply fall under the category of expressing opinions or stating principles, which last I checked was called free speech and not ramming anything anywhere. You don’t want to go to church?? Fine. You don’t even believe in God?? Okay. There will be some Christians who might want to discuss your views and try to show you the light, but again that is hardly forcing anyone to do anything against their will. Believe or don’t believe. Listen or don’t listen. It is your choice. What is really interesting is that the people who hurl these accusations at Christians are the very same folks who have spent the past few decades twisting themselves into knots trying to reshape America and shoving their beliefs…specifically about deviant LGBT lifestyles and abortion…down the throats of the populace under the seemingly hospitable guise of openmindedness, awareness, inclusiveness, multiculturalism, fairness, justice, & equality. And it has worked masterfully. They have skillfully created an environment in which Christians simply expressing Godly values is seen as hatred. Look at our nation in the 21st century vs. just 30 or 40 years ago. If this “fight” were scored like a boxing match in which points were awarded for legal reform and socio-cultural change it is the anti-Christians who would clearly be winning a unanimous decision. So tell me again…just who is shoving their beliefs down whose throats??

 

 

 
RIP Dallas. I loved the original show and was excited when TNT decided to air a reboot “next generation” series in 2012. I watched the first two jrseasons, with the second one including the death of JR Ewing (after the real life death of actor Larry Hagman) and its aftermath. However I admittedly didn’t watch one minute of season 3, and apparently a lot of other folks skipped it as well, hence its cancellation. It was a good long run encompassing a big part of the past 35 years. Everyone involved ought to be proud of the show’s legacy.

 

 

 
mansonCan we please stage an intervention for this woman who is planning to marry Charles Manson?? Obviously she has a screw lose, but she’s only 29 years old. There’s still time for her to get whatever help she needs and resume a normal life. But if she goes thru with it she’ll always be the crazy chick that married Charles Manson. Maybe that’s what it’s all about. We live in a celebrity obsessed culture where talentless people are often rewarded with a certain level of recognition by doing nothing in particular requiring any kind of skill. As a rather private person who prefers to fly under the radar I can’t relate to this desire for fame and sincerely believe we ought to stop indulging people. Getting rid of mindless “reality” TV would be a great place to start, as would denying this woman the opportunity to marry a man she barely knows, can’t possibly love, and with whom she can’t ever have a legitimate relationship.

 

 

 
I’ve been doing my best to stay away from political discussions this year, but I have to offer one opinion. If it were up to me the incoming Republican gopCongress would not have Rep. John Boehner & Sen. Mitch McConnell as their leaders. Been there done that. It’s time for new blood. Of course this won’t happen and the Republicans will destroy themselves from within as usual…just in time for 2016. I hope I’m wrong but I bet I’m not.

 

 

 
I ran across the following thread on Facebook recently:

*
Original Post: When I see men post pictures with girls and I rejected them because they were perverted assholes who just wanted a hookup. I think to myself well there is a woman with low self-esteem who will have sex with anyone. Good for him.
Girl #1: Men r dogs
OP: Not all but the majority.
Girl #1: Like 80%
OP: I’m just happy they find what they are looking for.
OP: More like 95%
Girl #1: Most of them are not happy with themselves.
OP: Watch the YouTube video I posted last night. It is heartbreaking and shows men’s true character. Its call Bankok Girl.
OP: Men have way lower self-esteem than women and they are lazy.
Girl #1: True
OP: That’s why they like to humiliate and control women and call it dominance because they know they are not as superior as women.

*
crazyWow…bitter much?? First of all, to equate prostitution in Taiwan with all men everywhere is idiotic. I don’t know Girl #1 but I do kinda sorta know the original poster a little bit and she has some legit reasons to be somewhat cynical. That being said, this level of resentment & scorn is disturbing. Yes men can be selfish. We can be juvenile horndogs. Too often we are motivated by the wrong things. But really ladies…is it that bad?? Are men truly that horrific?? And let’s talk about women. Y’all ain’t exactly perfect. The Bible says to take care of the plank in your own eye before judging the speck in another person’s eye. Look, I know women like to get together and whine & complain about men. Guys hang out and talk about women as well. That’s being human. But people should be very careful about what they put out there for public consumption. Both of the women involved in this conversation are…physically…quite lovely. I know the original poster is single…I’m not sure about her friend. But I wouldn’t date either one of them because as pretty as they might be on the outside their souls are ugly & damaged. Most of us have enough problems without becoming involved with a person who might secretly hate us and thinks we are lazy dogs with low self-esteem who enjoy humiliating & controlling others. I’d prefer to remain single.

 

 

 
An historic event has taken place at The Bachelor Palace. I am not a fan of bright overhead light, so when darkness falls across the land I have some bulblamps in my living room that I turn on each evening. A couple of them have those funky looking decorative bulbs, but the others use normal 60 watt incandescent bulbs. It is my understanding that environmentalist wackos have been successful in having incandescent bulbs go the way of 8 tracks, VCRs, floppy disks, & freedom of religion. I just had my last incandescent light bulb burn out, so unless I am mistaken the next time I go shopping I suppose I’ll have to purchase some of those ugly fluorescent things that I’ve been told don’t put out nearly as much light. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate change??

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, & The Christmas Creep

Happy Holidays citizens of The Manoverse!! Alas, today I come not to praise our most wonderful time of the year, but to express a bit of frustration.

 

Yesterday we celebrated that most American of holidays…Thanksgiving. We’ll look at the holiday itself a little closer this time next year because I am currently reading a delightful book about its history, but I just ran out of time to finish it before the big day itself came & went. However, for now let me just say that I feel bad for Thanksgiving. It really has begun to get lost in the shuffle the past decade or so. We don’t appreciate Thanksgiving on its own merits anymore. Instead we look at it merely as the kickoff to the Christmas season. If Christmas is the Super Bowl then Thanksgiving is the pre-game show to which people don’t bother giving their full attention. There was a time, believe it or not, in colonial America that Thanksgiving was the main event and Christmas wasn’t even commemorated. Thanksgiving was a celebration that lasted for several days in reverence to God and the blessings that He had seen fit to bestow. Somehow we’ve gone from that deeply spiritual sense of appreciation to treating Thanksgiving like a Nascar pit stop where we take just a few minutes out of our busy schedule to stuff our faces with turkey, stuffing, & pie and maybe watch a football game before rushing to the mall for some retail therapy. All we care about is that we have a paid day off from the job we hate and get a free pass on our diet for the day. Those things aren’t necessarily bad (because really…who doesn’t enjoy a day off & a big hunk o’ pie??), but they should be secondary benefits, not the main focus of our gratitude.

 

Things have gotten progressively crazier over the past decade with the growth of a phenomenon called Black Friday. The term itself was coined back in the 60’s or 70’s, and interestingly was originally an environmentalist wacko reference. It alluded to the increased traffic that clogs up the streets (and pollutes the air) on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Eventually it evolved to mean the day when retailers go “in the black”, i.e. when their year becomes profitable. Black Friday has long been lauded as the busiest shopping day of the year, but I have my doubts as to whether or not that is always the case. Logic dictates that “the busiest shopping day of the year” would be a moving target, changing annually based on a plethora of circumstances. At any rate, when I was a kid, if memory serves me correctly, there were always the occasional “midnight madness” sales, but the whole thing wasn’t this huge nationwide event. In the past several years the idea has blown up and taken on a life of its own. At first stores would open up at 5 or 6 in the morning. Then it became 3am. Eventually it became the norm for most places to begin the insanity at midnight. And now, in 2012, establishments like Target & K-Mart actually opened up on the evening of Thanksgiving. So Black Friday actually began on Thursday. I grew up in an era when blue laws were still in effect. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that malls and other outlets began opening up on Sunday, so it is hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of anything other than essential services like hospitals & police departments being open for business on a major holiday.

 

Society has been lamenting the commercialization of Christmas for decades. It is even referenced by a character in the classic 1947 holiday film Miracle on 34th Street. And it just keeps getting more appalling every year. Thanksgiving and Christmas used to be their own distinguishable holidays. Then they became connected when the former began being marketed as the official kickoff of the latter. All the sudden instead of two distinct days on the calendar we had an entire, month long holiday season. Personally I’ve never had a huge issue with that because, as I have written here abundantly I love everything about the holidays. I love the lights. I love the movies. I love the food. I love the music. I believe it is alright to enjoy the peripheral accoutrements associated with Christmas as long as we always maintain our focus on the true reason for the season, which is of course the birth of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. However, I am a bit disturbed at the direction things have taken in recent years.

 

First of all I am not at all convinced that there is much of a focus on The Lord anymore. Did you know that in the early days of our nation folks used to spend nearly the entire Thanksgiving Day in church?? Of course this isn’t just a holiday problem…it’s a year round issue. It has become quite popular to hate God in America these days. We’ve pushed Him out of nearly every facet of public life and really don’t heed His words much in our personal lives. That is a much bigger topic than I want to go into at the moment, but suffice to say that the whole purpose of Thanksgiving & Christmas is quickly becoming entirely lost in our modern society.

 

Secondly, as much as I love all the ancillary trappings of the holiday season I do think there should be limits. Things have progressed (or regressed, depending on one’s perspective) to the point that stores begin selling Christmas related items, radio stations start playing carols, television airs holiday films, and people decorate their homes as early as October. We definitely gloss over Thanksgiving, and oftentimes begin “celebrating” Christmas even before Halloween!! I do NOT like walking into WalMart or any other retailer and seeing a Christmas tree in October. #22 of my 35 Undeniable Truths of Life is that “It’s always about the money. Always.”, and there is no denying that the Christmas Creep is driven by greed. Look, I get it. I understand that there is very little profit to be made from Thanksgiving outside of turkey & the other various foodstuffs involved and that Christmas has become a huge cottage industry that can make or break the bottom line for a lot of businesses. But I also feel like there are other forces at work.

 

I believe that we are a very unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied society. Political correctness & hatred of God have become inescapably pervasive. One has to be careful about words spoken and actions taken because everyone is so easily offended. The economy is bad and jobs are scarce or inadequate. We try many things to fill the void…alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, mindless entertainment. So when Christmas rolls around we have developed a habit of jumping the gun. We decorate the house a few weeks sooner, look forward to shopping for our loved ones, and don’t seem to mind the music & movies being played in October. Christmas makes us happy, and we are desperately seeking happiness. I suppose that’s not such a bad thing, but I still think we should tread lightly. It’s human to want what we cannot have. What the Christmas industry has done (and I can’t honestly blame them) is give us what we want. They understand that Rudolph, twinkle lights, wrapping paper, and Bing Crosby put a smile on our face. Christmas is a drug and Best Buy, WalMart, Sears, and all the rest are dealers. The problem with getting high is the inevitable low, which in the case of Christmas Creep is the backlash and desensitization to the magical wonder that is Christmas.

 

It is ironic that this is the time of year when one frequently hears the old maxim that “good things come in small packages”, yet we have taken what was once a couple of very lovely days on the calendar and made them into a stretch of time that lasts more than a quarter of our year. I do not leave the comfort of The Bachelor Palace on Black Friday for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that a day that involves a sea of humanity isn’t comfortable for a guy who has grown increasingly exasperated by human beings. To paraphrase Popeye’s pal Wimpy, I’ll gladly pay extra next week for an item that you got today for an awesome discount. I sincerely enjoyed my Thanksgiving, and do my best to appreciate the blessings that God has given me. I had a great meal and enjoyed a lovely day with family. I will embrace the Christmas season with my usual verve & childlike delight. But above all else I will continue to give thanks to God, who gave his only begotten Son so that I could have the opportunity to enjoy eternal life. There is nothing wrong with giving (and receiving) gifts, company parties, hoping Ralphie doesn’t shoot his eye out, or roasting chestnuts on an open fire. I just don’t want to wake up one day and end up doing those things in the summer.

 

 

 

2012 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 12

The football fun starts early this week, with several college & pro games taking place on Thanksgiving & Black Friday. I knew this but still somehow managed to procrastinate until the last minute. Let me seize the opportunity to wish all the citizens of The Manoverse a healthy & happy Thanksgiving filled with family, food, and faith. I’m going to keep it pretty short & sweet today because I have a dinner to go to!! There’s some stuffing & pie with my name on it just waiting to be savored. God bless & enjoy.

 

 

 

Washington       at      Dallas (-3)

Cowboys versus Indians on Thanksgiving. I think we all know how this story goes. The Redskins are a team on the rise while the Cowboys are a dysfunctional joke, but in this one game they’ll get the job done.

 

 

Houston (-3)      at      Detroit

I’m stunned that the Texans are only favored by three points. Yes the Lions have the home field advantage, and they are used to the short week & playing on Thanksgiving. But Houston is clearly the better team and should win easily.

 

 

New England (-7) at   NY Jets

The oddsmakers either know something we don’t or were feeling really generous this week. I suppose a 7 point spread is considered rather large in the NFL, and of course the Jets have the home field. But again, the Patriots are far & away the better team. It makes me cringe to pick New England to win anything, but I just call ‘em as I see ‘em.

 

 

Michigan            at      Ohio St. (-3.5)

The Buckeyes are undefeated, but since they are on probation & ineligible for post-season play this is their bowl game. Michigan is still in the hunt for a possible Big Ten title so they have something to play for. I think home field means a lot more in college than the NFL, so normally I’d be easily persuaded to go with Ohio St., but those pesky (and notoriously inaccurate) vibes are speaking to me. You’d think I would have learned to ignore them by now. Anyway, call it karma, call it justice, call it whatever you want, but a team that has something to play for deserves a victory over a program that cheated & lied, no matter how silly the cheating may have been. Go Wolverines!!

 

 

Florida                at      Florida St. (-7.5)

Even with the home field I am a bit surprised that the Seminoles are getting so much respect from the folks in Vegas. It’s not that Florida St. is bad…that’s not what I mean. It’s more that the Gators are that good, not to mention several spots higher in the polls. Also, this is a rivalry game which means the records don’t mean much. I do think Florida St. gets the upset (if one goes by the rankings), but I foresee a much closer contest. The Gators lose but not by 7 1/2 points.

 

 

Seattle  (-3)        at      Miami

Both the Seahawks and the Dolphins have been much better teams than most anticipated thus far. Sure Miami is only 4-6, but 4 of those losses have been by a total of 14 points, two of them in overtime. They’ve only been dominated twice. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are battling for a possible playoff appearance and are actually still in contention for a division crown. Both clubs have been inconsistent and difficult to figure out, so I just have to go with my vibes on this one and they are leaning toward Miami.

 

 

Atlanta (-1)                   at      Tampa Bay

Until a couple of weeks ago the Falcons were undefeated and making me look like a complete idiot since back in September I predicted they’d go 7-9. I had the same exact negative prediction for the Bucs and they too are proving me wrong by being in the thick of the wild card race. This could be one of the better games on the schedule this weekend, and even the oddsmakers see it as essentially a toss-up. Atlanta is probably the better team, but I’m going with Tampa to get the upset.

 

 

 

 

 

Superfluous 7 – Things I Am Thankful For

I briefly pondered the idea of doing a heartfelt, introspective, profound piece on the history and meaning of Thanksgiving and all the blessings in my life. However, at the moment I am just not feeling the inclination to dive that deep. Anyone who knows me or has read The Manofesto should know that I am not the type of person who takes things for granted. My faith journey has not always been smooth, but I feel like I have drawn closer to God in the last couple of years and continue to experience growth in that aspect of my life. At the same time, if I am being honest, there are things that still drag me down. My Dad has always said that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely, and I feel like I cross the threshold into loneliness all too often these days. I am human, so I do sometimes envy the perceived happiness and success of others. For some reason this has been a bigger issue in 2010 than I can ever remember. I try to get past it, and I understand that there is some reason, some lesson that I am supposed to be learning. At any rate, the following list may seem a bit superficial on some level, and I am approaching it from a fun & lighthearted perspective, but these are things that I truly am thankful that I have in my life. So, as I wish everyone out there in cyberspace a Happy Thanksgiving, please enjoy…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Things I Am Thankful For:

 

 

 

7 Football

And I don’t just mean the football that is played on Thanksgiving. After all, those games always include the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys, and who in their right mind would consider that a blessing?? No, I am talking about the entirety of the college and NFL football seasons. I am specifically a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Marshall Thundering Herd, and West Virginia Mountaineers, but I can watch just about any football game. Whereas baseball is a little too slow paced & plodding and the season far too long, and basketball only gets really interesting when the post-season draws near, football is engaging from the pre-game show until the final zero ticks off the clock and the season is the perfect length. And I find that with baseball I am not the least bit interested unless my Pittsburgh Pirates are playing while I have never really had a favorite NBA team, yet I don’t care who is playing football because I will watch no matter what. I am thankful though that the aforementioned Cowboys and Lions do not play each other on Thanksgiving because that may be a vortex of ineptitude that I could not let myself get sucked into.

 

 

 

6 Facebook

Yes, I said it…I am thankful for Facebook. Am I a bit too addicted?? Probably. Could I be spending my time more wisely?? I suppose. But Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with literally hundreds of people from my past and enables me to easily stay in touch with good friends from various far away locales. It is harmless fun, and at the very least probably a better way to be entertained than watching most of the drivel on television these days.

 

 

 

5 The Manofesto

I don’t want to be self-serving, but I suppose I will for a moment. I am not getting paid to write this blog, and I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to make money on it anyway. I suppose one would need to attract advertisers of some sort, and for that to happen there would have to be a fairly sizeable and consistent readership. Maybe one day all that will happen. However, I am not really all that concerned about it at this point in time. I began The Manofesto about a year & a half ago because I felt like I had some things to say and have always been pretty confident in my writing skills. Maybe if I had pursued that career path and been given better guidance by educators and others in my environment my circumstances would be much different today. As it stands though I enjoy writing this stuff more than anyone will ever know. I have no idea how many people come here on a regular basis (I know of one…thanks Don 🙂 ), nor do I know how many people may have read one or two things here & there. Nearly all the comments I receive are spam. Maybe I am writing all this for a smaller audience than you’ll see at a Denny’s at 3am on a Tuesday, and maybe someday that might change. But for now The Manofesto is extremely therapeutic and entertaining for me and I am so very glad for the continuing journey.

 

 

 

4 Rocco

My sister & I had a dog when we were just small tikes. He was a mutt named Rags who eventually went nuts and had to be taken away by the dog catcher. However, in essence he was my father’s dog and I think Dad considered him more of a burden than a pet. As I got older we could not have a dog in the house because of my mother’s health. Then for years I lived in places that didn’t allow pets. One day a few years ago the rules in my building changed and we were allowed to have pets as long as they do not exceed a certain size, which is fine with me because I would not want a huge dog that one day may turn against me and smite me in my sleep. Neither would I want a girlie dog, the kind you see airheads like Paris Hilton carrying in their purse. At some point I fixated on pugs because they are small but tough, manly dogs. I got my chance to get one in the summer of 2008 and I named him Rocco. He & I have had our moments. I made a lot of mistakes in training him mostly because I had no clue what I was doing. But Rocco is absolutely the sweetest, most adorable puppy in the universe. He does not bite, just licks a lot. He licks everything. He loves to eat and sleep, and he loves to snuggle with his Daddy. I suppose Caesar Milan would say that I spoil Rocco and that I assign human, childlike qualities to him instead of maintaining a master/dog relationship. So be it. I don’t have a wife or girlfriend, have no children, and my friends mostly live far away. If that means I treat my dog as a substitute to fill the emptiness in other areas of my life then that is just fine by me.

 

 

 

3 Memories

My good friend The Owl posted a rather wistful, nostalgic status update on his Facebook on Thanksgiving eve. It was an ode to his mother and childhood Thanksgivings of yesteryear. I was reminded of my own mother, who we lost 10 years ago. I fondly recall the Thanksgivings of my own youth. My maternal Grandma lived not too far away but she didn’t drive, so someone always went to fetch her on the day before Thanksgiving. She and Mom would spend the evening getting food prepped, and then would get the turkey in the oven sometime in the wee hours of the late night. By the time I woke up around 7 or 8-ish (probably a bit later in my teen years) the aromas that filled our home were heavenly. I always enjoyed watching the Macy’s Parade, and still do, although now I tend to lean toward mocking the overall cheesiness and kitsch. Football games would come on in the early afternoon, and at some point my paternal grandparents, who lived about a mile up the road, would arrive. By mid-afternoon dinner was ready and it was always awesome. We never had cranberry sauce for some reason, but we had about everything else…turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy, corn, green beans, rolls. Yum. My Mom always made pumpkin pie, and my Grandma Mano always made chocolate cream pie. After dinner we’d all sit in the living room and shoot the breeze, just enjoying each others’ company. As a child I would mostly just sit there and listen as the adults talked about a variety of things. Families have a certain…rhythm…whenever they talk amongst themselves. A stranger coming into the midst of the conversation probably wouldn’t give a rat’s petoot about the topics being tossed about to & fro, but if you’re in the inner circle you get it. Even kids, who probably don’t understand most of what is being said, have a comfort level with the group. It’s like a cold winter night that all the sudden becomes cozy once one slips under the warmth of a soft blanket. I miss that warmth & comfort, but I will always have the memories. There is a fine line that one must be careful not to cross. Living in the past can be crippling. But to embrace memories of a wondrous time that cannot ever be replicated is okay, and I am thankful that I have those memories to reflect upon.

 

 

 

2 Food

I have spoken elsewhere here at The Manofesto about my “skilled” nursing facility experience. In 2006, at the age of 33, I was a patient at one of those places for six months. During those 6 months I lost 30 pounds. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I have always been overweight and it was probably a good thing for me to lose those pounds. However, I would not recommend the nursing home weight loss program. Obviously any kind of institutional food is usually not good, but honestly…I can eat hospital food. It is atleast average. But the nursing home food was…well…indescribably bad. I would not have fed that stuff to my worst enemy. Thank God my Dad brought me in food…a Wendy’s cheeseburger, leftovers from his supper, maybe a pizza sometimes…every night and my cousin Robert usually brought me something almost daily. Even then I STILL lost weight. And I wasn’t even exercising. I was literally laying in bed for months. My point is, I learned from that experience to appreciate food. I gained all that weight back and more, and I am currently in the process of trying to lose it, but this time it is my choice. I just know I would feel healthier and better about myself if I shed some pounds. But I will not deny myself completely. I will not starve. I appreciate a good meal (appropriate on Thanksgiving) and sympathize with those who are truly hungry. We live in the greatest, wealthiest nation on Earth. No one in America should ever experience hunger. I am not naïve though…I know it occurs, which is why I am thankful that I always have access to food and usually enjoy whatever I eat.

 

 

 

1 Freedom

The aforementioned “skilled” nursing facility experience encompassed only part of what I refer to as my Unfortunate Incarceration. After I was released from that godforsaken hellhole I was still not healed up, which meant that I spent the next year at home before the medical establishment FINALLY decided I needed surgery, which then took several more months by the time one factors in the hospital stay and post-op healing. All told my Unfortunate Incarceration stole away 2 years of my life. During that time I was not able to do a whole slew of things that most take for granted…grocery shopping, going to the movies, attending church, driving. My life is not exactly glamorous, which is why I self-deprecatingly refer to myself as Mr. Excitement. But I now appreciate the freedom to do those simple things. As a child much of my focus as well as that of my parents was for me to be as self sufficient and independent as possible. I think I did a pretty good job of achieving that goal through most of my adulthood, but for two years I lost that freedom. Having it back has meant the world to me and it is the thing for which I am most thankful.

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

I like grocery shopping, which as far as I know is rare for a guy. But I’m a bachelor so it isn’t like I have anyone else to do it for me. I guess I figure I may as well enjoy the task. Of course I also like eating (probably too much) so it all sort of comes together like a logical jigsaw puzzle. Anyway, a recent excursion to the store struck me as interesting and has the juices flowing. I am not sure why, as it wasn’t all that much different from any other shopping experience, but I’ll just go with it. Take this virtual trip with me, enjoy the ride, and get a little insight into how my thought process works.


My Mom always had a particular day…I believe it was Thursday…to go grocery shopping. She was much more organized that me, and I am sure there was a reason for this schedule. Conversely, I am completely random. I go either when I am nearly out of food, or maybe just out of certain staples like milk, bread, sugar, salt, etc. that make eating more difficult than necessary. Or there are occasions when I have a day off, the weather is quite lovely, I do not want to lay around The Bachelor Palace all day, and grocery shopping seems like an entertaining option. There was a time when, being a night owl, I may decide to hit one of the 24 hour stores just because I was awake super late and had a burst of energy. However, I work midnight shifts now and even though it is not unusual for me to be awake at 3am on my nights off I rarely venture out at that hour anymore.


The specific day germane to this adventure was a Monday. I am typically working Sunday nights and therefore am a lazy waste of space all day Monday, but happened to have a Sunday night off. This factor, along with Monday being an uncommonly lovely & warm autumn day lead to my decision to be productive. Plus I was out of milk, which is like Lindsay Lohan being at a raging party that has emptied it’s last bottle of Jagermeister.


The first thing that happened when I arrived at the friendly neighborhood (yet nationally known) super mega store was something that occurs often and rarely fails to inexplicably bother the living daylights out of me. I get my wheelchair out of my truck, then transfer my big ol’ fat butt into my chair. I was getting something out of the back of the vehicle when a well-meaning yet unintentionally offensive stranger happened along and asked the question I have come to despise…”Sir, can I help you??” I have yet to come up with the proper response. My comeback is usually a palpably tense “No…thank you though. I got it…do it every day”. Should my response be kinder?? After all, these folks are nice and have the right idea. The world would be better if more people were as thoughtful. Or should my response be designed to expose peoples’ disingenuousness?? I have often thought of just saying a simple “Yes” and then sitting there to await their reaction, which would likely be “Okay…what do you need?? How can I help??”. My reply would then be “Well you’re the one who offered assistance. I assumed you had an idea in mind.” I just wish people understood what a dagger to my heart offers of aid are under anything but extraordinary circumstances. I have been a paraplegic all my life. I survive. I find ways to get things done. I understand my limitations and do not engage in activities that are inaccessible or more trouble than they’re worth. Offering to help with typical daily activities that are, for me, second nature, is akin to me asking a stranger if I they need assistance tying their shoes, cutting their meat, or brushing their teeth. It makes me feel pathetic, and I don’t like feeling pathetic.


Anyway…at this point I need to specify that this particular Monday was November 1st. This is important because the first thing I saw as I entered the store was a rather large Christmas tree. Really?? Are you kidding me?? Less than 24 hours earlier it was all ghosts and pumpkins and fun size candy bars, and now we’ve suddenly jumped into the Christmas season?? Look, I am a huge Christmas guy. I love everything about Christmas…the lights, the food, the movies & TV specials, the music. I especially love the REAL “reason for the season” (y’all do remember what that is, right??). But is it too much to ask that we have a little break between holidays…maybe a week?? And can we please give some love to Thanksgiving?? I long ago accepted that Thanksgiving segues immediately into the month long Christmaspalooza, and that’s okay. I also understand that Thanksgiving is difficult to market. There is a finite number of products we purchase and they are all food…turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce…so it’s not really profitable to a wide variety of retailers. Still, Thanksgiving remains one of the “big” holidays and shouldn’t be pushed aside for Santa Claus, imported toys, and artificial fiberoptic trees.


My first task was to head to the deli. I have only recently begun utilizing the deli. I was under some sort of long term delusion wherein I believed that prepackaged meats and cheeses were less expensive. That may still be the case but I think the price difference is negligible these days. Everything is outrageous. At any rate, a couple things of interest occurred in the deli. First, kudos to whomever came up with the handy thickness chart so one can easily communicate how they want an item sliced. It is such an easy, low tech solution. Simplicity at its best. Conversely, I am a bit mystified at the variety of cold cuts available. In my world ham is ham, turkey is turkey, and bologna is…well, whatever bologna is. But not so fast my friend!! There are now apparently dozens of each type. Honey, smoked, sun dried tomato, baked, Italian style…complexity personified. As I was mulling over my choices and suddenly getting that overwhelmed feeling that I used to get before an algebra quiz in junior high, I became distracted by one of the families in front of me. One member of the family was a young girl probably 8-10 years of age. This little “lady” was not only looking at the glass case that holds all the goodies, she had her face right up against it…while hacking up a lung. Thank God the glass was there. But did her mother tell her to cover her mouth?? Stop making out with the glass?? No. As mentioned, there are enough varieties available. I really don’t think we need H1N1 pastrami. Really people…have some class. Teach your children a bit of couth. My apologies to anyone who has to look that word up in the dictionary.


After getting what I wanted from the deli it was time to methodically maneuver through the rest of the store. I rarely make a list. I live alone, meaning I eat what I want, when I want, how I want. This has not been a positive for my unfortunately corpulent waistline, but it makes shopping easy and enjoyable. I normally meander through each aisle and grab what looks good, and over the years I’ve learned a few things.


First, because I am in a wheelchair and God has a sense of humor what I desire is inevitably on the top shelf. And while there is no shortage of interlopers offering assistance when I do not need any, when I really could use some help suddenly I am The Omega Man.


I also have a million dollar idea that I’ll offer up to some entrepreneurial soul free of charge. Grocery stores should be marked off like roads and parking lots. There need to be lanes. Rules should prevent five (usually rotund) people from walking side-by-side and blocking an entire 10 foot area. We’re shopping here folks, not skipping down The Yellow Brick Road. There also should be time limits…maybe red & green lights. If you can’t decide between Fruity Pebbles and Frosted Mini-Wheats move on and come back later. The rest of us need our recommended daily allowance of fiber too, and the ballgame comes on in 45 minutes.


In a related matter, I sincerely believe that motorized carts should only be used by the elderly and legitimately disabled. Using a cart because you are too obese to walk is just sad.


Always buy the greenest bananas available. You’ll seem like a genius in two days.


Milk is in the rear of the store for a reason. It’s a marketing ploy designed to prevent people like me from rushing in, grabbing my favorite beverage, and leaving without being tempted by a bunch of other stuff. That’s fine. It is a rather ingenious plot.


I have recently begun to eat whole wheat bread and I like it. Of course the health benefits are likely nullified when I slather it with Miracle Whip.


Speaking of unhealthy, my heart breaks every time I peruse the plethora of candy out there and the Bar None, discontinued in the mid-1990’s, is not on the shelves. Damn you Hershey!!


I am quite sure there is a method to the organization of each aisle, and if one frequents the same store often finding things becomes easy enough. But why not arrange everything alphabetically?? Or since we’re such a technologically advanced society how about computers placed throughout the marketplace so one can do a quick search?? Think of it as Google for groceries. Yes I realize there are usually signs hanging from the ceiling telling us what we can expect if we venture down a particular row, but unlike the minimalist solution alluded to in the deli I think this calls for some razzle dazzle. Maybe this sort of thing is available in the big city already, but I live in West Virginia, where a number of people still believe Jimmy Carter is President and some continue to be confused by “the clicker” for the TV.


Checking out is always fun. First of all, why are there 25 checkouts but only 8 of them are open?? The eight that are open have lines stretching halfway back to the beer section. I know a lot of people that need a job who’d be glad to work those other 17 registers. Secondly, I always…always…get stuck behind the person who A) is purchasing hundreds of dollars of food in an apparent effort to singlehandedly cure world hunger, and/or B) has an item which the computer does not recognize thereby forcing the cashier to put on the little light and await a management type. Of course this gives me a few moments to leaf through the tabloids to see what my peeps Paris & the Kardashian gals are up to, find out if Brangelina are still married, clarify who is sleeping with who amongst the cast of Glee, and get an update on the whereabouts of the very much alive Elvis, JFK, and Michael Jackson. Does anyone actually purchase those “magazines” or just glance at them in line?? On this particular day I encountered an especially chipper young man at the register who really seemed to enjoy his job and said things like “I want to do everything I can to make this a great shopping experience for my customers”. And I am convinced he genuinely meant every word. It is likely an unfortunate indictment of my cynical nature that I found myself wondering if he may need some counseling.


Now one would think that after checking out the adventure would be over, right?? Alas, one still must get out of the parking lot without injury. What is it about grocery store parking lots that lower the average person’s IQ by 50. I have had more vehicular near misses and close calls in parking lots than superhighways. I sincerely believe that law enforcement needs to be on duty at all times to direct traffic. This would atleast justify the two or three parking spaces marked as reserved for the police. I mean honestly…I NEVER see any policemen there, so why are they needlessly commandeering much needed parking?? Why are these spaces so close to the entrance?? Don’t police have to maintain a minimal level of fitness?? Make them park in the back under normal circumstances. If a real emergency arises they can park wherever they like anyway. And while I am thinking about it, what’s the deal with “stork parking”?? Aren’t pregnant women supposed to walk as much as possible??


So that’s my story. I look forward to running out of food and having another adventure soon.