Archive for December, 2010

The King’s Speech: Saved by friendship

If you’re looking for a movie to watch, I highly recommend The King’s Speech.

It’s about King George VI (father of Queen Elizabeth II) and how he overcame a stammer after having to suddenly assume the throne following the abdication of his older brother King Edward.

Much of the movie is based on the unpublished diary entries and reports of King George’s unconventional speech therapist, Lionel Logue.

Here’s the trailer:

As you’ll see when you watch this film, friendship ends up being more important than the credentials of the speech therapist. The director, Tom Hooper, says:

What I felt the film was really about was that he was saved by friendship. Yes, it’s about a man with a stammer. But we all face blocks to becoming our better selves.

Also, the movie reminded me how much I like Beethoven’s 7th symphony. The orchestra I was part of in college performed this my freshman year. Whenever you play a piece of music it remains part of you and you recognize it in a special way when you hear it again, years later, as I did when watching this movie. I always love it when that happens. Here’s a video of this symphony:


Most creative marriage proposal ever

A man made a video using two muppets as a way to propose to his girlfriend (you can read more about it here). He showed it as a trailer at a local movie theater. Awwwww:


Erma Bombeck’s “Family Christmas Newsletter – December 9, 1971

I’ve never been able to bring myself to write a Christmas letter. The late humor columnist Erma Bombeck explains why better than I ever could:

I regard the family Christmas newsletter with a mixture of nausea and jealousy—nausea because I could never abide by anyone organized enough to chronicle a year of activities: jealous because our family never does anything that I can talk about on a religious holiday.

For years I have been assaulted with Frieda and Fred’s camping adventures. Marcia and Willard’s bright children (their three–year–old has a hit record) and Ginny and Jess’s kitchen table version of “The Night Before Christmas.”

“You know something?” I announced at dinner the other night. “We’re a pretty exciting family. This year, instead of the usual traditional Christmas card, why don’t we make up a newsletter?”

“What would we say on it?” asked a son.

“What everyone else says. We could put down all the interesting things we did last year. For instance, you kids tell me anything you did in school that was memorable.” Silence. “This is no time for modesty. Just spit out any award or recognition you received throughout the school year.”

Finally, after five minutes, one son said, “I passed my eye examination.”

“See?” I said excitedly. “I knew if we just thought about it a bit — now, where have we been that’s exciting?”

“We got lost that Sunday and went by the Industrial School where you told us one of your uncles made license plates.”

“I don’t think our Christmas list wants to read about that,” I said. “Let’s see, have I been anyplace?”

“You went to that Sarah Coventry jewelry party last spring.”

“How about that?” I said excitedly. “Now, keep going. Anyone get promoted? Married? Divorced? Hospitalized? Retired? Give birth?” Silence.

“Anyone say anything clever last year? How about the year before that? Did anyone compose a song? Write a letter? Belch after dinner?” Silence.

“Anyone protest anything? Stop biting their nails? Scrape a chair in the Christian Science reading room? Get up in the morning before ten?” Silence.

“Anyone lick a stamp? Kick the dog? Wash their gym suit? Sit up straight in class? Replace a lightbulb? Breathe in and out?

They all sat there silently contemplating their year. Finally, I brought out a box of Christmas cards.

“What are you doing? We thought you were going to send out a family newsletter for Christmas?”

“No sense antagonizing the poor devils who sit around and do nothing all year.”


On obese houses and low square feet diets

What if we reacted to obese houses the same way we reacted to obese people? And vice versa?

Imagine people suddenly starting to feel jealous of obese people because of all the extra fabric they get to wear.

And asking “When are you going to put on some weight?” the way we ask people in small houses, “When are you going to add on or buy a bigger house?”

In this scenario you could probably even get away with saying with a straight face that you’re working on developing your “dream body” without anyone thinking you’re hopelessly vain and shallow, the same way no one thinks twice when you say you’re building your “dream house.”

We’d see news reports about the obesity epidemic in the housing market and how the First Lady is going to take it up as a cause and encourage low square feet diets. We’d view square feet the same way we view calories.

But what makes a house obese?

Just like a person can be obese even though they only look overweight, the same would apply here. A modest-sized house could be flagged as obese. Oops.

There would be a BMI for houses – the SFPP (Square Feet Per Person). What would a healthy SFPP be? The 100k House blog says the SFPP in 1950 was 292 (the average house size was 983 square feet). Today the SFPP is 900 (the average house size is 2349). Oops.

By today’s standards, my family of 6 could live in a 5400 square foot house. Yikes! That would be way too big.

How about 600 as a healthy SFPP? That’s what The Ochlophobist recommends on his blog and I like his take on it:

Generally speaking, one should not need more than 600 square feet per person in a home. When a home is purchased, there should be a tax of $20,000 on every 600 square foot increment over the number of persons moving into the home. There should be no tax on homes and estates which are willed to one’s kin, though if that kin ever sells the house, they should have to pay the inheritance tax. We need this and more of such measures in order to keep people with 2 kids from moving all the time and building and living in obscenely large, cheaply constructed modern homes simply in order to show off the fact that they have money.

The six of us could have a 3600 square foot house in that scenario but even that would be too large.

In this 600 SFPP scenario, Michael Jordan’s new 28,000 square foot house would be fine as long as 466 people live in it. Or he pays the required $9.2 million tax if only he and the paramour du jour live in it.

This Chinese man’s tiny egg-shaped house (be sure to check out the slideshow of photos) would have an anorexic SFPP (I guess this means there would also be “housing disorders” in this scenario, the equivalent of eating disorders).

At any rate, the SFPP continues to increase, and is triple what it was in the 1950s,  but one has to wonder… has happiness has tripled along with it? Are we three times more likely to live better lives now?


It’s time to take Christ out of Christmas

It’s interesting how Stephen Colbert got away with basically giving away a sermon on national TV.

Not only that, it’s a sermon that doesn’t shy away from acknowledging all those alarmingly succinct statements of Jesus about wealth (such as “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort” – Luke 6:24):

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat

Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> March to Keep Fear Alive

Money quote:

It’s time to take baby Jesus out of the manger. Replace it with something that’s easier to swallow. How about honey baked ham?

Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend Jesus was as selfish as we are or we’ve got to acknowledge he commanded us to serve the poor and needy without condition. And then admit we just don’t want to do it.

In a rousing discussion of this Colbert video on Facebook, Bishop Savas Zembillas posted the following G. K. Chesterton quote:

It may be possible to have a good debate over whether or not Jesus believed in fairies. Alas, it is impossible to have any sort of debate over whether or not Jesus believed that rich people were in big trouble—there is too much evidence on the subject and it is overwhelming.


6 Six Word Stories in 6 Hours

Seeing as how there was a blizzard today, and I didn’t feel like doing the writing I was supposed to be doing, I thought I’d try writing 6 six word stories in 6 hours. I ended up writing five of them in a half hour.

Here goes:

Death in the drive-thru came swiftly. (Six Word Story #20)

Unfortunately this is a true story. Last Wednesday at the credit union I go to all the time in my normally quiet community, a police officer fatally shot a man who kidnapped an older man.

She killed husband, not the boss. (Six Word Story #21)

I finished the book Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King this weekend, which is about a woman who got away with murdering her husband years ago but then was falsely accused of murdering her boss.

It’s not a horror novel, which is why I was able to read it (I made the great mistake of reading his Cujo horror novel one weekend when all my roommates were gone for the weekend and I hadn’t touched a King novel since). This was a fun read because the book is entirely a monologue by Dolores and there are no chapter breaks.

Seven league boots fly through snow. (Six Word Story #22)

Cellist Zoe Keating has a song called Seven League Boots so I looked that up and found out those are boots in European folklore that can go seven leagues (21 miles) in one step.

Loyal German Shepherd performed blizzard rescue. (Six Word Story #23)

I had to write some copy about German Shepherds this afternoon and found out how loyal and smart they are and found myself developing a soft spot for them even though I’m not a dog lover.

I had to write a true story about how a woman noticed a German Shepherd sitting attentively in a gas station parking lot across from the restaurant where she was eating. She later asked the gas station manager about him and he said the dog was abandoned there seven days earlier but hadn’t budged from the spot because he was waiting for his owners’ return. She ended up adopting him.

I also learned German Shepherds can be trained to do just about anything and are sometimes used as diabetes alert dogs. They sniff to see if the owner’s blood sugar is normal and will run and fetch the glucometer if  they sense the blood sugar is abnormal. Of course my diabetic daughters now want one of these dogs.

He’s nobody’s fool – smarter than God. (Six Word Story #24)

I’m reading the novel Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo, who is perhaps my favorite modern novelist and a winner of the Pulitzer prize.  His novels are about “blue-collar heartache” and are set in working class communities in New England, usually. Quite often the main character is an English professor.

That Old Cape Magic is a good novel to start with if you haven’t read one of his novels before.

Well-tempered clavier finally lost its cool. (Six Word Story #25)

Every winter I go through a phase of listening to lots of classical music, including Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. I’ve always found that name vaguely amusing so I had some fun with it here. What can I say, I was snowed-in and bored and therefore easily amused. :-)


Fun Friday part 3: Peanut Butter Krispies flashbacks

Last night it occurred to me I should make the Peanut Butter Krispies  my grandmother used to make, seeing as how we’re going to be snowed in this weekend. For some reason it’s been many years since I’ve made them. Silly me.

I had them ready when the kids got home from school. I took one bite and was immediately transported back in time to my grandparents’ brick ranch house in Dwight, IL. When we’d arrive on a Friday evening for a weekend visit she had Peanut Butter Crispies for us but we had to wait until after dinner (which was always, always sloppy joes) before we could eat them. Then my parents and grandparents would start playing pinochle at the kitchen table so my brother and I would go play bumper pool in the basement, drink the Mountain Dew my grandfather would always buy for us because he knew it was our favorite liquid refreshment, snack on stale Pringles and overly-salty popcorn, wish our cousins were there, pretend to smoke the cigarettes in the piano-shaped cigarette dispenser, and then go to bed in the pink bedroom around 2 a.m. because all the caffeine in the Mountain Dew kept us awake.

When my 15-year-old daughter bit into one of these bars after school she had an immediate flashback to when she was in preschool playing Ring Around the Rosy but instead of saying “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down” she would always mistakenly say “Ashland, Ashland, we all fall down.” I used to make Peanut Butter Krispies regularly back then.

Below is my grandmother’s Peanut Butter Krispies recipe. Maybe it will make you have flashbacks too:

1 c. Karo light syrup
1 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter
6 c. Rice Krispies

1/2 c. chocolate chips

1/2 c. butterscotch chips

Bring to a boil the syrup and sugar. Add peanut butter and Rice Krispies. Press into a 9×13″ pan.


1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. butterscotch chips

Melt and spread over Rice Krispies.


Fun Friday part 2: Vicki the Biker

We’re expecting lots of snow this weekend, to be followed by frigid temperatures, so here’s an extra Fun Friday post. I haven’t brought out Vicki the Biker in a while so here’s a recent strip:

Rose Is Rose


Fun Friday: Bach Double Violin Concerto

This past week or so I’ve watched this video every morning before doing my writing/work for the day. It’s my favorite violin music. I like how the violinists are having so much fun while playing and are practically dancing with their violins:


Now it’s time to get your Charlie Brown Christmas on

I like what liberal agnostic empiricist Michael Chabon says about the below scene from Charlie Brown Christmas (as quoted in this Terry Mattingly essay about the Charlie Brown Christmas special):

“I still know that chapter and verse of the Gospel of Luke by heart, and no amount of subsequent disillusionment with the behavior of self-described Christians, or with the ongoing progressive commercialization that in 1965 had already broken Charlie Brown’s heart, has robbed the central miracle of Christianity of its power to move me the way any truly great story can.”

You can watch Charlie Brown Christmas in its entirely for free on Hulu.