Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

Every December I reread Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and watch my favorite movie version with Alastair Sim as Scrooge, which I consider to be the one, true movie version of the story.

But I also have a special fondness for Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, a TV special first broadcast in 1962. I was 12 years old that year, and I think I might have thought I was too cool for this sort of cartoon if I hadn’t been watching with my little brother. That was a difficult time for my family. It was the second Christmas after my father died and we were all still feeling a little lost in our new lives. Spirits were low and money was tight and the Christmas tree fell over several times (although a few times less than the year before.) But my mother believed in Christmas and we did our best to be celebrate. Watching Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol helped me somehow. I especially loved (and still love) the late Jack Cassidy voicing the role of Bob Cratchit and leading the family in singing “We’ll have the Lord’s bright blessing.”

Although I dislike Mr. Magoo’s near-sighted gags (it’s hard to find the humor in making fun of the visually-impaired) it’s mostly confined to the opening and closing scenes here, which frame the story as a Broadway production starring the actor Mr. Magoo. (If I were editing this, I would eliminate those scenes and just show the actual story.) The story itself is abridged with some characters eliminated (including Scrooge’s sister and nephew) but it is otherwise quite faithful to the spirit of the original.

Christmas Illustrations from the Internet Archive

I love the Internet Archive for its amazing collection of public domain books. It also includes lots of wonderful pictures that are somewhat lost because they’re scanned as part of books. I think of these images as being “trapped” in books, and every once in a while, I search around and liberate some by making a screenshot of just the image, doing a little minor editing mostly to correct the colors and posting them on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons, hoping to make them easier for people to find and use.

ChristmasThe process takes me just a few minutes once I’ve selected an image. The images that I am getting from the screenshots are small and they’re not high quality, but I think they’re useful enough for my purposes.

I especially like doing Christmas images, like this illustration by Katharine R. Wireman for The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggins, published in 1889.
Christmas Illustrations from the Internet Archive — I haven’t done too many of these but I set up this board for them on Pinterest in the hopes of inspiring myself to do more

The Spaghetti Harvest Video

It wouldn’t really be April Fools Day without the 1957 Spaghetti Harvest video.

I first saw this on American TV when I was around 12 years old (several years after it first aired!) and it really made me think about accuracy, authenticity and the media. Although I knew spaghetti doesn’t grow on trees and was watching this on a program that presented it as a hilarious hoax, I was surprised at how plausible the story seemed when you listen to that authoritative BBC voice, accompanied by scenes of spaghetti fluttering gently from the trees, and workers carefully picking it and draping it over their arms.

Happy New Year!

1910 New Year Greetings Antique Postcard

As a child, I found the idea of the old year going out as an old man and the new year coming in as a baby to be a profound and moving metaphor, and I still do. I know it’s been a difficult year for many people, but it’s been an exceptionally good year for me, thanks to the birth of my first grandchild. Still, there were some hard days for me this year and many things I regret, and I’m happy as always to see the old year end and a fresh shiny new year begin. I am eternally optimistic, and as each new year begins, I always see it as a fresh start. I go way beyond New Year’s Resolutions — I always think that in the new year I am going to be totally different, really get my act together and become a new, true best version of myself. This feeling always wears off by mid-January, but somehow I always believe that this year, things will be different!

Happy New Year to one and all!

Don’t Let Their Memory Fade

Selling Poppies for Remembrance DayIn November, 2000, my daughter Meg and I were in England. I took this picture of an elderly woman selling poppies in front of Bath Cathedral for Remembrance Day, what we call Veterans Day. We saw people selling these poppies everywhere, and we bought and wore them, too.

On Remembrance Day, November 11, we had just boarded a train in London and were still in the station when we heard the announcement that it was 11 AM, and that the country was now observing two minutes of silence. Everyone on the train, staff and passengers alike, immediately stopped what they were doing and remained still for two minutes. It was really quite a beautiful thing.

[Reposted from 2008]

On Sending Christmas Cards

A Merry Christmas - Santa and Child in a Vintage Car Vintage Postcard

I have great memories of looking through my mother’s Christmas card list. Looking through those names and addresses was part of the Christmas ritual.

We had old family friends named Helen and Henry who lived in the town with the lovely name of Maple Shade, New Jersey, on the street amusingly named Forklanding Road. We sent cards to Uncle John and Aunt Bessie who lived on Rochambeau Avenue in the Bronx. Uncle John was my grandfather’s brother but I have no memory of actually meeting him and Aunt Bessie in real life. Still, I marveled at their exotic address. Why was it “the Bronx” and not just “Bronx?” And how elegant Rochambeau Avenue must be! I pictured it as French, with ladies walking poodles past sidewalk cafes. My mother’s Christmas card list was a family history document, a collection of names and addresses of relatives near and far, old and new friends from various phases of their life.

Boy with Snowman Old Postcard

I sometimes feel defensive about clinging to the habit of sending out paper cards. A lot of people think that sending Christmas cards is a waste of time, paper and postage, and that it’s totally unnecessary in the age of electronic communication. Every December, newspapers, magazine, blogs, etc., are full of articles about how to simplify Christmas, and it seems that reconsidering the sending of paper cards is always one of the first suggestions.

And I’m just fine with that — if you take no joy from sending Christmas cards, don’t do it. I remember the days when the sending of Christmas cards was a social obligation, and people worked hard to maintain their Christmas card lists. I remember people checking off names as people received cards — if someone who you didn’t send a card to sent you one, you were supposed to quickly send one out to them, and if someone you sent cards to didn’t reciprocate for two years, you could safely drop them from your list. Or at least this was what the advice columns said: my mother was not the type to be checking lists and dropping names. But in those days, the same kind of people who today care about how many Facebook friends they have measured their popularity by the number of Christmas cards they received.

But it doesn’t need to be like that. We should all send as many Christmas cards as we want, which might be fifty one year, zero the next and twenty the following year. Who’s counting? We should all graciously receive whatever cards we happen to receive, and send whatever we feel like sending — which for a lot of people is none. When you see Christmas cards as obligations, and associate them with pride on the one hand or guilt on the other, you’ve lost the spirit of the season.

I’ve always liked sending cards as a small way to keep in touch with people who are important to me. This includes some people who I see all the time or perhaps communicate with frequently via e-mail, Facebook, etc. There are also a few people who I mainly keep contact with through the annual Christmas card — sad, perhaps, but better than nothing, and just writing their names and addresses once a year reminds me of the good times we’ve shared. I wish I could say that I individually select cards for each person and wrote thoughtful little notes on each card, but I don’t. I just buy UNICEF cards, sign them and send them, most years anyway, and I hope that people I care about don’t sit around wondering why they did or didn’t get a card from me this year.

And whether by card, e-mail, Facebook, or just a good thought, I wish all my friends a merry Christmas and/or a Happy New Year!

A Merry Christmas Postcard

Happy Father’s Day!

Father Vintage Post Card

Happy Father’s Day to all my friends who are dads, who are celebrating with their dads or who are missing them. I’d also like to honor the grandfathers, uncles, teachers, neighbors and other good men who provide support to kids whose fathers are not around — a little of the right kind of attention can make a big difference in a young person’s life!

A Christmas Carol

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Here’s my favorite holiday story, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, beautifully illustrated by Arthur Rackham and presented and preserved in several formats by the Internet Archive.

And if you’d rather listen to the book, I recommend the Librivox A Christmas Carol version 2, read by Glen Hallstrom, otherwise known as “Smokestack Jones.” You can download the files in many formats from the Librivox page for this audiobook, or download or listen online at its Internet Archive page. Librivox recordings are free audiobooks of public domain titles, read by volunteers.

A Christmas Carol, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Embedded from the Internet Archive

A Christmas Carol, Read by Glen Hallstrom

Embedded from the Internet Archive.

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