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Christmas on the silver screen

Fueled by my viewing of Robert Zemeckis’ (of Back to the Future fame) 2009 adaptation of A Christmas Carol and the traditional post-Macy’s parade viewing of A Christmas Story happening right now on our living room TV, here it is: the 3 movies you should watch every Christmas season.

It’s a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Some argue that It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t really a Christmas movie, but I think it’s my single favorite movie to watch over the Christmas season because it reminds us all that the Christmas spirit should be shared and felt year-round. To me it not only embodies the Christmas spirit, it also embodies the American spirit.

Also, the twist near the end of the movie that shows a where George never existed is one of the cooler sci-fi twists ever and makes you think about a world where you never existed (and secretly hope that that world would be a little worse, and different in more ways than no one uses your Twitter username).

Also, it’s well-documented in the Sawczuk household that It’s a Wonderful Life makes me tear up nearly every time I watch it. (Seriously, at the end, when the brother comes in and everyone breaks into Auld Lang Syne? Forget about it.)

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story (1983)

I’ll be brutally honest here: you have no excuse to not be watching this movie at least once per Christmas season. When a cable network plays a movie for 24 straight hours, plus other assorted showings throughout the season, plus its availability on DVD, you really have no excuse.

A Christmas Story is traditionally played in marathon fashion right around Christmas on TBS, and throughout the season, and it has evolved into a classic. Not only is the movie simply hysterical (and it never changes – I’ve seen the movie at least 50 times and I laugh at certain parts each time they happen) (current viewing update: “The entire neighborhood was turned on. It could be seen up and down Cleveland Street.”) but like It’s a Wonderful Life it’s become a symbol of the American Christmas and portrays the golden age and the greatest generation.

So many things happen in A Christmas Story that make it so unlike every other Christmas movie, and so real and relateable. Okay, maybe your dad never won a “major award”, but surely everyone has experienced the pain of bullies and fantasized (or enacted) Ralphie’s revenge. Maybe you’ve experienced a Santa somewhat like the one in the movie, with a great costume but lacking in the holiday spirit. And everyone remembers the greatest present they ever received.

As an aside, this movie was filmed mostly in Cleveland, in Shawn’s neighborhood. Just a couple years ago the house was restored and opened for tours. I haven’t personally visited but I’ve heard it’s a nice time – and maybe you can get your hands on a little leg lamp nightlight.

(Current viewing update: “OHHHHHH FUUUUUUUUUUUUUDGE”)

A Christmas Carol (1984)

A Christmas Carol (1984)

A Christmas Carol (1984)

A Christmas Carol (1984)

A Christmas Carol (1984)

There have been many adaptations of this storied Charles Dickens tale, but my favorite isn’t the popular 1951 version starring Alistair Sim; it’s the 1984 version starring George C. Scott. Originally it was made for TV, but has since grown into a classic in its own right. The performances of Scott as Scrooge and David Warner as Bob Cratchit are my favorites and what really sets this version apart from the others, but the story is timeless and meaningful no matter when you watch it.

One of the advantages of the George C. Scott version over the 2009 version, in my opinion, is that the effects sequences are shorter (read: not overdone) in the 1984 version, allowing more time to focus on the dialogue and the plot. Also, the final scene, the one with Scrooge and Cratchit on the day after Christmas, is the most well done of any version I’ve seen (and far eclipses the 2009 version, for sure).

I should also mention (since I’m a huge instrumental score fan) that despite the fact that Alan Sylvestri (he also composed Back to the Future) composed the 2009 version’s score, I like the 1984 version score far more.

(Current viewing update: “A crummy commercial? Son of a b—!”)

Got any other favorites? Leave a comment and let me know. Most importantly though, have a happy Thanksgiving today, a happy holiday season and a Merry Christmas!

Veterans’ Day


All day I’ve been searching for the perfect words to commemorate this Veterans’ Day, and I came up with this.

I’ve been blessed to live the life I live. I’ve never had to worry about if I would eat the next meal, I’ve never had to worry about where I would spend the next night, and I’ve never had to worry that I wasn’t getting the opportunities I deserved.

But perhaps most importantly, I live in a country where I’ve been free from oppression, fear, and┬áprejudice. America’s not perfect, but in my opinion it’s the closest country on the planet to being perfect, and that is 100% an immediate result of our veterans’ courageous sacrifices.

So to all veterans, to all current servicemen, and to all future veterans: thank you. No matter how much credit we give you, it’s not enough. And to my cousin Larry, who this time last year was in Iraq, I’m glad you’re spending this Veterans Day at home.

A bug by any other name

I ran across this post today on TechCrunch (er, sorry, I guess it was on MobileCrunch). For those uninterested in reading the full article, I’ll speak a little bit about the bug, which has the potential to be very costly. Basically, the article states that when you’re viewing a motion-JPEG (a video format based on JPEG photos – often found in digital cameras or security cameras) file in Safari on the iPhone and then closing Safari, the browser actually stays open. Mobile Safari will continue to use up bandwidth as it loads the motion-JPEG at the specified interval, and if you’re on a pay-per-megabyte-downloaded plan, you could foot the bill for thousands of dollars.

The article kind of justifies this bug. After all, it states, it doesn’t affect you if you’re on an unlimited plan (because hey, if you have all that extra bandwidth, why not waste it?) and it only seems to occur if you’re viewing a motion-JPEG (which isn’t the most common file format, but it’s not unused either). So, fine. It’s a bug, it doesn’t really affect a ton of people that greatly, oh well, right?


The first comment on the article:

How is this a bug?

The website refreshes…it’s not apples fault the person would have a crazy bill, it’s the user for not closing out the page.

And here’s the real beauty of making an Apple product. No matter how bad it sucks, no matter what kind of problems it has, Apple users defend Apple products like they’re defending their children. This attitude either stems from or causes Apple’s ridiculous arrogance about its own products. (For an example, check out any of Apple’s recent commercials for any of their products.)

I’ll address the commercial first. Here’s the thing. Apple’s made a good operating system. It didn’t happen overnight. If you think this operating system has been rock solid from day one, look again. If you remember, OS X only really started even getting stable at around 10.3, and it got good at around 10.4. The OS has been really a work in progress since 2001, and it’s had its share of problems. That’s not to mention Mac OS 9 and below, whose codebase was, for all intensive purposes, abandoned when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy in the late nineties. But that’s an argument for another day.

Let’s get one thing straight: when you close a program, it should close completely or give you some indication that it’s still open: in OS X, an open program is a shiny light under the icon in your Dock, in Windows it appears in your taskbar or system tray, etc. ┬áNot only does Safari not give you any feedback that it’s remaining open, it’s the only application on the iPhone to do so. It’s far from expected behavior, and when using an electronic device, users prefer devices that they can guess what’s going to happen based on their actions.

If any users get a bill in the triple digits (in some cases, as noted in the article, over $3000 for an hour of unknown downloading), Apple should pay it themselves. This isn’t user error. It’s either by design (for whatever reason), or it’s a bug. Apple should fix it.