‘Tis the season

I may not have written the book on movies, but I did write a book on movies, several of which I’ve enjoyed watching over the past two weeks. As you may be aware, there are certain movies that should be watched at certain times of the year, and Christmastime is Exhibit A.
For a further discussion, buy a copy of my book.
In a hurry? Listen to today’s episode of Math and Musings.

It’s never easy, but sometimes a look back can be comforting

Last week we received word that my wife’s childhood babysitter had passed away. She was 94 years old, and by all indications had lived a full life.

I aspire.

Though my wife had not seen her in over 20 years it was still sad. A death is always sad, regardless of whether it’s expected, surprising, or involves someone you hadn’t talked to in years.

Or you knew him but he didn’t know you.

Enter one of my childhood babysitters, Bob McGrath.

Truth be told I never met Bob McGrath. I just hung out with him every afternoon for a solid decade or so. Like my wife and her former babysitter I hadn’t seen Bob in over 20 years (closer to 30, actually), but news of his death this week was as sad as if I’d just seen him ’round the old neighborhood.

The neighborhood?

Sesame Street, of course.

Bob McGrath played “Bob” on Sesame Street for nearly half a century, and was one of the show’s most popular humans for several generations of fans. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, McGrath was an accomplished musician and actor, but everyone knows him simply as “Bob” from Sesame Street. By all accounts he was just as kind and gentile in real life as he was on the show; the sweater wasn’t an affectation. He’d been married to Mrs. McGrath since 1958 and they had five children and eight grandchildren on top of the millions who saw him as such on TV. Basically he’s the reason Mr. Rogers rarely came to Sesame Street; they already had a Mr. Rogers.

R.I.P. Bob McGrath. Thanks for the memories.

This was not on my Christmas list

I’ve said for years that one of the weakest things about soccer is that games can end in ties.

With all eyes on Earth watching the World Cup yesterday what do we get?

A couple of blowouts.


And in real football? For my local team?

A damn tie.

Just what every dad doesn’t want for Christmas.

Silly Season

Today’s hot take: the last few days of November, from Thanksgiving until December 1st, are the most useless days of the year. You just want November to be over so Christmas can be in full swing.

Of course if you’ve gone in any stores recently you know the Christmas shopping season started in about September, but we’re trying to be a little more reasonable here.

Make room for this one in next year’s Top 365

I’ve never seen the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I’ve never seen the Jim Carrey version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

If God himself rewrote the Bible or if Tchaikovsky rescored The Nutcracker I wouldn’t touch either one. Hence the trepidation with which I watched A Christmas Story Christmas this weekend.

Tell God it’s possible.

Starring “Ralphie” himself (Peter Billingsley, in what to me is the only movie role he’s ever played), A Christmas Story Christmas features not only Billingsley but nearly every actor who appeared in the original A Christmas Story almost 40 years ago. Most of these actors were children in the ’80s (so was I!) and have done, like, presumably, real jobs in recent decades. That we don’t have professional actors but the “real” Randy, Flick, Schwartz, Scut Farkus, etc. makes it more authentic. A company of Tony-winning, Shakespeare-quoting, Julliard graduates couldn’t have done it better.

Okay, so A Christmas Story Christmas isn’t exactly Citizen Kane. It doesn’t have to be. It’s just fun to watch, and the more you’ve seen the original (for me personally I’ll bet it’s north of 300 times) the more you are rewarded with the slightest nods and subtle tributes. “Homage” is probably an overused word, but here it is apt. The boys here have done the original justice, and I think Jean Sheperd would approve. That’s Billingsley himself doing the narration, and he does a worthy Shep while keeping his own unique voice. This borders on a Christmas miracle.

It’s worth noting that in this new film Ralphie is about 40 years old. (He’s nine in the original and the sequel is 33 years later, so I guess he’s 42.) He’s got a wife, a house, two kids (one up on me there), but yeah, he’s basically me. Of course as I watch movies like Hook or Christmas Vacation or a million other family movies, Christmas and otherwise, I’m the dad in the story now. Usually the clueless dad as these tropes go. The main plot point is doing whatever you can for your kids. At Christmas you just want to make the season magical as your parents did for you.

And to quote another holiday philosopher…

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Natural and unnatural goodness

On today’s episode of Math and Musings you’ll hear me talk about my recent trip to Natural Bridge, Virginia. For most people the highlight of this locale is, well, the natural bridge, a 200-foot tall stone edifice rising above a tributary of the James River, forming an archway that has awed natives and settlers for hundreds if not thousands of years. Sitting on land once owned by none other than Thomas Jefferson himself, it is now under the management of Virginia’s state park system. It’s basically the Grand Canyon of the east; one has to see it in person to appreciate it.

But that wasn’t the highlight of my trip.

I’m saving this one for a future episode, but the standout moment for me last weekend was my sidequest to a random convenience mart in Staunton, Virginia. (Look it up–it’s out there.)

And I found it. A freezer full of Choco Tacos. Whoa. Made by the Klondike company for nearly 40 years, Choco Tacos were inexplicably discontinued several months ago, much to the chagrin of seemingly the entire Internet.

But for one magical moment in backwoods Virginia I was able to recreate this childhood favorite. Oh, I’m sure it’s just a solid ball of chemicals and barely qualifies as the “ice cream,” “chocolate,” or taco-shaped “waffle” it emulates. But who cares.

Yeah, the natural bridge was pretty cool too.

November Madness

Citizens of the world have a new obsession, though I’m told this has been developing for some time.
I’ve always heard that soccer (a.k.a. football) is the world’s most popular sport, but in the past few days we’ve taken it to a new level. I’m not sure what it’s like out in real America, but ‘round these parts (that would be the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.) the World Cup has replaced Covid as our most crippling infectious disease.
At work I’m even involved in a World Cup “challenge,” filling out a bracket a la March Madness.
I’d complain more but right now…

I’m winning.

NFC Beasts

It wasn’t long ago we called it the NFC Least.

Remember 2020 when the then-Football Team won said division with a losing record?

Well don’t look now but every team in that division has a winning record, including the aforementioned WFT, now known in Ashburn and beyond as the Commanders. These teams aren’t least, they’re beasts!

With a win yesterday over the Houston Texans my local team is clicking at the right time.

Six games left on the schedule and three of them in division? This is still doable.