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Archive for November, 2011

A few days ago on Thanksgiving I bombed Twitter (#tdayvidbomb) with Holiday-themed videos and clips, a sort of tribute/send-up for our National Eating Holiday. It occurred to me that not everyone who visits here might be on Twitter, or saw all the day’s tweets, so I’ve collected them here along with some annotations to explain some of what’s going on.

First, no American Thanksgiving is complete without that most noble of beasts, the turkey. And here they are, fattening themselves up for your enjoyment!

Wait, reducing the grain surplus? Wasn’t this during the depression?

Now, what would Thanksgiving be without the Macy’s Parade?  Second to Christmas, it was the one holiday we wouldn’t sleep in because we wanted to turn on the TV and watch the parade. Living in California we also hoped to see snow and cold. Weird, I know. Here’s what it looked like in 1935.

That’s right, you bark and show you don’t approve!

Now, time to truss up that bird and make it golden brown. The secret? It’s better with butter, baby!

Bake your turkey the American Dairy Association way!

How about a Tex Avery cartoon to keep the kids busy while you’re in the kitchen? A little “Jerky Turkey” coming right up. And for those who can stream to their TVs, this is an exceptionally fine copy.

Time for a little football, perhaps? This is some old home movie (1929!) from my current home town’s rivalry game. This field is still in use by both the high school and a nearby college.

Everyplace I’ve lived there was always one radio station that would play Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie from beginning to end. It was pretty much the only way they could ever give it any radio play. It was made into a movie, which I still have yet to see, but here’s an original (and longer than normal) trailer for it.

Alright, looks like the bird’s out of the oven and we’re ready to eat. Let’s let Jimmy Stewart deliver the thanksgiving prayer (from the movie  Shenandoah).

Charlie Chaplin reminds us that not everyone can afford Thanksgiving. Maybe this isn’t going to be so funny in the future.

(By the way the shoe was made of licorice, which posed quite a health risk as two pounds of licorice is enough to cause serious heart arrhythmia!)

A little light dining music? Yes, nothing better for the appetite than classical music. Ladies and gentlemen, Liberace and his take on “Turkey in the Straw.”

Say what you will, the man could play.

And for a little after dinner entertainment, the children will put on a little play. Leave it to the Addams Family to teach us the true meaning of the holiday (and with Swedish subtitles).

Let’s work off some of those calories Little Eva and do the “Turkey Trot.”

In the days before DVDs and VCR and cable and movies on demand, many a family enjoyed the annual Thanksgiving tradition of watching The Wizard of Oz on TV.

I kind of miss those shared TV events. Aside from live sports events and awards shows and the occasional marathons, is there anything like this these days?

Looking ahead, while the adults are out doing shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, what are the kids supposed to do? Watch TV of course! This promo is from 1972.

Or, if you were a little more sophisticated, you did the Godzilla marathon.

Finally, if Macy’s announced the arrival of Santa and the holiday season, the deal wasn’t sealed for us on the West Coast until the Santa Claus Lane Parade took place (usually the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving). Proximity to Hollywood made it easier to draw big names, and floats towed by tractors replaced large balloons. Oh, and Gene Autry wrote “Here Comes Santa Claus” back in 1946 as a reference to his participation in this parade.

BONUS TIME!

I found some more videos during the holiday that people posted elsewhere that I didn’t tweet. You can call these leftovers or seconds or the feverish dreams of a tryptophan nap, but here they are. This first one features Christina Ricci making a repeat visit, this time from the movie THE ICE STORM. Another sarcastic holiday dinner prayer.

Red Skelton delivered this homily during one of his TV shows back in 1952. Was he talking about a Communist invasion?

This recently discovered home movie footage from 1939 (in color!) shows the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade that took place on what we consider the modern Thanksgiving era, i.e., the first year the holiday was moved to the third Thursday in November to lengthen the shopping season an stimulate the economy. I think to do this today we’d need to have Thanksgiving sometime around the middle of July. Note, this would be the first appearance of the Tin Man from THE WIZARD OF OZ which came out earlier the same year.

And for all those turkeys who made it through the holiday without ending up on the table, a disco tribute.

And that’ll do it. Hope you and yours had a fine holiday and enjoyed the traditions that were uniquely your own.

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The children have grown tired of your stories. 

How can you say this? The children love my stories.

Do you not hear them groan when you announce it is story time?

And do you not hear them gasp in amazement and wonder when I tell my stories?

I do hear them, but you have mistaken their open mouths for what they are; loud yawning.

Enough! I shall tell them one more story and leave it to them to decide whether or not I should continue telling stories.

 

Children for this story I shall require your assistance. Along the way I will ask you for details that will shape the story to your liking. And no matter how you turn it, the story will end just as I planned. Now, if you’re game enough, we shall begin.

Once there was a Wild Man who lived on the fringes of the kingdom. He slept by day and by night he would wander into the fields and flatten the corn and wheat crops, or steal pigs and cows, and occasionally would foul the drinking wells with his garbage. Finally the King sent his men out to find the Wild Man but none could. Then one day came a…

A Blind Huntress!

A Blind Huntress then, and she promised to catch the Wild Man and bring him back to the King. The King scoffed, after all how could a Blind Huntress do what even his best knights, guards, and huntsman could not?  Yet the King was at his wit’s end and agreed to give the Blind Huntress whatever she asked for if she succeeded. Her keen sense of smell allowed her to guide her horse to a river on the far edges of the kingdom. There she set down a bottle of bourbon, a bottle of whisky, and a bottle of beer, then went to lay in wait behind some nearby bushes. The Wild Man came and in quick succession drank the contents of all the bottles so fast that he almost instantaneously passed out cold. The Blind Huntress then casually was able to bind his hands and feet together and bring him to the King.

You thought that by making the Huntress blind that you could throw off my story, didn’t you children? In truth, there is nothing you could say or add that would alter the path this story takes, try as you might.

Is that it then? The Wild Man is caught?

Do you believe he would be so easily caught?

No.

Very well. Let us see what comes next. So the Blind Huntress asks for her reward and leaves just as mysteriously as she came. The Wild Man in the meantime is locked up in a cage in the dungeon until the King can decide what to do with him. As it happens one of the King’s sons goes down into the dungeon to gawk at the prisoners and is so startled by the Wild Man that he drops his…

Yo-yo!

Drops his yo-yo and it rolls into the cage. The Boy demands the Wild Man return the yo-yo but the Wild Man insists the Boy come and get it himself. Thinking this frail old man is no serious threat the boy opens the cage and–

No!

No, he shouldn’t open the cage? But he does! So now what happens?

It’s a trick! The Wild Man will escape!

He does? And what about the Boy?

He should… take the boy with him!

A kidnapping then! Very well. So the Wild Man uses the yo-yo string to hog tie the Boy and wedges the yo-yo into the Boy’s mouth to keep his quite while he steals away. He knows he will be hunted down again so the Wild Man carries the Boy to a far away kingdom where he is…

Forced to roll around in the mud!

And is then left in the care of…

The Emperor’s Gardener!

Are you sure you haven’t heard this story before, because that is precisely what happens next. The Gardener finds the Boy and asks him where he came from the Boy, fearing what the Wild Man might do to him, claims not to know how he got there. Every time the boy considered running away he would catch a glimpse of the Wild Man hiding behind a tree or a bush watching him. That night the Gardener set him up to sleep in a hay bin when the Wild Man visited in the night. He told the Boy to rise before the sun came up, wash himself and comb his hair, then put on some better clothes the Wild Man provided and he would find his life greatly changed for the better. The Boy did as he was told and in the morning found that the part of the garden where the Boy worked the day before had been transformed overnight into a lush landscape that even the Gardner could not have managed. Everyone was impressed, but especially the Emperor’s Daughter who gave the boy a gift of…

A chicken!

Stuffed with gold!

That’s quite a sum! So the Gardener set the Boy up in a different part of the palace grounds to work and see if he could reproduce his magic. And that night when the Wild Man visited the Boy gave him the gold and together they roasted the chicken and ate. It was clear to the Boy that the Wild Man had enchanted powers and began to feel he was better off not asking too many questions. The next morning the Boy awoke, and again that part of the royal grounds had transformed into a lush paradise in miniature. The Emperor’s Daughter rewarded him this time with…

A duck filled with silver!

Again with the bird, eh? So I suppose that when this happened a third time she gave him a…

A goose filled with diamonds!

Now that is a handsome reward, and as before the Boy handed over the prize to the Wild Man and they again feasted on the roasted meat. That night though the Wild Man warned the boy that come the morning he would need to prepare to accept whatever he was instructed to do and to trust that no harm would come to him. The next morning the Emperor himself came and found the Boy and told him his services were required. A neighboring country was on the verge of declaring war and the Boy would need to retrieve a message. When asked what he required the Boy requested…

A three-legged horse.

You would send a messenger into hostile territory on a three-legged horse?

Yes.

Very well. As we know, the Wild Man was prepared for this and brought the boy to a mountain made of clay. The Wild Man cut a groove into the clay and opened the mountain like split beast until out came an army of soldiers. The WIld Man explained that the Boy had been sent on a suicide mission, that if he went alone he would be slaughtered and thus give the Emperor cause to start the war, as both sides were waiting for the other to strike first. Sure enough, the Boy arrived at the edge of the country and was met by a hostile army ready to slaughter him. Only the Wild Man’s army put down the invaders quickly. The Boy knew they would send for reinforcements and returned to warn the Emperor. He left the Wild Man’s army in the clay mountain along the way, as instructed, and when he told the Emperor that he’d held off the attack the Emperor’s court was both amused and confused.

Certainly they didn’t expect the boy to return – for that was the plan all along, to remove the boy who was clearly winning the heart of the Emperor’s Daughter – but they also could not believe he held off an army all alone on a three-legged horse. So the boy was sent back with a message of warning, and again he went with the Wild Man’s army, and again he won the battle and returned to the Emperor. After he was sent a third time the Boy returned with a note of unconditional surrender which granted the Emperor control over the newly acquired land. As there was nothing left but to admit the Boy had succeeded, the Emperor allowed his Daughter to reward the boy with a goat full of–

No!

No? Should it be a bird of some kind? A turkey perhaps?

No! The Daughter and the Boy are married! That’s his reward. 

Ah, but you see, the Daughter thinks the Boy is wealthy because of all the gold and silver and diamonds he’s been given, and when she learns that the Boy has given it all away and that they are dirt poor she leaves him. Heartbroken, the Boy returns to the Wild Man’s clay mountain and asks that he be buried with all the soldiers for the rest of his days. The end.

What?

No! That’s not what happened.

It isn’t?

It can’t be.

There has to be more to it. What of the Wild Man? 

What of him?

And the Boy. It can’t end with him just like that.

So what happened then?

What really happened was that the Wild Man brought the Boy back home to his father the King. During the Boy’s time away the King had grown weak and frail with age, but seeing his son was now a young man with an Emperor’s Daughter for a wife he was overjoyed to hand over his kingdom to him. Seeing that it had all been for the better, the King forgave the Wild Man of his crimes.

Then the Boy and the Emperor’s Daughter returned to her father where they explained that the Boy was really a Prince and that he had inherited his kingdom. The Emperor was so ashamed at having thrice tried to send the Boy to his death that he begged forgiveness and his Daughter insisted that his Empire be handed over to the Boy, for he had rightly protected an won it. And it was done, and at that moment the curse that had been put on the Wild Man was lifted and he was revealed to be…

To be…

Shall I tell you?

Yes!

The Wild Man was me.

What?!

When your mother was pregnant with you two she had a hankering for a salad made with kale, and I found some for her but it was in the garden of a witch, who was so mad at me for trampling in her garden that she placed the entire kingdom under a spell that sealed it in a mountain of clay…

But that’s a story for another night.

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I lost a large chunk of my digital music library recently, and in rebuilding it I found myself replacing music i hadn’t heard in a long time, music ignored in favor of what was selected for me by my digital playlists. It made me think about how different my listening has become, how passive, how I used to seek out things to fit my mood as opposed to simply skipping what popped up in my library playback.

Then in selecting items to digitally upload, listening to songs I haven’t heard in perhaps a decade, I felt something was missing. Especially while listening to old jazz recordings I found their digital remastering so clean and cold that I began longing for the surface noises of old vinyl. I found myself becoming oddly nostalgic for the days when one chose an album and played entire sides, not deleting or skipping unliked songs, but listening through. There was a different pace, a sort of patience, something I hadn’t realized I was missing.

Naturally, I began writing about it.

i miss
analog hiss
bacony pop
versus digital bop

& pine
for that vinyl shine
inwardly spiral
sonically viral

long play
groovy decay
diamond cut tracks
licorice & wax

beflawed
& honestly shod
focused attention
aural comprehension

the sound
spindle bound
linear traction
delayed satisfaction

endure
recordings impure
to watch platters turn

for all this i yearn

 

Far from my best efforts, but perhaps I can revisit this once I’ve dug out the old vinyl records. It’s entirely possible this is one of those nostalgias that doesn’t hold up to the reality.

Haven’t meant to be away from Poetry Friday these last couple weeks, but, you know how it goes. Tabatha over at The Opposite of Indifference is hosting the roundup this week (along with Bulwinkle) and you should check it out if you haven’t already. No, really.

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Things were bad all over, though the powerful had seen to it that no one truly understood how bad things were. Things might have been different during the Great Depression if they’d had their own version of dollar menus at fast food restaurants and clothing made in sweatshops overseas. But this time around there was credit, and flashier toys to distract people from their lives, and media to inadvertently help politicians hide the truth.

The truth was that things weren’t just bad all over, they were worse than they had ever been.

This one woman, raising two kids on her own, she was finally able to afford a house a few years back. And even though her credit was stretched to the breaking point she felt a sense of pride that she’d been able to achieve the Great Grimmoirian Dream. But the economy tanked, her employer took advantage of the downturn to make a reduction in workforce, which meant that this woman was suddenly unemployed. Because hundreds of thousands of other people lost their jobs suddenly the woman couldn’t afford to pay her credit card bills. Then she couldn’t pay for the house. Then they found themselves on the street, shuttling around between shelters, with the kids education in chaos, spending their nights wondering how they ended up in this condition.

Eventually the woman became unhinged and began spouting nonsense to her kids, scary nonsense like “I think I might have to sell you kids” and “You think we could work together and collect recyclables for a living?” and “Perhaps scavenging at the town dump like they do in third world countries isn’t such a bad idea…”

And the kids were all like “Mom! No! We can figure something out!”

So the kids went out and found a bunch of people protesting against corporate greed. These people had set up a camp in the city and collected resources from sympathetic people and were living in tents and makeshift shelters. When the kids brought their mother to the protest camp they found a community and food and fellowship and were happy for a while. But then the woman realized they still had no home, no stability, and that their community was tenuous at best. She began to say things like “I suppose we could get arrested and then child protective services could take care of you guys” and “Jail probably wouldn’t be so bad, at least I’d get to shower regularly again” and “Why don’t you kids go throw some garbage at those policemen over there…”

And the kids were all like “Mom! That’s crazy talk! Just give us a little more time to figure things out!”

The kids realized that their mother was losing it, that decades of constant lies and the long, slow decline in the standard of living had taken their toll. The kids had learned in school – before they were forced to give up their public education, which was designed to make sure they bought into the Great Grimmoirian Dream – that a democratic government is judged by how it treats the citizens, and it was clear that their democracy was failing them. They knew that there had been populist uprisings in the past, and recently in other faraway countries, and that perhaps the time had come to change the way things were in the Grimmoire.

But what could they do? How would they change their world and save their mother at the same time?

I would like to say that this story has a proper ending, but it does not. In the Grimmoire of old there was a similar story of a mother and her two daughters. Starving from famine the girls scrounged for bread to keep their mother sane and so they wouldn’t starve to death, but their solution in the end was rather extreme. The girls promised their mother to lie down and sleep until the famine was over, and they did, and nothing could ever wake them. Stoically, they died. And their mother is reported walking away and never heard from again.

And so it was, but so shall it be again?

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Okay, so, this might have been a rising trend, what, ten years ago? This might have been newsworthy a couple of times maybe five years ago? Now it seem like every five or six weeks (around the same sales cycles that Barnes & Nobles shuffles its stock) some newspaper runs a feature about this “crazy” new trend where adults are reading YA books. Wacky, right?

Today’s article of note comes from the Boston Globe, and the hook this time is that the poor adults can’t find Twilight at the local book store because it’s not with regular fiction but “in the back” with the YA novels. Which is cute, and quaint, and a little ridiculous. Ridiculous because literally ten years ago I was filing Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books in both YA and Sci-fi/Fantasy. Ender’s Game as well. And we had The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in fiction and YA. Maguire’s Wicked took it’s time leaving the adult fiction shelves but eventually was also shelved in YA.

The point, and the reason this is not news, is that savvy booksellers and retail merchandisers put books where people expect to find them. If you have a crossover book that straddles a couple of sections – Stephen King has been doing this for years – you put copies of the book in multiple places for the simple reason that for every person who asks for help finding a title there are three who don’t find it and assume it’s out of stock. You don’t give your retail customers a chance to walk away empty-handed, you figure out that there might be some customers who would expect a book to be in one place and don’t necessarily want to feel insulted that they didn’t realize there were strict marketing rules involved. Seriously, do retail booksellers want to drive people to Amazon, where they aren’t forced to guess a genre in order to find what they’re looking for?

Naturally, that’s not the whole story here, because once you start talking about YA book trends you simply must mention the most recent movie based on a YA series coming out, and perhaps ride the coattails of a couple other titles people have already heard of, and then interview a few local writers for their perspective, and call it a day.

I really shouldn’t complain that any books are getting media attention and perhaps boosting sales, but could we maybe stop with the blatant attempt to tell this same story as a means of selling news? YA, hot topic, braced by a very vocal, buzz-generating community, I get it. But how about instead of talking about the same books, or giving more publicity to established adult authors who have made the leap into the money pit of YA, why not do something radical: create a YA beat. Give some column space to talk about books and trends that haven’t been reported to death. Maybe an old-fashioned three-dot column with smaller news snippets, brief reviews, and the occasional interview.

Damn it, I want that job.

Dear Boston Globe,

It has come to my attention that you like publishing features about the books and trends in children’s publishing, but you tend to write only the most obvious stories. You may have had critics who would occasionally review a few titles here and there, but in an industry that is losing sales in every other area, children’s books is the one place where sales have steadily increased during the current we’re-not-calling-it-a-depression recession. And once full-function tablets and e-readers become cheaper than cell phones, it will be a youth-driven market that will fully define the future of publishing. Will you be positioned to break that news as it happens, or will you ride in the way-back of the family station wagon and give updates on the industry’s exhaust?

What you need is a children’s and young adult beat. Regular installments – weekly at least, not monthly or whenever someone decides to pitch a story – where people can go to find news and reviews of the literature that is shaping and entertaining the minds of the rising generations. You need someone who reads these books regularly, constantly, and talks about them openly via social media. You could become a valuable community asset that would lead the way in providing a resource for parents and young adults (they read the news too, you know, and they smirk at your current attempts to speak to them) to discover what is out there in the world of books. Think of the children!

Should this idea interest you, I am available to discuss it further. I have a varied background that I feel makes me uniquely qualified, and more importantly I possess the desire to see a real change in how books for children and young adults are discussed in the media.

What do you say?

I’m sure there are better, less back-handed ways to do this, but what can I say.

 

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There was a time when wishing would make things so, when times were less complicated and an oath to god was rewarded without haste. And so it came to be that there was a pious and fair maiden who swore to god that she would not marry. That alone might be enough of an explanation for most fairy tales, but the truth behind that statement is interesting.

There was, indeed, a fair maiden whose father was a king and, as kings are wont to do, he was anxious to marry off his daughter to his own gain. The maiden, as headstrong and egalitarian as she was beautiful, grew tired of the endless parade of losers her father presented as suitors. The king should have learned, but failed as many parents do, not to push his will upon his daughter. Which was how it came to be one day when her father invited another vain and obnoxious – and, it should be noted, as rich as all get out – prince before his daughter.

Ugh! Father, I promise, you bring another buffoon into this palace for me to consider and I swear to god you’ll never see me married!”

Exasperated, the maiden sought solace in the chapel where she made her request.

“God, please, I beg of you, help me to repel these ill-equipped half-wits! Give me a full beard that will both repulse them and send my father the message that I am serious!”

And so it was. The maiden was instantly granted a long beard of curls as rich and beautiful as the ones atop her head. Naturally, no man in any fairy tale was interested in marrying the bearded lady, and this so enraged the king that he did the only logical thing he could think to do. He had her crucified, and she died, and achieved mystical, instant sainthood.

Or so the tale insists.

Feeling something he called remorse, something probably closer to conspiring with the church to keep the people from revolting over such a revolting act, the king had a statue of his daughter made to serve as an ossuary set in an alcove of the chapel. He was careful to have the court sculptor turn her beard into the ripples and folds of a veil that the priest insisted was a symbol of her devotion to god. The people of the kingdom thus called her their saint and no one dared correct them.

Naturally, a true saint must perform a miracle, and that came when a wandering minstrel paid a visit to the maiden’s statue one day. It is said that as he was the first to kneel before her and recognize her innocence that she rewarded him by letting slip one of the golden shoes with which she had been fitted. But this can’t be entirely accurate, for many had come before and knelt before her statue and recognized her innocence. It would be romantic to think that the sainted statue had finally fallen in love and wished to pass along a token of her affection to the musician, as maidens will, but no. Quite simply, the shoe had been fashioned with soft gold and merely slipped off.

The minstrel was initially accused of theft and when he protested that it had been a gift the people of the kingdom demanded proof. Crammed full of people, the chapel quickly overheated, which in turn softened the gold of the remaining slipper on the statue. As the minstrel was making his plea to the maiden’s image the other slipper fell at his feet. The people, uneducated and with as much faith in superstition as anything else, declared it a miracle. Out of such things are miracles born.

The fairy tale says that the minstrel was granted his freedom and sent merrily on his way. The king and the priest were well aware of the publicity that would follow and prepared accordingly. Soon people came from all over the land to pay their respects to the bearded lady saint everyone called Solicitous. And the people of the kingdom were most accommodating, opening new inns and selling candles and small printed prayer cards with the maiden’s image on them. And once a year the kingdom held a carnival in her honor, complete with the crowning of a local girl as the saint of the carnival. Perhaps crowning is the wrong word, as the maiden chosen was adorned with a fake beard for the duration of the carnival. After all, what is a carnival without a bearded lady?

Though the king felt the occasional pang of remorse over losing his daughter, he lived happily to a ripe old age and no one ever faulted him for crucifying his own daughter.
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Howdy, stranger. New here? The New Grimmoire is my take on The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes. Yes, all of them. This one happens to be number 239 from the book, a story originally entitled “Saint Solicitous.” Technical difficulties have kept me away for the last couple of weeks, but a new tale is posted here pretty much every Thursday.

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