Days of Christmas Future Past

“‘Bear but a touch of my hand there,’ said the Spirit, laying it upon his heart, ‘and you shall be upheld in more than this!’
As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand. The city had entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it was to be seen. The darkness and the mist had vanished with it, for it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the ground.
‘Good Heaven!’ said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. ‘I was bred in this place. I was a boy here!’
The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten!’”
Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol.

 

These words come from one of my all time favorite books, penned by one of the great master novelists of England. As a kid I loved so much about the story, from Scrooge’s journey to redemption, to its Yuletide setting, to the time travel aspects. However, I recently had my own visit with the Ghost of Christmas Past.

No, I’m not actually saying that an ethereal spirit who is the embodiment of the abstract concept of “Christmas Past” appeared by my bed and took me on a trip back to the past. It all began with an e-mail from the music department at my alma mater, Bethel University. Every year they put on a huge music event know as the Festival of Christmas. I got to be a part of their 50th Festival, which was televised and is still shown on PBS stations throughout the Upper Midwest (check your local listings for time and channel). With this year being the milestone 60th Annual Festival of Christmas, they were inviting the alumni to be a part of the performance.

I jumped at the chance. Continue reading

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Good Grief! : Celebrating Peanuts # 1: Charlie Brown

The comic section of the newspaper has been a home to everything from talking cats to blundering army privates, to trouble making kids. There’s been strips about the work place, strips about a large family, and slightly plump woman and her struggles to find love. We love these strips because they provide a release from the stress of everyday life with their short situational humor.

Perhaps that is why the  newspaper includes the “funny page section” we would receive nothing but news about war, scandal, corruption and violence. It would be a depressing world without them. However, one “children’s comic strip” over all the rest has balanced the humor with a sense of pathos, pain and longing. Only one strip has featured a character who tries hard despite his long suffering tendencies that make the biblical Job look positively cheery. That character, is none other than Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown

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Coming Soon To This Blog….

So, I’ve done my big series looking at Marvel, DC, The Hobbit, Star Wars, Narnia, and I just finished up my Star Trek series. So, the question is, how do I end the year? 2016 has been a difficult year, and I’m not just talking about in terms of the geopolitical situation going on around the world. It’s been a trying year for me personally as well.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hit by a wave of nostalgia for a simpler time. An easier time. A time when things made sense. For a childhood favorite that reminded us that the simplest pleasures like a warm blanket or a warm puppy could bring happiness. Continue reading

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These Are The Voyages: A Celebration of Star Trek #8: The USS Enterprise

While Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and  rest of their valiant crew members are all noteworthy characters, there is an eighth character in the series of equal if not greater importance. One who never got its name in the credits but has papered in every movie and TV show. That unofficial eight character is the USS Enterprise. Along with the ships seen in the Star Wars franchise, few fictional space ships have quite captured the imagination like the old girl.

The Enterprise deserves such a spot. After all, it’s the one who whooshes over the screen of the opening credits, leaving the names of the crew in her wake. Further it isn’t the names of Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock who are mentioned in the opening narration for the series. Like the invocation of Homer to the Muses to tell of the battle of Troy in the Iliad and the exploits of Odysseus in the Odyssey, or of Milton to tell of the fall of Lucifer  in Paradise Lost, Captain Kirk offers a similar invocation: to tell of the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.

“Space, the final frontier, these are the voyages of the Star Ship Enterprise. It’s five year mission, to seek out new life and new civilizations .To explore brave new worlds, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

The USS Enterprise

The USS Enterprise

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HUMOR: 2016 US Presidential Election Write-in Candidate Options

Yes, it’s that time again. A presidential election year in the Good ol’ US of A! For those of you unaware ( doubtful, but if it were possible, oh how I’d envy you), this year has been perhaps the most divisive election in history. In fact surveys have indicated that people in my generation don’t like the candidates representing either of the top two parties. For many of us, it feels like we are given the choice between getting whacked in the head with a baseball bat and getting whacked in the head with a hockey stick. It’s going to hurt either way.

As such many are actively looking into third parties. Others are considering write-in candidates. I’d like to give you a blow by blow look at  some of the most popular write-in choices that I’ve seen bandied about on-line, and list their pros and cons, so you, the voter can make an informed decision on who to elect to lead this nation. Please note, the presence of a candidate, or candidates on this list does not indicate an endorsement. That said, General Zod and Smaug were kind enough to come in and speak to you directly.

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“Nothing but Sincerity as Far as The Eye Can See”: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

I grew up in one of those families that didn’t celebrate Halloween. For the most part I didn’t even know what that day of the year fully was until I started kindergarten and even then much of my exposure came from two sources.  We were still a few years away from Tim Burton’s a Nightmare Before Christmas, and at that time, my only real exposure to the day came in the form of two sources. One was the trick-or-treating scene in the movie ET. The second was from one particular holiday special: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. All things considering, in a world with an endless glut of bad slasher movies, perhaps that is one of the better sources for a young child to experience.

We may complain nowadays about the Hollywood franchise machine cranking out sequels and spin-offs and remakes, but there was always a sense that if something was successful enough it just might warrant a follow-up. 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas was no exception, as it’s critical and commercial acclaim lead to them developing more specials. Great Pumpkin was not the second Charlie Brown special, that distinction goes to Charlie Brown’s All-Stars, a baseball themed short that aired the summer of ’66.

However, despite being the third special, it is safe to say that the Great Pumpkin is perhaps the second most well known Charlie Brown special, after A Charlie Brown Christmas.  With a bigger budget and more time, Great Pumpkin is much tighter then it’s Yuletide predecessor, and ahs neater details, but it still ahs the same genuine heart. Between Linus’s persistent beliefs in the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown cutting too many holes in his ghost costume, Snoopy’s battle with the Red Baron, and of course, Charlie’s exasperated lament while trick or treating of “I got a rock”, there is no shortage of now iconic moments in this short.

it's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

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These Are The Voyages: A Celebration of Star Trek #7: Mr. Sulu

It has been well noted by many fans and scholars of the series Star Trek, that while Scotty, Chekov, and Uhura were certainly popular and iconic characters, they really weren’t as well developed in comparison to the series “Power Trio” of Kirk, Spock, and Bones. Notably, Walter Koenig’s advice to which ever actor was cast as Chekov prior to Anton Yelchin in the 2009 reboot, was to stay out of the shadows and insist on having dialogue that did more than advance the plot along.

These supporting players, were sometimes known to the fans as the “Irregulars” in that while they were clearly integral parts of the Enterprise crew, they appeared almost infrequently on the series. In some cases this was due to scheduling conflicts. In others it was a matter of what the studio was willing to pay for that day.  However, despite how limited their appearances may have been on the show, they were fairly well defined in terms of personality and interests.  This was certainly the case with the ship’s helmsman, Hikaru Sulu.

As it is noted in Star Trek:  Adventures in Time and Space,

Mr. Sulu

Mr. Sulu

“The original series probably told viewers more about Hikaru Sulu than it did about Uhura, Scotty, and Chekov. Several episodes mentioned his love of plants as well as his secret passion for prancing, romantic swashbuckling, and derring-do. At his helm position, Mr. Sulu frequently had the first on-camera reaction to an alien menace or friend. He occasionally led landing parties, and he was a skilled helmsman.”

Despite how scholars and critics have written at length about the cultural significance of the role of Lt. Uhura on the series, the historical importance of the role of Sulu should not be overlooked. Today, we take for granted having Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Bennet as Agent Melinda May and Skye on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,  Rila Fukushima as Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana on Arrow, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park as Chin Ho Kelly and Kona “Kono” Noshimur on the reimagining of Hawaii Five-0, and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson on Elementary, the modern-day retelling of the Sherlock Holmes mythos , but all that would have been unheard of in 1966. Even the original Hawaii Five-O, which featured actor Kam Fong Chun as Chin Ho, didn’t air until 1968 a full two years after Sulu was introduced on Star Trek. Continue reading

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