Thursday, December 31, 2009

happy new year!

Everyone here at The Shelf (the above is not an accurate likeness- well, for the most part) would like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year and prosperous and healthy 2010!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Stop with the don't thoughts. Start with the do thoughts.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to one and all!

While we take a few days off (and hope you are able to as well) we wish everyone a very, very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year as well. In the meantime, please enjoy this special classic post by the one and only Mrs. Baravelli from Christmas of 2007. Enjoy!

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

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I want to wash my hands, my face, my hair with snow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

let 'em stay home, too

Shelfers- who says we don't try to bring the best and brightest? Well, we've got something to put in yer stockin' this year. We've gone and given our Foreign Correspondent, Matt, a permanent byline as part of the regular Shelf crew. We'll receive missives from hither and yon now and then from our roving reporter and today we introduce him and his inaugural post. Welcome him with all the usual razzle dazzle.- Uncle JC Loophole

Remember the scene from A Christmas Story where Ralphie and his family have Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant? They have a very non-traditional Peking duck, and are treated to a rendition of “Deck the Harrs” by the owners. Do you remember why they ate at the Chinese restaurant? I know, the neighbors’ dogs broke in and destroyed the turkey and fixings. But that is just the reason why they ate out. Do you remember why they ate out at the Chinese place? Answer: it was the only place in town open.

Here is what got me thinking about that (and no, I have not yet sat down for an all day marathon). I was watching a preview for the new Sherlock Holmes movie, and while it looks pretty interesting, I was troubled by the fact that it is opening Christmas day. In A Christmas Story, one of the early classics that delights in groaning at the over-commercialization of the holiday, the family’s only option for Christmas dinner was the one restaurant in town whose owners didn’t celebrate the holidays. Nowadays, the entertainment industry capitalizes on the day. Movies open and restaurants are booked. And while it’s not my intent to rain on anyone’s heart-warming traditions, I can’t help feeling bad for all the poor folks spending the holidays away from their families.

Look, not everyone can stop working on Christmas. Police, dispatchers, deputies and COs are still needed to deal with the results of dysfunctional families who have spent a little too much time together. Ambulances and hospitals are needed to deal with the results of eggnog overindulgence. And firefighters still have to put out all the deep fried turkey fires. But why do the hostesses, bus-boys (or perhaps I should say bus-persons), waiters and waitresses, ticket takers and popcorn-sweeper-uppers, not to mention all the grocery store cashiers, baggers, and stockers have to work on Christmas? Answer: Because we keep going to the restaurants, the theaters, and the stores on the holidays.

When I was a kid in Southern California (down in the OC, as a matter of fact, though my life was fairly un-glamorous), we found that Christmas was a good day to go to Disneyland. Lines were relatively short and the weather was usually good enough to still handle a soaking off of Splash Mountain. But as I look back, I think of those folks who had to spend the day away from their families because of me and mine. So I’ve decided something. As long as I want Christmas off, I want to help others get it off, too. That means that I have to remove the incentives for business owners to open shop on Christmas day. If folks stop eating out, stop going to movie premiers, and prepare ahead of time so they don’t have to rush to the store, all of those places will stop being open on holidays. And then all of those folks can spend the day with those they love, too. Who’s with me?

I don't know. Maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe all these folks love working on Christmas. Maybe the tips are bigger. Maybe that's all that keeps the companies in the black. But who really wants to have their holidays so over-commercialized that they make the campiness in A Christmas Story look like a quaint Norman Rockwell cover?

This isn't just a story you're covering - it's a revolution. This is the greatest yarn in journalism since Livingstone discovered Stanley.

Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap. My personal preference was for Lux, but I found Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor - heady, but with just a touch of mellow smoothness.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

the passing of roy disney

I learned last night that Roy E. Disney passed away after fighting stomach cancer. He was 79. Among the many tributes, deservedly so (and there are many around the web), perhaps one of the words I have seen most associated with him is determination. He was determined to rescue the animation department in the 1980s from oblivion, determined to protect his father and uncle's legacy, determined to preserve the history of Disney, and determined to make sure it had the right leadership.

He grew up on the Disney Burbank lot, and it seemed he was connected at the hip with the Disney studio from the beginning. He went on to earn his stripes and rightfully earn his place in the company. He worked on the True-Life Adventures series, episodes of Wonderful World of Disney and eventually took on the task of breathing new life into the animation department which seemed on shaky ground in the 1980s.

I remember going into the theater with a girlfriend to see The Little Mermaid in 1989, and even though I was an animation buff even then, I thought Disney was past its prime. I figured I could stand an hour and half of crappy animation just to make my girl happy. Then the opening ocean sequence started and I was amazed at what they had done- surely this was just the opening - the whole film couldn't possibly carry on this level of animation depth and skill and the storytelling and music would be subpar for sure. I was dead wrong. It was a modern day resurgence - and I was in the front row to witness it up on the big screen for myself. Then I saw it continue several years later when I took my then fiancé (now Mrs. Loophole herself) to one of our first movies- Aladdin. And I saw it again, when we went to see The Lion King while she was pregnant with our first born. Few companies are lucky to get a "golden age" - even fewer are lucky to get two. Thanks Roy- you will be missed.

Tributes can be found at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy, Cartoon Brew, D23, Cinematical and of course you can probably find many, many more. Also, Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood has an appreciation and thoughtful article on Roy's story in revitalizing and fighting for the Disney legacy.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

christmas cartoon double feature

Hey there Shelfers- it's time for our weekly Christmas cartoon. And as a special bonus treat, we are making it a double bill. A great Disney short, then a Disney Christmas special from the 1980s.

First up the classic Disney short Toy Tinkers with Donald and Chip and Dale.

Now our feature presentation: A Disney Christmas Gift from 1982
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

and Finally Part 5

Hope you've enjoyed this week's Christmas cartoon installment for the 2009 Shelf Christmas Party. Stay tuned for more.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

See what Santa has for you...and for you my little pal.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

pause for the music: 10 favorite christmas music performances

There is an abundance of Christmas music (and as the case may be, muzak) being piped through malls, elevators, radio stations, and telephone automated holds throughout the land right now. You almost cannot escape it, I mean - if you wanted to...that is...*ahem*. Anyway, I like Christmas music, but I prefer it on my terms- I prefer it performed beautifully and well. I don't always go in for the latest pop star's take on a classic, but on occasion some of them have put out some fantastic records.
Nonetheless- for this week's Christmas music installment of our ongoing 2009 Shelf Christmas Party, I thought I would share some clips of some of my favorite Christmas carols in some of the most beautiful performances I've heard. Several are classics, and some of them are more recent performances that are unforgettable. By the way, most of these are available on CD, and I encourage you to purchase them for your own collection.

I even decided to just pick my 10 favorites and even invite all of you out there to comment or share with me your favorites. Perhaps a Christmas Music Meme is in order- I invite any of my fellow bloggers to jump on the bandwagon. And the task is simple: What are your 10 most favorite Christmas music performances? Ones that still give you chills, and you have to listen to every year? I'll invite a couple to join in, but anyone is welcome to join in this fun Christmas meme. You don't have to provide clips like I have- just at least tell us what they are and why you like them. If you post one- let me know and I will update this post with a link to all the sites and posts that send me a link.

For now, here are my 10 Favorite Christmas music performances (in no particular order really, but numbered so I can make sure I narrow it down to ten).

10. Kristen Chenoweth: Do You Hear What I Hear? Kristen Chenoweth's Christmas CD from last year is one of my new favorites- absolutely beautiful.

9. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Brian Stokes Mitchell: Sleigh Ride
(The Mormon Tabernacle Choir always puts on a fantastic Christmas concert with some of the most celebrated performers around the world- and this song just sounds so great with a large choir and the bells- just awesome. I've always loved hearing them perform this song since hearing it on that Holiday classic special with Jimmy Stewart: Mr. Krueger's Christmas.)

Honorable mention: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir with The King's Singers: O, Holy Night (enough to give me chills everytime I hear it.)

8. Celtic Women: The First Noel (clip also includes a wonderful instrumental of In the Bleak Midwinter)

7. To me one of my favorite singers of all time is Harry Connick Jr., and his Christmas albums get heavy rotation this time of year. In fact, my own little tradition to kick off the chilly time of year is to listen to Harry's soundtrack to When Harry Met Sally- especially since there are several "wintery" type songs on there, including Winter Wonderland. Harry's version is still my favorite and on his last album he brought along his daughter to record it as a duet. Here is Harry Connick Jr and his daughter Kate with Winter Wonderland:

6. Amy Grant: Grown Up Christmas List. Yes, it's kinda sappy. Yes, I had a crush on Amy Grant growing up. What of it? You wanna fight about it or something? Either way- it's a beautiful song, and she has a beautiful voice- her Christmas albums are something I enjoy listening to every year.

5. Frank Sinatra: I'll be Home for Christmas/ Dean Martin and Frank: Marshmallow World. He's the Chairman- and he recorded a version of this song that is still one of the best and most heartfelt around. Fellow crooner Dino also recorded this classic solo and with Frank that is at once playful and sentimental- as only Dino and Ol' Blue Eyes could make it.
I'll Be Home for Christmas:

Marshmallow World (from the Dean Martin show):

4. Nat King Cole practically made Mel Torme's The Christmas Song an indelible classic. Nat brings soul, feeling and warmth to Christmas songs that I have to listen to every year. And his performance of Hark the Herald Angels Sing is one of my all time favorites, earning him a double bill at the number 4 spot:
Christmas Song:


3. Burl Ives, etc.- Soundtrack to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. What makes a Christmas song a classic? It's hard, because there are so many, and there so many versions of each song. Obviously, everyone has a favorite version of their particular song, but sometimes one just steps up above them all. When Rankin/Bass released their special Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer- in many ways the Burl Ives' version became the standard for kids of all ages. For my number 2 pick though- I'd have to suggest the whole darn soundtrack, especially to make sure I include my favorite: Silver and Gold:

2. Vince Guaraldi: A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack. I am a Peanuts fanatic- and my family knows it. The very first CD I owned was the soundtrack to this special. Lucy and Linus, O Christmas Tree- all seasonal classics. But anytime I hear "Christmas Time is Here" memories come rushing back, and I am transported to my childhood.

1. Now for classic Christmas performances that I have to hear during this time of year, you just can't forget Bing. And he's number one with me- no contest. Yes, White Christmas and Holiday Inn get multiple viewings in the Loophole household...but for some reason, I just love this performance of White Christmas with Bing and Marjorie Reynolds from Holiday Inn. It is tops in my book:

Honorable mention Bing: I could just make this entire list Bing's stuff- it's that great. But this little bonus performance comes from White Christmas- it isn't about Christmas per se, but I can't tell you how many times when times have been hard or down, that this wonderful song comes to mind: Count Your Blessings, Instead of Sheep. For me it's one of the lynchpins of the movie and it's just one of the things that makes White Christmas an everlasting classic movie.

I hope you've enjoyed this music filled meme and entry into the Shelf's 2009 Christmas party. I'd like to invite one and all bloggers to participate if they will- I'd love to see what songs Laura, Jacqueline, Ivan, the Classic Maiden and Retrohound have as their favorites. So I am tagging you 5 in particular, if you are willing.
Again - if you want to post your favorites- send me a link and I will update this post and include it here.

Lawdy, lawdy - we've already got some awesome posts up and I've received word that some are working on their picks. So we have some awesome posts to look forward to.
Remember- if you've taken up the challenge,(and the challenge is issued to one and all who wish to participate) please send me a link via email, or in the comments section and I will post it here!

First up- Ivan, the Master of Ceremonies at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear , has his selections posted for your viewing pleasure. And may I say, I was "thrilled," (HA- get it? You know, cause the name of the blog...and ...oh, never mind) yes, thrilled to see one his selections is the almighty Stan Freberg's Green Christmas. Longtime Shelfers know we have an unexplainable, yet eternal affection for all things Freberg. Do yourself a favor and go straightaway and check it out:

Retrohound kicks it up a notch with a very eclectic list. This is one of the reasons I sent out this meme-- I wanted to discover stuff I've never heard and rediscover things I had forgotten. Retrohound has plenty of music know-how and brings it to the table. To my eternal shame- he included Thurl Ravencroft's You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch- and I forgot. I can't believe I forgot about "Stink! Stank! Stunk!" Thanks for saving our bacon, Retrohound. Go hither and read it (and listen): Top 10 Christmas Song Performances of All-Time (well, this year anyway)

"OK, Uncle Loophole," you say, "We are familiar with your picks- fairly standard. We want something different, something hip, something unusual." Alright- I've got just the thing for you- check Gilligan's Retrospace. Some of the most unique choices yet and full of pop culture and some new performances for you to enjoy. Bonus points for picking a Mrs. Brady performance and the cool opening original post graphic. Don't delay- head over to 10 Favorite Christmas Music Performances straightaway.

The ever awesome Jacqueline at Another Old Movie Blog, has taken up the challenge and she has outdone herself. She has even gone one further by making her choices only from performances in classic films. I've "listened" to her picks several times already and am in the mood to pull out my stack of films for another round. But she serves the "coup de grace" with her commentary after her picks about what Christmas music means to all of and in bringing people together as a community. And I quote: "Christmas songs cater to neither young or old, city or rural. If you know some, you learned them as a child. For the rest of your life, you’ll fit into any makeshift street carolers or living room chorus, just like Joseph Cotten, who has a hard time fitting in any place after his bad war experience." And there is much more. Please go over and immerse yourself in Favorite Christmas Music Meme.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

You sound sweet, but you don't make sense.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

repost: you betcha virginia

Today we present a repost in our continuing 2009 Shelf Christmas Party, and for our Weekly Christmas Cartoon special. It's an old favorite, and much beloved special that seems to be inline for a remake (and, I am afraid, will lack the charm of the original). I continue to hope that it will be released on DVD.

One of my favorite Holiday specials that has never made it to DVD and is very difficult to find on VHS is Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. It's a charming early 70's holiday animated special from Bill Melendez and narrated by Mr.Magoo/Mr. Howell himself, Jim Backus. One of the things I love about it, besides the animation (fans of Peanuts specials will, of course recognize the style) - is the message and story which really tackles the spirit of hope and goodwill of the season no matter what you believe. It is based on a true story (which you can read more about here) and set in 1890's New York City- and reflects the ethnic melting pot that America was becoming. In fact it's spirit of coming together to me is so much at odds with today's imputus to label and separate ourselves into categories, that I wish it was shown regularly like it was when I was younger.
So without further ado- our first entry, in what we hope will be a series, of Holiday Specials you don't see anymore on TV: Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:


Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

The older you get, the less there is to believe in.

Monday, December 07, 2009

forever remembered...

December 7th, 1941. Is it increasingly forgotten- or less valued as a memory as the years go by? It was a day in which many average Americans started out with going to church, visiting family and usual Sunday activities- but then ended with shock, tears and disbelief. I remember my Grandmother telling me how her family was gathered around the "wireless" (that's not Bluetooth, kiddos- she meant a radio) with another family and they heard the news come across the airwaves. What she said that she remembers the most is the silence in the room, then seeing her mother cry. She has never forgotten it.

I know older people who have forgotten more recent events, etc- but December 7th is burned into their memory. It was a day in which Americans realized that the world was a bit more terrifying, and that the troubles of the rest of the world would no longer be distant. With one act, all of the talk and argument about involvement, isolationism, etc went out the window. The newspapers and politicians may have continued to argue- but the American family knew it was time. It was time to fetch the proverbial rifle, to call upon our heritage as minutemen and citizen soldiers and go and do something about the atrocity of Pearl Harbor, and not finish until the job was done.

It is worth remembering and worth marking the day- and a day that should indeed live forever in infamy. We suffered another devastation loss and attack decades later in 2001, and while we continue to fight in that arena- it may serve us all well to remember that those who would live in freedom must forever remain vigilant- and must never forget neither the cost, nor the value of that freedom.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

Friday, December 04, 2009

weekly christmas cartoon special

Welcome one and all to the 2009 Shelf Christmas Party. We hope to bring you articles, favorite Chirstmas posts of the past, more "behind the carol" articles (which we started with our last post on I Heard the Bells on Chirstmas Day) and of course our weekly Christmas cartoon!

Today we bring you an under appreciated Christmas Special from Rankin Bass: The Life and Times of Santa Claus, originally aired in 1985. It was the last Animagic special produced by Rankin-Bass and the next to last Christmas special ever produced by Rankin/Bass themselves; the last being the animated 2001 Santa, Baby! The more recent iterations using the classic Rankin/Bass characters, to my understanding, have been produced by other groups like Classic Media or Warner Brothers who own the rights to the characters. For example, Warner Brother's produced the most recent special, the 2008 A Miser Brothers' Christmas, which just didn't have the same flavor and warmth as the original Rankin/Bass output. Which is something to be said for the originality, warmth and general wonderfulness of the work by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass.

While you can catch it sometimes on ABC Family, it no longer runs on Network television, and until just the past couple of weeks it was unavailable on DVD. Now you can order it through the Warner Brothers Archive MOD DVD shop, which I encourage you to do, as I have. It's a wonderful and unique special, that's based on an original story by L. Frank Baum (Wizard of Oz) from 1902, and tells a fantastical tale of how Santa Claus became...Santa Claus and immortal, and also provides the many origins of Christmas traditions. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Hope you've enjoyed this week's installment, and I hope you enjoyed the post on the story behind I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Stay tuned for more of the 2009 edition of the Shelf Christmas Party!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

In all this world, there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

i heard the bells...

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of our nation’s most beloved poets, in addition to the many poems that have become engrained in our country’s conscience, also gave us the words to one of our most beloved Christmas carols. Longfellow’s poem, Christmas Bells was written in December of 1863, during not only one of the darkest periods of Longfellow’s life, but that of the nation as well; The Civil War. As with many literary works, the inspiration and circumstances which led to Longfellow taking up the pen began sometime before that dark, yet in the end, hopeful, December…

Longfellow married Frances Appleton on July 13th 1843, and they began to raise their family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. First came a son, Charles in 1844. Then over the years the Longfellows added four more children to their growing family: Ernest, Alice, Edith, and Allegra. In 1861, the Civil War had begun, and tragedy struck the Longfellow household. Frances was fatally burned in the library of their house in July of 1861. Henry was dumbstruck with grief. He has his children, but the joy was out of his life. When the holidays arrived, Longfellow wrote: “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” The following year when Christmas arrived, he wrote in his journal: “A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me.”

The war continued to cast a grim pallor upon families in the North and the South in 1863. Charles Appleton Longfellow was now 17 and eager to make his mark by joining the military. His father disapproved, but Charles ran away from home and petitioned Captain W.H. McCartney, commanding Battery A of the 1st Massachusetts Artillery to enlist. Captain McCartney, familiar with Charles and his family, wrote to get his permission. By this time, perhaps knowing Charles wouldn’t give in, Henry reluctantly agreed.

Charles turned out to be quite adept as a soldier, and a skilled leader. In fact, when Henry thought he might help his son by seeking the aid of some famous friends, including a US Senator, to secure a commission, he was pleased to learn Charles had earned his commission and advancement on his own merits. Now a Second Lieutenant, Charles saw action at Chancellorsville, Culpepper and many other skirmishes. In November, during the New Hope Church campaign in Virginia, Charles was shot in the left shoulder. The bullet nicked his spine and exited his right shoulder, barely missing paralyzing him. Charles was taken in with the other wounded into the church. After the battle, Charles was sent with other wounded back to Washington DC.

On December 1st, Henry received word about Charles and rushed to Washington DC, and then brought Charles back to Cambridge to recover. It has barely been two years since the loss of his wife, the loss of his first born son seemed to be too much to comptemplate. But his son had survived thus far, and was recuperating. In the midst of still grieving for his wife, Longfellow found hope anew in the survival and return of his son to his home. It was during that time in December of 1863, while nursing his son back to health, Longfellow penned the words to the poem, Christmas Bells:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!

Charles was unable to recover sufficiently to rejoin his unit, but did survive his wounds. He was discharged from the Union Army in 1864. Longfellow’s poem not only expresses his previous despair, but then it also bears witness of his newfound hope. The Bells that often rang out during the holidays had for two years did nothing but remind him of loss, and did nothing to lift his spirits. And, as he wrote in several stanzas, the War also paralleled his feelings of despair- that the Bells did nothing but mock those who had lost – that there was no chance for that old hominy of Peace on Earth Good Will to Men. And yet, Longfellow was able to find hope, through the survival of his son, and realized that God did not sleep- despite the war, the destruction and the loss. God was not dead, and that the Bells seemed to ring louder in the war- to bring more hope to mankind- that one day “The Wrong shall fail/ The Right prevail/ With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Eventually Longfellow’s poem was set to music, initially in 1872 by John Baptiste Calkin, which provided the traditionally known hymn. It has been rearranged several more times, but the best known of these is the famous arrangement by Johnny Marks, who also wrote Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Marks’ arrangement seems to be the more popular modern version as it has been recorded by many artists from Bing Crosby Kate Smith and Frank Sinatra to Sarah McLachlan and Johnny Cash. It’s popularity as a Christmas Carol is only matched by its profound attachment to our National heritage and culture.

The stanzas specifically referring to the War were removed for the music arrangements and some of the lines were rearranged, but the message of newfound hope and faith in God, and a desire for goodwill towards all men, even in the midst of our darkest days, still comes through. Longfellow’s story of tragedy and loss, and newfound hope is one that should resonate with anyone who has experienced loss, or has been lost, and question the purpose of their lives or how anyone could wish another Merry Christmas. Stop for a moment and look for the hope and listen for the faint peels of the Bells as they try hard to ring out their message to all. If we stop looking, we will never find it. But if we recognize it when it brought to us, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, we can also realize that God is not dead, nor doth he sleep, and that hope is there and His arm is outstretched to us. And more than anything else, perhaps we need to realize that peace on earth, goodwill towards men starts with us. Goodwill doesn’t stop and start with Government, leaders, Actors, Celebrities or anyone else. It’s everyone’s own responsibility. We need to find that peace within us first, and then impart that peace, in the form of goodwill, towards all others. It is my fondest wish that we will all remember Longfellow’s story and his words from the carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. For the true message of the carol is to share with others- I also was once without hope, but I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day- and I heard the message of hope and peace – for all. And it filled my heart.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep/
God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I wanted to share some things with everyone on this Thanksgiving eve. You may see, amid the various TV specials and "myths about Thanksgiving" articles on the web, some people who delight in skewering our national holiday. Sure- our modern day conception of the origins of Thanksgiving is a mish mash of actual history, folklore and tradition, but that doesn't mean it's bad. In fact, Thanksgiving is perhaps our one and only original cultural holiday- one that celebrates being grateful for what we have, putting aside differences and family. And more than anything else, no matter the zig zag road it took to get here, it is about family and memory. All of the many things involved with Thanksgiving- aromas, food, communal gathering- are psychological triggers of memory. Memories of childhood, of times gone by, of loved ones now gone- it is a form of communal ritual which celebrates our connections to each other and the past.

I have lamented in the past how we often seem so in a rush to get to Christmas, that we often overlook or zoom past Thanksgiving. I still believe that is the case in some ways- especially in the commerce sector. However I received a recent email from a friend- a Shelf Foreign Correspondent (did I mention he lives in Northern California?) that offers another point of view that still ties into what Thanksgiving is all about. I wanted to share that with all of you as part of our annual Thanksgiving message:

"I wanted to respond to your Thanksgiving post (as I sit here listening to my favorite Christmas album). I completely agree with folks who decry the over-commercialization of the holidays in general, and I therefore understand the frustration with the rush to the big money-making holidays. But for me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are inseparably intertwined.

My fondest Thanksgiving and Christmas memories are both based on the same thing: a warm heart, and a loving family. While the presents at Christmas were great as a kid, the things I remember most fondly were the dinners, both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The whole big family (10 of us, before I left home), and often a large parcel of single friends, other families, and neighbors would sit down together for massive meals. And while the food was good, it was more the experience of it that warms my heart. We would sit and eat slowly, dining as much on conversation as on the food prepared. It happened in rounds; we would chat while the first bit settled, and then go back for more. When we got to full, we took a break for a few hours, and then began the pie course. I remember just sitting and loving the sound of the family talking, the stories told, and the feeling of people enjoying one another's company. It was different from regular dinners. The fancy china was broken out. It was special. And the warmth of the gathered family, occurring on both of these days, both based in gratitude towards the gifts of God, and most supremely the gift of His Son.

We have to fight the urge to break out Christmas music before Halloween every year in our house. This year, I was the most disciplined in this regard. I know that we are perhaps on the extreme end of things. But the love of family and gratitude toward God are unifying holiday themes for me, and I like to think of Thanksgiving and Christmas as the two anchors of the time of year where these things are perhaps closest in our hearts and minds. I don't think Thanksgiving is a merely a prelude to Christmas. I just think that Thanksgiving and Christmas are co-captains of the best season of the year

Thanks Matt for the message. And to all of you- no matter where you may be, with family or unable to be with them, no matter whether religious or not- remember that Thanksgiving is primarily about families, memories and making new ones. To all of you- have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

But Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that's what they mean by 'Thanksgiving,' Charlie Brown.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

tcm watch...and more

A couple of 5-star worthy TCM news items to bring across the bow of the Shelf, and more from around the Shelf neighborhood:

You may already know that Turner Classic Movies is hosting their first annual TCM Classic Film Festival April of 2010 in Hollywood, CA. They will be presenting more than 50 classic films, and hosted by Robert Osborne- with many talks and special guests such as Leonard Maltin, Peter Bogdanovich, and Douglas Trumbull. News comes today that there will be several specials screenings. From the news release:
"spectacular events will include the world premiere of a newly restored edition of George Cukor’s music-filled 1954 drama A Star is Born; the North American premiere of a restored version of Fritz Lang’s 1927 science-fiction silent masterpiece Metropolis; and a 50th anniversary screening of the influential French classic Breathless, the film that launched Jean-Luc Godard’s career."
Especially note worthy is the first North American screening of the restored version of Lang's Metropolis. Last year a a 16mm negative was discovered in Buenos Aires that included an additional 30 minutes of footage that hasn't been seen since the films 1927 premiere in Berlin. A live orchestra will providing the music for the silent film classic. Hopefully news and details of a DVD release won't be too far behind.
Information on tickets, passes and the Festival, for anyone lucky enough to be out there, can be found at the Festival website.

For those of you who have been keeping up with the Universal library on made to order DVD through TCM archives collection, you may know that a film fans have been eagerly hoping will make it to DVD will debut on the TCM/Universal collection starting Friday Nov. 20th. Remember the Night, starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck is the story of a prosecutor (MacMurray) who finds himself falling in love with a shoplifter (Stanwyck) during a court recess at Christmas time. The rarely seen Christmas film will not only soon be available to fans on DVD, but it also is one of the headliners for TCM's Christmas movies throughout the month of December. Thursdays in December (including Christmas Eve, natch) will feature lineups of beloved holiday classics. Here is a listing of the Christmas film line-up that winds up with a special Sherlock Holmes marathon on Christmas Day (what TCM is unashamedly calling Holmes for the Holidays)
(a complete month schedule can be found on

The following is a complete lineup of TCM’s Thursday primetime and Christmas Day schedule:

Thursday, Dec. 3
8 p.m. – A Christmas Carol (1938), starring Reginald Owen and Gene Lockhart.
9:15 p.m. – Little Women (1949), starring June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh and Margaret O’Brien.
11:30 p.m. – Tenth Avenue Angel (1948), starring Margaret O’Brien and Angela Lansbury.
1 a.m. – 3 Godfathers (1948), starring John Wayne, Pedro Armindáriz, Harry Carey Jr. and Ward Bond.
3 a.m. – Hell’s Heroes (1930), starring Charles Bickford and Raymond Hatton.
4:30 a.m. – Bush Christmas (1947), starring John Fernside and Chips Rafferty.

Thursday, Dec. 10
8 p.m. – It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947), starring Don DeFore, Ann Harding and Gale Storm. 10 p.m. – Fitzwilly (1967), starring Dick Van Dyke, Barbara Feldon and Edith Evans.
Midnight – Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), starring Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Lewis Stone.
2 a.m. – Susan Slept Here (1954), staring Dick Powell, Debbie Reynolds and Anne Francis.
4 a.m. – Little Women (1933), starring Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Paul Lukas and Frances Dee.

Thursday, Dec. 17
8 p.m. – Christmas in Connecticut (1945), starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet.
10 p.m. – Holiday Affair (1950), starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh.
11:30 p.m. – Never Say Goodbye (1946), starring Errol Flynn and Eleanor Parker.
1:30 a.m. – Period of Adjustment (1962), starring Tony Franciosa, Jane Fonda and Jim Hutton.
3:30 a.m. – Beyond Tomorrow (1940), starring Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith and Maria Ouspenskaya.

Thursday, Dec. 24 – Robert Osborne’s Christmas Picks
8 p.m. – Remember the Night (1940), starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.
9:45 p.m. – Christmas in July (1940), starring Dick Powell and Ellen Drew.
11 p.m. – Chicken Every Sunday (1948), starring Dan Dailey and Celeste Holme.
1 a.m. – Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Lucille Bremer and Mary Astor.
3 a.m. – In the Good Old Summertime (1949), starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson.
5 a.m. – The Shop Around the Corner (1940), starring Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Frank Morgan.

Friday, Dec. 25
7 a.m. – Little Women (1933), starring Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Paul Lukas and Frances Dee.
9 a.m. – A Christmas Carol (1938), starring Reginald Owen and Gene Lockhart.
10:15 a.m. – The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), starring Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and Monty Woolley.
12:15 p.m. – Christmas in Connecticut (1945), starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet.
2:15 p.m. – Little Women (1949), starring June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh and Margaret O’Brien.
4:30 p.m. – Holiday Affair (1950), starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh.
6 p.m. – Susan Slept Here (1954), starring Dick Powell, Debbie Reynolds and Anne Francis.

Friday, Dec. 25 – Holmes for the Holidays
8 p.m. – The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Richard Greene and Wendy Barrie.
9:30 p.m. – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939), starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce and Ida Lupino.
11 p.m. – The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), starring Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely and Genevieve Page.
1:15 a.m. – Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour (1931), starring Arthur Wontner, Ian Fleming and Jane Welsh.
2:30 a.m. – The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Andre Morell and Maria Landi.
4 a.m. – A Study in Terror (1965), starring John Neville, Donald Houston, Georgia Brown and Anthony Quayle.

You can stay tuned to the Shelf for a upcoming review of the first wave of the Universal/TCM Archives set: Horror Cult Classics, and of Remember the Night!

From some of our blogging neighbors:

Laura, our friend of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings fame, reports on a recent interview with Warner Home Video's George Feltenstein and the state of the Warner Archives program. Feltenstein offers that Warners will be making improvements to the DVD on demand library and program, perhaps, as Laura Mused, because of the newly created Universal/TCM Archives DVD on demand program. If so, that is a great thing- and may lead to other studios presenting their own form of DVD on Demand (Fox- I keep staring at you!) And if one were to compare- the Universal/TCM effort hands down is leading out of the gate in terms of print quality, extras an everything fans have come to expect from DVDs. Warners has the vast selection and titles- we just want you to up the game a bit. And George, you are a Classic Film Fan's hero- keep bringing your skill and knowledge to bear on the WB Archives and up the quality. Please read Laura's post - it's very informative and makes some dead-on observations - and has a link to the interview.

The inimitable Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear takes a look at those childhood heroes of mine, Rocky and Bullwinkle, who turn 50 years young today!

Shelf favorite, and constant object of adoration, the Self-Styled Siren as demonstrated why we admire her so much- she has been able to achieve every classic film fan's dream and programmed a film series for Turner Classic Movies. In January of 2010, TCM will present Shadows of Russia: a month long look at the many images of Russia and Communism through the lens of Hollywood. How it all came about is up on her site (and reading her recent take on rewatching The Bicycle Thief is well worth your time as well. )

Finally- several bloggers have noted and posted on the 100th anniversary of wonderful actor Robert Ryan, and deservedly so- in addition to being fantastic in so many noirs, his subtle ability to make any character breathe life hard is evident in so many other roles. Some of the best tributes read came from another Shelf favorite and regular read, The Classic Maiden and the bloggers over at TCM's Movie Morlocks.

That's all for today Shelfers- please stay tuned for more news and reviews and of course, more Thanksgiving 2009 celebration!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Oh my, yes. My life is just one long round of whoopee.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

repost: the case for thanksgiving, part 2

Here is part two of that Shelf Classic: The Case for Thanksgiving. Stick around for more new posts this week in our ongoing 2009 Shelf Thanksgiving Celebration!

Hurray! Jelly Beans for Thanksgiving!
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 If you've got no problem hunting a fellow bird for Thanksgiving, Woodstock- go for it.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. TheDon't get mad, Peppermint Patty- get even. Bring back the specials! 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."

This is America, Charlie Brown - The Mayflower Voyagers

(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.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

What did you expect, a turkey card?


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