Chris Rodell [00:00:00]:
Today, we'll be talking about It's a Wonderful Life, the obnoxious practice of cajoling celebrities to be in your family Christmas card portraits, and why there isn't more written about the teenage Jesus. Hi. I'm Chris Rodell. I've written stories and features for just about every major magazine or publication in America. This is the Use All the Crayons podcast, where I'll share those colorful stories with you. It is my patriotic conviction no one in America should be able to see the next Marvel movie until everyone can prove they've seen It's a Wonderful Life. It's that important to our national well-being. I'm dumbfounded over how many people haven't seen our most essential Christmas classic. It is, I guess, understandable for younger generations.
Chris Rodell [00:00:41]:
They're subjected to too many techy distractions, are reluctant to engage programs older than SpongeBob, and many are unfairly burdened by moronic parents. But come on. Everyone over 40 should have seen it by now and should make time each Christmas to see it again and again and again. Why? Because watching it makes everyone feel better about themselves. The message that every life has enormous worth is one that needs constant reinforcing. And it's just perfectly entertaining. It's funny. It's sentimental.
Chris Rodell [00:01:11]:
And it gives us heterosexual men our annual opportunity to fall in love with Donna Reed all over again. I practice what I preach. I was appalled when I learned a 45 year old friend of mine had never seen it. Okay. That's it, I said you're calling in sick this afternoon. You and I are going to spend the afternoon getting drunk and watching It's A Wonderful Life. Oh, no, he demurred. I can't.
Chris Rodell [00:01:30]:
I'm too busy. You have to. You can't go another minute without seeing this movie. He said people were counting on him. His job was too important. And getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon was irresponsible. Blah blah blah. So when did they stop putting autopilots in commercial airliners? It's that important to me.
Chris Rodell [00:01:48]:
So by all means, be sure you watch the movie on Christmas Eve 8 PM on NBC. Or how about this? Wait until next year and join us on our annual holiday pilgrimage to the Jimmy Stewart Museum in the actor's hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania. We were there Saturday. We go every year. The museum is wonderful. Stewart is indelibly linked to the George Bailey character and vice versa. As Stewart was a boy scout, a war hero, a father, a consummate gentleman, it was the best typecasting since wizard of Oz producers cast a dog named Toto to play a dog named, you guessed it, Toto. Best part, the museum includes a cozy micro theater that throughout the year matinees Harvey, Rear Window, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and other famous Stewart films.
Chris Rodell [00:02:30]:
Christmas, of course, the feature is It's a Wonderful Life. This is the year we remember because the audience included a woman who we think must have escaped from the local lunatic asylum. We deduced this because she laughed hysterically at even the most mild laugh lines. She roared when George was shopping for luggage. She cackled when Harry Bailey was carrying plates on his head. And when the floor of the pool opened up, she left so hard we thought the building would collapse. It was excessive, and we figured the woman about 40 was probably nuts. Or maybe she was just one of those perfectly nice and joyful people, the kind of person you'd imagine Jimmy Stewart was all the time.
Chris Rodell [00:03:04]:
Either way, it's pretty clear she's the kind of person who won't cut in line, ruin your day with road ragery, or cause a nasty Facebook fight over pointless political differences. For those reasons alone, I hope she carries the movie's message with her throughout every day as long as she lives. I hope she wakes up realizing her joyful exuberance is making a difference throughout the world, that she is an inspiration to those who struggle, and that by finding happiness in even little things, she is making everything better because she matters a lot. We all do because it's a wonderful life, and it's a pretty darn good movie too. The Christmas season inspires so many questions. Was the virgin birth real? Is Jesus the true son of God? Will there ever be peace on Earth? I have a question. How did Charlie Brown ever get that sweater over his huge bulbous head? You're probably like me and that you're Facebook friends with people who have families that are gorgeous enough to model for magazines like Good Housekeeping. I look at these pictures and think, gee, a family that handsome couldn't possibly have any real world problems.
Chris Rodell [00:04:10]:
Surely, the kids don't sass. The parents are never at odds, and the dog's farts are all as aromatic as breezes on beaches. We take what I think is a nice picture too. In fact, a couple of years ago, I strived to stir envy in my Facebook by posting a lovely Rodel family Christmas picture, me, Val, and the Precocious Tots. But I went for the obnoxious one by asking Arnold Palmer to be in it? And he said yes. So there we are looking like a lovely American family who happens to be chummy with one of the world's most famous and beloved men. I'm sure distant friends of mine saw this and said, wow. Will you look at this? That Rodell kid I knew from the 4th grade wound up marrying a real babe and having 2 beautiful daughters.
Chris Rodell [00:04:49]:
And he's buddy buddy with Arnold Palmer. Oh, well. I mean, he's still a booger eating moron. But what people couldn't discern from the picture was The instant after it was snapped, the daughters resumed their habitual ridiculing of me. My wife was again lamenting she married a man who answers blog when asked what he does for a living. And then Palmer said, who are these people, and how do they get in my house? There's too much pressure to be perfect, especially this time of year. It's one reason why the Festivus phenomenon is only going to get bigger. People will resent many of the overbearing trappings of our most over commercialized mega holiday.
Chris Rodell [00:05:22]:
Maybe next year, I'll strike a blow for imperfection by posting a warts and all picture of me in my shabby clothes, blood shot eyes, and my family looking at me in various stages of contempt. I was sitting behind the wheel of a broken down vehicle and displaying a copy of my latest bank statement. I think it's healthy for us as a society to every once in a while let the curtain fall so everyone can see how much we all have in common. We all have money woes, family difficulties, and concerns that are precarious occupational situations might suddenly go poof. Nobody's perfect, and it's okay to expose our flaws. Question for the ages, am I a pig because I eat too much Christmas ham, or does eating too much Christmas ham make me a pig? This is the season when Christian believers celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. I love the idea that God incarnate came to Earth not as a fully formed king or warrior, but in our most vulnerable and precious form. It's such a joyful counterpoint to the crucifixion.
Chris Rodell [00:06:18]:
What chagrins me is that the biological void of all those years in between, we know almost nothing about how he became who he was. I've spent a good deal of the past year reading the monumental Robert a Caro biographies of Lyndon P. Johnson. Over the past 32 years, Caro's published epics. The 4 books range from 522 to 1167 pages about the man who was president of the United States from 1963 to 1968. I know how Johnson did in school, what tests he cheated on, how he fell in love, what scared him, and who he screwed. Spoiler alert. Eventually, he screwed all of us.
Chris Rodell [00:06:54]:
So I know way more about LBJ than I do about JHC, and that JHC is pure conjecture. I don't know if his middle name is Harold or Henry, but I've heard lots of people exclaim, Jesus h Christ, when they're exasperated. So let's just go with that. Specifically, I'd like to read a scholarly book titled the teenage Jesus, how the man who became savior got through puberty. It's bound to be a swell guide on how to raise successful and well adjusted kids. Here's my entire fatherhood playbook boiled down to just 5 words. Try not to raise morons. There's a whole lot of wiggle room in that skimpy prospectus.
Chris Rodell [00:07:30]:
I believe I'll be considered a great father if my daughters become pleasant, informed individuals who make it through life without sending annoying all cap texts or staying toiling the passing lane after they've safely passed the Parkway Slowpokes. And if despite my efforts, they become common morons, I can say, well, At least I tried, and, really, it was more their mom's fault. Imagine how different it would be if my virgin wife had told me she was pregnant with the Holy Spirit and that together we'd been chosen to raise the son of god. Assuming for a moment that I didn't just throw her trampy ass out, imagine how my father and responsibilities would have altered. The differences would be, well, biblical. Remember, Joseph was the de facto godfather, the kind without a Luca Braco to do all his dirty work. The stakes were huge. How do you react if your kid's being bullied? Do you make him eat dates and figs when he gets home from school, or do you risk mankind's salvation by letting him chub up on chips and Oreos.
Chris Rodell [00:08:22]:
How do you discipline a child you know is destined for omnipotence? I have trouble disciplining my daughters for refusing to take the dog out when he's scratching at the door and those 2 are powerless to send my soul to hell, something I'm sure they've at times fervently prayed they could do. As a sassy teen, he must have reacted with reflexive scorn when Joseph would ask him to take out the trash. Oh, yeah? Or else you'll do what? And how do you raise a holy prophet without asking him if the Steelers gonna beat the Bengals on Sunday. I just don't think Joseph gets enough credit for his role in helping to raise what turned out to be a really good kid. And I mean a really, really, really, really, really good kid. That's what I like to read a book about him and the teenage Jesus. What was it that made him a creative sort become a carpenter instead of, say, a lute player in the local band? Did he ever get in trouble for acting like a real know it all in Sunday school? And, jeez, did it ever bug him that his birthday was the same day as Christmas? That's as good a place to stop as any, and I wish you all a very merry Christmas. You enjoy the podcast, we urge you to complete the podcast road to success triathlon of share, rate, and review.
Chris Rodell [00:09:29]:
Be sure to tell all your friends and urge them to tell all their friends. Thanks to my friends at Headspace Media in Latrobe for technological expertise and for always being gentle in their criticisms, plus my sensitive feelings get hurt, and I'm unable to function for the next 3 years. Thanks to Robindale Energy for their gracious and essential support.