Friday, November 28, 2008

The Way Through The Woods: Favorite Poems

The Way Through The Woods

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate
(They fear not men in the woods
Because they see so few),
You will hear the beat of a horses feet
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods...
But there is no road through the woods!

--Rudyard Kipling, from Rewards and Fairies.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Special Special

In the last month I got two chock-a-block boxed sets of Christmas specials: The Original Christmas Classics and Classic Christmas Favorites. The first set has the greats like Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the second has more second tier offerings like The Year Without a Santa Claus (which by the way has a sequel coming out this year featuring the Miser Brothers) and The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold. Between these two collections you certainly have all the Rankin-Bass Christmas cheer you could want, but it got me thinking: why isn't there a similar anthology for Thanksgiving? Sure, there aren't as many animated offerings for this day, and the ones that there are are rather obscure, but that just means you could get them all in one tidy collection. So for what it's worth, here's my design for Classical Thanksgiving Classics: The Classy Collection.

First of all I have to list a couple of exceptions. It could not include A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, first of all because the Peanuts franchise is very stand alone, and second of all because I already have a new deluxe version of it. It should not include The Bugs Bunny Thanksgiving Diet or Daffy Duck's Thanks-for-giving Special, because both are just chop-jobs of good cartoons spoiled by poor linking animation. That said and done, the collection could feature:

B. C. : The First Thanksgiving (Levitow-Hanson Films)

Intergalactic Thanksgiving (Nelvana Limited)

The Mouse on the Mayflower (Rankin/Bass)

Thanksgiving in the Land of Oz (Muller-Rosen Productions)

The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't (Hanna-Barbera Productions)

It could then be filled up with a few shorts, like the Warner Brothers cartoons featuring Daffy Duck and Tom Turkey, or the MGM cartoon with Jimmy Durante-soundalike turkey, and the Popeye cartoon featuring the immortal line, "What! No toikey?" Thus I could have another little holiday selection of my memories safely enshrined and filed away for future reference. So get cracking, oh gods of DVD boxed sets making. You should be able to pick up most of these items for a song and a few beads and trinkets.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holy Artifact

The Disney Schoolbus Lunchbox--the original version--for years now the Holy Grail of my garage sale, flea market, and e-Bay searches. Why? Because it was my first lunch box in first grade, and the one thing for school I was allowed to pick, and one of the coolest things I ever saw. The one I owned went to rust and was thrown away, its thermos broken and gone for years already when it was tossed (a parental executive decision), but I always kept my eyes open for a replacement. When we saw one as a display at Clear Springs Restaurant I almost plotzed, and planned most of the meal how to steal it. (Too many witnesses though--about 200.) Ones on e-Bay were always a little too expensive. But at Eckman's I ran across this one.
It's not perfect. The thermos and the wire that held it in the domed roof are missing, and there is a touch of wear and rust. But that's okay; that probably accounts for its reasonable price. They were asking for $80, but I haggled it down to $60, and most I'd seen on e-Bay were going for about $120.
It's a complete 3-D representation of a bus, stocked with Disney characters. You can see both sides in the pictures above; not only are the ends figural, but even the bottom shows the wheels and suspension of the bus! The bottom is,of course, where the most wear is. There is a similar lunch box of the time of a Disney fire truck, and a re-issue of a Disney bus, much shorter and featuring new characters from the Disney Afternoon like Goofy's son Max, but this is the old '69 model, lacking only the thermos, thermos frame, and smell of peanut butter and bananas.
You can see on the one side that Bambi is holding a Disney bus in his mouth. As little kids this always filled us with awe that that little bus had a picture of him with another bus, and so on and on. It was one of our first encounters with the idea of infinite progression.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving: November 23, 1989

The grass was green, the winter grass,
as green as spring was new.
The road was empty, swept and clean,
except for me and you.
The light was clear, the golden light,
and long the sunbeams lay
As you and I went walking
on that far November day.

We had our canes, our India canes,
that we bought as a pair;
We tramped the highway tapping them
with hardly any care.
We talked of things, of future things,
and things of futures past
And the day was decked in joy
and the day went by too fast.

The times we had, times long ago,
now long ago are gone
And memories fade as colors fade
and fading are undone;
But I shall find, and finding know,
and knowing shall remember
This poem I wrote, wrote of us two,
and a day in November.

I've spent most of this day doing prepatory chores for Thanksgiving (as per the old wives' program for Thanksgiving week: "Monday--wash; Tuesday--scour; Wednesday--bake; Thursday--devour."), mostly housecleaning and sprucing up, but also baking some of my traditional oatmeal cookies. I'm really too tired to do the original posting I wanted, so instead offer this old poem and a note. It's prophetic too--I really do remember that day vividly, thanks to these verses.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winged Monkeys Flying Through The Roof!

Last Saturday, my brother and I went to Eckman's Card, Comic and Toy Show in San Antonio. This is the biggest whoop-ti-doo of this kind in our area, with over 200 dealers showing their wares. I had been there once before, and my brother wanted to at least see one and see how it was. We took along his son and my sister's little boy, so the conditions for peaceful browsing weren't optimal, but we all had a blast. The greatest part was all the memorabilia and "vintage" toys ("They were all new when I bought them!") that were available. There were bins of cheap-os and pieces that the kids loved digging through, There were fairly recent toys still in package for low low prices (I got a Moria Orc Archer for $3). There were books and comic books (I got The Sandman Companion for $10). Then there were rarer items, like The Flying Monkeys.
Tod McFarlane ran a line of action figures called Twisted Oz. This included characters like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, Toto, and the Wizard of Oz. All of them were "twisted", that is, more adult and violence designed. I really didn't care to have any of these. But then there was a "Collector's Club Exclusive" the Flying Monkeys. And I had to have them.
There are two Flying Monkeys in the package, and a bizarre little Munchkin thrown in for good measure. One Flying Monkey looks like he was created cybernetically from a dead chimp grafted with feathered wings and mechanical leg; the other one looks like a demonic/gargoyle ape with leathery wings. Both are about three and a half inches tall, and are creepy cool.
I made a newbie mistake about them, though. I bought them right off the crack, and later as I was leaving I saw the entire set (out of the box) going for only slightly more than what I'd paid for just the monkeys. It's probably just as well, though. Some of those others are a wee bit unpleasant, and I'm not sure I want them around. Coming up in another post: the incredible artifact I bought for much less than I thought I would ever find it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There Is A Time: Favorite Songs

There Is A Time

There is a time for love and laughter
The days will pass like summer storms
The winter winds will follow after
But there is love, and love is warm

(Chorus) There is a time for us to wander
When time is young and so are we
The woods are greener over yonder
The path is new, the world is free

There is a time when leaves are falling
The woods are gray, the paths are old
Snow will come and geese are calling
You need a fire agianst the cold


So do your roaming in the springtime
Find your love in the summer sun
Frost will come and bring the harvest
You can sleep when day is done

There is a time for love and laughter
The days will pass like summer storms
The woods are greener over yonder
The path is new, the world is free
The path is new, the world is free

I first heard this song on The Andy Griffith Show, where it was sung by the Darling clan when they came into town to find somebody to betroth to their little baby girl and settled on Opie. The Darling boys (the actual musicians) were played by a folk band called The Dillards, who had produced and recorded the song. After they finish playing it Andy says that was just about the prettiest song he ever heard, and I had to agree. I'd been thinking about posting it for a while because I thought it's wistfulness made it a good autumn song, and just yesterday it was actually on TV. You can see it on YouTube if you pop "Andy Griffith there is a time" into the search.

Monday, November 17, 2008

On Belief: Quotations

"I can't believe that!" said Alice.

"Can't you?" the Queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again; draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

--from Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"I would." She sounded angry now. He wondered if bringing the wine to the dinner had been a wise idea. Life was certainly not a cabernet now.

"It's not easy to believe."

"I," she told him, "can believe anything. You have no idea what I can believe."


"I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marylin Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen--I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we'll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time (although if they don't ever open the box to feed it it'll eventually be just two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of casual chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn't done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman's right to choose, a baby's right to live, that while all human life is sacred there's nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it." She stopped, out of breath.

Shadow almost took his hands off the wheel to applaud. Instead he said, "Okay. So if I tell you what I've learned you won't think that I'm a nut."

"Maybe," she said. "Try me."

--from American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.

"Mrs. Franklin, do you really and truly believe in God with no doubts at all?"

"Oh, Una, I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts."

--from A Circle of Quiet, by Madeleine L'Engle.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Magian World View: Quotations

"You have read Spengler? No: it is not so fashionable as it once was. But Spengler talks a great deal about what he calls the Magian World View, which he says we have lost, but which was part of the Weltanschauung--you know, the world outlook--of the Middle Ages. It was a sense of the unfathomable wonder of the invisible world that existed side by side with a hard recognition of the roughness and cruelty and day-to-day demands of the tangible world. It was a readiness to see demons where nowadays we see neuroses, and to see the hand of a guardian angel in what we are apt to shrug off ungratefully as a stroke of luck. It was religion, but religion with a thousand gods, none of them all-powerful and most of them ambiguous in their attitude toward man. It was poetry and wonder which might reveal themselves in the dunghill, and it was an understanding of the dunghill that lurks in poetry and wonder. It was a sense of living in what Spengler called a quivering cave-light which is always in danger of being swallowed up in the surrounding, impenetrable darkness."

--from World of Wonders, by Robertson Davies.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Miss Tick: Favorite Quotations

"Well, I must go. I hope we shall meet again. I will give you some free advice, though."

"Will it cost me anything?"

"What? I just said it was free!" said Miss Tick.

"Yes, but my father said that free advice often turns out to be expensive," said Tiffany.

Miss Tick sniffed. "You could say this advice is priceless." she said. "Are you listening?"

"Yes," said Tiffany.

"Good. Now...if you trust in yourself..."


"...and believe in your dreams..."


"...and follow your star..." Miss Tick went on.


"'ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy. Good-bye."

--from The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yaddle and Evan Piell

I swore I would never buy another Star Wars figure, but while I was passing through HEB to get some eggnog (only 40 more noggin' days left in the year!) I saw this two figure pack down the toy aisle--I always check--and my eye was drawn to the name "Yaddle". I read the back: "Jedi Master Yaddle is a member of the Jedi Council and is the same unknown species as Yoda. In contrast to the quiet and thoughtful Yaddle, Jedi Council member Evan Piell is known for his humorless and fierce demeanor." Another member of whatever-the-heck species as Yoda? I had to have it. And for $7.98, I did.

A quick run on the internet and I found out several things. Yaddle appeared in The Phantom Menace, and -surprise!- she's a female. Not established in the movie but in "secondary sources" is she is 477 years old, which is young for her kind. The character was designed as a young version of Yoda, but ultimately was utilized as a separate person. The name sounds to me like a conflation of Yoda and raddle, and she does indeed look like a raddled Yoda.

The grouchy Evan Piell and and the right leg of 5D6-RA7 (part of a build-a-robot offer) are simply bonuses.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gran'ma Ben

The Sunday before last, I, my brother, and his family went on a shopping expedition to San Antonio. Along the way we stopped in at the Heros and Fantasies store in Universal City. This is one of our old hunting grounds for action figures, which we hadn't visited for some time, so we decided to drop in and see what was being offered these days.

What was being offered these days turned out to be what had been offered in those days. I couldn't identify any new product, and what was there was covered with dust. Apparently the store gets along on its comics and gaming. And to be honest, the action figure boom has almost died out; I blame the gyott-dang vidya games. Soon I fear it will all dwindle down to super-hero movie tie-ins and expensive action models.

Anyway, I am still going to buy action figures, the same way I buy real paper books. I was determined not to leave the store without at least one figure. I found Gran'ma Ben cast down on an end-cap amidst a jumble of oddments. I've always been interested in this figure, because while action figures of women are rare, and of old men even rarer, a figure of an old woman is extremely rare. I can only think of two others: Mulan's Grandmother and Granny Gross from Ghostbusters. I'd seen Gran'ma Ben all over the place: in Florida, at Bussey's Flea Market, at other comics shops. The thin film of dust on her plastic blister decided me; today she would go home with me. I was barely able to make out the faded price tag: $17.95.

Gran'ma Ben is a great figure. She's seven inches tall and comes with a coin on a necklace and "The Mystery Cow" costume. This rubbery shell is designed for another figure in the Bone line, Smiley Bone, and is connected with a story in the graphic novel Bone. Her defining characteristics are her big meaty arms, squinting eyes, and a chin that would make Mammy Yoakum jealous. All in all she looks like a friendly giantess in a fairy tale.

Getting this figure finally made me look into Bone is all about. We had been aware of it for years, and been vaguely annoyed by it's obvious indebtedness in style to Walt Kelly's Pogo; I think that that prejudice in me has been worn away. What I read about it interests me, and the fact that a complete edition of the entire run of the comic book exists make me more likely to get into it. I have once more identified a facet of my personality, that occurs to me and then is forgotten; I hate to take something a little bit at a time over a span of time. Some things have to be around in a large quantity to take in all at once so I can see how they develop.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Separated At Birth?

The "Butterball" Cenobite from Hellraiser, and Boy George on his way to or from one of his many legal entanglements. Separated at Birth?