RevPub Christmas Special Favorites: Part 2

Merry Christmas from Revenant Publications!

If you’re reading this, you must have needed a break from the chaos and holiday cheer. I’m happy to help! In the spirit of the season, here’s my continuation from yesterday’s Christmas specials list:

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965): I’m mean like Lucy and think Snoopy is the most smart-ass dog ever, so of course this is on my list. This is the only Peanuts special I really enjoy, and it’s message is very sweet. In fact, James even found a “tree” that reminded me of the one the kids took home and loved. The music is fun, too, and it’s a heart-warming little special that delivers a great message.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966): My amazing grandmother used to read this book to us all the time. It’s a terrific story and probably my favorite Christmas special. The Grinch and I are a lot alike: our shoes are too tight, our hearts are two sizes too small, and we hate the whole Christmas season. And like the story goes, our hearts grow, we see the meaning of the season, and have the twinkle in our eye. The TV special comes alive with wonderful, catchy songs and colorful images, and who can forget the Grinch’s evil grin?

Wings – A Terminal Christmas (1990), Twas the Heist Before Christmas (1995), All About Christmas Eve (1996): Wings is one of my favorite shows ever, and I don’t get to work it in nearly enough! The Christmas specials are fun and quirky and real. There’s not much fake Christmas cheer – it’s like watching a group of people deal with the holidays with jokes and lots of sarcasm. Families annoy them and people freak out. Of course, shenanigans occur but everything works out in the end, in its own way.

Spongebob – Christmas Who? (2000) and Fairly Odd Parents Christmas Every Day (2001): Being a parent rocks most of the time, and I’ve enjoyed these gems with my son for years. Once Spongebob learns about Christmas, he tries to bring it to Bikini Bottom. Squidward is the Scrooge character, and it is a fun episode with lots of good songs and sweetness. In Fairly Odd Parents, Timmy wishes every day is Christmas and the repercussions of that wish are awesome. His parents become slugs, the other holidays riot against Santa, and the fairies lose their powers because they have to give them to Santa. The people are exhausted as they sing, “On the 15th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…” Both shows are great for kids and adults.

Psych – Gus’ Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy (2007), Christmas Joy (2008), The Polarizing Express (2010): It’s hard for me to pick a favorite from these three; they’re all good for their own reasons. If you haven’t seen Psych and enjoy random fun with a little crime fighting, you should check it out. These specials stand alone, and all are SO funny. One of my favorite consistent themes is the competition between Shawn and his dad to guess what they got for Christmas. There’s nothing like a little game to spice up the holidays!

We hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday! Eat lots of food and laugh – it’s almost over!

My Christmas List

Off The Top of My Head

My lovely and talented RevPub colleague posted her favorite and least favorite parts of the holiday season.  In the same spirit, I thought I’d do a short and less creative list of my top five favorite holiday films, with a little bonus of holiday music at the bottom.

Christmas movies tend to follow a typical pattern, usually revolving around the “miracle” of Christmas and/or togetherness.  That’s all well and good, but like any cliche it can get less entertaining as it’s used repeatedly in both movies and TV specials.  Of course any “Christmas” movie will have that theme somewhere in it, but the ones I like tend to be the ones that either give that a twist (without devolving into pure anti-holiday, which seems like an easy way out in films) or use the holiday premise to make what might seem like a NON-holiday movie.  Here they are, my top five Christmas movies!

5.) Die Hard:  I used to say this was one of my top Christmas movies in high school and people looked at me like I was crazy.  “That’s not a Christmas movie!”  Since then, it’s kind of become accepted as indeed being a Christmas movie.  The whole movie is set around the holidays (that’s why John McClain went to visit his wife after all) and references are made to Christmas all throughout (“It’s Christmas, Theo, it’s the time for miracles,” Run DMCs “Christmas in Hollis” at the beginning, and the holiday tape John uses at the end).  Though the sequels diminished the premise, the original stands as one of the best action movies, and one of the most non-traditional, but still traditional, holiday films.

4.) The Ref: During the height of Dennis Leary’s MTV/standup rant-off, this movie came out as a good vehicle for the fast-talking comedian.  Starring Leary, Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis, and a great ensemble cast of character actors, the film revolves around a cat burglar who bungles a job and has to take the world’s most dysfunctional family hostage.  You have bickering spouses, annoyed relatives, and the mother-in-law from hell; all while we sympathize with Gus, Leary’s character, trying to remain in control.  It’s far from perfect, but full of SO many great moments (two words: Sink Sprayer), and is so much fun it has always been a Christmas favorite.

3.) Home Alone: I went through a period in high school of Home Alone hate.  I remembered it as Macaulay Culkin running around screaming.  It wasn’t until last year that I came full circle and realized what a great Christmas movie it is.  Probably the “most traditional” (whatever that means) movie on the list, everyone knows the premise and knows it has the “miracle” ending, but in between there is so many hilarious and memorable scenes; Angels with Dirty Faces used on visitors, the “Rocking around the Christmas Tree” automated party, great dialogue exchanges (Marv: “Yeah kids are scared of the dark…”  Harry: “You’re afraid of the dark too, Marv…”), and of course the booby trap bonanza at the end.  Some consider it schmaltzy, but it is so much fun and emotional without being overly so it holds up better than ever.

2.) Lion in Winter: I came to this film relatively late.  Obviously, a kid won’t be interested in a dialogue-heavy period piece from 1968, but college-me found how amazing this film is.  Starring Peter O’Toole, Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Richard Dalton, and a bevy of other terrific English actors, it’s set around Christmas time at the court of Henry II.  He lets his rebellious wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, out for Christmas and the two of them scheme over who will inherit Henry’s kingdom (the noble but devious Richard or the dimwitted but supposedly-loyal John, middle son Geoffrey is largely overlooked).  Though the premise is kinds and queens, it is actually just another messed-up family at Christmas and that’s what makes it great.  I’ve never had a kingdom to bequeath, but many of us have seen parents bickering, kids taking sides, and random shocking admissions during family get-togethers.  It’s an absolutely brilliant film, and one of my favorite movies, in addition to being a great holiday movie.

1.) TIE Scrooged & Nightmare Before Christmas: Richard Donner’s great retelling of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is still my favorite Christmas movie.  Perfectly cast, perfectly acted, wonderful moments of both emotion and humor.  My RevPub counterpart did a masterly review on it previously and rather than just say it all again, here are her comments.  I’ll just add, “I agree!”  Nightmare Before Christmas is great because it’s both a Halloween and Christmas movie.  It has all the terrific imagery of a Tim Burton film and explores the nature of one’s true-self and personal happiness.  Even though it doesn’t have the typical “Christmas miracle” message, instead substituting a message of finding your place in your own world.  It has wonderful music, a great story, and is perfect for TWO holidays!

Christmas Music:

Christmas music tends to have a grating effect on my psyche.  There are only a couple notable exceptions and here they are in no particular order:

3.) Anything Heavy Metal: Raven posted a hard rock version of my favorite traditional Christmas song on her Good Things About Christmas post, and I tend to like the heavy rock versions of Christmas songs.

2.) Tales from the Crypt: Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas:  My friend Kate at my previous job introduced me to this album.  It is ridiculous, goofy, and sometimes so bad it’s good (the Crypt Keeper was like that…his puns…) but it’s so dark and wonderful, and a great change of pace for the holidays!

1.) John Denver and the Muppets A Christmas Together: My family doesn’t have a LOT of holiday traditions, but this is one.  Every Christmas during the present opening we played this album.  I know Muppet versions better than original versions of almost all of the songs on the album!  I still play it at least once every year, and it’s one of those things that truly takes me back to that time when the world was simple, and sparkling lights and decorations made the world that much better of a place.

Story of the Month: Holiday Auto-Co-Wrecked…

StoryoftheMonthIt’s Christmas time!  That is supposed to mean harmony, togetherness, and good cheer; instead it’s usually stress, road rage, and social embarrassment.

This particular story relates to the latter category, and if I had an ounce of pride I would indeed find it rather embarrassing instead of merely hilarious.

I have recently purchased a new phone.  My old Blackberry Bold (shut up, haters, I loved that tough lil bastard) fell face first on the tile and cracked the screen into oblivion, so I got a new Samsung Galaxy SIII.  It was my first touch screen, my first smartphone, and my first real introduction to auto-correct.  I’ve actually adjusted well to the use of it and enjoyed the applications, but there have been some hiccups in the adjustment.  One such incident occurred while discussing a Christmas present I was getting for a good friend.

I enjoy picking out good presents and never expect anything in return, in what should be the true spirit of the season.  This friend loves owls, and in addition to a few other things, I got her a little stuffed owl ornament.  I should also mention that she is a NEWLYWED whose wedding I attended last year (and even danced Gangnam Style with her husband).  When I found out she was getting me something too, this was the conversation that followed, the blue bubbles are me:

AutoCoWrecked

Now…clearly I’m getting used to the swipe texting feature, and they have the words listed in alphabetical order…so “owl” became “oral” with hilarious results.

You don’t even want to know what happens when I mis-swipe-text “and”…

From the RevPub family to yours, may your holidays be filled with as few socially embarrassing situations as possible!

Top 10 Christmas Pet Peeves

RavenRant

Before everyone thinks I’m a Scrooge, I’m going to try to do a two-part series for the holidays. The first is this post, and the second will be what I like about the holidays. Admittedly, the second will probably be shorter, but I’ll do my best to be fair. So, for all those people who don’t love the holiday, here’s my list:

1. Presents over good deeds – Christmas is supposed to be about giving, not getting. It’s not about getting upset because you didn’t get the perfect gift. How many people are donating time to shelters? How many people are adopting angels or giving money to charity. That is what the season is supposed to be about. It’s not about materialism – it’s a about giving all of yourself to make someone’s life better, even if only for a few weeks.

2. Traffic/driving – As soon as time changes, the city loses its mind. Nashvillians can’t drive on sunny days, much less when it’s dark. When the city goes out every night to a party or for shopping, traffic gets worse. People are rude too because where they need to be is more important. Right?

3. Shopping – We need to fight over a TV? A tablet? A PS4? No. Stores open on Thanksgiving day should be ashamed of themselves. Let employees be with their loved ones. People will shop no matter what, and we don’t have to do it in one day! We don’t have to fight or disrespect each other over gifts.

4. Facebook/Christmas Tree pics – This year has been especially bad with Christmas tree pics. As I scroll through my feed every day, I can’t help but think “Would you like a medal because you put up your tree? Congrats. You joined millions of people. They all look the same. No one cares.”

5. Buying for everyone – Yes, this is my fault. I feel obligated to buy for people I care about or appreciate. It’s the people who never talk to me and who don’t care about me who I have a problem with. It’s not that I don’t like them; it’s that I don’t feel I should have to spend my money on them because of tradition or obligation. If I opted out, I know what would happen…

6. Winter weather – This week, it was 75 degrees and two days later 32 with the threat of ice. Cold weather and dreariness makes people grumpy. People have to get out but don’t want to, so they are especially nasty and crazy if it rains/ices/sleets/snows.

7. Attitudes – I don’t care what people say, people are not nicer during Christmas. If anything, they’re more rude and impatient. I had a person ride my bumper and honk at me in a school zone Friday morning. I responded with slowing down and holding the bird out the window. That’s my response to your schedule; we all have things to do.

8. Putting up Christmas stuff before Halloween – If you walked into a store in October, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Halloween has two weeks of love, whereas Christmas had two months. I realize people buy more at Christmas, but if you read No. 1 you know that’s not the point of the holiday.

9. Christmas music – I worked in a grocery store for 10 years. I’ve heard enough Christmas music to last a lifetime. Unless it’s U2’s It’s Christmas Baby, Please Come Home, I’ll pass.

10. Perkiness – I get so much crap for not being perky during the holidays. Yes, I put in Mudvayne and Marilyn Manson to drown out Christmas music. No, I’m no more peppy than usual; I don’t need a holiday to be in a good mood. I don’t criticize people for being joyful and happy, so leave me alone and let me be me.

Remember to be a little nicer this week, and maybe we can stop the madness!

Thanksgiving: The Little Things

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. – Robert Brault

Recently, my amazing grandmother messaged me and moved our family’s Thanksgiving to the Sunday after. At first, I couldn’t believe what was happening…I don’t have to go to two Thanksgivings in one day? Has the world come to an end?

It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it is. I talked with people all week about their plans, and I heard, “I’m driving to Illinois, Ohio, this city and that. One day here, one day there.” And I realized her very small gesture actually meant a great deal.

After 15 years of having two Thanksgivings a day, and before that, three or four in two days, it’s so nice to know we can go to one and relax. My grandmother gets it.

Me with my grandmother

As I listened to everyone explain where they were going or how many people they were hosting, I heard the truth. The holidays stress people the hell out. Is that what we really want to remember in 20 years. Is that what matters?

Families should be more flexible and understanding. After all, is it not our families who are supposed to be that way no matter what? Aren’t they the ones who are supposed to love us unconditionally and support us through life?

Don’t Have Traditions for the Sake of Having Them

Too often families gripe and moan about not celebrating on that day. “It’s not the same…but it’s Thanksgiving…,” and they whine and whine. Thanksgiving is whatever day you schedule it. The whole purpose of the holiday is to spend time with people who care about and show thanks for what we have. And yes, I believe we can do that every day of the year. Thanksgiving is just to make sure we do it.

Let’s talk about food. Not everyone eats the same thing, so why should an entire family cater to a couple of people? Shouldn’t we all compromise and find a solution? Thankfully, my family is very diverse, so we have lots of options and favorites. We try new recipes and all pitch in.

If you have more than a few people who want to see, say an average of 10 people, consider rotating who travels where, maybe change the day of the feast, or throw in the cooking towel and go to a restaurant. You don’t have to have turkey and dressing. In fact, I’m having Chinese soon. And it will be a Thanksgiving celebration because I will eat a lot of good food and enjoy even better company.

So, this year I thank my grandmother, who truly gets the spirit of the season. She made a very small decision that meant a great deal – she just wanted everyone to be able to attend and bring a dish. Consider doing the same for the people you care about – you may help stop some madness, too.

Story of the Month: A Surprise Dinner Guest

Well, the holiday season is upon us. I can’t believe Thanksgiving is next week, and I’ve already started shopping. Time flies when you’re having fun!

This month I want to share a story about a very special guest we had a few years ago. He was the highlight of our holiday and caused a lot of chaos and fun.

 A Surprise Dinner Guest

It was Christmas Eve, and we had lots of family coming to the house for food and festivities. Our guests were about to arrive, so we opened the door only to find a large multicolored duck on our front porch.

A greena dn white duck on our porch on Christmas Eve.

We live in a highly residential neighborhood between several main roads. Our houses are about 15 feet apart, and there are rows and rows of houses in the neighborhood. Needless to say, ducks are not a common site, and the only wildlife you see around my house are domestic pets or squirrels. I could not believe a duck would choose to chill at our house of all the ones in the neighborhood.

At first I worried that he was sick or had a broken wing. We fed him, and he was a little nervous, but he never ran. He was still on our porch when the guests arrived; and then we had a problem. We had several kids who wanted to play with him, and one wanted to chase the duck around the yard. I yelled some sense into him, and everyone left the duck in peace.

The duck fluffed up next to the house and slept. Hours later he was still there, sleeping the night away. Late that night, I fed him once more and checked on him. He was still asleep in his warm spot, and I fell asleep wondering how we would take care of a duck. We had a dog and a small bird, and I did not have the heart to call animal control.

Christmas morning arrived, and our feathery friend was gone. I like to think he continued his journey at dawn, moving onto another house or he found his new home.

So, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, I am thankful for pets – past, present, and future. No matter the size or how long we have them, their unconditional love makes the darkest days seem a little brighter.

Feel free to share your weird and/or special pet stories below in the comments section!