Monday, December 31, 2012

My Five Least Favorite Films of 2012

Obviously, there were worse films made this year. I saw an average of a film a week in 2012, but there are still hundreds of films that came out in theaters or straight to streaming I didn’t see. I had good reasons to avoid most of these films. “The Devil Inside” has a 7% rating at and there were news stories at the time it came out about angry audiences throwing things at the conclusion of the film, so it seemed safe to skip and not worry about it showing up on end of the year critic’s lists as the an overlooked classic. Since I try to avoid Katy Perry music videos, I deemed it prudent to not invest in the feature length video, “Katy Perry: Part of Me 3-D”. Of something like “The Guilt Trip”, which features Barbara Streisand as Seth Rogan’s mother I will not see because it features Barbara Streisand as Seth Rogan’s mother.

But these films, for some demented reason, I had hope for. (Except, perhaps, for #4 which I didn’t see by choose.) I also only include films I watched all the way through. You could say that makes “Lola Versus”, a self-indulgent indie comedy, and “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”, an extremely vulgar indie comedy were worse because I only made it a third of the way through either. But perhaps they became utter genius after I turned them off. So here’s the five that in some way crushed my hopes for entertainment and enlightenment.

5) “Rampart” – This drama about a corrupt LA cop was written in part by James Ellroy author of some of my favorite mystery ficion (“L. A. Confidential”, “The Black Dahlia”.) Woody Harrelson stars, which can be a good thing (say, “Zombieland”) or a bad thing (say, “Edtv”); this time it was a bad thing. Self-indulgent drivel wherein the racist, thieving, drug addicted, alcoholic cop tries to make all of O.J.’s defense team fantasies come true.

4) “Little Brother, Big Trouble: A Christmas Adventure” – This Finnish direct to DVD holiday “treat” I saw at a church baby-sitting event. It is a sequel to 2008’s “The Flight Before Christmas” which I did not see. I’m not sad about this. Niko the reindeer has divorced reindeer parents, and for some reason when she brings home a new reindeer father and a new reindeer little brother, he doesn’t accept them immediately as family. Which the film seems to tell us is a jerk move. Oh, and there’s a eagle that has teamed with a pack of wolves that want revenge on Niko for something that happened in the first film. “Brady Bunch” did better at blended family moral lessons.

3) “The Woman in Black” – So, Harry Potter lost a kid and so now he’s not doing his 19th century lawyering job well because he lost a kid and is all ill-shaven. So his boss sends him out in the country to deal with a legal situation which is actually a ghost situation. The ghosts aren’t nice. Everybody makes stupid horror movie choices. Twist ending. Boring.

2) “Act of Valor” - I loved the idea of using an elite team of Navy seals to play navy seals. But as actors, the Navy Seals make not great Navy Seals. The story isn’t difficult to follow, but I found it difficult to bother. At least if there are any military secrets in the film, it seems unlikely that our enemies will stay awake long enough in the film to learn them.

1) “Dark Shadows” – Tim Burton and Jonny Depp must be stopped. They both have done wonderful things in the past, but now it seems that they just get together to do garbage. Burton needs a strong screenplay, not here. Depp seems to need good direction, not here. Now, I loved “Dark Shadows” the soap opera as a kid. I’ve watched it since, and it’s pretty dull. But it at least made sense. This is the kind of fantasy that has rules of magic that seem to change by the moment. And we are expected to cheer for vampire Barnabas Collins (Depp), though he commits several acts of mass murder just to quench his thirst, because he lost his love and is cursed and all. A sequel would be the most frightening curse of all.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Can Someone Who Disagrees With Me Still Be A Christian? (Spielberg's "Lincoln")

Most of us have a pretty solid grip on history. Slavery was evil. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution which ended slavery was most excellent, and you would most certainly have voted for it. And Lincoln was a great guy as can be seen by the fact that he is on mineral and paper money.

One of the marvelous things Steven Spielberg’s film, Lincoln, does is show how difficult some of these choices were a century and a half ago. In April of 1864, the US Senate passed the 13th Amendment with relative ease. The passage of the amendment through the House of Representatives, which was much more of a struggle, is the focus of the film’s action.

I choose the word “action” carefully. If your knowledge of legislation comes from Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill,” you might be surprised by the intrigue, drama and humor that screenwriter Tony Kushner draws from public debate and backroom deals. We’re not presented with clear white and black (or blue and grey) hats to root for or against. We see good, wise and, yes, Christian men pitted in opposition.

Many Republican Representatives looked to Francis Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook) for direction. Blair was concerned that passage of the amendment would endanger peace talks. As great an evil slavery was, he believed, war was a greater evil. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), a leader of the abolitionist movement, had to downplay the scope and consequences of the legislation to help it pass. This galled the abolitionists, and was even more offensive to those of African descent.

Other Christian men, primarily Democrats, believed that slavery itself wasn’t evil, but was sanctioned by Scripture. Godly men (and women, but they couldn’t vote) claimed to seek God’s will on the issue of slavery and came to opposing positions. They didn’t have history’s hindsight to know what position would have the 21st century stamp of approval.

Abraham Lincoln admitted as much, even in the midst of the great Civil War. In an 1862 memorandum, he wrote, “In great contests, each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.” Throughout the film we see Lincoln (portrayed brilliantly by Daniel Day-Lewis) fighting, sometime even underhandedly, for what he believes is right, all the while acknowledging that he might not be right. He acts boldly, yet with great humility.

If Lincoln could show so much humility in the issues of slavery, war and suffrage, perhaps we can show some humility when it comes to such issues as abortion, marriage, and immigration. There are great dangers we face as Christians, and especially as a church, when we delve into issues the world views as political.

Jesus confronted one such danger when approached on tax policy (Matthew 22: 17 – 21). Jesus said some realms belonged to God and some to Caesar. We need to discern which things are sacred and which are secular, but we must avoid two other great dangers: we must not ascribe ignorance, evil or incompetence to others, just because they disagree with our moral or political points of view, and we must not abandon great issues to the world just because they are controversial.

The church played a great role in ending legal slavery in the Western World (don’t think slavery itself is dead). The church helped secure civil rights and fought racial prejudice. There are many other moral battles that must be waged, but we must walk in the Lord’s footsteps, being as wise as serpents, yet as gentle as doves.

(Lincoln is rated PG-13 for graphic battlefield violence and vulgar language, some of it escaping the lips of the 16th President.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Closing Christmasland" This Year's Christmas Program and Today's Long Post

CLOSING CHRISTMASLAND a Christmas play by Dean Anderson
Tiffany the Tour Guide
Dad (Frank)
Mom (Nancy)
English guy
Tiny Tim
Clarence Beige
Popcorn Kids Choir
Dickens Choir, Popcorn Choir, Manger Choir

Scene: An Amusement Park

(Tiffany leads family to site)

Tiffany: Welcome, folks, to our special V.I.P. tour of Christmasland!

Dad: Does V.I.P. stand for Very Increased Prices?

Mom: Hush, Frank, I want to hear her.

Tiffany: Silly, V.I.P. stands for Very Important Persons, which you all are, which is why you’re getting this special pre-hours tour on this very special day in the life of Christmasland!

Chad: You mean on the death of Christmasland!

Tiffany: Well, this day does mark a very special time of transition! After today, Christmasland will be transforming into an even more magical place, Holidayworld!
We will begin the tour today by visiting several of the beloved attractions that will be making their final bows before giving way to what I’m sure will be even more beloved attractions!

Chad: Before you kill them.

Tiffany: And here we are at this very special attraction that opened over forty years ago in 1971, the Dickens District! Welcome to the world of Scrooge, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim! Let’s see if any of the residents of this special place come out to see us!

Mom: This was my very favorite as a little girl! I loved A Christmas Carol and it was magical to see it come to life!

(Group dressed in Victorian garb comes out.)

Scrooge: Bah-humbug! Every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.

English guy: Pip Pip Cheerio! Blimey, here comes Father Christmas!

Tiny Tim: God bless us everyone!

Tiffany: Ooooooh! I feel like we’ve gone through a time machine!

Chloe: One of your ancient Englanders has an I-Phone in his pocket.

Chad: I’m glad they’re killing this thing.

Tiffany: Perhaps the residents of the Dickens District will favor us with a song?

(More Victorian dressed folks come out and sing, “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” then the singers depart. Guide and family walk in place as if “moving” to a different part of the park)

Tiffany: What a delightful song with an unfortunate sprinkling of sexism from that period. This cherished attraction will be transformed in the newly imagined Holidayworld into Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in our salute to Groundhog’s Day! Every day of the year you’ll be able to visit that lovable groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil!

Dad: Wow, Mickey Mouse must be shaking in his boots at the competition.

Chad: Can we just move on to Reindeer Rampage to go on the roller coasters? I want to go on Rudolph’s Revenge and Dasher’s Dive and Comet’s Vomit!

Tiffany: This tour is of Christmasland attractions that will be no more. I’m delighted to say that all of the rides in the Reindeer Rampage section will continue to be a part of Holidayworld!

Chloe: So you’ll be keeping Santa Claus sections of Christmasland in Holidayworld?

Tiffany: Oh yes! We’ll still have 3D interactive presentations of The Santa Clause Part 5! We’ll still have Santa’s Toy Shop where a wide variety of delightful products for purchase will still be available. Every day down Holiday Avenue there will still be a recreation of the Macy’s Parade from Miracle on 34th Street complete with the drunken Santa!

Chloe: So you’ll just be closing all the parts of the park that touch on the real meaning of Christmas.

Tiffany: The real meaning of Christmas? Oh, we’ll certainly still focus on the real meaning of Christmas…Family…The Joy of Children…Gift giving…All of that wonderful stuff! Now here we are at another attraction that will still live on in our commemorative DVD, Salute to Christmasland! now at half price.

Chloe: I don’t think you have any idea of the real meaning of Christmas. But I’ll give you a clue, think of the first syllable of the word.

Mom: Kids, you’ll love this one. This attraction brings to life that comic strip you loved as kids. You know, ‘Popcorn’, with that lovable loser Clarence Beige and his friend, Lionel with his Safety Quilt.

Tiffany: That’s right! And ever since 1987 we’ve brought to life this magic moment from that heartwarming special, It’s Christmas Time, You Idiot! Let’s watch!

(Clarence Beige, Lionel and Louise come out, with other kids.)

Louise: Clarence Beige, you’ve ruined Christmas! Christmas is all about getting good presents! And doing a great Christmas show! And especially putting up a glamorous Christmas tree covered with lights and glitter and tinsel!

Clarence: I’m sorry, Louise. But is that what Christmas is really all about?

Lionel: That’s not what Christmas is all about. It’s about this:
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
That’s what Christmas is all about, Clarence Beige.

(‘Popcorn’ kids then sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and exit.)

Tiffany: I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear that this space will be used for a new Christmas attraction; from Home Alone we’ll have Kevin’s Violent Burglar Fun House.

Chad: That does sound awesome.

Chloe: So you’re getting rid of an attraction where the real Christmas story was read to make way for people getting hit on the head with boards and paint cans.

Tiffany: I’m sure it will all be quite tasteful.

Dad: And expensive. Will you have Kevin Sabotaging Sets in the gift shops?

Tiffany: We do still have Lionel Safety Quilts for a great price on our gift shops!

Dad: Shouldn’t we be moving along before the sensible people who didn’t pay twice the price are let in through the gates?

Tiffany: Yes, but remember V.I.P.s do go to the front of the line at all rides and attractions. Because you are Very Important People to all of us at Christmasland soon to be Holidayworld (trademark pending).

Chloe: So we’re more important because we spent more money. You people really do have no idea about what this holiday is about.

Tiffany: Here we come to the very first attraction built on this land. Joshua Noel, the late and dearly missed founder of Christmasland, built this attraction. Actually, what you see here is just part of the first attraction built. Mr. Noel brought various parts of the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible to life. I’m sure you may remember some of those sections have been done away with over the years.

Mother: Yes, wasn’t there a section that told the story of John the Baptist’s birth?

Tiffany: Yes, the attraction that showed John’s father seeing an angel in the temple made way for Rudolph’s Revenge years ago.

Mother: And weren’t there displays that showed the Angel visiting Mary and the shepherds in the field and the three kings traveling?

Tiffany: Yes, but there was a need to make room for The Grouch Who Stole X-Mas stage show as well as our Elf Toy Emporium. But we still have our manger scene with the little drummer boy. This attraction will remain a part of Holidayworld, but it will be refurbished. Let’s give it a look for the last time in this form.

(Manger scene with children’s choir singing “The Little Drummer Boy”.)

Tiffany: The manger scene will be completely refurbished. This tacky little shack will be replaced with a giant structure which will be visible throughout the quad state area. We’ll have animatronic figures for the humans and animals built to ten times human scale. The robot drummer will be heard not only throughout the park but also in all the neighboring counties. The brand new spectacular manger scene will open in a year and be a highlight of Holidayworld.

Chloe: You just don’t get it, do you? The amazing thing about Christmas is that so much of it wasn’t amazing. To the eyes of the most everyone in Bethlehem, it was just the birth of an ordinary child in horrendous conditions. But it was really God entering our world. And He didn’t come to some vacation world; He came into our world to live with us.

Chad: But there was an angel choir when He was born. That must have been sweet.

Mother: And He was visited by strangers from the east bearing precious minerals and perfumes, that wasn’t ordinary.

Chloe: Yeah, but then He lived decades after that as an ordinary man, before His ministry days with miracles and His death and resurrection. Those are very important days as well. Is your new Holidayworld going to have a Good Friday Day with an animatronic crucifixion? And a open tomb for Easterland in 3-D?

Tiffany: Oh, no, we won’t have any of those things.

Father: That crucifixion scene would probably be a deal breaker for most tourists.

Tiffany: You must remember this is a special place that people visit in order to forget their everyday lives.

Chloe: I guess that’s okay. But it’s not Christmas. Some people treat Christmas that way. As a fantasy day, a getaway from real life; but Jesus came into the world to save our whole lives, not just a day.

Tiffany: Well, I’m afraid this concludes our tour. I trust you’ll join us again when the most joyous land on earth becomes the most joyous world in the universe!

Chad: Alright, let’s go to the roller coasters!

Father: I’m hungry; I’d even be willing to pay whatever amount of gold, frankincense, or myrrh they’re charging for a burger.

Mother: Chloe, would you like to join me and hit the shops?

Chloe: No, I think I’d go back to the real world. Jesus loves the real world. He gave up His life to save it. He wants to use us to make the real world the most joyous place in the universe.

Tiffany: You know I’ve never heard Christmas described in that way. Do you think later you could tell me about the real meaning of Christmas?

Chloe: I’d love too. I’d like to give you tour of Christmas in the Scripture.

Tiffany: That’d be great! Is this good news for everyone?

Chloe: Absolutely, Tiffany. That’s the great news about Christmas. God entered the world as a baby in the manger because He considers each of us a Very Important Person.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Top Ten Favorite TV Shows of 2012ish

Maybe I shouldn’t do this list, since I watch my TV via Netflix, Hulu, and DVD, so it’s not all exactly up to date. My rules are, the show had to air in 2012 (even if I haven’t seen the latest episodes.)

10) “The Walking Dead” - I’m only up to through Season 2, a season many on the interwebs hated. But I liked it. And the interwebs seem to like Season 3 a lot better. I cared about characters in the show and got to see zombies as well. Who could ask for more.

9) “Raising Hope” – “Modern Family” almost took this slot. Both are very funny family comedies. I went with “Hope” because it offers it. The Dunphys on “MF” are well to do, well educated and functional. The Chances of “RH” are none of these things. But they are regular church goers, which is much more unusual in TV world, than the real world. Voted for Red State over Blue.

8) “Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23” – The only show on the list that was new this year. At times the show has a nasty sense of humor. Chloe, the title B, is a pill popping, heavy drinking, trampy narcissist, who can’t even care for a goldfish. But she may be more functional than James Van Der Beek, played by “Dawson Creek” star James Van Der Beek.

7) “Community” – I think this show is still alive, NBC seems to have forgotten. But it did play a bit in 2012 and it has a sharp idea for parodies of movies and other TV shows.

6) “30 Rock” – The final season of this classic to be. I love how this season is mocking TV shows in their last seasons.

5) “Sherlock” – Three episodes? Come on BBC! But we did get the modern day Holmes confronting the modern day Moriarty, which was rather, very awesome.

4) “Parks and Recreation” – Most TV shows get worse. They go from bad to awful or wretched to putrid. Occasionally from good to bad. This show started with a bland pilot and first season and just kept getting better. Something else unique about this show is the characters are actually nice. You wouldn't mind them as your Indiana friends and neighbors.

3) “Breaking Bad”- Now the characters of this show you would not want as your friends and neighbors. Unless you’re a meth addict, and I don’t think you are. The creator of the show said he wanted to show Mr. Chips become Scarface, and now the transformation is almost complete. Not always fun, but always compelling.

2) “Mad Men” – Probably the most acclaimed show on television (the show right above is close.) I've read that advertising execs from the time say it doesn't really get it right. But do you really care if they’re accurate in say… Westerns or cop shows? They've build a fascinating world with subtle character choices and moral dilemmas. It works.

1) “Justified” – Raylan Givens is my favorite character in television. This modern Matt Dillon has some troubles in Kentucky, not the least being a man named Boyd with quite the angel and devil on each shoulder. In 2012 I saw the shows from 2011 and I’m looking forward to 2012 in 2013.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Final Day of Advent Skit-A-Day Week



(Church service, tired woman in pew or seat, pastor at pulpit)

Pastor: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David and the son of Abraham; Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers..” (continues to mouth the words of Matthew 1: 1 – 17 but becomes silent)

Julie: (head drooping, obviously nodding off, bobs up and down a couple of times and goes down for the count) Snores.

Vision: Hey Julie, you’re sleeping.

Julie: Oh, I’m sorry, um, thanks for waking me.

Vision: I didn’t.

Julie: Didn’t?

Vision: Didn’t wake you. You’re still asleep.

Julie: What are you talking about?

Vision: You fell asleep right in the middle of the genealogy and you’re still asleep.

Julie: So you’re just a dream?

Vision: You could say that, but I prefer to call myself a vision.

Julie: What are you talking about? Why are you bothering me?

Vision: Well, you were the one that fell asleep during the service.

Julie: Don’t blame me for that. If you knew what my last week was like. In order to take Christmas week off I had to do two weeks’ work in one. I had to wrap all Ben’s family’s presents and get them shipped. I had to pack for this trip, for the both of us, of course. Our flight didn‘t arrive till 3 AM and we were welcomed my sister Linda’s baby was crying through the night in the room next door, and then my mother insisted we leave first thing in the morning for an all-day shopping trip at the mall. Then after rushing down some festive Kentucky Fried Chicken, my father dragged us off to church just to hear who begat who begat who and of course I fell asleep. Sometimes I think Christmas could be so much more peaceful without families.

Vision: Families can be trying. And I don’t blame you for falling asleep. Church is a place for rest. But don’t belittle the begats.

Julie: What do you mean?

Vision: The who begat who’s help remind us that Jesus was part of a family.

Julie: Well, he wasn’t part of a family like mine. For instance my Uncle William is in town, former corporate vice president, future San Quentin resident. For several months we had to keep the TV remote at the ready so the kids wouldn’t have to hear his former employees talking about how he cheated them out of their life savings.

Vision: Well, if you weren’t sleeping through the Scripture passage, you might hear about interesting branches in his family tree. There was Jacob, a con man who cheated his own brother out of a blessing.

Julie: Then of course, my cousin Sky will be coming. I hope her new boyfriend doesn’t rummage through the purses for drug money like the last one.

Vision: Again, if you were listening to the list being read about Jesus’ ancestors you’d note it includes drunkards, prostitutes and murderers. His would be quite the family reunion.

Julie: Maybe his distant relatives were like that. But Jesus’ immediate family…Well, if you look at the pictures on the Christmas cards, it’s halos all around.

Vision: So you don’t think Jesus had family issues?

Julie: Well, not like I’ll be faced the next few days. My parents will drill my husband about why he hasn’t gotten a promotion. My brothers will continue a feud they started in high school. And my sister Linda is waiting for the results of a biopsy. It won’t exactly be Joy to the World in my house this Christmas.

Vision: So you think Jesus never dealt with anything like a death in the family?

Julie: Well yes, since you never hear more about Joseph, I guess I assumed he died, and Jesus had to deal with that.

Vision: Or sibling rivalry?

Julie: I suppose if Jesus was perfect, that fact probably wasn’t appreciated by his brothers.

Vision: In fact, during Jesus‘ ministry, his brothers said Jesus was insane. During his ministry, Jesus had to do things that he knew would bring his mother great grief.

Julie: I can’t imagine what it would have been like for Mary to watch Jesus on the cross. Or for Jesus, to watch His mother watch Him die.

Vision: Jesus came into a family when He came as a baby that first Christmas. He knew the same trials we all know living with a family. But He chose that life. So that He could live as we do, to show us how to live. That’s part of what God becoming a man is about.

Julie: You’re right. I guess God does know something about families, even mine.

Vision: Yes. In fact, Jesus came so you could be a part of His family, with God as your heavenly Father. But you really should be waking up now.

Julie: You’re right. Do you think anyone has noticed that I nodded off?

Vision: Just your father. Did you know you drool when you sleep?

Julie: I know, I know.

Vision: Have a Merry Christmas, Julie.

Julie: You know, I think I will.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

6th Day of Advent Skit-A-Day Week


By Dean Anderson

Cast: Man, Husband, Wife

(Husband and wife talk to each other. Man stands beside them or off to the side.)

Man: I’m planning a simple Christmas this year.

Husband: That’s what I say every year, but it never stays simple. For instance, this year I was just going to hang a simple string of colored lights around the house. But Peggy bought a life-size Santa.

Wife: It was such a sale. I couldn’t pass it up.

Husband: And you can’t have a Santa by it itself, so I had to get the sleigh and the reindeer and the elves.

Wife: But we didn’t want to leave out the religious part of Christmas so we put up a manger scene.

Husband: With talking animals. But we’ll do less next year.

Wife: I suppose we have no choice after getting that threatening letter from the homeowners association for violating the luminary regulations.

Husband: I guess we could do without those “Home Alone” decorations.

Wife: The animatronic Kevin that hits the burglars on the head? But the kids love it.

Man: My Father put a single light in the sky, to lead to the light of the world.

Wife: And then, of course, there’s the food. I have a mother-in-law who thinks I can’t cook. And she’s coming to our house for Christmas dinner.

Husband: Just because she brings her own entrée doesn’t mean she doesn’t think you can cook.

Wife: But I’ll be ready this year. We’ll start with a salad of white crane greens with herbs, marinated summer beans and champagne vinaigrette. We’ll have a side dish of hobbs bacon with black truffle crusted veal shortbreads. Then we’ll have the delicata squash soup with toasted seeds and crème fraiche.

Husband: That sounds like a bit much.

Wife: No, that’s just the beginning. We’ll then have pan seared halibut with flash cooked pepper puree. Along with the roasted roulade of turkey with traditional trimmings. For dessert I’m thinking of offering a choice of cranberry claffoutti with toasted walnut brittle or Verona chocolate cake terrine with raspberry compote.

Husband: When are you going to have time to make all that?

Wife: I’m not. I’ve hired a caterer. But you better not tell your mother.
Husband: Mums the word, along with yum.

Man: I offer bread and water. I am the bread, whoever eats of me will not hunger. Whoever drinks of my living water will not thirst.

Husband: Of course, the most complicating factor of Christmas is the shopping. I had to camp out at the toy store at 6 AM to get that Perfect Atomic Tommy action figure for Max.

Wife: I had to go to twelve different children’s clothing stores till I could find the line of My Little Tramp blouses Winnie wanted.

Husband: I doubt that was half the time it took to track down that first edition Stephen King novel your brother was asking for.

Wife: An elementary assignment compared to finding that teapot that matched your mother’s china. Let alone shopping for you.

Husband: How can you compare that to shopping for you?

Man: I offer the same gift to anyone who will receive it. Life, abundant life.

Wife: Did we get anything for your Aunt Trudy?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5th Day of Advent Skit-A-Day Week

Board Chairperson
Board Secretary
Board Member
Marcus Annoyingus
Inn Keeper
Inn Keeper’s Wife
Neighbor 1
Neighbor 2

Chairperson: The Bethlehem City Council Meeting is now called to order. Secretary, could you please read the minutes of our last meeting.

Secretary: Minutes for the meeting of March 24th, 1 BC. There was discussion of renaming the main well in honor of our city’s founder, King David. An objection was raised about alleged business fraud at Levi’s Used Camel Lot. And there was discussion of the then upcoming Roman Census. The Chairperson at that time referred to the Romans as low-down, power-mad, thieving…

Chairperson: That’s enough of the minutes. We would like to welcome our special guest, graciously monitoring this meeting on behalf of our glorious ruler, Caesar Augustus, the good centurion Marcus Annoyingus.

Marcus: I’m sure that the spirit of respect and fear of the empire will continue throughout this meeting. That is, if you wish to continue meeting.

Chairperson: Do we have any new business? Yes, you there!

Neighbor 1: Thank you, Chairperson. I would like to bring before the council some problems that came up during the recent census.

(Marcus coughs)

Neighbor 1: Not that any of the problems were the fault of the empire. But you see, I live next to the Bethlehem Inn. And I have reason to believe there may have been a variety of zoning violations.

Innkeeper: We’ve done no such thing.

Chairperson: That is a serious accusation.

Neighbor 1: And a true one. According to the zoning ordinances, the inn can only use their stable for animals, and during the census they allowed people to stay there.

Innkeeper’s Wife: It was a man with his pregnant wife. They had no where else to go!

Neighbor 2: But it wasn’t just the woman giving birth in that stall. It was all those visitors in the middle of the night! I’m sure they were violating the noise ordinances!

Neighbor 1: Those shepherds! I think they were violating the smell ordinances.

Board Member: We have no smell ordinances.

Neighbor 1: Well, we should.

Innkeeper: That man and woman had no choice but to come to Bethlehem for the census on Caesar’s command. I would have given them a room, but we were full.

Innkeeper’s Wife: So we let them use the stable. And then something amazing happened. The shepherds came to our door and asked if we knew where they could find a baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Innkeeper: They told us they had been told about the baby by a host of angels that appeared on the hill top. They had told us that this baby is the Christ who had come to bring the world joy and peace.

Neighbor 2: I know. They went knocking on all the doors spreading the news.

Marcus: Only the empire brings peace.

Chairperson: But not much joy.

Marcus: What was that?

Chairperson: I said, “A baby boy?”

Innkeeper’s Wife: Yes, a baby boy. I believe grow to be the Messiah.

Neighbor 1: But they weren’t respecting the city ordinances.

Neighbor 2: Or the neighborhood’s peace and quiet.

Marcus: Or the empire!

Chairperson: Absolutely. From now on, when someone comes to your inn in need, you must consider what is really important.

Innkeeper: It was that night that I learned what is really important.

Chairperson: That will be all, meeting adjourned.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fourth Day of Skit-a-Day Week for the First Week of Advent

I've run posted this skit before on this blog, but it fits the week:

FIREWORKS DAY (a skit) first performed at Felton Bible Church

The Smith Family (Bill, the father; Betty, the mother; Katie, the daughter and Ingmar, a foreign exchange student)
The Jones Family (Joe, the father; Judy, the mother and Fred, the son)
Setting: two families with picnic baskets and coolers, all dressed for picnic, though exchange student may be oddly dressed

BILL: Hey Joe! Happy Fireworks Day!

JOE: Happy Fireworks Day right back at you!

(Everyone wishes everyone else a “Happy Fireworks Day!”)

KATIE: Joe, Judy, Fred, I’d like to introduce you to our new foreign exchange student, Ingmar.

(Jones all greet Ingmar, “Good to meet you”, “Welcome to our country”, etc.)

BETTY: It’s wonderful that you could get together with us for this Fireworks Day Picnic. Ingmar, being from a foreign country, has never celebrated Fireworks Day, so maybe you could help us explain to him what it’s all about.

JOE: Well, first of all, the important thing about Fireworks Day, is that you get the day off work.

FRED: And I get out of stupid summer school.

JUDY: If you had done your math homework like I told you, you wouldn’t need to be in summer school.

BILL: But Fireworks Day is much more than about getting our school and work. For instance, there are all the great traditions.

JUDY: Yes, every year we get together with friends and family and have a big picnic, because holidays are all about family.

FRED: Don’t listen to them, Ingmar. The really cool thing about Fireworks Day is the fireworks. You’ve got to love the explosions and noise. Really loud noise!

KATIE: And when you watch the fireworks, you have to sit there and say, “Ohhhhh”, then “Ahhhhhhhh” and then “Ohhhhhhh” again.

INGMAR: I must admit, I am confused. In my school back home, we learned about this day, July 4, and that it was called Independence Day. And that today was the day when you celebrated the beginnings of your nation. That today you took time to remember your freedom and liberty and those who made great sacrifices to obtain it.

KATIE: Yeah, I hear that’s what we used to do. But it’s boring to spend time on that history stuff.

BILL: And some people have different opinions on freedom, liberty and all that stuff.
JOE: And nothing brings down a holiday like politics.

JUDY: Except maybe religion.

BETTY: That reminds me of something I’m looking forward to. This year we can show Ingmar how we celebrate all of our holidays, like Turkey Day and Bunny Day and even my favorite holiday.

INGMAR: What holiday would that be?

BETTY: Why Presents Under the Tree Day, of course.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Third Day of Advent Skit-a-Day Week

Christmas Fashions (First performed at Healdsburg Community Church)
Leader Jill
Designer #1
Designer #2
Designer #3
Designer #4 Swaddling cloth
Model #1 Christmas tree dress decorated in hearts
Model #2 Outfit covered with diamonds, dollar signs and jewels. Maybe coins?
Model #3 Santa outfit

Leader: This is exciting. We’ve narrowed our choice of themes for the Christmas fashion show to two choices: “Christmas in Love” or…. “Love in Christmas.”

Designer 1: Why don’t we take it to a vote?

Leader: All right… Everyone for “Christmas in Love” raise your hands. Now hands for “Love in Christmas” (All hands go up.). “Love in Christmas” it is. Let’s see what designs you’ve come up with. Does anyone have anything that will work with this theme?

Designer 2: Yeah, like, okay, I have something that so drips in the “Love in Christmas” theme. Model One, come on out! Model One!

(Model one comes out sheepishly. Her dress looks like a Christmas tree decorated with hearts.)

Designer 3: I don’t know, that just seems a bit… I don’t know… Obvious.

Designer 2: Do you have something better?

Designer 3: I think so. I think I’ve done something that captures the spirit of the age. Model Two! Come on out!

(Model Two struts, wearing a dress decorated with diamonds, jewels and dollar signs)

Designer 1: I don’t get it. What does this have to do with love or Christmas?

Designer 3: That’s how you show love at Christmas. You give nice stuff, you get nice stuff. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Designer 1: Oh really?

Leader: I do think I could sell this.

Designer 3: Oh yeah. Think about it. Think of what the letters in love stand for. ‘Lots Of Very Expensive Stuff.”

Designer 2 (counting on fingers): Isn’t that an extra letter?

Designer 3: “Love” or “Loves”. Whatever. People are going to have this dress on their Christmas list.

Leader: I don’t either of these quite captures “love” or “Christmas”. But I do think we could market it.

Designer 1: What about this one? Christmas is all about family. (Next model comes in.) This design has Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Santa Junior and a puppy and a baby reindeer. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Leader: Stores are always excited about Santa.

Designer 4: I don’t think any of these captures the theme as much as this. (Holds up rags.) These are swaddling clothes.

Designer 2: Dude, like, I just don’t get it.

Designer 4: These are the clothes Jesus wore as a baby. In the Bible, in Luke 2 it says:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
God showed His love in Christmas by sending His son as a baby to save us all. That baby, God’s Son, wore clothes like this!

Leader: I think we definitely have a winner. I just have no idea how we’ll ever market it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Second Day of Advent Skit-A-Day Week

At the Wayside Inn

Restaurant Staff:


(The host’s stand is to one side of the stage, while a table with four plates, four glasses and a water pitcher is center. The magi are dressed in robes, while the host and waitress can be in modern restaurant uniforms or in biblical attire)

(Magi talking as they approach the restaurant host)

Bela: I tell you, we should have turned right after Emmaus. This is going to add a day to our trip.

Sachnar: I still don’t see why we couldn’t have taken the same route we took to get here.

Melindus: We have gone over that again and again. Now remember, during the meal, do not mention Bethlehem or the Child.

Sachnar: You’re paranoid, Melindus. Herod does not have spies here.

Host: That will be a table for four?

Melindus: Yes, a table for four. Just four wise…I mean, business people from the East. But not the Far East. Just on a typical little trip, you know, a little sight-seeing, a little…

Host: Hands washed or unwashed seating?

Bela: Either would be fine.
Host: This way, please.

Sachnar: If only we had kept something so we could eat in a decent place. Did we have to give away all our gold, frankincense and myrrh?

Hatkova: I still am amazed at what we have seen and heard. I tell you the world will not be the same since…

Melindus: Hush, here comes the waitress.

Waitress: Here are your menus; notice we do have a bread and fish special tonight.

(Magi look at menus)

Sachnar: What kind of choices are these? What I’d give for a ham sandwich!

(Waitress looks shocked)

Melindus: As if our clothes and camels don’t draw enough attention to us… do be quiet, Sachnar.

Bela: Just bring us all the bread and fish special.

Waitress: Yes, sir.

Bela: We must stop this bickering. Melindus, you could worry a little less. But we must be prudent. I was foolish to take us to see King Herod in Jerusalem. But I thought if anyone could tell us where the Star was leading, it would be someone in the capital, Jerusalem.

Hatkova: It was a wise choice, Bela. Their priests did give us the words of their prophets, “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means the least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you shall come forth a ruler, who will shepherd my people Israel.” But I think He will rule more than Israel.

Melindus: Then Herod told us to go to Bethlehem to find the Child, and then told us to report back to him so that he too could worship the Child. But the liar just wanted to know where the new King was so he could kill Him.

Sachnar: Now how do you know he wanted to kill the Child?
Melindus: Because of the dream. I know you had the same dream, Sachnar, that I had, and that Hatkova and Bela had. The voice of God told us in the dream not to go back to Herod and to go home a different way.

Sachnar: Maybe it wasn’t the voice of God. Maybe we had the dreams because of bad fish.

Hatkova: You know better than that, Sachnar. We have heard the voice of God. And we have seen God in the face of that Child.

Sachnar: And that’s another thing. Do you really believe that little Boy we saw was a King, let alone God? He looked like any other child, cried when hungry like any other child, needed his diaper changed like any other child….

Hatkova: But don’t you see, that’s the wonder of it all! If what his mother and father say is true, and I believe it, then this Child is like any other and unlike any other. The woman said she had known no man, and that God Himself is the Father of the Child. Therefore the Child is God Himself, living among us.

Waitress: (with plates of food) Your orders, sirs. And excuse me, sir, but I could not help but overhear you earlier. Do you have word about the Messiah?

Sachnar: Don’t worry, we were just joking here.

Hatkova: It is not a joke. We have wonderful news.

Melindus: We know nothing about your Messiah, and you can go back to your master, Herod, and tell him we found nothing and we will never disturb him again.

Bela: Quiet, you fool. This is not a spy. Why, young lady, do you want to know?

Waitress: My people have been waiting for generations for the Messiah to save us from the Romans and tyrants like Herod. Do you think He may have come to save my people?

Bela: Yes, dear girl. But if my friend Hatkova is right, this Child Jesus will not just save your people. If, indeed, the true God who made all things now lives among us, then He is here to save all people. So spread the word among your people. And we will return to our land to share the good news with our people.

Waitress: Thank you, thank you, sir. I will tell my family. Thank you for sharing the wonderful news. (She leaves)

Melindus: Are you sure we are safe sharing this news?

Sachnar: And telling people back home…what if they think we’re mad?

Hatkova: God has allowed us to hear His voice and see His face. I don’t think it would be safe or sane to keep this news to ourselves.

Bela: Yes, Hatkova. This is wonderful news we have. And it wouldn’t be right to keep it to ourselves. Everyone who knows about Jesus should share this joy with the world.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Christmas Skit a Day for the First Week of Advent

“Who’s Who in Whoville?” (Performed at Felton Bible Church)

Setting: A High School Study Group in someone's living room

Cast: Shawn, Beth, Joel, Biff and little girl

Joel: OK, let’s get down to work. As we approach this book, we need to answer the important questions. The “What’s” and “Why’s” of this book. I assume we have all read the book.

Biff: I haven’t completely got through it. I did read the jacket cover.

Shawn: I’ve been pretty busy with the Christmas shopping.

Beth: You guys haven’t had time to read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas?”

Biff: I saw the movie.

Shawn: I saw the movie and the cartoon too, and we all know the basic story. This ugly green guy steals these people‘s, or Who’s, or whatever’s Christmas stuff, but they still sing “Bah-hoo Doray” anyway.

Joel: OK. Let’s start with the theme. What do you think Dr. Seuss, or more properly, Theodore Geisel, was trying to convey with this story. I believe it is an assault on consumerism and the rampant commercialization of the holidays.

Beth: Why do you say “holidays”? The book is not called “How the Grinch Stole the Holidays”?

Joel: Well, I don’t want to offend anyone.

Shawn: I myself am offended to have to do this stupid project just before vacation.

Biff: I’m offended there’s nothing to eat here.

Joel: Could we please get back to the subject. What do you think is the point of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”?

Biff: Is it that Jim Carrey is funny?

Shawn: I think the point is that he isn’t funny. Or is it that you shouldn’t trust people dressed Santa?

Joel: Beth, do you have anything intelligent to add to the conversation?

Beth: If you don’t mind, I’ve got someone who could help us out on this.

(Very small girl enters in nightgown and hair up like a Who from the Seuss book.)

Joel: Say... That’s not who I think it is, is it?

Beth: Yes, I’d like you to meet Cindy Lou Who, who is now more than two.

Cindy Lou: But not much more than two.

Biff: If you’re really Cindy Lou Who, than tell us… Is Jim Carrey as funny off screen as he is onscreen?

Beth: Cindy Lou, could us why Whos could still celebrate even though the Grinch stole your Christmas things?

Cindy Lou: ‘Cause it was Christmas. The Grinch could take the other presents, but he couldn’t take the most important thing about Christmas, Jesus Christ entering the world.

Joel: Now wait a minute here. The book never said anything about Jesus.

Biff: Neither did the movie.

Shawn: Or even the cartoon.

Cindy Lou: Yes, the networks and children’s publishers were all concerned about getting complaints. But the day is Christmas; it is about Christ. He is the gift no one can steal away.

Joel: I don’t know if we can write that in a report for school. As I said we need to answer the “What’s” and “Why’s” of Christmas.

Cindy Lou: But don’t you see? Christmas isn’t about the what’s of Christmas, like presents. Or even so much about the whys. Back in Whoville, it’s always about the whos. And the most important Who, is Jesus.

Joel: But is that something we can put in a report?

Beth: We better. I think what I’ve learned is that the Grinchest thing we can do is to leave Christ out of Christmas.

Friday, November 30, 2012

So...My Overall Crabby Take on "Superstar Secrets"

Admittedly, as a fifty year old man who has never watched the show on which this book is based, it would be an understatement to say I’m not the target audience of “Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel.

It was a for-the-heck-of-it read, as I recently blogged about an old Partridge Family book and an old Brady Bunch book, and I was curious how this book was compared. (You can see my chapter by chapter blog at in the November of 2012 entries.) I wasn’t surprised that the book wasn’t very good, but I was a little sad about some of the ways it isn’t good.

If you look at the heroes and heroines of good children’s literature, they often struggled in life. Perhaps an orphan like Oliver Twist, Sarah Crewe or Harry Potter. Perhaps impoverished like Sounder’s master, Charlie Bucket or Katniss Everdeen. Children living in times of war like the Penvensies or the Marches.

Then we have the dilemmas faced by Miley Stewart in this book, and I assume the other books and in the TV show. She has a great life as a ‘normal’ kid going to Malibu High, but she also has a fabulous life as pop singer sensation, Hannah Montana. And she wants to keep both lives without giving up what either has to offer. It’s like she’s found a way to taste and digest the cake while keeping a perfect holographic image of it right there on the table. Neat trick if you can do it, but it doesn’t make for very compelling stories.

First of all, the ‘normal’ student at Malibu High is more privileged and has access to more wealth and pleasure than the vast majority of the world’s youth could ever imagine. But that isn’t enough, the character must not just have the advantages of the 1%, but the advantages of the .01% of pop stardom.

Next we, are asked to feel bad because this top secret pop stardom keeps the girl from having a completely free schedule. Or as M. C. King (who adapted this book from TV scripts) writes, “So, on weekends, Miley was usually booked…It was the one major drawback of being talented, fabulous, and internationally known.” Poor kid.
Because she chooses to live two lives, deception is a basic part of her lifestyle. Throughout the book, she deceives her potential boyfriend/boyfriend, first hiding her identity, and then her feelings.

And why does a 14 year old girl need a steady boy friend? Early in the book, Miley bemoans not having boyfriend, and hangs out with her friend, Lilly, as a sad consulation.

As if the fictional character didn’t provide a poor enough role model for kids struggling with self-esteem issues, we have the actress who played the pop sensational “growing up” in public with an increasingly sexualized image.

“Superstar Secrets” was #18 in the series. I don’t think I’ll get around to the books that came before or after.

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel adapted by M. C. King - Part 2 Chapter 8 - THE FINAL CHAPTER

1)Plot Synopsis: Jackson uses the George Costanza method of returning to an old job and pretending he was never fired, without crediting the Seinfeld character. Rico takes him back, but believes he (Rico) must be going crazy. Mr. Stewart tries to cheer Miley up with ice cream. Miley complains to her dad that honesty didn’t work with Jake. Mr. Stewart says maybe he just wasn’t the right guy. Miley receives a single rose and a note from Leslie (Jake’s real name) which states that Miley was right, he doesn’t deserve her, but he hopes to some day. And that he won’t reveal her secret.

2)Character Development: Miley complains that honesty didn’t work with Jake. Though she was eventually revealed to him her secret identity, she was actually dishonest with him about many other things. She is obviously delusional. Mr. Stewart admits that food is the only language he knows of to cheer his daughter. Can a very special bulimia nervosa be far away?

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: Employment contracts and laws. Rico and Jackson seemed completely unaware of such things.

4)Hip Slang: “Who the Sam heck is Leslie?” Mr. Stewart asking about the identity of the rose and note sender.

5)Contemporary Cultural References: Jackson remembers his dad singing a song about poker, which evidently is the Don Schlitz song, “The Gambler”, made famous by Kenny Rogers.

6)Favorite Passage: “Here you go, darlin’,” he said, handing her a bowl of ice cream. “Fudge ripple’s like a heartbreak airbag. It doesn’t stop the hurtin’, but it cushions the blow.”


“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel adapted by M. C. King - Part 2 Chapter 7

1)Plot Synopsis: On the limo ride home, Jake accused Miley of acting out because she was jealous of him. But he says they can work through her jealousy just as he was working on being normal for her. She says that they have to break up. Jake can tell she is afraid he will tell her Hannah Montana secret and he says he may do just that.

2)Character Development: Jake had not been aware that stealing water from a little girl is a bad thing until Hannah pointed it out. Jake uses a line from one of his movies to express what he is feeling. Miley says normal people don’t quote movie lines in real life. If so, I know many people who aren’t normal.

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: Child water theft. Using movie lines in ‘normal’ life.

4)Hip Slang: “Dang!” and “Sweet niblets!” both used by Miley to express exasperation.

5)Contemporary Cultural References: (Got to remember to delete this heading because I can’t find anything.)

6)Favorite Sentence: “The only reason I did they stupid ‘normal’ thing was for you!”

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel adapted by M. C. King from scripts by Douglas Lieblin and Andrew Green - Part 2 Chapter 6

1)Plot Synopsis: Miley goes with Jake to his movie premiere with her swan dress and hairy armpits hidden in a coat. On the red carpet, Miley reveals the get-up along with spitting in Brian Winter’s (the entertainment interviewer) face. Jake tells Miley they’re going home and she feels sure Jake is going to break up with her.

2)Character Development: Jake reveals either a very strange sense of humor or an amazingly inept grasp on biology. On the red carpet, he tells Miley they have to go home to feed the cats. When Miley responds he has no cats, Jake says, “Maybe we can build one out of your arm pits!”

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: What are those big limos that movie stars ride in doing for climate change? Also, is the shaving of women’s armpits a capitulation to sexism?

4)Hip Slang: “Silly Goose!” – What Miley calls Jake.

5)Contemporary Cultural References: “Teen Gladiators”?

6)Favorite Sentence: “There’s a breeze in Pittsburgh, if you catch my drift,” she said. (Miley referencing the homage to ‘Teen Bigfoot’ in her underarms.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. King Part 2 Chapter 5

1)Plot Synopsis: Jackson exults in foiling Rico’s attempts to get his Cheeze Jerky recipe. He also delights in all the money they’ve taken in, until Oliver reminds him they must pay Oliver’s money for the ingredients for the product. So actually, only one dollar in profit has been brought in. Miley and Lilly try to figure out how Miley should break up with Jake. After discarding ideas such as ‘Face transplant’ and ‘Move to Peru’, they stumble upon the idea of Miley acting so obnoxious that Jake will want to break up with her.

2)Character Development: Miley appreciates Lilly’s attempts to console her.

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: Economic theory – business must consider costs of production and labor when they set prices (along with supply and demand.) Perhaps members of Occupy Wall Street could learn something from the book.

4)Hip Slang: “Operation Get Jake to Break Up with Me” is the name of the plan Miley and Lilly devise. “Yuck!” – a term of abhorrence.

5)Contemporary Cultural References: Without to the singer’s name, Björk swan dress, worn to the 2001 is references by Lilly as a model for what Miley could wear to a premiere with Jake.

6)Favorite Sentence: “In an homage to Jake’s beloved ‘Teen Bigfoot’, and with the help of an old brown shag rug and some wig glue, Lilly gave Miley’s underarms a more…natural look.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. King Part 2 Chapter 4

1)Plot Synopsis: After the ice cream parlor, Jake goes with Miley, Oliver and Lilly to the beach. Jake talks on and on about himself. When Jake leaves them to take off his wig, the friends talk about what an egotistical jerk Jake is and decide Miley must break up with him. Jake returns and says he had a great evening being a normal person. Jake then turns on the TV so they can watch Jake on “Zombie High”.

2)Character Development: Jake talks about how his has been in show business since he was six months old and knows no other life. Jake winks, a very creepy gesture.

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: Narcissism is a serious problem for which there is apparently no cure. If you know someone who is a narcissist, and this person bores you, you must end your relationship with that person. After all, you have to think of yourself first.

4)Hip Slang: “Jitters” – Miley and friends consider that perhaps Jake only talks about himself because of this condition.

5)Contemporary Cultural Issues: “Wonder Diapers” and “Natural Baby’s Organic Pureed Pineapple Pilag” – products Jake did commercials for as a kid. “A Star Is Born: The Preschool Years” –how the narrator refers to Jake talking about his young life. “Teen Bigfoot” – a movie Jake starred in with the tag line “The only thing bigger than his foot…was his heart.”

6)Favorite passage: Miley frowned and shook her head. “I don’t understand. I mean, Hannah Montana is a star, too. But underneath, Hannah is a real person. Underneath, Jake is just…” “More Jake,” said Oliver.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. Star (based on the TV episodes "Achy Jakey Heart Parts I & II") Part 2 Chapter 3

1)Plot Synopsis: Jackson and Oliver’s Cheeze Jerky business continues to boom. An old woman approaches Jackson with a baby carriage. The woman asks for the jerky recipe. But Jackson pulls the blanket out of the carriage to reveal it is Rico disguised as a baby. Meanwhile, Miley, Oliver and Lilly wait a pizza parlor and wait for Jake. Jake comes disguised as an ordinary person, with dark hair and a funny accent. Jake gets tired of waiting in the pizza line and storms out of the restaurant. They go to a less crowded ice cream parlor. But Jake gets inpatient waiting for water and steals it from a little girl’s tray. Jake is not thrilled with life as an ordinary person and Miley is not thrilled with Jeff.

2)Character Development: Dark hair and sun glasses make Jake unrecognizable to Miley. People don’t seem very perceptive in this world.

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: On weekends, pizza parlors and shacks have long lines and annoying to wait for food.

4)Hip Slang: “Cootchy-cootchy-coo” – what Jackson says to Rico disguised as a baby. “Mwa- ha-ha-ha-ha” – Rico’s demonic laugh. “Weirdo, say what?” is what Miley says to Jake when she doesn’t recognize him.

5)Contemporary Cultural References: An episode of ZOMBIE HIGH: ‘Haunted Deli: Take a Number and Wait….to Die!’

6) Favorite Sentence: “If Oliver orders the chili-dog pizza again, we’ll just sit by the windows.”

Sunday, November 25, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. King Part 2 Chapter 2

1) Plot Synopsis: Miley tells Lilly and Oliver she told Jake about Hannah. Miley goes to the movies with Jake who gets the star treatment (moved to the front of the line, autograph requests, etc.)

2) Character Development: Jake is accustomed to being treated like a star and likes it (instead of going to the snack bar for a drink, he says loudly, “I’m thirsty” and drinks are offered to him.) Miley doesn’t like it that he likes it.

3) Relevant Cultural Issues: Jake is given free admittance to the movies because he is a movie star. It is true that those who can most afford to pay for things are most often given free stuff. The anti-soda craze: at a movie theater, the drinks offered to Jake are: water, fruit juice and ice tea.

4) Hip Slang: “Why don’t y’all take a picture? It’ll last longer.” Miley says this to fans staring at her and Jake. They then take pictures.

5) Contemporary Cultural References: Um…Movies?

6) Favorite Sentence: “Helicopters, movie stars, forbidden love – it’s all so romantic,” Lilly says dreamily.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel Part 2 Chapter1

1) Plot Synopsis: After Miley told Jake she was also Hannah, she waited for a response. Jake told her he liked Miley and Hannah, so he was okay with it. As they were about to kiss, a paparazzi helicopter swooped over head. Jake and Miley argued about whether the copter was there for Jake or Hannah. Then Miley realized that if there were pictures of Hannah and Jake, people would think Jake was cheating on Miley. So they ran and hid behind Rico’s Shack.

2) Character Development: Jake and Miley argue about which of them is a bigger star.

3) Relevant Cultural Issues: Underlining issues of sexism as Jake seems to assume that he, as a male, is a bigger star than Hannah, who is female. Or maybe Jake thinks movies are more relevant than music. Or maybe they’re both egomaniacs.

4) Hip Slang: “Seaweedy” – as in, when Oliver heard that Miley is Hannah Montana, his complexion was a little “seaweedy”.

5) Contemporary Cultural Issues: Dixie Chicks – Jake, after learning that Miley is Hannah, wonders if she has any other secrets, like also being the Dixie Chicks.

6) Favorite Sentence: “But no sooner had their lips touched than a deafening whirring came from over-head.”

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. King Part 1 Chapter 9

1)Plot Synopsis: Jake wants to get together with Miley, but Miley tells Jake she has to do a “school thing”. Actually, she is going to read to at a local “grade school” as her alternate identity, Hannah Montana. At the grade school, Hannah reads a children’s book with a heavy handed message about honesty. One of the students asks Hannah if she has ever lied. Hannah tells the students “Sometimes life is … complicated” which leads to Hannah being berated by a teacher for advocating lying. After leaving the school grounds, Miley/Hannah calls Jake and tells him they must meet. Miley brings her blonde Hannah wig and reveals to Jake that she is Hannah Montana.

2)Character Development: Jake reveals he cannot bear the thought of going a day without seeing Miley, obviously indicating a combination of insecurity and control issues. Hannah/Miley feels competent in answering questions about songwriting or make-up, but not honesty.

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: Situational ethics, particularly in regards to speaking the truth. Hannah advocates grey, while the school teacher speaks up for black and white.

4)Hip Slang: “Sweet niblets” – Hannah’s expression of exasperation.

5)Contemporary Cultural References: “Trudy, the Truthful Turtle”, the book Hannah reads to the students. “Frankie , the Fibbing Frog”, the book Hannah doesn’t read to the students. Superman and Lois Lane – Hannah points out to the students that Sups doesn’t tell the star reporter his true identity. Some students are quite upset when Hannah tells them that Superman isn’t real. (This reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about lately. They say Batman and Bruce Wayne are good friends. But have you noticed you never see them together? Which makes me think that maybe…. They aren’t really friends!)

6)Favorite Sentence: “Though Hannah Montana might have been sitting in a tiny, Play-Doh-splattered chair, surrounded by beaming second graders, Miley Stewart was somewhere else entirely.”
The End of Part One

Friday, November 23, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. King Part 1 Chapter 8

1)Plot Synopsis: Jackson renames his shack as “Jackson and Oliver’s Cheeze Jerky”. His menu was streamlined to no longer sell anything except beef jerky dipped in melted processed cheese. The new item is quite popular and Jackson’s business for the day flourishes while Rico’s business languishes. Rico plots.

2)Character Development: Natasha, Rico’s assistant who helped get Jackson fired, enjoys Jackson’s Cheezy Jerky.

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: Economic theory takes a beating again. The narrator postulates that every Jackson earns would have gone to Rico. But this assumes a finite cash pool, when Jackson’s business might , in fact, attract new customers that might buy Jackson’s artery threatening confection and then buy some of Rico’s overpriced water.

4)Hip Slang: Cheeze Jerky.

5)Contemporary Cultural References: Rico rubbing his hands together like all those maniacal villains do in the movies.

6)Favorite Sentence: “Rico stared at the sticky mess of dried meat and processed cheese and wrinkled his nose.”

Thursday, November 22, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. King Part 1 Chapter 7

1)Plot Synopsis: Jake and Miley have a midnight date at the beach. Jake says he has a secret to tell Miley and she worries about what it will be (“Is he 30 years old? Does he have 12 toes? Does he still suck his thumb?” Jake tells Miley his real name is ‘Leslie’ and he doesn’t want them to keep secrets from one another. Miley keeps the secret that she is Hannah Montana for the time being. Miley’s dad is on the front porch when Jake takes her home, so they don’t kiss. Miley asks what she should do about Jake and her secret identity. He says she should tell Jake…or not. Miley gets mad at him for not telling her what to do.

2)Character Development: We learn Miley is 14. We learn that apparently, Jake on a date at the beach, wears shoes that cover his toes so Miley wonders how many toes he has. Miley once had a hamster named ‘Leslie’ until she found out it wasn’t a girl.

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: Should parents allow kids to make their own choices? (About revealing or not revealing their secret pop star identity.)

4)Hip Slang: “Shut up” used in an endearing way from Miley to Jake.

5)Contemporary Cultural References: Mr. Stewart reads the newspaper comic “The Family Circus”.

6)Favorite Sentence: “Tell him the truth? That was the craziest thing she had ever heard!”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. King Part 1 Chapter 6

1)Plot Synopsis: Jackson opens his “shack” (a wooden box with a few strips of cardboard glued to the outside) which apparently sells things to meet your “beach needs, at reasonable prices.” He is disappointed that on his first day he has no business. His friend, Oliver, points out that his food is disgusting, for instance, his mayo is green. Oliver accidently drops the beef jerky he is eating into a vat of congealed nacho cheese. Jackson’s friend, Todd, happens along and tries the cheese dipped beef and loves it.

2)Character Development: Todd is described as not “the brightest bulb” (a phrase from Mr. Stewart.) I’m at a loss to yet see any character in this book that displays voltage of any kind.

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: An argument for the necessity of the FDA becomes quickly apparent in this chapter.

4)Hip Slang: “Mmmmmmm” indicating appreciation for the taste of a food.

5)Contemporary Cultural References: The beef jerky/nacho cheese incident is clearly a homage to Reese “You got your peanut butter on my chocolate” ad campaign which I believe is nearing the half century mark.

6)Favorite Sentence: “Maybe,” said Oliver, “it’s ‘cause at Rico’s you can get overpriced hot dogs, and here” – he picked up a bowl of gelatinous green goo – “you get half-priced food poisoning.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. King – Part One Chapter 5

1)Plot Synopsis: Lilly goes to Miley’s for breakfast toting many tabloids with pictures of Miley with Jake. Ashley and Amber, Miley’s sworn enemies show up at Miley’s door wanting to make nice.

2)Character Development: Miley feels her life has not changed, “other than having the best boyfriend ever” but A & A make her wonder if that is true. Miley’s regard for Jake as scum turned so suddenly to adoration make one wonder again about her mental stability.

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: Ashley and Amber have a cool list ranking all the kids in school (with Lilly and Miley usually inhabiting the bottom of the list.) At other schools, is this a thing?

4)Hip Slang: “BFF” – what A & A refer to Miley as in this chapter.

5)Contemporary Cultural References: Going to the mall.

6)Favorite Sentence: “Mean girls say what?”

Monday, November 19, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. King Part 1 Chapter 4

1) Plot Synopsis: Miley, Lilly and Mr. Stewart watch the red carpet festivities of Jake’s new film. In a national television interview with Jake and his co-star, Marissa Hughes, Jake reveals he loves Miley. Miley goes to the theater to greet him. Jake kisses Miley and the tabloids photograph the event.

2) Character Development: Miley’s dad places enjoying a good steak over Miley’s feelings. Miley feels calling Jake on the phone wouldn’t be romantic. Jake only admits to loving Miley when he accidently uses her name rather than Marissa’s.

3) Relevant Cultural Issues: The lack of privacy for stars in today’s tabloid world.

4) Hip Slang: “Cheeseball” – Miley’s description of interviewer Brian Winters. “Ginormous” is used to describe Jake’s smile.

5) Contemporary Cultural References: The “S-Channel” (for Star Channel) watched by the Stewarts. A DVR is used by Miley to watch Jake’s love confession over and over again.

6) Favorite Sentence: “She was sure there were other ‘S’ words that described Jake Ryan, too, but she’d have to check the thesaurus later.”

Sunday, November 18, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel by M. C. King - Part 1 Chapter 3

1)Plot Synopsis – Much is not clear in this chapter. Miley’s brother Jackson is apparently working somewhere where water is sold. The writer doesn’t care to clarify if this is a restaurant, surf shop, deli or bodega. All we know is that water is sold there and people wax their surfboards there. A beautiful girl asks to buy a bottle of water after she waxes her surfboard. He tells her water costs $3 (which he thinks if overpriced.) The “hot” (in both senses, we are told) girl says she has only a dollar. Jackson says he will sell the bottle for a dollar (with the “employee discount”.) Jackson’s boss, Rico, climbs out of the girl’s surf bag and fires Jackson. Jackson thinks of starting his own place (Surf shack? Grocery store? Armory that sells water?)

2)Character Development – Jackson equates charging high prices with theft (might be a candidate for Occupy Wall Street.) Jackson’s boss, Rico, equates charging high prices with the American dream (perhaps a candidate for a fantasy boss of a member of Occupy Wall Street.)

3)Relevant Cultural Issues – The economic theory behind pricing products. The objectification of women (Jackson seems to judge the surfer girl by appearance only.)

4)Hip Slang – “Hot” for attractive. “IHOF” for “International House of Failure” (Rico’s description of what Jackson’s “Shack” would be.) “IHORPWAFAS” (for International House of Reasonably Priced Water and… Fries and Stuff”, the kind of place Jackson would like to open.)

5)Contemporary Cultural Issues – Um… Surfboards?

6)Favorite Sentence – “And as I said before, I’m so, SO hot.” Girl explaining why she should get her water for a dollar.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” A Hannah Montana Novel by M. C. King Chapter 2

Plot Synopsis: Jake sends Miley many gift baskets with apology notes. Jake appears at door in suit of armor and says he will leave Miley alone if she says she has not thought of him. Miley can not. She asks if they can go out that night. Jake says he has to go to his movie premiere with his female co-star that he must pretend to be dating. Miley hits Jake on the head with a salami from a gift basket.

2) Character Development: Miley’s father worries about gaining weight from all the food in the gift baskets. Miley has a sore wrist from signing for all the gift baskets.

3) Relevant Cultural Issues: Jake admits he must kiss his co-star/fake date. How far is too far?

4) Hip Slang: Mr. Stewart – “One muffin away from my easy-fit jeans.”

5) Contemporary Cultural References: None, unless you count for some odd reason candy corn or steaks from the Malibu Prime Meat Company.

6) Favorite sentence: “You’ve dumped stuff on me, you’ve yelled at me but the one thing you haven’t done is tell me you don’t care.”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

“Superstar Secrets” A Hannah Montana Novel (#18 in the Disney series) Chapter #1

1)Plot Synopsis: Miley Stewart wasn’t just “an everyday Malibu high school student”; she was also Hannah Montana, “one of the biggest pop stars in the world”. Usually her schedule was full – going to school weekdays and performing weekends. But Miley/Hannah uses one of her rare Saturdays off to reflect on her romantic life. Six months previous, Jake Ryan, teen actor had revealed to Hannah Montana (a guest star on his television show), that he liked a girl at his school, Miley Stewart. Then Miley (or was it Miley as Hannah, it really wasn’t very clear) kissed Jake, but Jake then went off to shoot a movie in Romania for six months, angering Miley/Hannah.On this free Saturday, Hannah goes with her friend, Lilly Truscott to the beach. At the beach, Lilly happens to read in a tabloid that Jake is returning to “town” for a movie premiere. (Apparently, Malibu is where they do film premieres now.) As Miley bad mouths Jake for leaving her, Jake parachutes onto the beach right behind her. When Miley turns to see Jake, on bended knee, with a rose, apparently about to ask for forgiveness, Miley pours a smoothie on Jake’s head.

2)Character Development: So much is said just in naming of the characters. Miley’s friend, “Truscott” brings to mind, “True Scout”, obviously a stalwart companion. But the narrator makes it clear that Miley just hangs out with Lilly because she doesn’t have a boy friend. “Jake Ryan” brings to mind many manly film characters. And “Montana” is a vast, empty space, as can be found between this character’s ears. Miley drinks strawberry-pomegranate smoothies.

3)Relevant Cultural Issues: When can a pop superstar/ordinary have any free time?

4)Hip Slang:Miley says about her feelings about Jake’s return to town, “Big whoop!” “Zero. Zilch. El zippo.”

5)Contemporary Cultural References:Jake stars in the TV show, “Zombie High” and in the film, “Teen Gladiators and the Sword of Fire.”

6)Favorite Sentence: “It was one major drawback of being talented, fabulous, and internationally known."

Gearing Up for Latest TV Show Novelization Blog

I've blogged a Partridge Family novel and a Brady Bunch novel, but now I'm going to see how contemporary literature of a similar type holds up to the "classics." I'm going to read "Hannah Montana: Superstar Secrets". I've never seen the show. So who am I to judge. It's probably "Mad Men" level quality for the preteen set. We will soon see.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Favorite Vampiers in Honor of Bram

Yesterday was Bram Stoker's 165 Birthday, so in honor of him, I posted my 5 favorite vampire books and 5 favorite vampire films. I'm repeating the lists here, with a little detail.

Five Favorite Vampire Books

1) "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson - Not just favorite vampire or horror book, but simply one of my favorite novels. It's been made into three films, one with Vincent Price, one with Charleton Heston and one with Will Smith, all with different titles and none a fraction as good as the book. The tale of the last man on earth in a world of vampires. Fantastic, earned twist ending, appropriate for a writer who created some of the best "Twilight Zones".

2) "Dracula" by Bram Stoker - Holds up quite well, with a modern blend of first and third person perspective. The Count is not the suave gentlemen from the Lugosi version, but rather a vile creation. A surprisingly Christan novel.

3) "Anno Dracula" by Kim Newman - Van Helsing failed and Dracula and his minions rule England, if not in the legal sense. But even that will be taken care of when the Count marries the Queen... One of the great conceits of this book is that it is not just populated by the 19th Century creations of Stoker, but also characters from the worlds of Conan Doyle, Stevenson, Kipling and other writers of Stoker's time and ours.

4) "Salem's Lot" by Stephen King - Written by King when editors still kept him on track and his work was fresh.

5) "How to Care for Your Monster" by Norman Bridwell - Before he wrote about Clifford the Big Red Dog, Bridwell wrote this how to book for kids who prefer mummies, werewolves and, yes, vampires to dogs and cats.

Five Favorite Vampire Movies

IMHO, there isn't a masterpiece of a vampire film. Even those that are "classics" like the 1931 "Dracula" or 1932's "Vampyr" are kind of slow. Both versions of "Nosferatu" have their moments, but I decided to go with the films I found the most fun.

1) "The Lost Boys" - Part of the fun of this film for me is seeing Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Atlantis, my favorite comic book store in the world. It's campy, but has trills and laughs.

2) "Fright Night" (original) - I really love Roddy McDowell as a Creature Feature type host, who helps a teen fight the dreaded creatures of the night.

3) "Near Dark" - I found this film quite frightening when I first saw it, but it wasn't quite the same when I tried to re-watch it recently. Still, Kathryn Bigalow ("The Hurt Locker") made a film that was different from any other.

4) "Dracula" (1979) - This version with Frank Langela as the Count and Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing is my favorite. (I couldn't even make it through the Coppola version.)

5) "House of Dark Shadows" - Probably would be awful if I watched it again, but I have great memories of going with my brothers and sisters to see this at the theater and watching it at Comstock Junior High.

Honorable Mention: "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein", "Nosferatu" (both versions), "Shadow of the Vampire"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"We Need a Moses": A Review of the Film, "Argo"

Pretty high on the nightmare scenario lists would be being trapped in a small place surrounded by enemies trying to kill you. Especially if you doubt that anyone knows where you are and there is no hope for rescue.

That was the situation for six American citizens a little more than thirty years ago in Tehran, Iran. Muslim extremists (including, it is widely believed, the current President of Iran) captured the Untied States embassy taking almost all inside as captives; except for two women and four men who escaped through a side door to find sanctuary in the home of the Canadian ambassador.

The six knew that if word got out about their location, they would surely be captured and executed. And they had no reason to believe that any rescue would come.

“Argo”, the new film directed by Ben Affleck, tells the unbelievable-if-it-weren’t-true story of the joint effort of the CIA with the Canadians to save those six members of the U. S. State Department.

Affleck also stars in the film as Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who specializes in retrieving people from hostile countries and dangerous situations; a specialty nicknamed a “Moses”. After the Iranian revolution dispelling the Shah, few Americans were welcome in the country, and those were watched with a careful eye.

So Mendez came up with what sounded like a hair-brained scheme: pretend the six are part of film crew, scouting out Iran as a location for filming a cheap “Star Wars” rip-off called “Argo”.

The film does a wonderful job of building tension around a story that is already history (though some of the details have only recently become declassified). There are grim and violent images throughout the film, but it still maintains a macabre sense of humor.

(Comparisons to the recent handling of the attack on the embassy in Libya are hard to avoid. And incredibly, the current administration manages to fail in comparison to the low bar of competence set by the Carter Administration.)

There is also fun to be found in mocking the seventies-tastic fashion in the film (owl lens glasses, polyester galore, etc.) and spotting a TV familiar cast (“Hey, isn’t that the coach from ‘Friday Night Lights’ as Hamilton Jordan?” and “What’s the dad from ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ doing working for the CIA?”)

The film will surely be remembered at Oscar time because some of the heroes are Hollywood figures. In order to present a believable cover, Mendez turns to film professionals such as John Chambers (played by John Goodman), who won an Oscar for his make-up work on “Planet of the Apes”.)

While living the nightmare in Iran, the six refugees are visited by Mendez, who promises rescue if they will follow him. Some of the six believe and some doubt. Just as when Moses came to the Israelites in Egypt and promised rescue, some believed and some scoffed. When one of the six argues that Mendez is putting their lives at risk, another points out that Mendez was willing to rescue his own life to rescue them. Moses took the same risk when he came to Egypt. (Go back and read the story in the first chapters of Exodus.)

Of course, we all are in the nightmare scenario. We are trapped in a world that only offers death as an exit. It might seem like there is no rescue possible.

But God Himself became our Moses. We remember at this time of year how God’s Son was willing to give up all He had to enter our world and provide a rescue. As John described it in his gospel, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NIV)

(“Argo” is rated R for violence and very strong language, including an obscene use of the title that I admit made me laugh.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Another Piece from Absolute Write: "An Interview with the Author of a Bedside Classic"

Not all best selling writers pen best selling novels, magazine articles or even blogs. Some widely read author's work can be found in most unexpected places.

Thaddeus Waxingburg is not exactly a household name, but his writing can be found in virtually every American household. Though he has written innumerable legal briefs and office memos throughout his sixty year plus career, undoubtedly his claim to fame, perhaps immortality, will be found in these words: "Warning: the removal of this tag is illegal. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

I interviewed Mr. Waxingburg in his office in Pueblo, Colorado.

Question: Mr. Waxingburg, did you ever imagine when you wrote the text for that first mattress tag that those words would enter popular culture?

Waxingburg: I should say not. I considered it to be standard legal boiler plate at the time. But I suppose many great writers throughout history had not an inkling of the lasting impact of their work. Shakespeare probably thought "Romeo and Juliet" was just another high school play in his time. Chaucer probably would have been happy if his tales appeared as humorous anecdotes in Reader's Digest. Sometimes the writer is the last one to recognize his own genius.

Question: So you didn't think this particular work would be remembered?

Waxingburg: I always thought I'd be remembered for my briefs. Unlike former President Bill Clinton who will be remembered for his boxers. Referring, of course, to Candidate Clinton's infamous appearance on MTV in which he was asked about his underwear preference. A bit of whimsy. I hope the reference is not too dated for your readers. That's nearly two decades ago. Do you think that will adversely affect the humorous nature of the remark for your readers?

Question: I don't think the age of the reference will have any impact on their amusement. Speaking of humor, have you been surprised by how often your mattress tag has been used as a source of parody?

Waxingburg: I wasn't aware that was taking place.

Question: You know, like the cartoons that show the police breaking into a home and hauling off someone who tears the tag off a mattress.

Waxingburg: But the law does not apply to someone pulling the tag off a legally purchased mattress in their private residence. I suppose I can see how some would not understand that. The tag should not be remover in the store, but after the sales transaction has taken place, the restriction would no longer apply.

Question: Well, yes, I suppose that misunderstanding is the very source of the humor.

Waxingburg: Oh. Yes. Very funny stuff, that.

Question: Finally, Mr. Waxingburg, as a writer whose work has stood the test of time, do you have any advise for aspiring writers?

Waxingburg: Yes. Avoid adjectives. Notice my most famous work eschews adjectives of any kind.

Question: Actually, "full" is an adjective, isn't it? As in "Violators will be prosecuted to the 'full' extent of the law?"

Waxingburg: Oh, I suppose you're right. But usually adjectives are very, very, naughty bad. Also, writers should remember the essence of writing is words, finding the good words, really the best words, and then putting them in the order that would be the order that would be the best and most concise in which they can then be put.

Question: Thank you, Mr. Waxingburg, I'm sure those words too will stand the test of time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Random Top 10 List Halloween Edition: Favorite Movie Monsters

Not doing favorite cute monsters (sorry Muppets and Monster Inc.) I'm even leaving out Hellboy because he was meant to be the hero. Only monsters that were meant to be scary.

10) SNAKEMAN (Tommy Ray) in "Dreamscape" (1984) Creepy, cheesy and smart-mouthed, the stuff bad dreams are made of.

9) The ID (Evil Dr. Morbius) in "Forbidden Planet" (1956) Disney animation makes its first of two appearances on this list as cartoonists drew an alter-ego run amuck in this MGM Science Fiction classic.

8) DRAGON (Maleficent) in "Sleeping Beauty" (1959) Disney could truly scary, and not just for the tots. The other great film dragon was in "Dragonslayer", but that was just a creature trying to get a good maiden meal and this one was truly evil.

7) LITTLE GIRL ZOMBIE (Karen) in "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) I decided to pick just one zombie, so I had to go with the undead tot in the basement.

6) CREATURE OF THE BLACK LAGOON in "Creature of the Black Lagoon" (1954) - The last of the classic Universal monsters. Was happy to get to see this in old school 3-D.

5) ALIEN MOTHER in "Aliens" (1986) - Tough between this one and the one in the first House of Horrors film, but love its battle with Meca-Ripley.

4) FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER in "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) - Karloff in this film edges out his debut as the creature (and the also great Universal monster, Mummy) because he is so eloquent in this film ("Friend!")

3) GODZILLA in "Gojira" (1954) - Because who wouldn't want to stomp through cities like the big guy.

2) KING KONG in "King Kong" (1933) - As Dino said, "No one cries when Jaws dies... But when Kong dies...People cry."

1) THE WOLFMAN (Lawrence Talbot) in "The Wolfman" (1941) - Sure, he looks nothing like a wolf (unlike the great wolf people in "The Howling" and "An American Werewolf in London"), but I love the way the poor guy looks. Can't explain why I've always loved the guy, and he's always been not just my favorite Universal monster, but overall monster. (Someday, I want a cane with a silver wolf head. Is that so much to ask?)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monologue for Ruth Chapter 4: The Man With No Name

We all want to be remembered, don’t we? Is there anything you hate more than having someone forget your name? And the person calls you “Buddy” or “Pal” or “Guy”
because you know he can’t remember your name.

So is it so wrong that I tried to do what I could to preserve my name. I suppose I should tell you my story so you can decide for yourself.

I believe you already heard about Naomi. She went to Moab with her husband and sons. Her sons married Moabite women. Her husband and sons died, and one of her daughters-in-law returned with her to Israel. And that daughter-in-law, Ruth began gleaning in the field of a relative of mine, Boaz.

Boaz brought me into the story. I was walking through our hometown, Bethlehem, by the city gate and Boaz called out to me. He was sitting with the town elders.

The elders are the old men who sit around all day long telling each other how much better things were when the Israelites were out in the wilderness.

Boaz told me he had good news. That the land of Naomi’s son’s land was for sale and I had the first option for redeeming it. I had been looking for ways to build my estate. I’ve always said you can’t lose with real estate. So before the elders, as witnesses to the transaction, I said, “I will redeem it.”

But then Boaz went into the fine print. I figured there would be more to the deal. Perhaps some kind of finders fee to Boaz for alerting me to the deal. But it was more than just a finders fee.

Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”

Now this was more than I bargained for. To take a foreigner, an alien as my wife. And not only that, the property would still be under someone else’s name. Legally, the land and my first son would take this other man’s name. I thought this deal would help me make a name for myself, but it would do nothing of the sort.

So I said, “I can’t redeem the land if it will endanger my own estate. Why don’t you redeem it yourself, Boaz?”

And then I saw a big smile on Boaz’ face, like this is what he had been hoping for all along. Which confused me. He was a man of property as well, wasn’t he concerned with his good name.. Marrying some Moab stranger. Maybe he knew something I didn’t, maybe there was an angle I hadn’t considered. But it was too late. I had yielded the opportunity to Boaz and the elders witnessed it.

So we made the transaction, as we did in our time. I took off my sandal and gave it to Boaz, the equivalent of signing a contract in your time. You have the stock exchange, we have the shoe exchange, it’s a whole deal.

Boaz said before the elders, “You are witnesses that I have bought the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon, and I will take Mahlon’s widow as my bride to
preserve the name of the dead with his property so it will not disappear from the town records.”

And the elders blessed Boaz and prayed for prosperity for him and his new bride.

So Boaz married Ruth, and it wasn’t long before she conceived and than had a son, name Obed.

And everyone in town made a big fuss over Naomi saying, “Praise be to the Lord who this day has not left you without a kinsman redeemer. May he be famous in Israel. He has renewed your life. For your daughter-in-law (who is better than seven sons) has given birth.”

Now you would think this was the end of the story. But that son of Ruth and Boaz, Obed.. He had a son by the name of Jesse. And Jesse had a son by the name of David. Maybe you’ve heard of him? King David?

It just isn’t fair. I was the one concerned about my good name, I don’t think Boaz could have cared less. But when the account of this was written, Boaz’ name was spelled right, even Naomi, even Ruth the alien, but my name wasn’t even mentioned.

And when the account of King David’s descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, was written by Luke, he lists Boaz in the family line, and Matthew mentions Ruth as well
as Boaz.

But no one remembers my name.

We all want to be remembered. Don’t you?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Monologue for Ruth Chapter 3 (and a bit of 2): Ruth

You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not used to talking in front of people like this. It’s not that I don’t like to talk. I love to talk. Naomi and I used to talk long
into the night. I’m just not used to talking like this, in front of a lot of people.

Oh, I should tell you about Naomi. She was my mother-in-law, and for a time my dearest and only friend. She was a foreigner from Israel who came to my homeland, Moab. I married her son, Mahlon. But then my husband died. That was very hard for me, or course. But it was even worse for Naomi. She lost her husband and both of her sons. I can’t imagine that kind of pain.

Naomi wanted to go home, to Israel. She needed me, I had to go with her. She tried to persuade me to go home, but I couldn‘t. So I went with her to her

When Naomi had left Israel, it was a time of famine, but it certainly was not when we came back. Everywhere, workers were harvesting rich crops. But we still had nothing.

Naomi told me that the laws of her people, now my people, allowed the poor to follow harvesters and gather the grain they left behind. We certainly were
poor, that’s what I needed to do.

I was afraid how I would be treated when I went to glean. But I was treated with kindness and generosity. I came home that first day with an abundant baskets of barley.

When I told Naomi I had been in the field of Boaz, she smiled. I hadn’t seen her smile like that for months. She said that Boaz was a kinsman of hers, or my late
husband’s. She praised the Lord, saying it was no coincidence I went to that field, that God was showing his grace to us.

Boaz himself asked me to work his field for the remainder of the harvest. It was toward the end of the harvest that Naomi asked me to do something
frightening. She asked me to do something that made sense in their culture, but was alien to me, as I’m sure it would be to you.

She said it was time for me to again begin a home of my own. And she thought perhaps the man I should marry was Boaz. I said Boaz was a good man, but wasn’t it for him to ask me?

She said that Boaz would that night be winnowing barley on the threshing floor, and would then be sleeping there to guard the grain. I was to wash and put on my best clothes and perfume. She told me to go to a place where I could see the threshing floor, and watch Boaz. After he would eat and drink, he would lie down, and I should note where he lay down. And after it was dark, I was to uncover his feet and lie down as well. And then I should wait till he told me what to do.

I know to many of you, to do something like this sounds absurd, mad. But Naomi was a wise woman, I knew I could trust her. I told her I would do whatever she said.

And I did. I went to the threshing floor that night and did all that Naomi told me to do. I found Boaz sound asleep on the threshing floor. I lay down by his feet, but I could not sleep.

After what seemed like an eternity, Boaz woke with a start and cried out, “Who are you?”

“I am you servant, Ruth.” Then I said what Naomi had told me to say, “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are my kinsman-redeemer.”

Then Boaz amazed me. He said, “The Lord bless you, my daughter. This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier. You have not run after younger men, rich or poor. And now my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know you are a woman of noble character. I am a close relative of your late husband, but there is someone more closely related. Stay here for the night. If in the morning he wants to redeem your husband’s land, buy it back, and marry you, then so be it. But if he will not, as surely as the Lord lives, I will. Stay here till morning..”

I slept then, but before the sun was up, Boaz woke me. He gave me grain and sent me home to Naomi. We then had to wait, as Boaz and a man I did not even know, would decide my future.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Monologue for Ruth Chapter 2 from Boaz

Good mornin’! My name’s Boaz, I’m a farmer.

I’m someone who always enjoyed the simple things: watching the sunrise, the smell of rain, the heft of a bushel of grain, these were the things that brought me joy. That’s why I so loved Pentecost, the celebration of the end of harvest.

When I was young, I dreamed of more in life, but I’d given up on expecting anything extraordinary, like, say, love. But life has its surprises. I’ll never forget the day my life began to change. I went out to one of my fields to watch my workers. I
greeted them with the same greeting I always use, “The Lord be with you!” Probably the same way you good people greet your co-workers. And they responded, “The
Lord be with you!”

I noticed someone new in the field that day, a young woman. I asked the foreman of the harvesters who she was. He said she was the woman from Moab, the
daughter-in-law of Naomi.

I knew who she was, of course. Bethlehem is a small town, and the arrival of a woman from Moab was news. My country, Israel, had been at war with Moab many times through the years, though we were in a time of peace. Still, town gossips were not inclined to think kindly of an immigrant from Moab, but all were impressed with her faithfulness to Naomi.

What the foreman told me next impressed me even more. He said the young woman had asked permission to glean behind the workers. It wasn’t necessary for her to ask, God’s law made it clear it was the right of the poor to search for grain after a farmer had harvested a section of a field. Most didn’t ask; she was quite well mannered for a Moabite. And he said that she had been working hard and steadily for hours, taking only one short break.

Oh, I’m sorry. Some of you might not be farmers. I should explain a few things. Among other crops, I grow barley. My harvesters bring in the barley at harvest time and we then thresh it, separating the good grain from the chaff, the useless parts. And some glean after the harvesters, finding the good bits and pieces the harvesters might have left behind.

I knew I had to meet this remarkable woman. I found her in the field and introduced myself. Then I told her, “My daughter, don’t go and glean in another field. Stay here and harvest with my girls,and my men will not bother you. And drink from our water bottles.”

I didn’t want her to risk going anywhere else. I lived in evil days, and who knows what dangers a young, beautiful woman might risk among some of my

She bowed before me and asked, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes, especially since I am a foreigner?”

I told her the truth, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband - how you left your parents and came
to a strange land. May the Lord, the God of Israel, grant you His protection.”

And she said, “May I continue to find favor in your eyes. You have given me comfort and kindness, though I am not even one of your servants.” And she went back
to work.

At meal time I asked her to join me. I gave her bread to dip in wine vinegar, and roasted grain. She didn’t eat it all, but then hurried back to work.

I brought in some of my men and told them to make sure this young woman went home with a full load of grain. I told them if she should harvest among the whole sheaves, then don’t tell her not to. And I said, perhaps, if they were working ahead of her, they could leave some whole stalks for her to find.

After all were done harvesting (and gleaning), it was time to thresh, separate out the good grain. I watched the young woman, her name was Ruth, thresh her grain.
Though her hard work, and the intentional carelessness of my workers, she must have collected an ephah of grain. Now ephah in your measures would be.. Oh ..Um .. A lot of grain.

I went home smiling that night imagining the look on Naomi’s face when Ruth brought home from one day’s work enough grain to feed the two of them for weeks to

At home I thought in delight about the joy that Ruth and Naomi must be experiencing in their unexpected windfall.

I mentioned earlier the simple pleasures that God gives us in life. You know, I think that one of the greatest of those pleasures is the chance to serve others. But you must be ready when God brings those opportunities along. I am still so thankful that I didn’t miss the chance to serve Ruth, when God brought her into my life.