Last week, this news service spoke about upon Christmas/Holiday shopping frenzy using high tech gadgets that guide the shopper in what to buy, where to buy, and how to purchase the items in question, mostly using smart phones that everyone seems to have on their person. These little devices assist those in what to do through their normal activity what until a few years ago, was completed by the emotional wits and aspirations of the shopper. In other words, one did all of the work themselves!
     Using the above scenario as a guide, one would suspect that every shopper out in the mall or in cyberspace are using electronic devices to get all of their seasonal buying down, and won’t be able to function without one of these hand held machines.
     Guess what? Not everyone is shopping this way! There are a few (and we do mean a few) shoppers out there are are using what’s called the “old fashioned” method to spend for the season by knowing what to get, where to get it, and obtaining the item without even picking up their phone device to do all of the work. Granted, there people tend to be a bit seasoned (that’s a polite term meaning that they tend to be older), and are used to doing their research by getting printed ads-the ones that tend to be part of the Sunday paper-as well as making a few phone calls to find out what’s in stock where.
     One person that this writer is aware of is a 70-ish woman named Edna. She is a woman living in a bedroom community located in the San Fernando Valley. She became a widow when her spouse passed away a few years ago. Her two kids (now adults) live within the area and have families of their own. Edna retired from the local school district in the middle 2000’s. She also adores Christmas, and will also remind one that she doesn’t do “holiday” shopping, but “Christmas” shopping!! And as one suspects, she lives upon her own terms, no matter what her adult kids may dictate to her!
    Edna is one of those that maintain her life with the minimal amount of high tech gadgetry. Although she does have a smart phone as provided by her daughter Michelle because of the phone using touch screen technology, her TV set is the same CRT device she last purchased new  in 1995. She still drives her 1993 Buick LeSaber that was also purchased new (127,000 original miles and counting) and can get around on her own. She is pleased that she can conduct normal activities on a solo basis. However, she dose all of the Christmas antics on her own.
     Edna is currently out on a spending frenzy, obtaining gifts for everyone on her list, from her two kids and their spouses, for her own set of “gal pals” as she calls ‘em, as well as the three grand kids that make up part of her family. She also hosts lavish get togethers for the season. (It was reported that her annual Thanksgiving dinner event had 40+ plus folks in attendance!) In short, this time of year is her favorite, outside of the birthday celebrations for her many family members.
     But this woman of age doesn’t feel that all of this technology has made anyone smarter. In fact, she believes it was the opposite reaction where no one can think on their own, only to use an app to obtain the results.
     “When I spoke to Tony this morning” said Edna to this writer recently, referring to her daughter’s husband “He said that he has to use his phone just to find directions to the (shopping mall) that’s only two miles away! Why couldn’t he look at a real map to find out where the place was?”
     Edna feels that the changing times has passed her by not having these elements cater toward her needs. But she isn’t too concerned over these changes. She herself witnessed many of the changing times that occurred within her lifestyle. But in spite of those new creations, she will conduct her shopping through printed ads in the paper, through phone calls made to the store, as well as getting a bit of held from her daughter Michelle that is just as wired as any Gen Xers would be. When her mom needs to find out the current hours of a local retail outlet, Michelle whips out her iPhone 6 to get the information for her mom in a moment’s notice.
     The real moral to this story that although things may seen a bit easy to conduct thanks to the new methods of living, sometimes it just takes a bit of wit, skill, and the emotional drive to make it all happen. And if Edna finds out upon what she desires, that makes things all the better–app or no app!
                                       NEWS AND REVIEWS
     The Santa Monica Playhouse presents David Sedaris’ modern classic, THE SANTALAND DIARIES, a true tale about one person’s experience playing an elf at Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan.
     Matthew Wrather is featured as the “elf”. As a unemployed writer looking for work, he answers a newspaper ad for seasonal employment at Macy’s store at Harold Square, employed as a costumed elf found around the Santa display. After going through the process of applying for this coveted job, he tells many of the stories that occurred as an elf, working with the other “elves” who in turn were in reality starving actors and dancers, taking this role between gigs. An outsider may find this job donning red and white striped tights, turned up shoes, a forest green colored smock, as well as a pointy hat an easy assignment. It’s not, considering what he has to do and what he encounters for the sake of keeping the shoppers happy while they visit the “world’s largest store” during retaildom’s busiest and perhaps most profitable time of year.
     This solo show featuring Matthew Wrather as the one time full-time elf, plays his part as a man that at first loves his work, only to change his mind by the time December 24th rolls around! This piece, originally presented as a verbal essay by writer David Sedaris on National Public Radio in the early 1990’s, was later adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello. This little tale of a job one loved to hate (and perhaps vice versa) shows how comical and charming it still remains. And Matthew as the elf is in the center of it all! With costuming by Ashley Hayes along with Victor Sonnora’s set design, one can picture this elf (named “Crumpet”) running around the Santa Department at Macy’s herding as many kids of all ages to see Santa. And although these kids of all ages are there for good ol’ Kris Kringle, it’s recommended that only adult kids take part of this show at the Santa Monica Playhouse as it tends to become a bit “blue” at times, in spite of all of the red and green abound!
     Directed by Chris DeCarlo, THE SANTALAND DAIRIES can be noted as a mini epic where a job, even labeled as temporary, can be memorable in its own right. This also provides what the holiday season is really all about. If one doesn’t believe this fact, one of Santa’s elves will tell you! (Just ask for Crumpet!)

     THE SANTALAND DIARIES, presented by and performs at The Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street (at Wilshire Blvd.), Santa Monica, until December 20th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 3:30 PM. For ticket reservations, call (310) 394-9779, or via online at
     THE BIG SHORT (Paramount) tells the tale of a group of outsiders that deal in the world of high finance. Ben Rickert and Michael Burry (Brad Pitt and Christian Bale) work in on checking up upon mortgages set by the big financial institutions. It’s the middle 2000s where there is a boom market in home sales, and the mortgage loans that the big banks are lending out appear to be out of control, lending to those that don’t seem to qualify–but somehow do! These sort of loans are certain to default with the next few years, ready to take down the economy as they knew it. A banker that plays on Wall Street, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) gets wind of Michael’s financial game plan, he persuades a hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Cartell) that he should invest in these credit default swaps. In the meantime, a pair of young and savvy money managers Jamie Shipley and Charlie Geller (Finn Wittrock and John Magaro) also stagger upon this housing-market bubble. They want to get a piece of this action, but they’re distressed to find their $30k kitty falls nearly $1.5 billion short of the requirements needed for a seat on this financial bandwagon. They enlist Ben, who uses his savvy connections to help them make their own bet against the Wall Street gang, winning on the market while homeowners lose their homes and their lifestyles
     This title speaks for the housing bubble and burst that did occur in the late 00’s and was the kickoff of the “Great Recession” of the recent few years. Taking its base from Michael Lewis’ book of the same name and its basis from actual events, this feature offers a rather complex method of forming its story into one where the viewer has to really pay attention to get all of the facts and figures expressed! (No multitasking allowed!) The screenplay by Adam McKay & Charles Randolph tells a lot while offering a crash course into the method of how banks offered mortgages to those that could pay, and to those that couldn’t. Although it’s billed as a drama, there is plenty of comic relief found in this feature. There are even moments where the characters speak directly to the camera, breaking that important yet invisible “fourth fall”–a movie making method done usually to express comedy than drama. Adam McKay, a person that is best known of directing comedy features mostly starring Will Ferrell, takes charge here in his presence as director. He does a great task mixing drama and comedy, although the drama is a little on the lighter side. That “drama lite” is actually a good notion, since heavy drama only holds out for period films and those titles that seem to only exist for award receiving purposes!
     And speaking of awards, will THE BIG SHORT ever be considered for any of those movie related prizes that are presented between early January and late February? The simple answer to that question is a expected “yes”! Paramount Pictures, the studio that released this film, doesn’t have many considerations to play with this season that might pick the minds of those guild voting members, so they are tossing this title to those same  voters! (Disclaimer: The writer belongs to one of those voting guilds!) Regardless, it is a well made film to experience. As also expected, it doesn’t have the “fun” appeal as a action/adventure film released in the summer months would contain. But that’s OK for what that is! Then again, when was the subject of the act of losing one’s home due to foreclosure ever been considered as “fun”? Not if one still remains homeless!
     This feature is rated “R” for cussing and brief nudity. Now playing in selected theaters, and opens nationwide on December 23rd.
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