Christmas Movies

I like Christmas movies.  At least I like the idea of Christmas movies.  Some of the ones made for TV are bona fide holiday turkeys though.  The two Steve Guttenberg did come to mind.  Liked him in “Cocoon” and at least the first dozen or so of the Police Academy movies were amusing, but he can’’t “Ho, Ho, Ho,” to save his life and in my opinion, “”Single Santa Seeking Mrs. Claus” ought to be viewed with cranberry sauce anf giblet gravy.

I can’’t think of a remake I like better than the original either.  “”Miracle on 34th Street”” with Natalie Wood, is a classic–the newer one, not so much.

Then there are the movies that aren’t really Christmas movies but are shown at this time of year because they’’re set at Christmas, or they give you a warm fuzzy feeling, or for reasons unbeknownst to me.  “”Die Hard”” isn’t really a Christmas movie, for example.  Neither is ““It’’s A Wonderful Life.””  In both cases, the movie’s climax happens around the Christmas holiday though.  “”Going My Way,”” and ““Bells of Saint Mary’’s”” get shown this time of year (although I didn’’t notice them this year), but I don’’t think of them as Christmas movies.  My wife likes “”The Bishop’’s Wife”” which I’’d argue isn’’t really a Christmas movie either, but again it does get played every year in late December.

If they showed the movie ““Scrooge”” staring Alistair Sim in the title role this year, I missed it.  And, if they didn’’t show it, how can it officially be Christmas?  Nor do I think it could really be Christmas if they stopped doing the marathon of “”A Christmas Story.””  Tim Allen has remade his career playing Santa.  But if I can make a suggestion to cable TV executives here, next year if we have a marathon of Tim Allen’’s Santa movies, can we have all three of them, not just the last one?  Please?

I saw “”White Christmas”” on Christmas Day.  It has a pretty thin plot.  I mean the song is the plot.  Plus it’s only one-twelfth of another movie, “”Holiday Inn.”” 

A lot of the Christmas movies I’’ve mentioned are old black-and-white chestnuts (roasting on an open fire—, sorry, but I love that song too), and I like those in black and white.  I like movies shot in color too, but colorized movies are usually awful.  When they first came out I had a TV set with manual color controls and if they played the colorized versions on TV, I’’d reset the set to show them in black and white.  Fortunately, most colorized movies get shown on TV these days in black and white.  The colorized versions have largely been abandoned.

Before I go, I’’d like to recommend a relatively new Christmas movie to you, one from the 21st century, and in color.  It’s the British movie. ““Love Actually.””  It’’s an amalgam of love stories, most of which revolve around Christmas.  It’’s very well done.  I don’’t know if Bill Nighy is a big star in Britain, but he’’s done some good work and to my way of thinking is under-rated in the USA.  I only saw “”Love Actually”” listed three times this holiday season though.  The original has a little nudity in it, and it has been edited for TV to remove the nude scenes.  I don’’t think the editing hurts the integrity of this movie.

Maybe I’’ll regret it if my wish comes true, but I do wish they’’d play “”Love Actually”” a whole lot more than they do during the Christmas holiday season.   

Things I Know

  • My hope, if you are reading this, is that you’’ll accept my wishes for a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanzaa, or any combination or permutation of the three that you choose to engage in.  Have a good New Year too, healthy, happy, prosperous.  You know the drill.  If I have somehow neglected to wish that you enjoy the holiday you celebrate at this time of year, it’’s because I’’m unaware of yours, so a generic happy holidays will have to do for you.

  • Judging by the number of shoppers at my local Home Depot on Christmas Eve morning, very few people will be getting two-by-fours for Christmas.  And how would you gift wrap them anyway?

  • Update:  After weeks of making collection phone calls to me, Sallie Mae finally acceded to my very reasonable request and sent me a bill.  Once I received the bill, I knew how much to pay and where to send it.  I did cosign the loans (if you need a cosigner, don’’t ask.  I’’ve learned my lesson) so while I didn’’t like it, I owed it and I paid it.  The bill came Thursday and I paid it Friday.  Thanks to the miracle of computers, they got it Friday too.  If they credit it to the right account, that should take care of it.  I considered most of their collection calls over a two week period to be harassment because I did pay the bill as soon as I got it, so if they had sent me a bill the first time I asked, it would have arrived and I would have paid it about ten days earlier.

  • A bailout will work if a wave washed over your bow.  It won’’t work if your hull was caved in when you steered your ship on to the rocks.

  • Maybe GM does make good cars now, but if they survive (and I hope they do) they’’re going to have to make good cars for a long time to convince me to buy one.  They made bad ones for a long time to convince me not to.

  • According to Jerry Seinfeld appearing on the Letterman show, “It’’s a war between us and the cookies.”  That sounds about right to me and at least on my front (and on my flank and my rear too) the cookies are gaining ground.

  • The people who collect garbage in my neighborhood leave the empty cans about two feet from the curb.  It would save some time and some precious petroleum too if they would leave them in the exact middle of the street instead.  Now, I come home, pull up to the empty can, stop, get out while the car keeps running, move the can to the curb, get back in the car and park.  Whew!  If they left the cans in the middle of the street, I could park and move the can.  Many fewer steps—, much more efficient.

  • The way things are going, I predict eventually there will be only one bank and that bank will be named bank.com.

  • The good burghers of Brighton Michigan have made being annoying illegal.  I’’d better stay away from there!

  • If someone gets up to give a speech and the first thing they say is they will be brief, they won’’t.  Being brief is unusual.  People will notice if you are.  And if you want to be brief, you can leave that out and your speech will be a few seconds shorter.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • While channel surfing, I heard the end of an infomercial where Vince, the announcer, warned viewers to beware of Shamwow imitators.  Why?  What harm can a fake cellulose towel do to me?  I mean I’’m a pretty tough guy.  I don’t think it can hurt me and I’’m not afraid.  In fact, I’’d be more afraid of an imitation Shamu.

  • Have you read about Alex Rodriguez and Madonna?  They were recently reported to be in Mexico together, and then looking for a house in Florida.  Who knows if these reports are correct?  If they are, Madonna is in very good shape for a woman of her age and many people enjoy her singing.  But still, doesn’’t Alex Rodriguez know that she isn’’t particularly pretty, she’’s almost old enough to be his mother and he’’s Alex Rodriguez?

  • How can you steal $50 billion and not have much of anything to show for it?

  • I’’d like to know whether Bernie Madoff started out to run a Ponzi scheme, or whether he switched to that when his investments went to hell in a hand basket.  By the way, Charles Ponzi didn’’t invent the Ponzi scheme.  His were just the best known ones until now.

  • I can’’t resist a good pun, or especially a bad one, so shouldn’’t I classify what Bernie Madoff did as a capital crime?

  • Assuming for a minute that some of the institutions getting government bailouts are really too big to be allowed to fail, why isn’’t anyone at least looking into new anti-trust legislation to prevent additional companies from getting so big we can’’t let them fail?

  • How do children survive between the time they stop being cute and the time they start being bigger than we are?

Putz

The NY Mets this week introduced their two newest pitchers to the public and the media in New York.  One of the new pitchers is a man named J.J. Putz.  I noticed that NY TV stations pronounced his name “Puts.”

For the uninformed, “Putz” is a Yiddish word that means. . .well, it means putz is what it means.

I hope Mr. Putz and all of the Mets succeed in 2009.  But if he doesn’’t, I’’m certain that fans at the new Citi Field will pronounce his name “Putz”, not “Puts.”  And they’’ll do it loudly, clearly and often.

Things I Know

  • A 55-year-old man in Pharr Texas was arrested because a 9-year-old girl wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking that Santa prevent this alleged human being from touching her and her sister, something he had apparently been doing for four years.  From this we conclude that there really is a Santa Claus.

  • They’’re going to have to call Ponzi schemes Madoff schemes from now on.  I’’m not blaming the victims here, but no matter how great the return on investment, you shouldn’’t have all of your nest egg in one uninsured-investment-program basket.

  • As far as I know, orange is the only English word that doesn’t rhyme with any other English word.  You’’ve got to admit it would be far more ironic if poem or poetry was the only word that doesn’t rhyme.

  • The word “phonetic” doesn’’t start with the letter “f.”  Think about it.  That means phonetic isn’’t spelled phonetically.

  • Here’’s the funniest thing I’’ve ever seen:  Lucky, my oldest friend’’s dog, does what his parrot tells it to do.

  • Mischievious isn’’t a word, neither is Artic, although we should  probably give up and make it one.

  • Staining the woodwork in your house and then coating it with shellac, varnish, or urethane is a lot more work than painting it.

  • The day is not far off when you’’ll be able to buy a computer hard drive big enough to download and store the Internet.  Not a web page, the whole Internet!

  • During this baseball free-agent season, I find myself wishing some team would pick up my $12-million option, or even my $4-million option.  But I don’’t have a screwball: I am one!

  • I can’t sing.  I’’m allowed to.   I just can’t.

  • I believe everyone should pick at least one kind of weather that they like and never complain about it.  I’’ve chosen hot.

Sallie Mae Is Acting Like A Dim Bulb!

Is this a dim-bulb way to collect debts, or what?

My son has student loans, but he doesn’’t have a job.  Like most debtors, he’’d like to pay his loans.  Like most unemployed people, he can’’t.  There’’s a lot of that going around.  It’’s not his fault.  I’’m cosigner of his loans.  Like most cosigners, I’’d like not to pay his loans, but I did cosign, so I made my bed, I have to lie in it and I can. 

I did get a notice a while back that he hadn’’t paid.  Over the past two weeks, I’’ve received maybe half-a-dozen calls from Sallie Mae.  In each case, I refused to provide my identifying information over the phone.  If you call me, I won’’t do that no matter who you say you are.  In each case, I told them if they are calling for my son’s contact information, they have that, so don’’t call.  If they want me to pay them, I said send me a bill in the mail.  If I owe it, I will pay it. 

You probably noticed those last two sentences are composed entirely of words of one syllable.  That was intentional.  I composed them entirely of monosyllabic words so they would be easy to understand  But Sallie Mae didn’’t do what I asked any of the up to half-a-dozen times I asked them to. 

However, today, I did receive a letter threatening to report me to credit agencies.  It didn’’t have the Sallie Mae or the SLM Corp. name on the outside of the envelope, so they’re lucky my wife opened it.  It didn’’t say how much I owe or where to send it either!  I have to call them to get that information! 

What a pain!  You may imagine for yourself where the pain is located.

If someone with a FICO score over 800 told me if I sent them a bill, they’’d pay it, I’’d send them a bill.  If they didn’’t pay it, then I’’d harass them, but I would send them a bill first if they asked for one.  But no, I have to call them and deal with a phone-answering decision tree.  Feh! 

If it wouldn’’t adversely affect my otherwise stellar credit, I’’d still tell them to stick it.

If they had sent me a bill the first time I asked, they would have had their money sometime last week.  So, this is a business model too dumb for me to understand.

Newspapers

Newsday, Long Island’’s only local daily newspaper raised its weekday price today by fifty percent, the same day its former owner, the Tribune Company, which still owns the LA Times and the Chicago Cubs declared bankruptcy.

I understand price increases.  I don’’t like them, but I understand them.  Newspapers are supposed to understand advertising, which is how they make their money, but lately, I don’t think they understand how to price their product and it mystifies me.

I am happy to tell you that Newsday raised the price of its Sunday paper from $1.59 to $2.00.  Who thought up $1.59?  Was that price selected because it’’s hard to make change?  A lot of places would only give you the penny in change if you asked for it.  Maybe $1.59 was selected because newspaper vending machines aren’’t nearly as popular on Long Island as they are in much of the rest of the country.  You need exact change for newspaper vending machines.  Imagine if you had to buy Sunday Newsday from a vending machine for six quarters, a nickel and four pennies.  So, I approve of $2.00.

What I don’’t approve of is raising the price and lowering the quality or quantity of the product at the same time.  Newsday announced it was laying off 100 employees last week, shortly before announcing what most companies now call a “price adjustment.”  There are precious few merchants honest enough to call a price increase what it is.

Then there is the NY Daily News which has raised the price of its Saturday and Sunday papers last month.  The Sunday NY Daily News now costs $1.25, up from a dollar, and the Saturday paper 75¢.  The weekday paper remains at 50¢.  In addition to not liking lower quality for higher prices, I don’’t like paying more for the smallest newspaper of the week than I do for the paper on five other days. 

Saturday papers generally have less news, fewer ads and far lower circulation than weekday papers do.  I’’m fortunate not to have to count my pennies, or my quarters either, but I stopped buying the Saturday Daily News.  If they had raised the weekday paper too, the way Newsday did, I would probably keep buying Saturday’s Daily News.  I bet a lot of people feel the way I do about that.

The newspaper business is plagued right now by three things, two of them related to the economy.  If the economy isn’’t doing so well, a newspaper is something the average consumer can do without.  Advertising is also something the average business will cut back on in a bad economy.  Maybe businesses should advertise more rather than less in hard times, but they don’’t:  they cut back.  

The third problem facing newspapers is that the Internet is making newspapers as currently structured obsolete.Newspapers have websites too, but a lot of them don’’t use them to full advantage.  One thing that drives me crazy about Newsday’’s website is they’’ll write a story that includes a reference to a website without including the hyperlink to the website.

Newspapers in general have to get with the times and adapt to the Internet age much more quickly than they are.  Otherwise newspapers will become both irrelevant and obsolete.  Then, referring to newspapers will become the 21st-century equivalent of a 20th-century reference to buggy whips.

Bad Sport

You’’ve got to wonder if the number football star Plaxico Burress wears on his jersey (17) doesn’’t represent his IQ.  I was going to agree with Saturday’s NY Daily News and NY Post and call Plaxico Burress an idiot.  But I’’ve reconsidered.  Calling him an idiot is not really a very nice thing to say about idiots.

I know if I made $7 million a year for playing a child’’s game, I’’d keep my nose clean long enough for doing so to boost my net worth and my pension. 

You can get a perfectly good holster for a Glock .40 caliber pistol for under $100.  I make nowhere near $7 million a year and I can afford both a .40 caliber Glock and a holster for it.  I don’’t have either, but I can afford both.  You may wish to buy them:  I want a camera that costs more than that.  I know you can buy pistol and holster together as a combo and I presume someone who makes $7 million who has the weapon can also afford a holster even if purchased separately. 

I know about the gun laws in New York.  They’’re very strict about concealed weapons in New York City and carrying a pistol there that isn’’t licensed there puts him in more trouble than a less-than-fatal gunshot wound does—; 5 to 15 years more trouble. Mr. Burress knows about them too because the NFL tells all its players about these.

I’’ve never fired the model of pistol in question, but I am very familiar with the old fashioned Army Colt 45.  Here’’s what you have to do to fire one of those on purpose.  You have to chamber a round, cock the weapon, release the safety, hold the pistol properly by the grip and pull the trigger.    Depending on circumstances, you might need to release the safety first instead of third.  I was told that if you chamber a round, cock the pistol and drop it on its hammer, it may also go off.  I never tried this because doing so would greatly increase the likelihood of shooting myself, or someone or something else I had no desire to shoot.

I believe you have to deliberately chamber a round to fire any automatic pistol.  I could be wrong, but I don’’t think so.  When I learned about these things, the good sergeant told us to close the slide and then load the weapon.  That leaves all the bullets in the magazine and makes the pistol much safer to carry.  Then, if you want to fire the weapon, pull the slide back and let it go forward again, the way they do in all those movies.  That both chambers a round and cocks the weapon.

So, Mr. Burress let a loaded and cocked automatic pistol slide down inside his pants to his leg.  This is supposed to be a guy with good hands, and it had to be in a particular state of readiness to go off when it started sliding.  You will never, under any circumstances, catch me carrying a loaded and cocked firearm tucked in my waistband.  I am crazy, but I’’m not stupid!

It seems to me he is pretty damned stupid, and awfully lucky he didn’’t shoot someone else, or his femoral artery, or something else both nearby and very dear to him.  Everyone who was around him at the time is equally lucky to escape unharmed. 

And laying aside proper licensing and proper safety with a deadly weapon, if you’re going someplace where you feel you need a gun because of the jewelry you’re wearing and the money you’re carrying, get a credit card, leave the jewelry in the bank vault and consider going someplace else.  All three, not just one or two.

So, without resorting to obscenities and without denigrating the world’’s population of idiots, I suppose I have to rely on what Bugs Bunny once said:  “What a maroon!”

Things I Know

  • Right after you pass through the TSA security screening area at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee Wisconsin, there’’s a place to put your shoes back on and generally get yourself back together.  They call it the “Recombobulation Area.”

  • In Home Depot, last time I was there, they had a tool for sale that’’s designed to open plastic packages, several kinds of plastic packages.  It cost $9.97.  And it says all over the tool’s package that it’’s advertised on TV, so you know it must be good, right?  One of the things this tool is designed to open is the dreaded blister pack.  But it comes in a blister pack!

  • I bought something recently over the Internet.  It came in two blister packs, one inside the other.  I guess that’’s to keep the product from being broken, or utilized.

  • You don’t have to be hungry to eat pie!

  • It’’s not the gift:  it’’s the thought that counts.  My grandmother told me that when I was a little kid and when I was a little kid she was nuts!  But now, if she were still alive, she’’d be right.  I mean nobody likes me enough and has enough money to buy me anything I can’’t afford to get for myself.  So only the thought counts.

  • “It’’s not what you wear; it’’s how you take it off that counts.”   Former radio personality Dick Summer said that in his blog the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  Smart man Dick Summer!

  • After the recent Congressional Hearings with the presidents of America’s automakers, I have new respect for Congressman Gary Ackerman as a comedian and as a demagogue.  The lines about the tin cup and the jet-pooling were funny.  Yes, the private planes look bad.  But compared with the number of jobs at stake, it’’s immaterial.  It’’s thousandths of a percent of the money the car company presidents were asking for.  Also, Rick Wagoner, the head honcho at GM makes about $40,000 a day, including weekends!  If he’’s worth the money, and I’’m not arguing that anyone is, then the private plane is actually a productivity tool, believe it or not.  Do the math.

  • If you have a job giving advice, you’’re often judged not on the quality of your advice, but by whether the people you give it to take the advice.  Everyone says the private jets were a disaster for the auto makers and that they ought to get new PR people.  Were the PR people even asked?  And if they were asked, did they say it would be fine?  If the PR people were asked and did clear the private planes, then the auto makers do need new PR people.  Otherwise, maybe not.

  • My sister-in-law talks all the time.  This annoys me because I also talk all the time and she can’’t possibly be listening to me if she’’s talking too.