Happy 2018! And a Request to My Readers

 

Well, here we are, January of 2018. It’s been quite a ride to get here hasn’t it? I’d like to take the time to once again thank you my dear readers and subscribers for taking the time out of your day to read my posts. Last year saw my series on Peanuts and E.T. and the start of a series on Jurassic Park, as well as some introspective posts.

I confess, had it not been for those series, my blog would have been very anemic. With the passing of my grandmother last spring I was in kind of a fog throughout summer, but having those long projects helped me power through the pain.

Thank you also to those who commented on my posts. I really enjoy interacting with all of you, which brings me to my next point.

I’ve been noticing something: this year I will be reaching 200 posts. Thus, I would like to turn it over to you my readers, and do a little informal Q and A session on my blog. Please. Ask me anything about my writing process, how I got started writing, and any other questions you have. I’ll try to answer the best ones for my big 200th post.

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Meaningful Gifts

This Christmas season has been especially hard for my family. Among other reasons, it is the first we’ve had since my grandmother Elsie Bogart ( on my mom’s side) passed away from cancer this past spring. There are a number of things that make it hard to have her gone this time of year. The smell of her cooking on the stove. Her calling me to tell me see watched the rebroadcast of my old college Christmas concert.

But perhaps where it gets hardest is when I look at my well loved collection of Charles Dickens novels that I received for Christmas of 1995 when I was only in 5th grade. That year Grandma and grandpa told the grandkids we could ask for only one special thing. My younger sister was obsessed with the story The Nutcracker and wanted a doll of her own, while our baby sister wanted an Bitty Baby Doll from the American Girl collection. I had wanted a copy of the book A  Christmas Carol.

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That’s What Great Christmas Specials Are All About, Charlie Brown

Times certainly have changed since I was a kid. Looking through my mom’s extensive collection of Christmas DVD’s I see plenty of movies that had been made specifically for television had been shown on network TV for a couple years. With the rise of cable and streaming services it’s much more cost effective for studios for focus this output to where people are paying for them as opposed to worrying about interruptions to network television.

Yet despite this, there are three specials that have been shown continually for a half a century. All three of them are animated, which is more surprising considering those tend to have a shelf life of five years at best before being retired to cable. Those three are A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  In fact in a letter to a critic for TV guide, one person bemoaned the fact that those aren’t on cable or as far as legal streaming goes, the websites for ABC, CBS, and NBC are the only places to find them for free.

Matt Rouse for TV Insider explained when asked about the propriety rights to CBS that exist for Rudolph that prevent it from airing on Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas,

“CBS has exclusive rebroadcast rights to the original…Rudolph special, which is why it wouldn’t show up on a cable outlet that’s part of the ABC-Disney stable. I get the confusion… These are precious properties, which is why they don’t air everywhere.”

 

These three specials are mentioned in the same breath as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life.  Like the classics of Dickens and Capra the networks initially dismissed all three specials, but time has vindicated them as it did their festive forbearers. There have been some other good specials, such as the Animaniacs Wakko’s Wish, The Pinky and the Brain Christmas Special, and Winnie-the-pooh and Christmas Too. Sadly these three  have been retired from the airwaves to make room for more reality competitons. Yet Rudolph, Charlie, and the Grinch specials remain favorites. Continue reading

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Life Finds A Way: Celebrating the Jurassic Park Franchise #2: Dr. Ellie Sattler

The monster movie has been a fixture of cinema since the Golden Age of film in the 1930’s. From King Kong scaling the top of the Empire State Building, to the monster of Frankenstein being chased by angry villagers, to Dracula seducing his prey, to more modern monsters in human flesh like Norman Bates, Jack Torrence, Pennywise the Clown, and the Joker, these creatures have shocked us, thrilled us, and in the case of Kong, brought us to tears. One other fixture for the monster movie, along with the creature, is a beautiful woman who is being chased by the monster.

Even Spielberg’s Jaws was not immune to this trend as the film opens with the beautiful

Dr. Ellie Sattler

blond swimmer, Chrissy, getting eaten by the Shark. Other women in the film play either a passive role, such as Sheriff Brody’s wife, Ellen, who tends to sit on the side lines, or in the case of Mrs. Kittner, who’s son is eaten by the shark, slaps Brody in the face for allowing people to go swimming despite him following orders from the mayor to not close the beach. Then in the late 70s thanks to Princess Leia in Star Wars, and Ellen Ripley in Alien, the women began to fight back against the monsters who chased them.

These two characters had a tremendous impact on women in science fiction and horror films that would follow. This is especially true of the character of the paleobotonist Dr. Ellie Sattler in the film Jurassic Park. Not only was she strong, confident, and intelligent, she marked a change in the damsel in a Spielberg film. As Lester Freidman notes in Citizen Spielberg,

“In fashioning the character of Dr. Ellie Sattler, Spielberg attempts to depict a woman who combines professionalism and maternalism; she has a successful career and wants a family. …Ellie remains a relatively feisty and dynamic character throughout Jurassic Park…Like the vast majority of female heroines in monster movies, Sattler spends much time screaming and crying in the best Faye Wray tradition. But she remains far more active than most of the frenzied women in these movies who serve mainly as helpless sacrifices needing masculine rescue, as frail victims ( often in scanty underwear) perishing in the first act, or as raving hysterics shrieking their way through vents. Ellie Sattler is a powerful and aggressive heroine who represents a distinct improvement over most female figures in horror movies and within Spielberg’s other productions. ”

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Tis a Gift…

Around this time of year, there’s an old Shaker Hymn that is frequently heard called “Simple Gifts.” You probably know the tune and have heard the lyrics, but in case you haven’t here they are:

 

“‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

                      And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

               ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.”

 

It’s hard not to see why it’s heard at Thanksgiving and Christmas time so much. Aside from the pretty tune, it speaks to having a heart full of gratitude for the things we have in life. Yet because this song was written in the 19th century, like most songs and books written back then, its language often makes it hard to understand. Perhaps the lyrics to the song bear some examination.

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Life Finds A Way: Celebrating the Jurassic Park Franchise #1: Dr. Alan Grant.

When we first meet Dr. Alan Grant in the film Jurassic Park, we have learned form a conversation between InGen’s Lawyer Donald Generro and another paleontologist working in an Amber mine that the company really wants him to come down to the Park on Isla Nublar off of coast of Costa Rica. The company is in serious trouble after a worker was brutally murdered by one of the park’s specimens and the family in question as suing.

If someone like Grant were to come down to the park, give a positive endorsement of what

Dr. Alan Grant

InGen was doing, then investors would have confidence in the project. However, the other paleontologist said that there is no way Hammond would be able to get Grant down to the island. He points out that Grant is, first and foremost a digger. As a paleontologist, his first pursuit will always be the latest and greatest discovery in dinosaur fossils. He is after knowledge, not thrills.

Michael Crichton’s original novel takes this even further, establishing that,

“Grant was a professor of paleontology at the University of Denver, and one of the foremost researchers in the field, but he had never been comfortable with social niceties. He saw himself as an outdoor man, and he knew that all the important work in paleontology was done outdoors, with your hands. Grant had little patience for the academics, for the museum curators, for what he called the Teacup Dinosaur Hunters, and he took some pains to distance himself in dress and behavior from the Teacup Dinosaur Hunters, even delivering his lectures in jeans and sneakers.”

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Coming Soon To This Blog…

How does one possibly follow up a blog series looking at Steven Spielberg’s beloved classic E.T.? Why, with a trip to an island, of course. But not just any island. It’s sort of a biological preserve, filled with creatures that stagger the imaginations of young and old alike.

What island, and what creatures await you, dear readers? Well, have a gander at the video clip bellow.

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