Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I saw Arthur Christmas  today.  My Tweet as I was waiting for my Coke Zero (stupid Movie Tavern showing Coke Zero commercials, but not selling the drink!)Diet Coke  was, "I love seeing movies. It is one of my favorite things.  I've seen two this break.  Neither that I've wanted to see."

Clearly, you can tell that I wasn't really excited about seeing Arthur Christmas.  I guess it's important here to say that it is not Arthur's Christmas, like I thought it was going into it.

Well, what a surprise I was in for.  I don't know if it's that I went into it with such low expectations or that it's just such a good movie.  I think both, but I'm inclined to say that it is weighing down more on the side of It's a Really Good Movie because it is just that.

The story is that Santa Claus is a family business, and that Santa serves for 70 years before stepping down and letting his son take over for him.

The current Santa is on his 70th run, which by now is a super high tech operation.  Think Mission: Impossible with elves instead of Tom Cruise.  Well, okay, Mission: Impossible with lots of Tom Cruises. Anyway, the playout of Christmas Eve night is brilliant.  BRILLIANT!  I am very happy to accept that this is the way it is done now.  I'm hoping that the movie makers haven't put themselves on the Naughty List forever by giving away this secret.

Santa himself is just a figurehead.  His son, Steve, is the brains behind the organization, and Steve is planning on taking over the family business. The previous Santa is around too.  His character is funny and quite pivotal later in the movie.

Younger brother Arthur's job is to answer letters from kids to Santa. He reassures doubters, he praises drawings of Santa, but he's a bit of a clod.  A well meaning clod, but in a well oiled machine, a clod, no matter how well meaning, doesn't fit in.

The Problem comes in the fact that a present somehow does not get delivered.  Billions of presents are delivered around the world in a matter of hours.  One present does not add up to much.  The percentage is infintesimally small.  Steve quotes it.  There are lots of zeros in front of the actual number. Not to worry.

Santa's ready for bed.  Steve's ready to take over the reins.  But Arthur discovers the forgotten present, and being the one that answers the letters, he knows that Megan needs to get this bike.  Belief is on the line. "In Santa, We Believe" is the motto of the organization, by the way. Arthur gets this.  The elves get It.  They are totally wrapped up in It. Santa got it, but he's old and tired, and just a, "uh, figurehead, yes yes."  Steve does not get it.  Does. Not. Get. It.

Luckily Arthur does and devotes himself to fixing this situation.  That's all I'm going to say about the plot.  You need to see this movie; although it left the Movie Tavern today, so you may have to wait until next Christmas when it's on DVD.

I think only a Grinch, a seriously grinchy Grinch would not like this movie.  I have some grouchy tendencies - you can ask DW, the Girls, or many others that know me, but grumpy and grinchy are very different things.

As daughter #1, who from this point on shall be referred to as Boogie, gets older, I worry about the whole Santa thing.  DW and I encourage the belief.  I strongly encourage belief in all manners of things.  It wasn't until two years ago that she caught on that cartoons are not real (I can't say that I wasn't disappointed that the realization hit).  Anyhoo, 

I think what I'm going to say, if she ever mentions doubt, or is given a setback by a friend who says that Santa's just her parents, is this:  Santa doesn't come to kids whose parents don't believe.  He lets them do that job so he can concentrate his efforts and love on those that do believe.

I say this to say that I do believe in Santa.  I believe that I saw Santa Christmas night in 1976 in LaGrange, GA when I got up in the middle of the night.  My Grandmother Benefield was with me.  I guess she was getting me some water or something, but I saw Santa going around the corner when I peaked my head in the living room.  Again.  I saw Santa going around the corner when I peaked my head in the living room.

I know that Christmas is seen by many people as many different things.  The birth of The Savior.  Toys, toys and more toys.  Capitalism at its finest.  Affluenza at its worst. Whatever.  For me it's a time to rekindle my love of belief, my love of wonder and I treasure movies like Arthur Christmas, Elf and A Christmas Story that help me get that feeling.

Merry Christmas to those that celebrate.  Happy Holidays to those that don't. Peace to you all.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why Santa Won't Be Bringing Us a Wii

Junkie. Addict. Slave to the Game.  These words describe me in a completely without a trace of hyperbole regarding Video Games.  Like most addicts my problem goes way back.  Way, way back to 1981.

My brother and I didn't lack for anything growing up.  I would even venture to say that we were spoiled to a degree. Thing is, we didn't go without, but sometimes what we went with was a step or two below what we really wanted.

All my friends had the Atari 2600. Awesome. All those cool games.  I was so jealous.
We had Intellivision:
It was cool.  I loved it.  I played it all the time.  I learned everything about poker from Intellivision.  That may explain why I don't play today. "Double Down!  Double Down!"

Seriously, it was better than the Atari.  Better graphics, probably retailed for more than the Atari.  Don't let that lead you to believe that my mom paid full retail for it. She rarely paid retail for anything.  JCPenny Outlet Store was responsible for  a good chunk of my childhood toy collection.

The Intellivision didn't have the game selection that Atari did.  My biggest regret is there was no Pitfall.

Intellivision isn't the point here, but I've got to talk about it for a while.  I had some friends who had it, too. I don't know if their mom told mine or mine told theirs, but we spent a lot time together playing Intellivision.  Golf, Football, Skiing and Baseball are the games that I remember playing the most.  They were fun.  The keypad and disc hand control worked good, as long as your fingers weren't covered in buttered popcorn residue.  It was a lot different than the 2600's joystick, and it inspired some trash talking from the Atari owners.

Right, so back on track.  Video Games and why the Benefields won't be getting any consoles for Christmas.

I've told the Girls that we're not allowed to have a video game console because, "Daddy has a problem with them."
R - "What kind of problem?"
Coco - "Are you allergic to 'em?"
Me - "No, I can't stop playing them once I start."
R - "What do you mean, you won't let anyone else play?"
Me - "No, I just won't stop playing.  Or if I do stop playing I keep thinking about it until I'm playing it again."
Dear Wife (DW) - "It's true. He would get up in the middle of the night to play a game."
R &  Coco  "WHAT?!?!?"
Me - (nodding my head sadly) - "It's true."

And it is true.  Once I start a game that has any kind of level I can't/won't stop.  And it's not because I'm good and I want to get through the levels really quickly.  I've never been very good at video games.  At birthday parties as a kid when the Mom would give everyone their $5 in quarters mine would be gone first.  It was terrible, but at the same time it was AWESOME.

                  So after Intellivison, well, Intellivision II,
I had a little break.  I would break it out every once in awhile, but after you've played some of the greater arcade games Mattel's video game doesn't hold much of a candle to them.

Flash forward to college.  My last year not quite-last year one of my roommates had a Nintendo.  I don't remember which model it was, but what he had was Street Fighter 2.  We played that thing FOREVER.

I could probably calculate the ratio of time spent playing that to time not going to class.  Did I mention it was supposed to be my last year of college?  Hours and hours and hours.  Talking trash, drinking 2 liters of Coke and having my man, Blanka kick some serious a$$.

Each of the housemates had their own character. Most of them knew secret codes that would make their characters do crazy things that would knock their opponent out.  Me, not so much.  As I mentioned earlier, I'm not really good at video games.  I just pushandclickandpunchandpushandclickandpunchandclick and I'd win some.

After graduating and moving on I somehow got my hands on a Star Wars computer game.  My computer at home wasn't powerful enough to play it without shutting everything else down, so I took it to school and played after I finished grading papers the kids left until I went home. Crap! It's 5:00 already!!! Luckily some punk came in my room, rifled through my desk and took it from me.

When DW and I were doing Yellow Dog Folk Art one of our artist friends gave me a copy of some version of Halo. Oh my dear Lord.  I played that game constantly.  I would literally play until DW told me to stop and go to bed.  Then I would wake up in the middle of the night and play.  For hours. For. Hours. No strategy mind you.  Just play.

So Santa will not be bringing the Benefield Girls a Wii, or an X-Box, or a Kinnect, or even a retro Atari 2600.  Because that's a beast that doesn't need to be fed, and there's a hunger lurking inside of me just waiting until I let my guard down.

Luckily, the only games The Girls are interested in are the Just Dance/Dance Fever variety, and fortunately unfortunately I don't dance.  It's one of the Things I Can't Do.  Although, if I got one of those maybe I'd learn some moves...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Someday We'll Find It

I have been excited about seeing The Muppets since I heard about it over a year ago.  I know a bunch of other people have as well.

If you grew up in the late 70's - early 80's then you should have been as excited as I was.  I know there are some who are lame are not because they're boring they've moved on, or something, but most people I know have been on an equal level of anticipation as myself.

So I am so very, very happy to say that The Muppets was everything I was hoping for and more.  And even more than that.

Full disclosure - My 9 year old thought it was only, "all right".  My 6 year old though, said, "IT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!"  We've got the 9 year old's future funds co-labeled College/Therapy.  I'm leaning toward Therapy at this point.

The story, the songs, the cast, the Muppets.  Everything was just so good.  I have such a huge man-crush on Jason Segel now.  From everything I've read, this movie would not have happened without him. I may even write him a letter telling him, "Thank you for bringing back such an important and awesome part of my childhood."  I may not, but there's always that possibility.

I'm not going to go into what the movie is about.  It's easy enough to get that somewhere else. Here for example - http://puppeteersunite.com/?p=2240  

I'm going to tell you how it made me feel as I watched and as I thought about it later. Before I get to that though, I have to say that I saw the movie with about 26 other friends.  Friends, their kids, friends of their kids, cousins, aunts and uncles.  If you haven't gone to a movie with a giant group of your friends, you really owe it to yourself to do so.  It was A LOT OF FUN.

Okay, so I'm so excited waiting for it to start that I forget that there's a PIXAR short before the actual movie.  It's fantastic, just as it should be.  A perfect warm up for The Muppets.

As The Muppets played I was filled with some really, simple and pure happiness. It was so great to see the characters again.  Jason Segel and Amy McAdams characters were the perfect human cast-mates for the Muppets. I could see Segel's happiness beaming off the screen as he was singing his songs or just being onscreen with his childhood heroes.

I love the new songs.  They have been in my head all day.  Especially "Life's A Happy Song". 

To be perfectly honest, this isn't going like I thought it would. Maybe I should have done this as soon as I got home, but I think I would have melted my keyboard from all the HAPPY that was spilling out of me. 

I think I'll just leave it at my Facebook status update after the movie, "Sunshine is literally bursting through my chest at how happy I am after seeing The Muppets."

Go see this movie.  Go call a childhood friend that you used to spend the night with, even if you haven't talked to them in years (shame on you) and go with them.  If you've got a huge group of friends, go with them.  And their kids.  Or, you know what?  Go by yourself. I may go see it again by myself.  You owe it to yourself to see this movie.

Thank you, Jim Henson, for giving us the Muppets, and thank you Jason Segel and Disney, for giving them back to us!

Here's some more information. It's a Muppet Wiki (which is about one of the greatest things I've ever seen.) http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/The_Muppets_(2011)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for So Much

I'm not the most consistent person.  I tried to do the 30-Day Drawing Challenge this summer and got 5 days into it and then petered out.  I knew I couldn't do 30-Days of Thanks without falling off so here is a list (it's long - sorry) of what I am Thankful for in one blast with liberal use and neglect of the Oxford Comma. 

  1. My Dear Wife - she puts up with more than she should and doesn't let me get away with nearly as much as I'd like.  I can't express enough about her.
  2. My 2 Girls - Ramona & Coco.  If you're a parent you know the range of emotions your kids put you through.  My two girls make me laugh on a regular basis, ask me thought provoking questions (sometimes just to see if I'll answer), help me to see how I can better myself so as not to pass on some less desirable habits, and help keep my inner child alive and well.
  3. My family - This year in particular I have been reminded how very lucky, fortunate, blessed I am to have been brought up and surrounded by a loving family.  I have gained a new perspective on what it means to be a parent from my parents this year; a lesson that I was not expecting, but am very thankful for.
  4. God - It/He/She is bigger and more complex than I can begin to express.  I do not believe that any of this is an accident, but I don't mind if you do.  This is my list.
  5. The Thread - You know who you are, and you know your level of Awesome exceeds most people's capability to comprehend.
  6. My Friends - Whether through work, childhood, Cyber Space, or neighborhood, the people I get to spend time with, share my days with are good, good people, and I am truly thankful that you are part of my life.
  7. My health - It's something I take for granted that could easily be gone in a second.  I know this, I just need to be better about taking care of it.
  8. My job - I love what I do.  This year even more than I usually do.  I am so, so thankful that I wake up in the morning and look forward to getting to work.  Smart and funny co-workers.  Cute, loving and intelligent students.  (Annoying students make me more thankful for these others).
  9. Comic Books - I read these a kid because my Mom bought them for me because I didn't like to read regular books.  They have come back into my life at various stages, and I am thankful that they helped me become who I am: A Superhero.
  10. Music - Although it has slipped down a few notches in my priorities over the years, the notes, melodies, chords, and songs that are forever in my mind help set a mood, change a mood, or fit a mood.  I don't understand people who aren't "into music".
  11. Coffee - It's the first thing I start on in the morning. It's just so, so good.
  12. Technology - I don't think I can start to understand how much of my daily life revolves around the advancements in technology.   I'm going to miss them so much when the Zombie Apocalypse happens.
  13. Buddy, Anna Baker, and Babette - It's good to have small things that can't talk depend on you, regardless of how much they make you cuss sometimes.
  14. Medication - If you're on the Bus you know what I'm talking about.  If you're not, you probably should be.
  15. My creativity - I can write songs, poems and papers.  I can draw, paint, build.  I can make things in my mind appear in a tangible form and I am very thankful for that.
  16. Other's creativity - It keeps me entertained and amazed on a constant basis and makes me humble about my own.
  17. Beer - Mmm.  Beer is good.
  18. Cartoons - The really good ones are more entertaining and better written than a lot of what is on TV.  The not so good ones are still entertaining and keep my girls from watching iCarly as often as they'd like.
  19. Living in America - (hit it, James Brown) - Regardless of what your political views are - we are fortunate beyond our understanding that we live in a country where we can express our dissent without fear of being jailed or killed.  Yes, there are flaws and limits.  It is still way beyond what the majority of the world lives under.
I'm going to have to stop now.  I could go on because God knows I have more to be thankful for, but I've got things to do.  I hope you get the idea.  I try not to take things for granted although I know I do.  I am so much more fortunate than so many people, and I really, really do appreciate that.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Little Richard

Coming home the other night I flipped over to 1690AM, because, as usual, all the songs on the multiple FM stations available were total crap, and after some nondescript enjoyable song Little Richard burst onto the radio...

I'm not exaggerating. Burst onto the radio is a perfectly good description of Little Richard's early catalog. "Long Tall Sally" was the song, and good giggly wiggly, I had not heard it in a long time.
I grew up listening to Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Elvis thanks to my dad's record collection. Luckily he taped most of these onto 8-Tracks that we could take on the road with us. These rock 'n roll pioneers in addition to The Everly Brothers, John Lee Hooker, and Jerry Lee Lewis would keep me more than entertained on long rides in the Buick Electra Estate wagon -

Imagine it in baby blue with the fake wood paneled rocker panels and you'd have the Benefield Family Truckster.

So, back to the point. Little Richard. That excitement. That mania. That full-out, no holds barred drive. Wow. That totally spoke to me as a kid.

"Ooh, My Soul" - http://youtu.be/C0zxESS3djI
Damn. Listen to that. I can only imagine how that scared so many upstanding, good citizens to DEATH back in the 1950's. If it wasn't enough for Elvis to be out there wigglin' and gyratin', then add Little Richard beating that piano and throwing down some serious rhythm and rock, Chuck Berry being a lyrical mastermind that tapped into the brains of so many teenagers, regardless of their race.

So I'm digging Little Richard and all these other guys and then I discover The Beatles.  And I dive in head first.  All about them.  Then I discover Them Beatles love Little Richard too.   Hot Damn.

Where is this going?  Nowhere.  It doesn't have to. If nothing else, it got you to listen to two Little Richard songs that hopefully made your day better.  

Do yourself a favor and go read a little bit about Little Richard. It's an interesting read.  

I leave you with one more for the road...
"True Fine Mama"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Maybe I was wrong?

I was around hipsters tonight. Real hipsters with beards and beanies and awkwardly fitting shirts. I'm not sure I'm a hipster like I thought. It looks like a lot of effort went in to those appearances. A lot. I don't think I'm up for that.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Reluctant Hipster

I have recently come to accept something about myself that I have denied for a long time. Something that makes me fall into a category. Fit a label. I am…a hipster. To those of you who know me this probably doesn’t seem like a revelation to you. I still have a hard time saying it.

Why have I resisted? What’s wrong with being a hipster? I like the clothes from Urban Outfitters. I wear cool hats - Sharp Cats Wear Cool Hats. Honestly, I’ve only known about the current use of the word for a few years now. I associate it closely with another label. It rhymes with “smoosh rag”. Ugh. I actually had to take a three minute break after writing that. A Get Up and Walk Around break. I’m going to have to learn to separate these two terms in my mind.

Historically hipsters have been those on the edge of knowing about and being into what’s cool before it becomes Cool. Jazz guys, beatniks. I thought it was just recently that the term has taken such a negative slant, but apparently people have been deriding hipsters since the mid 90s.

It became clear to me over Halloween what I was when my costume was a Hipster. I was so excited because I think of hipsters as easily mock-able characters. I mean, there’s a Web Site, www.latfh.com, there’s a Facebook page dedicated to people mocking them. I would get the perfect costume and be totally in character; jaded, detached, pretentious. I had the costume part, but I couldn’t pull off the attitude convincingly. I thought that was bad, but I was wrong.

“Hey Thomas, what’s your costume?” friends asked.

“I’m a hipster!”


“How is this different from normal?”

“I don’t see a difference.”

/blank stares/


So instead of it being funny that I was mocking hipsters it became ironic that I was dressed as a hipster, but not actually in a costume, at least according to all present at the party.

In my mind hipsters are those guys that grow fuzzy beards, wear thrift store pants and t-shirts. They work hard at their image of Not Caring. Their attitudes suck. They’re indie record store employees as exemplified in the movie adaptation of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. It’s nothing I want to have associated to me. It’s like I told Daughter One when she asked me what a hipster was. I told her it was someone who thinks they’re cooler than they really are.

So I guess since I’ve decided to accept this label then what I need to do is reclaim it from those people I’ve been talking about. The bearded, PBR swilling, fixed-gear riding thugs. They’re not hipsters. They’re pseudsters.

But then again, doing that makes me just like them, and that was the problem initially. I don’t want to be like them. As Robert Lanham points out in his The Morning News piece, “The rage and self-loathing associated with hipsters has become more annoying, more naive, and more artificial than hipsters could ever hope to be.” That’s not what I want. So what now?

I’ll tell you what. I’m going to kick up my pretentiousness level about four notches. Not really. I’ve never thought of myself pretentious; although, I’m sure I have seemed that way to some. Dear Wife would probably say I am about The Beatles. I suppose I wouldn’t necessarily argue that. Also, I’m going to use my newly accepted label as an excuse to get more of my pants tapered and buy me some skinny jeans. Not the super skinny ones though. They don’t give a guy a lot of room to breathe or move around.

Here’s a link to Lanham’s article - http://www.themorningnews.org/article/look-at-this-fucking-hipster-basher