Born of a series of humorous emails.
Named after a poorly concocted drink created during college.
Within these archives you shall find the opinions of many wayward souls drawn together by their common interests and senses of humor (and an eagerness to rag on each other).
TFT's Movie Quote of the Day: Christmas Edition concludes with a "classic" from the great governor of the state of California, the inimitable Arnold Schwarzenegger. "Jingle All the Way" tells the story of a desperate father who runs all over town trying to find a Turbo Man action figure for his son. He encounters crowds, crazy, violent Santas, and Sinbad.
Comedic hilarity ensues. Is there even a memorable quote from this movie? I guess this one will have to suffice:
"I'm not a pervert! I was just looking for a Turbo Man doll!"
Yes...the final Christmas quote of the day was about as halfhearted as this movie's attempts at humor. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
The "official" observance of the fake holiday of Festivus falls on December 23rd (Christmas Eve Eve)...which happens to be today.
As the Festivus episode of Seinfeld (which is titled "The Strike" and NOT "The Festivus") tells us, Frank Constanza created the holiday after going blow-for-blow with another shopper as he tried to buy a doll for his son George. The holiday involves an aluminum pole ("I find tinsel distracting"), the Airing of Grievances, and the Feats of Strength ("Until you pin me, George, Festivus is not over").
I leave you today with two of my favorite quotes from my favorite Seinfeld episode...
"The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people. Now, you're gonna hear about it."
It all started like this: one time, long ago, my brother and I saw one of those stupid commercials for a "greatest hits" collection of Neil Diamond songs. It was your classic early 90s cheese-fest, complete with stupid dissolves, a horrid voice over, and a scrolling list of songs. My "favorite" part was the Neil Diamond "Sweet Caroline" dance in which the intrepid singer shuffled from side to side as he sang. We made soooooooo much fun of Neil Diamond in that commercial.
So, one day, my mother and I went on a shopping trip out of town. You see, we didn't have a Best Buy in Richmond, Indiana, so going to one out of town was a big deal. I found a Neil Diamond CD on the discount rack--not THE Neil Diamond CD from the commercials, but close enough--and bought it as a gag for my brother. We laughed, we did the "Sweet Caroline" dance, we imitated the stupid voice over.
Then I did something incredibly stupid. I pulled off the cellophane wrapped around the case, opened it, and put the Neil Diamond CD (it was "Hot August Night II") into my CD player.
Suddenly, I wasn't laughing at Neil Diamond anymore. This man was a genius...a Jewish Elvis, as some call him. I was hooked. Since then, if I'm in a bad mood, I put in Neil Diamond. If I'm on a road trip, I put in Neil Diamond. I own several CDs, his "In My Lifetime" box set, and the six-disc "Stages" live collection. I bought "The Jazz Singer" on VHS after learning of its existence. I upgraded to DVD a few years ago.
The CD that launched a thousand tears...first, tears of laughter...then, tears of regret.
I've been to four of his concerts (one with a high school buddy, one with my mother, and two with my wife). I even infected one of my friends with the NLD virus (that would be Neil Leslie Diamond Virus...which sounds like an STD...maybe I should've phrased that better). That's right, one of my best friends in all the world became obsessed with the Neil-ness himself. We were the guys from "Saving Silverman"...although the third member of our friendship triumvirate wouldn't have any of it.
Anyone who knows me is aware that I have another love: Star Wars. And really...Neil Diamond and Star Wars don't mesh AT ALL. That didn't stop me; I worked to combine the two...nearly sailing too close to the sun on wings of pastrami like George Costanza when he tried to incorporate food and TV into his lovemaking ("Yeah, that's what you did"). I made it work: the Neil Diamond Star Wars Concert Tour was born.
I have absolutely no musical talent...my brother has enough of it for the both of us...but I am a fairly shoddy lyricist. So I concentrated on the ancient art of "the filk," which sounds like a dirty word, but is actually a term used to describe what happens when you replace the lyrics of a song with some of your own.
Suddenly, "Sweet Caroline" became "Sweet Palpatine" (this is before the Star Wars prequel era, thus, I deemed it PALPA-TYNE, and not PALPA-TEEN), "I am...I said" was transformed into the mournful "I am...Emperor," "Cracklin' Rosie" became "Cap'n Solo," and "America" became "Dagobah."
Neil would've made the Ewok celebration from ROTJ so much better.
Using the moniker "Studicus," I submitted these lyrics to the venerable Star Wars fansite, TheForce.net, which posted them under the "musical humor" section (I was going to provide the link, but for some reason it wouldn't work; I provided a screen cap from TheForce.net instead). This was probably the first time I used the name "Studicus" on the net. This was back in high school...probably my sophomore year.
"Sweet Palpatine" won the Golden Rebo Award for "Best Filk" in Star Wars Insider Magazine. I'm not joking.
The Neil Diamond Star Wars Concert Tour also made a cameo appearance in a silly video I made for a broadcasting class when I was a sophomore in college. It was a brief snippet--probably 15-30 seconds long--but the concept made me think about expanding it into something more.
Flash-forward to today, and the Neil Diamond Star Wars Concert Tour lives, thanks to some video- and photo-editing software I purchased, a few Neil Diamond karaoke songs I discovered, and the general obsessiveness of a fan determined to combine two things he loved into one gigantic valentine to Neil Diamond and Star Wars.
The fact that I'm also a complete and utter dork probably helps as well.
Enjoy...and props to my ever-so-patient wife for doing the voice work.
Just think: if I hadn't purchased that Neil Diamond CD at Best Buy as a joke, you wouldn't be reading this and the "Neil Diamond Star Wars Concert Tour" would not exist. A better world? Perhaps...
His war hero brother already declared him the richest man in town, but that's not the line most people remember from "It's a Wonderful Life." That honor goes to this one, which comes near the very end of the movie.
Clarence, the lovable, angelic screw-up that he is, has been trying to earn his wings for years (we could be talking millennia here, folks). They have eluded him for so long...but his efforts to save George Bailey have finally done the trick. At one point in the movie, Clarence tells George that every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings. And during the climactic scene, little Zuzu repeats the phrase...and George realizes that Clarence finally did it!
Zuzu: "Look, Daddy! Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings!"
In the upcoming remake, Jack Black plays George Bailey, Chris Pine is little brother Harry, and Ben Stiller portrays Clarence (his Clarence, shockingly, is a neurotic klutz). Zuzu's line is also updated for the 21st century; when her smartphone beeps, she declares: "Everytime a phone tweets, an angel gets its wings."
Powers contains 17 superheroic tales from writers of all different backgrounds. Some will break your heart, some will thrill you, and one will likely make you wonder why the author isn't considering a different direction for his career (that would be the author of "The Stuntman" on page 123).
Here's a quick summary of my contribution:
Thrilled that Hollywood plans to make a movie about his life as the Amazing Marvel, Stan Kirkpatrick presses his agent to land him the starring role. But the producers have a different idea, hiring a rising, hot-shot star, and relegating Stan to the role of indestructible stuntman.
"White Christmas" is phenomenal. I've written about that before. While there's plenty of time for dancing and singing, the simple story of General Waverly warms the heart. The broken-down, old general, now owner of a less-than-successful inn, gets a reminder of how much he is admired--and yes, loved--by his former soldiers. It's all thanks to Bob Wallace and Phil Davis.
And you can't tell me their effort wasn't worth it...the look on General Waverly's face at the end is sure to put a lump in your throat and make sure those tear ducts are working.
"We'll follow the Old Man wherever he wants to go
Long as he wants to go opposite to the foe!
We'll stay with the Old Man wherever he wants to stay
Long as he stays away from the battle's fray!
Because we love him, we love him!
Especially when he keeps us on the ball!
And we'll tell the kiddies we answered duty's call
With the grandest son of a soldier of them all!"
Christmas snow is a special kind of snow, endowed with magical powers that can make a snowman come to life. I've never experienced this firsthand--most of my snowmen tended to look a little Picasso-esque in my youth--but if you build a snowman out of Christmas snow, find a hat from a washed-up magician, and then truly believe in the magic of Christmas, yes, your snowman will come to life.
That's the point of the 1969 Rankin-Bass classic "Frosty the Snowman." Narrated by Jimmy Durante, the cartoon tells the story of a lovable snowman who befriends a group of school children when he comes to life via a magic hat. The cartoon gets a little traumatic--Frosty melts away in the end--but ends on a hopeful note that the kindhearted snowman "will be back again next year."
In the song, Frosty "begins to dance around" when the magic hat is placed atop his head. However, in the cartoon, the wise snowman gives the kids an avalanche of philosophical advice.
Okay, not really. He leaves them with this cryptic message instead:
A subtle hint reminding people of the true meaning of Christmas (just whose birthday could Frosty be referring to...)? Or simply a throwaway line to show how goofy Frosty is?
I have a notebook where I keep a lot of story ideas. It's full of things like outlines for books I've been writing, concepts for short stories, character biographies, and a few other odds and ends.
This notebook also contains some inane crap--like statistics for the Fake Purdue Boilermakers that I used to (seriously) write newspaper-length stories about, complete with pictures and sometimes video clips (again, seriously).
But I realized something the other day when I was flipping through the notebook. It's actually from high school. It contains a few aborted attempts at homework assignments, an unfinished journal entry or two, and some random scribblings from my ill-spent youth.
One particular stretch of light pencil scratches needed to be preserved and shared with the masses. It involves my reworking of "The Night Before Christmas" adjusted for the cartoon show "The Tick." I know...it's weird (though perhaps not as weird as writing about a video game football team AT LENGTH -- see here and here).
"The Tick" was a fantastic, early/mid-90s cartoon on Fox. It followed the adventures of a doofy, moronic, well-intentioned, and nigh-invulnerable superhero named the Tick. Along with his sidekick Arthur, the Tick fought evil and usually won. The show poked fun at almost every imaginable superhero cliche and I absolutely loved it. One of my high school buddies and I (you know who you are) were OBSESSED with the show.
And so that obsession turned into the following shoddy verses of rhyme. For the first time in more than a decade, I present to you: The Tick's Night Before Christmas.
Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the City
No criminals stirred
The night inherently giddy
Evil was off for the night
This was for certain
But curious children
Still peered through their curtains
With the citizenry nestled
All safe in their beds
Sweet dreams of Christmas
Abuzz in their heads
Die Fledermaus in his black cape
And I in my Sewer Urchin cap
Had just finished arguing
Which one was the sap
When out on the street
There arose a great noise
I sprang from the sewer
With my crime-fighting toys
I hefted the manhole
And stepped onto the street
Then mightily struggled
To stay on my feet
When what to my Urchin goggles
Should be taken aback
But a flying mothman
With a large man on his back
With a big rider
So blue and so thick
I realized that moment
It’s my friend, the Tick!
“On Arthur, keep going!
It’s Christmas Eve, pal!
We’re keeping evil away
And packing some holiday wow!”
“We’re bringing justice
To each house and each hall”
And then Arthur whimpered
“We’re gonna fall!”
Their strange engine of justice
Came to a stop
Then hit the ground
With a thunderous PLOP!
The Tick wiped himself off
And to his sidekick’s chagrin
Ran to a light pole
And started to spin
His azure streak
Flew ‘round the pole
To which Arthur exclaimed
“Watch out! The manhole!”
Quickly I sidestepped
The high-flying Tick
Who dropped into the manhole
His fall shockingly quick
“I am unhurt”
He said in a hurry
“But let’s give out the presents
Before my vision goes blurry”
He was dressed all in blue
From antenna to feet
His blueberry tights
Form-fitting, not quite indiscreet
His smile so white
His pectorals flexing
His height was immense
And inherently vexing
Tall, blue, and strong
Far from an elf
I laughed when I saw him
In spite of my self
With a big blue thumbs up
And Arthur’s pained sigh
He gave indication
Once more they would fly
“Santa’s helpers, chum
That’s what we’ll be
So let’s start performing
He climbed onto the moth’s back
And ignored Arthur’s pain
Telling his glum sidekick
Not to complain
They rose into the twilight
Past the Chairface-marred moon
“Merry Christmas!” he thundered
“And to all I say SPOON!”
Today's quote comes from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which I completely missed on TV this year. Between the sad, little tree Charlie Brown brings home, Snoopy's decorating hijinks, and the Christmas pageant, it's a true holiday classic.
As Charlie Brown is apt, he becomes a bit depressed with the holiday season, lamenting the glitz and commercialism that have marred the birth of the Savior. Good thing for Charlie Brown--and all of us--that trusty ol' Linus is there to set the record straight.
"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid ... And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.'
And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.'
That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
After successfully placing a story in the current issue of "A Thousand Faces," I was thrilled to learn another story of mine made it into an anthology...this one an actual, physical book that you can touch and feel and use as a doorstop!
If you click on the cover below, it'll take you to a place where you can buy the book. Of course, I would never ask anyone to do that.
The curious thing about the bookstore is that it doesn't tell you much about the anthology, at least not from what I can tell. You can find the table of contents here. My story, "The Stuntman," is listed second from the bottom.
"The Stuntman" introduces you to superhero extraordinaire Stan Kirkpatrick, who is elated when Hollywood decides to make a big-budget movie about his life. However, Stan soon finds out he won't be playing himself in the movie and is relegated to the role of stuntman. It's much more lighthearted than my last story, "In Memoriam."
"The Polar Express" -- it seems to be one of those movies you either love or hate. Much of it has to do with how well you stomach computer-generated characters and how much you fear heading into that Uncanny Valley. I've read comments from a lot of reviews that praise the movie's art, but are completely creeped out by the "dead-eye, petrified zombie stare" of the computer-generated characters.
Hey, I know it's not perfect, but characters and their "soulless eyes" don't make me shudder in the least. I happen to like "The Polar Express." Perhaps it's because Tom Hanks plays every role in the movie or maybe it's because there's a Steven Tyler elf in there somewhere. But it probably has more to do with the movie's theme of believing in something no matter what others think, and having that faith rewarded.
"At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe."
Ah..."Christmas Vacation." A time for family to gather...drink eggnog...shop...trap Clark Griswold in the attic...revel in Clark's failures...fight squirrels...and put up with Cousin Eddie and his recreational vehicle.
Eddie: "Oh, that uh, that there's an RV. Yeah, yeah, I borrowed it off a buddy of mine. He took my house, I took the RV. It's a good looking vehicle, ain't it?"
Clark: "Yeah, it looks so nice parked in the driveway."
Eddie: "Yeah, it sure does. But, don't you go falling in love with it now, because, we're taking it with us when we leave here next month."
"The Santa Clause" is an incredibly fun 1994 holiday opus starring Tim Allen. And this was Tim Allen at his high point, when "Home Improvement" was going strong, Allen released a book that shot to No.1 on the bestseller list, and his holiday movie was tops at the box office.
The movie tells the story of frustrated divorcee Scott Calvin, who isn't handling life very well. His precocious son Charlie is visiting for Christmas, but Scott seems more interested in verbally sparring with his ex-wife and her husband Neil than taking care of his son. After he reads "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to his son, Charlie wakes up in the middle of the night after hearing "a clatter" and forces his dad to go outside. They find a man on the roof...and Scott thinks it's a burglar.
When he yells at the guy, the red-clad man slips and falls...Scott Calvin has killed Santa Claus. So, he puts on the suit, does his best to deliver toys, and plays Santa for the night, not realizing that, by putting on the suit, he is legally bound to BE SANTA CLAUS FOREVER.
There are several quotes from this one, but I'll reference one today that my wife and I often cite. It happens when the police capture Scott in full Santa Claus regalia...and then try to interrogate him.
Detective: "Look, I know you're Scott Calvin. You know you're Scott Calvin. So let's make this simple: I say 'name', you say 'Scott Calvin.' Name?"
Scott Calvin: "Kris Kringle."
Scott Calvin: "Sinterklaas."
Scott Calvin: "Pere Noel. Babbo Natale. Pelznickel. Topo Gigio!"
Detective: "Okay, Calvin, maybe a couple of hours in the tank will change your mind."
For the first time in the storied history of the Movie Quote of the Day, we remove the "movie" part and replace it with "TV." But it's "Seinfeld," which could really have its own quote of the day (not that there's anything wrong with that...).
Today's Christmas quote harkens back to a more innocent time, when a visionary man became disillusioned with the commercialization of Christmas and decided that there must be a better way. And so this visionary man crafted a holiday for everyone. A holiday that celebrated family and togetherness with Feats of Strength, the Airing of Grievances, and an aluminum pole that stood as tall and true as the pureness of that visionary man's holiday spirit.
Festivus was born, and the world would never be the same.
"Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be a better way...Out of that, a new holiday was born. A Festivus for the rest of us!"
Sadly, Festivus proved to be too "out there" even for Kramer. That should tell you something about Frank Costanza.
My first published short story appeared in an issue of an obscure, bi-monthly Australian publication called "This Mutant Life." The story was called "The Bank Loan" and appeared in the July 2010 issue of the magazine (you can find the publication here).
I am happy to announce today that another work of mine has been published in "A Thousand Faces," the quarterly journal of superhero fiction. Ironically enough the editor of "This Mutant Life" has also placed a story in the same issue. The story in "A Thousand Faces" is called "In Memoriam," which, according to the editor, "takes you to an unforgettable funeral service for a fallen hero." This story was actually the first one I ever submitted...and the first one accepted. That makes the achievement of having it earn the "Editor's Choice Award" even more satisfying.
Below you'll find the cover for the Autumn 2010 edition of "A Thousand Faces." Clicking on it will take you to the main website. Once there, you'll need to click on the issue again to get to the table of contents. You can find the story indexed under the "fiction" section on the left side. Or...you could just make it really easy on yourself and click here to go directly to the story).
Three other short stories of mine have been accepted for publication. One is due out very soon in an upcoming issue of "This Mutant Life," another is due out next year in another edition of "A Thousand Faces," and a third has just been accepted for an anthology of superhero stories due out...well...I'm guessing next year.
"White Christmas" is a favorite in both of my families. I don't lead a double life or anything like that...it's just that it literally isn't Christmas unless my father watches this movie around the holidays (and typically multiple times at that). The "other" side of the family would be my wife and in-laws...who are equally obsessed with the adventures of Bob Wallace and Phil Davis.
However, it's my wife who takes the "White Christmas" cake. She has a ceremonial viewing of the movie on Thanksgiving Day that kicks off a non-stop "White Christmas" viewing party through the end of December. If you enter our home at any time during that span, you're likely to hear "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing," "Love You Didn't Do Right by Me," "Mandy," "(We'll Follow) The Old Man," "Count Your Blessings," "Snow," "What Can You Do with a General?," "Sisters," or the titular "White Christmas." If I'm around and/or particularly cranky, you may find yourself skipping right through "Choreography."
The 1954 gem features Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as two old World War Two buddies who become successful producers and performers. Crosby's Bob Wallace was already well-established, but after Danny Kaye's Phil Davis gets injured while saving Wallace's life in the war, the two become an inseparable pair...even though Wallace wryly muses about how much better life would be without the headaches that come along with having Phil Davis as a friend.
The two end up at an inn in Vermont run by their old rundown commander, General Waverly. Problem is, there's no snow in Vermont, the general put his life savings into the business, and no one's gonna be flocking to Pine Tree to see "all that snow." Wallace and Davis have a honey of a brainstorm, deciding to bring their whole show to the general's inn to bolster business. They team up with the Haynes Sisters (Betty and Judy), who bring their own angles and romantic intrigue into the mix.
You see, Phil wants Bob to get a girl and get out of his hair. So he tries to fix him up with Betty...even though Bob resists. But before all that, Wallace and Davis have to save the girls from being arrested by a penny-pinching landlord. Well...really, it's Phil Davis who's doing the rescuing. He gives the sisters his and Wallace's train tickets and comes up with a brilliant idea to buy the girls some time to escape...
Bob: "I've got a feeling I'm not gonna like it."
Phil: "I've got a feeling you're gonna hate it."
Bob: "Well, what am I doing it for?"
Phil: "Let's just say..."
TOGETHER: "We're doing it for a pal in the army."
Bob was right: he wasn't gonna like this. On a completely unrelated note, I won $50 at the after prom talent show for lip-syncing to this very performance with an old high school buddy.
"It's a Wonderful Life" isn't the prototypical Christmas movie, yet, it is.
What I mean is that it doesn't feature any dancing reindeer, magical Santa Claus-ness, or even ridiculous amounts of Christmas music. Really, if you think about it, "It's a Wonderful Life" is really a super-long episode of "The Twilight Zone" with an actual happy ending. We've got alternate universes, wish fulfillment that comes at a high cost, and a character who realizes his true worth just before it's too late.
George Bailey is one of my favorite characters. He wants to be a world traveler and set the world ablaze with his ideas. Instead, circumstances trap him in Bedford Falls, where he runs the struggling Building & Loan started by his family. His little brother Harry ends up getting all the opportunities: Harry goes to college and becomes a war hero. George, meanwhile, settles for a beautiful, loving wife, several adoring children, and a small-scale battle against Mr. Potter, the richest man in town.
The realities of life begin to eat away at George, and when the money for a bank deposit disappears, he wishes he'd never been born. A guardian angel grants that wish and George descends into a world that never knew George Bailey. Bedford Falls becomes Pottersville; his brother never became a war hero because George, who rescued his brother from an icy pond when they were kids, never existed to save him; no one was able to stop Potter from taking over the town because George didn't exist to match wits against him.
In the end, George realizes that it truly is a wonderful life (title plug!) and returns to his family, knowing full well that he's in trouble with the law for the lost deposit money. But the town of Bedford Falls has rallied to raise money, flooding the Bailey home with cash and well wishes. And then little brother Harry, the war hero, returns. He's the toast of the town, but he'll have nothing of it.
Instead, he raises his glass to big brother:
"A toast: to my big brother George, the richest man in town."
If the look on George's face doesn't put a tickle in your throat, you're not human.
We now begin a three-week stretch of Christmas, Christmas, Christmas on TFT's Movie Quote of the Day! We'll have all the classics (White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation), a few not-so-classics (like Arnold Schwarzenegger's all-time holiday smash hit movie Jingle All the Way), some "new classics" (Elf), TV specials (yes...deviating from the "Movie" part of the "Movie Quote of the Day"), and much, much more (although really: what "more" is there?).
We kick of our special coverage with my absolute favorite quote from Elf. It happens a little past midway through the movie, when Buddy's real dad participates in "Bring Your Elf to Work Day." Buddy sits in his office, complains about the bad-tasting hot chocolate (which is actually coffee), and then springs across the room to answer the phone.
"Buddy the Elf. What's your favorite color?"
I think we can all agree that the world would be a much better place if everyone answered the phone that way.