Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Best Christmas Stories to Read for Family Entertainment



Reading Christmas stories is an ideal way to spend an evening or two during this special time of year. Granted, there are quite a few wonderful Christmas movies available, and I admit to watching my fair share; however, I also enjoy curling up under an afghan on the sofa in front of the fireplace, with a cup of hot chocolate close by, and reading a good Christmas story. There’s just something about reading that surpasses watching a movie. Perhaps it’s the way literature brings one’s imagination into play, which simply isn’t the case with movies because, with movies, nothing is left to one’s imagination. 

Below are some of my favorite Christmas stories, although, admittedly, there are others I also enjoy. However, I read these particular stories to my children when they were growing up, and I continue to read them today, these many years later, because they never cease to fill me with the true spirit of the holiday season.

Google Images, 2014
The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore

Of note, Moore was actually a professor of classics at the General Theological Seminary in New York and wrote a renowned scholarly work on the lexicon of the Hebrew language” (New York Institute, 2010). However, he is best known for the immortal The Night Before Christmas, which was originally a poem he wrote for his children in 1822 and titled “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”  First published in December of 1823, fittingly only two days before Christmas, the story was an instant hit and quickly became a Christmas staple around the world. (New York Institute, 2010).

Perhaps because I have read this charming story so many times through the years, I can quote it almost entirely by heart, as probably many of you can. Yet, if you haven’t managed to memorize it, or simply need a refresher, here is how this classic begins:  

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house/Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;/The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,/In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;/The children were nestled all snug in their beds,/While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;/And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,/Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap— (Moore, 1823)


Google Images, 2014
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens wrote his classic tale of Christmas in 1843, and, interestingly, according to the Unitarian Universal Historical Society (2009), “Around this time Christmas Day was again beginning to be celebrated and the holiday transformed. The story and its characters—Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Crachit and Tiny Tim—defined the holiday's meaning for the English-speaking world as the regenerative spirit of generosity, or what Dickens called his ‘Carol philosophy.’”

This wonderful story relates how three ghosts visit the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Even and, with their help, he undertakes a journey toward repentance, forgiveness, and, ultimately, love. It ends on this inspiring note:

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle ever afterward; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every One! (Dickens, 1984)

Google Images, 2014
A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote

According to PBS American Masters (2006), Truman Capote, born in New Orleans in 1924, is considered one of America’s most controversial and colorful authors, and “though he wrote only a handful of books, his prose styling was impeccable, and his insight into the psychology of human desire was extraordinary.”

A Christmas Memory, which tells the story of “Buddy” and his elderly cousin—as well as beloved friend—Miss Sook Faulk, is a frankly autobiographical story of the years after Capote’s mother abandoned him, leaving him in the care of his elderly aunts and cousins in Monroeville, Alabama, where he lived a solitary and lonely existence and turned to writing for solace. (PBS, 2006)

This beautifully written novelette opens with a plea to the reader to use his or her imagination:

Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar. (Capote, 1956)

In summary, of course there are other Christmas stories, many of them moving and extremely well written, but these three have all become classics, and for good reason. So, why not fix a cup of hot chocolate, curl up under an afghan in front of a cozy fire, and allow Clement Moore, Charles Dickens, and Truman Capote to share the real meaning of Christmas with you and your family this holiday season.

Sources:

Capote, T. (1956) A Christmas Memory; New York: Random House

Dickens, C. (1984) A Christmas Carol (1984) New York: Signet Classics, a Division of Penguin Books

Moore, C. (1823) The Night Before Christmas. (1995) Philadelphia, PA.: Running Press Book Publishers

New York Institute for Special Education (2010) “Clement Clarke Moore,” retrieved from nyise.org

PBS American Masters (2006) “Truman Capote,” retrieved from pbs.org

Unitarian Universal Historical Society (2009) “Charles Dickens,” retrieved from uua.org

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Best Christmas Movies for the Entire Family’s Enjoyment



You may be searching for holiday movies that the entire family can enjoy. If so, then I would like to share some of my personal favorites for your consideration.



Of course, when it comes to quality Christmas movies for family viewing, there are actually quite a lot, far more in fact than I could possibly address in this blog posting. Then again, there are some that are consistently rated more highly than others for their entertainment value, and while a few are classics, others are of more recent vintage; however, whether old or new these movies all share certain characteristics:

  • They do not contain violence, profanity, or nudity. 
  • They are immensely entertaining. 
  • They contain characters about whom you can care.
  • The storyline actually has "meaning."
  • They are guaranteed to fill you with the true spirit of the Christmas season. 
Classic Christmas Movies for Family Viewing
 

Granted, some children might consider older movies passé or even “boring,” but the stories told in the following movies are timeless and remain as heartwarming today as when the films were first released. So, with this in mind, after viewing these movies, children might develop an appreciation for the oldies but goodies. 



Google Images (2014)

Miracle on 34th Street (1947): Considered “one of Hollywood’s most delightful fantasies” (Martin & Porter), t››his movie stars Natalie Wood as a child who has stopped believing in Santa Claus but has her faith restored when she meets a department store Santa, played by Edmund Gwenn, who claims to be the real thing; and whether he is or he isn’t is left for the viewer to decide in this heartwarming classic. 



Google Images (2014)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1948): Starring legendary Hollywood actors as James Steward, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Ward Bond, and Henry Travers, this film relates the story of a good man who begins to question whether life has passed him by and to wonder what it would have been like for others had he never been born. Would they be better off for never having known him? Of course, he learns the answer, which is the premise for this “heartbreaking, humorous, and ultimately heartwarming” tale (Martin & Porter).



Google Images (2014)
A Christmas Carol (1951): This version of Charles Dickens’ classic tale is considered by many film critics to be the best adaptation of the story. It stars Alistair Simms as Ebenezer Scrooge, the meanest miser in all of London, and is guaranteed to “bring a tear to your eye and joy to your heart” (Martin & Porter).



More Recent Christmas Movies for Family Viewing



In recent years Hollywood has produced several delightful holiday movies that are appropriate for all ages, including very young children. A few are especially noteworthy, including the following:



Google Images (2014)
Charlie Brown Christmas (1965): Although by some standards an “oldie,” this animated tale remains “young at heart,” perhaps because it stars the entire cast of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts and is considered by some film critics to be “required viewing for anybody concerned with losing the Christmas spirit” (Martin & Porter).



Google Images (2014)
A Christmas Story (1983): Set in the 1940’s, this movie stars Bill Billingsley as a boy who dreams of receiving the ultimate Christmas gift—a Red Ryder air rifle. His parents, however, played by Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin, don’t think he’s yet old enough to handle a rifle. At times both heartwarming and hilarious, this film is a viewing delight for both young and old.



Google Images (2014)
The Santa Clause (1994): The star of this film is Tim Allen, a father who finds himself obligated to become Santa Claus after frightening the Jolly Elf and causing him to plunge from the roof, thanks to a little thing called “The Santa Clause.” So Allen dons Santa’s suit, and from this moment on, the story becomes magical entertainment.



Google Images (2014)
Elf (2003): Starring Will Ferrell, this enjoyable holiday film tells the story of a man who was raised by Santa’s elves at the North Pole but then learns of his human origins, which explains why he towers over his elfin kin, and wishes to return to the real world in order to locate his biological father.



The Polar Express (2004): This animated film is based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg and was nominated for an Academy Award, for obvious reasons. The story of a young boy who doubts the existence of Santa Claus but then boards a magical train headed for the North Pole, this extraordinary film stars Eddie Deezen and Tom Hanks (at least their voices) and is a must-see Christmas film for all ages. 



In summary, these delightful, entertaining, and wholesome Christmas movies will provide hours of fun for the entire family. Moreover, they are guaranteed to fill everyone, children and adults alike,  with the true spirit of the Yule Tide season.



Reference:



Martin, M. & Porter, M. (1994) Video Movie Guide, New York: Ballantine Books

Friday, December 5, 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

Game Demo is Active!

Greetings 3twins fans!

Today I have some really amazing news!  Our game demo is live on our sister site: lectrajack.com!  Now you will need to download the Unity player add-on to run it, but we assure you that is a safe add-on and won't negatively affect your browser.  You may also need to enable that add-on if your browser is set to automatically disable such things.

Also, we are phasing out blogger, and are going to start posting on wordpress on our site, 3twins.net, so please check it out.

~Jason

Thursday, November 20, 2014

NEW Character, Sam the Magenta Wizard!



Today I bring you another new character for our upcoming game for Wii U, Of Mages & Pages, Sam the Magenta Wizard.  Sam is a Griffin and has dominion over "earth" meaning soil, rocks, ground, etc.  Sam watches over the Pyroclast people and is the wizard who lives closest to the Evil King Anell.

~Jason

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thanksgiving Entertainment for the Entire Family



As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, you may be looking for entertainment that reflects the spirit of the holiday—one of thankfulness and generosity—and is suitable for the entire family. If so, I would like to share a few suggestions:

Google Images (2014)
The Thanksgiving Visitor: A Beautiful Story with an Invaluable Lesson

I have read Truman Capote’s The Thanksgiving Visitor every Thanksgiving season since I first discovered it years ago. It is a masterfully written and moving story about events in one little boy’s life during this holiday when we give special thanks for our many blessings, most notably our family and friends. .

Originally published as a short story in McCall’s magazine in November 1967, The Thanksgiving Visitor was republished in book form the following year by Random House. It is not a long book, though. In the copy I own, the actual story runs a mere 55 pages, and it would be much shorter if formatted differently, so it doesn’t take very long to read at all. In fact, you can read it in less than an hour, more like 30 minutes really.

Although written for adults, The Thanksgiving Visitor is yet immensely appealing to children, mainly because they can relate to the eight-year-old narrator, Buddy; they enjoy the antics of the dog, Queenie; and they find Buddy’s elderly cousin, Aunt Sook, amusing and loveable. Capote’s tale, however, like much classic literature is more than simply entertaining because it teaches important lessons. For instance, according to the Committee for Children (2010), “The story's events, relationships, and flawed characters are guaranteed to spark lively discussions about such issues as bullying and bystander behavior, anger management, empathy, and friendship.”

Personally, however, I enjoy Capote’s story not for its moral lessons, but because it is beautifully written, with realistic characters to which I can relate, and because, regardless of how many times I read it, it always makes me cry. It is that touching.   

In addition to reading Capote’s story each year, I also like to watch a few Thanksgiving-themed movies, though it seems that good movies about this holiday, unlike Christmas, are in short supply. Then again, though few in number, there are yet some excellent movies with Thanksgiving themes and/or settings, including, but not limited to, the following. 

Google Images (2014)
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving:

Rated four stars by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter, coauthors of Video Movie Guide 1995, and described as an “adorable seasonal special,” this short animated film was originally made for television in 1973 but is still shown in many areas around the country and is also available on DVD.  Filled with Charles Schulz’s delightful Peanuts characters, the story beautifully captures the true meaning of Thanksgiving and does so with humor, warmth, and sincerity. 

The Thanksgiving Story: 
Google Images (2014)
Another original television special, which was also made in 1973, The Thanksgiving Story stars Richard Thomas, Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, Ellen Colby, and Will Geer, otherwise known as the Walton family. John Boy (Thomas) has fallen in love with “the girl of his dreams” and is applying for a college scholarship, but then he has a serious accident that threatens to destroy everything. Although Martin and Porter claim the movie is “a bit slow-paced and overly sweet,” it’s well worth seeing and will warm even the coldest heart.





Miracle on 34th Street:
Google Images (2014)


Granted, this movie is associated with Christmas, but it is also a Thanksgiving movie. After all, Macy’s big parade is always held on Thanksgiving Day, and one of the big scenes in the movie is the annual parade. Besides, watching it at Thanksgiving can help put you in the mood for the coming Christmas season.

Made in 1947 and starring Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara, and Edmund Gwenn, this family classic, as Martin and Porter say, is “one of Hollywood’s most delightful fantasies.”  It tells the story of a little girl who has lost the spirit of Christmas but has it rekindled by a department store Santa who causes a furor when he claims to be the real thing. Whether he is or isn’t the real thing, well, that’s up to you to decide.

Sources:

Committee for Children (2010) “Literature Extension Activity: Truman Capote’s The Thanksgiving Visitor,” retrieved November 1, 2010 from cfchildren.org

Maltin, L. (2009) Leonard Maltin’s 2010 Movie Guide; New York: Signet Books

Martin, M. & Porter, M. (1994) Video Movie Guide 1995; New York: Ballantine Books

Monday, November 10, 2014

Disney Infinity 2.0



I can’t wait to be able to play Disney Infinity 2.0. The reason I haven’t as of yet is a lack of funds. And that is the inherent problem. I enjoyed playing through the story levels and toy box mode of the first iteration, and I enjoyed the idea of fighting to collect all the unique figures to play, but my wallet didn’t – nor did my wife.
I think that, for the most part, the wives and mothers, or the husbands, and fathers, as the case may be, have put a tighter grip on the purse-string this time around, I know my wife has. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it gives me more time to think through my purchases. It’s a neat game to play, but it can be seen as a money pit and until I can find a compelling argument to convince myself and my wife that sinking a small fortune into one game is worth it, I won’t be able to play as the Marvel heroes and villains this version has added.

-          Whalicoco