Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Christmas Story is still golden

The movie A Christmas Story has so many memorable lines and characters that I could write all day about them. Some friends and I were talking about the movie the other day and what parts were best.

I can't possibly rank them, but I love watching the Santa visit at the Higbee's store. I love the attitude of the elves.

It's hilarious to see how much the elves -- wearing those ridiculous hats -- enjoy sending the freaked-out kids down the big slide. Perhaps the most bitter elves ever, although I don't know many elves.

But, in my opinion, the greatest line in a movie of great lines is uttered by narrator Jean Shepherd (whose novel the movie is based on). It comes after Ralphie says the f-word and is asked by his mom where he heard that word:
"Now, I had heard that word at least ten times a day from my old man. He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master."
Shepherd wasn't a very nice guy, I've heard. But with writing like that, it's no wonder he was so popular. He's one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer.

I'll pull out the Christmas Story DVD again this weekend.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The boys talk about Santa and Christmas

As the countdown continues toward Christmas, I got some expert opinions on the holiday, and especially Santa, from my kids:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Humor Me: Christmas decorating tips


I know this might offend some people, but I just have to say it: The Christmas display in your front yard is terrible.

Of course, by “you” I don’t mean YOU, the much-appreciated person who faithfully reads this column or accidentally clicked on it while searching for something else. I’m talking about all those other people, who obviously don’t share our impeccable taste in Christmas displays.

Please pass this column on to them. I’m writing it because I think these tips could be helpful, while also serving as continuing penance for my actions during the Christmas season of 1985.

More on that later. But first, here are some ideas for creating a display that all of your neighbors will be talking about –- hopefully not in court.

First of all, DO NOT skimp on lights. It’s easy to think you’ll have enough when you’re jamming them in your cart at Super Target, but will you really have enough? A simple guideline is that, for every square foot of yard you are decorating, you should have at least twice as many lights as your neighbor.

Once the lights are out of the boxes, or untangled from last year's Christmas Wad O’ Lights, you need to test them. Do not panic if the lights don’t work immediately. Simply check the bulb connections, and if the lights still won’t turn on, shake the string violently for several seconds. If this doesn’t work, and nobody is looking, shake the lights again while screaming obscenities. Many of the older twinkling lights, especially sets of 50 or less, can be intimidated into working. I’ve seen it happen.

Once the lights are working, it’s time to decorate. Use small and large lights, blinking and steady, to make your house look warm, merry and ready for gamblers. If Wayne Newton knocks on your door and asks for directions to the casino's showroom, you’re on the right track.

But please, please, be careful. A friend of mine broke his arm a few years ago when he fell off the roof while putting up lights. So keep in mind that you don’t have to get on a roof to create a festive scene. In fact, you don’t have to get on a ladder. Simply put the lights up as high as you can on the house, and then maybe throw a string of lights toward some high tree branches.

As for the question of clear or colored lights, well, you can forget about that. Use clear lights and colored lights. Create a holiday scene so intense that it’s forever burned into people’s memories –- and retinas. Create a holiday glow so bright that it enhances the dramatic elements of your display, such as the huge Homer Simpson in the inflatable snow globe, the dancing Santa who appears to have the drug-withdrawal shakes, or the six-foot plywood painting of the cowboy saying, “Merry Christmas, y’all!”

That brings me to the topic of Christmas figurines, inflatables and other huge lawn decorations. An important question to ask is, “At what point is it just too much?” The official answer, of course, is “when the homeowners association threatens litigation.”

The unofficial answer is a little less clear. But basically, when you have so many figurines that Rudolph’s red nose appears to light the way for the three wise men to find the baby Jesus, who is in a stable that includes Kermit the Frog wearing a Santa hat and playing guitar, it’s probably time to rein in the festiveness. And perhaps stop drinking so much egg nog.

Anyway, I hope those tips help. And remember that, even if you succeed at making your house look like a gingerbread casino, it’s Jesus who is the reason for the season. And it is He who knows that I was just a dumb, na├»ve, 14-year-old paperboy in 1985 when I tried to fling that newspaper over a front-yard manger scene.

I know He'll forgive me for the errors of my ways. And for that newspaper not quite making it over the manger scene.

To be on the list that is sent out when a new column in posted, e-mail Have a great week.