Sunday, December 25, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 450: Merry Christmas

Christmas seems to have two speeds, incredibly fast or wonderfully slow. 

Some of us have a million things to do. Up at dawn to get the turkey stuffed and into the oven. Opening gifts then a quick shower before church or the trip to Grandma's house. Shuttling relatives. Making time for some quick wine and cheese with the neighbors. Never a quiet moment. By nightfall it isn't just the tryptophane from that second helping making you dozey.

For others, Christmas is just one delight served after another. You just stand back and let the waves of generosity and joy wash over you.

That top speed seems to be how my Christmases happen these days. But when I was a kid it was the other way around. Tripping down stairs in your PJs to see a tree sparkling brighter than you remember from the days before. An empty milk glass and crumb of cookie to prove that Santa had not only been but appreciated the snack you left.

Then opening presents and savoring homemade egg nog, sausage rolls and shortbread.

And then your parents disappeared for an hour to prepare for their high speed version of the day while you played with your new stuff and watched cartoons.

Back in my day, those Christmas cartoons were usually from Walt Disney and if you were lucky included one with a special Christmas message.

Whichever Christmas speed you're travelling at today, take a moment for this one.

Merry Christmas and...

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 449: The Spirit of Giving Back

This time of year, corporations big and small populate our TV screens and online streams with commercials eschewing the spirit of the season. 

They make us laugh, feel nostalgic or otherwise kindle the spirit of the season -- that Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All thing. 

But at their base, the silent message of most is -- "Now that you feel all warm and fuzzy, come buy something from us".

But there's one that seems to take the sentiments of its Christmas commercials to heart.

I've been posting the annual Christmas commercials from Canadian airline Westjet for several years now as they've taken the spirit of giving back to ever greater heights. Granting Christmas wishes to passengers in flight. Bringing gifts to tropical destinations that have never seen snow. And last year providing a Christmas miracle on behalf of each one of their 12,000 employees.

This year was a tough one for the residents of Westjet's home province of Alberta, ravaged by unemployment and devastating forest fires. So they went to the heart of that devastation to bring a little bit of light and hope.

What follows is a reminder that giving back to those most in need is at the heart of Christmas. What follows is the Westjet Christmas ad and the background of two of the families they helped.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 448: Augie Wren's Christmas Story

At the core of the sentiments of the Christmas Season are stories. The original account of the babe in the manger may have started that because it contained all the elements that run through every Christmas story that has followed it.

The compassion of an innkeeper with no rooms for tired travelers and only a humble stable to offer. A child imbued with all our hopes of the future. Magical occurrences. Ordinary people touched by something special. The spirit of giving, of sharing, of kindness.

Every Christian culture has a special story only told at Christmas. A good king helping a poor man in the snow. A wealthy miser reminded of the redemption in caring for others. A kid who only wants a BB gun.

And then there's Rudolph and Frosty and Honky the Christmas Goose...

The magic that is Christmas almost always comes from characters you'd last expect to embody it, and yet, in doing so, remind each of us that we can be part of the magic too.

One of the oddest Christmas tales can be found in Wayne Wang and Paul Auster's 1995 Independent film "Smoke", which follows the interwoven lives of the customers and staff of a small New York tobacco store. 

It's a charming little film about the smallest things and how they can alter our lives or the way we see the world forever.

Connected to all of these stories in one way or another is the smoke shop's owner, Augie Wren, played by Harvey Keitel.

As Christmas approaches, one of his customers, a writer, is in desperate need of a Christmas story and Augie commiserates and ultimately shares his own.

It's unexpected -- and special. May it's message touch you this season.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 447: A Christmas Story's Story

It's that time of year again. Lights sparkle from rooftops. Carols are the soundtrack at the mall. And television begins unspooling the films of the season.

This month's issue of "Vanity Fair" features an article on the making of one of those Christmas films -- my personal favorite -- "A Christmas Story".

But while the VF story about "Story" is filled with wonderful anecdotes from the production and initial release of the movie in 1983, there's nothing quite like hearing the broadcast that inspired it from the screenwriter and narrator of "A Christmas Story" -- Jean Shepherd.

During the 1950's, 60's and 70's, Shepherd hosted a nightly show on WOR radio in New York, where he spun semi-autobiographical tales that spawned a rabid fan base who made bootleg reel to reel tapes of them to share with friends around the country.

Originally a chapter of Shepherd's 1966 book, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash".  its first title was, "Duel in the Snow, Or, Red Ryder Nails The Cleveland Street Kid". It was immediately excerpted in "Playboy", winning Shepherd a National Magazine Award for humor. 

After that, every year at Christmas, Shepherd would tell the story on his radio show. And on one of those nights, director Bob Clark heard it while driving to a dinner date. Clark reached his destination and then circled the block repeatedly, unable to stop until he'd heard how it ended. He decided then and there it had to be a movie.

And thanks to one of those original bootlegs, now you too can hear the broadcast that inspired one of the most beloved movies of the season...

Enjoy Your Sunday.