Tuesday, December 25, 2007
While the kiddies are playing around your feet with their Christmas booty, and Aunts and Uncles are sipping hot chocolate, Grandma and Grandpa and trying not to nod off while listening to cousin Ed's latest travelogue, perhaps you would like to take a moment and read this Christmas message that was sent into me by our roving correspondent Baravelli. Actually- it's from Mrs. Baravelli, and the Big B himself is busying himself trying to find batteries. She sent this to me last night so, please enjoy....
Merry Christmas to one and all. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Baravelli’s better half, well, maybe just the other half. If you’re wondering who Baravelli is or where he’s been, I can say he’s been quite busy lately. Between a new job and football season, I hardly see him myself. But, never fear, after the New Year I’m sure he’ll be writing again to influence all with his acerbic wit and gaming knowledge. Between his absence and the notable lack of recent editorials by Wolf and J.C. (no offense gentlemen) I have felt compelled to write on a little holiday cheer. I hope you don’t mind. It’s a quick message and one I feel that’s important for all. Knowing Wolf and J.C. as well as I do, I know they’ll appreciate the topic.
I must say that I do love this season. This is, by far, my favorite holiday. One of my favorite things about the season is the wonderful Christmas music and holiday movies that are played on television, seemingly ‘round the clock. December 26th is always a let-down because of the immediate stop on the entertainment, as if the holiday never happened at all. Much to Baravelli’s chagrin, my favorite movie is “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney. The movie is set at a Vermont Inn after WWII. Crosby and Kaye play soldiers who fought together and then, after they are discharged, they become a popular entertainment team. They happen upon a couple of singing/dancing sisters and, you guessed it, the viewer is bombarded with song and dance for the rest of the movie. As if me watching it is not bad enough, four year old Little Baravelli enjoys it as well – having memorized most of the songs.
The other week as we watched it again, I was impressed by the words of one of the songs that Crosby sang.
“When you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep.
Then you’ll fall asleep
Counting your blessings.”
After all the many years I’ve watched that movie, why make a difference now? Could it be that, somehow, I needed to hear those words and Bing magically sang them to me? Lately I have felt trepidation and dread when the holidays come around. Between the buying, and the rushing, and the pleasing everyone, the baking of cookies and the making of dresses, splitting time between both families, taking the little one to ballet performances where ALL SHE DOES IS CURTSY, WORKING, AND CLEANING AND ……. Sorry, I lost myself a little bit. Yes, that’s exactly what has happened to me, as well as to quite a few of you, I’m sure. Life is so busy already but when compounded with expectations, whether they are self-imposed or not, the stress is magnified to such a degree that it’s hard to remember what we’re doing it all for. You know you’ve lost it when you only let your child watch DVDs because you’re afraid of the numerous toy commercials that will only add to your already lengthy list.
Somehow, however, when I heard this song again, it dawned on me – everything, even the bad, is a blessing to me. I have so many to be grateful for that I should start counting them instead of falling asleep while checking off my to-do list for the next day. I even started remembering Christmases I had as a child and what they meant to me then and now. Sure, I remember some of the toys I got and my pink bike that only had front brakes because Santa never got around to putting the back tire breaks on. But I mostly remember finding a letter from Santa every Christmas morning, mentioning all of us kids by name. I remember the ash footprints from Santa’s boot that he inevitably got while coming out of the chimney. Mom wasn’t too happy about them on her navy blue carpet but that didn’t stop them from appearing year after year. I also remember how special Christmas Eve was and it still is. Every year we put on a live Nativity scene while someone reads the Christmas story. At first, it was just us four kids dressed in sheets, one of us holding the Cabbage Patch wrapped in swaddling clothes. 20 years later, it has grown in to four married children and 10 grandchildren. With that many babies the Cabbage Patch hasn’t been used in years. Every year, we know where we will be on Christmas Eve. Thanks to Mom and Dad, these are the things I remember. Hopefully, my little one will remember the same. And, hopefully, yours will as well.
So, on this Christmas day or whatever holiday you may celebrate this season, take a moment to sit, relax, and remember what you’re celebrating for. Know that it’s not the Dora mermaid doll or the Spiderman web thrower that your brood will remember, at least not the only thing. And, yes, it will all be worth it in the end. When you’re trying to sleep tonight and throughout this coming year, remember to count your list – I hope it’s a long one. From everyone here at the Shelf, happy holidays and sweet dreams!!!!
Posted on behalf of Mrs. Baravelli by J.C. Loophole
I want to wash my hands, my face, my hair with snow.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Now don't any of you worry your heads about Santa, Mrs. Claus will have him plenty fattened up before Christmas eve. It's always the same story.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Retro commercial break time! Brought to you by Mcdonald's.
Next up: 'Pluto's Christmas Tree' (Pardon the subtitles. It's such a great cartoon and this was the only one I could find.)
Until Next time.....
Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.
...and Mary Lou Retton as 'Tiny Tim'
He was awfully excited to get into the product and seemed quite entertained by the idea of reindeer food served up in a miniature dog bowl. When it came time to taste, he was somewhat reluctant as he felt the cookies were pretty convincing as kibble. After some comforting words and a promise of a rainbow candy cane (I keep some handy for just such an occasion) Jr. dug in. The first description to come from his mouth was "Hard". The crunching told me that and a touch test shows that these aren't very chewy cookies. The next descriptor was a little more positive: "Good." A few of these and a candy cane later Little Wolfie was set.
Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.
What a Christmas! Ho, ho, what a Christmas!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Having a hard time starting to think about Christmas or get in the Christmas spirit? I know what the problem is: you haven't been to visit our pal Sallie at The Vintage Place lately. Not only have Sallie and Mel decorated the joint, but it's packed with wall to wall tunes. And I'm not talking Backstreet Boys or Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. I'm talking the real deal. Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Frank, Dino, Johnny Mathis, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Burl Ives, and even tunes from your favorite holiday specials. If you want to get the spirit going and have the visions of Christmases from childhood past, do yourself a favor and check out The Vintage Place. And tell 'em ol' Uncle Loophole sent ya'. Back later with some Candy reviews, DVD reviews and Santa's DVD picks of 2007 for the stockings of that special someone.
Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?
Monday, December 03, 2007
'It's a Wonderful Film'- Dec 2005
Is there anyone out there that’s not familiar with George Bailey? You , in the back there with your hand up. Have you been living in a cave? Well, pass the remote to Osama and come out of the underground so I can fill you in. One of the greatest films that surrounds the Christmas season is Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” staring (one of my favorites) Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey. A wonderfully unique story, it was originally sent out in Christmas cards under the title “The Greatest Gift” to the friends of Philip Van Doren Stern who wrote the short story the film is based on. Eventually “The Christmas Gift” made it’s way to somebody who knew someone else who worked in films and thought it would make a great screenplay. Well, it didn’t work out for that someone but it did manage to somehow float into the hands of Frank Capra who immediately loved the idea and formed it into what we now know today as “It’s a Wonderful Life”. The story begins with a conversation in the heavens between angelic entities (one is voiced by Moroni Olsen who was an extra in most all the movies of that era) about a severely troubled George Bailey on the verge of leaping from a bridge for, as of yet, an unknown reason. Clarence the angel is called upon to take on the task of rendering aid to Mr. Bailey and is given a recap of George’s life from youth to the very dark present moment. I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that he is the All-American boy. He’s a fun loving character who doesn’t fear romance or doing what’s right. To top it off, he’s got a heart of pure gold and would endure almost any hardship to grant someone else just a little more happiness in their life. We watch George as a youth dreaming of far away places and great adventures and as a young adult falling in love with Mary played by the beautiful Donna Reed. Throughout this instant replay of his existence, we see Mr. Bailey time and time again sacrifice his dreams and comfort for the benefit of others. He experiences several hardships and eventually gets to the point where he is ready to end his life for the benefit (so he thinks) of his family and townsfolk. This is where Clarence (played by Henry Travers) steps in. While explaining to George that he is his Guardian Angel, an idea pops into his head. Mr. Bailey off-handedly says ,” I wish I’d never been born.” Clarence then proceeds to take George Bailey on a “Christmas Carol-esque” adventure showing him what things would be like if he were to get his wish. Needless to say there is a happy ending and a Christmas classic is born. Capra does an outstanding job of directing his cast who all do wonderful jobs themselves. Stewart puts on a stellar performance and Donna Reed establishes a career with what some would consider her breakout role. I’ll tell ya’ Shelfers, I remember this being on T.V. every year over and over again much the way “A Christmas Story” is done today. The film was synonymous with the season and many a joke was made of it’s frequent showing on network television to the point of redundancy. As a youth, I was more interested in Rankin/Bass Christmas fare and preferred Whoville to Bedford Falls (George Bailey’s home town for those not in the know). Once I reached young adult age and into adulthood, the airtime this classic received was scaled back drastically making way for made-for-T.V. movies staring pop singers and Mickey Mouse Club alumnus. (Excuse me a moment whilst I dry-heave.) Recently though, as I’ve grown older and more nostalgic, it has become a personal favorite. Just a week ago, I popped it into the DVD player and watched it with my wife who had never seen it and had barely heard of it. For some odd reason Shelfers, the film struck me more than it ever has. I don’t know what it was, but I was drawn to the story more fervently and found some deeply emotional connection to the character of George Bailey. At risk of sounding a little egotistical, I consider myself to be the George Bailey type. I enjoy helping my friends, sometimes to my own detriment. I tend to express my care for them by putting myself on the line leaving myself open to misfortune and derision so that they experience no discomfort. I’ve got my own dreams of “sky’s the limit” adventure and world greatness. They’re mostly daydreams, but some could’ve been reality. Yet in the similitude of Mr. Bailey, I gave them up for things like responsibility and family. Don’t get me wrong now. I did it by choice. I have the respect of my co-workers and relatives and things seem to be fine in general, but just like ole’ George Bailey I’ve put myself on the line for others one too many times, or so it seems. Thoughts of regret for chances past have crept in and passing feelings of “will it ever get easier” whisk through my brain bucket once in a while. Like George I’ve had breaking moments (all too often, honestly) where I’ve allowed the stress of life and work cause me to be unfairly gruff to those closest to me. I’ve had private, tearful moments of self-disappointment and self-discovery. It doesn’t quite appear thus at first, but I am most certainly George Bailey. Shelfers, WE are George Bailey. If you watch the movie half-heartedly, you see George Bailey the wonderful man who has a rare moment of weakness and depression causing his guardian angel to show him what he could be missing. It’s not that way at all. You see, George Bailey is the average Joe. He has dreams, he has love, he has ideals, a heart, and most importantly he has trials. We’ve all been daydreamers at some point with spurts of naïve idealism (some more than others). If you truly think about it, I’m sure you can recall a moment or two when you cared to a fault or listened to your heart when you should’ve heard your mind. This is also George Bailey. Looking at the movie a little deeper you see George start off great, but as the years go by the more he puts others before self and his philanthropy and trust backfire. This all mounts up to create a cynical George Bailey who regrets his kindness and feels like a dope which brings him to a key moment in his life. He must decide to get back up and keep swinging or lie on his back and wait for the ref to call the fight. This is where we the people and the great Mr. Bailey part ways. Too many of us choose to lie on our backs when hit with reality’s upper-cut. With a little help from his guardian angel, George got up. I know it’s hard to continue to get up when you’re knocked down so much. But resilience is the key. All too often we let the world and general negativity kill our kindness and hopeful spirits. When that happens too much and we don’t fight back, we go from Mr. Bailey to Mr. Grinch. There are things we can do though. As in boxing, you’re going to take hits. It’s inevitable. When you care for people, you’re going to make unwise decisions and you’re going to get hurt. But just as you can duck a punch, you can avoid making silly mistakes and still care. I’ve learned that in order to remain hopeful and idealistic, I have to draw the line sometimes because though the cause may be worthy, you can’t put yourself in a harmful position. Another way to resuscitate our inner Bailey was taught to me by a friend and one-time mentor who told me that the key to sanity and steadiness is a regular self-inventory. I regret that I have not really put his advice into action ‘cause he’s right. If we remember to give ourselves a regular self check-up through introspection and quiet personal discovery we stand a better chance at having balance and normalcy. We need to see what George Bailey saw. We need to know that no matter what, it could be worse. Though our world can be tougher than his, if we can be resilient and take a moment for personal reflection in our lives we can make it through. We can once again find that inner George. I’m somewhat of a religious man and believe that if we proceed with caution and the help of our Maker, we can still be a little naïve and a little vulnerable. Life doesn’t have to be cold and depressing and we can be thankful for what we have. As George Bailey found out, it truly is a wonderful life. Life itself is most certainly a great gift. It’s perfectly fine to daydream and want more, but appreciation for the blessings we already have is truly the spirit of George Bailey. How wonderful life truly would be if we would all succeed in this endeavor. Trust me folks. I know negativity. Without exposing myself, I’ll say I’m surrounded by the worst life has to offer every day with my job. I absorb as much and probably more negativity than most. I know it’s hard to stay positive and innocent about life, but at the same time I am also faced with my mortality every day at work as well. This causes me to ponder my blessings more than I might otherwise. Even in the pool of negativity I am saved from drowning just by the glimmer of hope I get from recognizing what blessings I do have which keep me afloat. My desire this season is for all of us to find our glimmer and join George Bailey in his happy world. After all, I think Bedford Falls would be the perfect place to raise a family. Don’t you agree?
Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.
Say, that's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I love music. Different kinds of music. With me - it's not so easy to describe who or what I like. It's more - I know what I like when I hear it. So to speak. OK - I am a big band, jazz, blues, croonin' junkie -but at the same time I love Sting, INXS, Queen, Barenaked ladies, Aaron Copeland, Beethoven, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Rosemary Clooney- do you see what I am getting at? Eclectic doesn't begin to describe my collection. I like me some Brazilian Bossa Nova, and am just as likely to put Celtic harmonies, the Boston Pops, or the Beatles on my playlist. Again I know what I like. I love discovering new music- even though it just may be new to me. A couple of years ago I saw O Brother, Where Art Thou, and - like many other Americans - bought the soundtrack. That led to discovering and loving the music of Allison Krauss and Union Station (one of the most beautiful voices in music today) - even though I don't consider myself a Bluegrass gourmet. Soon after I wandered into the realm of Ralph Stanley, and for a reason I don't remember, Johnny Cash. That led me to rediscover Lynard Skynard. Maybe unrelated links, but a thread nonetheless.
I enjoy something which has been dubbed- "The Great American Songbook." Thanks to Rod Stewart, a Scot, many have started to discover or rediscover great "American" songs - stuff sung by Sinatra, Martin, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Nat King Cole, and others. You probably know most of the songs, or at least heard of them. They are American classics like "As Time Goes By", "Over the Rainbow", "That Old Black Magic", and one of my personal favorites, "Stardust." The thing about these songs is that they evoke some of the common culture, influences, and spirit of our country. And that's nothing to be ashamed of. Why did it take a Scot to make us remember that this stuff is great? Don't know - but thanks anyway. I've been enjoying this music for many years- but it's great to see so many others discovering it now.
Now if someone where to ask- "Do you love Bluegrass? or Do you love Country?" I would probably answer "Not really." However, were they to ask about certain artists or play certain songs within those genres - I might answer differently. I don't know why. I know what I like - and I don't always identify or like an entire genre of music. I don't really know anyone who could honestly claim they like every performance, every performer within a genre of music. We are too human, too rooted in our own life journey for that. But that doesn't mean we can't discover music, artists, or performances. I think the very act of discovery - the discovery of knowledge, music, art, film, words, and ideas - keeps us young and alive, no matter what our age. When we stop discovering, we stop living.
Music, to me, is a journey. I particularly think that our culture, our history, and our identity as a nation of peoples is so beautifully expressed in music, as much as in words or pictures. So its a wonderful thing to make discoveries and to return to old favorites. I have always enjoyed taking an artist I like and then making a journey of discovery through them. For example, I enjoy the work of Harry Connick, Jr. So - who influenced him- who does he influence? Who has a similar sound and what do they do differently with it. Potentially one could start with Harry- and then discover one of his influences- Thelonious Monk. It's then possible to go from Monk to John Coltrane, or one of his influences, Duke Ellington. Duke could lead you to Fats Waller and then, you could study Jazz during the Harlem Renaissance and then the roots of Jazz and Blues in the Mississippi Delta and the South. It is then possible to go from there to traditional Southern Mountain music and even the African influences of music in the Gullah areas of the Charleston coast. Could you then go from the mountain music and it's parentage in Scotland and Ireland and then pull back into traditional Gaelic music in the present? Sure. Or even go to Africa and discover the drums of West Africa.
See - a journey. One that all started with a Harry Connick Jr. CD that you popped in and listened to one afternoon. Music has such potential. We can take a wonderful journey, if we just act on our curiosity and impulse to learn. We are truly only limited by our curiosity and imagination.
We linked to a website in our last post- Pandora. Pandora is part of the online Music Genome Project. If you enter in an artist's name- Pandora will then play a selection by that artist and follow that with other artists with a similar musical DNA, if you will. Check it and see what I'm talking about. Another great site is allmusic. You can make a very similar journey by searching out artists and checking out their work, bios, and influences.
Take a little trip before we are truly inundated with Holiday music. Not that I don't love Holiday music- in fact, I do love it. But the wait will make it all the more enjoyable- trust me. In fact, once we roll into December you can also add Holiday music to Pandora and see what it comes up with. Enjoy.
I don't care what you call me, man, just as long as my name is on the record.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Shelfers, in the midst of your traveling and cooking or cleaning for the holidays, we hope that you will take the time to bow your head and take a moment of silence for an endangered species: Thanksgivingus animatis specialus. We will not review the material from our previous class, so if you need to- you may catch up later.
As we discussed previously, in the past decade the animated holiday special has all but disappeared from Network prime time television. This would be a real tragedy if not for concurring events and technology, namely cable and satellite television and DVDs. Walk into any Best Buy or Circuit City, etc. and you will see many holiday DVDs; movies and animated shows alike. In recent years, the networks have sniffed the ad revenue in the air again and perhaps have realized that there is indeed something to running those specials. In fact, ABC has taken a bit of a lead in running the classics. ABC secured the rights to air the Peanuts holiday specials, taking them from CBS, the long time champ of the holiday special. Peanuts ruled CBS for 35 years. What kid doesn't remember the CBS eye logo spinning around with the dramatic music surging underneath telling us another holiday special was next?
CBS was smarting when ABC took the rug out from under them. The specials were getting perfunctory attention at CBS- ABC took the initiative and invested advertising and commercials in the series and it looks like it has paid off. At first they claimed that ratings was not a big deal; the network claimed at the time that they "won't miss the ratings. They were pretty modest. It's a matter of tradition."
That was then. Now the ratings have turned around to ABC's favor in regard to their investment. Now they are taking another step in the right direction. This year ABC is also running a longtime fan favorite Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. This is perhaps the first time in many years it has been run in primetime on a major network. ABC is also running two Charlie Brown Christmas specials (there are actually three) and The Grinch as well. CBS still has the rights to several Rankin Bass specials, Rudolph and several Frosty specials and will be airing those (Rudolph runs twice!). For many years the original Charlie Brown, Rudolph, and Frosty were the only specials you saw on network television- and they were rarely aired on the weekend. You had to go to cable to see anything else. That is beginning to change. The original fans of these shows are now adults and have or are starting to have kids of their own. They want to share these (and see them also) with their own children. Something that became tradition, then went away, seems to be making a comeback - at least where Christmas is concerned.
What does this mean for Thanksgiving specials? Well, not much- at least not in the present. The truth is that Thanksgiving specials were never in great abundance. Thanksgiving day has been the official start of Christmas programming for television right after the Macy's parade has gone off the air. I mean if Macy's winds up with Santa Claus as a finale- who are the networks to delay the inevitable. ABC, in a bold move (students, please not the light air of sarcasm in this statement) is airing A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on the night of Thanksgiving. This year that seems to be it. However, in the 70s and 80s in the weeks before Thanksgiving, families were able to sit down in front of a least a couple of animated Thanksgiving specials. Very few of them retained a special place as a must see special- but there have been more than you think. Today, in honor of this most rare of species we will list out the Thanksgiving animated specials that have appeared over the years, many which have been largely forgotten (some deservedly so). A few deserve to be remembered and seen still. Perhaps you will enjoy this trip down memory lane. Take the time to watch the specials when they air, and perhaps the trend that is returning, starting with Christmas, will spill over to Thanksgiving as well.
Not counting the occasional Saturday morning holiday themed special, very few Thanksgiving specials appeared in prime time. Here are a few that only appeared a few times.
The Mouse and the Mayflower (Rankin Bass, 1968)
If you thought the masters of the holiday special missed Thanksgiving, you are wrong. Rankin Bass hit Thanksgiving hard like your Aunt Mabel's Turkey Tofu Loaf. This cell animated adventure is about a Mouse that takes a trip along with the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower and ends up saving the ship and eventually Thanksgiving. Natch. Rankin Bassaficionadoss (including yours truly) eagerly await the DVD release of this classic. You can find it only used on VHS if you can't wait.
The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't (Hanna Barbara, 1972) This was a fairly saccharine-sweet adventure style cartoon. A young settler befriends a young Indian around the time of the first Thanksgiving. Some forest animals of the Snow White variety hang out with them, until they are dangerously cornered by a bear. Who will save the day? I actually don't remember this from childhood, but from having seen it on Cartoon Network about seven years ago.
Bugs Bunny Thanksgiving Diet (Warner Brothers, 1979) Bugs Bunny is the head of a diet clinic helping out other Looney Tunes characters with food related problems. Each problem transitions into a classic cartoon with a food theme. This one is actually funny and the new animation does a better job of leading into older segments. Although not on prime time anymore, you can probably find this on VHS at a rental store or online.
Daffy Duck's Thanks For Giving (Warner Brothers, 1980)
This is really only a Thanksgiving special in name only. Classic Daffy Duck shorts are joined by new animated transitions which have Daffy trying to get "J.L" to produce a new Daffy Duck film adventure: "Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th 1/2 Century."
(Paramount, 1988) While is not necessarily a "Thanksgiving special" it is an enjoyable and fairly informative look at the story of the meeting of the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Part of the "This is America" series, this special is available as a second feature on the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD.
Garfield's Thanksgiving (Fox, 1988)
A great classic! Garfield's vet tells Jon that Garfield must go on a diet, right at Thanksgiving. Jon is able to convince the lady vet to come over for Thanksgiving. When she comes over, she takes pity on ol' Garfield and tells him he can take a break from the diet for the special diet. Jon almost ruins dinner, but luckily it's his Harley- riding Grandma to the rescue. This one is readily available on the Garfield Holiday Celebrations DVD.
And of course perennialnnel classic:
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (Paramont, 1973)
What else can we say, other than perhaps no other special is able to top it. Peppermint Patty invites herself, Franklin, and Marcie over to Chuck's for Thanksgiving. One problem - Charlie Brown and Sally are headed to Grandma's for dinner and aren't cooking. Linus recommends that perhaps they have two dinners: one for the gang early and then the Browns can head to Grandma's. Snoopy handles cooking duties which includes Jelly Beans, toast, popcorn, pretzels and sundaes. Peppermint Patty gets pretty ticked and freaks out. Marcie reminds her that she invited herself over and PP apologizes to Chuck. Then Charlie Brown does what he should have done in the first place: he asks Grandma if his friends can come for dinner. When the gang heads for Grandma's condo, Snoopy and Woodstock then pull out the real Thanksgiving food that he hid for themselves. Woodstock, who apparently has no issues with cannibalism, wins the wishbone. I love this special- it's actually one of my favorite Charlie Brown specials. Also it has a very under-appreciated song: "Little Birdy." Love it. Do yourself a favor - watch it Thanksgiving night.
Well Shelfers- that's the case for Thanksgiving we think it deserves all the respect we can give it. Hopefully animated specials will continue the trend and return in abundance soon. Until then, enjoy them on DVD or cable if you can.
Finally from all of us at The Shelf- Happy Thanksgiving! Snag a drumstick and an extra helping of pie for us and enjoy Charlie Brown tonight! Be safe-
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
You will, no doubt, remember our award winning coverage of the history of animated specials and the Top Shelf picks for Halloween specials. When I say award winning, I mean that it should have won an award if there was such a thing. But let's stay on track here...
Thanksgiving is no stranger to the animated special. However, it does get short shrift as far as the amount and quality of specials. In fact, we dare say that only the Fourth of July and Labor Day fare worse. Labor Day was a goner the minute Jerry Lewis locked it in, and they realized no one care to see an animated musical about the AFL-CIO. Columbus Day doesn't count, because we all know it's not politically correct. Are there still places that celebrate that archaic holiday? I mean when will people learn that Columbus, OH is frightening place and never deserved a holiday to begin with. Just think of all the other deserving towns or cities that deserve... wait a second... I'm getting some information from the production team... Christopher who? Oh... I see. Well, that's different. Ahem.
Back to our feature.
Like the Thanksgiving animated special, the holiday itself is sort of in a bit of limbo. I know many people who enjoy Thanksgiving as one of their favorite holidays, myself included. Everything about it is pleasant, especially the older you get. I mean, once you get bumped up from the kiddy table to fill a vacancy at the "Main Table" - there's no turning back. At least until Aunt Mabel comes back next year when her rheumatism isn't so bad. Darn that Aunt Mabel.
Since Halloween folded up and left town, Christmas busted into town, without any regard for Thanksgiving, or even without calling ahead first to let us know it was on the way. In the rush to get the house ready- Thanksgiving- expected and invited- was knocking at the door. We answer the door sheepishly, knowing what needs to said. Thanksgiving, grinning from ear to ear has no clue. All we can say is, "Come on in, Thanksgiving. Good to see you. Sorry we can't visit long. You see, Christmas just blew into town and we kind of weren't expecting him this early. I'm sure you understand. Just stay and have some dinner and watch a little T.V. before Christmas gets here. Then we've got to rush, rush, rush. You know how it is. The house has to be just right."
Yeah. See what I mean. Short shrift.
Retail stores are barely putting discount signs on the Halloween candy the day before Halloween, and the Christmas candy and other holiday flash and tinsel was on the next shelf- waiting for Halloween to vacate the place like some New Yorker waiting for the tenant above them to die so they can move in to that rent controlled haven. It's fairly pathetic. The day after Halloween, I snuck down to the nearby unnamed electronics store chain and they were playing Christmas music. Freakin' Christmas music. Shelfers, I know you have been there. I know you have your own sad little experiences. It's not that Christmas isn't great. It is. We are big fans of Christmas here at The Shelf, as you will see coming in the month ahead. But all things must be enjoyed in moderation and in perspective. In fact, I would argue that without first commemorating a day of thanks, we are essentially diluting the true spirit of Christmas and the season in general. Since when did our culture stop needing to feel and recognize gratitude? Since never. Duh.
Popular culture is a wonderful thing, but it sort of has an "evil twin" side to it called over-commercialization. That used to be a very popular term back in the 60s and 70s when everyone worried about the holidays becoming too commercialized. But I've got news for ya': it's been going on for decades. It's fine in some aspects. Surely, certain holiday commercials and products occupy warm spots in our hearts. But when it is done in non-stop excess, we can't enjoy it. In fact we may resent it. And the thing is, Thanksgiving is kind of hard to commercialize, outside of food and maybe cards. It doesn't mean companies haven't tried, but in the end a day based on gratitude is a hard way to sell toys and candy. So the companies pay perfunctory tribute to Thanksgiving while they are rolling out the toys and candy and hawk decorations and advice on how to have the perfect Christmas. The T.V. and stores tell you to hurry, "time's a-wastin' "(wither Snuffy Smith?) and you have to buy this and that to have it just right. If it's not right, then no one will enjoy it! Rubbish. As it is- all this stuff puts family time in tretcherous territory. Now, don't get me wrong. Decorating, baking, etc. is wonderful for the holidays. But when you are worrying about perfection, what time do you have left for the loved ones who don't want perfect- they just want you. Truth hurts, doesn't it? If you only learn one thing today Shelfers, learn this: There can be too much of a good thing. Too much of anything leaves little room for anything else.
Remember Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory? All the kids that were abducted by Oompa Loompas and never seen again, were children in excess. All kids like candy and television, etc., but it has to be moderated by things like heart, learning, and living a good life. The true blessing of childhood is the ability of children to see truth, feel love and express them both. When we adults cram everything down their throats and indulge every single whim- we dilute that. Sometimes to the point of obliterating that. That's what the Oompa Loopmas were singing: "Who's to blame? The Mother and the Father." Didn't catch that the first time you saw it did you? Oompa Loompa, Doompety do.
Perhaps it's the feeling that holiday purchases are being forced down our throats- or perhaps it's because we feel like the things like products and perfection are getting in the way of time with family and friends; but that same thing happens to holidays. Days that were meant, like children, to express love and truth- become diluted by gross commercialization.
Therefore, today at the Shelf we are making the case for Thanksgiving. We throw the gaunlet down- we dare you to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, in full, and hold off on Christmas til next week. Sit down with your kids and enjoy some holiday cheer. Keep the Christmas stuff in the attic for now. Watch some Thanksgiving specials, bake some pumpkin pies, and heck throw in the ol' hand turkey. Enjoy Thanksgiving in it's fullness and aromas, in it's family time and goofy traditions. And be grateful that old Aunt Mabel is still around to tell you those silly stories about her rheumatism. Remember she may not be around next year. While you may be bumped up to the "Main table," we know that you look back at the kiddy table with fondness. Maybe next week once you are in the stores, hearing der Bingle croonin' about Rudolph above the din of the crowd, you will have carried a bit of the grateful spirit along with you. And then you'll thank us. Trust me, it will be worth it.
And next year, when Christmas blows into town right after Halloween skips out, tell 'em you already got company. Thanksgiving is propping it's feet up and staying a while. Tell Christmas you'll be glad to see it in December.
Tomorrow in part II, we look at the rare species known as Thanksgivingus animatis specialus. Be here.
I went down to buy a turkey tree and all they have are things for Christmas.
Monday, November 12, 2007
"As we fire up the grills today and enjoy family and friends I challenge us all to remember those for whom this day began. For centuries man has engaged in battle. Since time began there has always been a group somewhere who took up arms to defend their own or others who could not do so for themselves. Today we remember those who undertook this duty for our nation, but did not live to return home. I am not ashamed to say that as Americans, we live in the greatest nation on this green earth. God smiles on this country and those who feel otherwise can go jump in a lake.
The Declaration of Independence and Constitution alike are documents inspired of God and we live under the protection of their great canopy today. Lets take today to enjoy our freedoms and remember those who stand watch and hoist that canopy for us.
There is the famous phrase "All gave some and some gave all..". We hear it now and then and most of us pay little attention. Today is the day we remember those who gave all. My grandfather fought in and was wounded in the invasion of Italy in WWII. He is with us today because our family is greatly blessed. There are those who fought alongside him who never made it back to their families. I once heard him talk about the horrors of war saying that since returning home he has thought "Why did I survive? Why is it that when I was injured that I came out OK yet there were so many others who never made it past 19 or 21 years of age and returned home dead." He told me once that he had a great friend in his unit from Tennessee. He said they fought together in North Africa and into Italy. After he was wounded, he was taken to a field hospital and then to Charleston, S.C. to recover. Once he had gained his bearings in Charleston, he says he went to great lengths to check on the status of his friend who was still fighting overseas. In the process of doing so, he discovered to his horror that his unit had gone on to spearhead an attack on a city held by the Nazis and was almost completely wiped out. The list of casualties included his friend. This caused him to wonder why he survived and why he wasn't dead with his friend. I know he is grateful that he is here with us today, but I understand why he has had concern in the past.
There are those who have gone on before who died for the cause of our freedom or for the freedom of another. I don't care what your politics are. Whether it's our freedom or the freedom of some other nation, it is still freedom. People say that our soldier are dying for nothing in Iraq, but I say that disrespects the fallen who went out and put their life on the line for the freedom of another. No soldier ever died for nothing as long as they believed in the cause for which they fought. Let us put partisan views aside today and remember those who will never make it home. For the sake of their memory and the honor of their families, let us join together this day in a moment of silence to remember those who have fallen. I know we've all seen this video clip of the soldier returning from Iraq and surprising his son. As a father of two boys, I know what it is to enjoy the love of your children. In my career I have had several instances where I thought that I might not have made it home to see them again. Luckily I'm still with my family, but as we watch this clip today, let's think of what it is like for all of those little boys and girls past and present who won't get to hug mommy or daddy again. Let's think that even though our soldiers fight for freedom right now in another country, they still fight and die for freedom. Let's honor them for their courage and sacrifice and let's think about what it means when we hear "some gave all"."
Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. ."
Friday, November 09, 2007
I thought we were gonna get television. The truth is... television is gonna get us.