Kiss of Death is an award-nominated 1947 noir film starring Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, Coleen Gray, and Richard Widmark. This was Widmark's film debut. It begins on Christmas Eve.
The New York Times calls it "a pip of a melodrama" and calls this role "Victor Mature's best character".
DVD Talk says, "the whole cast -including Karl Malden in a billed bit part- does strong work here" and closes with this: "a film noir classic. Richard Widmark's gleeful psychopath is iconic and unforgettable, while Victor Mature's soulful lead performance proves he was more than just a handsome beefcake. Highly Recommended." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 86%.
I can't find a version that has subtitles, but I enjoyed watching it anyway. Familiarizing yourself with the story beforehand helps. You can read the Wikipedia summary of the legend:
The story tells of a group of samurai who were left leaderless (becoming rōnin) after their daimyō (feudal lord) Asano Naganori was compelled to perform seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting a court official named Kira Yoshinaka, whose title was Kōzuke no suke. After waiting and planning for a year, the rōnin avenged their master's honor by killing Kira. In turn, they were themselves obliged to commit seppuku for committing the crime of murder. This true story was popularized in Japanese culture as emblematic of the loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor that people should preserve in their daily lives. The popularity of the tale grew during the Meiji era, in which Japan underwent rapid modernization, and the legend became entrenched within discourses of national heritage and identity.
Fictionalized accounts of the tale of the Forty-seven Rōnin are known as Chūshingura. The story was popularized in numerous plays, including bunraku and kabuki. Because of the censorship laws of the shogunate in the Genroku era, which forbade portrayal of current events, the names were changed. While the version given by the playwrights may have come to be accepted as historical fact by some, the first Chūshingura was written some 50 years after the event, and numerous historical records about the actual events that predate the Chūshingura survive.
The bakufu's censorship laws had relaxed somewhat 75 years later in the late 18th century, when Japanologist Isaac Titsingh first recorded the story of the forty-seven rōnin as one of the significant events of the Genroku era. To this day, the story continues to be popular in Japan, and each year on December 14, Sengakuji Temple, where Asano Naganori and the rōnin are buried, holds a festival commemorating the event.
There is Christmas music galore out there. We used to have Christmas LPs, then we moved to tapes, and now we have CDs. We each have our own Christmas playlists, and I'd like to share mine with you. It's at Spotify, which I find hard to use on my phone but an easy delight on my computer. My playlist is almost 23 hours long, because even though I take some songs out every year I add even more. I've included a wide variety of types of music, but none of it -well, almost none of it- is instrumental. I hope you enjoy my eclectic Christmas music selection:
Ominous inscrutable Chinese news
to get just before Christmas,
considering my reasonable health,
marriage spicy as moo-goo-gai-pan,
career running like a not-too-old Chevrolet.
Not bad, considering what can go wrong:
A Jetson Christmas Carol is a 1985 Christmas special. The Jetsons is a 1960s series I remember fondly from my childhood, but this special is from the second incarnation of the show which I'd never seen.
The Blue Admiral Inn stood on the edge of the shore, with its red brick walls, and its gabled roof, and the old willow-trees that overhung it, all reflected in the quiet water as if the harbor had been a great mirror lying upon its back in the sun. This made it a most attractive place to look at. Then there were crisp little dimity curtains hanging in the windows of the coffee-room and giving great promise of tidiness and comfort within, and this made it a most delightful place to think about. And then there was a certain suggestion of savory cooking in the swirl of the smoke that came out of the tall, old-fashioned chimneys, and this made it a most difficult place to stay away from. In fact, if any ships had chanced to come into the little harbor, I believe everybody on board of them, from the captains down to the cabin-boys, would have scrambled into the boats the moment the anchors were down and pulled away for the Blue Admiral Inn.
But, so far as ships were concerned, the harbor was as dead as a door-nail, and poor old Uncle Porticle, who kept the inn, had long ago given up all idea of expecting them, and had fallen into a melancholy habit of standing in the little porch that opened on the village street, gazing first to the right and then to the left, and lastly at the opposite side of the way, as if he had a faint hope that certain seafaring men were about to steal a march upon him from the land-side of the town. And Dorothy, who was a lonely little child, with no one in the world to care for but Uncle Porticle, had also fallen into a habit of sitting on the step of the porch by way of keeping him company; and here they passed many quiet hours together, with the big robin hopping about in his cage, and with the Admiral himself, on his pedestal beside the porch, keeping watch and ward over the fortunes of the inn.
Now the Admiral was only a yard high, and was made of wood into the bargain; but he was a fine figure of a man for all that, being dressed in a very beautiful blue coat (as befitted his name) and canary-colored knee-breeches, and wearing a fore-and-aft hat rakishly perched on the back of his head. On the other hand, he had sundry stray cracks in the calves of his legs, and was badly battered about the nose; but, after all, this only gave him a certain weather-beaten appearance as if he had been around the world any number of times in all sorts of company; and for as long as Dorothy could remember he had been standing on his pedestal beside the porch, enjoying the sunshine and defying the rain, as a gallant officer should, and earnestly gazing at the opposite side of the street through a spy-glass.
Now, what the Admiral was staring at was a mystery.
Set on Christmas Eve, "The Ref" evokes a familiar kind of holiday feeling: the high anxiety and claustrophobia of spending a long dinner with feuding relatives. The plot sounds hopeless, but the film is handled with gleeful irreverence, dark wit and cynicism.
Rolling Stone concludes, "The script is crass; the actors never. They keep The Ref from going down for the count." Roger Ebert gives it 3 stars and calls it "fun". Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 73%.
A Kidnapped Santa Claus is a 1904 L. Frank Baum short story, which can be read online here or here.. This story is based in the same mythological creation as Baum's Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which is much-beloved at our house. It begins,
Santa Claus lives in the Laughing Valley, where stands the big, rambling castle in which his toys are manufactured. His workmen, selected from the ryls, nooks, pixies and fairies, live with him, and every one is as busy as can be from one year's end to another.
It is called the Laughing Valley because everything there is happy and gay. The brook chuckles to itself as it leaps rollicking between its green banks; the wind whistles merrily in the trees; the sunbeams dance lightly over the soft grass, and the violets and wild flowers look smilingly up from their green nests. To laugh one needs to be happy; to be happy one needs to be content. And throughout the Laughing Valley of Santa Claus contentment reigns supreme.
On one side is the mighty Forest of Burzee. At the other side stands the huge mountain that contains the Caves of the Daemons. And between them the Valley lies smiling and peaceful.
One would thing that our good old Santa Claus, who devotes his days to making children happy, would have no enemies on all the earth; and, as a matter of fact, for a long period of time he encountered nothing but love wherever he might go.
But the Daemons who live in the mountain caves grew to hate Santa Claus very much, and all for the simple reason that he made children happy.
3 Godfathers is a 1948 western movie. It's directed by John Ford and stars John Wayne. Ward Bond is the sheriff. Referring to the story of the three wise men in the Christian nativity story, John Wayne and his two companions take on the care of a fatherless baby whose mother dies in childbirth.
The New York Times concludes a positive review by saying, "There are humor and honest tear-jerking in this visually beautiful film." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 82%.
The O Antiphons are traditionally used during the last seven days of Advent, of which this is the second. Each of the antiphons is a name of Christ, one of his attributes as mentioned in Scripture. Today's is O Adonai, or O Lord. In English:
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
Here it is chanted in Latin:
I find these kinds of chants peaceful, and have several on my Spotify Christmas playlist. Christmas isn't all about the hustle and bustle and decoration and secular Christmas songs. For those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year there are religious traditions, too, even if we've let some of those drop out of our practice over time. If you'd like to add these to your Advent devotions on these days, here are the English words and the dates they're attached to:
December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.
December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
If this isn't your cup of tea -and let's be honest, it's not everybody's cup of tea- I offer you, yes, you guessed it:
The Festival is a 1923 short story by H.P. Lovecraft. You can read it online here or here. It begins,
I was far from home, and the spell of the eastern sea was upon me. In the twilight I heard it pounding on the rocks, and I knew it lay just over the hill where the twisting willows writhed against the clearing sky and the first stars of evening. And because my fathers had called me to the old town beyond, I pushed on through the shallow, new-fallen snow along the road that soared lonely up to where Aldebaran twinkled among the trees; on toward the very ancient town I had never seen but often dreamed of.
It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind. It was the Yuletide, and I had come at last to the ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival in the elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keep festival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten. Mine were an old people, and were old even when this land was settled three hundred years before. And they were strange, because they had come as dark furtive folk from opiate southern gardens of orchids, and spoken another tongue before they learnt the tongue of the blue-eyed fishers. And now they were scattered, and shared only the rituals of mysteries that none living could understand. I was the only one who came back that night to the old fishing town as legend bade, for only the poor and the lonely remember.
scripted by Rod Serling as a modernization of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and a plea for global cooperation. It was the first in a planned series of television specials developed to promote the United Nations and educate viewers about its mission.
It is directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and is the only television program he ever directed. It stars Britt Ekland, Ben Gazzara, Sterling Hayden, Steve Lawrence, Eva Marie Saint, and Peter Sellers. It was politically relevant then; sadly, it's politically relevant now.
The other day I saw a wedding... But no! I would rather tell you about a Christmas tree. The wedding was superb. I liked it immensely. But the other incident was still finer. I don't know why it is that the sight of the wedding reminded me of the Christmas tree. This is the way it happened:
Exactly five years ago, on New Year's Eve, I was invited to a children's ball by a man high up in the business world, who had his connections, his circle of acquaintances, and his intrigues. So it seemed as though the children's ball was merely a pretext for the parents to come together and discuss matters of interest to themselves, quite innocently and casually.
I was an outsider, and, as I had no special matters to air, I was able to spend the evening independently of the others. There was another gentleman present who like myself had just stumbled upon this affair of domestic bliss. He was the first to attract my attention. His appearance was not that of a man of birth or high family. He was tall, rather thin, very serious, and well dressed. Apparently he had no heart for the family festivities. The instant he went off into a corner by himself the smile disappeared from his face, and his thick dark brows knitted into a frown. He knew no one except the host and showed every sign of being bored to death, though bravely sustaining the role of thorough enjoyment to the end. Later I learned that he was a provincial, had come to the capital on some important, brain-racking business, had brought a letter of recommendation to our host, and our host had taken him under his protection, not at all con amore. It was merely out of politeness that he had invited him to the children's ball.
They did not play cards with him, they did not offer him cigars. No one entered into conversation with him. Possibly they recognised the bird by its feathers from a distance. Thus, my gentleman, not knowing what to do with his hands, was compelled to spend the evening stroking his whiskers. His whiskers were really fine, but he stroked them so assiduously that one got the feeling that the whiskers had come into the world first and afterwards the man in order to stroke them.
There was another guest who interested me. But he was of quite a different order. He was a personage. They called him Julian Mastakovich. At first glance one could tell he was an honoured guest and stood in the same relation to the host as the host to the gentleman of the whiskers. The host and hostess said no end of amiable things to him, were most attentive, wining him, hovering over him, bringing guests up to be introduced, but never leading him to any one else. I noticed tears glisten in our host's eyes when Julian Mastakovich remarked that he had rarely spent such a pleasant evening. Somehow I began to feel uncomfortable in this personage's presence. So, after amusing myself with the children, five of whom, remarkably well-fed young persons, were our host's, I went into a little sitting-room, entirely unoccupied, and seated myself at the end that was a conservatory and took up almost half the room.
The children were charming. They absolutely refused to resemble their elders, notwithstanding the efforts of mothers and governesses. In a jiffy they had denuded the Christmas tree down to the very last sweet and had already succeeded in breaking half of their playthings before they even found out which belonged to whom.
Christmas on Ganymede is a 1940 short story by Isaac Asimov, which first appeared in the January 1942 issue of Startling Stories. You can read it here or here. It begins,
Olaf Johnson hummed nasally to himself and his china-blue eyes were dreamy as he surveyed the stately fir tree in the corner of the library. Though the library was the largest single room in the Dome, Olaf felt it none too spacious for the occasion. Enthusiastically he dipped into the huge crate at his side and took out the first roll of red-and-green crepe paper.
What sudden burst of sentiment had inspired the Ganymedan Products Corporation, Inc. to ship a complete collection of Christmas decorations to the Dome, he did not pause to inquire. Olaf’s was a placid disposition, and in his self-imposed job as chief Christmas decorator, he was content with his lot.
He frowned suddenly and muttered a curse. The General Assembly signal light was Hashing on and off hysterically. With a hurt air Olaf laid down the tack-hammer he had just lifted, then the roll of crepe paper, picked some tinsel out of his hair and left for officers quarters.
Mickey's Christmas Carol is a 1983 animated version with Mickey Mouse as Cratchit, Scrooge McDuck as Scrooge, and Donald Duck as Fred. I don't know how many adaptations there have been for A Christmas Carol, but sometimes I think there's one for every television show and character. This one is fun if you like these characters.
Brenda Lee is celebrating her 73rd birthday today, and in honor of her and of the season I give you what has become a Christmas standard:
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree came out in 1958, and although I don't remember that, I hear this song every year and keep it on my playlist. Lee was 13 years old when she recorded it. She's also known for I'm Sorry, which came out in 1960 when she was 15:
She was born in Georgia, and the Georgia Encyclopedia site says, "She is a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the only female to be so honored." She currently lives in Nashville, TN, with her husband of over 50 years and continues to be active.
Let me tell you 'bout a girl I know
She is my baby and she lives next door
Every mornin' 'fore the sun comes up
She brings me coffee in my favorite cup
That's why I know, yes, I know
Hallelujah, I just love her so
The Fir Tree is an 1844 short story by Hans Christian Andersen. I imagine everyone is familiar with this tale of the little fir tree so completely focused on the future that the present is lost to it. You can read it online here. It begins,
Out in the woods stood such a pretty little fir tree. It grew in a good place, where it had plenty of sun and plenty of fresh air. Around it stood many tall comrades, both fir trees and pines.
The little fir tree was in a headlong hurry to grow up. It didn't care a thing for the warm sunshine, or the fresh air, and it took no interest in the peasant children who ran about chattering when they came to pick strawberries or raspberries. Often when the children had picked their pails full, or had gathered long strings of berries threaded on straws, they would sit down to rest near the little fir. "Oh, isn't it a nice little tree?" they would say. "It's the baby of the woods." The little tree didn't like their remarks at all.
Next year it shot up a long joint of new growth, and the following year another joint, still longer. You can always tell how old a fir tree is by counting the number of joints it has.
"I wish I were a grown-up tree, like my comrades," the little tree sighed. "Then I could stretch out my branches and see from my top what the world is like. The birds would make me their nesting place, and when the wind blew I could bow back and forth with all the great trees."
It took no pleasure in the sunshine, nor in the birds. The glowing clouds, that sailed overhead at sunrise and sunset, meant nothing to it.
You can listen to a Librivox recording of the story:
A Christmas Carol is the 1959 adaptation aired on the TV series Fredric March Presents Tales from Dickens. This stars Basil Rathbone as Ebenezer Scrooge. Fredric March narrates. This is a bare-bones, much-condensed version.
So, guests were bidden, and musicians were engaged, and tables spread, and floors prepared for active feet, and bountiful provision made, of every hospitable kind. Because it was the Christmas season, and his eyes were all unused to English holly, and its sturdy green, the dancing room was garlanded and hung with it; and the red berries gleamed an English welcome to him, peeping from among the leaves.
Once upon a time, it matters little when, and in stalwart England, it matters little where, a fierce battle was fought. It was fought upon a long summer day when the waving grass was green. Many a wild flower formed by the Almighty Hand to be a perfumed goblet for the dew, felt its enamelled cup fill high with blood that day, and shrinking dropped. Many an insect deriving its delicate color from harmless leaves and herbs, was stained anew that day by dying men, and marked its frightened way with an unnatural track. The painted butterfly took blood into the air upon the edges of its wings. The stream ran red. The trodden ground became a quagmire, whence, from sullen pools collected in the prints of human feet and horses’ hoofs, the one prevailing hue still lowered and glimmered at the sun.
Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the sights the moon beheld upon that field, when, coming up above the black line of distant rising-ground, softened and blurred at the edge by trees, she rose into the sky and looked upon the plain, strewn with upturned faces that had once at mothers’ breasts sought mothers’ eyes, or slumbered happily. Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the secrets whispered afterwards upon the tainted wind that blew across the scene of that day’s work and that night’s death and suffering! Many a lonely moon was bright upon the battle-ground, and many a star kept mournful watch upon it, and many a wind from every quarter of the earth blew over it, before the traces of the fight were worn away.
They lurked and lingered for a long time, but survived in little things, for Nature, far above the evil passions of men, soon recovered Her serenity, and smiled upon the guilty battle-ground as she had done before, when it was innocent. The larks sang high above it, the swallows skimmed and dipped and flitted to and fro, the shadows of the flying clouds pursued each other swiftly, over grass and corn and turnip-field and wood, and over roof and church-spire in the nestling town among the trees, away into the bright distance on the borders of the sky and earth, where the red sunsets faded. Crops were sown, and grew up, and were gathered in; the stream that had been crimsoned, turned a watermill; men whistled at the plough; gleaners and haymakers were seen in quiet groups at work; sheep and oxen pastured; boys whooped and called, in fields, to scare away the birds; smoke rose from cottage chimneys; sabbath bells rang peacefully; old people lived and died; the timid creatures of the field, and simple flowers of the bush and garden, grew and withered in their destined terms: and all upon the fierce and bloody battle-ground, where thousands upon thousands had been killed in the great fight.
But there were deep green patches in the growing corn at first, that people looked at awfully. Year after year they re-appeared; and it was known that underneath those fertile spots, heaps of men and horses lay buried, indiscriminately, enriching the ground. The husbandmen who ploughed those places, shrunk from the great worms abounding there; and the sheaves they yielded, were, for many a long year, called the Battle Sheaves, and set apart; and no one ever knew a Battle Sheaf to be among the last load at a Harvest Home. For a long time, every furrow that was turned, revealed some fragments of the fight. For a long time, there were wounded trees upon the battle-ground; and scraps of hacked and broken fence and wall, where deadly struggles had been made; and trampled parts where not a leaf or blade would grow. For a long time, no village-girl would dress her hair or bosom with the sweetest flower from that field of death: and after many a year had come and gone, the berries growing there, were still believed to leave too deep a stain upon the hand that plucked them.
The Seasons in their course, however, though they passed as lightly as the summer clouds themselves, obliterated, in the lapse of time, even these remains of the old conflict; and wore away such legendary traces of it as the neighbouring people carried in their minds, until they dwindled into old wives’ tales, dimly remembered round the winter fire, and waning every year.
2046 is a 2004 science fiction film, or -if you prefer- a romantic drama with science fiction elements, directed by Wong Kar-wai. This is so beautiful to watch.
Parts of it take place on Christmas Eve. "All memories are traces of tears." "Love is all a matter of timing. It's no good meeting the right person too soon or too late."
The soundtrack is wonderful. This song plays in the background during part of the movie:
The New York Times opens with this: "IN "2046," a story of longing and loss, the passage of time is marked not by the hands of a clock, but by the women who pass through one man's life" and says, "Mr. Wong is one of the few filmmakers working in commercial cinema who refuse to be enslaved by traditional storytelling. ... Mr. Wong makes movies, still a young art, that create meaning through visual images, not just words."
Roger Ebert says, "Since it is by Wong Kar Wai, "2046" is visually stunning" and calls it "a lovely meander". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 85%.
The original cause of the trouble was about twenty years in growing.
At the end of that time it was worth it.
Had you lived anywhere within fifty miles of Sundown Ranch you would have heard of it. It possessed a quantity of jet-black hair, a pair of extremely frank, deep-brown eyes and a laugh that rippled across the prairie like the sound of a hidden brook. The name of it was Rosita McMullen; and she was the daughter of old man McMullen of the Sundown Sheep Ranch.
There came riding on red roan steeds -or, to be more explicit, on a paint and a flea-bitten sorrel- two wooers. One was Madison Lane, and the other was the Frio Kid, But at that time they did not call him the Frio Kid, for he had not earned the honours of special nomenclature- His name was simply Johnny McRoy.
It must not be supposed that these two were the sum of the agreeable Rosita's admirers. The bronchos of a dozen others champed their bits at the long hitching rack of the Sundown Ranch. Many were the sheeps'- eves that were cast in those savannas that did not belong. to the flocks of Dan McMullen. But of all the cavaliers, Madison Lane and Johnny MeRoy galloped far ahead, wherefore they are to be chronicled.
Madison Lane, a young cattleman from the Nueces country, won the race. He and Rosita were married one Christmas day. Armed, hilarious, vociferous, magnanimous, the cowmen and the sheepmen, laying aside their hereditary hatred, joined forces to celebrate the occasion.
Sundown Ranch was sonorous with the cracking of jokes and sixshooters, the shine of buckles and bright eyes, the outspoken congratulations of the herders of kine.
But while the wedding feast was at its liveliest there descended upon it Johnny MeRoy, bitten by jealousy, like one possessed.
This adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic is an episode from the television variety series Shower of Stars. Much condensed and faithful in parts, this is only an hour long. Fredric March is Scrooge and Basil Rathbone is Marley's Ghost.
by Ödön Márffy, a Hungarian painter who died December 3, 1959, 3 days after his 81st birthday. He was one of The Eight, "an avant-garde art movement of Hungarian painters active mostly in Budapest from 1909 to 1918. They were connected to Post-Impressionism and radical movements in literature and music as well, and led to the rise of modernism in art culture."
The Blue Bird is a 1940 movie. It's directed by Walter Lang and stars Shirley Temple, Spring Byington, and Nigel Bruce. The movie takes place during the Christmas season. I watched this looking for movies I hadn't seen that take place around Christmas. This is a simple, sappy story, and I can't imagine who would like it except for Shirley Temple fans. I'm not one of those people. .
The NYT says, " As a children's show we suppose it is quite acceptable. At least it is edifyingly moral and moralistic and not too frightening". Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 73%.
I can't say I've ever thought of The Elves and the Shoemaker as a Christmas story, but there it is in black and white: "Now it befell that one evening not long before Christmas...". You can read this Grimms brothers tale online, including here and here. It begins,
A shoemaker, by no fault of his own, had become so poor that at last he had nothing left but leather for one pair of shoes. So in the evening, he cut out the shoes which he wished to begin to make the next morning, and as he had a good conscience, he lay down quietly in his bed, commended himself to God, and fell asleep. In the morning, after he had said his prayers, and was just going to sit down to work, the two shoes stood quite finished on his table. He was astounded, and knew not what to say to it. He took the shoes in his hands to observe them closer, and they were so neatly made that there was not one bad stitch in them, just as if they were intended as a masterpiece. Soon after, a buyer came in, and as the shoes pleased him so well, he paid more for them than was customary, and, with the money, the shoemaker was able to purchase leather for two pairs of shoes. He cut them out at night, and next morning was about to set to work with fresh courage; but he had no need to do so, for, when he got up, they were already made, and buyers also were not wanting, who gave him money enough to buy leather for four pairs of shoes. The following morning, too, he found the four pairs made; and so it went on constantly, what he cut out in the evening was finished by the morning, so that he soon had his honest independence again, and at last became a wealthy man. Now it befell that one evening not long before Christmas, when the man had been cutting out, he said to his wife, before going to bed, "What think you if we were to stay up to-night to see who it is that lends us this helping hand?"
Here's the edition of this story I had growing up:
The Apartment is a 1960 comedy directed by Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Kruschen, Ray Walston, and Edie Addams. Much of the movie takes place during the Christmas holiday season. We have the DVD, but you can watch it online at Vimeo.
sophisticated yet cynical film of the early 60s is a bleak assessment of corporate America, big business and capitalism, success, and the work ethic, when a lowly but ambitious accountant enables his climb up the corporate ladder by ingratiating himself to his superiors
A Christmas Carol is a radio play narrated by Orson Welles and starring Lionel Barrymore. It aired on December 24, 1939, as part of the Campbell Playhouse radio series, which was a continuation of Welles' Mercury Theatre on the Air.
You can see my blog posts on other Christmas Carol adaptations here.
The Tractate Middoth is a 1911 M.R. James ghost story said to be suited for Christmas time, though I don't see a connection between anything in the story and that season. It begins, "Towards the end of an autumn afternoon..."
He could hardly leave it without another look,
though the recollection of what he had seen there made him shiver,
Rushmore is a 1998 award-winning Wes Anderson film. I tend to like movies by this director, and this is widely considered one of his best. It stars Jason Schwartzman, Olivia Williams, and Bill Murray.
Part of the movie takes place during the Christmas season.
The Guardian calls it an "outrageous, genre-defying movie" and "a finely-judged parable on the line between self-delusion and reality." Rolling Stone has a positive review. Empire Online concludes, "Offbeat and off centre highschool movie with ascerbic one liners delivered by a superb cast. A real treat."
Thoroughly blend/mix all dry ingredients. Blend in vanilla extract. Scrape sides of container and mix again. You can use a blender for this, but I use a fork.
Makes 1 8-cup pot of coffee, or measure it out for individual pour-over servings.
I had this for Thanksgiving Day, and it was good with breakfast while we watched the parade on television:
and apple pie (compliments of The Daughter) and spice cake:
but my goal was to have the recipe tested and ready to go for the Christmas season. I've given a batch to The Daughter with a promise to refill it on request as I do the Spice Tea mix, and we will both enjoy it during the holidays.
I'm going to link up with the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering where we share a post that includes a drink. Please join us.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in up-state New York in c. 1797 and grew up speaking Dutch. At about 29 years of age she escaped with her infant daughter (one of five children born to her, 4 of whom survived childhood). Learning that her 5 year old son, one of the 3 she had left behind who weren't covered by the New York Emancipation order that covered her and her infant, had been illegally sold to a man in Alabama, she successfully took the matter to court. In 1843 she became a Methodist, adopted the name Sojourner Truth, and began travelling around speaking an abolitionist message. In 1851 she participated in a lecture tour and gave her extemporaneous speech now known as "Ain't I a Woman?". There is no transcript or recording of the speech, and reports differ. No reports from the time include the phrase now used as the title. This is the report from the time from someone who heard the speech given and had her cooperation in the writing of the report:
Marius Robinson, who attended the convention and worked with Truth, printed the speech as he transcribed it in the June 21, 1851, issue of the Anti-Slavery Bugle.
One of the most unique and interesting speeches of the convention was made by Sojourner Truth, an emancipated slave. It is impossible to transfer it to paper, or convey any adequate idea of the effect it produced upon the audience. Those only can appreciate it who saw her powerful form, her whole-souled, earnest gesture, and listened to her strong and truthful tones. She came forward to the platform and addressing the President said with great simplicity: "May I say a few words?" Receiving an affirmative answer, she proceeded:
I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman's rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart –why can't she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, –for we can't take more than our pint'll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don't know what to do. Why children, if you have woman's rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won't be so much trouble. I can't read, but I can hear. I have heard the bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again. The Lady has spoken about Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise their brother. And Jesus wept and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part? But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.
The modern version now known was a re-write of Truth's words that cast her speech pattern and dialect as if she were a poor, black Southerner, quoting her at one point as saying, "Den dat little man in black dar, he say women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wan't a woman! Whar did your Christ come from?" It's not likely that this is what a woman of any race would sound like who had grown up speaking Dutch in up-state New York. Her speech was re-invented, and although there's no official transcript from the original speech, it's certain to have been much closer to the 1851 report from Robinson, who worked with Truth to compose his report. The speech has taken on a life of its own -over and above whatever she actually said in 1851- and I guess I'm just going to have to accept that what's understood to be what happened ain't always connected with what actually happened in much of history.
There have been attempts to reconstruct her speech using Afro-Dutch accented English, her particular dialect having been lost and not reconstructable, and the earliest report of the speech. Here's one:
Dom (The Cat's House) is an award-winning 1958 animated Russian short film directed by Leonid Amalrik about two poor homeless kittens who seek shelter with the wealthy cat "aunt" who has just built a fancy new house. When her home burns down she learns first-hand what it's like to be homeless and to be refused shelter. A sweet story.
Evolution Day observes the date of the original publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859. The book can be read online here or here or here. Some people continue to misunderstand the theory, but there are explanations online that make it easy to understand even for folks like me for whom science is not a first language. LiveScience.com has some information, How Stuff Works has some basics, and Wikipedia has an entry.
This is a history of the theory:
This is a Nova documentary:
I haven't seen the videos yet, but I plan to watch them later in observance of the day.
Season of the Witch is a 2011 adventure/fantasy about two veteran crusaders (Ron Perlman and Nicholas Cage) who become disillusioned by the slaughter of innocents and leave the Crusade. They get pressed into service by a dying cardinal (Christopher Lee) to take a witch to a monastery to use the last remaining copy of the book to exorcise her and end the Bubonic plague. This is a fun film, with enough medieval/crusade history to give it real atmosphere and enough supernatural elements to add punch.
Sixty years ago, up among the New Hampshire hills, lived Farmer Bassett, with a house full of sturdy sons and daughters growing up about him. They were poor in money, but rich in land and love, for the wide acres of wood, corn, and pasture land fed, warmed, and clothed the flock, while mutual patience, affection, and courage made the old farm-house a very happy home.
November had come; the crops were in, and barn, buttery, and bin were overflowing with the harvest that rewarded the summer's hard work. The big kitchen was a jolly place just now, for in the great fireplace roared a cheerful fire; on the walls hung garlands of dried apples, onions, and corn; up aloft from the beams shone crook-necked squashes, juicy hams, and dried venison—for in those days deer still haunted the deep forests, and hunters flourished. Savory smells were in the air; on the crane hung steaming kettles, and down among the red embers copper sauce-pans simmered, all suggestive of some approaching feast.
A white-headed baby lay in the old blue cradle that had rocked seven other babies, now and then lifting his head to look out, like a round, full moon, then subsided to kick and crow contentedly, and suck the rosy apple he had no teeth to bite. Two small boys sat on the wooden settle shelling corn for popping, and picking out the biggest nuts from the goodly store their own hands had gathered in October. Four young girls stood at the long dresser, busily chopping meat, pounding spice, and slicing apples; and the tongues of Tilly, Prue, Roxy, and Rhody went as fast as their hands. Farmer Bassett, and Eph, the oldest boy, were "chorin' 'round" outside, for Thanksgiving was at hand, and all must be in order for that time-honored day.
To and fro, from table to hearth, bustled buxom Mrs. Bassett, flushed and floury, but busy and blithe as the queen bee of this busy little hive should be.
"I do like to begin seasonable and have things to my mind. Thanksgivin' dinners can't be drove, and it does take a sight of victuals to fill all these hungry stomicks," said the good woman, as she gave a vigorous stir to the great kettle of cider apple-sauce, and cast a glance of housewifely pride at the fine array of pies set forth on the buttery shelves.
"Only one more day and then it will be time to eat. I didn't take but one bowl of hasty pudding this morning, so I shall have plenty of room when the nice things come," confided Seth to Sol, as he cracked a large hazel-nut as easily as a squirrel.
"No need of my starvin' beforehand. I always have room enough, and I'd like to have Thanksgiving every day," answered Solomon, gloating like a young ogre over the little pig that lay near by, ready for roasting.
"Sakes alive, I don't, boys! It's a marcy it don't come but once a year. I should be worn to a thread-paper with all this extra work atop of my winter weavin' and spinnin'," laughed their mother, as she plunged her plump arms into the long bread-trough and began to knead the dough as if a famine was at hand.
Tilly, the oldest girl, a red-cheeked, black-eyed lass of fourteen, was grinding briskly at the mortar, for spices were costly, and not a grain must be wasted. Prue kept time with the chopper, and the twins sliced away at the apples till their little brown arms ached, for all knew how to work, and did so now with a will.
"I think it's real fun to have Thanksgiving at home. I'm sorry Gran'ma is sick, so we can't go there as usual, but I like to mess 'round here, don't you, girls?" asked Tilly, pausing to take a sniff at the spicy pestle.
"It will be kind of lonesome with only our own folks." "I like to see all the cousins and aunts, and have games, and sing," cried the twins, who were regular little romps, and could run, swim, coast and shout as well as their brothers.
"I don't care a mite for all that. It will be so nice to eat dinner together, warm and comfortable at home," said quiet Prue, who loved her own cozy nooks like a cat.
"Come, girls, fly 'round and get your chores done, so we can clear away for dinner jest as soon as I clap my bread into the oven," called Mrs. Bassett presently, as she rounded off the last loaf of brown bread which was to feed the hungry mouths that seldom tasted any other.
"Here's a man comin' up the hill, lively!" "Guess it's Gad Hopkins. Pa told him to bring a dezzen oranges, if they warn't too high!" shouted Sol and Seth, running to the door, while the girls smacked their lips at the thought of this rare treat, and Baby threw his apple overboard, as if getting ready for a new cargo.
But all were doomed to disappointment, for it was not Gad, with the much-desired fruit. It was a stranger, who threw himself off his horse and hurried up to Mr. Bassett in the yard, with some brief message that made the farmer drop his ax and look so sober that his wife guessed at once some bad news had come; and crying, "Mother's wuss! I know she is!" out ran the good woman, forgetful of the flour on her arms and the oven waiting for its most important batch.
The man said old Mr. Chadwick, down to Keene, stopped him as he passed, and told him to tell Mrs. Bassett her mother was failin' fast, and she'd better come to-day. He knew no more, and having delivered his errand he rode away, saying it looked like snow and he must be jogging, or he wouldn't get home till night.
"We must go right off, Eldad. Hitch up, and I'll be ready in less'n no time," said Mrs. Bassett, wasting not a minute in tears and lamentations, but pulling off her apron as she went in, with her mind in a sad jumble of bread, anxiety, turkey, sorrow, haste, and cider apple-sauce.
A few words told the story, and the children left their work to help her get ready, mingling their grief for "Gran'ma" with regrets for the lost dinner.
"I'm dreadful sorry, dears, but it can't be helped. I couldn't cook nor eat no way, now, and if that blessed woman gets better sudden, as she has before, we'll have cause for thanksgivin', and I'll give you a dinner you won't forget in a hurry," said Mrs. Bassett, as she tied on her brown silk pumpkin-hood, with a sob for the good old mother who had made it for her.
Not a child complained after that, but ran about helpfully, bringing moccasins, heating the footstone, and getting ready for a long drive, because Gran'ma lived twenty miles away, and there were no railroads in those parts to whisk people to and fro like magic. By the time the old yellow sleigh was at the door, the bread was in the oven, and Mrs. Bassett was waiting, with her camlet cloak on, and the baby done up like a small bale of blankets.
Still Life with Frosted Glass Mug, Apples and Pine Branch (c.1902):
by Paula Modersohn-Becker, who died of a postpartum embolism at the age of 31 on November 21, 1907, after the birth of her first child. These early deaths are tragic. She was the first artist to paint nude self-portraits, and the New Yorker article gives a sense of what she might have accomplished had she lived. Her last words: "What a pity." What an understatement!
She has a museum in Bremen, "the first museum in the world to be dedicated to the work of a female painter."
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote Requiem for a Friend in her memory. It is in the public domain, but this translation is not, so I will post an excerpt and link to the original. There is a translation that can be used for non-commercial purposes here.
I have my dead and I have let them go and was amazed to see them so contented, so at home in being dead, so cheerful, so unlike their reputation. Only you return; brush past me, loiter, try to knock against something, so that the sound reveals your presence. Oh don’t take from me what I am slowly learning. I’m sure you have gone astray if you are moved to homesickness for anything in this dimension. We transform these Things; they aren’t real, they are only the reflections upon the polished surface of our being.
I thought you were much further on. It troubles me that you should stray back, you, who have achieved more transformation than any other woman.That we were frightened when you died... no; rather: that your stern death broke in upon us, darkly, wrenching the till-then from the ever-since - this concerns us: setting it all in order is the task we have continually before us. But that you, too, were frightened, and even now pulse with your fear, where fear can have no meaning; that you have lost even the smallest fragment of your eternity, Paula, and have entered here, where nothing yet exists; that out there, bewildered for the first time, inattentive, you didn’t grasp the splendor of the infinite forces, as on earth you grasped each Thing; that, from the realm which had already received you, the gravity of some old discontent had dragged you back to measurable time. This often startles me out of dreamless sleep at night, like a thief climbing in my window.
Are you still here? Are you standing in some corner? You knew so much of all this, you were able to do so much; you passed through life so open to all things, like an early morning. I know: women suffer; for love means being alone; and artists in their work sometimes intuit that they must keep transforming, where they love. You began both; both exist in that which any fame takes from you and disfigures. Oh you were far beyond all fame; were almost invisible; had withdrawn your beauty, softly, as one would lower a brightly colored flag on the gray morning after a holiday. You had just one desire: a year’s long work - which was never finished; was somehow never finished. If you are still here with me, if in this darkness there is still some place where your spirit resonates on the shallow sound waves stirred up by my voice: hear me: help me. We can so easily slip back from what we have struggled to attain, abruptly, into a life we never wanted; can find that we are trapped, as in a dream, and die there, without ever waking up. This can occur. Anyone who has lifted his blood into a years-long work may find that he can’t sustain it, the force of gravity is irresistible, and it falls back, worthless. For somewhere there is an ancient enmity between our daily life and the great work. Help me, in saying it, to understand it.
Do not return. If you can bear to, stay dead with the dead. The dead have their own tasks. But help me, if you can without distraction, as what is farthest sometimes helps: in me.
She had painted his portrait the year before her death:
The glass in the painting at the top of my post is my connection to T Stands for Tuesday, where we share a post with a drink in it and visit with each other. Join me? A warm welcome is waiting for you.
In compliance with the request of a friend of mine, who wrote me from the East, I called on good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler, and inquired after my friend's friend, Leonidas W. Smiley, as requested to do, and I hereunto append the result. I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W. Smiley is a myth; that my friend never knew such a personage; and that he only conjectured that, if I asked old Wheeler about him, it would remind him of his infamous Jim Smiley, and he would go to work and bore me nearly to death with some infernal reminiscence of him as long and tedious as it should be useless to me. If that was the design, it certainly succeeded.
I found Simon Wheeler dozing comfortably by the bar-room stove of the old, dilapidated tavern in the ancient mining camp of Angel's, and I noticed that he was fat and bald-headed, and had an expression of winning gentleness and simplicity upon his tranquil countenance. He roused up and gave me good-day. I told him a friend of mine had commissioned me to make some inquiries about a cherished companion of his boyhood named Leonidas W. Smiley Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley a young minister of the Gospel, who he had heard was at one time a resident of Angel's Camp. I added that, if Mr. Wheeler could tell me any thing about this Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, I would feel under many obligations to him.
Simon Wheeler backed me into a corner and blockaded me there with his chair, and then sat me down and reeled off the monotonous narrative which follows this paragraph. He never smiled, he never frowned, he never changed his voice from the gentle-flowing key to which he tuned the initial sentence, he never betrayed the slightest suspicion of enthusiasm; but all through the interminable narrative there ran a vein of impressive earnestness and sincerity, which showed me plainly that, so far from his imagining that there was any thing ridiculous or funny about his story, he regarded it as a really important matter, and admired its two heroes as men of transcendent genius in finesse. To me, the spectacle of a man drifting serenely along through such a queer yarn without ever smiling, was exquisitely absurd. As I said before, I asked him to tell me what he knew of Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, and he replied as follows. I let him go on in his own way, and never interrupted him once:
Because this blog does not consist of a single focus topic I chose the name Divers and Sundry where "Divers" means being of many and various kinds, and "Sundry" means consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds.