Monthly Archives: December 2017

My Top Five Christmas Movies

This Christmas season, I have watched a top twelve Christmas movie list on television, and read at least two other Christmas movie lists online.  There are probably a hundred or more Christmas movies to choose from when making such a list, but if you look closely, most of the lists contain the same twenty to twenty-five movies.  Usually, the only difference between list A, B, or C is how those 20+ movies are ranked.  However, my Christmas movie list is different in two ways: (1) it only lists the top five Christmas movies of all time, and (2) it is based entirely on my preferences and opinion.  If you agree with my top five movies, fantastic, and if not, it’s too cold to go jump in a lake, so instead, go watch your favorite movies and forget mine.  Here are my top five movies beginning with number five:

#5        How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

The story is about a green creepy/goofy looking monster who hates everybody including himself.  He sets out to steal Whoville’s Christmas, thinking by doing so, he will take their joy from them.  Of course, he is wrong.  His only salvation is Cindy Lou Who, who manages to thaw his cold heart and bring happiness to his dismal life.  As a child, I enjoyed the thirty-minute animated television special that aired at Christmas every year, but when Jim Carrey brought the Grinch to life on the big screen, I was amazed all over again.  The movie version with its occasional naughty innuendoes was made as much for adults as kids, and it succeeded on both fronts.  Jim Carrey’s over-the-top performance was fun to watch, and the visuals were stunning.  Simply put, the movie looked, acted, and felt like a holiday classic.  It did not disappoint.

#4        Elf:

I am not a big Will Ferrell fan, but his role as Buddy in Elf was exceptional.  I am not saying exceptional in an Academy Award sense, but extraordinarily fun and entertaining for kids and adults alike.   As a human raised by elves at the North Pole, the role of Buddy fit Ferrell like a glove.  His trademark off-the-cuff antics, which are sometimes hilarious, but often just miss the mark, were perfect for his role as a lovable human-elf in search of his identity.  His innocent childlike behavior in a world of Christmas commercialization was funny, charming, and magical.  Elf is a holiday classic that should be on everyone’s watch list.

#3        A Christmas Story:

One of my all-time favorite holiday movies is A Christmas Story!  The story, set in the 1940’s, centers around Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.  Throughout the story, everyone he turns to for help to get the gun, even Santa Claus, tells him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”  Based on a story by Jean Shepherd, the movie is a trip back in time before X-box, PlayStation, Star Wars, and cell phones.  It was a time when kids played outside, and watched Westerns on television where the good guys and buy guys fought for supremacy with six-guns and lever-action rifles instead of laser swords.  In A Christmas Story, Ralphie faces school bullies, learns the horrible truth about secret decoder rings, has his mouth washed out with soap for saying bad words he learned from his father, and through it all, never loses sight of his perfect Christmas gift.  This movie is a slice of life from a bygone era, but it contains everything that makes Christmas special – family, memories, and the spirit of being served Chinese duck for Christmas dinner.  The kids may not fully appreciate the significance of playing outside or getting “double dog dared,” but this is a Christmas movie the whole family should watch together.

#2        The Polar Express:

The number two movie on my Christmas Holiday list, The Polar Express, certainly deserves the honor.  The movie stars Tom Hanks and is filmed in “performance-action animation,” which results in a breathtaking movie spectacle.  Hanks and the visual beauty of the film are reasons enough to see it, but I simply love the story!  The story is about a young boy who is beginning to doubt there is a Santa Claus, and on Christmas Eve catches a mysterious train, The Polar Express, to the North Pole.  On the train, he meets other children like him, a sometimes-cranky conductor (Tom Hanks, who also plays several other roles in the movie), and a hobo.  One of the most visually impressive scenes in the movie (there are many) is the singing waiters.  The first time I saw the movie at home, I stopped the video at least three times to watch that scene again and again; it is simply amazing.  Although Santa Claus appears in the movie, the movie is not about Santa.  The Polar Express is about bravery, friendship, and the spirit of Christmas!  It is a classic that should be shared yearly as a family tradition.

#1        It’s a Wonderful Life:

The Christmas movie that tops almost everyone’s list is It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.  It is the perfect Christmas masterpiece for the holidays.  The story is about an ambitious young man who sacrifices his dreams to ensure the dreams of others.  Continually hounded by miserly Mr. Potter, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) fights for the right of his neighbors to live a good life, and not struggle in the squalor of Potter’s tenant houses.  Unfortunately, life does not always treat even the best people fairly, and after a disastrous incident, George wishes he had never been born.  With the help of a guardian angel, George learns how his life has impacted the lives of people he loves, and they are not complete without him nor is he complete without them.  It’s a Wonderful Life has sacrifice, redemption, salvation, friendship, angels, and triumph over evil.  It is the root for the good guy, boo the bad guy, feel good movie of all time regardless of the season in which it is watched.  It is the movie that shows us how to get our wings.  It’s a Wonderful life is the epitome of the Christmas spirit; therefore, it is my number one Christmas movie of all time!

Whether you have a Christmas list of your own, or use one someone else has put together, the bottom line is grab someone you love or want to make friends with, and pop your favorite Christmas movie in the DVD and share the Christmas spirit.  I double dog dare you!

Merry Christmas,

JL

©Jack Linton, December 22, 2017

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Santa’s Grossest Christmas List:  Real Toys My Grandkids Want

When my grandkids handed me their Christmas lists, I was shocked!  Each list is filled with gross and obnoxious toys.  I am not lying – boogers and pooh headline their Christmas Lists.  I have grown to expect inherited poor taste from the boys, but this year, the girls are just as bad.  I am not a prude or stick-in-the-mud when it comes to gross; I enjoy a good juicy fart joke book or as a boy, shooting dripping spit balls and other bits and pieces of grossness with a rubber band.  To me, the whole toy poopoo fad is funny and highly reflective of our society, but when my granddaughters ask for “turd launchers” and dolls that poo their pants for Christmas, that surpasses even my tolerance for gross.  Why are kids so fascinated with toys devoted to body excretions?  Do parents and grandparents buy their children and grandchildren such disgusting toys?  Of course, we do, or the store shelves would not be stacked to the ceiling with such disgusting games and stuffed caricatures.

When my kids were growing up, my wife often chastised me for sharing what I considered to be a high quality dirty diaper or tasteful fart joke with my boys.  My daughter, like her mama, was too classy to dabble in the sewer, but even she would sometimes cringe and laugh with us.  Other than the boys absorbing my weird sense of humor, no harm that I am aware of was done.  Heck, the uncouth things I subjected my kids to were tame compared to the crudeness of toys today.  My best gross-outs pale in comparison to the toys found on Amazon.com or on Walmart toy shelves.

Apparently, there is a race among toy makers for the “Gross-out” title.  There are toys galore that feature snot, boogers, farting, peeing, and even pooping!  What is the deal with the obsession with crap?  I am not talking about cheap, poorly made, waste of money toys although most of these toys certainly are, I am referring to toys that look and feel like real crap, number two, poo, poop, feces, manure, cow-pies, dung, and doo-doo.  Who would have ever thought a “sack of poopoo” would have a major niche in the toy market?  Take a stroll down the toy aisle in Walmart, Toys “R” Us, or shop for toys on Amazon.com, and you will be greeted by dolls that not only pee, but poop; giant noses with finger picking boogers; stuffed pigs that fart; and dogs that  poo and come with pooper scooper accessories.  I am not completely naïve; I fully understand boys twelve and under have always been fascinated with anything gross, but when did sweet little girls take up that banner?  I can’t imagine why anyone, parents, grandparents, or toy makers, would want to teach our sweet little darlings that cleaning poop is fun!

There are those who claim lifelike dolls with life functions teach children to be responsible caring adults and parents.  According to their reasoning, such toys provide children with life experiences.  That is all well and good, but some life experiences are better left for later in life.  Maybe, it’s my weak stomach, but in my opinion, cleaning poop from a baby’s bottom is one of those life experiences we can spare nine and ten-year-old girls without fear of psychological scarring.  I don’t think I am wrong when I say cleaning a dirty diaper is a shitty experience regardless how devoted and loving you are as a parent.  While I don’t totally disagree with the responsibility angle, for me, a pooping doll is like putting anatomically correct parts on Ken and Barbie.  Ken doesn’t need a penis, nor does Barbie need a vagina for boys and girls to pretend they are boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife.  Why teach children love is dependent on physical grappling?  Likewise, why teach children cleaning poop is one of the pleasures of parenthood?  The imagination is a wonderful place for boys and girls to dwell, so why destroy it with too much realism?

With many of the toys on the shelf this Christmas, there is a thin line between being an educational toy and a toy simply geared to rectal sensationalism.   The grosser the toy the more popular!  If it hangs from the nose or pops out the bottom, it is fun stuff.  Unfortunately, gross appears to have no boundaries.  There are also poo shaped and colored pillows for those who have always had a hankering to cuddle next to or lay their heads on an incredibly plush fiber or down filled turd.  What will they come up with next?  Poo shaped highway signage?

I don’t know where this trend goes from here, but I am sure, the grosser it gets, the better kids will like it.  But, as a grandparent, that is not my problem.  It is not grandpa and grandma’s responsibility to dig the grandkids out of the gutter; that’s mom and dad’s job.  A grandparent’s job is to spoil them rotten, which includes buying them all the slime, guts, and rubber poo they think they need.  Therefore, this Christmas, I plan to visit Amazon.com, Toys “R” Us, and Walmart, and buy the grossest games and toys I can find for my grandkids.  I don’t care about the life experience the game provides, or if it has educational value, as long as it makes them laugh.  I might not get grandparent of the year, but hearing them laugh is all the reward I need.  Laughter is what childhood is all about even if it takes a little plastic fecal matter and nasal slime to help it happen.

So, for those adults who have a touch of a child in their heart, a spark of the rebel in their soul, and love to hear children laugh, I invite you to look at my grandkids’ Christmas list.  It might not be wholesome; it may even be the grossest Christmas list ever compiled by kids, but if a doll with a greasy runny diaper will get me a hug and laughter for Christmas, you can bet a roll of toilet paper, I am all in!  There is little doubt, the toys on the list will bring smiles and laughter to the little ones, but I would not be surprised if those toys, as gross as they are, tickle the kid in adults as well.  Even the clogged hearts of constipated Grinches and Scrooges stand to be softened by the sight of a stuffed turd ornament on a Christmas tree; after all, it seems miracles come in brown this year.

Merry Christmas, and happy shopping!  Remember, the grossest thing of all is a world, especially a Christmas, without laughter.

Santa’s Grossest Christmas List

The perfect Christmas gift list for kids and adults who love to laugh.

Doggie Doo                Best Price:      $25.89 at Amazon.com

The perfect game to train your kids to clean up after the family dog that you can’t house-break!

 Who Tooted               Best Price:      $29.99 at Amazon.com

Great practice for those long family trips in the car!

Gooey Louie              Best Price:       $19.59 at Amazon.com

This game is the perfect consolation for those people who were disappointed to discover the History Channel’s “American Pickers” was not about booger harvesting.

Poopyhead                 Best Price:      $16.95 at Amazon.com

As in real life, everyone gets crapped on, but the winner is the one who gets pooped on the least.

Gas Out                      Best Price:      $10.49 at Amazon.com

Fast action farting fun!  The perfect tooting game without the smell.

Lalaloopsy Babies Diaper Surprise             Best Price:      $149.99 at Amazon.com

There are probably much cheaper ways to play with pooping babies, but for those folks who go to sleep at night dreaming of finding surprises in dirty diapers, this doll is a sure bet to tickle their fancy.

Baby Alive Super Snacks Snackin Sara     Best Price:      $49.99 at Amazon.com

This baby poops in her diaper after she is fed!  Just like a real baby the cycle never ends – feed and poop and clean mess, feed and poop and clean mess, feed and poop and clean mess.  What fun!

PooPen                       Best Price:      $4.68 at Amazon.com

Adds new meaning to crappy writing.

The Farting Animal Coloring Activity Book       Best Price:    $5.95 at Amazon.com

Kids learn all things toot even fuzzy kittens and mom!

Farting Santa            Best Price:      $14.99 at Amazon.com

This little guy is in my personal collection!  Pull his finger and it is easy to see how Santa is propelled up a chimney.

Poop Christmas Tree Hanging Ornament          Best Price:     $11.95 at Amazon.com

A smiling pile of poo for your Christmas tree!  Nothing says Christmas like a poo ornament on your tree.

Happy shopping!  This Christmas brown is the new green.

Merry Christmas!

JL

©Jack Linton, December 9, 2017

Today’s Teachers vs The Way It was Back Then

Public education in Mississippi, in the United States, is a dead horse many politicians and a large faction of the public refuse to stop beating.  By underfunding public schools, shifting support to charter and private schools, and openly bashing teachers for everything from poor test scores to the spiritual collapse of the nation, public school haters have effectively beaten public education and its supporters into submission, yet, they refuse to unsaddle the dead horse and move on.  There are others they could pick on, such as themselves, for the less than satisfactory conditions in education and society.  Lack of political and public support for underfunded, underappreciated, and undervalued public schools is well documented, but villainizing public educators is far easier than sharing responsibility.

Sitting astride their decomposing steed, they reminisce about their glory days in school.  They recall the “good old days” when public schools were home to superhero teachers, angelic students, apple pie baking moms in lacy aprons, uncompromising no-nonsense dads, and principals welding a board of education nicknamed “Old Hickory.”  These buckaroos worship at the alter of “The Way it was Back Then” –  a time when there were no bad teachers, kids were only mischievously delinquent, and Coca-Cola miraculously taught the world to sing in perfect harmony amid fields of butterflies flitting under skies painted with candy striped rainbows.  If you listen to the saddle busters, the world and everything about it was cool and perfect in the “The Way it was Back Then” until public schools kicked prayer out the school house door and messed up everything.

I lived and taught school in “The Way it was Back Then,” but the world singing in perfect harmony and mischievous innocents somehow escaped me.  Yes, over time, prayer became less conspicuous in public schools, but only after it disappeared from most homes.  Granted, there were many good teachers back then, but no more than there are today.  Forty years ago, you were considered a good teacher if you kept a low profile and did not bother anyone, and no one was bothered by you.  If you left parents alone, and never troubled them about their child’s behavior or grades, you were a good teacher.  You were a good teacher if you did not send discipline referrals to the principal’s office, and if you were popular with all your students, you were considered the best of the best teachers.  Little has changed over forty years, teachers still get brownie points for all the above, but today, in the era of accountability, it is much harder for a teacher to be considered good just by laying low out of the principal’s hair.

In a profession where every Joe on the street believes he can do it better, and political and education gurus who haven’t been in a classroom in years, if ever, dictate how to educate kids, today’s teachers must be better than good; they are expected to be perfect.  They must have the thick hide of a rhinoceros to withstand twisted evidence they are the problem rather than the solution; they must hold their tongue when factors beyond their control such as poverty, inadequate funding, and apathy in the home toward education are left out of the student failure equation; and they must cower before an accountability system that has become more about judging and dismissing teachers than assessing the strengths and weaknesses of student knowledge.  The result is public school educators feel so negatively stigmatized and traumatized they are fleeing the teaching ranks in droves.  Forget about recruiting new blood!  Why would a bright, energetic, young person with compassion for children want to be a part of a profession in which teachers are expected to be mechanical in their approach to learning, unquestioning before the data gods, submissive to political whims, and tied to research that often is only given the light of day if it is convenient and relevant to the ideology of the status quo.  In an era, where selective evidence is used to undermine teacher quality, turn teachers into scapegoats, prescribe quick fixes, and look at school reform as a process rather than a cultural change, it is a true miracle the American public-school teacher has yet to be added to the nation’s extinction list.

I say these things not to be negative, but to illustrate teaching is not for the faint of heart.  Even the best teachers I worked with during the “The Way it was Back Then” would not have stayed in the profession more than a year or two if they had been subjected to the distrust and lack of respect today’s teachers face.  Also, today, teachers never have a moment of peace from change.  They are subjected to change with every new fad, book, article, or political agenda.  Of course, change is not all bad, but when it occurs solely for the sake of change itself, to sell books, or is politically motivated, it can be frustrating and even demeaning.  Who can blame teachers for rolling their eyes and thinking “this too shall pass” when presented the latest, greatest ideas or programs?

Today, other than change, the only constants in the life of teachers are cutting corners to make financial ends meet for their families, providing parenting in the classroom for kids who don’t get it at home, bringing their “A Game” to class every day regardless of the cards they have been dealt professionally and personally, and being unappreciated and ridiculed for their efforts.  Teachers are not perfect.  However, they do not deserve to be unfairly judged and persecuted, especially for those things over which they have little or no control.  Contrary, to popular misconceptions, teachers are human, and occasionally, they deserve a break as well as a little TLC!

The good news is teachers, with few exceptions, are making a difference in the lives of their students.  They sacrifice, jump through hoops, dance sideways, do cartwheels, do whatever it takes to help students learn and become responsible citizens, and they do so despite a never lifting veil of distrust.  The cynicism against public schools is sad since so much of it is the result of perceptions caused by clueless negative hearsay.  Most school naysayers do not have an inkling as to what goes on in public schools; how could they?  With few exceptions, they have not set foot in a public school or any other school since they were high school students themselves.  Before anyone gives a blanket condemnation of public schools, it would be nice if they first visited one to see for themselves rather than blindly accept scuttlebutt and data that fails miserably to tell the whole story.  Yes, there is work to be done in public schools, the same as there is in private and charter schools as well as any other institution that depends on the human element for success; however, I am confident if the naysayers would put political and personal agendas aside for a closer look, they would be less likely to condemn public schools as a whole.

I taught school during “The Way it was Back Then,” and I will tell anyone who will listen, teachers have come a long way, baby, and the best is yet to come!  The challenges will not dwindle and go away; if anything, they will continue to grow, but the overall quality and resiliency of today’s teachers give hope the challenges will be recognized, addressed, and eventually rectified.  When it comes to quality teaching for all children, forty years ago was not the “good ole days” as so many seem to believe.  We are living the good days; thanks to better prepared, knowledgeable, caring teachers.

There are more challenges to educating children than ever before, but the number of teachers with the knowledge and skills to address those challenges are as great, probably greater, than any time in our history.  Therefore, my advice to everyone – teachers, parents, administrators, politicians, and the public –  is don’t look back; keep your eyes on the future.  Overall, we have good teachers in the driver’s seat, and if we hold on to them, support them, and don’t rock the boat every time there’s an uncomfortable swell, they will get our children and grandchildren safely to their tomorrow.  However, we must be willing to give them a chance, and not desert them to wolves with agendas other than doing what is right for children.  Although the current mindset toward public school education, it should be clear by now, you cannot beat a good horse to death, and expect to ride it to victory in the race.

JL

©Jack Linton, December 1, 2017