Friday, November 21, 2008



'Tis a month before Christmas; our wallets are thin;
Still, we venture forth holiday shopping again.
The economy stinks, but the little ones beg
For toys that will cost us an arm and a leg!

In our day, we marveled at dump trucks and dolls,
Cassette players, tea sets and spongy Nerf balls.
If we ran out of batteries, we weren’t defeated –
Our imaginations were all that we needed

But now the Technology Age has arrived,
When a kid with no iPod's considered deprived!
Today's plugged-in kids, our old-fashioned toys bore 'em
'Cause too many gadgets do their thinking for 'em!

So onward we traipse, as if marching to war,
To elbow our way through some crowded toy store.
For the item that's one of this year's biggest choices:
Creatures that respond to their masters’ voices.

There's D-Rex the dinosaur, Biscuit the pup
And Wall-E the robot – they're grabbing 'em up!
It's a kid's fondest power-trip dream that's come true –
Finally, someone they can tell what to do!

Yet another new Elmo has set sales a-boomin';
It's creepy how he becomes more and more human!
Now he plays games, tells stories and blows flying kisses
If he wants to impress ME, he'll wash all my dishes!

Parents practically need to enlist a translator
To decipher the code spoken by their teenager:
"IDK if want a DS or a Wii
"Or a PS2 Silver or PS3 80GB."

Is he babbling in tongues? Is he speaking in Greek?
What are these strange acronyms of which he speaks?
Rolling his eyes, the kid deigns to assist them,
"OMG, Mom and Dad, it's a gaming system!"

And lest Hannah Montana should put her to shame,
Even trusty old Barbie has video games!
She's gotta keep up with the Joneses – and Jonases;
So she offers a sleigh-load of electronic bonuses!

But don't be disheartened by technology's sway;
Introduce kids to stuff we loved back in the day.
All the classic playthings from the Toy Hall of Fame –
Off the top of my head, here's a few I can name:

There's Lite-Brite! There's Slinky!
There's Tonkas and Play-Doh!
ViewMaster and Twister!
And Big Wheels and Lego!
To the top of the shelves!
To the stores and the malls!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!

Getting back to the basics can save you some dough
In these hardscrabble times when finances are low.
If your kids bellyache, bellow, bluster and bawl,
Remind them of those who'll get nothing at all!

Friday, November 07, 2008



Thanksgiving is treated by many as an appetizer for Christmas – it stimulates the palate in preparation for the main course. It's the opening act for the headliner, the preview before the feature film. If Christmas were Hall, Thanksgiving would be Oates.

But in my book, Thanksgiving is the best holiday, despite the absence of Thanksgiving presents under a Thanksgiving tree, Thanksgiving carols and Thanksgiving stockings. And where are all the Thanksgiving movies? Oh, they're out there – you just gotta search for ‘em. Which is exactly what I did, and my research turned up a surprising number of treasures (and a few turkeys).

If you don’t want to sit through NFL hell and Uncle Jack’s 847th reenactment of his winning touchdown at the 1968 state championship, check out these vintage videos while you digest your vittles:

* “Hannah and Her Sisters”: I'm not a huge Woody Allen fan, but if I had to choose between this 1986 comedy-drama and say, a Pauly Shore flick, I'd pick the Wood-Man over the Weasel. Unless "Encino Man" is showing, then all bets are off. But seriously, this is one of Woody's best. The stellar cast includes Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest and Barbara Hershey in a story that begins with one Thanksgiving and ends with another. It's funny, clever, heartwarming and all those other things a holiday movie about family should be. And I'm pretty sure it's Allen’s only film featuring both his mate at the time (Farrow) and his future wife, Farrow's daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, then a teenager in an uncredited role.

* “Home For The Holidays”: Director Jodie Foster's sophomore outing perfectly captures the essence of family: People who love each other, but don't always necessarily like each other. Stars include Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Robert Downey Jr. and Claire Danes.

* "The House of Yes": This 1997 film adaptation of Wendy MacLeod's long-running play offers a bit of dark meat to offset the lighter fare. The daughter of a clan obsessed with the Kennedys, Jackie-O (Parker Posey) reenacts the presidential assassination with her twin brother at their Thanksgiving reunion. Look for Tori Spelling in a very out-of-character role.

* “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles”: If the dysfunctional family theme is too big a buzzkill, you can count on this John Hughes classic to brighten the mood. All Steve Martin wants is to spend Thanksgiving with his family. What he gets is three days with a turkey – John Candy as an obnoxious salesman.

* “What's Cooking?”: Four families of different ethnicities – African-American, Jewish, Latino and Vietnamese – get together for the holiday. Guaranteed to make you hungry for seconds! The ensemble cast includes Alfre Woodard and Lainie Kazan.

* For the giblets – er, kidlets, there’s Alvin and the Chipmunks’ “Thanksgiving Celebration,” 1969’s “Mouse on the Mayflower” and “A Rugrats Thanksgiving.

* And no cinematic smorgasbord would be complete without the Emmy-winning “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” in which the Peanuts Gang gathers for roast bird – and Woodstock is thankful it’s not him.