Category Archives: Slice of Life

Nothing New to See Here

Dubyah

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — While the talking heads on the tube were all aghast at the news of ultra-rich people scamming to get their kids into “elite” schools, I’ll pulled my shoulders out of my sockets – again – with a shrug.

As long as Bruce Springsteen wasn’t implicated, which I highly doubted, I was good.

And really, the news was not news at all.

It certainly wasn’t breaking news, largely because this drill of our culture catering to lifestyles of the rich and famous has left us all broken.

The rich getting over, usually at the expense of the poor, is one of the world’s oldest professions – right up there with, well, the world’s oldest profession.

I’m reminded of a line in the movie “Platoon” where the Charlie Sheen character, Taylor, is admonished by a black soldier, King, that, “the poor are always getting (bleeped) over by the rich. Always have. Always will.”

Emphasis on always.

As in always.

platoon1

It’s a reason I don’t get into tongue-clucking mode when a kid from a poor or middle class background gets a 6-year, $11 trillion contract — with a $34.5 billion guaranteed signing bonus – to put a ball through a hoop or hit a ball with a wood club over a fence from some filthy rich owner trying to outbid other filthy rich owners.

Turnabout, in these rare instances, is fair play.

But these are rare instances.

For the most part, it is the other way around, and we should not be surprised by the latest scam.

Maybe the national networks saw it as a chance to talk about something other than All the President’s Men II, but it is really all connected.

While your president (not mine) signs bills to be unforgiving with the student loan debt that almost all of the rest of us needed to keep literal pace with the Joneses, let’s look at his disloyal highness as a prime example.

He got into Penn (after a stint at Fordham).

How did that happen?

It’s all a bit murky, but Penn clearly seems less than boastful about an alum in the White House than he is about being a Penn alum in the White House.

Though barely remembered by professors or fellow students, he somehow walked away on his bone spurs with an economics degree (transcript sealed).

trump11-horiz

And his kids – the spawn of the bible-signing devil – all managed to gain entry into elite schools: Donald Jr. (Penn), Ivanka (Georgetown, Penn), Eric (Georgetown) and Tiffany (Penn, Georgetown).

Meanwhile, our first lady entered America on an Einstein visa (insert laugh track).

George W. Bush? Not quite the sharpest tool in anyone’s shed, and yet he went to Yale.

There are pictures of “Dubya” as a male cheerleader, so there is more evidence of involvement in student life that that of your president (not mine), but you still have to wonder how he landed there – given the fact that he is, well, him.

“Dubya” – despite a middling 77 average at Yale – moved on to Harvard Business School.

See, there was an open rule on the books that students were grandfathered into these place based on bloodlines – as in blood of the blue variety.

A rule? Yes, a rule. Talk about an exclusive country club where the poor kids earn their way in on tips from parking the cars.

George H.W. Bush went to Yale. So did his father before him, Prescott Bush.

Sensing a pattern here?

And it’s not limited to just Republicans.

The Kennedys all went to Harvard (Ted even got booted for cheating and then somehow reemerged after a military stint).

The difference, as opposed to the current “first” family, is that they were clearly edified enough by their Ivy League schooling to master critical and nuanced thinking skills.

There are zillions of more examples of how rich people made sure their offspring, deserving or not, were inserted into the race a few laps ahead of a field trying to run it honestly.

On its face, creating something better for the next generation — if only in enlightenment — is at the soul of what’s left of the American dream.

Anything beyond that, and we see how badly the system is broken.

This new twist on it, though fairly elaborate and so slimy that it makes you want to take a shower just from reading the sordid details, is nothing new.

Simply put, it involved a whole lot of cheating and bribing – all under the guise of money going to charity.

Sounds bad, and it is bad.

But is it any worse than when poor kids went to fight in Vietnam while the rich kids went to college (or their daddies paid to have them diagnosed with mystery ailments like bone spurs)?

Any worse than serving from 1968-74 in the Air Force and somehow never setting foot in Vietnam (i.e. “Dubyah”)?

Any worse than working people paying twice as much than the wealthy in taxes?

Any worse than traitor Paul Manafort, and his so-called “blameless life” of turning American dreams into Russian schemes, getting a lighter prison sentence than a poor person – especially of color — would for a lesser crime?

Yeah, this one had intrigue – with some celebrity names to make it tawdry – but let’s be real.

It is neither new nor news.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on March 17.

 

 

Greatest Stories Ever Sung

Harry Chapin Portrait

By GORDON GLANTZ

Despite our many differences, we all have stories to tell.

And story songs — of all genres — have captured my imagination more than short stories, novellas or even those told around a holiday table.

There is a special skill to reeling in and holding a listener with a literal narrative of a beginning, middle and end within a span of minutes.

On Facebook, I created a page – Greatest Stories Ever Sung (“likes” accepted and appreciated). I have long-range plans for a book of the same title.

Here is a Cliff’s Notes look at the Top 10, which is anything but etched in stone:

10) Love Child – Released in late 1968, when music was at an unmatched zenith, this song is told from the perspective of a young woman explaining to her boyfriend her reservations about having intimate relations because she didn’t want to give birth to a “love child” who will endure the same childhood trauma she did. One of the heavyweight writers contracted by Motown, R. Dean Taylor, later had a 1970 hit with a noteworthy story song (Indiana Wants Me).

9) Same Old Lang Syne – From late singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg, this wistful song is set against the backdrop of running into an old flame on Christmas Eve, making it a seasonal staple almost 40 years after its 1980 release. In this semi-true story (the real former flame came forward to confirm as fact, with some fiction, after Fogelberg’s death), they “laugh until they cry” and catch up on old times. As the narrator walks away, the scenic snow turns into rain, which is a poetic turn on the line earlier in the song about the woman’s husband who keeps her “warm and safe and dry.”

8) A Boy Named Sue – In the music word, the equivalence of being knighted was Johnny Cash covering one of your songs. In 1969, humorist Shel Silvestein was so honored when the man in black took this one to No. 2 on the charts (only to be blocked by “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones). It tells the story of a boy growing up hard and tough because of the ridicule for having a girl’s name given to him by a father he never met – until the final verse, during which he tells his father his plans for naming a son — “I think I’m gonna name him Bill or George! Anything but Sue …”

7) Against The Wind – Bob Seger wrote several story songs, with the theme of comparing and contrasting the past to the present. While “Night Moves” and “Like A Rock” are brilliant turns on the theme, nothing tops the title track from his 1980 album of the same name. The lines “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” may as well translate to “to be or not to be” in Gordonville.

6) Fast Car – I heard this late one night in 1988 and was in the record store the next morning buying what was one of the more seminal debut albums of my time. Here, Chapman paints a brilliant portrait of hope against desperation with a wisdom that exceeded her age at the time (24).

5) Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton does not get enough credit as a songwriter, and has repeatedly said that this song (reaching No. 4 on the country charts in 1971) is her all-time favorite. Telling the story of a coat stitched for her by her mother that was mocked by other kids at school, she reveals the lasting value of the garment that others didn’t understand. The impact of this song? A children’s book, a television movie (and sequel) and recognition from the Library of Congress Recording registry.

4) Highway Patrolman – Bruce Springsteen wrote a batch of story songs in 1981 and recorded them at home as demos for the E Street Band to perform. Instead, he turned this collection into the intimate 1982 Nebraska album. Just about any song from it could make the Top 10 list, but this story of a state trooper torn between loyalty to a brother who “ain’t no good” and his job as a lawman is the best of the batch.

3) In Color – Penned and released by country singer Jamey Johnson in 2008, this one tells the story of a young adult man sitting with his grandfather, looking at black and white pictures from the grandfather’s major events — Great Depression, World War II and wedding day. The grandson is told that the grainy black and white pictures don’t do the memories justice because he “should have seen it in color.”

2) Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – The true story of a ship sinking is not the easiest of topics to turn into a song, let alone a successful one, but Gordon Lightfoot turned an article he read about the ship’s fate in a 1975 storm into a 1976 hit. Using a straightforward approach, Lightfoot sends the listener down with the ship in chilling detail.

1) Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin is sort of the Hans Christian Andersen of this sub-genre, writing many wonderful story songs (Taxi, I Wanna Learn a Love Song, etc.), but this is his ultimate masterpiece. I first heard it on Top 40 radio when it reached No. 1 in December of 1974. As a parent now, I know I have valued every second with Sofia as she has grown into a precocious pre-teen, and I partially credit Chapin and this gem for putting – and keeping — me in that mindset. The time flies, and whatever you put in – as Chapin’s narrator learns in this song – comes back to you.

Honorable Mention: Too many to mention.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on March 10, 2019.

Yeah, I Went There (With a Heavy Heart)

trump-hitler

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — When the “Soup Nazi” episode aired on “Seinfeld” in November of 1995, I was pretty much appalled that the same comedic genius who felt that cursing equated to cheating would go so low as to use a four-letter word – Nazi – so loosely.

A few years back, there were these clips of Adolph Hitler bellowing at people in German, but with English subtitles uttering non-related nonsense, that went viral.

When I expressed my concerns that it should not be a source of casual humor, I was told I should appreciate it because it was making him look foolish – maybe like Col. Klink in “Hogan’s Heroes” – but I wasn’t buying what they were selling.

Klink was fictional – and not overly funny to me, either – and Hitler was quite real.

Nazis, and Hitler, with or without Holocaust references, are just no laughing matter.

As a hard and fast rule, I never went there.

It was as close as I had ever come to a vow of silence.

With this regime in the White House, I have crossed a line I never thought imaginable.

Is it the same?

No, and nothing could possibly be the same.

Is your president (not mine) another Adolph Hitler (or even Benito Mussolini, despite similar pompous gestures during speeches)?

Nope.

But, in the similar but not the same realm, the similarities are too eerie to ignore.

So my vow of silence is broken.

I’m ready to make the comparison.

This is how dire our situation has become.

It was your president (not mine) dusting off the same coded language to tell mostly white Christians from the Heartland that they were the “real Americans” to gain traction in an unlikely rise to power.

You can go to Hitler’s speeches and, verbatim, find similar references to enemies of the state – including the press – and their nefarious attempts to keep Germany from returning to a vague past greatness.

Maybe your president (not mine), with the likes of Steve Bannon whispering in his ear, did it on purpose.

I tend to think he did, and that’s a decision that comes with consequences.

Maybe all his followers didn’t fully grasp the historical significance, let alone equivalence. Surely some didn’t. They just liked what they were hearing.

But some did, and they really didn’t care.

Scary.

And eerily similar to that dark past.

It wasn’t an accident that extremists were empowered enough by the campaign rhetoric to make Charlottesville happen, nor was it an accident he hemmed and hawed in the wake of it.

What your president (not mine) should have said was that his own daughter (Ivanka) converted to Judaism, meaning his grandchildren are Jewish. His other kids, at least at the time, were either married or engaged to Jewish partners.

Those white supremacists carried torches and chanted “Jews will not replace us” when, in his inner circle, they already had.

That thought could not be lost when Michael Cohen testified this week and reminded his inquisitors that he was the descendant of Holocaust survivors.

The coded MAGA language doesn’t directly target Jews anymore, as it did with Hitler, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t being used toward others.

That list would include immigrants (code for Hispanics) and potential terrorists (Muslims) while taking a lot of cheap shots at outgoing president Barack Obama, enough to remind his base they won’t have to deal with a black man in the White House anymore.

It seemed as clear that “Make America Great Again” meant “Make America White Again” as much as the “we want our country back” slogan of the Tea Partiers.

He didn’t have to say it, and didn’t even have to feel it in his heart, to know it was resonating.

Stirring up racists may be worse than actually being one yourself.

With the so-called mainstream media that is allegedly so against him providing an unfair amount of free coverage of campaign rallies, he was into Hitler’s playbook.

And tragedies have happened since, if only as consequences of his rise to power and then doubling down on it to appease his base.

Like it or not, it kept the Hitler parallel – one that I vowed I would never make – in play.

I’m being hyperbolic? Fine.

You go there, and I’ll stay here.

We can let others — Holocaust survivors who have had some strong things to say about your president (not mine) – decide on this.

They have witnessed what they never thought they would again in their lifetimes.

Yoka Verdoner, of California, is mortified by the separating of children from their parents at the border.

She said: “Nazis separated me from my parents as a child. The trauma lasts a lifetime. What’s happening in our backyard today is as evil and criminal as what happened to me and my siblings as children in Nazi Europe.”

The argument is that these children are “illegal.” It should be noted that mere pen strokes make it easy for a powerful government (Nazi Germany or the America that defeated it, ostensibly to keep the world free for democracy) to brand anyone “illegal” and then demonize — and dehumanize — them as a result.

“I have not compared them 100 percent to the Nazis, but we are on the way,” another survivor, Bernard Marks, who recently died at 89, told The Sacramento Bee. “What concerns me is we are breaking up families. We are turning justice upside down.”

Marks penned an Op-Ed for the Bee on the moral – and historical – equivalence.

His words should stand as a stark reminder: “As a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, I take this responsibility seriously. Today, as an America citizen, I feel compelled to raise my voice when I hear echoes of my childhood years in our current political rhetoric. The fear that immigrants (illegal and legal) in the United States must live with under the new administration’s approach is personal and familiar to me.”

And that should be enough for the rest of us without that first-hand experience to understand the similarities.

And break vows of silence.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on March 3.

Meet Me In The Town Square

Ex presidents

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Got something to say?

I’m not a hard guy to find.

I’ll be in the town square.

That’s where people gather, maybe have some coffee (decaf for me, lest a migraine will make my head erupt like Mount St. Helens), and respectively share opinions without fear of being blacklisted (or blocked on Facebook) for eternity.

They – whoever “they” are — say don’t discuss religion or politics. I ask why not?

So when a reader wanted to know why I refer to the current person who calls himself your president (not mine) as “your president (not mine),” I took the opportunity to engage.

I’m sure his question is one many of you are also asking, so I’ll lay it on the line.

Your president (not mine) has, to put it metaphorically, put tears in the eyes of the Statue of Liberty.

You just don’t make that lady cry and get away with it, period.

Obviously, beyond that, we need context.

The reader wanted to know which other presidents in my lifetime I did not consider to be “my president,” and my answer was “until now, none.”

I was born in 1965, so the list isn’t long.

It consists of Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Although he ramped up Vietnam for reasons that still are not clear, LBJ carried the ball across the goal line on vital Civil Rights legislation (even though those goal posts now continue to be moved).

Nixon disgraced the White House, perhaps beyond repair, but I remember my mother crying in front of the television the night he resigned saying he was a good friend to Israel (and, despite being virulently anti-Semitic behind closed doors, it’s true). Nixon also created the same EPA that your president (not mine) is trying to put on life support.

Ford? Eh. Everyone was wise to the game when he pardoned Nixon. He paid for it when he lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Carter? Eh. He was a bit spineless, but he did create a tepid peace between Israel and Egypt and is cool in the role of ex-president.

Reagan? I find the idol worship of his long shadow especially ironic, as he was not as far to the right as conservatives make it seem when genuflecting at his altar. At the end of the day, though, I see him for what he was – a “B” actor playing a part for writers, producers and directors behind the scenes who are more worthy of my wrath.

George H.W. Bush? He was Reagan’s VP, meaning it was four years of the same trickle-down nonsense.

This is when I was becoming politically aware, and legal to vote (thanks to Nixon lowering the voting age), but my votes against Reagan and Bush didn’t mean it even crossed my mind to not consider either my presidents.

They were just presidents I didn’t like, not ones who belittled the FBI or threw hissy fits if made fun of Saturday Night Live.

Clinton, despite his dalliance with an intern (pales in comparison to affair with porn stars), brought enough peace and prosperity that I would rank him first in my lifetime.

For the same reasons I don’t do caffeine, I don’t do alcohol. If I did, George W. Bush might be the ex-president I would tilt a few with until last call. He could tell me about his drawings, and I could tell him about my songs. And I’m sure we could talk a lot of sports.

The reality, though, is that I made my bones as a political columnist being pretty hard on W. The way he squandered a chance to unite the country, instead dividing it with a war of folly in Iraq, is something we are still dealing with today.

With Obama, I saw that the antipathy toward him was skin deep, and that made me a watchdog on instinct.

Obama brought class, grace and eloquence (especially on the topic of gun control) to the White House.

But he was probably too decent of a guy. He made a fatal mistake by trying work across the aisle, when he technically didn’t need to, in his first two years. After the 2010 midterms, when legislative balance of power changed, forget it. He couldn’t get much done with a well-meaning social agenda.

International affairs? Other than supporting the rest of the world on climate change, not high marks.

However, it was he – not your president (not mine) — who turned the economy around (after W. left it in shambles) and also brought about a baby step in the ongoing healthcare mess.

Going from that to waking up to daily Twitter rants (with babyish ALL CAPS and cringe-worthy grammar errors) is a daily pill too bitter to put down.

Bottom line, not only does your president (not mine) fail to represent my core liberal values, but he seeks to stomp all over the whole nation’s core values – calling the press the “enemy of the people,” and wanting to squash other forms of free speech guaranteed to all under the First Amendment.

And, to be technical, it looks increasingly likely your president (not mine) was not legally elected anyway, as there is mounting evidence of outside interference of a hostile foreign government aiding his barely legal election (by way of the arcane electoral college).

Although this reader and I clearly disagree – he dropped the Kenya bomb, which I let slide – I invited him to engage again.

Same goes for the rest of you.

I won’t be hard to find.

I’ll be in the town square.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Feb. 24.

Hey You, Get Off Of My Lawn

Grumpy

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are a lot of people I like.

You know who you are.

All eight of you.

Everyone else?

Eh, not so much.

I have followed a collision course from my younger self and, right on time, became a grumpy middle-aged man.

A combination of Archie Bunker, Frank Costanza, Fred Flintstone and Andy Sipowicz.

Perhaps, on a good day, a little bit of the great curmudgeon philosophers — Bob Dylan and George Carlin — sprinkled in.

And I guess we can’t forget Sonny Corleone, had he not met his premature fate as a younger hothead.

While you’re getting off my lawn and turning down the Justin Bieber noise, keep the following grievances in mind as I dance around my Festivus pole:

1) This “Merry Christmas” Thing: I do know a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds. Life has been good to me that way. And guess what? I know no one — at all — who ever said you can’t say “Merry Christmas.” As matter of fact, even though the holiday is now past us, say it twice and call me in the morning. There are real societal outrages right outside your window. Why create one that doesn’t exist?

2) Road Work At Rush Hour: A necessary evil. I get it. What I don’t get is creating a backup on a major thoroughfare between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m. Unless it’s an emergency, go have breakfast at your local diner. Speaking of which …

3) Male Waiters At Diners: I expect to be waited on by an old-school waitress — not waiter — with a bouffant hairdo who calls me “baby” and “honey” and has a natural instinct to fill up my coffee (and remembers I’m a decaf guy) and pre-butters my toast. I have nothing against male waiters in other dining scenarios — like, say, certain authentic ethnic restaurants (even if they are faking the accent for effect) — but we really don’t need the world spinning off its axis any more than what it already is, do we?

4) Casual Cyclists: I’m all for exercise (especially if I’m not the only doing it), but can’t they stick to the bike path? It’s not like we haven’t made them a few hundred to use. As far as I know, if a cyclist is on the road — even if it’s merely to get to one bike path to another on the other side — they are supposed to obey the same traffic laws as a motorist already stuck behind rush-hour roadwork. The next cyclist I see actually yield the right of way — or actually stop at a stop sign — will be the first. And don’t even get me started on the way they hog the roadway, oblivious to the world, once they are on it.

5) Royal Families: They can do what they want in the UK, but we won the Revolutionary War (in all the history books, if you’d like to check). If there any leaves floating about from the John Adams family tree, no thanks. Same for Roosevelts, Kennedys and Bushes. Suggestions of Michelle Obama running are just as bad as those of Chelsea Clinton. And don’t get me started on Ivanka (my eyes just rolled so hard that I got a detached retina). We are better than thinking certain bloodlines are better than others.

6) Guys Who Aren’t Sports Fans But Pretend They Are: You know the type? They show up at a Super Bowl party asking who is playing and then they ask the line (a real sports fan could care less who does or doesn’t cover the spread). Listen, buddy, if you don’t follow sports, that’s fine. Just be upfront about it. I don’t play the stock market. I don’t hunt or fish. I don’t even know how to play poker. I don’t have a woodshop in my house. If you’re into those things, I won’t insult your intelligence by trying to fake my way through a train-to-nowhere conversation. I’m into sports, so don’t insult mine. This is especially if the game in question is a life-or-death scenario involving a Philadelphia pro team or Temple. Speaking of which …

7) Ersatz Dallas Cowboys And/Or Penn State Fans: If you’re from the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area, or if you attended Penn State (or one of its 32,492 satellite campuses), fine. I’ll even be nice about it. I’ll let you slide on Penn State if you are Pennsyltuckian, and maybe even on the Cowboys if you are from a place in the country cursed with no pro team and have a weird fetish about blue stars on silver helmets. Otherwise, for your own safety, keep moving. You are morally bankrupt and spiritually corrupt. Side Note: Villanova is a national basketball program that happens to based on the Main Line. Unless you went there, which probably means you are from North Jersey or Connecticut anyway, zip it.

8) Lincoln Was A Republican: Easy there, cowboy. Not quite. We’ll get into this more down the line, but let’s leave this here for now: Lincoln was a progressive, which is what the Republican party was then but the polar opposite of what it is now.  If you have to go back nearly 16 decades — doing a selective hop, skip and jump over a clear role reversal in between — you don’t have much to go on, do you?

9) Self Checkout: When people in our moral conscience to the north — Canada — are refusing this concept of eliminating minimal wage jobs, it’s mirror time for us in the US. So wrong on so many levels, it’s yet another sign of apocalypse.

10) Unwanted Calls: Don’t tell me about a Do Not Call List. Been there, done that. No such thing. We still live with daily calls from weird numbers (i.e. 111-111-1111). Because I’m me, a stubborn curmudgeon, I sometimes call back and turn the tables. The best joys are when I get someone clearly from a foreign country trying to tell me his name is Tom or Joe — or Archie, Frank, Fred or Andy.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald (www.timesherald.com) on Dec. 30, 2018.

 

 

Holiday Flicks You Can’t Refuse

Alastair Sim

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Last week, a survival guide of holiday songs.

This week, pop the popcorn and gather ‘round the TV.

It’s movie time.

Here are 10 you need to see:

10) The House Without A Christmas Tree – You may not have heard of this long-forgotten TV movie starring a much-younger Jason Robards, but the simple period piece set in mid-1940s Nebraska was a December staple from its 1972 airing until the early 1980s. If you never saw it, or are in need of a refresher course, I suggest hunting it down with the same verve I am now doing for Sofia. For what it’s worth, this gets near perfect scores across the board from both viewers and critics.

9) Miracle On 34th Street – Yeah, OK, I may not want to sit through it again, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth at least one viewing as a requirement for a quick path to US citizenship. Sofia now knows there is no Santa, which is a little sad but also takes a lot of pressure off. Still, a legal argument for his spiritual existence could hit the spot.

8) A Charlie Brown Christmas – Made in 1965, the year of my birth, it should seem dated. And yet, somehow, it never seems to be. Call it a Christmas miracle (nearly 12 years of fatherhood has made me very sappy).

7) A Very Brady Christmas – The Brady Bunch cast was reassembled (sans the original Cindy) in 1988 and the show’s original corniness was a perfect match set against the backdrop of a made-for-TV holiday family movie that led to an ill-fated attempt at a series. As disappointing as that series was, all of us who grew up “Brady” were not let down by this holiday effort.

6) Little Drummer Boy – Made in 1968, in what was called “stop motion,” the figures in this 25-minute short film look so fragile that, if it doesn’t tug at your heart strings, you have none to tug upon. This was my favorite seasonal TV flick at a tender age, which may explain why the song – notably the Bob Seger version – is also No. 1 in Gordonville.

5) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Made back in 1964, with a running time of under 60 minutes, those of us growing up on this – and the song — learned the power of redemption. I know there is some alleged bullying in it, and Santa comes off as a half a jerk, but Rudolph rose above it, literally and figuratively, did he not?

4) It’s A Wonderful Life – It’s a wonderful premise. What if I had turned left instead of right, gone north instead of south, etc.? I actually never saw this, start to finish, until a few years back. What if I hadn’t?

3) The Homecoming: A Christmas Story — Another TV movie, it was based on the novella of Earl Hamner, Jr. (the real John Boy) about his family’s struggles in depression-era rural Virginia. It was so well-done that it spawned the long-running series “The Waltons,” albeit with different actors – thankfully – in a majority of the adult roles.

2) A Christmas Carol — The 1951 version, originally called “Scrooge” — and starring Alistair Sim – reigns supreme over all others (no offense to George C. Scott). I caught this spin of the Dickens classic one lonely Christmas on PBS in the early 1990s and it became required viewing ever since. Sim hits it out of the park as Scrooge, but I want to give a tip of the cap to the women in this film for their nuanced acting. This list – topped by Kathleen Harrison (Mrs. Dilber) and Carol Mask (Fan) – also includes Hermoine Baddely (Mrs. Cratchit), Rona Anderson (Alice) and Olga Edwardes (Fred’s wife).

1) The Godfather — Huh, what? Well, it’s my list and my all-time favorite movie is required viewing in and around Christmas Day. And, while my general sanity is always worth questioning, several outlets do consider this classic an “incidental” Christmas movie (another would be “Trading Places,” for example). It may be because the pivotal scenes take place around Christmas. Example: Michael (Al Pacino) and Kay (Diane Keaton) are walking around New York City while Kay is talking about Christmas gifts she purchased for his family, leading to her noticing a tabloid newspaper headline about Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) being shot. Michael goes into a phone booth (remember those?), while Kaye looks in from the outside, which serves as unspoken symbolism of him locking her out of his small enclosed Corleone enclave. Meanwhile, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), is taken hostage while shopping for a sled for his kids, only to be released with a message for Sonny (James Caan).

Honorable Mention: Jack Frost; Trading Places; Full-Court Miracle; Polar Express; Frosty the Snowman; Eight Crazy Nights; Santa Claus is Coming to Town; How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Dec. 23.

Soul Saved By ‘Saint’ Sheeran

Sheeran

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — How is this for pretzel logic?

Wildly popular singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran comes from an Irish-Catholic/English-Protestant background, and this lapsed Jew is nominating him for sainthood.

He has performed a miracle.

As soon as Thanksgiving was in the books, Sofia tucked away her Taylor Swift CDs into an alphabetically organized CD wallet and “requested” holiday music be played 25/8 in the car.

And since we are a family thoroughly spoiled by Sirius (commercial-free) radio, we don’t have the patience for any FM channel that may have 12 commercials – and 15 fifteen minutes of babble — between every two songs that we may or may not even want to hear.

Problem is that Sirius spread itself so thin with holiday music channels that my direct bosses, Sofia and her mom, settled on just two: Bad (Channel 3) and Worse (Channel 4).

But, as fate would have it, Hanukkah scheduled itself early this year. By the end of the eight crazy nights, Sofia had been caught up on her Sheeran catalogue.

She was so excited that I was able to put the axis of evil – Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis and the Ray Conniff Singers – on ice.

This isn’t to say Ed Sheeran has a lofty place in my hierarchy of music, but enough songs run from passable (“Shape Of You”) to pretty darn good (“Castle On The Hill”) and his music is playing a vital role by getting playing time in my car in the holiday season.

I even ran out to buy a second version of his new release when the first vanished between the car seats.

All is right with the world.

Even though my soul was saved by St. Ed Sheeran, I was thinking about those of you who still need to navigate through the rest of the season without losing your mind.

There are some wonderful songs of the season, religious and otherwise, but GPS is needed.

As Norristown icon Hank Cisco would say, “If you want to walk on water, you have to know where the rocks are.”

Here are some of the rocks to get you to the other side:

10) Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Bruce Springsteen: A nice enough rendition, but it has worn way too thin. It would have been nice if one of the greatest songwriters of all time could have penned his own song of the season. If I can do it (check out “Gray Christmas” at http://www.ingordonville.come), so can my ultimate boss.

9) Hanukkah Song(s) – Adam Sandler: All three versions, with each one funnier than the next, refused to take a holiday that really isn’t that serious too seriously. This is pop culture at its best, with Sandler rattling off – and rhyming – famous, and infamous, Jewish notables. Though comedic, there is a deeper message about breaking down religious barriers without beating anyone over the head.

8) Same Auld Lang Syne — Dan Fogelberg:  The late Fogelberg, who passed away in December of 2007 – and too late to make any of those gone-too-soon lists against the backdrop of somber music – lamented the ironies of life after running into an old flame on Christmas Eve. At the end of the story song, the snow turns into rain. Gets me all verklempt (too emotional to speak) every time.

7) Father Christmas – The Kinks: Not a song you’d go caroling with at your local senior center, but it tells a real tale of poor kids resorting to roughing up a Santa to get the toys that only “the little rich boys” were going to get. A little crass, yeah, but I can dig the intent of songwriter Ray Davies.

6) River – Joni Mitchell: Like the Dan Fogelberg effort above, it’s more a song that paints a picture of the season than preaching about being naughty or nice. In the process, it’s a real nice offering that still resonates.

5) I Believe In Father Christmas Greg Lake: An original song by the lead vocalist of Emerson, Lake and Palmer sends a strong message in a gentle way about the commercialism of Christmas.

4) Christmas On The Block – Alan Mann: This effort from a late Philadelphia singer-songwriter might not be the easiest song to find but it is a beautiful song – especially for those from rowhouse city neighborhoods – that speaks for itself.

3) Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon: The fact that John Lennon was gunned down in cold blood in the holiday season only makes this song all the more powerful. And now, I’m getting all verklempt again.

2) Silent Night – Stevie Nicks: I’m not a Grinch, I’m really not. “Silent Night” truly is a gorgeous song, but it has been brutally mistreated. Stevie Nicks, the high priestess of Gordonville (and pending inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), flat-out owns it.

1) Little Drummer Boy – Bob Seger: You can keep your Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet. Whenever Bob Seger sings, the vocal cords are secondary. It’s all heart and soul, and this version – with a steady and consistent drumbeat (in a song about a drummer, for crying out loud) — is the perfect match of song with singer.

Honorable Mention: Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano); 2000 Miles (Pretenders); Christmas Shoes (NewSong); Christmastime For The Jews (Ronnie Spector); Please Come Home For Christmas (Eagles); Feliz Navidad (Bob Marley); Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Band Aid); Hanukkah Dance (Woody Guthrie); Winterlong (Neil Young); Merry Christmas, Baby (Bruce Springsteen); Wonderful Christmas Time (Paul McCartney); Mistress For Christmas (AC/DC); This Christmas (Donny Hathaway); Christmas In Dixie (Alabama); White Christmas (Otis Redding).

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 15.