WBEZ | christmas http://www.wbez.org/tags/christmas Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en What Drives the Holiday Spirit? A Christmas Investigation http://www.wbez.org/news/science/what-drives-holiday-spirit-christmas-investigation-114289 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/istock_000049861110_medium1-b0267ae7e10d41b21133c9e9253e477bcba92992-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res460695533" previewtitle="The holiday season is a time for generosity. Let Hidden Brain help you give better."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The holiday season is a time for generosity. Let Hidden Brain help you give better." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/22/istock_000049861110_medium1-b0267ae7e10d41b21133c9e9253e477bcba92992-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 464px; width: 620px;" title="The holiday season is a time for generosity. Let Hidden Brain help you give better. (iStockphoto)" /></div><div><p>The holidays are about nurturing our best selves: the altruistic, compassionate and generous side. We&#39;re told the true joy comes in giving, not receiving.</p></div></div><p>And it&#39;s true, sometimes giving makes you feel good; you do it enthusiastically and out of the goodness of your heart. Other times, when asked to give, you just feel guilt-tripped (like Randy Marsh in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sBZstD-UEk">this clip</a>&nbsp;from&nbsp;South Park).</p><div id="res460281722"><div style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2sBZstD-UEk" width="560"></iframe></div></div><p>This week on Hidden Brain, we ask why people give to charity, find out how to give better gifts, and learn that re-gifting is a perfectly acceptable response to getting (another) cinnamon spice candle. Then, the musically gifted Adam Cole returns to tie the entire show together with an original Hidden Brain carol.</p><p>First, Shankar talks to&nbsp;All Things Considered&nbsp;host Audie Cornish about some research done by economist John List at the University of Chicago. He finds that social pressure actually plays a significant role in our generosity (perhaps more than we&#39;d like to admit).</p><p>&quot;Anytime you ask someone why they gave to a charitable cause, the typical response is, &#39;I gave because I really want to help another person,&#39; &quot; List says. &quot;But when you dig down deeper, that&#39;s not the true motive for why they gave.&quot;</p><p><a href="http://web.utk.edu/~mprice21/QJE_DTD.pdf">In one study</a>, he ran an experiment with door-to-door canvassers asking for donations to a children&#39;s hospital. A third of the houses received a call saying someone would stop by to ask for donations. A third of the houses were given notice and the opportunity to opt-out. And the final third were told nothing at all. If people gave according to altruism, it shouldn&#39;t matter if they knew a knock is coming.</p><p>But what List and his colleagues found is that people were much less likely to come to the door when they were alerted beforehand, and donations dropped by half. List says about 75 percent of the donations the canvassers collected could be attributed to social pressure and just a quarter to altruism.</p><h2>Stopwatch Science</h2><p>Dan Pink is back for another round of Stopwatch Science &mdash; this time on the theme of giving and receiving. Here are four bits of research that might make you feel more generous &mdash; and could even make you a better gift-giver, too:</p><blockquote><ol><li>When choosing gifts, we often lean toward impressive and desirable. Think the latest video game (regardless of difficult it is to play) or a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant an hour away. But&nbsp;<a href="http://www.jcr-admin.org/files/pressPDFs/030614095536_March2014.pdf">researchers found</a>&nbsp;receivers are not so willing to trade off feasibility for desirability, and sticking to, say, movie tickets closer to home might make a better gift. (And what&#39;s the very best way to get the perfect gift?&nbsp;<a href="http://francisflynn.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Gino-Flynn-JESP-20112.pdf">Just ask</a>.)</li><li>Re-gifting is a holiday tradition, if a socially deviant one. But maybe it shouldn&#39;t be.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/adams%20flynn%20norton.pdf">Social science research suggests</a>&nbsp;gift-givers like Aunt Irene won&#39;t actually care as much as you think she will if you pass on that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.preciousmoments.com/light-your-heart-with-christmas-joy-musical-water-globe">Precious Moments snow globe</a>&nbsp;to the next-door neighbors.</li><li>If the Grinch and Scrooge have taught us anything, it&#39;s that compassion can be learned.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bi.wisc.edu/~fox/publications/Weng_PsychScience_2013.pdf">A group of psychologists</a>&nbsp;confirmed this anecdotal evidence in an experiment that found adults who participated in a compassion-training exercise ended up behaving more altruistically than those who didn&#39;t.</li><li>Life is all about trade-offs. Sometimes helping others requires compromising a moral or two. Despite Mom and Dad&#39;s nudging us toward moral absolutism,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24273360">research shows</a>&nbsp;many of us do prefer the consequentialist approach to altruism &mdash; we&#39;re willing to cheat a little if it helps others (and no one sees us).</li></ol></blockquote><p><em>The Hidden Brain Podcast is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Kara McGuirk-Alison and Maggie Penman. Max Nesterak is our News Assistant. Follow us on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/HiddenBrain">@hiddenbrain</a>,&nbsp;</em><a href="https://twitter.com/KaraMcGuirk"><em>@karamcguirk</em></a><em>,</em><em><a href="https://twitter.com/maggiepenman">@maggiepenman</a></em><em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;</em><a href="https://twitter.com/maxnesterak"><em>@maxnesterak</em></a><em>,and</em><em> listen for Hidden Brain stories every week on your local public radio station.</em></p></p> Thu, 24 Dec 2015 15:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/what-drives-holiday-spirit-christmas-investigation-114289 Don't Call it a Christmas Tree: How Russia's 'Yolka' Survived the Revolution http://www.wbez.org/news/dont-call-it-christmas-tree-how-russias-yolka-survived-revolution-114286 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/ap_08123008530_custom-afe980a5d5dddbe2a17af4af876dbee819209592-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res460189011" previewtitle="A New Year tree stands outside the Kremlin in Moscow, in 2008. Shown from right in the background are: the Kremlin's St. Nicholas Tower, the Historical Museum, and the monument to Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="A New Year tree stands outside the Kremlin in Moscow, in 2008. Shown from right in the background are: the Kremlin's St. Nicholas Tower, the Historical Museum, and the monument to Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/17/ap_08123008530_custom-afe980a5d5dddbe2a17af4af876dbee819209592-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 384px; width: 620px;" title="A New Year tree stands outside the Kremlin in Moscow, in 2008. Shown from right in the background are: the Kremlin's St. Nicholas Tower, the Historical Museum, and the monument to Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov. (Mikhail Metzel/AP)" /></div><div data-crop-type="">Like a lot of kids in Moscow, Svetlana Shmulyian loved New Year&#39;s Eve.</div></div><p>&quot;If there was once a year that a Soviet kid got to eat red caviar, it was on the night of the New Year!&quot; she says. And one of her favorite traditions (besides the caviar) was the&nbsp;<em>yolka&nbsp;</em>&mdash; the New Year&#39;s tree. &quot;The smell of the tree, the toys, the blinking lights &mdash; it was one day to look forward to for the whole year.&quot;</p><p>If that sounds a lot like Christmas, that&#39;s because it kind of is. A century ago, Christmas in Russia was pretty much like Christmas in the U.S. &mdash; complete with decorated trees, family celebrations.</p><p>But all that changed with the Russian Revolution.</p><p>&quot;The tree comes to be seen as a symbol of both the bourgeois order, which is one class enemy, and of religion in particular, which is another kind of class enemy,&quot; says Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, who teaches Russian history at Wesleyan University.</p><p>&quot;There are very explicit statements that essentially unmask the Christmas tree for the class symbol that it is,&quot; Smolkin-Rothrock continues. &quot;It becomes clear that one does not have Christmas trees without political sympathies and allegiances falling into question.&quot;</p><div id="res460401167" previewtitle="&quot;Away with the bourgeois tree,&quot; reads the illustration, which was originally published in the newspaper &quot;Worker of the Urals,&quot; in December 1930."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="&quot;Away with the bourgeois tree,&quot; reads the illustration, which was originally published in the newspaper &quot;Worker of the Urals,&quot; in December 1930." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/19/away-with-the-bourgeois-tree_custom-8500b7c97f5e95ca08c862080184680abbdd3c26-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 234px; width: 540px;" title="&quot;Away with the bourgeois tree,&quot; reads the illustration, which was originally published in the newspaper &quot;Worker of the Urals,&quot; in December 1930. (Worker of the Urals)" /></div><div><div><p>And in the Soviet era, having your political sympathies questioned could be dangerous. In 1935, though, there was a letter in&nbsp;Pravda, the official paper, saying things had changed.</p></div></div></div><p>Smolkin-Rothrock sums up the argument of one high-ranking Bolshevik: &quot;Here we are, and Socialism has been built, and why would we deprive those children who had never had a Christmas tree of their own of the pleasure of the tree?&quot;</p><p>So, the tree was redeemed. And it moved up the Orthodox calendar, becoming completely secular.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t think I even heard that it has something to do with Christmas,&quot; says Victoria Anesh, who grew up in the Soviet Union, in what&#39;s now Ukraine, before immigrating to the U.S. &quot;It&#39;s just a tree for New Year&#39;s. And we had probably, on top of the tree, we had a star ... like the Kremlin red star.&quot;</p><div id="res460400814" previewtitle="A 1966 postcard featuring a yolka — and a little red-clad cosmonaut."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="A 1966 postcard featuring a yolka — and a little red-clad cosmonaut." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/19/cosmos-elka-1966_custom-7222ce0b8648797b7b09a878f41ce106220f225d-s300-c85.jpg" style="height: 442px; width: 310px; float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="A 1966 postcard featuring a yolka — and a little red-clad cosmonaut. (Courtesy of Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock)" /></div><div><div><p>Those Kremlin stars became such common tree-toppers, they were even featured in &#39;60s-era Soviet postcards.</p></div></div></div><p>Anesh, who is Jewish, loved her New Year&#39;s tree &mdash; but then she came to America.</p><p>&quot;We were told that trees here are put on Christmas. And Jews don&#39;t do Christmas.&quot;</p><p>Getting rid of the tree was just one in a long list of things to get used to in America. But when Anesh and her friends started families of their own, they began to rethink it. &quot;You know, why aren&#39;t you doing this? We&#39;re supposed to! What about our heritage?&quot;</p><p>But while Anesh loved the tree as a kid, it&#39;s not something she wants to pass on to her own children.</p><p>&quot;For me, it was kind of a symbol of not having choices,&quot; she says. &quot;I love that I have choices here. They&#39;re very tough &mdash; figuring out what is my moral compass here, what it means to be Jewish. There&#39;s a lot of things that I don&#39;t have answers, and I&#39;m learning with them. But I love it.&quot;</p><p>For other Russians, like Shmulyian, this new freedom of choice means choosing a tree.</p><p>&quot;I am experiencing this and want to create experiences for my kids that link them to the tribe. They&#39;re part of the Jewish tribe. They&#39;re also part of American tribe. They&#39;re also part of Russian tribe,&quot; Shmulyian says. &quot;They&#39;re all these identities that they carry.&quot;</p><p>Just as in the Soviet Union, what makes tradition meaningful isn&#39;t some government edict. It&#39;s how people gather around the tree, or don&#39;t, and decide what it means to be Russian &mdash; and Jewish, and American &mdash; in a new world.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/12/19/460186573/dont-call-it-a-christmas-tree-how-russias-yolka-survived-the-revolution?ft=nprml&amp;f=460186573" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Thu, 24 Dec 2015 13:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/dont-call-it-christmas-tree-how-russias-yolka-survived-revolution-114286 StoryCorps Chicago: "Christmas for Me Has Always Been a Time of Great Loss--and Victory" http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-chicago-christmas-me-has-always-been-time-great-loss-and-victory-114264 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/StoryCorps 151224 Steve Pemberton bh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Christmas has always been an emotional time of year for Steve Pemberton. Pemberton is now a vice-president at Walgreens. But his early life was hard. When he was three years old, he was taken from his mother a few days before Christmas. He bounced from one foster home to the next.</p><p>Then at age five he moved in with a foster family, where he stayed for more than a decade. As he explains in this week&#39;s StoryCorps, though, when he was in high school, something happened a few days after Christmas that changed all that.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.storycorps.org"><em>StoryCorps&rsquo;</em></a> mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. These excerpts, edited by WBEZ, present some of our favorites from the current visit, as well as from previous trips.</p></p> Wed, 23 Dec 2015 10:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-chicago-christmas-me-has-always-been-time-great-loss-and-victory-114264 Afternoon Shift: Live from Christkindlmarket and a Christmas sing-along http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-12-20/afternoon-shift-live-christkindlmarket-and-christmas-sing-along <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/WBEZ Christmas.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Join the Afternoon Shift live from the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza. Eric Zorn and Neil Steinberg give their predictions for the new year. We look at Chicagoan&#39;s true pizza preference and we have a sing-along with several local performers.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-live-from-christkindlmarket-and-a/embed" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-live-from-christkindlmarket-and-a.js"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-live-from-christkindlmarket-and-a" target="_blank">View the story "Afternoon Shift: Live from Christkindlmarket and a Christmas sing-along" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 16:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-12-20/afternoon-shift-live-christkindlmarket-and-christmas-sing-along 11 alternative Christmas movies to watch this year http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/11-alternative-christmas-movies-watch-year-109384 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img 20th="" alt="" century="" class="image-original_image" edward="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Edward-Scissorhands-movie-still.jpg" style="height: 342px; width: 620px;" title="A still from &quot;Edward Scissorhands.&quot; (AP Photo/20th Century Fox)" /></div><p>Ah, Christmas movies. Everyone has a favorite, whether it be an old classic&mdash;the Rankin/Bass version of &quot;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xqACmJvqaU" target="_blank">Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer</a>&quot;&nbsp;comes to mind&mdash;or a newer addition, like Jim Carrey&#39;s &quot;How the Grinch Stole Christmas&quot; or Will Ferrell&#39;s &quot;Elf.&quot;</p><p>I will admit that a few traditional Christmas films still hold my heart, particularly &quot;It&#39;s A Wonderful Life&quot; (because I love Jimmy Stewart) and &quot;A Muppet Chistmas Carol&quot; (because I love Michael Caine as Scrooge, plus muppets), but my tastes have changed considerably over the years.</p><p>Once I began to realize that schmaltz-fests like &quot;The Family Stone&quot; were unfulfilling, and garish clunkers like &quot;Jingle All the Way&quot; were actually&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/jingle-all-the-way-1996" target="_blank">materialism incarnate</a>, I made a conscious decision to venture outside the Hallmark Channel-approved box for my holiday viewing.&nbsp;</p><p>I started watching movies set at Christmastime, often with plots still somewhat impacted by or connected to seasonal tropes, but that also contained much weirder, darker, and more complex themes than the simpler stories I enjoyed as a child. (I blame you, film school.)</p><p>Then there are those beloved holiday staples that toe the line, but never quite cross it. For example, &quot;A Christmas Story&quot; has enough acerbic wit to balance out the nostalgia, but also plays to the masses for <a href="http://www.tbs.com/stories/story/0,,97568,00.html" target="_blank">24 hours on TBS</a>. National Lampoon&#39;s &quot;Christmas Vacation&quot; may veer hilariously towards the irreverent, but stops short of real oddball territory due to the near universal accessibility of writer John Hughes.</p><p>If you&#39;re looking for a new yuletide tradition that doesn&#39;t involve endless rounds of carol-singing, or if you&#39;ve simply had your fill of Bing Crosby and &quot;Frosty the Snowman,&quot; then I suggest treating yourself to a Christmas movie with a little more bite.&nbsp;</p><p>Here are my Top 11:</p><p><strong>11. &quot;Brazil&quot; (1985)</strong></p><p>Terry Gilliam&#39;s &quot;Brazil&quot; is one of the most bizarre movies I&#39;ve ever seen; and consequently, one of my all-time favorites. The warped Christmas setting, though completely random and unexplained, is a perfect match for the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Wh2b1eZFUM" target="_blank">dystopian terror</a> of a society utterly devoid of holiday spirit. Plus, if you ever wanted to see Jonathon Pryce, Jim Broadbent, Peter Vaughn, Katherine Helmond, and Robert DeNiro in a film together&mdash;or rather, spiraling out of control in a wacky, retro-future Orwellian universe&mdash;herein lies your opportunity.</p><p><strong>10. &quot;Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy&quot; (2011)</strong></p><p>A Cold War<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aco15ScXCwA" target="_blank"> espionage thriller</a> starring Gary Oldman may not sound very Christmasy, but factor in a holiday office party as the scene that frames the movie&mdash;with gaudy &#39;70s suits, clouds of cigarette smoke, and a discordant sing-along to the Soviet Anthem, no less&mdash;and the idea of seasonal communion is turned wickedly on its head, like a wind-up doll gone deliriously mad. Meanwhile, in yet another sinister detail from director Tomas Alfredson (&quot;Let the Right One In&quot;), the singing is conducted by a eldritch-looking Santa Claus in a Lenin mask.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>9. &quot;Eyes Wide Shut&quot; (1999)</strong></p><p>In acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick&#39;s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXEziyz9duA" target="_blank">final film</a>, which premiered shortly after Kubrick&#39;s sudden death&nbsp;from a heart attack, then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a charged game of art imitating life. Here is a husband and wife who attend holiday parties together, then seperate, and fleetingly experience sordid lives outside their own. But when their wildest dreams turn to nightmares, notice the perverted symbolism: a Christmas tree (or related seasonal bauble) appears in almost every scene.</p><p><strong>8. &quot;The Apartment&quot; (1960)</strong></p><p>Leave it to filmmaker Billy Wilder (&quot;Some Like It Hot,&quot; &quot;The Lost Weekend&quot;) to write and direct a movie that focuses on the very darkest chasms of the human heart come Christmastime. Jack Lemmon plays the antihero, C.C. &quot;Bud&quot; Baxter: a lonely insurance salesman who decides to drown his sorrows in booze on Christmas Eve. He meets a fellow lonely heart at his neighborhood bar, and then brings her up to his apartment for a little more forgetting. But in a startling twist, they find that Shirley MacLaine&#39;s character is already there, passed out on his bed from a drug overdose. This sequence of events is beyond unfortunate, but also painfully true to life: a mirror reflecting back on those of us who know all too well how <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CufD9Tu1uLE" target="_blank">soul-crushing</a> the holidays can be, and how forced that &quot;cheer&quot; can often feel.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>7. &quot;Gremlins&quot; (1984)</strong></p><p>If you haven&#39;t seen this cult classic about evil little monsters going beserk on Christmas, then I am slightly jealous of your good fortune. The very &#39;80s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoK0BzYUTrU" target="_blank">black comedy horror film</a>, directed by Chris Columbus (&quot;Home Alone,&quot; &quot;Harry Potter&quot;) and produced by Steven Spielberg, centers on a teenage boy who gets a critter called a Mogwai for Christmas. His dad found the thing in Chinatown, of all places, and he must follow three rules to care for it properly: never expose it to bright light; never get it wet; and most importantly, never feed it after midnight. Of course, the boy does not follow these instructions, and his cuddly little pet, whom he calls Gizmo, eventually mulitiplies into a horde of scary reptilian gremlins that begin terrorizing his small town. Honestly, I always feared that my Furby would do the same thing.</p><p><strong>6. &quot;Batman Returns&quot; (1992)</strong></p><p>Tim Burton&#39;s first appearance on this list, with his second and last entry into the live-action &quot;Batman&quot; franchise of the &#39;90s, is also perhaps the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman_Returns" target="_blank">most Christmasy superhero film</a> in recent memory. Corrupt businessman Max Schreck (Christopher Walken) is described as &quot;Gotham&#39;s own Santa Claus,&quot; Michelle Pfieffer&#39;s Catwoman kisses Michael Keaton&#39;s Batman under the mistletoe, and Danny DeVito&#39;s deranged Penguin wreaks havoc on a snow-covered Gotham City. Ironically, the movie also enjoyed a successful June release in theatres, giving it the highest opening weekend&nbsp;of any film up to that point.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>5. &quot;Kiss Kiss Bang Bang&quot; (2005)</strong></p><p>In this underrated crime caper from writer/director Shane Black, a theatrical thief (Robert Downey Jr.) teams up with a gay detective (Val Kilmer) to solve a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-ekNtkhLjs" target="_blank">murder mystery</a> at Christmastime. Downey and Kilmer have surprisingly great comedic chemistry, likely aided by the kitsch romanticism of a snowless LA with plastic trees and Christmas lights. An actress also entagled in the crime (Michelle Monaghan) even shows up in a sexy Santa costume at one point.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>4. &quot;The Shop Around the Corner&quot; (1940)</strong></p><p>Two employees at a Budapest gift shop (Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, respectively) can barely stand one another; and yet, unbeknownst to both of them, are falling in love through the post as each other&#39;s anonymous pen pal. But as fate would have it, Christmas is ultimately what brings these squabbling soulmates together. In the film&#39;s memorable final scene, Stewart puts a red carnation on his lapel&mdash;thus revealing his identity to Sullivan as her longtime mystery correspondent&mdash;and the two share a passionate embrace on Christmas Eve. Does this <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033045/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1" target="_blank">oft-repeated romantic comedy</a> scenario sound familiar? Watch &quot;You&#39;ve Got Mail&quot; (the 1998 Nora Ephron-directed remake starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks), relive the nostalgia of AOL dial-up, and feel old.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>3. &quot;Edward Scissorhands&quot; (1990)</strong></p><p>Magical is the first word that comes to mind when I think of &quot;Edward Scissorhands,&quot; which is exactly the spirit that director Tim Burton conjures up in every fairy-tale frame. Johnny Depp&#39;s impressive silent film actor performance is another revelation (how could one not fall in love with his sweet, gentle, sadly<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099487/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1" target="_blank"> scissor-handed hero</a>?) and the bizarro world that the rest of the characters inhabit looks positively ethereal once the snow starts to fall. In fact, Winona Ryder twirling like an angel admist snowflakes and ice sculptures is perhaps the purest embodiment of Christmas I have ever seen put to film: an exultation of whimsy, wonder, and most of all, hope.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>2. &quot;The Nightmare Before Christmas&quot; (1993)</strong></p><p>Yes, Christmas features prominently into the plot, but Tim Burton&#39;s story is just as much about Halloweenteen and its delightfully creepy inhabitants as it is about what Jack Skellington discovers in the land of elves and Santy Claus. Plus, the incredible <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-LXKoNOMj0" target="_blank">stop motion animation</a> from director Henry Selick (&quot;James and the Giant Peach,&quot; &quot;Coraline&quot;) remains as mind-blowing today as it was when the film was first released.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>1. &quot;Die Hard&quot; (1988)</strong></p><p>I don&#39;t care what <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/here-is-an-opinion-that-is-not-as-clever-as-you-might-think" target="_blank">Buzzfeed</a> says; this movie is the epitome of yuletide joy. If you don&#39;t believe in miracles after watching Bruce Willis bungee jump through explosions on a fire hose, what hope is there for the world? Also, as a card-carrying member of the Alan Rickman fan club, I simply cannot fathom why audiences tout his role in &quot;Love Actually&quot; (quite possibly the most overrated holiday film of all time, in which he plays one of the most unlikeable characters) over his turn in this priceless gem. Old standbys like &quot;Miracle on 34th Street&quot; and &quot;Home Alone&quot; aside, &quot;Die Hard&quot; reigns as the ultimate Christmas movie.</p><p><strong>What are your favorite unconventional Christmas films?</strong></p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about art and popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/11-alternative-christmas-movies-watch-year-109384 Not feeling Christmas Eve? How about a movie? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-12/not-feeling-christmas-eve-how-about-movie-104554 <p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/316897006_37b5d65e14_z.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Deck the halls at the Movies (flickr/emdot)" /></div><p>Christmas celebrations are already in full swing at homes in and around Chicago. But not everybody marks the holiday. If you&rsquo;re Jewish or Muslim or just prefer to skip it &ndash; there is another, time-honored way to enjoy the night before Christmas: head out to see a movie.</p><p>The two big, brand new releases are &quot;Les Misérables,&quot; the film version of Victor Hugo&#39;s epic historic novel (which has undergone epic adaptations, for film, television and most famously Broadway), and &quot;Django Unchained,&quot; the latest ultra-violence from Quentin Tarantino.</p><p>Christmas-time viewing is also a good opportunity to catch up any of the big films that might end up in the &quot;best picture&quot; category at the Academy Awards (<a href="http://www.awardscircuit.com/2012/09/18/academy-sets-dates-for-85th-oscars-nominations-to-be-announced-january-10th/">which will be announced January 10th</a>). &nbsp;</p><p>Adam Kempenaar co-hosts WBEZ&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.filmspotting.net/"><em>Filmspotting</em></a>. He called Stephen Spielberg&#39;s<em> &quot;</em>Lincoln<em>&quot; </em>&quot;essential viewing, especially for the performance of Daniel Day Lewis.&quot; But he also recommends &quot;Skyfall<em>.&quot; </em></p><p><em>&quot;</em>I&rsquo;m not a big Bond guy,&quot; Kempenaar said. &quot;But that was one of my favorite Bond films, well, frankly ever.&quot;<br /><br />Just don&rsquo;t expect to see Kempenaar in the seat next to you. When I asked if he ever goes to the movies at Christmas he laughed and exclaimed &quot;Never!&quot; For Kempnaar the Christmas holiday is &quot;not about watching movies, it&rsquo;s about finally taking a break.&quot;</p><p>Happy holidays to you, wherever you end up this year!<br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 24 Dec 2012 15:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-12/not-feeling-christmas-eve-how-about-movie-104554 Dear Santa: Please help Chicago sports teams this Christmas http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-12/dear-santa-please-help-chicago-sports-teams-christmas-104492 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_bears_-santa.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 438px" title="Santa has a long list from the Bears this year.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)" /></div><p>Children are not the only ones hoping Santa Claus can bring them all the items on their wish-list. Sports teams have compiled a list that they hope the jolly old man may put under their Christmas tree. OK, maybe they don&#39;t have a list, but here is what I think they want &mdash; it&rsquo;s not sugar plums and candy canes.</p><p>The Bears, and specifically Head Coach Lovie Smith, have a long list of wishes. A playoff berth is top on the list in big bold letters. Smith&rsquo;s future here as the Bears head coach may be tied into a postseason appearance. Winning the last two games and loses by other teams may get them in the playoffs (lots of work for Santa). General Manager Phil Emery must have plenty of wishes, too. High on his list are numerous offensive linemen, a wide receiver and a sure-handed tight end. Basically he&#39;s dealing with the personal that former GM Jerry Angelo left for him.</p><p>It&#39;s not hard to figure out what the Cubs would love to get: wins &mdash;&nbsp;lots and lots of wins. It is probably on top of every Cubs fan&#39;s list, too. Team President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer have been filling out the roster with some free agents: Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa. Face it: The Cubs are going to be a struggle this year maybe the next, so wins may be on the team&rsquo;s wish list for a few holiday seasons. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts may have something bigger on his mind: a plan for renovations for Wrigley Field. Is it time for Mayor Rahm Emmanuel to stop being a Grinch and start getting down to business at Clark and Addison?</p><p>On the South side, the White Sox wish is for fans over two million strong to move the turnstile this year. It would be nice since attendance has been on a decline for the past few years. Last season the Sox were in first place in the AL Central most of the year, but were one of the worst teams in baseball in fan attendance. With reduced ticket pricing and other fan-friendly deals ($10 parking on Sundays) maybe the numbers will improve; they also have to be competitive again on the field. Winning the American League Central would be a real present.</p><p>It is not hard to figure out what the Bulls want to see under their Christmas tree: a full-strength and fully recovered Derrick Rose. That may be a tall order for Santa to handle. No one knows for sure when that will happen. So, maybe a trip to the All-Star game for Joakim Noah would be a nice gift. Fans can help Jolly St. Nick by stuffing the All-Star ballot box &mdash;&nbsp;put votes in for Luol Deng, too. Another wish would be acquiring another major star player to complement Rose&rsquo;s return. Now that&rsquo;s a big wish.</p><p>The Blackhawks and their fans have one wish: a season.</p><p>Santa&rsquo;s magic has to extend at least another week to make a special News Year&rsquo;s Day for the Northern Illinois Huskies. They want to upset the Florida State Seminoles in the Orange Bowl in Miami. On that same day, Northwestern University head coach Pat Fitzgerald would love to snap the Wildcats bowl losing streak at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville Florida (NU is facing Mississippi State).</p><p>Keeping the win column filled with victories is the hope of the Illini basketball team; they got a nice present when they hired John Groce to coach the team.</p><p>DePaul, Loyola, Northwestern and UIC (men&rsquo;s and women&rsquo;s teams) are all hoping they get wins on the hard court floor to fill their stockings (and maybe some front-line recruits).</p><p>It would be great if Santa gave Northwestern&rsquo;s women&rsquo;s lacrosse team another NCAA Championship and let the Chicago Sky finally compete in the WNBA playoffs.</p><p>Of course, there will be coal put in at least a couple of stockings&hellip;the NHL&#39;s and Lance Armstrong&#39;s.</p><p>Whatever you celebrate, may I wish each and every one of you a Happy holiday season! Hope those going through tough times will find comfort and may your hopes and dreams come true. I still believe!</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="http://&lt;https://twitter.com/Crayestout&gt;">@CRayeStout</a>&nbsp;and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame">Cheryl Raye-Stout #AtTheGame</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Fri, 21 Dec 2012 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-12/dear-santa-please-help-chicago-sports-teams-christmas-104492 The noble path: A Buddhist Christmas http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-12/noble-path-buddhist-christmas-104418 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/buddha%20flickr%20liang%20jin%20jian.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Buddhism can lead us to the true meaning of Christmas (Flickr/Liang Jin Jian)" /></div><p>Lately I&rsquo;ve been doing a little reading and research in Buddhist literature and philosophy. At the core of Buddhist thought is the achievement of personal wisdom and the practice of ethical conduct.</p><p>Buddhism argues that the world is imperfect, that life is full of suffering and that human nature is flawed. Nevertheless, our goal as rational and spiritual creatures is to accept the imperfections of reality, overcome our limitations and try to create a self that is free from the false illusions of success and the deadening effects of fear, frustration, disappointment and depression.</p><p>My reading of this venerable tradition is that life is a journey of suffering and self-improvement. We must find a middle way between self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism) to achieve contentment. The goal laid out by Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) is the achievement of the &ldquo;Noble Eightfold Path.&rdquo;</p><p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Right View</p><p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Right Intention</p><p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Right Speech</p><p>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Right Action</p><p>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Right Livelihood</p><p>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Right Effort</p><p>7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Right Mindfulness</p><p>8.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Right Concentration</p><p>At its core the &ldquo;Eightfold Path&rdquo; is, in essence, a prescription for ethical conduct with others. In an imperfect world full of suffering and toil each of us must try to find a way to live with others. The &ldquo;Eightfold Path&rdquo; exhorts us to free ourselves of false illusions, to detach ourselves from false decisions, to overcome selfishness, to pursue charity and good will, to avoid cruelty and violence, and to develop a deep compassion for those we live with and love.</p><p>It seems to me that the essence of Buddhist thought can be easily rolled into the ethos of this Christmas season. Both positions, by different means, are advancing the same issues and outcomes: an undistorted view of reality; personal serenity, right conduct and charity, peace on Earth; and, lest we forget, the true purpose of the season &mdash; &ldquo;goodwill to all.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;<em>Al Gini is a Professor of Business Ethics and Chairman of the Management Department in the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago.</em></p></p> Tue, 18 Dec 2012 10:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-12/noble-path-buddhist-christmas-104418 Tips for guaranteeing a perfect 'Scared of Santa' photo http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-12/tips-guaranteeing-perfect-scared-santa-photo-104443 <p><p><span id="internal-source-marker_0.5099058862703227">The best part of Christmas are those hilarious &ldquo;scared of Santa&rdquo; photos&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/holidaily/sns-holiday-christmas-bad-santa,0,7208347.photogallery">posted on the&nbsp;</a></span><em><a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/holidaily/sns-holiday-christmas-bad-santa,0,7208347.photogallery">Chicago Tribune</a></em><a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/holidaily/sns-holiday-christmas-bad-santa,0,7208347.photogallery"><em>&rsquo;s</em> website</a>. Truth be told, it wouldn&rsquo;t feel like Christmas without a couple dozen photos of terrified children sobbing on strange men&rsquo;s laps. So avoid feeling like a failure this year and turning out a regular boring old photo of your sweet child smiling on a friendly fat guy&rsquo;s knee, here are some tips on how to elicit a surefire winner:</p><br /><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4176024999_7f503c1ce2.jpg" style="float: left; height: 445px; width: 300px;" title="Ho ho ho? (Flickr/Stephen M. Scott)" /></div><ul><li dir="ltr">Try to find a hungover Santa if you can. His dour expression and the bags under his eyes will contribute to a hilarious image.<br />&nbsp;</li><li dir="ltr">Better yet: skinny Santa. What could be worse?<br />&nbsp;</li><li dir="ltr">Dress your child much too warmly for the occasion, and try to find a Santa in extremely high demand. That way, after the hours of waiting in line (don&rsquo;t forget to forget the snacks), your little one will be uncomfortable and miserable.<br />&nbsp;</li><li dir="ltr">Have the big &ldquo;stranger danger&rdquo; chat with your child on the way to meet Santa, but as you wait in line say, &ldquo;Well, Santa&nbsp;probably&nbsp;doesn&rsquo;t want to hurt you.&rdquo;&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;</li><li dir="ltr">Inform your child that Santa&rsquo;s beard is full of earwigs which will crawl into his or her ear and lay thousands of holiday eggs.&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;</li><li dir="ltr">Give your child a long script to recite to Santa and inform him that if he deviates from it, even by one word, Santa will kill your dog. Make sure you give him a lot to drink before you do this and go somewhere where there are no public restrooms in sight.&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;</li><li dir="ltr">Tell your child that you&rsquo;re sorry, but this year Santa has decided that every other child who comes to sit on his knee will be abducted on Christmas Eve and there&rsquo;s no way of knowing which is which.&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;</li><li dir="ltr">If all else fails, give your child a merry little pinch on the upper arm right before he or she goes up for the photo. Ho ho ho and a ha ha ha!</li></ul></p> Tue, 18 Dec 2012 10:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-12/tips-guaranteeing-perfect-scared-santa-photo-104443 Getting into the Christmas (consumer) spirit http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-12/getting-christmas-consumer-spirit-104301 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_17347282_4e518338dc_z.jpg" title="Black Friday Christmas shoppers at Macy's. (Flickr/ pnoeric)" /></p><p>At least since the time I was in college (which was right after Guttenberg came up with the idea of a printing press), economists have been using the Christmas gift-buying season an indices by which to measure the health of the national economy. Depending on whose statistics you want to accept, 40 to 60 percent of all consumer sales happen during the holiday season (Thanksgiving to approximately January 15). In the last few years of course, Christmas sales volume has taken on an extra special significance. As the Recession drags on, businesses look more and more to the spike in sales usually associated with Christmas in order to perk up their overall sales numbers for the year. Consequently, more and more gimmicks have been created to draw people into the holiday shopping frenzy. The traditional &ldquo;Black Friday&rdquo; sales have now been expanded to &ldquo;Black Wednesday Pre-sales,&rdquo; and some chain stores and local stores have &ldquo;Black Thursday&rdquo; sales. (Question: Between three NFL football games and expanding shopping opportunities, will American families actually have time to eat?)</p><p>According to research generated by the National Retailers Foundation, the average holiday shopper will spend $749.51 on gifts, decorations, greeting cards, and various Christmas tsotchkes. The NRF is also forecasting that total holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion.</p><p>The commercialization of Christmas is now a foregone conclusion, and I don&rsquo;t think that there is any way to stop it or slow it down. In fact, it can be argued that for the health of the economy and stability of society and our way of life, we need to continuously strive to grow our Christmas consumer patterns. Having said all of this, I do think we all need to pause in our consumer pursuits, at least for a moment, and reflect on the larger significance of the season.</p><p>In the Christian tradition, of course, Christmas is one of the two most sacred days in the calendar, the other being Easter. At the secular level Christmas is now recognized as a cultural celebration of the winter solstice, the new year, and the &ldquo;rebirth of hope&rdquo; in the future. And yes, it&rsquo;s also about gifts and demonstrations of generosity. So buy mom, dad, the kids, your wife and friends a gift. But remember, the gifts we buy for them are only tokens of our esteem. Our true gift is that we love them and that we are thankful that they are a part of our lives.</p><p><em>Al Gini is a Professor of Business Ethics and Chairman of the Management Department in the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago.</em></p></p> Thu, 13 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-12/getting-christmas-consumer-spirit-104301