What They Are Saying...

"This book was a fast easy read, and a fun romp. All in all, the book charmed me."

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Word From Winki

Saffron Jolly and I took advantage of the unusually warm December day by sitting on the front porch swing. I gently pushed a foot against the wooden floor, providing a shallow sway for the two of us. She gave a small sigh as the soft breeze tossed her hair. Mine was tied back in a loose braid. I kept my eyes closed so I could focus on the fragrance of jasmine and the breeze on my skin. The hush of leaves from the grand oak branches vied for my attention over the occasional “weeeeeee” sung by tiny voices.

The latter came from three spiders. The trio hung just over the banister opposite us, dangling on their threads, expressing their glee as the gentle gusts lifted them into the air.

One of the benefits of my talented house included the ability to hear and understand the spiders. They were our security system, watching us from their web perches, while thousands more hid in the attic should anything unwanted enter our home.

Saffron laughed. “They're so cute,” she giggled.

“You realize,” I said, without looking, “that you just called a spider 'cute.'”

“Hey!” one of them protested. “We're adorable.” Annabelle, the leader of the spiders, feigned her insult with another giggle. “Weeeeeee!”

Beneath them, on the railing, sat a large cockroach. His antennae twitched to and fro, but otherwise, he exuded his grumpiness. Don't ask me how. It's roach thing.

“Hercule,” Saffron finally asked him, “what's wrong?”

Oh, yeah, we could understand the cockroach, too.

I sighed at the question. “You had to ask.”

When the gardon--that's what he preferred to be called--failed to answer, I elaborated. “He's mad because I won't take him to see the new Star Wars flick.”

“Oh? Why not?” Saffron asked.

“Really? That's not obvious? He's a cockroach. People frown on bringing bugs into the theater. Go figure.”

“I hide in your pocket,” Hercule huffed in his French accent.

“Until you need to see the movie. Then you crawl all over me trying to find the best vantage, all the while I'm trying to make sure no one else sees you.” To Saffron I added, “Eventually, he decides the problem is I've chosen the wrong seat. When I'm not looking, he ups and leaves.”

“Uh, oh,” she nodded, clearly seeing where this story would go.

“You got it,” I nodded. “I get engrossed in the movie until I hear someone screaming nearby, then pandemonium ensues, and it's all I can to do get the little guy out of there before he gets smashed. All while trying not to look like some freak for talking to, picking up, and protecting a cockroach.” I folded my arms, pushing us a little faster with my foot from the aggravation. “Fact is, I'm not really welcomed in any of the theaters anymore.”

“So, this has happened more than once?” Saffron asked.

“Yes,” Hercule and I said at the same time.


“You could wear a disguise,” the roach said. “If you dressed up as Princess Leia, no one would recognize you.”

“No,” I said, flatly.


“No. You'll wait, just like me, for the DVD to come out. Then we'll watch it together.”

The gardon let out a long, disgusted sigh as Saffron laughed and the spiders swung.

So. No spoilers, please. Not that I care, but the cockroach? He gets very upset.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Christmas Carol – I watch it every year. Which one? ALL of them!

** Repost from Dec 2, 2014... it still rings true! **

Every year, my husband and I make a point of watching every version of A Christmas Carol we can lay our hands and eyes on. I'm confident that makes me an expert in the tale. “That's crazy,” I hear you say. “Once you've seen the story why see other versions?” Interestingly, they are all different.

Take, for example, the two earliest versions, the ones you've seen while flipping through the channels trying to find the game. One features Reginald Owens as the miser Scrooge and the other, Alistair Sims. The Owens version was created in 1938, yet the film is clearer and the special affects are better than the Sims version, done in 1951. Of the two, the Owens version misses in a couple of marks. Firstly, Cratchit is fired (not in the Dickens tale) and, secondly, Scrooge is a bit “too happy” with the ghost of Christmas Present, making you wonder why the third haunting was at all necessary.

When it comes to sticking to the story as Dickens wrote it, no version is better than the one featuring Patrick Stewart. Stewart already had an advantage as he used to do a one-man performance of A Christmas Carol, portraying all forty characters himself. The movie is almost scene for scene and word for word to the novella. My favorite part is after the ordeal Scrooge learns how to laugh again – brilliantly done, and makes me laugh every time I see it.

In A Muppet Christmas Carol, Kermit the Frog plays Bob Cratchit. After the loss of Tiny Tim (hey, that's pretty heavy for children, who are very likely to watch this version!) he gives a very moving, yet child-acceptable, speech before his Christmas dinner:

It's all right, children. Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it. I am sure that we shall never forget Tiny Tim, or this first parting that there was among us.

The only version that got “the message” right is the Kelsey Grammer version. Sure, you can't beat the big dance numbers and awesome costumes, but it genuinely exposes the reason for the change in Scrooge. When Scrooge sees his headstone, in an unloved and unvisited grave, he freaks out. “Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!” We are led to believe Scrooge doesn't want to die. But that wasn't Dickens's point. Scrooge wants it to change, not disappear. This version gets it right: 

At last I understand. Here lies Ebenezar Scrooge, the miser who died scorned and unmourned, having done no good, given no joy, kept no friends nor family on this earth.

Honorable mentions go to:

  • Scrooged, with Bill Murray – certainly the funniest
  • Karroll's Christmas, with Wallace Shawn as the miser (not called Scrooge) and done from a completely different point-of-view, but fun. You can find it on Youtube.
  • A Christmas Carol with Ross Kemp, a British version you'll never see here in America, but an awesome combination of the Dickens story with a little bit of Groundhog Day. Also, find it on Youtube.

Why A Christmas Carol? Interestingly, it's not about Christmas at all. It's a story of enlightenment. Consider, here's a miserable, angry, hateful man who gets a really lousy night's sleep and wakes up enlightened. He's happy. He's changed. He understands that he doesn't understand (Alistair Sims leaps around the room saying “I don't know anything!”). 

Each and every time I witness that transformation, be it Muppet or man, real or cartoon, I cry with joy.