Friday Fun for the festive season

It’s the final Friday before Christmas and most people are celebrating the end of work before the festivities. So hopefully the following will get you through the last hours, or may be of some comfort on long journeys to far-flung families…

Firstly, an advent gem that will provide a lot of joy if you haven’t come across it as yet. Dave Walker (of Church Times and my trip to Uganda fame) has put his energy into a highly entertaining advent calendar of cartoons – so there’s still a few to go. The Christmas Newsletter was a particular favourite amongst family and friends. (I cannot wait to get my hands on the basket of missives the Clutterbuck family has received when I get to Belfast on Monday! Nor can I wait to read my parents’ screed, just in case they’ve written about me…)


They aren’t all hilarity-filled, some have a great deal of pathos and should make you stop and think – like this Foodbank themed one. It certainly feels apt as I look ahead to my shift at our Foodbank tomorrow morning, and continue to seethe at the way in which the government treated the debate on Foodbanks the other day.


In preparation for the holiday season, I’m gathering together some festive films to watch en route to Ireland (hello four hour train journey & two hour ferry crossing). The Muppet Christmas Carol is a favourite and was actually shown the last time I caught a ferry for Christmas, but how many of these 14 facts about the film did you already know? Most fascinating for me was the way in which the Ghost of Christmas Past was created, via a submerged Muppet and a green screen. Oh, and it includes the video of the scene that was excluded from the theatrical release on the basis that it was too sad for children (phooey) – a move that caused consternation on the release of the DVD version as its VHS predecessor had included it. Those of us who made the technological transition mourn its loss on every viewing. Oh, and the list is correct, It Feels Like Christmas *is* one of the best Christmas songs ever. Get that soundtrack added to your Christmas playlist asap!

The other holiday classic (though rather more controversial, as it’s essentially the Marmite of Christmas films) is the 10 year old Love, Actually. This isn’t ideal public transportation viewing on account of the naked stand-ins scenes (fellow travellers may think you’re watching something dodgy), but it does make you feel warm and fuzzy. Some bright spark at Buzzfeed has definitively ranked all the turtlenecks that feature in the movie. It’s a surprisingly high number of a fashion item that I don’t recall being particularly popular in 2003, but that makes it all the more hilarious. Number 10 is a particularly good one:

Love Actually turtle-necks

Of course, it’s important to remember the reason for the season too! At our family carol service last Sunday (in which I gave my first-ever all-age sermon, because that wasn’t a high-pressure occasion on which to do it…) we shared this beauty from St Paul’s Auckland. Since 2010, the New Zealand church (planted by my former church) has gained a reputation of producing utterly fabulous Christmas videos for their carol service – which takes place in an arena, with glow-sticks. Their 2012 offering was downright glorious and gave me an excellent theme for my sermon:

I cannot get over the joy of hearing “They won’t be expecting that!” in a Kiwi accent! The morning of our service was the evening of their carol service, at which their 2013 video debuted. It’s a little different from previous ones, but worth a watch nonetheless.

Finally, a piece of ridiculous seasonal music which manages to combine Christmas and musical theatre – Wicked, specifically. I give you Defying Gravity, as sung by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s a little niche, but it is possibly the best use I’ve seen of the Wicked Backing Tracks (I only my copy for moments when I like to prance around pretending that I am actually a West End star).

Friday Fun with furry things

As I predicted last week, thanks to the theme of this week’s Great British Bake Off quarter final, I have been craving biscuits. (Specifically gingerbread, which is oddly hard to find in shops at the moment – unless the entire capital was suffering the same craving.) It has therefore made me happy that two items in today’s Fun are cookie related…

Firstly, a delightful set of Dr Seuss – Star Wars mash ups:

Talking of furry things with cookies, you can never have enough of Cookie Monster. Especially when he’s doing a parody of Call Me Maybe:

Which leads me nicely to another YouTube treat, also involving characters from the Jim Henson workshop. Ben Folds Five and the Fraggles anyone? Yes, I thought so…

Whilst we’re talking song parodies and hairy creatures, regular blog readers will be familiar with my love of Josh Groban. Honestly, the man can do nothing wrong in my eyes. At the recent Emmy’s he did a fabulous job of paying (mock) tribute to comedian Jimmy Kimmel via a parody of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful. [Incidentally, I actually think that’s one of the best pop songs ever. Can’t stand the band itself, but the lyrics are incredibly empowering and I do like to dance around the lounge to it.] 
Finally, something genuinely furry and a little bit more intellectual. Have you ever encountered Henri, le Chat Noir? A delightful creature who continually seems to be fighting ennui in a typically French and feline fashion, it’s not your average cat YouTube video, but a step above the usual fodder. Below is the first of three gems:

Friday Fun with animals and politicians

Ahhh, the first Friday of the school year. All around the country, teachers will be breathing a sigh of relief that it’s the weekend, while parents are bemoaning the return of their children after only just giving them back to the education system again. On both counts, it’s a day in need of fun…

It’s been a while since the last Friday Fun and as a result, the notes in my phone of things to highlight have become a little mysterious. I’m particularly disappointed that, despite Googling, I can’t work out what gem ‘hamsters eating popcorn’ referred to – but fortunately, I have another hamster gem that fills the void. I believe the title – 2 hamsters, 1 wheel – says it all.

Animals are traditional Friday Fun fodder, as are amusing musical videos. Occasionally, Star Wars themed things are fun too, so this re-interpretation of Call Me Maybe using all six Star Wars movies is doubly fun. (Warning: features Jar Jar Binks.) 
Moving on to some slightly more niche fun, many of you will be aware that election season is hotting up over the pond. Most of the time, us Brits watch proceedings with disbelief at who is considered a potential leader of the free world, but every so often we get inspired too – like after Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton’s speeches to the Democratic convention this week. I’ll always have a soft spot for Bill Clinton, partly because he made my A-level in US politics so much more interesting than it might have been thanks to the Starr Report and the impeachment process, and partly because he’s the only US President I’ve ever got close to physically. [No, not in *that* way, obviously, well, maybe not that obviously given it’s Clinton we’re talking about…] He gave a lecture at my university in my 3rd year and I got to see him walk into a building – that was pretty exciting as far as I was concerned. Anyway, the niche fun is a trove of campaign videos from the winner of ever Presidential election since 1952 and it makes for fascinating watching.
Being the geek I am, I watched them chronologically from 1952 onwards. I’d recommend starting in that year, if only because Eisenhower’s film was short, animated and had a catchy song. After that, skip through the others until you get to Nixon whose films – in hindsight – are quite frankly creepy. Courtesy of the Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate is a brilliant resource. As well as the films, the details of each candidate and the results of the election are covered too, so it’s both fun and educational. 
If you need a little antidote to that rather high-brow fun, I’ll close with another clip I’ve realised I’ve had opened in a browser tab for about the last month (possibly longer) presumably so I’d remember to include it for Friday Fun. It combines two of my favourite things: The Muppets and When Harry Met Sally. I’ll leave you to figure out the rest…