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.


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