Last Thursday, I left work early to see "Les Miserables." That's what you do between Christmas and New Year's. If asked, I was out on assignment. Out on assignment with a box of Junior Mints in my lap. We went to Maya Cinemas. Maya has been a pleasant surprise. I like everything about Maya except that they don't advertise in The Californian, my favorite newspaper and the organization I have pledged my life to, much in the same way that Jean Valjean promises the dying Fantine that he will care for her daughter, Cosette.

I saw the live production of "Les Mis" when it came to Bakersfield years ago. Sue has seen it a bunch of times. The kids can sing the songs backward, given how often we played the soundtrack on car trips, when they, too, felt like they were "On Parole."

I was curious to see how Russell Crowe was going to handle the part of Javert. But, I figured, he's Russell Crowe -- he can do anything. He can stand there, not say a word and make you sweat through your cardigan.

The music is glorious, the songs unforgettable and the movie gathers steam when the younger actors come on screen and try unsuccessfully to overthrow the French government. However, "At the End of

the Day," making a movie from a play can be tricky. It's the difference between listening to Vince Scully or Chick Hearn announce a game on the radio and watching the same game on TV.

Sometimes less is more. Spare better than extravagant. However, "Who Am I?" to question a movie that has so many "Stars?"

In a play, there is a comforting separation between the audience and the actors. The veil disappears in "Les Mis," the movie, when you can see every wrinkle, every bead of sweat and every gray hair on Hugh Jackman's handsome head. To quote Becca, my 17-year-old niece, it can be TMI (too much information).

However, the movie is worth seeing and even Mr. Junior Mints shed a few tears. The music is unforgettable, and you literally cannot forget the songs.

A wet year. Thank goodness. "In My Life," not much beats "A Little Fall of Rain."

We get up in the morning and it has rained again. In wet years, a 30 percent chance of rain becomes a 100 percent. During dry years, a 30 percent chance of rain translates into zero.

All of this rain adds up to 0.78 of an inch in Bakersfield. Still, we are full of hope that we can reach five inches. More than five inches would be like building a "Castle on a Cloud."

More important is the snow in the Sierras, which means water in the lower Kern. If the Kern River runs from Beach Park to the Park at Riverwalk, we can guide our paddleboards down it and be joined by a flotilla of kayaks, rafts and canoes. When I hear the rain outside, I feel as if "I Dreamed a Dream."

Sue said one of the most surprising things I heard during Christmas: she would consider an artificial tree for next year. Does she now "Look Down" on real trees?

"Mom, you can get an artificial tree," Sam said. "I'm just not going to come over and celebrate with you."

Artificial trees are like solar power. It takes a few years to get a return on your investment, but Christmas has never been a return on your investment. It's more about "A Heart Full of Love."

What is the statute of limitations on Christmas treats? We still have tins and plates of fudge, coconutty, chewy bars and peanut butter cookies with Hershey's Kisses planted in the middle and it seems a shame to slide them into the trash. Maybe I'll just wait "One Day More."

These are Herb Benham's opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at