Wednesday, November 30, 2005

We Interrupt the Christmas Blog...

We interrupt the Christmas blog for the latest news from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster:
Non-Profit FSM

You should sign the petition because, in their words, "Obviously, if we have to pay taxes, we won't be able to afford as large or bad-ass of a pirate ship" and because they said "Missionary Pirate Ship" in their letter, which I find very amusing in a Beavis & Butt-Head sorta way.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas - Rankin / Bass Style

No other production company put out better Christmas specials than Rankin / Bass did from the mid 1960's to the late 1970's. My childhood holiday viewing was defined by watching their many entries into holiday television. Here is a list of their best, non-religious work:
No synopsis of this story is needed.
There is a lot to love watching this special. The individuality of Hermey the misfit elf, Rudolph's stubborn independence, Yukon Cornelius doing...well, anything, and the Abominable Snowmonster. I have to admit that he scared the bejeezus out of me until I was like nine years old. Freaky, Christmas hating beast. However, watching it as an adult (and 41 years after it first aired) it is amazing to see what the networks could air back then. Comet (the drill instructor) is just macho evil personified, the Head Elf needs to be bitch-slapped and Santa is a real bastard to Rudolph until he needs something from him. However, you should never watch this from an adults viewpoint. Just know that Rudolph is picked on and ostracized until everyone realizes that reindeers who are different still have a lot to offer to the world.
Watch this show and you'll believe a Reindeer can fly.
Update: The Boston Globe ran this Q&A about Rudolph just this morning. Enjoy!
Santa Claus Is Comin To Town premiered in 1970. Abandoned as an infant, Baby Claus is adopted by the Kringles, a family of toy-making elves in Rainbow Valley. They take the baby in as one of their own and Tanta Kringle, the grand matriarch of the elves, renames the mysterious child Kris Kringle. As he grows up among the kindly elves, this cheerful, generous fellow becomes determined to spread joy by sharing the elves toys with the children of Sombertown. This leads him to a brief conflict with the Winter Warlock and numerous scuffles with Burgermeister Meisterburger. Throughout the story we learn the origins of all things Santa Claus.
This story is possibly the best written of all the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. The story is simple, charming and effective. Fred Astaire (remember him) is all folksy as our narrator and Keenan Wynn (remember HIM??) is fantastic as the Winter Warlock. "One Foot in Front of the Other" is a fun song at any age. However, like with all of these stories, the scene stealing belongs to the bad guy. Burgermeister Meisterburger is a heartless, unfeeling dictator who rules over Sombertown with an iron fist. He is gleefully cranky and wicked and his rebuttal song to Tanta Kringle's "First Toymaker to the King" is hysterical. The set design in this show is particularly effective in highlighting the grey mood over Sombertown as well as the wintry expanse of the Mountain of the Whispering Winds. But you know what? Who cares! Watch it for some fun songs that support a heartwarming story. Then ask yourself why Kris and Jessica let themselves go to pot once they were married.
This is one of the weirdest Christmas stories ever made. Santa feels unappreciated and thinks the world no longer needs him. As such, he cancels Christmas. Mrs. Claus tries to spark his spirit. She sends a couple of elves named Jingle and Jangle and young reindeer Vixen to discover some signs of Christmas spirit. Needless to say, they do find some evidence of the Christmas spirit, Christmas is back on again and all is right with the world.
Blah blah blah - Big freaking deal. No one actually CARES about this plot because the true stars in THIS story are Heat Miser and Snow Miser!
These two steal the show for the whole 5 minutes that they appear in the production. Their songs are GREAT. They are fun, dynamic and completely unexpected for a "children's story". In my opinion, Rankin / Bass should have cashed in on their popularity by giving them their own special (while Dick Shawn was still alive).
Come on, admit it. You know you love either Heat Miser OR Snow Miser. You KNOW that you prefer one or the other but not both. Everyone always falls firmly in one camp. My personal choice? Snow Miser. No contest. The guy just oozes cool.
Leave a comment to let me know which Miser Brother you prefer and why.
Watch this one simply to have a good, twisted time while watching Santa cancel Christmas, two idiot elves get shown up in SouthTown, USA and some kid named Ignatius Thistlewhite mouth off to Snow Miser. Your kids will never understand just how weird this special really is until long after they've "outgrown" it.
I'm still waiting to outgrow it.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Not a holiday season goes by that I don't watch a select handful of Christmas specials. Between now and December 25th I will spotlight a few of them here.
First up:
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" is a perfect foil to the overcommercialization of Christmas, which apparently is just as big a problem today as it was 40 years ago when the show first aired.
There is nothing that I do not love about this special. The Vince Guaraldi soundtrack, the cheap animation and the fact that real kids are used to voice the characters make this special great. However, the scene that makes it timeless is Linus quoting straight from the King James Bible (Luke 2:8-14) which is here:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
You just can't dismiss the integrity, innocence and faith of Linus as he quotes the verses above. No Christmas special before or since has tied Christmas so closely with its religious roots (except "The Little Drummer Boy" which I will discuss in another post) which is a shame. Christmas may not mean the same thing to everyone (religious freedom, anyone?) but it should be about more than blatant commercialism. If you're still not sure what Christmas is really about then sit down with the Peanuts gang and let them explain it to you. You won't be disappointed.
ABC is airing "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Tuesday, December 6th at 8PM.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Bully for the Pulpit

Check this out:
This "intelligent response" (complete with a scathing political cartoon, no less) was expertly crafted by my friend Cindy Robinson ("Cynthia" to the rest of you who have not been fortunate enough to have known her for over 20 years like I have). Her response is an excellent amalgam of logical thinking combined with inspirational thought. Cindy is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ. She is also one of the most articulate, intelligent and open minded people that I know, clergy or otherwise.
And she laughed at the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You just can't beat a minister who gets the joke.
After 20-something years of friendship, she can still tickle my funny bone and inspire me at the same time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Robust American

Lately the posts here at Improbable Bostonian have been decidely political in nature. Of course, this is very simple when one considers our current Administration and their many foibles. However, I can only take so much political talk before a gag reflex takes over and I am forced to excuse myself from the conversation before I hurl all over some conservative shoes.
Sorry, Jim.
Anyway, I was mentally preparing next weeks vegetable selections and I was trying to decide what wine we should bring to the table. Katie and I have a rather extensive wine collection. Nothing too fancy but it is rather full. In fact, this prompted my daughter to announce "My Dad drinks alot of wine!" to her 6th grade class. I quickly pointed out the difference between owning alot of wine and drinking alot of wine.
But I digress.
I am quite partial to "robust reds". If you can ever get your hands on a Seghesio 1998 Old Vine Zinfandel then I HIGHLY recommend that you do so. However, this Thanksgiving I wanted something a bit more "American". Thankfully, the Boston Globe provided this very timely article:
New World Bottles
With it, they recommended the following wines for your Thanksgiving table:
I have never tried any of these wines so I do not speak for their character. However, I believe that we'll have a bottle of Gouguenheim Winery Mendoza Malbec 2003 on our table this year.
If you do try any of these wines, leave your opinions here. Because, as an entire 6th grade class is now well aware, we drink alot of wine.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Make Way for the FSM!

Why was Dorothy so eager to get back to Kansas, anyway?

The Kansas Board of Education voted Tuesday that students will be expected to study doubts about modern Darwinian theory.
Thankfully, at least one member of the Kansas Board of Education has the good sense to be ashamed:
"This is a sad day, not only for Kansas kids, but for Kansas," said Janet Waugh, who voted against the new standards. "We're becoming a laughingstock, not only of the nation, but of the world."
Obviously not everyone on the Board felt this way:
"This is a great day for education. This is one of the best things that we can do. This absolutely teaches more about science," - Steve E. Abrams, the Kansas Board of education Chairman - also a Creationist.
"Idiot!" - Napoleon Dynamite
However, apparantly eveolution is good enough for penguins:
What I find most interesting about this article is the following: "Because it is so well documented, even people who don't believe that evolution can lead to the creation of new species accept that microevolution occurs."
Except on the Kansas Board of Education.
Its obvious to me that these people who believe in MICRO-evolution but not evolution proper have not completely thought this through. Thankfully, I have the answer to this conundrum.
Clearly these penguins were lucky enough to be touched by His Noodly Appendage.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"We Do NOT Torture"

President Bush has declared:
However, President Bush does not want Congress to make it illegal for the CIA to torture prisoners in their aggressive pursuit of terrorists, either.
I can't stand it. I just can't stand it.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bunnies! Part Deux!

What do you get when you combine cute, adorable bunnies and some of the best films of the 20th century?

Why, you get
The Thirty Seconds Bunny Theater Library.*
Make sure you look for the hidden extras on some of the films, too.
Sit back, relax and enjoy the, I mean, "funny".
*A big shout out to my daughter Jenna for showing me this cool and slightly twisted website.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"Can I Quit Now?"

Don't get me wrong. I whole-heartedly support the endless bashing of President Bush and his completely out-of-touch inner circle; a group of demagogues that clearly has NO idea what's going on in the real world that you and I live in on a daily basis. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers is a fine example of President Bush just not understanding the world around him; the world where the sky is blue and negative reaction to his cronyism is at an all time high.
Yet there are some events that transcend my political bashing and make me sit back, scratch my head and wonder what the @#$%!! has happened to common sense in this country?

And this is one of those times:

These words were written in an e-mail by then FEMA chief Michael Brown on the morning that Hurricane Katrina roared ashore. This is apparently one of many, MANY stupid e-mails that Michael Brown sent right before, during and after Katrina's devastating landfall in New Orleans.


Read the E-Mails. This guy was the head of FEMA and he was more concerned with finding someone to watch his dog than finding help for the victims of Katrina.

And yet, our President actually complimented Michael Brown for his fine management skills on September 2nd (obviously while looking through his rose-colored glasses at all of the unicorns, oil rigs and dead Liberals that make up his world) when he said "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Clearly Bush was impressed with Brownie's rolled-up sleeves, which indicated that he was doing "hard work".

"Brownie" has Sharon Worthy (his press secretary) to thank for this piece of advice. In one of the soon to be infamous e-mails she had the following advice: "Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt, all shirts. Even the president rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this [crisis] and on TV you just need to look more hard-working."
Rolled-up sleeves = hard work = being placed at the head of an agency that you know NOTHING about.
It must work, because Michael brown is STILL on the government's payroll.