Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Scientifically Proven to Make Your Mind Jingle

On their November 4, 2018 episode, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, the NPR news quiz, reported on a study that proved Christmas music makes you crazy.

But what is crazy? And for that matter, what is Christmas music and what's not?

This got me thinking about songs that qualify as Christmas songs by the slimmest of margins, but that I have heard the local Christmas radio stations play. I've compiled a full list (not a Top 10, this one's in no particular order) of songs that qualify as Christmas songs by very small margins. Here they are:

"Jingle Bells", "Jingle Bell Rock", "Winter Wonderland", "Let it Snow", "Sleigh Ride", and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" all contain zero mention of Christmas or imagery exclusively connected to Christmas. They are all winter-themed songs that due to a phenomenon called "pop-cultural osmosis" have become heavily associated with Christmas despite never mentioning it. (And, yes, I am aware that some radio stations are refusing to play "Baby, It's Cold Outside", so don't tell me that in the comments.)

"Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and "Let it Go" don't mention Christmas at all, but the songs have loads of winter-related imagery and are from a movie that has loads of winter-related imagery. The movie is also a Sound of Music Effect movie. (See the glossary if you don't know what a Sound of Music Effect movie is.)

"Put One Foot in Front of the Other" doesn't mention Christmas, or winter, at all, and in fact is a song with a message that works year-round. However, it was written for a Christmas television special, and for many stations that's good enough.

Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker score has no words, so it can't mention Christmas - but the score is heard so often around the holidays, and going to see the ballet on stage (or watching it on TV) such a beloved and common Christmas tradition, that the instrumental music qualifies as Christmas music.

"Toyland" by Victor Herbert and Glen McDonough, which they wrote in 1903 for the "stage extravaganza" Babes in Toyland, is oft-played. The song never mentions Christmas, and neither does the stage musical (or, at least, the early versions of it; the musical has been remade so many times over the years to fit new audiences that it is hard to decipher the original work from the 30+ reimaginings I'v seen, and usually these revised takes mention Christmas), but the fact that it's themed around the concept of toys works well enough for many radio stations.

"My Favorite Things" doesn't mention Christmas ever, but a combination of three factors seems to have turned it into a Christmas song: 1) It's from a Sound of Music Effect movie, in fact, from The Sound of Music itself; 2) It contains several instances of winter-related imagery; and 3) The lyrics may evoke a wish list for some.

"When You Wish Upon a Star" doesn't play on the radio as much as others on this list, but I know that Rod Stewart and Idina Menzel both recorded it on their Christmas albums. Its likely qualification as a Christmas song is the fact that it contains the words "wish" and "star" in the title - but Pinocchio is not a Sound of Music Effect movie.

"Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins could not be further in subject matter from a Christmas song at first glance - but if you listen closely, you'll notice that the song has a message themed around generosity and kindness (abstract concepts heavily associated with Christmas, at least in the USA). In addition, Mary Poppins is a Sound of Music Effect movie.

"Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has been played on one local station rather often. I'm guessing it's played as a Christmas song because it is themed around the concepts of imagination and childlike wonder (again, abstract concepts heavily associated with Christmas) and because Willy Wonka is a Sound of....do I even need to say it?

"Shake Me I Rattle (Squeeze Me I Cry)", a 1962 country song, has been played frequently on several stations. The song tells the story of a young girl who spots a doll in a toy store window and seeks to buy it with the money she has, but then spies another young girl in worn clothes who doesn't have the money to purchase the doll but wants it badly, so of course the privileged girl buys the doll and gives it as a gift to the less privileged girl. The song doesn't mention Christmas and doesn't specify at what time of year the action is taking place, but the concepts of toys and generosity in the song have seemed to turn it into a Christmas song.

"Everlasting Light". By The Black Keys. Not kidding. One station played this, and I'm positive it was because of THAT Macy's Christmas ad. I knew that ad had made many people cry (and, for me, inspired a 21-page script and a song), and I knew it had won the Emmy for Best TV Commercial, but did the radio station really think enough people would remember that commercial to accept it as a Christmas song?

Okay, maybe I am going crazy. Are these exceptions to the rules? Does only true Christmas music make you crazy? You tell me. Leave your responses in the comments below.

Nobody: The LeoFinelli.com Person of the Year 2018

Yes, nobody.

This is not a symbolism of any cultural movement or phenomenon. I'm just not naming a Person of the Year this year.

And it's not because I feel the need to do other things; it's just that naming a Person of the Year last year had a purpose. This year, it doesn't.

Last year, Time named "The Silence Breakers" (aka all the women who spoke out against sexual harassment and assault) the Person of the Year. I was genuinely angry. Feminism had dominated the year's news even before the fall of #MeToo. Wonder Woman was the #1 movie. The Handmaid's Tale was the #1 TV show. (It wasn't a "real" TV show, but that's another post.) Fearless Girl was the #1 work of public art (?) The Women's March in January (which is misnamed; an essay about its misnaming will be posted in due time) attracted millions around the world. In my opinion, Time should have named "The Woman" or "The Feminist" as their Person of the Year.

And that's why I named Fearless Girl my Person of the Year. Because she encapsulated the whole year's feminism news into a 50-inch bronze statue. I hoped to mediate my feelings about Time's choice by doing that post.

But after Time chose "The Guardians" (aka journalists who were killed, targeted, or denounced for their work) as Person of the Year, I have no such anger. I do not need to mediate disagreement by naming my own Person of the Year.

That's why LeoFinelli.com is not naming a Person of the Year in 2018.

And presumably, only when I'm unhappy with Time's choice will LeoFinelli.com name a Person of the Year - and this year, I can accept that choice.

Friday, November 30, 2018

A Helpful Glossary

The following is a glossary of terms I will occasionally use in my posts, but don't want to have to explain the meaning of every time. That's why I'm writing a glossary.

Poke in the coconut: To affectionately touch another person's head with something in between a tap and a poke. Can also mean to bother.

Family programming sweet spot: Wednesday night before Thanksgiving to the night of Christmas Day, when TV sets special time aside to cater to the family.

Supplements: Gross pills I pop every day before I eat.

And You Were There: When a story that's set mainly in two general locations (usually, but not always, reality and fantasy) has the same actors who play characters in one location also play characters in the other. Named after a line at the end of The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy acknowledges that all the people she met in Oz looked and acted exactly like people she knew back home in Kansas (and were played by the same actors).

Christmas Special Types: Five categories I divide Christmas specials and movies into, depending on what they present the "true meaning of Christmas" as.
  • Type One Christmas Special: presents the TMoC (True Meaning of Christmas) as the Biblical TMoC (the birth of Jesus)
  • Type Two Christmas Special: presents the TMoC as generosity, the fact that it's better to give than to receive, and that the kindhearted actions of one person can have a positive impact on the lives of another
  • Type Three Christmas Special: presents the TMoC as believing and/or always being a child at heart and/or enjoying and then later remembering your childhood
  • Type Four Christmas Special: presents the TMoC as accepting people no matter how different from you they might be
  • Type Five Christmas Special: presents the TMoC as spending and enjoying time with your family and other loved ones
And I Was There: A variation on And You Were There, in which a character hearing a story told to them imagines themselves as the main character of that story.

BHAG: Big hairy audacious goal. Coined by the 1990s business book Built to Last.

Rehash: An adaptation of a previously existing story that is not done for comedy (as a parody is) or as plagiarism, rather, it's simply meant to be a retelling with a twist (or more than one twist, occasionally).

Car crash song: A song, usually a centuries-old song, that has recently had its lyrics changed officially or unofficially for reasons tied to political correctness or a changed cultural perspective.

Banned book points: The American Library Association discerns the most censored books of each year by giving a book 1 point for an unsuccessful challenge and 3 if the challenge results in the book being removed.

Femvertisement: Any TV commercial that is, at least by intention, celebrating women and girls. Usually will hardly even mention the product.

Holamonizing: Taking songs from an existing yet forgotten or outdated musical and changing the lyrics to fit them for a new story with little or nothing to do with the one they were originally written for. Name comes from Ken Holamon, a director of children's musicals who frequently does this.

The Sound of Music Effect: When a movie that has very little or nothing to do with Christmas is aired on network television during the family programming sweet spot simply because families are looking for things to do together at that time of year and networks are looking for cash. Named for The Sound of Music (1965), the most famous example of this concept. To qualify as a Sound of Music Effect movie, a movie must:
1) Be rated G or PG.
2) Have been shown during the family programming sweet spot for at least two years in a row.
3) Have had at least half of its network TV appearances during the sweet spot.

Colbert Bump: When one event causes a burst in popularity and/or fame for a previously existing yet previously lesser-known phenomenon.

TV Redemption: When a movie that did poorly in its original theatrical release becomes better-known through network telecasts. The Wizard of Oz, It's a Wonderful Life, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory all achieved TV Redemption.

Edie Not-Youmans: When a character (usually a child character) in one of my scripts is named after the actor I picture playing the role in first name only, but receives a new last name. The name of the term is derived from Edie Jurgens in Christmas in Charlotte, who was named for Edie Youmans, Xfinity "spokeskid" and the actor I pictured in the role.

Narrative Lost in Toyland: When a story is retold in many different ways, none of which even remotely follow the plot of the original, because the original was dated and/or mediocre. Named for the 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland, to which this has happened.

It's a Jolly Holiday with Mary Number: A rousing duet in a musical between the musical's male and female leads. Name references the number in Mary Poppins that is this.

Villain Song: A song in a musical sung by the villain about their evil ways.

Test monkey: A person being used as a test subject against their will.

Zingdak: A comical insult that I directed at a frequenter of this blog, who I will not name, back in 2012. Defined as "a monkey who cannot write poetry".

MacGuffin: An object that is not always front and center in a film, but moves the story along perhaps more than any character does.

Adaptation Via Song: When a song in a musical is heavily based on another song in another musical. For example, in Christmas in Charlotte, "Charlotte" is modeled on "Toyland" from Babes in Toyland, and "I'm So Spry" (revision 8/6/19: that song is getting cut) is modeled on "I Gotta Crow" from Peter Pan.

Charity Single: A song that donates all the money from its sales to helping a cause and has lyrics about that cause, such as "Light It Up Blue", "Do They Know It's Christmas?" or "We Are the World".

Nureyeving: Creating a fictitious person and/or situation in your head to deal with a problem in your real-world life. Named for Rudolf Nureyev, whose ballet heroes would often do this.

The Parisian Conk: Referring to an incident that happened in Paris, France, on April 2, 2018, this is  when I fall asleep in an uncomfortable place in the middle of the day.

Narrative commercial: A TV commercial that tells a story.

Very special episode: An episode of a normally lighthearted television show that deals with more serious topics.

Page count is running time: The idea that one page of a script equals one minute of screen time.

Jumanji Double: A variation on And You Were There, in which two characters who may or may not each correspond to a different location in the story are both played by the same actor for symbolic purposes. The name refers to Jumanji (1996), in which Robin Williams's character's father and the hunter that is an obstacle in the Jumanji game are played by the same actor to symbolize that he views these two characters with equal and similar fear.

Leitmotif: A theme in the musical score of a movie associated with a particular character.

Whole Plot Reference: When the entire plot of a work is deliberately meant to reference, for comic effect or not, the plot of another work that is more famous. This is a trope.

Trope: An oft-used plot device.

Writer's Block: When no new scripts appear on my site for a long time.

The Bechtel Test: A movie passes this test if two or more women converse about something other than a male character or a relationship.(Correction

The New Dakota Principle: With no relation to any fictional U.S. state, the New Dakota Principle, named after my February 2018 endeavors in revising Fearless Girl, specifically Dakota's climactic monologue, refers to criticism over stories and media that portray girls whose interests and tastes are in traditionally masculine things as superior to and more worthy of celebration than girls whose interests and tastes are in traditionally feminine things. In other words, stories that say male = female yet still say masculinity > femininity.

Hutt Bucks: Money that my street-performing one-man band the Notable Hutts earns. I am currently out, so the Notable Hutts must get another gig.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Top 10 Debates That Will Endlessly Divide Star Wars Fans

(First, a correction. A post on November 1, 2017 said that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory had only ever been shown on CBS. It has been shown on other networks, precisely NBC from 1975-1985, ABC from 1985-1993, CBS from 1993-1995, back to ABC from 1995-2007, and NBC currently holds airing rights to the film. LeoFinelli.com apologizes for the error.)

Star Wars fans have arguments with fans of Star Trek, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings all the time. But the most heated arguments are the ones Star Wars fans have with themselves. These arguments have been known for creating rifts between Star Wars fans and putting the franchise into its own "What color is this dress?" or "Yanny or Laurel?" moments. I've ranked the top 10 here so you can see what I'm talking about.

#10. The Porgs
A neighbor of mine jokingly said, "Bob Iger (Disney-ABC CEO) invented porgs." He meant that the porgs in The Last Jedi were just in there to sell toys, with no purpose in the story. Fans have taken a humorous attitude to the whole porg situation, creating "Duel of the Porgs" on YouTube and doctoring the cover of the tie-in reader ''Chewie and the Porgs" to say and show "Chewie Cooking Porgs".

#9. The Ewoks
Again, creatures too cute for Star Wars? Many fans found the Ewoks too cuddly and marketable. But these guys dance and sing well and at least they have a point in the story. They did have their own Saturday morning cartoon in 1985 (yes, you read that correctly) and two TV movies on ABC. But come on, guys, Ewoks are darling yet mighty, that's how they're supposed to be! (I sure took a side here.)

#8. Was Yoda Better as a Puppet or Computer Animation?
In the original trilogy (as well as in The Last Jedi), Yoda was a puppet. In the prequel trilogy, he was a puppet when he could be, but for stunts that a puppet could not perform, he was CGI. Puppet Yoda is a practical special effect and surprisingly expressive, as Puppet Yoda has Frank Oz's signature touch (literally). CGI Yoda, though, can flip around and use a lightsaber. Wait a minute. Spell Check doesn't recognize "lightsaber" as a word. Shame on Spell Check.

#7. How Many Toes Does Yoda Have?
Yes, you read that correctly. Fans heavily debate the number and placement of Yoda's toes. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda has four toes (three pointing forward and one pointing back). In Return of the Jedi, Yoda has four toes, but this time the fourth toe is on the side rather than in back. In The Phantom Menace, Yoda has three toes, all pointing forward. In Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Yoda has the same toe layout as in Return of the Jedi, and in The Last Jedi, his foot matches Empire. So which Yoda foot is canon? We don't know, and we endlessly debate.

#6. The Prequels
Just the prequels. Did they have any purpose? Were they good? Did they have their share of good moments? Are they even good enough to be considered canon? Was Jar Jar Binks funny? Was he racist? The prequels have spawned many debates as to their quality, and so I'm including them as a whole place on the list. Some fans, though, have said the new Disney films have put the prequels in perspective.

#5. Should Chewbacca Have Gotten a Medal at the End of the First Movie?
The TV show South Park reinvigorated this debate. In the film's 1977 novelization and comic book adaptation, Chewbacca gets a medal - but not in the film itself. Some fans think Chewbacca deserved a medal and should have received one, while others believe Chewbacca not getting a medal and causing him to growl in displeasure at the end of the movie made for an appropriate humorous ending.

#4. George Lucas's Various Tweaks to the Original Trilogy Over the Years
Han shot first. Jabba wasn't in the first one. Spaceships weren't CGI. Mark Hamill was the Emperor hologram in Empire. These are just a few of the changes George Lucas made to the original trilogy, first for their DVD releases in 2000-2001, and then in the Blu-Ray, Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu releases in 2012. Some fans argue that "the films belong to George Lucas, he can do as he pleases with them", while others argue that "the changes ruined the films". This may bring up another debate: which are better, the unaltered prequels or the altered originals?

#3. Who's the Other Hope?
In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda mentions as Luke leaves Dagobah that "there is another hope". The subsequent Return of the Jedi film seems to say that this other hope is Princess Leia, who is revealed as Luke's sister in that film. So why would fans argue? It's because the book The Making of The Empire Strikes Back says that when Lawrence Kasdan wrote that line into the script, he and George Lucas had no intention of making Leia Luke's sister. The line was actually meant to suggest that Vader/Anakin was the other hope. Some fans reason that if the line referred to Vader, then it should be interpreted that way. Others refuse to let go of their own interpretation of the other being Leia - how they interpreted it when they first watched the films.

#2. Was Disney Buying Lucasfilm a Blessing or a Curse?
Many fans were excited when Disney purchased Lucasfilm and promised to make more Star Wars movies. This one really comes down to whether you liked The Force Awakens or not. Some fans were disappointed by the whole plot reference to the original 1977 Star Wars, saying that the franchise had lost creativity. Others, though, said that this was simply J.J. Abrams' way of stating that he wanted to make an original trilogy style film rather than a prequel trilogy style film. Many fans also worry that Disney is making Star Wars movies for profit, while George Lucas made them because he loved to tell stories. Which brings us to our final entry...

#1. How Many Star Wars Movies is Too Many?
First six was too many...and now what is thought will happen is, after the completion of Episode Nine, Disney will rebrand the first nine episodes as "The Skywalker Saga", and make another nine-episode saga, and another, and another, and we'll start debating which saga is the best instead of which movie. And don't forget Disney's planned anthology series of "Star Wars Stories". One of the things Star Wars fans like about being Star Wars fans is speculating. And if Disney wants to leave no room for speculation and only wants to fill their money bags, what will happen to Star Wars? That's where Imy storytelling might come in.

In closing, here is my verdict on each of these issues. Leave yours in the comments.

10. Porgs are extremely, and obviously, marketable.
9. So are Ewoks, but at least they have a point in the story.
8. Puppet. Frank Oz's puppeteer work and voice > just Frank Oz's voice.
7. Do you have anything better to do than debate Yoda's foot layout?
6. They're no worse than the originals.
5. Again, a meaningless debate!
4. The CGI'ed up versions are terrible. That's why I own the original versions of the original trilogy on VHS.
3. It's Vader, because when I first saw that scene, that's who I thought they were talking about.
2. I don't know. Ask me after Episode XXXVIII.
1. End it after Episode IX and make room for a new generation of storytellers (such as myself).

Thursday, September 27, 2018

This Image Says It All

A little girl learns that she never needs to be afraid to speak up.
Just imagine what the future holds for her.
Taken by Courtney Lavery and posted on Twitter, September 27, 2018.

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Scientifically Proven to Make Your Mind Jingle

On their November 4, 2018 episode, Wait Wait...Don't T ell Me! , the NPR news quiz, reported on a study that proved Christmas music mak...

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