Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Introduction by Gowdy Cannon

He left a mark on American Culture which is as unique and inimitable as could be. A few years ago, in a Facebook tournament I did on people who influenced your love for fantasy, I included him alongside names like Tolkien and Disney. Because he deserved it. Very few children in the U.S for the last several decades have escaped his influence. And considering how he took something as crucial to development as learning to read and crafted words and pictures to make us long for more books and to reread the same ones over and over, I would say his legacy in this arena is unrivaled.

So to honor what would have been the 114th birthday of Theodore Seuss Geisel, we pay tribute to five Dr. Seuss books that were formative to our childhoods and that have even impacted our adulthoods.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas – by D.A. Speer

As with (I assume) most other people in America, almost every childhood holiday season the animated Grinch movie would somehow end up on our TV. It usually wasn’t deliberate on my family’s part. The television would be on, and one of the major networks would be airing it. Thus, my memory of the story was piecemeal at best. And my most recent memory of it involved Jim Carrey, but we won’t speak of “that one.”

This past year while we were in Japan, my daughter suffered greatly from bacterial meningitis and made a miraculous recovery from both that *and* a mass/tumor that they discovered behind her eyes. After we moved back the States and she was given a clean bill of health, we were in shock. I think we might still be. Thus, I wanted to make this past Christmas extra special, because I was celebrating with my special daughter.

I hyped up the movie for her one day, and we sat down on the couch that evening to watch it, my arm around hers. I’m sure it was the first time I have seen it through as an adult.

I soon realized while I was watching just what it was that kept Dr. Seuss’s works alive and relevant after all these years. It wasn’t the nostalgia. It wasn’t the artwork. It wasn’t that it was kitschy or had meme value. It was simply the heart.

When the townspeople gather together after all of their stuff is taken and happily sing their song anyway, I was completely overwhelmed. Tears started flowing.

“Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.”

I hugged my daughter that much closer.

Hop On Pop – by Gowdy Cannon

A huge draw to Dr. Seuss has always been how he combines simplicity with zaniness to produce education and Hop on Pop is a premier example. This book is a riot to read and as a kid you probably do not realize how much you are learning about English sounds. As I’ve written recently, English is extremely inconsistent with pronunciation yet the good Doctor found some very common patterns and put them to at times nonsensical, other times pointed and yet always delightful phrases. I could live to be 100 and never forget the fish in the tree. Yet the quick wit of Dr. Seuss responds “How can that be?” And I will always associate this book with wanting to hop on my dad and him letting us (though not quite like in the book). Put this together with Seuss’s hilarious illustrations and you have a timeless classic of a book.

This book to me is more entertaining than half of the TV episodes I have watched. At nearly 40 years old, it still tickles my brain.

And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street – by Benjamin Plunkett

As a child, I read and owned around 20 books by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). No other books, juvenile or adult, have done more to inspire my imagination through both writing and imagery. The most imagination-inspiring and thus my favorite Seuss book of all is And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Upon researching this book for REO I was surprised to discover that this was the very first children’s book that he wrote in 1937.  The story goes that he wrote the story to alleviate the immense boredom while traveling on a ship. And presto changeo, his first of a long and legendary line of children’s books that inspired imagination in millions of kids for decades.

If you are not familiar with the story, you should be. Look it up now. The entire text of the book is online for free.  Wow. Marco’s imagination really grows on Mulberry Street. First it is just a horse and cart, then the horse turns into a zebra, then the cart turns into a chariot, and on and on it goes until finally there is a squad of policemen on motorcycles guiding two giraffes and an elephant pulling a wagon with a big brass band pulling another wagon with an old man watching them in awe. And that’s not all. Marco’s imagination has spawned more stuff than you can, well, imagine. But Seuss could and he did. It is not an overestimation to say that Seuss probably had more of an impact on generations of children through his unforgettably imaginative writing, incredibly clever storylines, and the unfailing beauty of his signature illustrations than history’s many pop culture personalities. Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss, may your works continue to impact children for many more years.

Green Eggs and Ham – by Phill Lytle

Sam (aka: Sam-I-am) is persistent. He is a bit pesky. It’s no wonder the unnamed curmudgeon at the center of Green Eggs and Ham is so curmudgeonly. Sam just will not leave him alone. Sam-I-am makes his appearance riding the back of a happy-go-lucky creature while holding a sign announcing who he is….because, who wouldn’t want to know who Sam is? Our humorless curmudgeon makes it clear at the outset that he does not care for Sam-I-am. So Sam does the most logical thing: he offers the grump some green eggs and ham. It’s a hard pass on the green eggs and ham for Mr. Curmudgeon but Sam does not give up because he knows that if he can get his new “friend” to try this delicious meal, everything will change.

Sam is a genius. A happy, creative, crazy genius. His new friend – the curmudgeon – does not really dislike green eggs and ham. He dislikes Sam. We don’t know why, but page 9 makes that perfectly clear. So Sam decides to wear him down. He presents one absurd option after another. Each more ridiculous than the one before. There are goats, boxes, and trains involved. By the end, Sam triumphs. The curmudgeon eats the green eggs and ham. He loves the green eggs and ham. He smiles. He puts his hand on Sam’s back. He thanks Sam-I-am. They are friends indeed.

Only 50 words. That was all it took. The entire story, all 62 pages, used only 50 different words. That was the genius of Dr. Seuss. In this book, arguably his most popular, he used silly characters, crazy antics, and inventive rhymes to teach us how to try new things, how to deal with grumpy people, and how to admit when we are wrong and make amends.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! – by Amy Lytle

“You can go anywhere and be anything!”

Except when you can’t.

“You are so amazing, everyone will love you!”

Except when they don’t.

And that little word “except” is what makes me, a person who isn’t very emotional, choke up nearly every time I read Oh, the Places You’ll Go! In addition to Seuss’ typical style of rhyme and imaginative word usage, he tackles the truth that life is hard and doesn’t always go as planned, even for the brainiest and the footsy-est.

It’s a book about grit.

As a teacher and a mother, I’ve read and studied and researched the concept of instilling resilience in children. We now have the research that shows the tell-everyone-they-are-great concept of building self-esteem does not work. Kids are too smart for empty words. Dr. Seuss was ahead of the research, publishing Places in 1990. He tells kids they have some choices in life, and even with brilliance and a sense of adventure, things don’t always work out. But they should keep moving.

He tells them the truth.

That’s five. There are so many more stories to talk about. We would love to hear about your favorites in the comment section below.



In Undying Devotion to the Royal Fork

Last February when I related the manifold greatnesses of the mighty spoon, I made fun of the fork a little bit. My forky friends were a little hurt. They wept long and hard right to the tips of their prongy, prong, prongs. Just kidding. I don’t really have any forky friends. That being said, I still love forks. Last year I said that, along with knives, forks have their own superior clique. While this is true, they kind of deserve their superior snootiness. Here are five great things about forks:

The Table Fork is the King of Eating Utensils

At home we have two kinds of eating forks: Table forks and salad forks. I don’t know how or when in the history of my family we picked up the salad forks, but I have grown to greatly loathe them with a deep and abiding hatred. I am convinced that they are Satan’s personal utensil of choice and this is what he uses instead of a pitchfork. A more effeminate utensil than the salad fork has never before graced the table of man. I want nothing to do with its fat, stubby, losery prongs. I suppose they are the proper tool for salads, and there are forks for fish, and there are forks for desert, and there are forks for this and for that. I think there is even a fork combing your hair before dinner. I think. It’s all snooty, pretentious stuff, so I don’t care. Pretentious paupers, all of ‘em. Long live the table fork, I always say, may its prongs always remain long and shiny. May the Man Fork of our hearts ever be true.

The Blue Raja is the Ambassador of the King Fork and His Kingdom

If you are not familiar with the Blue Raja of Mystery Men fame, you are missing out on one of the greatest superheroes of all time. Girded with his spoons and forks, he seeks to rid the world of evil. According to Old Blue, himself his weapon of choice is the trusty fork. In the midst of his busy and daily good guy living and bad person fighting he has ascended to become the perfect ambassador of the forky king and its cutlery kingdom. I will never—never!—forget the immortal words of this giant of forkdom: “May the forks be with us!”

The Royalty of the Special Royal Fork is Nostalgic

About 100 or so years ago when I was growing up we had a very rare fork in our utensil drawer. We called it the royal fork. It was rare because I thought so; and, if something is rare, dude, that makes it way more special. In actuality, it was probably just picked up at Kmart or Sears or something. Anyway, it was extra special to me and my siblings because the handle was all flowery, totally unlike the plain peasant forks that we used every day. There was always loud jubilation and heavy boasting on the part of the happy person who happened to get this prized utensil.

Its Worthy Name Lends itself Beautifully to Several Different Sayings

Some of the greatest sayings in history owe their existence to the fork. I’m looking at you “A fork of in the road”, “fork it over”, and “stick a fork in it.” We have no idea what a great debt of gratitude we owe to this little silver invention. Without it, these sayings (and maybe others) would be forced to use another less effective utensil. It is possible that another utensil could have taken its place, but somehow it seems morally and ethically and confusingly wrong to say “a knife in the road” or “spoon it over” or “stick a ladle in it.”

It is the Finest Eating Utensil Know to Civilized Mankind

Although the spoon and knife are both older, the fork was a much more civilized eating utensil and has been used at the dinner table in some form or other since around 400 B.C. You will notice that normal civilized people these days don’t stick food in their mouths with a knife. (Plus, it’s stupid since you might accidentally stab your tongue.) The spoon is often used for the whole plate/bowl to mouth routine, but the fork is used by grownups most of the time. Most of the time. The modern fork is totally cool if you just want to use your hands like a caveman.

Five Great TV Couples

To celebrate Valentine’s Day (a little early) we decided to shine the spotlight on a few of our favorite TV couples. However, we wanted our list to be a little different than a “best of.” It would be easy to write about some of the most well-known and loved couples in television history. Couples like the Huxtables from The Cosby Show. Or Ricky and Lucy from I love Lucy. Instead of that, we chose to focus on a few lesser known examples of good, strong, admirable TV marriages. We hope you enjoy our list and we hope you will add your two cents in the comment section below.

Wash and Zoe – Firefly

I’m not sure that there has ever been a TV couple so opposite that still completely adored each other. Zoe, the ultra-fit gun-toting, silent warrior woman and Wash a jovial, fun-loving, happy-go-lucky pilot. And yet their marriage is perfection nearly all of the time. If you have watched the show Firefly at all, you will know the very real passionate love that existed between the two. While they are fully committed to the crew—and Zoe is more loyal to the captain than anyone—it is still all about their marriage to them. Through all the intense activity they manage to maintain their little cocoon of eternal love and bliss. Their relationship didn’t start out that way, though. Not surprisingly, Wash’s manner rubbed Zoe the wrong way when they first meet in “Out of Gas.” During that encounter, she quickly determined she didn’t like him. How things changed. Most reading this have also seen Serenity, the Firefly movie that is a sequel to its epic one-season run. However, some readers may have inexplicably opted out. If that is the case, I will not spoil the specifics about how their life of bliss is finally torn about. But their love goes on and lives forever in our hearts through repeated viewings of the show. – Ben Plunkett

Eric and Tami Taylor – Friday Night Lights

Perhaps the best thing I can say about Eric and Tami Taylor is that they feel real. Friday Night Lights excelled at many things: It told poignant stories. It thrilled audiences. It created believable and fully realized characters. Yet the thing that brought many of us back was the Taylors. Coach Eric Taylor, a Texas high school football coach, poured his life into his team, his players, and his family. He was continuously required to make sacrifices with his time and energy. The great thing about it all was that he made those sacrifices with his wife Tami. They talked. They argued. They fought. But through it all, they loved each other. They compromised for each other. They took turns putting the other first so they could reach for their dreams. They did this all with genuine affection for one another, displaying love and respect all along the way. The Taylors built a family that reached well beyond the walls of their homes. They acted as parents to every player that came through the Dillon Panther program. This is all accomplished without grandiose plot lines or over-the-top dramatic conflicts. It is grounded and real. If that is not a beautiful and relatable picture of marriage, I don’t know what is. – Phill Lytle

Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was a fascinating show when it aired and has only become more so since it ended. Will Smith is the loud but lovable, the cocky but contentious star. How this show completely altered his career by vaulting him into acting, without any formal training, is a true American success story. But for his real life named role to work, his aunt and uncle had to be good people. They had to have a strong marriage. Because they took him in, adding his troubled and working-class background to their upper-class family. And I loved watching them make sacrifices to accommodate Will, yet become crucial de facto parents who stood their ground to raise him right, which is no doubt difficult when you’re talking about a teenager. Their best scenes as a couple were during more serious episodes, as when Will and Carlton get unfairly arrested and they have to go to the police station to defend them. Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv were incredible in those moments and could bring the laughter, tears and applause at the same time. A switch in actress halfway through the series for Aunt Viv changed her demeanor some but it didn’t detract from this model marriage. – Gowdy Cannon

Hal and Lois – Malcolm in the Middle

The show is a bit preposterous. It is a loud, rough-around-the-edges sitcom following the lives of Malcolm, a boy genius, and his dysfunctional yet loving family. Lois is the overbearing, never wrong, say whatever is on her mind mother. Hal is the peculiar, probably crazy father. Their relationship doesn’t always make sense. He is clueless at times, though rarely does the show fall into the overdone cliché of the “dumb dad.” Lois is portrayed as possessing almost omniscient-like powers though the show doesn’t hide from her flaws. Lois is the glue that holds the family together. She is the problem solver – the one that fixes things when the boys or Hal completely screw up. Hal’s best character trait is that he loves Lois completely. He is devoted to her in ways that sometimes wanders into the uncomfortable. Yet that is one of the main reasons I am so drawn to it. It is rare that a husband is presented in such a love-struck manner – especially in a couple that has been together as long as Hal and Lois have when we first meet them. They are not perfect by any means, but their love is a passionate partnership and we could find much worse examples than them in popular culture. – Phill Lytle

Adam and Kristina Braverman – Parenthood

This show is such that my wife and I talked about the characters all the time as though they were real people. The title of the show tells you its main focus but for the Braverman clan, the ups and downs of marriage could not be separated out from child rearing. And one marriage rises above the rest for how exemplary it is, that of Adam and Kristina. Teenage rebellion, Aspergers, cancer, political campaigns, new babies…it didn’t matter what you threw at them, they would use it to make their relationship stronger.

By no means were they perfect and I appreciate when TV has raw moments of conflict that do not get handled well at first because just as in real life, it makes reconciliation a beautiful thing. For Adam and Kirstina, this was exceptional TV. I could list dozens of my favorite moments of theirs but I’ll limit it to two. One is at the end of Season 4 when Kristina is cancer free and they go to Hawaii, just the two of them with no kids. And the very last scene of the whole season is them running into the ocean together. So touching. It really was never just about parenthood. And second, when they discover that Hank, a more or less independently functioning adult, may have Aspergers just like Max, their conversation about it is crazy funny. They go back and forth with Adam being completely upbeat about the possibility of Max being similar one day and Kristina being skeptical because Hank definitely has issues. At one point they have this exchange:

A: He has a daughter!
K: But she doesn’t like him.
A: But she’s real!

To know Adam and his facial expression and voice inflection is to love that counter-response. I miss the Bravermans. – Gowdy Cannon



The REO Rant: February

February: A Swirling Maelstrom of Despair

I usually consider January the worst month in history, but it is close. It’s neck and neck with February. Plus, January is over, so I blew that one. No matter. February is probably just as horrible. It’s wet, cold, and completely bland. And January and February love making dark alliances to foster sickness – the everlasting crud. It drains the head, mind, and brain.

Some might say that there is Valentine’s Day, that beacon of heart-shaped joy, that holiday of eternal looove. Joy–hah! Love–my foot! Maybe love and joy if you’re a seller of flowers or chocolates or pink cards. Because that’s all V Day is really, just a big old marketing gimmick. (Okay, fine, I’m good with the chocolate since it heals the soul and keeps Dementors at bay.)

In truth, February is so pathetic and losery a month that it couldn’t even work up to as many days as its 11 brothers and sisters. And the number it does have always jumps back and forth from 29 to 28. So not only is it pathetic and losery, it’s also incredibly fickle.

Truth be told, pretty sure January has an edge in the race since I am practically drowned in its particular brand of the swirling maelstrom of despair every year. With February, the dark, dirty waters of another maelstrom are all too near, but I usually manage to elude them. Usually. Sometimes, though, I do almost drown in it like the best of ‘em. So let’s just go ahead and say that both are equally malevolent and dark and pretty much the worst thing ever. I say we abolish them both from the calendar completely. Let us never speak of them again. May it be as if they had never been born. Strike their names from our records. So let it be written. So let it be done.

Something in the Nothing

The Bible does not say this is the case, but it seems logical to assume that God’s first three creations were darkness, space, and time. I believe that these three constituted a kind of cosmic canvas which our universe required. It is also my belief that one of the reasons God spent six orderly days in creation was to symbolically celebrate and fill these three things. The tangible objects of the universe filled the space, the lights filled the darkness, and the moments of the days commenced time. Let’s look at each one of these things specifically.


Time is a fascinating mystery that has not ceased movement since creation began. In cooperation with space, time was needed for anything in the created universe to exist. There is a clever saying that says “God created time to keep things from happening all at once.” Very clever, but think about it. If time did not exist yet, where did all the “onces” in this scenario come from? “Once” is time. If there was no time there would not be any at onces at all.


As mentioned, time requires cooperation with space. Space defines time and time defines space. Any space at all would mean there is at least one “once” or moment of time. Earth was the first moment of space. It wouldn’t have been able to be created at all if space and time did not first exist. That is, with the rules of nature that God instituted. If He had wanted to, He could have instituted an entirely other set of rules. But He didn’t. Before the beginning, there was nothing—not even an atom whose mere existence would itself suggest time. We can assume these things if we are also assuming that time suggests space and space suggests time.

Then earth and all the other objects in the universe kept on existing. We are talking about a forward motion into many billions and billions of moments. If we are going with the view that the earth is about 6,000 years old and depending on several factors, that’s over 189,000,000,000 seconds. That’s a lot of moments.


John 1:3 tells us that Jesus who is God made all things and that nothing came into existence without Him. Darkness is one of these many things. Some assume that darkness must have existed with God before He created anything. Are we saying, then, there is an object that wasn’t created by God? Rather I think that our feeble minds can only really imagine pre-creation as God floating around in the dark when in reality it is just one of those things our finite minds can because it involves something that preceded anything that we know. It’s like imagining heaven; we can only really do so with pictures of things here in our universe that we know.

Time, space, and darkness. God Himself did not and does not need these or any other thing that governs the nature of our universe to exist. He never has and never will. He is Father of light, beyond time, beyond space. He made these things for us and for His glory. He is obsessed with us that we might become obsessed with Him. And God’s obsessive preoccupation with humanity doesn’t seem to change throughout the entirety of the Bible or history for that matter. He remains wholeheartedly fixated on us. God’s infinite grace was displayed on the very first day in creating something at all. And it never stopped. Time, space, and darkness may end with this present universe. God’s love and grace won’t.

The Five Turns 100: Remembering the First Five Fives

It started with Ben.

He had an idea to list Five Reasons Not to be Scared of the Monsters Under Your Bed. It was an article to be released on a Friday when REO was just a few weeks old. And it was quite hilarious.

Then, Amy had the idea to try to do something similar the next Friday and thought it would great to keep it going. She told Phill, Phill told it to us and we loved it.  And out of this, the REO Friday Five was born. We have tried every week on Friday the last two years to publish a list of five entries that have something in common. Some have been funny. Some have been deeply theological. Some have been sports-related. They all have been an expression of the DNA of Rambling Ever On.  A few times we came up short (here, here, and here if you are curious) of a weekly Friday Five, but 97% of the time we have succeeded.

And today we celebrate our 100th effort at the Friday Five by looking back on the Five Fives that started it all. All the way back to January and February of 2016. These Five Fives are the pioneers so to speak of this longstanding REO tradition. And we appreciate them very much. And today we acknowledge them and reminisce about our beginnings and how each of these Fives foreshadowed what REO was going to be like, not just on Friday, but all the time. I mean, even the best sitcoms had good clip shows! – Gowdy Cannon

Ben Plunkett’s “5 Reasons Not to Be Afraid of the Monster Under the Bed”

This is what separates Rambling Ever On from other sites out there. Sure, we could spend all of our energy and time writing about spirituality and theology. Or, we could have article after article about music, movies, or current events. Frankly, we aren’t interested in limiting ourselves to that standard stuff.

Enter Ben Plunkett. If you have been reading REO for any time at all, you know Ben follows the beat of his own drummer. When others write about the latest political scandal Ben says, “Nope. Not for me.” Instead, he delivers some new form of insane genius. Take our very first Five as the perfect example. Who else is going to write with any sense of intelligence or articulation about monsters under the bed? Ben brings wit, humor, and just a dash of absolute madness to his writing and we are all better off for it. The Five on REO got started right and we have Ben Plunkett to thank for that. It is a philosophy that has guided us ever since. – Phill Lytle

Amy Lytle’s “Five Steps to Become the BEST Facebook Mother of All Time”

One of the things I appreciate about REO is the creative and appropriate use of sarcasm. It was the REO staff that convinced me that using irony this way can be an effective way to communicate and not always mean-spirited.

Our very second Five falls into this category. Amy’s REO articles have been some of our best-performing articles based on the number of views and this one is no different. Because I think people appreciate the humorous take on the reality of how people use Facebook. We have seen many other articles follow suit, including a whole Five on trash talk, but this was the one that set the tone. Superbly done and still relevant (and probably will be for years to come), we are very proud of this entry into our annals. – Gowdy Cannon

Collaborative “Five Romantic Movies Even Men Can Love”

This was the first collaborative Five. Often, we come up with a topic that many of our contributors care about and we figure the best way to make those articles work is to make it a team effort. As REO is primarily a male-driven website, we knew that Valentines Day was not going to be high on our priority list. But, we did not want to completely ignore it, so we opted to write about movies with a strong romantic theme that even men might enjoy. It was a perfect fit for what we do and it was the first of many collaborative articles on REO. It was also the beginning of REO trying to make our reader’s lives better – something we continue to do even to this day. You’re welcome. – Phill Lytle


Gowdy Cannon’s “Five Times Harry Potter Made Me Reflect On Real Life”

This was the fourth Five and offered a look at some wise and biblical advice from the pages of the magnum opus of J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter book series is a truly classic children’s fantasy line of literature. And it’s more than just the storyline itself that makes it great. Much more. It is multi-faceted and many-layered in its meaning and depth. It does not take a lot of study to show that there are actually quite a bit of Christian truths that can be gleaned from its pages. Mega-Potterite, Gowdy Cannon, has delved into its pages many times. Here he lays out five great truths he has learned from Harry Potter (the book series not necessarily the character). In Five Times Harry Potter Made Me Reflect on Real Life he does exactly that. He considers five very insightful quotes from various characters that taught him certain lessons about life in our real-life Muggle world. We learn from the faithful House Elf, Dobby, about greatness and goodness; from Harry’s adoptive father, Sirius Black (in two quotes), about judging the true quality of a person and the true face of evil; from the great and inimitable wizard, Albus Dumbledore, on the surest way to wreak damage upon an individual: indifference and neglect; and from best friends Ron Weasley and Harry Potter on the nature of repentance and forgiveness. – Ben Plunkett

Phill Lytle’s “Five Words and Phrases That Need to Go Away”

I confess this is one of my favorite articles and one of the finest things we have done in my opinion. The content is exceptional on its own–clever and with a pulse on our culture’s extremely odd popular jargon. To paraphrase Ben, I cotton especially to the one about “Loving On” people because in the American Church this gets said all time. And it keeps getting said even though Phill and others–including some popular comedians–have called it out. It’s like a massive freight train of geeky Christianese. But Phill’s take on it is the best I’ve seen. And the conversation about “it is what it is” makes me cry laughing. It’s like a modernized Abbott and Costello routine.

But beyond the writing, the illustrations are LOL funny, so much that I’ve laughed while reading it for the 4th or 5th time. The simplicity of the way the searing logic is presented…the faces of the “men”…the exploding head…it’s all gold.

I bet I’ve referenced this article in public as much or more than any other in REO history. And we reference it yet again today, as being a Five that let the world know how acute our web site’s humor was going to be. – Gowdy Cannon

Five Way Over the Top Comedic Villains

Loud, spiteful, completely selfish, and downright bad to the bone, some villains are so over the top bad it is hilarious. That’s a good thing if that is intended to be the case. Here are five great comedic over the top villains who gloried in the depths of their own fiendish badness and made us love them for it.

Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone

There are a lot of reasons to love the 1963 Disney masterpiece, The Sword in the Stone. Take Merlin for example. He is grumpy, funny, powerful, and wears Burmuda shorts. Or you could praise the songs. They are memorable, catchy, and actually develop the plot, the themes, and the characters.

But any worthwhile list of the positives found in this film has to include Madam Mim. She is spectacularly disgusting. She is stupendously conniving. She cackles, screeches, and waddles her way through her scene-stealing, scenery-chewing appearance. She proves to be a formidable foe to the wise and powerful Merlin and it takes him plundering the depths of his wisdom and knowledge to defeat her in their “Wizards’ Duel.” – Phill Lytle

Evil from Time Bandits

The 1981 film, Time Bandits, is a comedic, science fiction, time travel adventure British film that is very reminiscent of Monty Python. There is a good reason for that since it was written by two former Monty Python cast members. In fact, the two say they based several of the main characters on their former MP co-conspirators. There are a lot of reasons to love this gem. Possibly my favorite reason is the way over the top comedic villain, Evil, who is portrayed by the perfectly cast, David Warner. Evil can’t leave his Fortress of Ultimate Darkness so is forced to spend all day with his dirty, buffoonish minions, Robert and Benson, bragging about how wonderfully, truly evil he is:

“Evil: Oh, Robert, Benson. I feel the power of evil coursing through my veins, filling every corner of my being with the desire to do wrong! I feel so bad, Benson!

Benson: Good! Good!

Evil: Yes, it is good, for this is the worst kind of badness that I’m feeling!”

— Ben Plunkett

White Goodman from Dodgeball

After the roaring with laughter ’90s and its timeless, laugh a minute classics like Tommy Boy and Dumb and Dumber, the first part of this century lagged behind in the comedy movie category. With a couple of major exceptions. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, a riot of LOL moments, was one.

There are several reasons why this movie works to me. Dodging wrenches, Cotton and Pepper, and a totally random and completely unforgettable Chuck Norris sighting among them. But not to be outshined is Ben Stiller as the superbly named White Goodman, owning every scene he is in as the trash talking fountain of hubris who wants nothing more than to vanquish the Average Joe’s with a few dodgeball shots to the cabeza (White has been thinking of opening up a gym in Mexico City, so he’s boning up on his Spanish). With trailer-worthy quotes like “Nobody makes me bleed my own blood” and epic verbal putdowns like “Your gym is a skid-mark on the underpants of society,” White fills our cup with nectar of the comedy gods.

White is better than other over-the-top villains and he knows it. And for that reason, he makes our list. –Gowdy Cannon

Professor Fate from The Great Race

Unkempt, mean, selfish, dressed all in black (complete with a top hat), Professor Fate (played by Jack Lemmon) is intended to embody the stereotypical classic villain. And he does just that with comedic flair. Fate lives the life of a daredevil whose all-consuming passion is to defeat his archrival, the clean, flawless, completely white-clad, and all around perfect, stereotypical classic hero, The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis). With the assistance of his loyal minion, Max (Peter Falk), Fate challenges Leslie to a race around the world. A number of other racers are involved in the race as well, but it is really between the two of them. As devious and underhanded as he is, Fate has tampered with the cars of most of his opponents to ensure their early exit from the race. All fall except for the car of Maggie Dubois (Natalie Wood), who was not given any chance whatsoever to win anyway, so Fate didn’t bother. She joins forces with Leslie and thus finishes the race. After everything, Fate ends up winning, but that doesn’t do it for him. Beating Leslie at daredeviling is just an excuse. He really just hates the perfectly good and clean Leslie with every fiber of his being:

“I hate you! You I hate! You and your hair that’s always combed, your suit that’s always white, your car that’s always clean! I refuse to accept! I challenge you to another race!”

–Ben Plunkett

Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore

If your film’s protagonist is an over-the-top, loudmouth, buffoon, then your antagonist has their work cut out for them. Fortunately for all lovers of this Adam Sandler classic, Shooter McGavin is more than up to the task. From the popped collar and arrogant strut to the terrible comeback insults, Shooter is a villain that takes a back seat to no one.

One hallmark of memorable films is that the bigger the villain the greater their inevitable fall. And Shooter McGavin’s fall is just one more fortuitous blessing provided by the film. His mad dash with the Gold Jacket as he is being chased by a mob led by Mr. Larson is a thing of poetic and comedic beauty.

–Phill Lytle

That’s our list. Now it is your turn. Who are some of your favorite comedic villains? We would love to read about them. Post your thoughts in the comment section below.

He Lies Laying

The v-like manger-cradle
balanced the babe in a bed
so cold but comfortable
    He lay

in the midst of the struggle
the manger-cradle king
with star-found worship
    He lay

when they saw heaven on earth
in the clouds greater than the sun
between the branches of David’s line
    He lay.

Our winter stars shine in adorned
worship when heaven on earth
    lies laying

grace in the midst of our struggle, the
v-like manger-cradle
balances the babe
    lies laying

love in our cold but comfortable
battle worn defense of the fire
    He lies laying

joy when He lay laying
the venom’s lies left
when we left our sins

and truly
the babe lies laying still.

Truth as White as Snow

While baby Jesus might have looked and acted like other human babies, He was more than just a human baby. He was God Himself. God the Father had sent Jesus, God the Son, not to do away with everything He said in the Old Testament, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). In other words, He came to be the physical representation and embodiment of God’s Word (John 1). He is and was the Word, the Truth of God.


What is Truth?

Truth. We know that Jesus embodied it but what exactly is it? Let’s look at it a bit, shall we? Truth is simple and complicated at the same time. Many things are true: Snow is white, trees are wooden, and stars twinkle, to name a few. Every true thing on earth involves finiteness, things that will fail at some point no matter what. But the truth, the truth of God’s word, is an infinite truth. It always has been and always will be. When people fail to find the truth that never fails, it is no wonder they get disillusioned with life. The story of Pontius Pilate is a perfect example of that. The biblically recorded encounter between Jesus and Pilate took place in either A.D. 30 or 33. In particular, among the Gospel accounts, the book of John provides some interesting details about the conversation between Pilate and Jesus. If you read between the lines, the conversation reveals that Pilate was tense and a bit disillusioned at the time. This disillusionment is highlighted by the last exchange. Here it is in all of its glory:

   “Pilate, therefore, said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus
   answered, Thou sayest I am the king. To this end was I born,
   and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear
   witness unto the truth, Everyone that is of the truth heareth
   my voice.
     Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?”

That was the very last thing he said to Jesus. It was obviously a rhetorical question. This was a question that he didn’t really think there was a good answer too. It also highlights his disillusionment and stress. It is easy to see why if you look at his political standing. Let’s start with the current Roman Emperor of that time: Tiberius. Tiberius became the emperor of the Roman Empire in 14 A.D. In 26 A.D. he temporarily semi-retired to an island named Capri, leaving a man named Sejanus as his co-regent in charge of controlling the affairs of Rome in his absence. Sejanus instituted an anti-Semitism rule and Pilate, his appointee to Judea, carried it out. And as prefect of Judea he was positioned to do so.

But Sejanus’ run as the top dog came to a hard end. In 31 A.D., two years prior to Jesus’ trial, Sejanus was executed for attempting to seize complete power. For the next two years, a witch hunt of sorts went down in which all who might have been his co-conspirator were sought for execution. Pilate would have been in a very tenuous position at this point and would not have wanted to do anything politically that would stir the already troubled waters.

In addition, Tiberius’ was already on the alert where Israel was concerned. He had realized the falsehood of many of Sejanus’ claims against the Jews and therefore ordered that their persecution cease.

Poor Pilate. Poor confused, disillusion, Pilate. That which he had considered truth was either dead or dying. And so, disgruntled, Pilate had asked Jesus, “What is truth?”
The search for truth has become a self-centered pastime. Many people are looking for the comfortable, most desirable thing to be “truth” for them. Whatever is personally most desirable is true to many.

So what exactly is truth? Many non-Christians will say that truth is whatever one thinks it is, that it’s completely subjective and different from person to person (relativism). Some of them will say that all is truth, that nothing is untrue. In other words, truth is found inside ourselves and we can only rely on ourselves for the truth while at the same time accepting as equally valid the beliefs of others.


Believing the Truest Truth in the Universe

Our believing or not believing in something does not make it either true or not true. It is still either one of these things no matter what. But it is still important that we do believe in the truth, particularly the truth of Jesus Christ. It is crucial that we recognize that He is the Truth, the most important truth in the universe.

When we say believing in and on the Truth of Jesus, it needs to be more than just a casual acceptance of the fact of Him. And it is a belief that needs to equate to a full, 100% acceptance in every situation for the rest of your life. This is not like saying you kind of believe something, but admitting that you don’t really know if it’s true or not. The Truth of Jesus demands that our belief takes the opposite extreme, that we know that He is the truth as surely as we know that snow is white.

The Truth of Jesus is infinitely important because it is an eternally saving truth. Those who have not heard and accepted the Truth, aren’t entirely reliable sources. They might be smart people as far as worldly matters, but not having the one Truth with them is a pretty big deal. Pilate’s problem was that he looked for truth in the form of Sejanus, a guy who was all able ambition and power. When this false truth failed, Pilate despaired of any truth at all. What a pity that he didn’t listen more closely to Jesus, God incarnate.

In the preceding verse, Christ had told him that He had come into the world to tell the truth, that all who heard Him heard the truth. Pilate clearly didn’t follow up his rhetorical question with any investigation into the matter, because he apparently ended things without any hope. Three years later Pilate was relieved of his position. Tradition says that shortly after returning to Rome he killed himself.

Christianity was not founded by a fallen man but by Jesus the God-Man, the God who existed before the beginning, the God who created all mankind and all the universe. This is the Truth that came to earth on that night over 2000 years ago.


(Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in Spring 2007 issue of Clear Living for Randall House Publications.)

The Lines of Our Joy

Undoubtedly, no amount of writing
describes the unmeasured happy, leaping joy,
the loudly whooping folks and toys,

the happy days,
the mellow ways
the lays, the lines
streaming the tree of time,

doting time,
times of dreams
and dreams in dreams.

I’ll watch them laugh
all splayed with wishes and
ways of yuletide joy

in the measured time,
doting time,
dreams in tracks of time,

the happy days,
doting ways,
dipped in lays and lines
streaming the tree with times,

And no word or measure
defines our happy times and toys
nor the whistling tracks of our timeless joys.