Thursday, December 14, 2017

Book Report: The Catcher in the Rye

http://amzn.to/2w2HJcx
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is about a boy on the Naughty List who leaves his boarding school a few days before his Christmas break is supposed to start, not because he can't wait to see what goodies my dad will leave under his tree -- because, duh, he's on the Naughty List, remember? -- but because he's flunking out, hence his placement on the aforementioned Naughty List.

Instead of going home, Holden (that's the boy's name) wanders around New York City for a few days, I guess because he's so Naughty and all. And here's what I don't like about the book: It's Christmastime in New York, but you'd hardly even know it. I mean, at one point he goes to Central Park to give his sister Phoebe an early Christmas present, which was Nice of him and all, but he even says in the narration, "It didn't seem at all like Christmas was coming soon."
http://amzn.to/2w2HJcx
And I'm like, duh. You have to tell us about all the beautiful Christmas decorations Holden sees all the time and not just a little bit at the end, Mr. Salinger. That's the author, Jerry Salinger. He's dead. Daddy says Mr. Salinger was never on the Naughty List himself, but we still have all his Christmas presents here at the North Pole because Daddy could never find out where this guy lived. Anyway, I suppose if the he had allowed Hollywood to make a movie out of his book, we'd see the Christmas decorations everywhere and we'd all be calling it a Christmas movie like Die Hard or Gremlins or While You Were Sleeping and everyone would watch it every year at Christmastime. And then Holden would call us all a bunch of phonies, I bet.

So this Holden character takes this girl Sally Hayes ice skating outside Radio City Music Hall and she invites him to her house to trim her tree -- I think I know what she really means by that but I'm not allowed to say -- but there's not one mention of the ginormous Christmas tree they always have right there where they're skating. And I'm like, hello? This book makes me so mad sometimes!
The actual Rink at Rockefeller Plaza, where Holden Caulfield goes ice skating with Sally Hayes, in 1949, the year Catcher in the Rye takes place. See? There was a giant Christmas tree right there. Salinger didn't reference it once.
Later the boy goes inside to see the wonderful Christmas Spectacular show without Sally, who ditched him, because, Naughty List, right? And he gives the show a worse review than Scrooge would have! I'm starting to understand why my father wanted this book banned from North Pole High.
http://amzn.to/2w2HJcx
I say, if you want to write a book that takes place during the most wonderful time of the year, then it should be filled with wonder and magic and Christmas trees. I'm not saying I'm a better writer than this J.D. Salinger guy was or anything, but my book, North Pole High: A Rebel Without a Claus, has never been accused of holding back on the Christmas joy. So if you're looking for a Christmas book that isn't afraid to mention Christmas (200 times), reindeer (26 times), and presents (45 times), and is available in both print and (unlike The Catcher in the Rye) Kindle editions, then you know where to look!
http://amzn.to/1pwQQEI

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Classic TV Christmas: The Ruggles

The following is an essay I wrote for my Christmas History class at North Pole High. My teacher, Mr. Ghost of Christmas Past, gave me a shining star to hang on my Christmas tree for it.

The Ruggles is one of the first television sitcoms in the United States, making their 1949 “Christmas Eve” episode one of the first very special Christmas episodes of a regular TV series.
The Ruggles (1949) - Early U.S. sitcom presents one of the first Christmas episodes of a regular TV series.
The family-themed show opens with my favorite part: the two youngest children, Donna and Donald, reading their father a letter they’ve written to my father asking for a “real train” for Christmas, and “a couple more boyfriends” for their older sister Sharon. They’ve been good more times than they’ve been bad, they say.
Twins Donna and Donald Ruggles read their letter to Santa to their father, Charlie Ruggles, on The Ruggles 1949 Christmas episode
The letter closes with a “P.S.,” which they say stands for “Please, Santa.,” reminding Daddy to give any leftover toys to children who aren’t as lucky as the little Ruggles. (PS: Daddy always makes enough toys for everyone who’s been good.)

When the mother and older siblings, inspired by the kids’ postscript, decide to give to those less fortunate, the father, who complains every year about having to put up a Christmas tree, scolds them for their unwarranted generosity. Even though he’s the star of the show, he’s what my Christmas Lit teacher would call the "Scrooge" of the story. Every Christmas story has one.
The Ruggles family read their Christmas cards out loud over Christmas breakfast.
After their Christmas-Eve-morning ritual of reading their Christmas cards out loud over breakfast, the family decides to help Elaine, a less fortunate friend of Sharon’s whose father recently died. But when they tell poor Elaine of their plan to help someone less fortunate, she assumes they came to her for suggestions. Her father must have had a swell life insurance policy, because she doesn’t consider herself less fortunate at all.
The Ruggles family sing Christmas carols with their less fortunate friend Sharon.
Elaine and the Ruggles then share a splendid Yuletide meal and sing Christmas carols together. It turns out Elaine may be even less unfortunate one day. She has a beautiful voice and Mr. Ruggles offers to help her get a record contract. The show ends with Elaine singing “Silent Night.”

You can find this charming Christmas episode on many Classic Christmas TV compilation DVDs, such as Holiday TV Classics and Rare Christmas TV Classics Volume 1.

#HoHoHo

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Is It A Christmas Movie? "While Yule Were Sleeping"

The following is an essay I wrote for my Christmas Lit class at North Pole High in the North Pole. My teacher, Mrs. Polar Bear, gave me an A+.

From 1995, While You Were Sleeping stars Sandra Bullock as Lucy, a lonely woman who falls in love with a man in a coma. This charming romantic comedy is set in Chicago, a great place to spend Christmas because they have lots of snow and they make their cocoa with Frango mints!

Sandra Bullock goes to a lot of trouble to get her Christmas tree into her apartment in WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (1995)
Before Lucy meets Coma Boy, she's struggling to get the Christmas tree she just bought into her apartment. It's so big, she has to hoist it up through her window on a rope. But it's so heavy, she drops it and it breaks the window of the apartment below her. Won't Coma Boy be lucky to get a girl who puts that much effort into Christmas!

Monica Keena, Peter Boyle, Sandra Bullock, Micole Mercurio, and Jack Warden pose for a Christmas photo in WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (1995)
Lucy's other problem is that besides her hunk being in a coma, she's never actually met him. But while he's asleep, she does meet his family. And since it's Christmastime, she gets to experience the warmth and joy of spending the holidays with a loving family, something she's missed since her parents died.

Sandra Bullock finds happiness from stockings all hung by the chimney with care in WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (1995)
So now, instead of just having a crush on a hot dude in a coma, she's in love with the idea of becoming a part of his family. All because of Christmas. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but I think the message is that Christmas makes everything bright and wonderful. And for that, I hang five shining stars upon While You Were Sleeping!

Sandra Bullock finds a loving home at Christmastime in WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (1995)
Click here to watch While You Were Sleeping online.

Click here to buy While You Were Sleeping on DVD.

Click here to buy While You Were Sleeping on Blu-ray.

Ho-Ho-Ho! Santa decorates the front porch of the house in WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (1995)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Christmas in July: Battle of the Christmas Musicals



Christmas in July at the Brookfield Theatre for the Arts in Brookfield, Connecticut, U.S.A.

I have some FANTASTIC news: North Pole High: The Musical was selected as a semi-finalist in the Battle of the Christmas Musicals at the Brookfield Theatre for the Arts in Brookfield, Connecticut!

I am so proud of the writers -- Rafi Nemes, Kristen Rea, and Danny Hercules -- for this early recognition they have received for their work-in-progress musical based on my memoir, North Pole High: A Rebel Without a Claus. Congratulations! And keep up the great work!

Now for some more news that's also fantastic, but in a different way:

The Christmas Bride, Christmas Letters, and Come Find Me are finalists in the Battle of the Christmas Musicals at Brookfield Theatre for the Arts.
North Pole High didn't advance to the finalist round, but everyone here at the Top of the World is happy anyway because who knew there were so many new Christmas musicals being written? You can never have enough Christmas musicals!

Congratulations to the writers of The Christmas Bride, Christmas Letters, and Come Find Me.

I want to urge all my New England fans to head to Brookfield, Connecticut to celebrate Christmas in July! Yule get to see 45-minute excerpts from each of the three finalists and yule get to meet the writers. AND yule get to vote for your favorite. The winning show will get a full-length staged reading in December.

And it's FREE!

But the best reason to attend this event on Saturday, July 1, from 7:00 PM to 10:15 PM is because yule get to celebrate Christmas six months early!!!!!! Because when you think about it, December is just too far away to hold onto your Christmas cheer.

For tickets, go to brownpapertickets.com/event/2964680

Good luck to all three finalists, and have a Merry July!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

No One Beats the Yuletide Pride at North Pole High

Front cover of the program for the world premiere staged reading of North Pole High: The Musical
Swans-a-swimming! The musical based on my memoir had its first staged reading this month! I couldn't be there in person (way too much to do here in the Pole this time of year), but I know the cast was fabulous because, well, I've learned a few things from my dad and let's just say I see them when they're acting, I hear them when they sing.

North Pole High Musical Staged Reading starring (left to right) Andrea Fantauzzi as Vixen, Judy Nazemetz as Mrs. Claus, John Eddings as Santa Claus, James Giusti as Rudy Tutti, Monica Allan as Snowflake, Frankie Rodriguez as Silentnight, Samuel Thacker as Tinsel, and David Buckland as Mr. Polar Bear.
Many thanks to the cast, from left to right:

Andrea Fantauzzi played my classmate Vixen far more sympathetically than she came off in my book.

Judy Nazemetz (member of Actors' Equity Association)  played my dear mother, Mrs. Claus, so dearly.

John Eddings embodied the enormous body of my father, Santa Claus, so believable he could probably get away with subbing for my dad at some of the malls this Season. #HoHoHo

Lauren Byrd really nailed me in the lead role, except that she carols even more beautifully than I do.

James Giusti found his inner Scrooge to accurately portray Rudy Tutti, the new boy at North Pole High.

Monica Allan was so much fun as my best friend Snowflake it's almost like I have another best friend!

Frankie Rodriguez was hilarious as my shy classmate Silentnight.

Samuel Thacker truly rose to the occasion to portray the handsome half-elf Tinsel.

And last, but not least, David Buckland was so much like my real teacher, Mr. Polar Bear, that parts of the show were eerily like being in class at the real North Pole High.

The cast of North Pole High: The Musical, world premiere staged reading at New Musicals, Inc, December 3, 2016. Clockwise: James Giusti (seated, front) as Rudy Tutti, Judy Nazemetz as Mrs. Claus, John Eddings as Santa Claus, Andrea Fantauzzi as Vixen, Lauren Byrd as Candycane Claus, Samuel Thacker as Tinsel, Frankie Rodriguez as Silentnight, Monica Allan as Snowflake, and David Buckland as Mr. Polar Bear.
My thanks also to the writers. Danny couldn't fit everything from my book into his but managed to keep its Christmas Spirit front and center. Kristen and Rafi penned so many wonderful new tunes, from "Yuletide Pride" to "North Pole Prance," that we'll be singing them here at North Pole High for many Christmases to come. Like the song says, I'm on Top of the World!

Inside of program for world premiere staged reading of North Pole High: The Musical at New Musicals Inc, December 3, 2016
Thanks also to New Musicals, Inc., for hosting this world premiere event!