Positivity and Independence Day (1996)

It’s July 4th and since it’s a holiday I usually have to work I decided to partake in an old tradition from college and high school on July 3rd and watched one of the seminal movies of my generation, Independence Day.

I saw this movie twice when it was new.  Once as a family move in the summer, and again with some friends at the dollar theater during its second run (do movies even have those anymore?)  I loved it.  Though at the time I may not have known why.

Then I went through the cynical phase of my twenties where everything that I thought was “cool” as a teenager must have been “lame” so I decided this cheesy blockbuster probably fit that bill too.  It didn’t help that the production team of this movie ended up churning out one formulaic disaster film after another in the years that followed, or that, by the time my cynical phase hit, the general mood of the country and its entertainment started to turn “dark,” which later resulted in the dreary, joyless action movies that were troughed to us until The Expendables and Marvel reminded us that they could be fun again.

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.  I hadn’t seen the film all the way through in maybe a decade, and its reputation has faltered as “cliché” in recent years.  But moments in, when the moon shakes and the ominous shadow sweeps over the Apollo landing site…I was sucked in again.  And stayed that way through the entire film.

The characters, while yes are broad ethnic and narrative stereotypes, are still lovable and every one of them has a purpose.  Will Smith is charming and energetic.  Jeff Goldblum is awkward but heroic.  Bill Pullman is tortured but a leader.  Everyone is there for a reason and acts within their purpose at all times.

The alien menace is faceless through most of the movie, but when they are shown they are generic enough that they remain the unknown threat even after the amusement park ride tour of their mother ship.  Their weapons are insurmountable and their motives make them unstoppable.  Which leaves a combination of special qualities to stop them: human ingenuity, creativity, and cooperation.

This movie doesn’t have any chosen ones, or destiny stories.  All of the characters are actually on a bit of a lull when the film starts, Smith’s Hiller can’t be an astronaut, his girlfriend is an exotic dancer working for a loser boss, Goldblum’s David is an overqualified TV network tech, Randy Quaid’s Casse is a drunken incompetent incapable of even providing for his nomadic family, and the President is being lambasted in the media.  All slightly down, all very different but when the crisis occurs they all rise to the challenge.  Each of them a metaphor of the way the disparate nations and ethnicities in the world come together to beat back the alien menace and “not go quietly into that good night.”

Is it all a little optimistic and cheesy?  Hell yes.  And hell yes it’s awesome.  This was before every character’s story had to be told in flashback to give them all “proper motivation” and before Christopher Nolan turned every one of these stories into tales of dark, tormented tales of survival that both over explain motivations and suck all character from the characters.

It’s FUN.  it’s funny.  It’s exciting.  And most importantly it’s optimistic.  Which is something oh so many films and entertainment have seemed to forget they could be.

I know enough of history to know the fables of our country’s “birthday” are heaped in legend and not as glorious as the Revere printing press would have us believe.  But if there’s one thing you could gain out of Independence Day, and not coincidently the main theme of the film that bears the same name, is that hope and optimism are can never truly be defeated.  Maybe beaten down a bit but it will always come back to win in the end.  It’s what people are, and what we really want.

So turn off all the hate and negativity that’s saturating news, entertainment, and politics right now.  Put on Independence Day and remind yourself of the fun and positivity that can be experienced when a group of people, whether they be fictional characters, film makers, or movie goers, turn off the cynicism and remember what life was like as a kid in the movies.

Christmas Family Traditions

I seldom steal ideas from my partner, but I found my RevPub partner’s X-mas Family Traditions post quite inspiring. Traditions – old and new – are a part of any holiday, but I’m also a fan of changing them. I think this is where people struggle the most because when “we’ve always done it” causes issues, it may be hard to let go. I also have to write a shout-out to my family: Thank you for the flexibility and drama-free holidays. I know this isn’t always the case, and I appreciate you for it.

Christmas Family Traditions
My grandma’s tree 2015. This changes nearly every year, and it’s always gorgeous.

Here are a few of my family traditions, many of which have changed over time:

Story time: I owe my grandmother a great deal, and she is solely responsible for the love I have for Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Every year, and multiple times throughout the year, she would read us this book. She used inflections and brought the story alive. Even as an adult when I read it, I feel like I’m in Whoville. Or, depending on my mood I’m the Grinch!

When I grew up, my son loved Santa more than anything. So, every Christmas Eve I read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. I make sure to bring the same excitement and passion to the story as my grandma did for me.

Christmas Movies: This is a personal tradition. Just as I watch only horror in October, I try to watch only Christmas in December. What makes a Christmas movie? Well, I count anything with snow and if they mention Christmas. This may seem unconventional, but it keeps things entertaining and avoids lame ones with bad acting. As my partner states, we watch Scrooged, and we have seen a number others together. As a kid, Home Alone, The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Grinch were some of our favorites. Looking back, this may have been the best way to shut us up for two hours.

The Food: I come from a family of cooks. Nearly everyone in my family tries to cook, and some are better than others (wink). While we have traditional foods, such as ham and grandma’s sherbet punch, I also remember my grandpa’s fudge and candy-coated Ritzs and the spread of more food than you can imagine. My family tries new recipes all the time, so our traditional menu constantly changes. It’s tradition for us to try new dishes!

This also leads to staples. My uncle has to bring sausage dip. I have to bring deviled eggs. That is a funny story in itself because I was asked to bring them one year and have been designated to bring them to every event since. This year, I used hot and sweet jalapenos because I was out of relish, and they went over a little too well.

Christmas Family Traditions
Opening presents at my grandparents’ house. I was 9 to 11 in this. I believe the pen marks are from my brother.

The Celebrations: I come from a “nontraditional” family, as my parents divorced when I was a kid. I had a lot of Christmases, but my favorites were Santa in the morning, then going to my grandparents. When I was younger, we’d always gather on Christmas Day after seeing what Santa brought. As our families grew, we celebrate on the Sunday before Christmas. I appreciate this more than my family knows. This allows for new traditions on Christmas Day and gives parents more time with their kids. I’m pretty anti-travel on Christmas Day and try to stay home when possible. This doesn’t always go over well, but people get over things pretty quickly, so don’t be afraid to say no. As long as you visit around Christmas, that’s all that should matter.

Presents: I remember the first time I went to someone else’s Christmas, and they opened presents one at a time. I thought I was going to die from boredom – no offense intended. I also thought how terrible it would be if you got something you didn’t want. You’re sitting there in front of 10-plus people and have to fake happiness. I immediately felt pressure.

You see, my family opens presents at the same time. A couple of people pass out all the gifts, and my grandma essentially says, ready, set, go! It takes 10 minutes tops. We shout thank yous from across the room, hold up gifts to show someone who also likes it, and it’s chaotic. That tradition has never changed, and it’s awesome. Afterwards when all the wrappings are picked up, people walk around and see what everyone received and have conversations about them. In a way, it’s more personal and allows time to talk one-on-one. I realize most families open one at a time, but consider trying this sometime. It’s 10 minutes of chaos, then an hour of real conversation.

We hope you had a nice holiday, and we look forward to 2016! Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year from RevPub!

X-Mas Family Traditions

It’s the holidays and while many traditions have entered into the realm of the universal, there are some that undoubtedly are only known to the families and friends who created and maintain them. One of the most famous is of course Festivus, a strange secular tradition created by Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe’s father Daniel. It is an unusual example as random stories from Seinfeld writers’ personal lives often ended up as plots on the show, but it makes you think how many other family-specific traditions exist out there and how many might gain wide-spread popularity if they were known. I’m sure every family has at least one; I thought I’d share a couple from my family:


  • Christmas Donuts: This is the biggest one in the Castro family. My maternal grandfather is a retired country musician who traveled extensively during his career (my mom told me a story of how a BeeGee was once her baby sitter at a bar). Due to his hectic traveling the family never knew where they would be or be during the holidays and developed a tradition of stopping and getting everyone donuts for a treat on Christmas morning. Even after the traveling stopped Christmas donuts continued, and my mom carried into my Christmases growing up. We used to get up painfully early on Christmas Eve, drive to Shipley’s Donuts, buy an ungodly amount of donuts, and put them in the fridge until Christmas. One year we decided early that no one needed donuts and chose to not get them… Then Christmas Eve afternoon we decided the tradition couldn’t die. We went to an absolutely packed H.G. Hills store, got bags of cheap Kruellers, and had those the next day instead. Even though I don’t have Christmas breakfast with the family now I still get Christmas Donuts. I guarantee sometime before 6AM Christmas Eve morning I’ll be driving to the nearest Shipley’s to get some donuts…

  • John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together: Like most families the actual present opening for a couple kids and parents on Christmas took considerable time. My mom decided to make it an annual tradition to put in a cassette tape of the John Denver/Muppets Christmas album A Christmas Together while we opened presents. Even skipping the slow/sentimental ones it would often play through a couple times during the morning. It’s still not Christmas until Animal shouts “Run Run Reindeer!” and Miss Piggy becomes dramatically offended at the misunderstood lyrics of “Christmas is Coming” (“Piggy pudding?!”)
My dad’s kelaguen actually looks even better than this. The chicken is charred more and the ingredients very thoroughly mixed…
  • A Chamorro Buffet: Most people will have Turkey, dressing, gravy, potatoes, and ham on Christmas. Essentially Thanksgiving again. I can’t remember ever having that for Christmas. From the earliest holidays I can remember my dad always made the feast food from Guam. Kelaguen, Lumpia, charcoal BBQ ribs, chicken, and steak. I’d take it over any turkey or ham any day. He always makes enough that it’ll last a few days. Everyone eats their fill then eats their fill for about three days afterward…
  • Framily Traditions: Of course the modern family extends well beyond relatives. My RevPub partner and I have a number of annual traditions we do to celebrate the holidays. There’s the annual shopping day, which once would often start at 8 in the morning and end around 8 at night and the annual viewing of Scrooged. All of my friends also typically do individual Xmas exchanges as well. Just stopping by around the holidays to see what weird random stuff we found we thought we’d all like.

We here at RevPub wish everyone a happy holiday season and we hope you enjoy all of your family holiday traditions. You never know, one may end up as a storyline on a sitcom one day!

Holiday in Handcuffs

Holiday in Handcuffs
Photo by: ultracondensedmovie.blogspot.com

Christmas movies usually teach a lesson – whether it’s appreciation for life, realizing we should give more, or maybe gifts don’t matter that much.

Romantic-comedy Christmas movies do the same thing, and usually have a fun love story tied in. And although it’s cheesy, there are two romcoms I have to watch every year, and Holiday in Handcuffs is one of those movies. I’ll give you a moment to laugh 😉

Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez star in this quirky, silly movie. Not known as the greatest actors in the world, but in this movie, they work really well together and give the movie a youthful energy many romcoms don’t have. If you’re still interested but not sure if you should check it out, here’s why you should:

Themes: One of my favorite aspects of the movie is the theme of acceptance. I’m sure many of you feel the family pressure during the holidays. Why aren’t you married, why don’t you get a better job, why can’t you be more like <fillinyourperson>? And if they don’t say it, you know someone thinks it. Holiday in Handcuffs addresses this issue in a natural way. The entire family is looking to be accepted by someone else, and I often think need for acceptance is often overlooked, so it uses not one but all characters in this theme.

The stars: If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, this is Clarissa and Slater. The preteen/teen in you will appreciate seeing they haven’t changed much. Hart is still expressive and strong, Lopez is still a hunk and suave. Other stars include Timothy Bottoms (Land of the Lost) and Markie Post (Night Court), and June Lockheart (Step by Step, 90210), who you may remember as well.

Script: The script is well written, and there’s plenty of humor for adults. It’s a romcom for the generation who’s now in their ’30s, but fun for today’s teens too. The interactions between the characters feel real, and the funniest parts are the jabs and digs. There’s a good bit of sarcasm and wit, and tt’s not overly mushy. During the “romantic” parts, it still feels like real life.

Premise: With that said, the movie starts out with Hart kidnapping Lopez because she needs a man to take home for Christmas. (Her loser boyfriend dumps her hours before they’re supposed to be there). Sure, it’s a made for T.V. movie and a little silly, but good romcoms will have that special quirkiness that grabs you and makes you want to watch until the happy ending. And there’s always a happy ending.

Is Holiday in Handcuffs an Oscar winner? Nah, but not all good movies need to be. Sometimes it’s nice to kick back and just enjoy a fun, heartwarming movie that gets you away from the stress and to-do lists. So, if you need a good holiday movie that won’t make you cry, check it out. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Good Manners: Where Are They Now?


How many of you have been cut off while driving this week? What about had someone let a door close on you? Or received a response just as ‘yeah’ or been ignored completely?

If you answered yes to any of these, just know you are part of a large group of people who suffer from people with bad manners (I’m guessing 75 percent of the population). Normally, I would blame the holiday season because people behave at their worst this time of year, but the lack of good manners is just how society has evolved.

I wasn’t raised in a strict household and forced to say yes ma’am, no sir, etc. I remember my dad trying to instill this in me, but most times I refused because I didn’t respect him. As I grew up, I learned you should use these responses with elders, bosses, parents, and pretty much anyone – especially if you respect them. But most people don’t say please and thank you, so should we expect them to go a little further? Yes.

And here’s why: good manners are dying off. I remember saying yes ma’am to a manager several years ago, and she said, “Don’t call me ma’am, it makes me sound old.” Really? Having someone show respect makes people feel old? I never quite broke the habit, and still answer my desk phone yes ma’am or yes sir whenever possible. Of course, I didn’t want this woman – who was the same age as me – to feel old, but I would always show respect because I had no reason not to. People don’t do this anymore because they simply don’t care. ‘Yeah’ seems acceptable. People seem too busy to have good manners, and I have two words for that: bull stuffings.

What to Do

When I’m at work or a store and hold the door for someone, most times they look shocked. And I’m shocked at their response. I expect people to hold the door, and they should too. If you get to a door first and someone is right behind you, hold it. If someone is coming out and you are going in, open it. It’s probably the easiest thing to do in a day and can make someone smile or feel respected. And this doesn’t apply to just women. Men seem just as shocked and appreciated, and at the end of the day, we’re all the same. We’re just people.

Driving is probably the worst example of bad manners. The Nashville area is notorious for having bad drivers, and one reason is because people feel where they have to go is more important than everyone else. Tail-gating, honking, cut-offs, taking someone’s turn at a stop sign are things I experience every day. We all need to just take a deep breath and relax. Cutting someone off will save you a whopping three seconds and could cause a wreck, so it’s not worth it. And you may find someone who has good manners and will let you into traffic because they know what it feels like to wait. No matter how hard we try, we’re always going to have to wait.

Let’s not allow good manners to die. One person can make a huge difference, and maybe we can get back to a point where it’s not so rare. Good manners have been lost in older generations for so long, so if you’re younger than 50 and reading this, think about it. With a little change in our day-to-day, we can make the world a little easier to live in.

Thanksgiving: Take a Break

be thankful
Photo by tracky.com

This Thanksgiving, I found myself in more of a holiday mood than I’ve experienced in years. I decided this week’s post would be simple, and I hope you enjoy it.

A few weeks ago, I became a little more sensitive to whining and complaining. I really started to listen to people and what they said. It surprised me how much complaining we all do every day. So, I decided to try to stop complaining and focus on – you guessed it – what I was thankful for. I decided I would do a Thanksgiving Day resolution, and since Thursday, I am complaining less and enjoying what I have.

Here are the things I’m thankful for, and as we approach the Christmas/holiday season, I hope this finds you a little nicer and in better spirits. The holidays are stressful and busy, but let’s not forget what’s really important.

1. Friends and family. I combine these because my friends are very much my family as well. Each day, I am surrounded by amazing people who try their best to work hard and support others. For the most part, everyone is happy and healthy.

2. Work. Let’s face it: no one loves to work all the time, but I do enjoy working and I’m happy to have a job that allowed me five days off this Thanksgiving. I so needed it. I’m thankful to my company and that I have a good job, working with even better people.

3. My home. Home is a very sacred place and should be the one place you can hide from the world if needed. It should be an escape, and I’m thankful to have a home that is comfortable and warm.

4. My car. I love my Z for its speed and hotness, but it also gets me where I need to go. I drive that little car all over the place, and it hangs in there. There are days I take out my stress on it, and it keeps up with me.

5. Love, nature and beauty. Love keeps us going in the darkest times, and I feel loved by many. It is truly the greatest emotion to have, so be sure to spread some this holiday season. Also, if you struggle with the grayness and dreariness of the weather, keep fresh flowers in the house. It’ll help. Nature is truly beautiful, and when you stop to smell the roses (so to speak) you’ll be surprised how much better you feel.

Feel free to share what you’re thankful for in the comments section, and here’s to a happy holiday season!