72 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

27 April 2015

How's the New Year's resolution going?

Computer300rSorry, I just had to ask, primarily because mine is going so well. 

Not that I want to gloat, but I've lost enough weight that our bathroom scale is now down into the numbers range.  It wasn't always that way.

For longer than I care to remember, that little window on the scale -- the dreaded eye into our soul of self-loathing, if you will -- didn't show any numbers at all, just letters or words.

"One at a time" was probably my favorite at the highest point of actual weight and lowest ebb of self-esteem.

Then, after some half-tries to do something about my situation, I eased down into the "OMG!" range and, finally, after self-discipline which I figure equals the resolve of "The Little Engine That Could," I got the scale to merely whimper "Help" for a while.

Now I'm down into numbers, baby, and descending with the not-so-blazing speed of a packed elevator at the end of a long day touring the refried bean factory.

I guess you're wondering how I pulled off this amazing success.  Easy ...

We got bikes!

We bought them at night, in a hurry.  What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, actually.  My wife Suellen's fun-on-two-wheels machine actually turned out to be a semi-rusted demonstrator suffering from MacArthur Park syndrome. You know, the song?  Except it wasn't the cake left out in the rain.  In this case, it was her bicycle, which will actually reluctantly shift a gear or two after five or six squirts of WD-40 and some serious handlebar-grip twisting.

Bike300rMy shiny new ride is a Huffy.  I like to refer to it as a Huffy Puffy, mainly because we have some gently sloping hills in our neighborhood that appear to transform into Pikes Peak with speed bumps once I'm on the saddle.

(Saddle:  The proper name for a bicycle seat, which I think was invented by a disturbed man or woman who enjoyed watching others suffer.  Also, "bicycle seat sore" just doesn't have a ring to it like "saddle sore" does.)

The hills in our 'hood may not actually jut 14,115 feet into the sky like that Pikes Peak thing, but it sure feels that way when I'm pedaling at about a thousand RPMs and tipping the speedometer at somewhere between 3/4 and 1 mph.

Not that I have a speedometer on my bike.  I just know I'm not setting any speed records because a newborn puppy-dog just learning to stand on all fours  beat me up the hill the other day.  Also, it's common for people on that street to come out in their front yards to snicker at me (and, I suspect, place bets) as I sweat and pedal my way up the gradual slope.

Whatever.  My diet and exercise program is working, so what do I care about how the neighbors feel?  And just for the record, I'm pretty sure that little doggie is part greyhound.  In fact, I'm declaring success.  My New Year's resolution of 1979 has finally been accomplished.  So congrats to me.

Now I can get serious about the next year's resolution:  Become a world famous standup comedian before 1980 comes to an end.

I can't worry about that right now, though.  Gotta go.  It's time for my snack.

Yum, frijoles refritos.

16 March 2015

Joanie get your gun(s)

Joan Crawford acting tough in "Mildred Pierce" (1945), in which she earned her only Best Actress Academy Award. (allaboardforskinkersswamp.wordpress.com)

Thanks to all the fine folks over at Highland Springs retirement community in North Dallas for inviting me back once again on a recent Sunday evening.

Since March was an important month for Texas history (The Alamo fell, Texas Declaration of Independence was adopted), activity director Barbara Blachly opted for the popular Lone Star Movie Stars presentation, which spotlights prominent actors from Texas.  Of course that includes Lucille Fay LeSueur, whom you may know better as legendary actress Joan Crawford.

We also spent a good deal of time talking about Dennis Quaid and Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones, just to name a few.  As usual, the Highland Springs crowd welcomed me warmly into their home and responded enthusiastically to the presentation.

Maybe it has something to do with baseball season about ready to throw out first pitches in a couple of weeks, but I especially enjoyed sharing the trailer for The Rookie, starring Quaid, the son of a Houston electrician who has done very well for himself since his relocation to Hollywood after attending the University of Houston.

Speaking of The Rookie, see if that young actor who played Quaid's son in 2002 looks familiar.  Can you name the TV sitcom he co-starred in later?


A fun-filled, unique opportunity for your group

Of course, Lone Star Movie Stars is just one of 26 Movie Memories presentations available.  Click this link to view all 26 presentations (with descriptions of each one) or take a look at a partial presentation list below.

Be a hero.  Get in on the fun for your corporate event, group gathering, special event or retirement community.  Call 214.364.7364 to book your Movie Memories event today.

Operators are standing (or sitting) by.

Flyer presentations464






09 March 2015

Rainy days and Mondays ...

Rainy days didn't seem to bother Gene Kelly much in the 1952 classic "Singin' in the Rain" (MGM)

Always get me down.

Well, isn't this a drippy start to spring break week?  At least it is in much of Texas.

So to cheer me -- and, perhaps, you -- up, I came across this montage of romantic scenes from movies that took place in the rain.

It's an exercise in Movie Memories.  See how many of the movie titles you can name. 

And remember what "Annie" said, "The sun'll come out ..."

Ah, shut up, "Annie."

02 March 2015

It's civic duty time

(Image courtesy: stuffwriterslike.com)

Things we forget.  Things we remember.

It's too bad we don't get to choose.

I still remember vividly, for instance, the only real fight I had as a kid.  The elementary school bully pushed me too far one day, and I snapped.  With a fury I had never experienced before, I got the best of him.  And when I let him go, got up and dusted myself off, I said, "If you want some more of me, I'll be around."

I haven't seen anyone spring to life as fast before or since.  Without going into gory details, let's just say the bully -- Mr. Bully, now -- found his second wind and knocked what little I had left out of me.

That said, I have a gut feeling we, as a society, may be sitting idly by and letting a potential injustice we can do something about snowball out of control.

You probably recall the startling news of about a month ago that Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, had another "novel" stashed away in a bank safety deposit box for six decades.

Now Ms. Lee, who reportedly resides in an assisted living facility, has suddenly altered her 60-year stance that Mockingbird was her one and only novel and is delighted that the new book will be published in July, if we can believe what others, but never the lady herself, have said.

This news still gnaws at me and refuses to move farther back in my memory bank.  That's why I used my Getting Reel column space in the March-April issue of The Senior Voice newspaper to voice my concern.

Please click here to read my column titled To Revive a Mockingbird? 

Things we forget.  Things we remember.

It's too bad we don't get to choose.

23 February 2015

The Academy of Yawns & Staleness

Mama Ratliff told me two things while I was growing up that have always stuck with me:

  • Always keep a $20 bill in your wallet in case of emergencies, and
  • If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

I've never had much luck with that first one.  Every time I have folding money at the ready, there's always an irresistible temptation lurking within arm's reach.  Like a half gallon of Blue Bell for $4.99 or Girl Scouts armed with cookies setting up tables at the entrance of grocery stores.  Luckily, the Girl Scout thing is only seasonal.

Neil Patrick Harris, working the Oscar crowd.

Saying something nice or keeping my big trap shut has been problematic as well.  I'm going to try really hard to find something nice to say about last night's sluggish, basically non-eventful, overlong, boring telecast of "The 87th Academy Awards" on ABC.  (In case you missed it, here's a link to CNN's list of Oscar winners.)

I'm not even going to mention that first-time Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris, a veteran of working tough pat-each-other-on-the-back-rooms  hosting the Tony Awards and television's Emmys, appeared overwhelmed either by an audience of about a billion worldwide or the sea of bright lights and serious Academy voting members (or both) he faced -- at least once dressed only in his tidy whities -- for what seemed like about half my life.  (And not the good half, either.)

See, I told you I have trouble saying nice things.  So this Academy Awards wrap-up is for you, Mama Ratliff:

I really enjoyed the musical numbers, with one exception:  Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga gets classy, sort of.

Before you look for the comment button to rave on about how wonderful the often-outlandish Gaga was singing a tribute to Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music in honor of the Best Picture Oscar-winning musical's 50th anniversary, let me state my case.  

And Mama Ratliff, forgive me for whipping this out:

Lady Gaga's tats (Read carefully; that's tats) took me completely out of what could have been a lovely, moving tribute both to the movie that took five Oscar wins in 1965 and to Andrews.

I have no problem with the gifted singer who until fairly recently liked to sing while a performance artist threw up all over her doing a 180-degree turn going semi-legit.

Gaga can really warble.  But when she rolled into the finale of Climb Every Mountain and thrust out her sleeveless arms to reveal an inked rendering of a trumpet on her right arm and inspirational script in German on the left, let's just say those were not two of my favorite things.

I'm no prude and I have nothing against tattoos on sailors, especially Popeye the Sailor Man, but Ms. Lady should have worn some elegant sleeves to kept her tats under wrap last night.

Now, for the untarnished good stuff:

Tim McGraw's rendition of Glen Campbell's I'm Not Gonna Miss You from Campbell's autobiographical documentary Glen Campbell:  I'll Be Me froze me to my recliner.  So much so, in fact, that I had a little trouble catching my breath when McGraw calmly, beautifully sang the lyrics inspired by Campbell's ongoing losing battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Anyone who has a history of Alzheimer's disease in their family, as we do, can appreciate the power of words that cut right to the frightening graphic honesty of the brutal disease so much that it rips one's heart in two.


 The other powerful musical moment came from gifted singers and performers John Legend and Common.

Common, left, and John Legend bring down the house.

Glory, the emotional anthem from Selma, the best picture nominee about the civil rights struggles to secure equal voting rights in 1965, brought the Oscar crowd to its feet.

In a perplexing Academy Awards year when no non-white men or women were nominated, it was a befitting tribute that brought tears to the eyes of some, including British actor David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr., but who was not nominated.

The heart-melting title tune ends with the word "glory" repeated several times.

Glory hallelujah.


28 January 2015

Ready for Buddy Holly live-ish?

Holly240I'm all for free enterprise, even when it comes to making a few bucks off dearly departed spouses to pay the rent and have a little left over for other essentials such as facelifts, body lowerings, tummy tucks, plastic breasts and, of course, lip-and-hip enhancement.

Heck, I hope when I'm gone my wife Suellen writes the book I've never had the guts to write (so far) about the bizarre path of a film critic trying to maintain his journalistic dignity while tip-toeing through the vague and veiled world of celebrity entertainment.

That said, I'm having more than a little trouble understanding why Maria Elena Holly, the Texas music icon's widow, has signed off on a virtual Buddy Holly stage tour set to kick off next year, according to a story in the Hollywood Reporter.

That's right, a hologram of Holly will likely sing -- sort of -- all the hits from Peggy Sue to That'll Be the Day.  Who knows?  In this age of social media and anything-goes-don't bother-to-check-your-sources reporting, a flickering image of Holly might just sell a ton of tickets.

According to the Hollywood Reporter article:

"Hologram USA is already working on the hologram-like performance of the rock and roll icon, as well as on a similar show around Liberace, which will debut in Las Vegas. Through  the partnership with Buddy Holly Licensing, the company has access to music and images of Holly. Interactive elements involving the audience and back up band members are also being created."

Surely, Holly's widow is fighting this sort of tales-from-the-crypt nonsense to sell tickets.  That's what you and me and any sane person who respects what the guy in glasses from West Texas accomplished in such a short time in the spotlight would think.  Right?

We would be wrong about that.

"I am so excited that my partnership with Hologram USA on the Buddy Holly concert project will allow a new generation of fans to experience the thrill of seeing Buddy ‘live’ and in concert for the first time in many decades," Maria Elena Holly told the Hollywood Reporter.

So sorry, Mrs. Holly, but no one is going to see your late, great -- let's just go ahead and say legendary -- husband again live or even, as you put it, 'live.'

The music genius from Lubbock died along with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in a tragic plane crash between Clear Lake, Iowa and Moorhead, Minn. almost exactly 56 years ago.  Holly was only 22 years old.

In American Pie, Don McLean's meandering 1971 folk-rock anthem with almost hypnotic lyrics, McLean referred to Feb. 3, 1959 as "the day the music died."

Hollystory230I suggest we celebrate Holly best by just listening to his almost unbelievable collection of hits.  And if you simply must see a semi-image of the man, seek out "The Buddy Holly Story," the 1978 biopic starring Gary Busey.

Yes, that Gary Busey; the human hologram who's pushing the Amazon Fire TV Stick in commercials and can't tell the difference between a Fire Stick and a seashell.  Busey was on fire as Holly, by the way.

I know an Elvis Presley hologram concert is in the works as well.  So why not go all the way?  Bring back The Possum, the late, great George Jones, who died in April 2013.  He could sing his signature hit, although it would have to be adjusted time wise.

You know, He Stopped Loving Her Almost Two Years Ago Today.

But Buddy Holly in a hologram concert?  Line up and enjoy yourself if you must.  A word of advice:  Don't bother waiting around for an autograph.

As for me, that'll be the day-ay-ay when I ... when I ... don't know.

I've got nothing.  Rave On, indeed.


13 January 2015

'Globes' trotting: Hanks but no Hanks

 What is the second toughest job in Hollywood?

George Clooney at the Golden Globes. (yahoo.com)

That would be deciding which aging or not-so-hot anymore celebrity gets left off the invite list of public self-congratulatory parties like Sunday night's Golden Globes that are basically seen around the world.

The absolute worst job in Hollywood?

Being a celebrity's publicist or manager and having to find a way to tell a client that no invite came in this year for The Golden Globes or The Academy Awards. That means once-revered A-list celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and more will most likely watch on the tube like us mere mortals.

I get that.  I understand that major movie stars and celebrities age like the rest of us, albeit often under semi-effective and often-atrocious facades of plastic surgery.  I suppose we age as well.  I have a mirror.  Mine appears to be playing games with me these days; showing images of my dad, but I get it.

Still, we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-in-the-last-second age that appears to skew acceptable age downward faster than the price of U.S. oil.  And that's especially the case when it comes to aging in Hollywood.

Think about it.  George Clooney was 53 when he sprang to the Golden Globes podium to accept -- with a sheepish grin -- his Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award Sunday night.  53.  I'm surprised the poor guy was able to make it up those five or six stage steps without a walker.

On the contrary, Woody Allen was 78 when he was awarded the DeMille honor last year.  Woody passed on showing up.   Warren Beatty was 69 in 2007.  And in 1973, legendary film producer Samuel Goldwyn was 90 when his time came to make it to the podium for his Lifetime Achievement Award.

53.  Some guys still have paper routes when they're that age.  Granted, that might have more to do with a sluggish, recovering economy than choice of occupation.

So, discarding the fact that some famous faces like Meryl Streep (a Golden Globes nominee) and Clint Eastwood, whose American Sniper was snubbed by the Globes and who may have snubbed the Globes because of it, will always be around.  It saddened me to notice who wasn't sipping champagne or another adult beverage and wobbling around the room of the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom Sunday eve.

Where were A-list, or once A-list celebs like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?  Where were Sandra Bullock and, for that matter, Tommy Lee Jones, Sean Penn and Michael Douglas?  What was up with major celebrities like Jodie Foster, Helen Hunt and Meg Ryan MIA.

Tom Hanks didn't appear to be in the building, but his son Colin (a nominee for the TV version of Fargo) was.

Renée Zellweger, left, and, I suppose, Renée Zellweger.

Honestly, I can't tell you if Renée Zellweger was in attendance or not.  I don't recognize her anymore.

Even that won't stop me from watching, though.  I'll keep tuning in to The Golden Globes and The Academy Awards (nominees announced Thursday), airing Feb. 22 on ABC.

Why?  For rare snippets of live television brilliance, like Ricky Gervais, a former Golden Globes emcee, stealing the show with some seemingly off-the-cuff, but I'm guessing carefully prepared "ad-libs" during his introduction of the Best Actress -- Comedy or Musical nominees. 


06 January 2015

New Year, new opportunity for ... you

(Courtesy: www.thisismoney.co.uk)

Let's just say you're retired, semi-retired or, for some other reason, looking for a way to earn some income or added income in 2015.

Many members of the baby boomer generation tell me they're bored and looking for something fulfilling to do with their time.  Is that the case with you?  Why not generate some spending money or catch up on pesky bills during that spare time, especially when you never have to leave the comfort of your home to do it and there is no buy-in required?  It costs you nothing to begin the process and seize this opportunity.

Let's just say you enjoy speaking with people on the telephone or communicating through social media via the Internet and can spare 15 or 20 hours a week to join a fun-loving team to bring Movie Memories presentations to the public.

Let's just say, then, that you are a prime candidate to join the Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff team to set up Movie Memories speaking engagements.

(Courtesy: www.deregulatedelectricitynow.com)

Here's an idea that could very well pad your pocketbook, ease your boredom and give you a giggle or two along the way.  Movie Memories is looking to partner with select energetic, friendly people to make calls or send emails to senior residence facilities, clubs, organizations and corporations.  You'll be booking Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff speaking engagements primarily in your city, where you are most familiar, but perhaps all across Texas and beyond.

We're looking for a few key partners in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio, Houston and the Austin area to spread the word about Larry Ratliff, the public speaker, veteran film critic and humorist who has already entertained thousands and is looking to bring his informative, entertaining message of Movie Memories to tens of thousands.

Let's just say you're not a big movie fan.  That is not a deal breaker.  If you can communicate a sales message to talent buyers, activity directors and decision-makers, we would like to speak to you.  And don't worry if you're not an experienced sales person.  We'll provide the know-how and leads to get you started.

Movie Memories offers a generous commission sales return on your time above the usual level.  And there are added incentives (bonuses and rapid-pay) we are excited to speak to you about.

Let's just say you'd like to start the new year off with an exciting project to restore a sense of accomplishment, or to earn some serious money, or just to have some fun and make new friends.  That's what the Movie Memories team offers.  Call 214-364-7364 to express your interest today.  Or send an email to lrratliff@verizon.net to reach Larry Ratliff.

That's lrratliff@verizon.net or 214-364-7364.  Only a few positions are available, so call today to join our team and launch a new opportunity for yourself.  We're ready when you are.

I'm just saying.

03 December 2014

Miracle on Southeast 11th Street

RCAvictor280I was 10 in 1957, and all I wanted for Christmas that year was a record player.  Not just any record player, but a state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up unit that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s.

You know that kid Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story (1983) who really, really wanted a Red Ryder B.B. gun in the 1940s?  Well, that was me in the '50s, except I thought life would not be worth living unless Santa, or Old Santa Claus as my Dad called him, delivered the record player.

I knew we didn't have much money back then, but I never considered us poor.  Poor people didn't have much of anything to eat.  I'm not saying we had meat every night, though.  Supper in our modest little neighborhood on the southeast side of Grand Prairie (between Dallas and Fort Worth) often included a creative combination of leftovers Mother called hash.  Or we dined on cornbread and red beans.

Dad, who always dreamed of busting out to bigger things (not unlike this scribe), walked rain or shine the three or four blocks to and from The Plant five days a week, carrying a jet black lunch box.  Chance Vought Aircraft was the official name of the aircraft factory at the time.  I never heard Dad call it anything other than The Plant.  And for the short periods of time my brother Lannie and I worked there later, it was The Plant for us as well.

I wasn't worried about disrupting the family budget for something as extravagant as a $19.95 state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up record player that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s.  After all, that one would be on Santa, not the meager Ratliff family budget.

At first I hinted.  After all, I was clearly headed for some kind of career in show business.  All I had at the time was the desire, and that desire for some kind of spotlight in the performing arts was definitely my destiny.  (I proved that a few years later when I was awarded the privilege of announcing fried chicken specials over the loudspeaker while working as a checker at Safeway.)

As Christmas drew near, I panicked and spelled out succinctly and with gusto how necessary the red record player with the cool white top was to my future.  

It was three days before Christmas in 1957 when my Mother and Dad pulled up in front of the A&P on Main Street with me in the backseat and issued specific instructions:

"We'll be back in a few minutes," Dad said.  "You wait right here."

I saw my parents walk past A&P and duck into Skillern's drugstore next door.  Like the good son I thought I was, I did wait in the car.

For a minute.  Then I made a fatal mistake that still haunts me to this day, let's see, 57 years later.

I slithered out of our Chevy and hugged the A&P wall until I reached the plate glass at Skillern's.  Sticking just enough of my face in front of the window to get a peek with one eye, I saw my Dad talking to a clerk.  The $19.95 state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up record player that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s was on the counter between them and Dad was reaching for his wallet in his left pocket.

Elated, I was just about to turn and sneak back to the car when a chill shot up my spine that took decades to fade and still lingers deep down inside today.  My Dad spotted me in the window and our eyes locked; a hurtful look of a trust broken in his, terror in mine.

Before my feet got the signal from my startled brain to get the heck out of there, time froze.  I remember seeing my Dad shake his head "No thanks, I changed my mind" to the clerk as his hand eased his wallet back into its resting place.

When my parents got back in the car, nothing was said.  I knew what that meant.  And my folks knew that I knew.  The rest of the usually festive days leading up to Christmas Day were a stunned blur.  Mother made her wonderful fudge as usual; loaded with pecans for everyone except me with a little plate just for me with no nuts.

The fudge didn't seem quite as sweet that year.  My life was over.  How would I ever find my place in the spotlight without the red-and-white record player to foster my love for music, to hear Bill Haley & His Comets sing Rock Around the Clock?   The only song running through my head on Christmas Eve that year was Buddy Holly and the Crickets singing That'll Be the Day (when I die)

My brother beat me to the Christmas tree that year.  I wasn't exactly feeling it, if you know what I mean.  From behind him, though, I got a glimpse of something red and white.  Then, all of a sudden, there it was, my very own $19.95 state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up record player that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s!

That's why I believe in Old Santa Claus.  And forgiveness.  And second chances.  And that's why I always will. 

10 November 2014

'Elsa & Fred': Tedious and clichéd

(Millennium Entertainment)

No one has ever accused Hollywood filmmakers of capturing, or even attempting much reality in the fictional movie genre, especially when it comes to romance. 

However, just in case no one has bothered to say it before, screenplays about senior citizens dating, romancing and/or falling in love don't have to come across as mundane, tedious and over the top as it often does and definitely does in Elsa & Fred, the new so-called romantic-comedy pairing elder movie stars Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer.

What went so wrong in Michael Radford's attempt to remake the Spanish-Argentinian film of the same title that was much better, by the way, in 2005?

Click this link to my full movie review and find out.

A new Santa clause:  Time to book Movie Memories

Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn in "Miracle on 34th Street." (20th Century Fox)
Whether it's a corporate Christmas party, a country club holiday gathering or a retirement community seasonal celebration, the "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" Movie Memories presentation arrives bearing gifts of laughter, nostalgia and holiday joy.
In a presentation lasting a little over an hour, Larry combines Christmas classic movie clips with behind-the-scene Hollywood insight and tales of Christmases past sure to entertain your group and inspire and touch hearts along the way.
We'll begin by boarding The Polar Express, with stops along the way at everything from White Christmas to The Santa Clause.  Of course our final holiday stop simply must be ... Well, you just have to join us to find out.
James Stewart, Donna Reed and joyus family in "It's a Wonderful Life." (Courtesy: RKO Radio Pictures)
Or, maybe your group would prefer to go behind the scenes of one of the most beloved holiday films of all time, It's a Wonderful Life.

You’re probably aware that an angel gets his wings and grumpy old Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) tries to run everything in Bedford Falls.

But did you know that at least one film historian says Henry Fonda was considered for the role of reluctant small-town banker George Bailey?  Of course that became a signature role for James Stewart.

And just where is Bedford Falls?  Is it a real place?  There are lots of things to learn about film critic Larry Ratliff’s favorite holiday film of all time.

Call 214-364-7364 or email MovieMemories@verizon.net to book your one-of-a-kind  "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" or It's a Wonderful Life Movie Memories presentation.  We travel anywhere in Texas, especially the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio, Austin and Houston, with special discounts for multiple corporate bookings.
Hurry, though.  Call or email today to lock in prime holiday dates before they're all taken.