Five Things I Am Into Right Now, October 2014

It's The Great PumpkinSo I have to accept the fact my kids are not going to be into the Peanuts. I truly see the generational gap there. While I can write a post dissecting the interworking genius of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (which I did do here), my kids would rather watch something else.

Actually, my son had a really good answer for not wanting to watch the show. He said they used bad language. Which is true, if you consider the word “stupid” a bad word, as we try to do in our house.

And while my son loves looking at my old comics (especially Calvin & Hobbes), he has no interest in looking at Peanuts. So while I’m busy each year collecting the complete works (thanks to the releases by Fantagraphics Books), my old paperback copies sit gathering dust on his shelves. Once I tried reading him the books and he was startled by them.

“Why are they so mean to Charlie Brown?”

“Well, it’s…”

Now how would you answer that? Is it funny to be mean to someone? Are we laughing at a child’s pain? In our age of fighting bullying, is Charlie Brown a victim? Granted, in the later years of Schulz’s writing, Charlie Brown took a back seat and much of his torture disappeared (usually everything seemed to be about Rerun), but it is there in the early years tenfold.

In the next year we’ll be getting a new Charlie Brown movie. The trailer looks beautiful, but I wonder how they will handle this stuff. It could either be a rebirth for the franchise or the final nail in the coffin. When Charles Schulz died he made it very clear he wanted everything to stop after his passing. His family seems to have done everything possible to keep it going though; yet, a part of me believes Schulz had it right. Especially now.

Now on to my October list! Continue reading

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Why The Littlest Angel is the worst holiday story… ever

The First Cover for the "classic"When The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell was published in 1946 it was a holiday phenomenon. This “classic” story has since been published numerous times (with many different illustrated versions); made into movies (cartoon, musical, and live action); and in the list of best-selling children stories of all time (!) it comes up in the top 20. 

Heck, even holiday crooner Bing Crosby sang a song based on the plot of it! 

I remember the first time I heard this story. It was at catechism. and the teacher read it to us as if she was bestowing a great holiday gift on us children. I can still see her smile. While the other kids casually sat near me with crossed legs, I remember really being bothered by the story. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but that reaction to the tale has never gone away for me. And that day, I raised my hand for I had some questions.

My hand is still up in the air.

The fact is, after thinking about it far too much, and being haunted by it like Marley’s ghost each year, I can’t escape my problems with this narrative. I have come to the opinion that this Christmas traditional yarn is… just awful. Horrendous. Possibly the worst holiday story. Oh, God, it is just bad.

Okay, it takes a lot for a story to be a worst holiday yarn than the appalling song “The Christmas Shoes” (which for those lucky not to know is the materialistic and disturbing ditty about an ignorant child who leaves his dying mother’s bedside to go shopping, assuming that the shoes he puts on her feet will go with her soul to heaven and there impress Jesus), but The Littlest Angel does it. It does it ten times over.

Grab a cup of hot chocolate and a Christmas cookie, snuggle in by the fireplace, and let me tell you why… Continue reading

Neil Diamond’s “A Cherry Cherry Christmas” is the Worst Christmas Song Ever! A Holiday Musical Rant.

It Even he doesn't look happy with the result...takes a lot to write a worse song than “Christmas Shoes.”

You could almost see a contest being created around the Herculean task. The title of the contest could relate to old, smelly sneakers or something.

Yet, in 2009 Neil Diamond would have won the coveted holey shoe without any trouble at all with his “A Cherry Cherry Christmas.” (You see how I did that? Because we are talking about the holidays and I said “holey” instead of holy?… Oh, nevermind.)

How did I escape this atrocity to the holidays for the last few years?

It might be my first proof of Christmas angels. (And not the little ones who are all alone with no toys to play with except a shoebox… Wow, I hate that children’s book; most depressing vision of the afterlife ever.) See, I love the holiday season and one of my little embarrassing quirks is each year I give the local radio stations a chance to prove to me that there is still the possibility of good Christmas music being made. Usually, they don’t succeed…

Actually, sadly, I can’t think of the last time they have convinced me that anyone should consider making a holiday CD at all again! Continue reading

This Writing Guy’s 9 Romantic Movie Recommendations

I’ve always found romantic films, and especially romantic-comedies,  to be the weakest of the movie genres. It’s formulaic, it is ridiculous many times, and usually inconceivable that one character would actually be interested in the other (Because, let’s be honest, in every romantic film one of the leads is a jerk that doesn’t really deserve the attention of the other).

When I first started writing screenplays, I really wanted to fix this genre; expose it for all its weaknesses. I created a serious romantic comedy, a silly romantic comedy, an experimental romantic comedy, and even a musical romantic comedy. Suffice to say, none of them got made, so they are now all enjoying a very nice home on a burned CD someplace in my house. Was it because I wanted to avoid all the formula gimmicks that they met their demise? For example, the chase at the end to prove the love, the annoying supporting characters (Don’t get me started on Love Actually and the mind-blowingly dumb storyline of the waiter that comes to America looking for love), etc. Who knows?

Well, I could go on and on and speculate on why they are still around (Let’s all agree on a lack of dumb luck they are still only on paper), but instead here are my favorite films about love.

There is not one Nora Ephron film listed… Not a one. Oh, and no reference to Titanic either (I mean, she seriously dropped him like a load of potatoes the second he died in the cold water, didn’t she?). Continue reading

Music and My Writing Brain

I first learned the power of music in my writing while I was an undergrad in college. At that time, I was working on a story and for some unexplained reason I had to listen to The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky (This happens, now and then I get taken over by a certain “sound”). Anyway, so there I was in a writing class (it might have been a writing table, I don’t remember which) and I started to read the story… And I began to notice that the meter in my words mirrored Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies.

Yes, without realizing it, my character’s speech was actually set to music. I had to fight to control my giggles, now imagining my character on toes as he was speaking. I’m sure my reading began to seem ridiculous to the other writers there, but at that moment I knew I had a problem… and, of course, I knew I was going to have to rewrite the entire speech.

Well, since then I have figured out the potential impact music can have on my writing. While I have not let the cadence of a song take over a story again, certain artists and music became part of the creation process for me around different works.  Sometimes I use them to influence a mood I am hoping to create, sometimes they are just simply the soundtrack for the “world” I am “living” in. Here are five examples: Continue reading