Sunday, December 31, 2006


The Younger Son got Men in Black II for Christmas, and we watched it over lunch. It stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. I thought it was almost as funny as the first one. It's a sequel, of course, so I honestly wasn't expecting much, but I enjoyed it. Roger Ebert has a review. Moria's review is here. Rolling Stone's is here.


The original 1997 movie Men in Black can be seen online (with commercials) at

Men in Black reviews:
Rolling Stone


Luke 2:41-52 (RSV)

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; 43 and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; 47 and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." 49 And he said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" 50 And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.

The photo is "Jesus With The Doctors" by Dore.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Movie Collection Set 2

We've been watching some of this Poirot series during the Christmas break and just finished the last in this set.

Dumb Witness has a fox terrier as the only witness to murder and seances. The spirit of a dog even speaks to Poirot -well sort of. I especially like this one because of the fox terrier Bob.

I wrote about Hercule Poirot's Christmas earlier.

Hickory Dickory Dock has a little mouse in almost every scene, and that and the clock ticking nearly drove The Husband bats while we watched it. We get to meet Miss Lemon's sister, and the actress who plays her also played a nun in one of the Brother Cadfael mysteries.

Murder on the Links takes Hastings and Poirot on holiday to a French resort, and Poirot ends up solving the crime by looking up old news in London.

The Chronicles of Riddick

The Chronicles of Riddick is the 3rd and last in the Riddick series, starring Vin Diesel as Riddick and featuring Dame Judi Dench as a member of the Elemental race. I liked all three of these films, and I think Vin Diesel is a lot of fun to watch. This movie is a science fiction/action movie -with lots of action. The first one was Pitch Black, science fiction but with more of a horror/suspense leaning, and the second one was an animated film called Dark Fury.


Moria calls it "an ornate, Gothic space opera," says it "feels like a fantasy story that just happens to be told in science-fiction terms" and claims "Diesel certainly puts some credibility back into his screen presence" in this film. Slant Magazine despises it. Roger Ebert gives it a negative review. EW doesn't seem to like it much either.

6th Day of Christmas

How much would those Day of Christmas gifts cost today?

Friday, December 29, 2006

5th Day of Christmas

Johnny Cash and friends sing "The 12 Days of Christmas":

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which marks Herod's slaughter of the children in his attempt to kill Jesus.

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. 13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. (Matthew 2:1-18 KJV)

The photo above is from the 14th century: Duccio's "The Slaughter of the Innocents".

R.I.P. President Ford

Gerald R. Ford, 38th president of the United States, died 12/26 at the age of 93. CNN's obituary is here and more coverage is here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

3rd Day of Christmas

Today is the 3rd of the 12 Days of Christmas. Here's John Denver and the Muppets singing the song:

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

St. Stephen's Day

Today is the Feast of Stephen, first Christian Martyr. It is on this day that the events in the Christmas Carol "Good King Wenceslaus" take place. You can hear the tune and read a bit about the author and composer of the song here at cyberhymnal.

Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight gath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night grows darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps good, my page. Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, rejoice, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

St. Wenceslaus was himself a martyr. There is more information about him here.

(above photo from wikimedia commons)

youtube provides a video of this song which does a great job of telling the story visually:

2nd Day of Christmas

This is El Greco's "The Adoration of the Shepherds".

Today is the 2nd of the 12 Days of Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Nativity Picture

Advent: 4th Sunday

Micah 5:1-5 (NRSV)

1 Now you are walled around with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek. 2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 and he shall be the one of peace.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Eve Eve Nativity Picture

"Nativity" by Gustave Dore.

Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas

It's hard for me to believe that this came out in 1977 and I didn't see it until we bought the DVD last year. Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas is sweet without being schmaltzy, telling the story of Emmet and his mother making it the best they can after "Pa's" death some years earlier. They both try to win the big talent competition to get the money to buy the other one a much-wanted Christmas present. They lose the contest but there's a happy ending in spite of that. The muppet/puppets are fun, and the detail is unusual. I'm so glad we found this little treasure.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus was my pick for video entertainment tonight. I bought this book by L. Frank Baum in a used book store when I was a child and was pleased when the Rankin/Bass version was released in 1985. The kids have always liked this VHS and would love it if a DVD were released. At this point I feel grateful to have the VHS, as it seems to be harder and harder to come by.

12/20/2008: It is on youtube in 5 parts. 12/1/2009: that one's gone, but it's online from another user in 5 parts, with part 1 here:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 has a new VHS of this for $100 and 5 used ones from $49.99-$199.99. It amazes me they're not making this available on DVD.

George C. Scott's Scrooge

A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott is my #2 Son's favorite of the Scrooge movies. It is a good one. Scott is mean and devotedly business-like at first without being a miserly caricature and is utterly convincing post-conversion. The weakest link in my opinion is his nephew Fred, who just seems whiny. I find the background music oppressive, but no one else seems to.

David Warner (in Grail, a Babylon 5 episode) is Bob Cratchit, and Susannah York is his wife. The Tiny Tim in this version actually looks like he is sickly. The woman who plays Mrs. Dilber here plays the same role in the Patrick Stewart version.

You can watch it on youtube in parts. (This is gone as I check on 12/1/2009, and I can't easily find a trailer or clip online.))

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has 12 tracks of mostly sacred music. This is a very inexpensive CD with great selections and a well-respected choir. You can't go wrong here. It's a great basic start for a growing Christmas music collection.

Holiday Favorites is another good bet from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with 13 tracks and a varied program, including such standards as "Deck the Halls", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and some lesser known ones like "Angels and Shepherds" and "Ring Little Bell".

More Christmas CDs

Carol by the American Boychoir is a beautiful collection of 13 traditional songs, including "Away in a Manger" and "O Come, All Ye Faithful". The voices are lovely.

An American Christmas is a collection (25 tracks) of carols, hymns and spirituals from 1770-1870 sung by the Boston Camerata, directed by Joel Cohen. This is one of my favorite Christmas CDs. It's different from most that we have. I like the liveliness.

Home for the Holidays by the Eaken Piano Trio, is 18 tracks of mostly traditional music (The Christmas Song, Silver Bells, Ave Maria, etc.) but there were a few I was unfamiliar with. This is perfect for ambient music during the holidays. It is nice to listen to for its own sake but doesn't distract, and I'm not tempted to sing along as I am with so many CDs so I can hold a conversation while this is playing.

Comfort and Joy: Christmas Tapestry Collection with the Regency Singers and Orchestra has 10 tracks of mixed sacred and secular music. Most are vocal/choral, but there's at least one that's instrumental. This is one of my least favorite of our Christmas CDs. I don't like the arrangements at all, and I like the voices on other CDs much better.

Christmas Carols with the Londonderry Singers, for example, is much more to my liking. It's strictly traditional arrangements of the traditional hymns make it easy for me to sing along with -I can even pick out the alto part.

Rudolph video online

This 1948 version of the Rudolph is much shorter than the modern telling but still tells a good story:

Happy Solstice!

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day (and longest night) of the year. Another turning. Some people mark the day by various celebrations, including the lighting of candles.

Photo from

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Silent Night and Scrooge

"Silent Night" is an old VHS, an animated Happy Face Video, that lasts 27 minutes. We have been unable to find it on DVD. From the back of the box:

This is a unique animated film about how the song "Silent Night" came to be written in Oberndorf, Germany, in the late 19th century. The characters are beautifully created, the colors come alive and the beloved melodies known to all of us are threaded throughout the story.

The Alastair Sim Scrooge is another film adaptation of the Dickens classic. Sim makes one of the best Scrooges ever. It's at youtube in 9 parts: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9

Here's a short clip from near the end of the movie:

R.I.P. Joe Barbera

Joe Barbera died Monday at age 95. When I was a child and saw the Hanna-Barbera name on all those wonderful cartoons I thought it was a woman's name and was pronounced HannaBarbara. I guess I was grown before I knew the truth about that. There's a good obituary here at the Houston Chronicle.

Christmas Videos Online

Fanpop!'s Christmas site has a treasure in this set of links to Christmas videos online. It's divided into categories and has a "top 5" listing of
1. It's a Wonderful Life

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas

3. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

5. Frosty the Snowman

Other categories include cartoons, claymation, Christmas Carol versions, sitcom episodes, music videos and lots more. All are available for viewing online. I have all the ones I'm interested in on DVD or VHS, but it is such a trip to have them right here at my fingertips. This is one of the best resources I've seen, and I love it!

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas

We've been listening to Mannheim Steamroller since the 1970's when we discovered the Fresh Aire recordings. We have several of their Christmas CDs, including Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, A Fresh Aire Christmas, Christmas in the Aire, Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Live and Christmas Extraordinaire.

Mannheim Steamroller's"Deck the Halls" music video:

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Tonight's movie was Scrooge, the 1970 musical version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, starring Albert Finney as a great Ebeneezer Scrooge. He plays Scrooge both as the younger and the older man. He does this so well that when I first saw the movie -way back when- I didn't realize the same actor played both roles, and I was amazed they found 2 men who favored each other so appropriately. Alec Guinness plays Marley's Ghost.

Here's the musical number "Thank You Very Much" from the middle of the film:

See's Candy -YUMMY!

The Daughter gave me a delightful little candy -See's Cafe Latte Krispy. They are little square chocolate covered crunchy candies. They are expensive, but this is really good candy.

2 Christmas CDs

Both of these are new to me this year, but Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong has just been released this year. I was looking for a few new things, having already picked up Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's effort, and I heard many good words from varied sources about Wintersong. It is beautiful. I hadn't heard her before and was pleased by the sound. There's a mix of traditional songs and modern compositions.

The title song from "Wintersong":

A Very Special Christmas is a CD I picked up used when I bought Wintersong. It's a compilation of a variety of artists who combine forces to benefit Special Olympics. It starts off with The Pointer Sisters singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and includes the Eurythmics, Sting, U2, Bob Seger and others on 15 tracks.

Sting's contribution to "A Very Special Christmas" -"Gabriel's Message":

Free Christmas Carol Sheet Music

I usually just use a hymnal or one of those little booklets of Christmas Carols that seem so readily available, but I'm trying to work up a set of Christmas Carols that can be played as duets on soprano recorder. I've found that many hymn arrangements work well for this, with the recorders taking the soprano and alto lines. ChristmasCarolMusic offers some arrangements that are perfect!

HT: connexions

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol is a wonderful musical version, with music by Jule Styne, of this seasonal classic. Considering that Mister Magoo plays Scrooge, it is remarkably true to the basic plot and to the spirit of the book. It's available at youtube in 6 parts. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6

Foster on Film says this version
stands out as emotionally effective, and actually summons the tone of Dickens's written work.

This is one of The Husband's favorites and is probably the first version of A Christmas Carol he ever saw. We watched it again this afternoon over lunch and enjoyed it, as always.

Ferdy on Film has a review that includes a thorough examination of the plot and says that "the simple animation and show tunes of Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol have an enormous appeal".

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Advent: 3rd Sunday

Today is the 3rd Sunday in Advent, and we get closer and closer to the coming of the Light into the world. Zephaniah 3:14-20 (NRSV), the Old Testament reading prescribed by the Revised Common Lectionary for today:
14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! 15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. 16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17 The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing 18 as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. 19 I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20 At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.

The picture above is a 1909 rendering of Zephaniah preaching to Josiah.

Penguins and Global Warming

This article "Penguins Offer Evidence Of Global Warming" begins

The first Adelie penguin chicks of the season - black fluffballs small enough to hold in the hand - started hatching this month, and the simple fact that there are more of them in the south and fewer of them further north is a sign of global warming, scientists say.

photo above from Reuters and accompanied the linked story

HT: Metafilter

Saturday, December 16, 2006

March of the Wooden Soldiers

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy star in March of the Wooden Soldiers, the re-issue of Babes in Toyland, which was based on the 1903 operetta. There is more information on this film at larelandhardycentral.

We have the DVD, but you can watch it here:

The Husband chose this 1934 film to watch tonight -the perfect light-hearted comedy to end a stressful day. This is our last Sunday at this church, and the older I get the more stressful I find this process to be.

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story came out in 1983, but we didn't see it until we bought the DVD a couple of years ago. We're big fans now and watch it every year.

Here's the story told the bunny way:

Are you a heretic?

I'm not! Here are my results:

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with

HT: BroGreg

Friday, December 15, 2006

What Kind of Christmas Ornament Are You?

Here's what I am:

You Are a Tree

You love every part of the holidays, down to the candy canes and stockings. And you're goofy enough to put a Christmas tree ornament on your tree!

HT: theanchoressonline

Patrick Stewart's Christmas Carol

This one took some getting used to for me. I found Patrick Stewart a bit forced in his converted state, and I thought Christmas Present was so glum with never a happy moment. But it grew on me. This "A Christmas Carol" production came out in 1999, and we've watched it every year since. I like Edward Petherbridge, who played Lord Peter Wimsey in the PBS Mystery series back in the 1980's. In this movie he plays one of the charity men who come to Scrooge for donations for the poor.

Christmas Tauntauns

Trekian Rhapsody

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Penguin preening photo above was found at Yahoo News, where the caption reads
A foraging Emperor penguin preens on snow-covered sea ice around the base of the active volcano Mount Erebus, near McMurdo Station, the largest U.S. Science base in Antarctica, December 9, 2006.

St. John of the Cross

Today is the feast day of St. John of the Cross. His written works can be found online here, including Dark Night of the Soul. Thomas Merton wrote an essay on him. It says, in part,
Sanctity can never abide a merely speculative solution to the problem of suffering. Sanctity solves the problem not by analyzing but by suffering. It is a living solution, burned in the flesh and spirit of the saint by fire. Scripture itself tells us as much. "As silver is tried by fire and gold in the furnace, so the Lord trieth hearts" (Prov 17:3).
Merton offers St. John of the Cross as one who can give us an answer to the problem.

A Christmas Poem

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkenss of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

HT to emergingwomen

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

R.I.P. Peter Boyle

Peter Boyle died yesterday.

An Homage to the Chipmunks

Happy Saint Lucia Day!

We celebrate Saint Lucia Day with a coffee and sweet roll breakfast as we rejoice in the growing light this Advent season.

A Silent Christmas

The back of our "A Silent Christmas" VHS says,
Critics' Choice Video is proud to present this exclusive holiday video collection from the Killiam Library. These rare, restored silent Christmas shorts bring you the holidays as they were during the dawn of motion pictures.
This video includes The Night Before Christmas (1905), A Christmas Carol (1910) and Santa Claus (1925) filmed on location at the "North Pole". It is a total of 100 minutes of black and white silent shorts. I especially love the "Santa Claus" film, which shows Santa and reindeer riding to remote settlements in the northern Alaskan snow.

This version is no longer available, but Christmas Past is the new DVD incarnation, containing all the same material.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Yet More Christmas CDs

What Child Is This is a compilation CD, containing 16 songs both sacred and secular by such diverse artists as The Lettermen, Liberace, Mahalia Jackson, Gene Autry, The Drifters.... There are several orchestral pieces and a couple of selections featuring choral groups. The sound is dreadful. This may be my absolute least favorite of the Christmas albums we own. Ave Maria is the worst arrangement I've ever heard.

1940's Christmas is a good 10-track selection of music from the period (but Rod McKuen?).

More Christmas CDs

An Olde-Fashioned Christmas features the London Festival Choir and the London Symphony Brass Ensemble. The 20-track cd is mostly sacred choral music.

The Christmas Collection has The Cathedral Singers performing sacred choral music.

Frosty the Snowman

The original 1954 Frosty the Snowman cartoon via youtube:

Monday, December 11, 2006

Mystery Christmases

In Hercule Poirot's Christmas Monsieur Poirot plans a quiet Christmas at home in his London flat until the boiler in his building breaks down leaving him with no heat until after the holiday. As his luck would have it, just as he gets this bad news he gets a call from a complete stranger asking him to come to his well-heated country estate. Saying his life is in danger, the wealthy scoundrel prevails on Poirot to join the family for Christmas. I enjoy this every year. It's full of mistaken identities and family in-fighting and murder.

12/12/2008: We watched this tonight, and I notice it is at youtube in parts with part 1 here: (no longer available as I check on 12/1/2009)

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle is the only real Christmas story in the Sherlock Holmes canon. The blue carbuncle is stolen from the Hotel Cosmopolitan and an innocent plumber framed for the job. Sherlock Holmes to the rescue! There are Christmas geese, window-shopping for presents for adorable children, an old rich woman who could out-Scrooge Scrooge, and a happily-ever-after ending. We watch this one every year, too.

Books for Advent

Advent, by Jean Danielou, is divided in 5 sections. The Introduction "History and Drama", is a 16-page discussion of the relationship between Christianity and other religions and how the Gospel can inform those relationships. Part 1 deals with Old Testament precursers, Part 2 covers The Advent/Christmas story in the New Testament and Part 3 focuses on missions. The conclusion "Christ as Prophet" holds up Christ as priest in fulfillment of Old Testament priests, as king in fulfillment of messianic figures and, the focus of this chapter, as prophet. He spends some time defining "prophet" before he describes how Jesus fills this prophetic role.

From Advent to Zion _A Is For Advent_ by Charles W. Ferguson devotes a chapter to each letter of the alphabet. Baptism, Ecumenical, Vestments and Yahweh each get a chapter. This book is a treasure, easily read one chapter a day during Advent and into Christmastide, shedding light on areas I hadn't thought of as having anything to do with Advent.

The excellent baker in The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, by Aaron Shepard and illustrated by Wendy Edelson, gets a lesson in generosity when he brooks no foolishness from the old woman who insists a dozen is thirteen. He learns a new way to count.

St. Nicholas and the Tub by Brian Burland tells a story lightly based on the early paintings of St. Nicholas standing in a tub with three children.

St. Nicholas and his assistant Ruprecht run out of presents before they get to Cecile's house in A Gift From Saint Nicholas, adapted by Carole Kismaric and illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak. I think the whole town ends up involved in getting Cecile a present.

Bing Crosby

There is more than 1 Bing Crosby CD with the White Christmas name. The White Christmas we have is an inexpensive version with a good selection of songs, including a full version of Good King Wenceslaus, one of my favorites. It opens with The Christmas Song and includes sacred as well as secular music. The songs are connected with spoken introductions by the crooner.

The Voice of Christmas: The Complete Decca Christmas Songbook has 44 tracks on 2 discs.

I can't find my edition of Christmas With Bing online anywhere. This CD has 10 tracks, starting with Do You Hear What I Hear? and including 3 medleys.

Bing Crosby is a classic, and no Christmas music collection would be complete without something by him.

Bowie meets Crosby:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jingle Pets

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

We enjoy Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas in both forms. The book was always a favorite with the kids, with #1 Son having it memorized at age 2. We now have the DVD, and it's one of the staple must-see video entertainments every year at our house. Boris Karloff provides the voice of the narrator and the speaking Grinch, while Thurl Ravenscroft (perhaps better known as the voice of Tony the Tiger on those old cereal commercials) does the singing. And Max! Max is a bright spot for me.


We are not Carey fans and are not interested in seeing his live-action re-make.

12/13/2008: We watched this again tonight. This is at youtube in 3 parts. (not this year -12/1/2009), but the DVD is a must-have.

Advent: 2nd Sunday

United Methodist lectionary readings for this Sunday are Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79 (UMH 208); Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6 as found on this UM web site.

Malachi 3:1-4, "See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years." (NRSV)

Today we light the 2nd candle.

The picture of the prophet Malachi above is from the Web Gallery of Art.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Barry Manilow Christmas CD

Because It's Christmas by Barry Manilow has more sad songs than I like on a Christmas album, so even though I like Barry Manilow, this is never my first choice when it's time to decide what to listen to.

More Christmas Movies

Last night we watched The Muppet Christmas Carol. Oddly enough, this version is more true to Dickens' book than many a more serious effort. Michael Caine stars as Scrooge, while Kermit plays Bob Cratchett.

Christmas in Connecticut stars Barbara Stanwyck as a popular magazine columnist who writes a homey food column describing the gourmet meals she prepares in her gleaming farm kitchen for her husband and child. When the publisher insists she host a war hero (and himself) for Christmas she must come up with some solution for her problem: she in unmarried with no child, no farm, and no cooking skills. Sydney Greenstreet plays the publisher. Una O'Connor, a favorite of ours, is also here. This is a romantic comedy worth seeing again.

The Polar Express is one of our newest acquisitions. We never did have the book written by Chris Van Allsburg, so I don't know how it compares, but we like the movie. In fact I've seen it about 3 times and like it better each time. It does tend to be a bit busy with lots going on even in the calmer scenes, but I can always hear the bells.

Jerome Murat, Illusionist

Friday, December 08, 2006

Santa's Village

Santa's Village in Lapland is home base for Santa and the elves. There's a video greeting from Santa here. This tourist attraction got a mention at WorldHum in a post on Christmas Island.

Beneath the willow tree

A Chinese tale

Anniversary of the death of John Lennon

On this day in 1980 John Lennon died after being shot outside his New York apartment.

50 works of art you should see before you die

From metafilter comes a link to this article from Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones. That article has the list, but the metafilter post has links to the art online, including, appropriately enough for the season, Annunciation With Two Saints:

Seymour Hicks' "Scrooge"

Scrooge is the 1935 version of the Dickens classic. It is the first surviving "talkie" re-telling the story and stars Seymour Hicks in the title role.

Watch it online via Youtube:

"Look well, Ebeneezer Scrooge, for only you can see me" is a good way to get rid of the need for special effects -Scrooge can just talk with the disembodied voice of old Marley. The Ghost of Christmas Past is but a rough shape, the Ghost of Christmas Present is fully present but a grouch, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the shadow of an arm and hand.

This is the only Christmas Carol movie I know of besides the Patrick Stewart version that has a scene with Dead Tim in it. Bob Cratchit mourns by dead Tim's bedside in both. It's interesting to note what doesn't change through these and to see what does change. The Patrick Stewart version does owe a debt to this one.

The New York Times calls it "A faithful, tender and mellow edition of his timeless Yuletide fable". Foster on Film doesn't like it at all.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Another VeggieTales Christmas Video

During lunch we watched The Star of Christmas in which the character played by Bob the Tomato tries to teach London to love -with light bulbs. Lots of light bulbs. So many light bulbs that they burn down the theater. The true meaning of Christmas and the way to bring love to London without light bulbs is clear in the end.

The Four Squeezins

Two Christmas Medleys in high style:

Medieval and Renaissance Christmas Music

We watched Mannheim Steamroller's A Renaissance Christmas yesterday morning as we were eating our traditional St. Nicholas Day sweet roll breakfast. We bought the VHS tape used a few years ago when we were really "into" Mannheim Steamroller, but even now that we've tired of the music a bit this video is fun to watch. It plays arrangements of early Christmas music against the background of a period-costumed Renaissance feast.

Chip Davis presents Renaissance Holiday has music performed by the London Symphony Orchestra Strings, Musica Anima Renaissance Consort, the Pittsburgh Symphony Brass and more.

Gregorian Chant by Schola of the Hofburgkapelle contains 22 tracks of seasonal church music and chant.

Creator of the Stars: Christmas Music From Earlier Times includes music from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The group Pomerium is an a cappella vocal ensemble specializing in music of the Renaissance.

A Baroque Christmas is one of a set of 3 CDs of period music for the season. The Boston Camerata, directed by Joel Cohen, focuses on early music. This CD contains music of Monteverdi, Purcell, Charpentier's Messe de Minuit and more.

A Renaissance Christmas is another in the set just mentioned and includes music by Dufay and Praetorius among others. There are carols and varied church music here.

My favorite all-time Christmas "record" -I still have this LP- is A Medieval Christmas, the 3rd in the Boston Camerata set. This is delightful and perfect if you don't think you can stand Bing Crosby yet again. The music is varied with some serene chants along with some lively, dare I say danceable? tunes.

The Cardinall's Musick's CD containing Early Latin Church Music and Propers for Lady Mass in Advent is part 1 of The Byrd Edition "A comprehensive project to examine the works of one of England’s greatest composers - William Byrd (1539/40-1623)".

On Yoolis Night: medieval carols and motets by Anonymous 4 has 23 tracks of 13th-15th-century English plainchant, songs, motets and carols for the Christmas season. I love Anonymous 4 and am glad I have this CD to go with my other seasonal music.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Toy That Saved Christmas

The first of the VeggieTales Christmas videos The Toy That Saved Christmas is the story, as told to a little girl by her eye-witness grandfather, of the little town that didn't understand Christmas and the toy that helped them "get" it. They learn the true meaning of Christmas and make you laugh while they're doing it. We love the characters, and some of the lines are priceless. You can watch Larry's Silly Song here.


Silly Songs With Larry must be mentioned, of course. This was my first exposure to Larry's silly songs, and I like them so much I got the DVD of the Silly Song Countdown. These are hysterical.

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

December 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas. We have celebrated this day by hanging our stockings on St. Nicholas Eve ever since the kids were babies.

There is some music specific to the day. In 1948 Benjamin Britten wrote Saint Nicolas, which tells the life of Saint Nicholas in nine scenes. You can hear samples of the music here at this page. The wikipedia entry on him is here.

Anonymous 4 has a CD Legends of St. Nicholas: of Medieval Chant and Polyphony . There is some old English here but most is in Latin. There are readings as well as chants and songs. The booklet included with the CD has the words, explanatory text and some beautiful pictures.

The relics of Saint Nicholas are located in the basilica in Bari.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Soup & Cornbread

What a chilly night! Perfect for soup! We had 15 Bean Soup and cornbread. I start with the 15 Bean dried bean mix, which I put on a simmer for an hour. I drain the water; add fresh water, chopped onion, and the juice of one lemon; bring to a boil and simmer for another 2 hours. The beans come with a seasoning packet I add a minute or two before I serve it. I freeze the leftovers.

My cornbread recipe calls for 1 cup each of whole wheat flour and yellow corn meal, 4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp brown sugar and 1/2 cup dry milk powder. Mix those together and form a well. Add 2 beaten eggs, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup oil. Stir just until all ingredients are moistened. Cook 25 minutes at 400 degrees in a well-greased pre-heated 9" iron skillet.

TheatreMemphis' A Christmas Carol

We went to see this show tonight. There are some changes this year that I like: the narrator is a nice touch, making it possible to begin and end the play as Dickens begins and ends the book; the Christmas pageant (with stick horse camels for the wise men no less) is delightful, taking the place of a fairly static nativity scene; and the sound. Theatre Memphis does this show every year, and some years are better than others. This is a really good year.

Christmas From English Cathedrals CD

We've had this cd for a while. Christmas From English Cathedrals features music from The Norwich Cathedral Choir, Wells Cathedral Choir, Marlborough Cathedral Choir and St. Paul Cathedral Choir. Some of these songs are more familiar than others, but it's nice to have that kind of combination. It's all very traditional church music, traditionally performed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

SHeDAISY Christmas cd

I bought SHeDAISY's Brand New Year cd used at Spin Street today. SHeDAISY is a female country music trio, and although I'm not a country music fan, I enjoyed this cd with its close harmony. I was pleased and surprised to find "Christmas Children" here. We watch a lot of Christmas Carol movies during this season, and the one this song is from -the musical "Scrooge" starring Albert Finney- is a favorite. The lyrics are online here.

This is their take on "Deck the Halls":

You can watch that video and others at

Listening to Christmas music online

This is the google link for Christmas music to listen to online. There are internet radio stations and sites where you can download old out-of-print Christmas albums. I enjoy finding different kinds of Christmas music, and checking these out has been fun for me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas at Ground Zero

Weird Al's dark vision:

Advent: 1st Sunday

Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas. From THE VOICE, a global and ecumenical ministry dedicated to providing biblical and theological resources for growing Christians:

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture reading for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.

The United Methodist Church has resources for the observance of Advent, including a series of appropriate meditations, an article on "Keeping the "Holy" in Holidays" and other reflections and aids to celebration.

Wikipedia's entry on Advent is here.

Our family uses an Advent wreath with dark blue candles and Advent devotional guides from Creative Communications for the Parish. We use an Advent calendar made out of felt that my Mother made for the kids when they were little. They still take turns, as they are here, placing one of the little pillows on the hanging felt panel. There are lots of Advent calendars online from:

St. Margaret Mary Parish

Virtual Finland

The German Embassy in London

Woodlands Junior School in England



Leslie Harpold

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Iceland's House of Christmas


Christmas Corner

Yule Celebrations in Iceland

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

BBC Radio 3

A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling

Christian Resource Institute

Ann Hetzel Gunkel


Q-Creative Productions at BanjoBunny

The Cat Who Laughed

Dinosaur Design

a pattern to make one from Jan Brett.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 25 (KJV)

1 Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
3 Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
4 Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
6 Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O LORD.
8 Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
12 What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
13 His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
14 The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.
15 Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.
18 Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
20 O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
22 Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Non-traditional Christmas Music

I love Christmas music, and I've always owned a lot of it, starting when everything I had was on vinyl and continuing through the present time when everything I buy is on CD. I have always had varied interests in Christmas music, and I've owned a lot of more traditional selections both religious and secular.

My most recent purchase was, however, _not_ traditional but was instead the new Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Christmas album "Everything You Want For Christmas". BBVD is a swing band that I became familiar with through #1 Son's interest in their 1998 Big Bad Voodoo Daddy cd. My favorite track is "Mr. Heatmiser"

followed closely by "Is Zat You Santa Claus?", but I really did get a kick out of the entire cd.

O Holy Night is a cd of traditional Christmas music played by Ned Spurlock on the hammered dulcimer. Kinda schmaltzy, if you ask me, but it is a bit different in its sound.

Christmas Eve and Other Stories by Trans-Siberian Orchestra has lots of electric guitar and electronic keyboard and has a rock sound. This is a concept album with dramatic flair.

Play, a Swedish pop music "girl group" has a Christmas cd titled "Play Around the Christmas Tree," which is lots of fun. It's full of pop renditions of Christmas standards like Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland, Let it Snow, Rudolph, etc.

When I heard that flute on the radio I just knew it had to be Ian Anderson, but I couldn't imagine Jethro Tull doing a Christmas album. I went straightway to Spin Street to make sure and came home having bought "The Jethro Tull Christmas Album". I discovered Jethro Tull back when Aqualung was getting lots of air play. The Christmas cd does not disappoint. Part of Ian Anderson's Introduction at the site just linked:

A Christmas in this modern world should, in my view, accommodate the leisure needs and affections of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and agnostics, as well as Fido the family dog and Felix the cat. Throw in a few lost cousins and that dreadful man from next door and you have it!

Here's an interview Ian Anderson did on the album:

The Nylons
, a male a cappella quartet, put out their Christmas cd "A Wish for You" in 2000. This is their second Christmas cd, but the first one uses some instrumentation. Half of these tracks are written by the group members and half are traditional songs and carols presented in the Nylons' style. I think my favorite from this album is "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen".

There is a lot more Christmas music around here, but I think these are the most non-traditional.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Scrooge Ballet

I remember the first time I saw this. It was on TV, and we recorded it on VHS tape, but we never saw it aired on television again. As the tape began to show its age we started looking for it on DVD. After years of searching we finally found it, and The Husband bought it for me for Christmas last year. The Northern Ballet Theatre's A Christmas Carol tells the complete tale without words -well, almost without words, Marley's Ghost has a soliloquy and there are some songs. One of the songs is Four Pence A Day. The dancers are so expressive you don't need words to know the story.

Wassail, wassail

We trimmed our tree today, though it was a bit early for us, and we had our traditional wassail. We do this the easy way: Warm apple cider on the stove with whole cloves and cinnamon sticks and float lemon and orange slices in it. Yummy!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Chatham School Affair, by Thomas H. Cook

The Chatham School Affair, by Thomas H. Cook, is an Edgar Award-winning mystery novel. It is a more literary book than some other mysteries I've read. It gives you the story as a series of remembrances, weaving the tale from painful long-past memories until the picture is crystal clear. By the time the end was getting near I saw where it was going, but I couldn't put this book down.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We're No Angels

What a fun movie! Humphrey Bogart is a delight and Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray are perfect to make up the rest of the "angelic" band. We're No Angels also stars Joan Bennett, Basil Rathbone and Leo G. Carroll. Our whole family gets a big kick out of this one, laughing our way through it each time we see it. It's one of our favorites.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy

I had never read this tragic story by Thomas Hardy before but read it for the BritishClassics online reading group at yahoogroups. The full name of the novel is The Life and Death of The Mayor of Casterbridge: A Story of a Man of Character. Wikipedia has a page on the book, which includes some background information and links to study guides. The book itself is in the public domain and is readily available online at,,, the University of Adelaide Library and numerous other sources. VictorianWeb's coverage of Hardy, his life and works is comprehensive. The Thomas Hardy Resource Library has links to texts online, a timeline of his life and much other information.

I've read that Hardy was a poet first and foremost and only wrote novels as finances demanded, and this book is permeated with poetic imagery. I enjoyed the reading and look forward to the book discussion.

White Boy at the Apollo

with trombone.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hillary Clinton is a Methodist, too,

but I couldn't find a video like I did for my post on Tom Waits last Sunday. She spoke at the 1996 General Conference. The text of her address is available online here. These were her closing words:

I am grateful for my Methodist upbringing. I am grateful for this church. I watch with great interest and appreciation those of you who struggle to make the decisions that will govern us for the next four years. And I appreciate that you are grasping with the hard issues; being willing to debate and discuss what needs to be done. And I would hope that many of us, not only members of this church, but all people of faith, would say we have so much in common that we can do, and summon our energy on behalf, first and foremost, of our children. If we were to do that, I know we would see changes before our very eyes. And that the church you serve and that has served us, would continue to grow because it was serving the world, living out the gospel, and being a servant for those who need to hear that message.

With that in mind, I thank you for keeping alive the Methodist traditions and teachings; for helping to awaken and strengthen the spirit and faith of men, women, and children; and for helping all of us to have courage in the face of change, to be willing to struggle forward doing what we can individually, and to make common cause with others who believe that we are called, both for personal salvation, but also for the work we must do in this world. Thank you very, very much.