Saturday, March 9, 2019

Movie Review: ‘Captain Marvel’ – Simply Marvelous!

Movie Review: ‘Captain Marvel’ – Simply Marvelous!

Having just seen the new Marvel Cinematic Universe entry, Captain Marvel starring a terrific Brie Larson in the titular role, I came away remembering not just the film but the audience's reaction to it. They – my son and I included – laughed out loud at times and yet became dead quiet during some rather tense scenes. Overall, I would say we were all thoroughly engaged throughout the 124-minute runtime (that ended with everyone applauding), and I can’t say that about too many movies that I have seen recently.

Co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (who also co-wrote the screenplay) keep the action going and our hero very busy. They also manage to give us an origin story that has to be pieced together like a puzzle because Marvel/Vers/Carol Danvers is not sure of her past and only remembers it in brief flashes.

When we first meet her, Captain Marvel is known as Vers, and she is living on the planet Kree and working with mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law in a solid performance). The emphasis in her training is to control her formidable powers, but Vers is volatile and prone to using them instead of maintaining composure.

Vers, Yon-Rogg, Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan) and the rest of their team are off on a mission to fight the evil shape-shifting Skrulls with whom the Kree are at war. Things don’t go as planned in the ensuing battle, and before we know it Vers is falling to earth and crashing through the roof of a Blockbuster Video store on 1994 Earth. Oddly enough, she brushes herself off like Bond and picks up a copy of The Right Stuff – a truly apropos title for her.

Vers soon meets up with a young Nick Fury sans eye patch (Samuel L. Jackson in a hilariously wonderful performance). He and fellow S.H.I.E.L.D agent Coulson (the always reliable Clark Gregg) engage in some chit chat with Vers before she is running off after a Skrull and they are forced to try to keep up with her in a wild ride that gives the chase scene in Bullitt a run for its money.

The cast also includes Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, and Lashana Lynch in roles perfectly suited to their formidable talents. Lynch particularly shines as a former fighter pilot who appears in Vers’ fragmented memories and, once they meet, helps her start to put the pieces together.

At this point the rest would be all spoilers due to the various twists and turns in the plot, and I don’t believe in them so I am not going there. One thing I can tell you is the late Stan Lee makes yet another welcome cameo – look for him riding on the train – and Disney also pays tribute to him at the start of the film. My son and I (and many other audience members) clapped and jumped for joy upon seeing him. Lee is certainly deserving and we are too.

The film is stunningly beautiful especially when featuring Vers transforming into Captain Marvel. Cinematographer Ben Davis should be commended for the visual beauty of every frame, and Pinar Toprak’s original score is fittingly vibrant and keeps pace with the continuous action.

What must not go unsaid is that Captain Marvel – like its DC cousin Wonder Woman – is notable for having a female superhero and not taking that for granted. Through the back story we come to understand that Marvel/Vers/Carol Danvers has always been told she couldn’t do something – by her father, by superiors, and Yon-Rogg – but she refuses to capitulate and gets up, brushes herself off, and then kicks ass.

I have heard people saying how important Brie Larson’s portrayal of Captain Marvel is for young girls, but I can tell you that I feel it is equally crucial for young boys like my son. After the film we went out to eat and I asked him what he thought, and he said that the film was one of the best MCU films ever, right up there with his favorite ones like Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War.

Now, that is high praise indeed coming from this little MCU aficionado, so then I asked what he thought of Captain Marvel. He said, “Oh, she’s great, and probably a lot stronger than Thor and Captain America.” There you have it, dear readers; I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Captain Marvel is an exhilarating, entertaining, and humorous entry in the MCU canon, and one that absolutely should be seen in the theater to fully appreciate its awesome beauty. Oh, and stick around after the credits, there is a scene involving Nick Fury’s pager that is a must see and sets the stage perfectly for the much-anticipated Avengers: End Game. Enjoy!!!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

'Blogcritics' – An Appreciation

Thinking about my many years here at Blogcritics, I appreciate the profound impact this experience has had on me as a writer and as a person. It gave me a venue for my work and a global audience as well. As an editor, I learned of many new perspectives and read and edited work from writers from all over the world. The word “appreciation” comes to mind but only begins to describe how much this place has meant to me.

I recall a few emails between Eric Olsen (co-founder with Phillip Winn) and me back in 2005. Once I went through the application process, Eric welcomed me aboard. The first article I wrote was about the death of the beloved James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek series.

This was a monumental step for me as a writer because before this moment I had written mostly fiction and an occasional poem. Unsure of myself as a nonfiction writer, this opened the door for me and I never looked back. I started writing movie reviews, opinion pieces, television series reviews, and even a piece about my turkey meatloaf recipe. I found my nonfiction voice and discovered it could carry a tune.

All these years – and hundreds of articles – later I am forever grateful for the opportunity Eric gave me to join “a sinister cabal of superior writers.” He also eventually brought me on as an editor, and that allowed me to grow as a writer as well. There is nothing like reading and editing other people’s work to learn so much more about being a writer. It also provided a chance to “meet” so many writers as I worked with them while editing their articles. These virtual connections have been rewarding ones, and I have BC to thank for them.

At first, I functioned as co-sports editor with Charlie Doherty, and along the way I edited some very fine articles about teams, players, and big games. I also had fun writing articles about sports – many about my beloved Mets and Jets – and I especially liked writing stories that explored sports’ controversies like baseball’s steroid debacle and football’s problem with concussions (chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE).

When Eric passed the reins of BC on to Jon Sobel and Barbara Barnett, BC’s heart never skipped a beat. In their capable hands some sections morphed into new ones, but the basic cool vibe remained the same. I then became a Culture and Society editor; therefore, an even wider variety of articles came my way, many about theatre, actors, and the arts. I felt like I had found my niche.

When Jon and Barbara decided to include a BC Flash Fiction section, I became very excited but I was also a bit daunted – the challenge of writing a short story 1000 words or less seemed difficult for me. Word counts have always stressed me out – I can see myself as a kid counting the words of an essay with my pencil. How was I going to be able to compress my fiction into something 1000 words or less?

It took me some time of trial and error, but once I got a handle on shortening my work for this format, I got into it because I had met the challenge. Eventually I had written enough flash fiction stories to put them together in my book Flashes in the Pan. This is another reason why I think of BC with so much gratitude and affection – it has inspired me to change, to adapt, and to explore new pathways as a writer.

There also came a time when I realized that something happened to me – I couldn’t visit a place or see a movie without wanting to write about it for BC. This changed how I went about my vacation or sat watching a film. In the end I think it gave me a greater appreciation for travel and movie-making because I was thinking about what I was doing in a completely different way.

So, after almost 14 years and probably a thousand or more articles written and edited, I am profoundly grateful for BC and the people connected to it. Thank you to Eric and Phillip, Jon and Barbara, Christopher Rose, Josh Lasser, Lisa McKay, Charlie Doherty, Eric Berlin, the late great Gordon Hauptfleish, and the many other writers and editors I have worked with here at BC.

It has been a rewarding and unforgettable experience, and it provided me with incentive to work harder and open myself to new ways of thinking and writing, and that is truly invaluable.

Thanks for everything, BC. It has been a blast!

Klaatu barada nikto!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

New Year’s Resolutions – Resolving Not to Make Any

I haven’t broken any new year’s resolutions yet – I can proudly say that two weeks into 2019, but there’s a catch: I didn’t make any this year. I decided sometime around the last week of December that the list I was making was totally unrealistic, so I put it in the shredder and thought I would take a different approach and enter the new year unencumbered by my annual list of big things I knew I would never get done.

Judging by my past experience, I feel justified in doing this, but looking at the data about new year’s resolutions corroborated mydecision. Only 8% of people successfully accomplish their resolutions, while 25% give theirs up in seven days and 40% after one month. So, there is evidence that making resolutions is not the best way to go.

I do understand the thinking behind resolutions because I have been making them for years, but my success rate never changed. I am definitely in that 25% demographic, but I have to say honestly that I usually don’t even make it through the first week and give up in few days after New Year’s Day.

After two weeks in 2019 I am feeling happier than I ever have been in January, even if the weather has been bleak and grim and an Arctic cold has descended upon us. One of the reasons is because I haven’t broken any resolutions, which used to make me feel quite depressed and defeated. I have nothing to chide myself about because I haven’t dropped the ball.

I get why I and many others wanted to make resolutions – starting the year off right seems like a wise choice, but it isn’t if you are almost certainly going to fail and then beat yourself up about it. I get the clean slate idea, which one of my friends said on New Year’s Eve as we discussed this topic. He seemed mortified when asking what my resolutions were and I said, “None!” I cannot describe the expression on his face better than saying it looked like the crazy emoji on my phone.

But you know what is crazy? Setting yourself up for failure. The feeling of freedom I have right now is so refreshing. I have no regrets, no should have or would have dones to be said, no guilty feelings of any kind. For the first time in years I feel free from the disapproving stare of my harshest critic – me!

The course I am taking in 2019 is more doable. I am going to set daily, weekly, and monthly goals that are achievable in a realistic way. For example, I am writing this article today and my weekly goal is achieved when I finish it – that goal is to write at least once a week. In the past I would set crazy writing resolutions that never had a chance of being accomplished.

Those of you who are punishing yourselves for already breaking a resolution – like someone I know who broke his resolution not to smoke in 2019 about five minutes after midnight – should take a different approach. My method feels right, at least for me, and the smaller more achievable goals are easier and, quite truthfully, do not feel as bad if they aren’t accomplished. Last week I didn’t get any writing done, but I didn’t get upset about it and said, “I will do it next week.”

I am much more satisfied this year and not walking around in a funk because of the resolutions I broke. Now, instead of failure, I am focusing on each thing I can accomplish in baby steps instead of a giant leap. If this sounds like something that will work for you, I hope you will find success with it.

Happy new year to you all and good luck!

Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year’s Eve – The Loneliest Night of the Year

December 31– New Year’s Eve – is celebrated by people all over the world as they wait for midnight and the start of a new year. The crowd will be in Times Square tonight and watch the ball drop despite freezing weather, the congested throng, and tight security. Perhaps there is some kind of order in this predictability, but in the end it’s mostly organized chaos.

So even if I am in middle of that crowd needing to use a toilet but not wanting to give up my space, it is still the loneliest night of the year. Even if I am at a party with close friends or spent way too much money and am in a club with a hundred people, the ball drops, the bells toll, and I’m inevitably a year older. Yes, so is everyone else, but my turning the page is a solitary event, even if I’m kissing someone at midnight.

I say this not to be a party pooper but to recognize the grim reality of celebrating the end of one year and the start of another. In truth it is just another Monday followed by yet another Tuesday, but people have made it into this enormous party that the whole world partakes in with full vigor, not thinking of the ramifications of this celebration.

I feel lonely surrounded by my friends and family because I know out there someone is sitting all alone in an apartment watching television as that ball drops. Someone is in a nursing home who is alone or in a hospital bed. Someone is walking a beat, cleaning an office, or cooking other people’s food. Thinking about them reminds me of Paul McCartney singing that line from the exquisite “Eleanor Rigby” – “All the lonely people/Where do they all belong?”

There is no answer for this question. In some ways it is a rhetorical one, but it can be seen also as one that is answered by saying “Nowhere.” There are so many people who don’t belong anywhere. 

The homeless fellow shivering in the cold doesn’t have a place to belong to unless it’s a homeless shelter where he doesn’t want to go. Magnify that by millions of people all over the world who don’t belong to anything or anyone. They exist on the periphery of life and when they are gone no one is there to shed a tear, just as Eleanor Rigby died and “Nobody came” to her funeral.

This is why New Year’s Eve is a lonely night for me. Perhaps I am not alone but I am anyway. No one else is in my thoughts; no one else feels what I feel. The same truth applies to everyone reading this or not reading it. We are in essence alone – just as we come into this world and go out of it. No one comes along for the ride in either direction.

I do not want to seem morbid because I will be with my family and friends this evening, and I will countdown with them, hug and kiss them all, and even shout “Happy New Year!” But, in my heart and mind, I will be thinking of all those people out there who are not as fortunate as I am and in essence feel that loneliness deeply.

I hope people reading this will reach out to someone whom they know will be alone tonight. It may be someone next door, across the street, or far away in another city, state, or country. If you can’t be with them personally, call, text, use Skype or FaceTime, and try to brighten that person’s life a little bit. If they don’t have any place to go and it is possible, invite them to the party. I know someone who will be alone tonight and that is what I am going to do.

So, by all means, wish people a happy new year, toast to everyone’s health and your own, and try to enjoy the evening. Embrace 2019 fully, but don’t forget the lonely people because they are out there and we can all make a difference.    

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Great Christmas Present Debate – Wrapped Gifts vs. Gift Bags

The Great Christmas Present Debate – Wrapped Gifts vs. Gift Bags

Should Christmas presents by given in wrapping paper or placed in a gift bag and covered with tissue paper? In our household – and perhaps in yours as well – we are caught up in a debate to answer that eternal question. Now, for some this should be an easy thing to discuss and reach a consensus, but for others this rises to the level of the Jedi verses the Sith in the Star Wars films.

In my opinion wrapping a gift in Christmas paper is the way to go. Wrapping a gift adds to its mystery, while also giving a tease as to size and shape. While guessing is half the fun, not being certain is even better. Sure, that large round object wrapped under the tree could a basketball, but it could also be something else.

The gift bag is a relatively new phenomenon – as a boy I never received one gift in a bag with wrapping paper. I am not sure when the trend started, but around the time I was in college I encountered my first gift bag. The bag was rather large, had poinsettias all over it, and green and red tissue paper sticking out of the top.

Well, someone might think this could be exciting, but not knowing the shape or size of the contents felt disappointing to me. This feeling became exacerbated when I actually delved into the bag and found several folded shirts, a winter hat, pair of gloves, and at the bottom found a box of slippers. While I liked all of these gifts from a dear relative, something was missing.

It would have been much better if each of these items had been wrapped separately. I would have been able to make an educated guess about each one, but possibly be surprised as I ripped open the paper to see my gifts. By plopping everything in one bag – while I know that was easier – I felt cheated in some way.

Yes, gift bags make things much simpler for the giver. I have been told – though I do not share this opinion – that the best part of gift bags is that there is less garbage after the opening frenzy. Another perk of the gift bag is that it is practical – the receiver gets to put the gift back inside the bag and has a handy way to carry it home. No mess and practical should be a good thing, right?

While all these things sound good, they are an illusion promoted by the sinister proponents of gift bags. The practicality of the gift bag is its greatest liability. Opening presents becomes a rushed affair, and seems to be over in a matter of minutes. Everyone can sit back comfortably in a relatively neat room, sip their hot cocoa, and listen to the Christmas music. It’s highly civilized and totally boring – just what those nefarious makers of gift bags no doubt intended.

Opening wrapped presents takes effort – especially when one auntie liked to use a whole role of tape on each box. Trying to open a present, and even having some difficulty in doing so, was almost as great a joy as actually discovering what was hidden underneath that paper. I definitely miss that heightened anticipation, as well as having the room look like a bomb hit it with paper hanging from everything – even the tree! All bets are off during present opening and pieces of paper are flung far and wide. This was great joy during my childhood and I want my kids to have the same experience.

So, this year my gifts are wrapped the traditional way – and other people in this
house are going the gift bag route. Let it suffice to say that I believe the final arbiter of all things Christmas – old Santa Claus himself – is going to come down on my side of this thing because I have the inside scoop (the big guy actually texted me a photo of one present) that every gift from Santa Claus for my kids is wrapped in paper. Way to go, Santa!

Gift giving is part of what makes this season so joyous, but I believe that wrapping a gift in paper, putting a label with the person’s name on it, and even tying a little bow around it is as much a gift as what is inside. That special effort of
wrapping each present tells the receiver that giver has put time (and love) into giving by wrapping that present.

Perhaps, as my kids get older, I will come around to this gift bag idea, but for now I am certain that wrapped presents are the only way to go. Even Santa is on my side, so I feel that makes my case.

Whatever way you are choosing to give presents this year, I hope that you get as many wonderful things as you have given. I wish you all the merriest of Christmases. Enjoy and happy gifting!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Proof That Santa Claus Is Real – I See Him in the Mirror Every Day!

Despite all the naysayers and attempts to prove Santa Claus doesn’t exist, I have proof that he does indeed live and breathe. I see him every day in the mirror, and at this festive time of year I dare say that many of you do too. Santa inhabits all of those who embrace this season of light and love, especially nestling in the hearts and minds of parents, but anyone can be inspired by the jolly old elf.

Trying to prove Santa – aka Pére Noël, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, Ông già Noel andmany other names – is not real seems to go back as far as his story does, which means before the man known as St. Nicholas died on December 6, 343 (December 6 is his feast day). Nicholas became known for his gift giving, especially to the poor, and has inspired others ever since to continue his legacy.

There are many stories about how St. Nicholas turned into Santa Claus, but I have always liked the one my Dad used to tell us when we were little. St. Nicholas became famous for his kindness, but the local authorities felt he caused the poor to be restless and want to rebel. Eventually, Nicholas put all of his belongings into a wagon, hitched up two horses, and traveled north out of present-day Turkey and ended up in what is now Holland. Because of his goodness and charity, God granted him immortality to continue his work. He became known as Sinterklaas in Holland where he did good works for many years. He met and married a Dutch woman who worked in a bakery – she would later be known as Mrs. Claus, famous for her delicious cookies. When wars came Santa put his wife in the wagon and again started going north. Somewhere in Norway he traded in the horses and wagon for a sleigh and reindeer. Having acquired magical powers over the years Santa granted them the ability to fly, and they whisked Mrs. Claus and him to the top of the world. There he built a house and workshop and brought in local elves to make toys. That is how St. Nicholas became Santa Claus!

All these years later I can hear my father telling this story to us, but other children in countries all over the world have heard their own stories, but the story that started the modern version of Santa Claus wasn’t even a story – it was a poem by Clement Clarke Moore. He wrote “A Visit from St. Nicholas” on Christmas Eve 1822 for his children, and ever since then children who have heard it believe it was written for them as well. The vivid description of “St. Nick” in the poem created an image that has remained collectively in our imaginations.

I have read this poem to my own children many times, and it kindles a spirit inside me to want not to be the father of the poem but Santa himself. The concept of an individual seeking to spread good cheer through inherent generosity is not only admirable but infectious.

St. Nick’s popularity grew after the publication of Moore’s poem, but he became a rock star when an innocent little New York City girl named Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to Francis P. Church, editor of the newspaper The Sun, asking if there really was a Santa Claus because her friends told her there wasn’t but her father said if she saw it in The Sun it would be true.

Church probably never imagined that when he wrote the immortal words “Yes, VIRGINIA,there is a Santa Claus” that not only would they be still famous 123 years later but that they would become a juggernaut felt around the world and that they would still inspire children to believe. Church basically certified St. Nick’s existence not only for children but the adults as well, and Santa and Christmas have never been the same.

Despite the terrible commercialism that exploits Santa – his drinking soda pop to hawking everything else south of the North Pole – the core message is still the same as it was when St. Nicholas gave the first gift back in Turkey so long ago. Giving is not only better than receiving; it is rewarding beyond imagination. That’s why it feels good to put money into the sidewalk Santa’s pot, to write a check for a favorite charity, or to donate clothing to goodwill. The best feeling is giving without any expectation for return, and that has the greatest rewards of all.

Every year when I turn the calendar to December, I feel something tingling along my arms.  It wriggles across my shoulders, squiggles past my shirt collar, down my neck, and into my heart. It is more than inspiration and something close to possession. I make my charitable donations and tip those who offer me service throughout the year, and my most happy moments are getting things for my family.

During the month of December whenever I look into a mirror, I do indeed see Santa Claus, and every time I whisper, “Ho, ho, ho!” to remind me that this is as real as it can be. I go to stores to get what are on the lists my family has provided me, then after checking it twice, I try to find things they’re not expecting but I know will put a big smile on their faces on Christmas morning.

All of this gift getting is worth the crushing crowd in the mall and the stores. In the whirlwind of these days before Christmas, there are so many things to do and not enough time to do them, but when I am sitting there watching my family open presents on Christmas morning, everything I have done to get to that moment will be worth it.

So, dear readers, Santa Claus does exist. Really. Truthfully. Look in the mirror and you will see what I mean. One day our will kids see him in the mirror, and then their kids, and so on. When Church wrote, “No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever” he was right more than he could have ever known.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Christmas Song Characters Hold Annual Christmas Party

Christmas Song Characters Hold Annual Christmas Party

It is not known to many people, but the characters from many popular Christmas songs get together every year on December 1st  to have their own Christmas celebration.  Here is what happened at this year’s party.

The doorbell rang and Farmer Gray put down his hard cider and opened the door. A handsome young man stood there holding a large cannister with a red ribbon on it. “I’ve brought some corn for popping,” he said, his breath showing in the air.

“Yeah, yeah, you say the same thing every year,” the old farmer said. “Come on in. Your girlfriend ain’t here yet.”

The young man came in and saw a pretty young woman in a red dress holding a glass of wine. He said, “Hello there.”

Farmer Gray hit his arm. “Hey, she’s not in your song, chum.”

“Can’t hate a guy for trying,” he said.

“Go get yourself a drink,” the farmer grunted.

The young man went to the bar and saw the Traffic Cop and Parson Brown sipping their glasses of beer. The bartender shuffled a deck of cards and looked up at him. “Well, where’s the popping corn?”

“I gave it to Farmer Gray.”

“Figures. What can I get yuh?” the man said squinting as if to study him.

“I’ll take a whiskey on the rocks,” the young man said.

The bartender dropped some ice into a short glass and poured whiskey over it. He turned and looked at the Cop and Parson and asked, “You guys okay?”

“I’ll take another brewski, Cousin Mel,” the Parson said.

“I’ll take another too,” the Cop said, turning to spit in a big bucket he had on the stool next to him.

“Why isn’t there any music?” the young man asked Mel.

Mel shuffled the deck of cards. “Farmer Gray runs the show. He figures none of us wants to hear songs with our names in them. Besides, since I lost Granny, I’m not that into Christmas.”

“Oh, yeah, well that was a tough break.”

“Yeah, and we can’t say anything because she got run over by Big Guy’s reindeer.”

An old man was laughing in the corner, drinking a beer and watching the football game on the widescreen TV. The young man said, “At least your Grandpa seems happy.”

Loud shouting filled the room as a bunch of kids ran around after each other while their parents stood in the corner drinking eggnog.

One of the boys knocked over a chair while the other pulled one of the girl’s hair. “Barney and Ben, now stop it!” the father yelled.

“Are you okay, Janice and Jen?” asked the mother.

The girls nodded their heads and then turned and hit their brothers, causing the race around the room to continue.

The young man laughed, “Mom and Dad can’t wait for school to start again.”

“Uh, yeah, I kind of know that, genius,” Cousin Mel said.

A pretty blonde in a candy cane dress and matching heels came up to the young man and kissed his cheek. “Let’s not stay too long; it’s just starting to snow outside.”

Mel put down his deck of cards and leaned on the bar. “If I were you, young fella, I’d get going.”

The woman winked at Mel and whispered in the young man’s ear, “We can turn the lights down low.”

The young man sipped his drink. “Well, we do have to at least wait until the Big Guy comes.”

A group of men in long waistcoats waltzed into the room jumping and dancing. Cousin Mel smirked and said, “The Ten Lords came back this year.”

The young woman asked, “But where are the Nine Ladies Dancing?”

“I hear they and the Eight Milking Maids got invited to Jack Frost’s party,” Mel said.

The young man sipped his drink. “Man, that Frost guy’s always causing trouble, nipping at your nose and everything.”

A young girl in a 19th century dress and matching bonnet came up to the bar. Mel looked at her and said, “Well, hello Miss Fanny Bright.”

“Hello, Cousin Mel,” she said while looking around the room. “I was wondering if my young gentleman was here yet.”

“Yeah, he told me that he’s waiting in his one-horse open sleigh out back.”

“Oh, dear, but the weather outside is frightful,” the blonde in the candy cane dress said to her.

Fanny smiled and adjusted her hat. “I’m not worried; it doesn’t snow in our song.”

They watched her walk away and Mel wiped the bar and said, “She won’t be smiling when they crash into that snowbank.”

The young man nodded. “We are all pretty much prisoners of our songs.”

“You can say that again, kid!” Mel said.

A tall fellow in a blue suit walked in with a bottle of gin and went over to the girl in the red dress. He held up the bottle and said, “Put some records on while I pour.”

“Yeah, this party needs some music,” she said. She went over to the stereo and stared at it. She turned and yelled to Farmer Gray, “Don’t you have any records?”

The angry farmer stomped over to her and yelled, “No music.”

The guy in the blue suit handed the girl a glass and she took a sip. “Hey, what’s in this drink?”

Farmer Gray jutted a finger above his head. “What’s wrong with you people? 
Don’t you realize music is what has ruined all of our lives.”

Parson Brown looked at the Traffic Cop and said, “Excuse me.”

“Of course,” the Cop said, once again spitting in the big bucket.

“Farmer Gray, may I have a word?”

The farmer stared at Parson Brown. “A word?”

“Yes, please.”

The farmer pointed to a clown in the corner who waved his white gloved hand at the parson. “One minute you’re in the song and the next you become him.”

“Oh, dear, you misunderstand.” The Parson turned to everyone in the room. “I know some of you are not happy with your songs, but this wonderful music has given us life. Without these songs we would not exist.”

“Much to our chagrin,” Farmer Gray said shaking a fist.

“No, some of us are happy that we are known to people. Every year our songs bring joy to millions, and because of these holiday tunes we live on eternally and get to have this rather fine party each year. Though I do think some music would be nice, Farmer Gray.”

“You got it, padre.” Mel pushed a button behind the bar and “Holly Jolly Christmas” began playing in the room.

Parson Brown raised his glass. “I think a toast is in order.”

Mel drank some whiskey and said, “I’ll drink to that.”

The Parson said, “Let us give thanks to the songwriters who created us and those singers and bands who gave us life.”

At that moment the door swung open and Santa Claus strode into the room tracking snow from his shiny black boots. “I couldn’t have said it better myself, Parson Brown.”

“Humbug!” cried Farmer Gray. “Of course, you don’t mind because you’re in so many songs.”

Santa laughed. “It’s not about me, Gray. It’s about Christmas.”

“Let’s grab a glass,” Santa said as Mel quickly poured him a drink. Everyone raised a glass and Santa said, “To Christmas!” All except Farmer Gray toasted and cheered.

Farmer Gray shook his head. “Every year it always turns out the same way.”
Santa put his arm around Farmer Gray’s shoulder. “How about I buy you a drink?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

Santa went to the bar and stared at Mel and said, “Oh, I am so sorry about your Grandma.”

Mel look over his shoulder at his Grandpa who kept smiling and drinking his beer. “Yeah, well, she is missed.”

“I will have a nice cherry brandy,” Santa said. He turned to Farmer Gray and asked, “For you?”

“Hard cider.”

“Coming right up,” Mel said.

Santa leaned on the bar next to the Traffic Cop and pointed to the big bucket. “What do you have there?”

“Well,” the Traffic Cop said, “I don’t want to be on the Naughty List.”

“Hmm,” Santa said.

“Oh, well, I have to admit that this Frosty the Snowman is a pain, marching all the kids through town.”

“Frosty can fray one’s nerves,” Santa said with a nod.

“So, I had enough and lured him into a hot basement with a trail of peppermint sticks.”

Santa shook his head. “Frosty does love peppermint sticks.”

“I had this bucket handy,” the cop said as he spit in the bucket. “That’s Frosty, or at least what’s left of him.”

“Well, officer,” Santa said clearing his throat, “that’s the kind of thing that could get you on the Naughty List.”

“If it’s any help I do have that old silk hat out in my patrol car,” the Cop said.

“Good fellow,” Santa said, patting his arm.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer came over to Santa with his red nose beeping, and Santa caressed his head. The reindeer leaned into the bucket and started drinking.

Mel chuckled, “Guess Rudolph ain’t the only one that’s history.”

They all laughed as Rudolph kept slurping the water that the magic hat had once turned into Frosty the Snowman. 

The party went on late into the night because they would all be very busy reliving their songs over and over until the Christmas season was done and then go back into limbo until next year.

Characters and Songs

Frosty the Snowman and Traffic Cop:
“Frosty the Snowman” by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson

Miss Fanny Bright:
“Jingle Bells” by James Lord Pierpont

Ten Lords Leaping, Nine Ladies Dancing, Eight Milking Maids:
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” an English Christmas carol.

Cousin Mel, Grandpa, and Grandma:
“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” by Randy Brooks

Barney and Ben, Janice and Jen, and Mom and Dad:
“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” by Meredith Willson.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer:
“Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” by Johnny Marks

Farmer Gray:
“Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson

Parson Brown and Circus Clown:
“Winter Wonderland” – Music by Felix Bernard and Lyrics by Richard B. Smith

Young Man and Girl in Candy Cane Dress:
“Let It Snow” composed by Jule Styne and lyrics by Sammy Cahn.

Tall Man and Girl in Red Dress:
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Frank Wildhorn

Jack Frost:
“The Christmas Song” by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé

“Holly Jolly Christmas” by Johnny Marks