My Yearly Panic Attack: The Twelfth Day of Giftmas 2011

My Yearly Panic Attack: The Twelfth Day of Giftmas 2011

The gifts have been given, the parties have been partied and the cookies are starting to get hard. It’s time to take down the tree and change your facebook picture to something less merry. It’s time to dig up that list of resolutions you said you’d complete by this Saturday and start bargaining with your past self. And it’s time to stop turning the pages in that calendar and throw the empty rind in the trash. For me, that also means it’s time to add a digit to my age. It’s not necessarily more depressing saying “37” than “36,” but it’s still another number that’s higher than the last.
And as much as I like to really hope it isn’t the case, I can’t help feeling bad for myself when I see other people doing the things I want to do. And no, I’m not talking about Snookie. Well, yes I am – but this is a different thing. I saw an innocent enough post from an old friend about him outlining an idea for a story and how he can’t believe that is considered “work.” My best man posted something similar in response. A good friend would have felt happy for his two writing friends. Not me. Not today. I was pissed. How has the world passed up this talent of mine? Suddenly, The Tree of Life made sense. These guys were two of my biggest fans at one time and now they’re out there in the world doing what I want to do. And I know them. They’re real people. What do I have to show for all my years of honing my humor skillz? Just a blog no one reads and a bunch of youtube videos of me doing stand-up at open mics.
Oh yeah. I forgot. I very often forget. I did do something about it. I gave it a try, though a little late and maybe half-assed. But I integrated myself into the stand-up circuit in Cincinnati. And to prove it wasn’t a fluke, I did it again here in DC. And honestly, this dream of writing only recently developed as an off-shoot of that dream. And shit, I’m 16 credits into my graduate degree in Creative Writing. Oh yeah, and I got married last year. And performed in front of 1,000 people at the Lyric and had an award-winning, inspirational show that sold out the Fringe Festival and beyond.
Panic attack deactivated.
Now I just need to use this yearly panic attack for the forces of good. Not to just use all these words to make me feel better about being unproductive. To get off my ass and start doing something. This blog has proven it’s going nowhere, at least not in its current format. Anybody else know that this is the 100th post of this year for the first time ever? Didn’t think so. And happy as I am with everything I just mentioned, I now want more. I want recognition. I want 2,045 twitter followers. I want a paycheck. I want to say “I’m a writer” and mean it. And maybe next year I’ll be able to feel good for John and Mike, who deserve their success for pursuing it. Hopefully I won’t just be blogging about it to no one but my future self. Thanks for reading, whoever you are. May you have a happy and productive 2012.

Double Feature Duel: Miracle on 34th St vs It’s a Wonderful Life: The 11th Day of Giftmas

Double Feature Duel:
Miracle on 34th Street vs. It’s a Wonderful Life
Bout #27: It’s recently come to my attention that I haven’t seen two of the most classic Christmas movies. As a film school grad raised on the profit of a mom and pop video store, I figured tis the season…
Miracle on 34th Street: I wasn’t around in 1947 to know what a good film was. Maybe the pacing was natural for the time but I found some scenes awkward, particularly the long pauses on pieces of writing so the audience can read them. Directors find a different way to do that nowadays. All that said, it was a fun movie. A man named Kris Kringle is so disappointed about the Macy’s drunken Santa that he decides to take the job himself. His sanity comes into question both with the characters and with the audience. Is it really Santa? But when it came time for the second act, Santa hit somebody in the head with his umbrella. Maybe it was customary to hit people in heads with umbrellas in the 40s. I don’t know; I wasn’t around. But the movie just expected the audience to glance over this. Then it turned into a courtroom drama where Santa and his lawyer roommate had to prove that he really was Santa. And in a courtroom scene that would have made my 9th grade screenplay look good, they found a loophole to get Santa out free. Yay. Through the movie, the most intriguing facet was the relationship between Santa and a 9-year old Natalie Wood. She didn’t believe in Santa. But Santa came through in the end, of course. I’m guessing that was the miracle. 5.5 bugs.
It’s a Wonderful Life: Cheesy, predictable, awkwardly paced and rich with jump cuts – but it got me. The sappy ending pulled me back in. An above average man (James Stewart), through forces largely outside his control, ends up living an average life. I know. You can see the parallel. On the brink of suicide after hearing that he’d be worth more dead than alive, he tempts suicide. Down comes an angel – who we’ve already met in the beginning of the film in a Deus Ex Machina as literally as it has ever been applied – to save the day. He shows James what his life would be like had he never been born and SURPRISE! – it turns out he’s affected a few lives here and there. When returned to reality, he runs screaming through the streets about how wonderful his life is, having just minutes earlier, been ready to commit suicide. That’s the part that’s cool. That said, arguably the most iconic Christmas film of all time had jump cuts in emotionally important moments, which is so amateur hour, you don’t even see them in first year film school projects. And the very ending where everybody gives James the money he needs out of the goodness of their heart is over the top wine cheese. Without crackers. But again, I wasn’t around in 1946 to understand the culture. 7 bugs.
Title: Tough to judge film titles that have become so engrained in our culture. Both have been celebrated, redone and parodied. Both also give away the ending, though It’s a Wonderful Life was a lot more tongue in cheek. Because it wasn’t a wonderful life for a long time. And technically, the miracle didn’t necessarily occur on 34th St. (Point, Wonderful 0-1)
Funnier: Both were funny in their own ways, though James Stewart’s character from It’s a Wonderful Life had more carryover to the new millennium. (Point, Wonderful 0-2)
Better Turn: James Stewart was finally getting married and on his honeymoon when the stock market crashed and his business was about to crumble. He had to stay behind to save it, neglecting the lovely woman in the white dress, though she made the best out of the situation, rather than getting upset. And that sure beats Santa hitting a psychiatrist in the head with an umbrella. (Point, Wonderful 0-3)
Better Ending: I spoke about how much I liked the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. But I hated the very ending. In total, I don’t think it stacked up to Santa’s gift of a house and home for his little 9-year old friend. (Point, Miracle 1-3)
Better Message: Maybe it’s older than the 40s or maybe it was born with this movie, but there is yet a better message conveyed in a movie than the “be thankful for what you have” and/or “don’t forget the bright side” message from It’s a Wonderful Life. As good as “believe in miracles” is, it’s tough to compete. (Point, Wonderful 1-4)
Better Acting: I did enjoy Kris Kringle and the single mother (which probably wasn’t too popular in those days), but James Stewart and Donna Reed were a fun couple to watch. (Point, Wonderful 1-5)
More Creative: It’s a Wonderful Life gets a lot of press for the ending, but truth be told, it’s not that tough a concept to come up with. And Santa needing to prove he’s Santa in a court of law with a corrupt judge is pretty original for my money. (Point, Miracle 2-5)
Poster: Well, it’s tough to find a consensus on what the original poster is for some of these older films, but given what I have to work with, I’m going to have to go with It’s a Wonderful Life for at least using real people on the poster. And it helps that it isn’t on a puke yellow background too. (Point, Wonderful 2-6)
Watch again: I will likely watch a remake of either of these in 364 days or so, but if I were to watch one of the originals again, it would probably be It’s a Wonderful Life. But probably only if I was folding laundry or baking cookies too. (Point, Wonderful 2-7)
Overall: In the battle of classic Christmas movies that came out just a week apart from one another, It’s a Wonderful Life takes the blue ribbon. Though truth be told, it’s a lot less Christmassy than Miracle on 34th Street. Shame that’s not a category. Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life (7-2)

A Giftmas Miracle – Part 2: The Ninth Day of Giftmas 2011

A Giftmas Miracle – Part 2: The Ninth Day of Giftmas 2011
So you’re sayin there a chance!

Thank you so much Santa, for giving us the gift of another week of hope. Of all the games that we needed, the most improbable of them was a Redskins victory over the Giants. On any given week, Mark Sanchez can play anywhere from horrible to serviceably well and Tony Romo’s inconsistencies –  especially in December – are very well-documented. But relying on Rex Grossman to win a game against a Giants team that came 4 points away from beating the undefeatable Packers was a tall order. But somehow, you managed to keep hope alive. Now onto the next phase:

It’s pretty simple now, especially after the Detroit comeback. Not easy, but simple. We cannot get the wild card now that two teams in the North (GB and DET) and two teams in the South (NO and ATL) both have at least 9 wins. The only way we can get to the playoffs is through the East. And the only way that can happen is with a three way tie at 8-8. This means PHI needs to win out and have DAL lose out and NYG lose one game. Thankfully, we play each other a couple times so we can take out two birds with one stone. Because if PHI played ATL this week and DAL played SF, we’d need both games to go a certain way. But since we play each other, a PHI win=a DAL loss. One stone. Two birds. Same in week 17 when NYG plays DAL. And all four games are very even or favorable matchups. Four games left. One in 16 chance (again, if flipping coins). And here’s how it shakes out:
Week 16: NYG vs. NYJ, 1:00pm: PHI needs NYJ to win. NYJ favored by 2.5. Home game for NYJ. Also home game for NYG. Giants known for choking away leads in December. Jets known for inconsistent quarterback play. Both these facts are good for the cause. Projected result: NYJ win. 1 in 8 chance.
Week 16: PHI vs. DAL, 4:15pm: PHI needs to win. DAL favored by 1. DAL lost to PHI by 27 earlier this year. DAL not eliminated with loss. PHI will know before game starts if they have a chance. Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray still hurt. Romo famous for sucking in December. Would be very funny if PHI wins. Result: PHI win. 1 in 4 chance and a reason to watch football next week.
Week 17: PHI vs. WAS, 1:00pm: PHI needs to win. Projected line: PHI favored by 11 (projected by me based on very little – not taking bets). WAS has nothing to play for, never does in December. PHI beat WAS easily earlier in year. Rex Grossman still sucks. Result: PHI win. 1 in 2 chance.
Week 17: DAL vs. NYG, 8:20pm (projected flex game): NYG need to win. Projected line: pick em’. By kickoff, NYG will know they’re eliminated, will motivate them more. NYG beat DAL a few weeks ago in closing minutes on blocked field goal. Some BS like that will happen again. Result: NYG win. 1 in 1 chance.
If nothing else, PHI should make the playoffs just because it would be funny. Same with the Chiefs. But that’s a story for another day. And once we get in the playoffs, look out world. We’re playing with house money. Let’s go out and show the world that you can win the Superbowl even with two 4-game losing streaks in the middle of your season. Man, would that piss off a lot of people. Especially, CHI, SEA and ARI who will all have better records than us and be sitting at home watching the playoffs like me. Vince, the Dream Team is back on!

What Your Favorite Holiday Song Says About You: The Eighth Day of Giftmas 2011

What Your Favorite Holiday Song Says About You:
The Eighth Day of Giftmas 2011
12 Days of Christmas: You enjoy forcing sing-alongs at office parties AND/OR you are very insecure and like to prove your worth to everyone around by showing that you memorized the quantity and activity of all the different random birds, lords and pipers in this song.
Do They Know it’s Christmas (Band Aid):You pay 55 cents a month to an African foster child AND/OR you were in Peace Corps.
Christmas in Hollis (Run DMC): You were into hip hop back before they were all thugs AND/OR you enjoy seeing Alan Rickman thrown from very tall buildings.
The Hannakuh Song (Adam Sandler): You long for the days of Saturday Night Live with the most dick jokes per minute AND/OR you are Jewish.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Bruce Springsteen): You are in your fifties AND/OR you want people to think you’re cool and this is the song you think will make people think that.
All I Want For Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey): You know that Mariah is in the Guinness Book of World Records for singing in 8 different octaves AND/OR you waited in line for opening day of New Year’s Eve just in case.
Feliz Navidad (Jose Feleciano): You eat at least five meals a week at Taco Bell AND/OR you play 20v20 soccer in the dirt without shoes or goalies and call it football.
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer (Elmo and Patsy): You are five AND/OR six.
Hard Candy Christmas (Dolly Parton):You were in a community theater production of The Biggest Little Whorehouse in Texas AND/OR you own stock in Jolly Ranchers.
Christmas Wrapping (The Waitresses):You really love or really hate that cranberry sauce became a part of this tradition somehow, but you’re passionate about it either way AND/OR you think it’s still 1982.