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...