Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Who Wrote the Bible? (part 2)

The first 6 segments are here.

part 7:

part 8:

part 9:

part 10:

part 11:

part 12:

Who Wrote the Bible? (part 1)

This is a History Channel program divided up into parts. It includes commercials.

part 1:

part 2:

part 3:

part 4:

part 5:

part 6:

The 2nd half of the program is here.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 148

1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.

2 Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.

3 Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.

4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.

5 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.

6 He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.

7 Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:

8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word:

9 Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:

10 Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:

11 Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:

12 Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:

13 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.

14 He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Massacre at Wounded Knee

Today is the anniversary of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. There is a museum commemorating the event. You can read an eyewitness account here. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown is a book about the tragedy that is also available in an edited edition intended for children, which I used to have but can no longer locate. The book has recently been adapted for HBO.

Johnny Cash's "Big Foot":

photo slideshow:

Buffy Sainte Marie singing "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee":

Marie Menken

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1970 of Marie Menken, painter, actress and experimental film maker. Her acting roles include parts in Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls and The Life of Juanita Castro. Her 5-minute film Glimpse of the Garden has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and can be viewed online:

Joseph Cornell

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1972 of Joseph Cornell, artist and experimental film maker. Rose Hobart, an avant garde short which can be viewed online, is his most famous film. The picture above is of his Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall.

Friday, December 28, 2007

California Girl

California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker won the 2005 Edgar Award.

from the back of the book:

The Orange County, California, that the Becker brothers knew as boys is no more - unrecognizably altered since the afternoon in 1954 when Nick, Clay, David, and Andy rumbled with the lowlife Vonns, while five-year-old Janelle Vonn watched from the sidelines. The new decade has brought about the end of the orange groves and the birth of suburban sprawl. It is the era of Johnson, hippies, John Birchers, and LSD. Clay becomes a casualty of a far-off jungle war. Nick becomes a cop, Andy a reporter, David a minister. And the decapitated corpse of teenage beauty queen Janelle Vonn is discovered in an abandoned warehouse.

A hideous crime has touched the Beckers in ways that none of them could have anticipated, setting three brothers on a dangerous collision course that will change their family - and their world - forever.

And no one will emerge from the wreckage unscathed.

Very little music in this one. I hadn't realized how much I had felt oppressed by that until I realized how little -just a mention- music there was in this book. A breath of fresh air after the barrage from the previous books I've read. I'm hoping that fad is over...

This is as much the story of a family over time as it is the story of a crime solved. The interpersonal relationships are not subplots in this book but are key elements to the story of the murder. It is interesting how it all works together.

What's your theological worldview?

Here's mine:

created with
You scored as Roman Catholic

You are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Modern Liberal


Neo orthodox


Classical Liberal




Reformed Evangelical




Here are the results from when I took this quiz over a year ago. At least I'm consistent.

Slaughter of the Innocents

On this day we remember the children who suffered and died at Herod's command.

Matthew 2:13-23 (King James Version)

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.

The picture above is of Duccio's painting Massacre of the Innocents.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hallelujah Chorus Sing-a-long

HT: Locusts & Honey

Feast of Stephen

Today is the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

The events that take place in the carol Good King Wenceslaus take place on the feast of Stephen:

Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' 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 it, 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, my good page. Step 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, Christians all, rejoice, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Emmett Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Emmett Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is a delightful Jim Henson puppet production. Here's a clip:

The Husband picked this one for this windy/rainy/stormy night.

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: Come to save us, O Lord our God.

The manger reminds us of the simplicity and poverty surrounding the birth of Jesus and is representative of His life of humility.

Advent Gospel: 4th Sunday

Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is a time of rejoicing, because the light begins to increase in the world.

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

O King of the Gentiles

O King of the Gentiles and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one; Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.

The crown and scepter signify Christ's universal kingship. As we sing in the fifth O Antiphon, Christ is not only the King of the Jewish nation, but the "Desired One of all," the cornerstone which unites both Jew and Gentile.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scrooge Ballet

I remember the first time I saw this 1992 Northern Ballet Theatre production of A Christmas Carol on TV we managed to get almost all of it on tape. We watched it that way for years until The Husband found a DVD of it online somewhere and bought it for me. I love the music in this, and it amazes me how faithfully they can tell the story in dance. I wish I could find any clips at all of this that I could link to or embed here. This deserves much wider distribution.

12/16/2008: We watched this again tonight, and I still can't find any clips of it.

I've added a photo at the top of the post from the Northern Ballet Theatre site just to give a hint of the joy of the production.

12/1/2009: I'm still looking in vain for a clip.

Old Christmas

This edition of Old Christmas by Washington Irving has beautiful Ralph Caldecott illustrations. Project Gutenberg has plain text presentations, but you should really check out the illustrated copy. A sample illustration is at the top of this post.

from the first chapter:

Of all the old festivals, however, that of Christmas awakens the strongest and most heartfelt associations. There is a tone of solemn and sacred feeling that blends with our conviviality, and lifts the spirit to a state of hallowed and elevated enjoyment. The services of the church about this season are extremely tender and inspiring. They dwell on the beautiful story of the origin of our faith, and the pastoral scenes that accompanied its announcement. They gradually increase in fervour and pathos during the season of Advent, until they break forth in full jubilee on the morning that brought peace and good-will to men. I do not know a grander effect of music on the moral feelings than to hear the full choir and the pealing organ performing a Christmas anthem in a cathedral, and filling every part of the vast pile with triumphant harmony.

It is a beautiful arrangement, also derived from days of yore, that this festival, which commemorates the announcement of the religion of peace and love, has been made the season for gathering together of family connections, and drawing closer again those bands of kindred hearts which the cares and pleasures and sorrows of the world are continually operating to cast loose; of calling back the children of a family who have launched forth in life, and wandered widely asunder, once more to assemble about the paternal hearth, that rallying-place of the affections, there to grow young and loving again among the endearing mementoes of childhood.

Carl Sagan

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1996 of Carl Sagan, one of the most well-known popularizers of Astronomy. His Cosmos series "has been seen by 500 million people in 60 countries". He has an official site here. There is a memorial blogathon here,where posts in his memory are being offered. Perhaps billions and billions of people will participate. There are tribute pages scattered all over the web, including one at The Planetary Society. There are nice obituaries at CNN, APOD and CSICOP. Here is Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit.

The memorial blogathon is being updated here.

O Key of David

O Key of David and Scepter of the House of Israel; you open and no man closes; you close and no man opens. Come, and deliver from the chains of prison those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The key is the emblem of authority and power. Christ is the Key of the House of David who opens to us the full meaning of the scriptural prophecies, and reopens for all mankind the gate of Heaven.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Polar Express

Based on a book none of us have ever read, this 2004 movie was not one that interested us enough to see it in the theater. Now that we have the DVD, though, we watch it every year. The Polar Express is based on the book by the same name. It is a tribute to faith. "The bell still rings for me."

trailer: as of 12/1/2009 the one originally embedded here is gone, but here it is from another youtube user:

Roger Ebert says this film
is a movie for more than one season; it will become a perennial, shared by the generations. It has a haunting, magical quality because it has imagined its world freshly and played true to it, sidestepping all the tiresome Christmas cliches that children have inflicted on them this time of year. The conductor tells Hero Boy he thinks he really should get on the train, and I have the same advice for you.

CNN, the New York Times,, Rolling Stone and BBC don't like it. EW doesn't like how different the film is from the book.

12/14/2008: We watched it again tonight. We still like it.

O Adonai

O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai: come to redeem us with outstretched arm!

Pull up to the fire

or rather pull the fire up to you. Here's the puzzle.

Dulce Domum

Go read the Christmas chapter from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows here. Here's a short excerpt from early in the chapter:

Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again, that day when he first found the river! And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bring him in. Since his escape on that bright morning he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day's work.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The 'O' Antiphons

The 'O' Antiphons are traditionally used in worship in the days leading up to Christmas. The General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church has some suggestions for using them in the home:

The O Antiphons ("The Great O's")

In some churches and faiths, the week before Christmas marks the final preparations. The people gather each evening for Vespers with prayer and singing emphasizing the Advent theme of the hope, expectation, and longing for the coming of the Savior. Some families prefer to worship privately in their own homes. The "O Antiphons," dating from the seventh or eighth century, are seven poems or verses, usually chanted or sung, before and after the reading or singing of the Magnificat, or Canticle of Mary (Luke 2:42-55, UM Hymnal, no. 199). Historically, a different antiphon was used each day of the week leading to Christmas Eve. All seven of "The Great O's" may be found in The UM Hymnal, no. 211, along with the familiar Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," which uses the antiphons in its verses.

Sunday school classes or families with children may enjoy making an "O Antiphon House," similar to an Advent calendar but with seven windows. Behind each window is a different symbol for each of the antiphons, and an eighth window for the Nativity scene. Each day during worship or devotions, a different window is opened to uncover the symbol. The symbols of the antiphons, in the order presented in The UM Hymnal, are:

* O Emmanuel — tablets of stone
* O Wisdom — oil lamp, open book
* O Adonai — burning bush, stone tablets
* O Root of Jesse — vine or flowering plant (rose)
* O Key of David — key, broken chains
* O Dayspring — rising sun
* O King of the Gentles — crown, scepter

Daily readings for this period are at the Episcopal Cafe. Wikipedia has an article explaining the practice. NPR's All Things Considered reported on the O Antiphons in this old broadcast.

You can listen to the hymn printed below here or here.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.


O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.


O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.


O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Albert Finney's Scrooge

Scrooge is a wonderful musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' Christmas classic. A Christmas Carol has been filmed numerous times, but this is one of our favorites. The casting is perfect, with Albert Finney playing Scrooge as both the young and older man. We do get a kick out of some of the character and name confusion.

December the 25th:

We watched it last year, too.

Advent Gospel: 3rd Sunday

Matthew 11:2-11

2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,

3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?

4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:

5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.

9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.

10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Resurrection Men

Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin is the 13th book in the Inspector Rebus series and the 1st of Rankin's books I've read. It won the Edgar Award in 2004.

from the back of the book:

Packed off to the remote Scottish Police College for a lesson in teamwork — after hurling a mug at his supervisor's face — Inspector John Rebus finds himself in a snake pit. His classmates, an unruly band of rebel cops known as Resurrection Men, are suspected of orchestrating an elaborate drug heist, and Rebus is recruited by headquarters to get to the bottom of matters. It's no easy task: the investigation threatens to uncover a secret Rebus has spent years trying to conceal, and before long Rebus finds himself in the thick of a scandal with conspirators seemingly everywhere — men who have no problem spilling blood to get what they want.

I did enjoy this one. The detectives in this book are as much or more of the problem as the "real" criminals are.

But this music thing. It's wearing on me. It's not just this steady mention of which cd is playing that has begun appearing as I read mysteries from the early 1990's, it's that the music that's playing is the only cultural reference that regularly appears. The book on the coffee table? Never mentioned. The print on the wall? Nope. The movie on the DVD or the film at the theater? Never referred to. It's just an odd thing to me to focus so single-mindedly on what music the characters listen to while never once mentioning what book they're reading or what film they last saw. Maybe I'm just weird, but I'm not getting this sudden and ubiquitous music sensibility. I had had hopes that this mystery wouldn't be this way since there were no mentions in the first 76 pages, but when the top of the 77th contained a comment on the size of the main character's record collection I knew I was in for another of those books. It would be interesting to read the first couple in this series and see if the musical talk is there. We even get lists in this book. From page 84:

He picked up his going-away present from Jean - a portable CD player. She'd added some CDs too: Steely Dan, Morphine, Neil Young... He'd brought a few others: Van Morrison, John Martyn. He fixed the headphones on and pushed the START button. The swelling opening of "Solid Air" filled his head, pushing out everything else. He leaned back against the pillow. Decided the song was definitely on the shortlist for his funeral. Knew he should write the shortlist down. After all, you never could tell.

In this book the characters actually discuss their opinions of the music with one another.

It is strange to me that Rankin's characters have music on the brain all the time but here in this 13th book in a series the characters don't read.

None of this should be taken to mean I don't like this book. I do. I'm just tired of this particular motif.


I remember taking The Elder Son to see Prancer in the theater when it came out and not being especially impressed. This time I liked it much better. I wonder what the difference is. I think I might have been concerned about all that talk about some of the characters not believing in Santa Claus. I don't have to worry now that my kids will fall into such doubts. Sam Elliot is the widowed father of the little girl who finds Prancer.


You can see the Ebert/Roper review, including relevant clips, here. 2 thumbs up from them.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas in Connecticut

The Daughter picked this one as a follow-up to the VeggieTales' Star of Christmas. Christmas in Connecticut stars Barbara Stanwyck as the Smart Housekeeping Magazine mega-housewife who writes a monthly feature about cooking and housekeeping and raising a baby on her country farm. The fact is that she lives in a city apartment and can't cook at all, getting all the ideas for her gourmet meals from her Uncle Felix (S.Z. Sakall) who is the chef/proprietor of a restaurant. She isn't married and has no baby. Trouble comes when her publisher (Sydney Greenstreet) wants to spend Christmas with her family on their farm with a war hero who is recuperating from almost 3 weeks adrift on a raft. Una O'Connor also plays a part.

It's at youtube in 11 parts. -not anymore as of 12/1/2009, but here's a trailer:

12/22/2007: Cinematical has a review.

12/20/2008: This film is a favorite of The Daughter, so we picked tonight (when she'd be home) to watch it again. It's one of my favorites, too, and I'm always ready for the annual re-viewing since The Husband bought me my very own DVD.

TCM has an overview.

The Star of Christmas

The Star of Christmas is a VeggieTales movie about how Bob the Tomato wants to teach London to love. With light bulbs. Yes, it really does make sense and is fun to watch even for the teens and adults even though there is no silly song.

Here's a clip from the last part of the film:

12/25/2008: We watched this tonight over a light snack supper.

Louis Agassiz

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1873 of Louis Agassiz. I discovered Louis Agassiz when I was doing a series of readings in Natural History. He was the first to propose in a scientific journal the theory that there had been an early ice age. There is a short biography and an overview here, here and here. The Victorian Web has a page on him. He wrote what really amounts to a travel narrative in his 1868 A Journey in Brazil.

Family Advent Customs

Family Advent Customs is a little book by Helen McLoughlin that has been made available online here. It includes descriptions and histories of some Advent traditions as well as recipes and information on saints. It begins:


Advent is the beginning of the new liturgical year. It is a season of spiritual preparation, marked by eager longing for the coming of the Saviour through grace at Christmas, and for His second and final coming.

It suggests:

As a rule it is best to begin with one or two customs and add others in years to come. It is also highly desirable that families develop their own
special customs, at least by adapting traditional ones to their personal circumstances. Once established, customs recall to older members of the family long forgotten practices of their own childhood. These have a special appeal because they belonged to our forefathers and link us to the wealth of national customs now fallen into disuse.

Traditions keyed to Advent are a beautiful way to get into the spirit of the season -to look forward to the coming of Christ.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wassily Kandinsky

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1944 of artist Wassily Kandinsky. There is a short biography and overview here. We have a print of Small Pleasures, pictured above, still rolled up in its mailing tube waiting for us to get it framed for our dining room wall. I had never been particularly attracted to this style before I saw this, and I was struck by it. It served as a beginning of true appreciation for more modern and avant-garde works.

From the author's introduction to Kandinsky's Concerning the Spiritual in Art:
Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions. It follows that each period of culture produces an art of its own which can never be repeated. Efforts to revive the art-principles of the past will at best produce an art that is still-born.


Sympathy is the education of the spectator from the point of view of the artist. It has been said above that art is the child of its age. Such an art can only create an artistic feeling which is already clearly felt. This art, which has no power for the future, which is only a child of the age and cannot become a mother of the future, is a barren art. She is transitory and to all intent dies the moment the atmosphere alters which nourished her.

The other art, that which is capable of educating further, springs equally from contemporary feeling, but is at the same time not only echo and mirror of it, but also has a deep and powerful prophetic strength.

The spiritual life, to which art belongs and of which she is one of the mightiest elements, is a complicated but definite and easily definable movement forwards and upwards. This movement is the movement of experience. It may take different forms, but it holds at bottom to the same inner thought and purpose.

St. Lucia

Today is the feast day of St. Lucy, a wonderful opportunity for celebrating the drawing ever nearer of the Light of the world in the person of Jesus. When the children were little, this day, like the feast of St. Nicholas, helped us celebrate Advent rather than just focus on how long it was 'til Christmas, and it helped us focus on the "reason for the season" -the coming of the Light into the world. How can you go wrong with a day that starts with sweet rolls, a real treat!

The painting above is by the Master of the Saint Lucy Legend, named after this altarpiece showing scenes from the saint's life life.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tokyo Story

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1963 of Yasujiro Ozu, a noted Japanese film director. To honor his memory we watched Tokyo Story, the first film we've seen by him. This film is #57 on's list of top 100 spiritually significant films. It is also on Time's list of top 100 movies. It is on the most recent top-10 list from the BFI, as well as their last list.

We have the Criterion edition of this film but did not watch any of the special features -just the film itself. Here is the Criterion trailer:

"As long as life goes on relationships between parents and children will bring boundless joy and endless grief."

Guardian Unlimited has a review. Roger Ebert's review is here. He begins his review with these spoiler-ridden words:

No story could be simpler. An old couple come to the city to visit their children and grandchildren. Their children are busy, and the old people upset their routines. In a quiet way, without anyone admitting it, the visit goes badly. The parents return home. A few days later, the grandmother dies. Now it is the turn of the children to make a journey.

From these few elements Yasujiro Ozu made one of the greatest films of all time. "Tokyo Story" (1953) lacks sentimental triggers and contrived emotion; it looks away from moments a lesser movie would have exploited. It doesn't want to force our emotions, but to share its understanding. It does this so well that I am near tears in the last 30 minutes. It ennobles the cinema.

And I think these words capture my emotional response to the movie. It is such a quiet, calm film and yet it has great power to move. Or at least I thought so. The Younger Son was more confused by it than moved, and he prefers Kurosawa's Ikiru, which he said he would gladly watch again with me. He passed on the opportunity to watch this one again sometime.

1001 Flicks has a review.

Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?

I remember the first year this resource was published, and I can remember using it some years later to lead a Wednesday night study. The night of that study I had one of our church leaders inform me she could tell how much her family loved her by how much they spent on gifts for her. She wanted expensive "store-bought" presents that proved her family was willing to spend a lot of money on her. She thought hand-made gifts were "cheap".

This resource obviously met a need then and meets a need still.

The 2007 version can be obtained here. Here are their "10 Tips for a Simpler More Meaningful Christmas":
1. Plan ahead. Instead of going on auto-pilot the day after Thanksgiving, hold a family meeting to decide what the group really wants to do and who's going to do what.

2. If you need a symbol for giving (in addition to Jesus and the Three Wise Ones), learn about St. Nicholas. Santa Claus has been completely taken over by commerce.

3. Avoid debt. Refuse to be pressured by advertising to overspend.

4. Avoid stress. Give to yourself. Don't assume that things have to be the same way they've always been.

5. Draw names rather than everyone giving something to everyone else in your giving circle. Set a ceiling for each recipient. Give children ONE thing they really want, rather than so many gifts. If need be, pool funds.

6. Give appropriate gifts. Get to know the recipient. Give what they want to receive, not what you want to buy.

7. Give alternative gifts. Give 25% of what you spent last year to the needy... individuals or groups locally, nationally or internationally.
Buy crafts and clothing from developing countries at alternative gift markets, not from commercial importers, so that the artisans receive a fair price for their work.
Give of yourself, not just "stuff" - a coupon book for future services (such as baby-sitting or an "enchanted evening"); something baked, sewn, handmade, composed, etc.; or a family service project, such as working together at a soup kitchen.

8. Celebrate Advent for four weeks before Christmas.

9. Put the gifts under the tree shortly before opening them. Then take turns opening them around the tree, not all at once, so that each gift can be admired and each giver thanked.

10. Make changes slowly but persistently. Don't try to change everything and everybody all at once. The resistance will make you feel defeated and lonely.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Blue Carbuncle

We are big fans of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series based on Arthur Conan Doyle's stories and make it a point to watch The Blue Carbuncle during this time of year.

I don't see a clip searching through googlevideo, which is a shame, but we know what it's like anyway now don't we.

12/8/2008: We watched this tonight and enjoyed it, as usual. I have found a couple of clips at youtube: (Both clips are gone as I check on 12/1/2009. Right now it's online, with embedding disabled, in parts at youtube, with part 1 here.)

A Muppet Family Christmas

A Muppet Family Christmas is a great 1987 made-for-tv special that includes every imaginable muppet. We have a tape of the show as it appeared on television and were so excited when we found it on DVD. Unfortunately, the DVD leaves out so much of it that it's not worth watching. We gave the DVD away and continue to watch -sparingly, in an attempt to prolong the life of the tape- our home recorded version. This is a sad situation and just another example of how the byzantine copyright regulations make things difficult for all concerned.

Here's the beginning of the show:
This is unavailable as I check on 12/1/2009, but the video is at youtube in 5 parts now. part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5

The DVD is out of print. There's a description of the various editions here.

Remember Mr. Bingle?

Click here to get reacquainted.

Here's the New Orleans story:

The Memphis connection is mentioned at the bottom of the Mr. Bingle Wikipedia entry.

Sir Galahad: a Christmas Story

Sir Galahad: a Christmas Story is a poem written by William Morris:

It is the longest night in all the year,
Near on the day when the Lord Christ was born;
Six hours ago I came and sat down here,
And ponder'd sadly, wearied and forlorn.

The winter wind that pass'd the chapel door,
Sang out a moody tune, that went right well
With mine own thoughts: I look'd down on the floor,
Between my feet, until I heard a bell

Sound a long way off through the forest deep,
And toll on steadily; a drowsiness
Came on me, so that I fell half asleep,
As I sat there not moving: less and less

I saw the melted snow that hung in beads
Upon my steel-shoes; less and less I saw
Between the tiles the bunches of small weeds:
Heartless and stupid, with no touch of awe

Upon me, half-shut eyes upon the ground,
I thought: O Galahad! the days go by,
Stop and cast up now that which you have found,
So sorely you have wrought and painfully.

Night after night your horse treads down alone
The sere damp fern, night after night you sit
Holding the bridle like a man of stone,
Dismal, unfriended: what thing comes of it?

And what if Palomydes also ride,
And over many a mountain and bare heath
Follow the questing beast with none beside?
Is he not able still to hold his breath

With thoughts of Iseult? doth he not grow pale
With weary striving, to seem best of all
To her, "as she is best," he saith? to fail
Is nothing to him, he can never fall.

For unto such a man love-sorrow is
So dear a thing unto his constant heart,
That even if he never win one kiss,
Or touch from Iseult, it will never part.

And he will never know her to be worse
Than in his happiest dreams he thinks she is:
Good knight, and faithful, you have 'scaped the curse
In wonderful-wise; you have great store of bliss.

Yea, what if Father Launcelot ride out,
Can he not think of Guenevere's arms, round
Warm and lithe, about his neck, and shout
Till all the place grows joyful with the sound?

And when he lists can often see her face,
And think, "Next month I kiss you, or next week,
And still you think of me": therefore the place
Grows very pleasant, whatsoever he seek.

But me, who ride alone, some carle shall find
Dead in my arms in the half-melted snow,
When all unkindly with the shifting wind,
The thaw comes on at Candlemas: I know

Indeed that they will say: "This Galahad
If he had lived had been a right good knight;
Ah! poor chaste body!" but they will be glad,
Not most alone, but all, when in their sight

That very evening in their scarlet sleeves
The gay-dress'd minstrels sing; no maid will talk
Of sitting on my tomb, until the leaves,
Grown big upon the bushes of the walk,

East of the Palace-pleasaunce, make it hard
To see the minster therefrom: well-a-day!
Before the trees by autumn were well bared,
I saw a damozel with gentle play,

Within that very walk say last farewell
To her dear knight, just riding out to find
(Why should I choke to say it?) the Sangreal,
And their last kisses sunk into my mind,

Yea, for she stood lean'd forward on his breast,
Rather, scarce stood; the back of one dear hand,
That it might well be kiss'd, she held and press'd
Against his lips; long time they stood there, fann'd

By gentle gusts of quiet frosty wind,
Till Mador de la porte a-going by,
And my own horsehoofs roused them; they untwined,
And parted like a dream. In this way I,

With sleepy face bent to the chapel floor,
Kept musing half asleep, till suddenly
A sharp bell rang from close beside the door,
And I leapt up when something pass'd me by,

Shrill ringing going with it, still half blind
I stagger'd after, a great sense of awe
At every step kept gathering on my mind,
Thereat I have no marvel, for I saw

One sitting on the altar as a throne,
Whose face no man could say he did not know,
And though the bell still rang, he sat alone,
With raiment half blood-red, half white as snow.

Right so I fell upon the floor and knelt,
Not as one kneels in church when mass is said,
But in a heap, quite nerveless, for I felt
The first time what a thing was perfect dread.

But mightily the gentle voice came down:
"Rise up, and look and listen, Galahad,
Good knight of God, for you will see no frown
Upon my face; I come to make you glad.

"For that you say that you are all alone,
I will be with you always, and fear not
You are uncared for, though no maiden moan
Above your empty tomb; for Launcelot,

"He in good time shall be my servant too,
Meantime, take note whose sword first made him knight,
And who has loved him alway, yea, and who
Still trusts him alway, though in all men's sight,

"He is just what you know, O Galahad,
This love is happy even as you say,
But would you for a little time be glad,
To make ME sorry long, day after day?

"Her warm arms round his neck half throttle ME,
The hot love-tears burn deep like spots of lead,
Yea, and the years pass quick: right dismally
Will Launcelot at one time hang his head;

"Yea, old and shrivell'd he shall win my love.
Poor Palomydes fretting out his soul!
Not always is he able, son, to move
His love, and do it honour: needs must roll

"The proudest destrier sometimes in the dust,
And then 'tis weary work; he strives beside
Seem better than he is, so that his trust
Is always on what chances may betide;

"And so he wears away, my servant, too,
When all these things are gone, and wretchedly
He sits and longs to moan for Iseult, who
Is no care now to Palomydes: see,

"O good son, Galahad, upon this day,
Now even, all these things are on your side,
But these you fight not for; look up, I say,
And see how I can love you, for no pride

"Closes your eyes, no vain lust keeps them down.
See now you have ME always; following
That holy vision, Galahad, go on,
Until at last you come to ME to sing

"In Heaven always, and to walk around
The garden where I am." He ceased, my face
And wretched body fell upon the ground;
And when I look'd again, the holy place

Was empty; but right so the bell again
Came to the chapel-door, there entered
Two angels first, in white, without a stain,
And scarlet wings, then, after them, a bed

Four ladies bore, and set it down beneath
The very altar-step, and while for fear
I scarcely dared to move or draw my breath,
Those holy ladies gently came a-near,

And quite unarm'd me, saying: "Galahad,
Rest here awhile and sleep, and take no thought
Of any other thing than being glad;
Hither the Sangreal will be shortly brought,

"Yet must you sleep the while it stayeth here."
Right so they went away, and I, being weary,
Slept long and dream'd of Heaven: the bell comes near,
I doubt it grows to morning. Miserere!

[Enter Two Angels in white, with scarlet wings; also, Four Ladies in gowns of red and green; also an Angel, bearing in his hands a surcoat of white, with a red cross.]


O servant of the high God, Galahad!
Rise and be arm'd: the Sangreal is gone forth
Through the great forest, and you must be had
Unto the sea that lieth on the north:

There shall you find the wondrous ship wherein
The spindles of King Solomon are laid,
And the sword that no man draweth without sin,
But if he be most pure: and there is stay'd,

Hard by, Sir Launcelot, whom you will meet
In some short space upon that ship: first, though,
Will come here presently that lady sweet,
Sister of Percival, whom you well know,

And with her Bors and Percival: stand now,
These ladies will to arm you.

[FIRST LADY, putting on the hauberk]

That I may stand so close beneath your brow,
Margaret of Antioch, am glad.

[SECOND LADY, girding him with the sword.]

That I may stand and touch you with my hand,
O Galahad, I, Cecily, am glad.

[THIRD LADY, buckling on the spurs.]

That I may kneel while up above you stand,
And gaze at me, O holy Galahad,
I, Lucy, am most glad.

[FOURTH LADY, putting on the basnet.]

O gentle knight,
That you bow down to us in reverence,
We are most glad, I, Katherine, with delight
Must needs fall trembling.

[ANGEL, putting on the crossed surcoat.]

Galahad, we go hence,

For here, amid the straying of the snow,
Come Percival's sister, Bors, and Percival.

[The Four Ladies carry out the bed, and all go but Galahad.]


How still and quiet everything seems now:
They come, too, for I hear the horsehoofs fall.

[Enter Sir Bors, Sir Percival and his Sister.]

Fair friends and gentle lady, God you save!
A many marvels have been here to-night;
Tell me what news of Launcelot you have,
And has God's body ever been in sight?


Why, as for seeing that same holy thing,
As we were riding slowly side by side,
An hour ago, we heard a sweet voice sing,
And through the bare twigs saw a great light glide,

With many-colour'd raiment, but far off;
And so pass'd quickly: from the court nought good;
Poor merry Dinadan, that with jape and scoff
Kept us all merry, in a little wood

Was found all hack'd and dead: Sir Lionel
And Gauwaine have come back from the great quest,
Just merely shamed; and Lauvaine, who loved well
Your father Launcelot, at the king's behest

Went out to seek him, but was almost slain,
Perhaps is dead now; everywhere
The knights come foil'd from the great quest, in vain;
In vain they struggle for the vision fair.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Bishop's Wife

The Bishop's Wife is a delightful lesser-known Christmas film from 1947 which we picked up on DVD last year but didn't watch 'til tonight. Cary Grant makes a perfect angel, while David Niven and Loretta Young are also perfect as the worried bishop trying to flatter wealthy parishioners into donating money enough to build a cathedral and his neglected wife. Elsa Lancaster plays the housekeeper.

Here's the opening scene:

The Husband suggested this one this afternoon, so he and I watched it. I haven't seen this one very many times and we just bought it year before last, but I like it a lot. It's online in 12 parts at youtube with embedding disabled. Links: (removed as of 12/1/2009)


TCM has an overview. Variety has a short review. The New York Times review says "it comes very close to being the most enchanting picture of the year" and calls it a "warm and winning fable".

Our Town

Our Town, based on the play by Thornton Wilder, is a PBS Masterpiece Theater production starring Paul Newman. Neither The Younger Son nor I had seen this, though I read the play and saw a community theater presentation of it when I was in high school. I still remember that experience.

This is a beautiful production. It brought a tear to my eye, and I don't tend to cry. The Younger Son enjoyed the first half of the video much, much than the more solemn second half.

The 1940 movie version is online:

The ending of the 1940 version differs markedly from that of the play, if the wikipedia report is correct. I've never seen that one.

An Advent Calendar

Grace Cathedral has a multi-media online Advent calendar.

Bobby McFerrin's Ave Maria

Ave Maria by Bobby McFerrin:

This man is truly amazing. I have Hush and love it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer has always been one of our favorites. I missed it the year it first aired, because I was at church, but I saw it after that. We were horrified to find that our new DVD version of this has the Fame and Fortune number stuck off in a Special Features section, and the show contains some lame "misfits" reprise number we had never seen before where Fame and Fortune should be.

Sad. Very sad.

The show can be seen online here:

Advent Gospel: 2nd Sunday

Matthew 3:1-12

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,

6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.


All Right Now

All Right Now by Free:

The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Patrick Stewart's "A Christmas Carol"

A Christmas Carol is Patrick Stewart's 1999 adaptation of Dickens' story. Stewart stars as Scrooge. There are reasons we particularly like this version, but there are a few bits we do not like:
  • We think Christmas Past is mean, not good-hearted and certainly not o'er-brimming with the hearty goodwill of the Christmas season. He is trudging through his dutiful oversight of Christmas Day without a touch of joy. I can't imagine a worse depiction of Christmas "Spirit". And the interchange in which Scrooge says, "I didn't know Cratchit had a crippled son," and Christmas Present replies with "You didn't ask," well, we just get this funny picture of Scrooge interrupting Bob at his work and asking, "By the way, Mr. Cratchit, do you have a crippled son?"
  • The Giant Jawa-eyed Christmas Yet to Come.
  • The sound of Stewart working up to his big laughing scene at the end. Gagging, maybe?

We especially like the scenes in which Christmas Present visits the sailors at sea and prisoners in the jail -most versions leave this part out. We've grown to appreciate the downtrodden Bob Cratchit, whose portrayal I did not like at all at first but whose demeanor seems more realistic to me now than other versions I used to prefer, and a more good-hearted Fred than the one in this production would be hard to find.

We like this one. It's well worth owning and annual viewing. We've seen a lot of adaptations, so we can't help but compare them. None of them are perfect, and this one has much to offer.

There's a scene from towards the end of the film here:

12/5/2008: We watched this tonight. The Husband picked it as it's one of his favorites. The Younger Son keeps track of Saskia Reeves' career through a Google Alert. She does make a great Mrs. Cratchitt.

George Landow

George Landow/Owen Land is a film maker currently active in America.

Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc. (1966):

If you've seen the first 5 seconds you've seen it all as far as I can tell. I've had more fun watching the test pattern on tv when I was a child.

Remedial Reading Comprehension (1970):

I'm in sympathy with the sleeper. I like brown rice better than white. Run while you can.

Alice Comedies

The Alice Comedies are animated shorts featuring a little girl named Alice. They combine live action with the animation.

Alice's Wonderland (1923):

You can see a few more of them here.

Ernie Gehr

Ernie Gehr (born 1943) is an American film maker. His most well-known film is Serene Velocity (1970), an experimental silent short:

Watching it made me a bit queasy/dizzy.

John Lennon

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1980 of John Lennon. He was senselessly gunned down outside his New York home.

Give Peace a Chance:

Edward Copeland on Film posted on it.