Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fast Away The Old Year Passes

Well, the last hours of 2008 are ticking away, and as usual here in Texas we weigh the joys of fireworks with the fear of grass fires in a drought. If we could trust our drunk, carefree, joyous, stupid neighbors to be as responsible as we are, we would have a lot less worry, but then again, whuddyagunnado?

The year is ending; the long holiday slide from Halloween to New Year's is coming to a close, and ordinary life is beginning to assert itself. For the past few days I've been pestered with thoughts of reform, re-organizing, and new projects. This has probably been fueled by the post-Christmas clean-up. Just today I've been doing a few things I've been meaning to do for a while, like opening The Year Without A Santa Claus action figures I got months ago. The idea of clearing the decks and starting anew is in the air.

I have a couple of new features I've been pondering for the blog for a while, and hope to implement them soon. In the meantime, a Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Kid's Got Heart

Coming soon in January! More of SquareEnix's action figures from Kingdom Hearts. In this series are Sora and Riku as they appeared in the original Kingdom Hearts game, and Mickey Mouse as King Mickey in his Oranization XIII costume as he was in Kingdom Hearts II.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter: Favorite Poems

When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail;
When blood is nipped, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl.
Tu-whit, to-who! a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw;
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl.
Tu-whit, to-who! a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
--William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
A lovely little gem on country life in the winter; most of the details still apply, from bad roads ("ways be foul") to coughing during the Sunday sermon ("parson's saw"). One particularly Christmasy detail are the "roasted crabs", which aren't seafood but roasted crab-apples, cooked in the wassail-bowl. And "greasy Joan" who "keels" (cools by stirring and skimming the top of) the pot is not greasy with food: she's sweating from working near the hot cooking pot. The keen little illustration is by Pauline Baynes, Lor' bless 'er.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Consideration of Religious Action Figures; Or, Bible Toys

A little while ago there was some hoopla about Wal-Mart carrying the Accoutrements Jesus action figure. Some people thought it verged on the sacrilegious; others thought it pushed a religious agenda. I have some objections about it myself, and this is the main one: it is a poorly made figure.

The body of the Accoutrement Jesus is a hollow cone with wheels on the bottom, which, if backed up, makes the whole figure glide forward, just like a toy car. Why they thought this was appropriate to Jesus is beyond me; it seems that this action and his glow-in-the-dark hands are a none too subtle comment on the perceived iconographic expectations of "religious types". The fact that the figure of Pope is the only other one in their line that has this feature seems to support this theory. Their Deluxe Jesus figure is much better; this figure has feet and comes with loaves and fishes and no glowing hands. But the ordinary version is the one you see everywhere.

I am not going to get into a discussion of whether or not it is right to have an action figure of Jesus, or any religious figure. But if they are going to exist, they should at least compete in quality with the secular figures that are out there. And this is where toy companies with Christian agendas have fallen down.

Take the figures shown above. These are produced and sold at Now I rather like these, in a weird way. I like the idea of having a Moses and Solomon and Angel action figure, and even the Jesus is better than Accoutrements in many ways. I would probably buy some of these if I was sure the site was still active. But the close up pictures I looked at revealed them to be rather crude and clumsy, with little character or style, and no accessories at all. Their costume sculpt shows little or no knowledge of historical accuracy or flair: David looks like some sort of pirate, and of Adam and Eve, the less said the better. Little art or care is apparent in their making, and that seems to me to indicate a lack of conviction. The same complaints, along with flimsiness, can be made of other biblical lines, like BibleQuest. Bad artistry is bad faith.

In comparison look at the figures of Lord Rama and Hanuman, offered by Rama is supposed to be an avatar of Krishna, and Hanuman an aspect of Shiva; they both appear in the Hindu epic The Ramanya. Character, detail, and presence almost compel belief; you believe in them as characters if not as divine beings. If I was sure this site was still active, I would probably buy these, as well.

This is what producers of biblical action figures have to compete against, and it's about time they get cracking. And you need bad guys, too, fellas, and not just Goliath. Action figures are all just basically there to be characters in stories, stories that are told while they are being played with, and all stories are fueled by conflict. You know, like Good vs. Evil? I think there was something like that in the Bible.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Season Rhymes

God bless the master of this house,
The mistress bless also,
And all the little children
That round the table go;
And all your kin and kinsmen,
That dwell both far and near.
I wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year.


Bounce buckram, velvet's dear,
Christmas comes but once a year;
And when it comes, it brings good cheer,
But when it's gone, it's never near.


Ah, too true.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Memory And Musing Before Christmas Day

Almost as integral to the season as beloved carols and Christmas songs are parodies of these very same verses. From every two-bit commercial writer who can't scan the meter of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas to the classics like "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells" and "We three kings of Orient are/ Trying to smoke a rubber cigar", travesties and burlesques abound; these are connected, perhaps, through our seasonal frustrations and high spirits, to the old custom of the Lord of Misrule, under whose reign topsy-turvydom was celebrated to help blow off steam. My brothers seem to have the power to reel off such songs extempore and have them make satiric or crazy sense; I have come up with only one poor example in my life, and here it is:

"Here comes Santy Claus, here comes Santy Claus,
Right down Santy Claus Lane.
Jams and jellies fill our bellies
On Santy Claus Lane!
The king is coming! All hail his call!
When you've said Santy you've said it all!
Fa la la la, fa la la la la la la..."

Thus incorporating "Here Comes Santa Claus" with "Ain't We Got Fun" and an old Budweiser beer commercial.

I've seen in several places lately what I can only call the defense of an un-Christian Christmas. Various post-ers and pundits have talked about how, although they are far from being Christians of any sort of stripe, they still celebrate Christmas for all its pageantry and pleasantry, its memories and spirit. And I say, God bless them, go for it. In the midst of their wintry philosophies if they can have at least a little taste of the Great Feast and Dance which is at the core of our faith, they may have a few crumbs that fall from the table. It might give them a desire to finally come in, sit down, and join the party.

And so, until the festivities have died down, look to see me no more. Merry Christmas to all, and God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Got Nothing

Well, that's not technically true. I have things, but it's all kind of trivial, and I really have no impulse to rant, pontificate, or enthuse on any of it. So here's just a list of recent stuff, with maybe a note or two along the way.

Action Figures:
Wounded Hellboy, with Bird Cage and Samaritan
Hellboy, includes Cat, Six-Pack, and Samaritan
Dr. Henry Jones, with Umbrella, Portmanteau, Grail Journal, and Grail
Beetlejuice, with Snakes and Guide For The Recently Deceased
Dr. Weir, with a bunch of Stargate junk and a Copy of War and Peace
*That's three new books for the action figure library!

China and Japan: Myths and Legends, by Donald A. Mackenzie
Egyptian Myth and Legend, by Donald A. Mackenzie
Medieval Beasts, by Anne Payne
The Wordsworth Dictionary of the Underworld, by Eric Partridge (thieves' patois, and such)
The Sea: Myths and Legends, by Angelo S. Rappoport
A Treatise On Angel Magic, ed. Adam McLean
Charles Dickens, by G. K. Chesterton
We Remember C. S. Lewis, ed. David Graham
Giants, Monsters & Dragons, by Carol Rose.

That seems like a lot, but I got them all from HalfPrice Books and Bargain Books. Giants, Monsters & Dragons I found to be a particularly good book; it's encyclopedic, scholarly, and interestingly illustrated with old and unusual pictures. I was also glad to find a Chesterton I don't have; I mean there's a lot of his books I don't have, but to find one is so rare.

I suppose this is Christmas kicking in; I just want to go along with the season. locking down under the cold, watching Christmas shows with the kids, and eating rich food until violently ill. Giant tamales today, very popular about this time in Texas! I can feel the boigle beginning already.

By the way, is anyone else outraged about the diminishing number of chocolate covered cherries to a box?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Grandfather Frost

Today being the first official day of winter, I'd like to talk a little about Grandfather Frost, or Ded Moroz as is his name in Russian. He went from being a personification of winter in old folktales to being a sort of Russian Santa Claus. He is typically shown wearing a fur hat, high boots, and carries a long staff that holds the power of the cold. Instead of bringing presents at Christmas, however, he comes at New Year's, and he is accompanied by his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden; the presents are left under a decorated tree. He was condemned by both Imperial and Soviet Russia, but was so popular he was brought back in the mid-Thirties; Josef Stalin, however, declared he could only be depicted wearing blue robes, so he would not be confused with Santa Claus. More often called Father Frost in the West (for the alliteration), he bears some resemblance to both Jack Frost and Old Man Winter.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

We Three Kings: Favorite Poems

We Three Kings; or, Kings Of Orient

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star:

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Born a king on Bethlehem plain,
Gold I bring, to crown him again--
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign:


Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh:
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worship him, God most high:


Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom:
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb:


Glorious now behold him arise,
King, and God, and Sacrifice!
Heaven sings alleluya,
Alleluya the earth replies:

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

--Dr. J. H. Hopkins (written and composed about 1857).

I love the iconography and symbolism that has developed about the Three Kings (or Three Wise Men, or the Magi) over the years, although very little about it can be traced to Biblical sources. Even their number is not specified (some legends have as many as twelve); three is deduced from the number of gifts they presented to the newborn Messiah. In the carol above gold is allotted to Melchior, frankincense to Gaspar (or Gaspard, or Caspar), and myrrh to Balthazar. Even these names are late Western tradition; Ethiopian and Syrian tradition records other names. They have been pictured as being at three different ages each (young, middle-aged, and old); and different races (African, Oriental, and Caucasian being most common). They travel with entourages or on their own; they ride camels or horses; they come from separate places but join together in their quest or they all set out from the same time and place.

There is some evidence that the "Kings" came to Jesus some time after his birth, and so weren't around for the angels and shepherds part; any time from two weeks to two years has been suggested. The traditional day is Epiphany (Jan.6), sometimes called Three Kings Day, and is the Twelfth Day of Christmas (so now you understand a little more about that other carol with all the birds and leaping). In some cultures in Europe this is the day kids get presents, brought by the Three Wise Men; thoughtful children leave feed for their camels, as this is the one day of the year they get to eat.

Dr. Hopkins, by the way, was a pastor in Pennsylvania when he wrote the carol. So we got a good one by an American boy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

R. I. P.:Majel Barrett Roddenberry

She's dead, Jim.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry has passed away at the age of 76, of complications from leukemia. She was in just about every incarnation of the Star Trek franchise, from her role as Number One in the first unaired pilot (later adapted as the two-parter episode "The Cage") to her recently announced reprise as the voice of the Enterprise's computer in the new Trek film. She was also involved in most of her husband Gene Roddenberry's projects and in many other sci-fi works.

I don't know if it was a transference from my own desire to be Mr. Spock, but I had a kind of crush on her in her incarnation as Nurse Chapel. She has always come across in her acting as being more attractive than a cold assessment of her features might be evaluated; she projected such vivacity and warmth that she acted more beautifully than she looked, and it convinced you.

I sincerely hope she had completed her voice tracks for the new movie before her passing. It would be a fitting final memorial for a beloved figure in popular culture.

Tolkien: A Biography

In the 1800's, Matthew Arnold wrote a sonnet on Shakespeare, that begins: "Others abide our question. Thou art free./ We ask and ask: Thou smilest and art still,/ Out-topping knowledge." I have always felt that about J. R. R. Tolkien; I have read book after book about him and his work, but there always seem to be something elusive, uncatchable about him. It was something of a revelation to see him on film, to actually see him walk and talk, but in a way it only deepened the mystery. Even now I read any book that might have a new angle on the man, and this one by Michael White has been on my list a while. When I found it at HalfPrice Books I snatched it up and read it in a day.

Michael White was a member of the 80's group The Thompson Twins in another life, then was science editor for GQ and a college professor. Previous subjects of his biographies were Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking, and he definitely writes from a "skeptical" angle, although a fan of The Lord of the Rings. I found this refreshing, as he seems to have a straightforward approach; he is writing neither a hagiography of Tolkien or a slash job, has no literary axe to grind. A look at the facts with all speculations clearly labelled as such.

And that is the great virtue of this book. It is a brisk yet graceful marshalling of the events of Tolkien's life, not an analysis of his work. As such it avoids some of the waffle and meander of Humphrey Carpenter's authorized biography. The final chapter seems just a little tacked on, maybe to take advantage of the buzz of the movies that had just started to come out when it was published.

But at the end it still left me with the enigma of Tolkien; an unsatisfying portrait of the man, but one taken from a different angle, that adds another aspect to ponder. It makes me think that Tolkien was transparently the man he appeared to be; the mystery of his creations is the secret.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Alucard...Ma I

Another series in the NECA and Player Select issues of video game characters, this time from the game Castlevania. I found a few at Hastings. I bought the rather bishonen gentleman with the long blond hair in the middle: his name is Alucard. If you wonder what the name means (and if you are a regular reader of this blog I bet you don't) read the post heading backward. This figure stands about 7 and 1/2 inches tall and comes with broadsword, cross on a chain, holy water bottle, and a bloody joint of some kind of meat that I am willing to bet is some sort of health-restoring pick-up in the game.

Oddly enough, this is not the first toy bottle of holy water I've got (think Buffy), and it's the second toy cross I've bought this week. The other was one of the "secret treasures" I got with an Indiana Jones figure.

Frosty The Snowman Action Figures

I have a lot of action figures based on Christmas specials: A Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Year Without A Santa Claus, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Mickey's Christmas Carol. And now Frosty The Snowman joins the gang.

This batch of action figures actually spans three different specials. Frosty himself debuted in Frosty the Snowman; Crystal, Parson Brown, and Jack Frost were introduced in Frosty's Winter Wonderland; and the snow children Millie and Chilly were first seen in Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas In July.

We found these figures at Toys'R'Us. Although available in individual packages, I bought the Frosty Family in its complete package for $24.99. It is comprised of Frosty, Crystal, Millie, Chilly, and snow dog Willie. Accessories include snow base with snowflower bush and North Pole sign; sled for the kids, snowflower bouquet for Crystal, and broom and removable hat for Frosty.

Figures only available in individual packages ($7.99) were Parson Brown, with removable hat and good book, and Jack Frost, with inanimate snow figure and "wrong hat". (By the way, the Jack Frost in the 1976 Frosty's Winter Wonderland looks like he could indeed be the same Jack Frost who looked younger and kinder in the 1979 Jack Frost, only now aged and bitter after hundreds of years since losing his love Elisa. Such are the musings of a man with way too much time on his hands.)

Figures are about 5 inches tall, Jack Frost and the children smaller in proportion. Basic construction is a light hollow plastic shell; a good choice as solid construction would have been way too heavy. Figures are jointed at neck, shoulders, and legs. Frosty and Parson Brown's hat attach to their heads by using interior magnets. Frosty, Chilly, and Millie's mufflers are all fabric, as is Crystal's apron; I generally hate having cloth accents on figures as they are a little flimsy and can get very dirty, but these seem to work alright, so whayyagunnado? They are produced by Forever Fun at

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Because I Promised

Recipe For Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl mix 1 cup white granulated sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1 cup shortening. Thoroughly cream together.

Add two beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. I like to beat the eggs and vanilla in the same cup before adding.

Add 1 and 1/2 cups sifted flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt. Thoroughly mix.

Add 3 cups quick-cooking oatmeal. Thoroughly mix.

At this point you can add a half cup of chopped pecans, walnuts, or raisins. Mix.

You can make the cookies as large as you like; they do tend to spread, though. About a tablespoon full or so each cookie will make 3 dozen. Bake at 350 degrees on a greased foil or non-stick pan for 15 minutes.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Littlest Snowman With The Red Candy Heart

Does anyone else remember this story? Every year around this time Captain Kangaroo would have a little featurette starring the littlest snowman with the red candy heart. As I remember the story, the littlest snowman prevents a fire, but in the process melts. His heart survives, however, and he is rebuilt.

When I looked up the book from which the above picture comes from, however, the story they recount is radically different. Apparently on a snowless Christmas the snowman engorges himself on ice cream until he bursts, sending colored snow all over the town. The town scrapes up enough white snow and his red candy heart to put him together, and the Red Cross brings him back to life.

Is my memory faulty, or are there simply two versions out there? I'm confused, bemused, and a little amused.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Answer: My Poems


Sunlight may turn drops of dust to gold;
One red drop of blood can crimson waters pale:
Like alchemic transformations worked of old
Concentric rings spread from redemption's tale.

Redemption spreads; Saul turns into Paul,
And churches stand where pagan temples stood.
The church fathers hew down druid woods
And what was heathen consecrate to good.

Christ shall hold all men and custom yet;
No good will fall useless by the way.
Claus is a saint, caught in Peter's net,
And wise men still bring gifts on Christmas Day.

Every Christmas some newspaper or TV show points out the scandalous fact that Christmas has-gasp!-pagan origins. Well, duh. We were all pagans once; we dwelt on the heath with the heathens. The fact that early Christians preserved what was good and pleasant about the old religions (bonfires and decorated trees, no human sacrifice, please) and re-dedicated them to Christ seems no drawback or hypocrisy to me. So I wrote this poem.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Princess and the Goblin

The same time I got The Angel of Death at Hastings I got the Goblin King, also from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Apparently after he expended his skill making the Golden Army and losing his lower body to an industrial accident while doing so, he couldn't make himself anything better than that squeaky little cart. Anyway, he's 5 1/2 inches tall and 5 1/2 inches long. As the picture says, he comes with buckets and lanterns.

Today when I checked back at Hastings they had Princess Nuala, and she is very cool. While I thought Prince Nuada didn't look exactly like his character in the movie, Nuala seems like a perfect sculpt. She is 7 inches tall, her body is a solid modeled cone, like the Angels', and she is jointed at the neck and shoulders. As the picture says, she comes with map cylinder, crown piece, and a book to join my toy books library.

Each figure cost $16.95.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Angel Of Death

He has wings full of eyes and a heart full of dust. He is Hellboy's personal Angel of Death in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and I just know what many Goths are going to top their Christmas trees with this year.

I found this action figure at Hastings this Saturday and bought it for $24.99. It was produced by Mezco ( It stands 8 and 1/2 inches high, with an extended wingspan of 14 inches. The main body and head consists of one sturdy hollow modeled cone; the arms are articulated at the shoulders, and the wings (which were unattached in the packaging box) go in the back on a hinged peg.

I love winged action figures; they've got presence. But they are hard to store without some bending to the wings occurring, and then they're darn hard to straighten out, if you can at all. Also where the wings attach is a fragile part, sustaining a lot of weight, and that is where breaking is most likely to happen. The best way to store is constant display, if you have the room, but who always does?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

From A Christmas Carol: Quotes

"Nephew!" returned his uncle sternly, "keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."

"Keep it!" repeated Scrooge's nephew. "But you don't keep it."

"Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrooge. "Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!"

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew: "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round--apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that--as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good: and I say, God bless it!"

--from A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

Friday, December 5, 2008

R.I.P.: Forrest J. Ackerman

Just a short note in passing to commemorate the death of Forrest J. Ackerman on Thursday. He was 92 years old. He was the founder of Famous Monsters of Filmland, a magazine dedicated to cinematic horror, fantasy and science fiction. He is credited with introducing the term "sci-fi" to the language. He was also famous for his home in California, the "Ackermansion", which contained over 50,000 volumes and unique items of memorabilia, such as Bela Legosi's Dracula cape and the ring Boris Karloff wore as the Mummy. He was the friend and inspiration to many famous writers and movie personalities in his specialized area, and was the power behind the infamous "Zimmerman treatment"; a proposed outline for a The Lord of the Rings movie that was so bad Tolkien demanded that if they were to make it they would have to give him complete power of veto on any future developments or an enormous wad of cash.

During a very formative part of our lives (mid-70's to early 80's), Famous Monsters was one of our regular reads and a great source of b&w photos of great monsters collected into one place. Before the internet it was one of our few sources of info on the movie genres we so loved. So thanks, Forrest J. Ackerman. I know you didn't believe in any sort of afterlife, but I hope you were pleasantly surprised when Prince Sirki came a-calling.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Vision: My Poems


In a distant polar region
Sheathed in everlasting ice
Stands an ancient, argent castle
Wrought with wonderous device
That rears alone, aloof and chaste,
Amid the twilight, frozen waste.

The airy halls reverbrate
With songs of elder days
Sung by dimmed, immortal spirits
Along vaulted, empty ways.
They are that angel-kin who fell
And yet were still too good for hell.

They serve their time attending him
Who dwells within those walls.
They go as flames or rushing winds
And are his willing thralls.
Wherever there may mortals be
They probe their hearts of secrecy

And bring them to that private place
Within the hidden heart
Of the silvered winter palace
Where an old man dwells apart
Clothed in miter, cope and stole
And on his hand a ring of gold.

In that inviolate chamber
By a thousand candles' light
He hears the tales of joy and woe
And once a year, at night,
About the time of sun's rebirth
He travels all around the earth

And bestows his glowing blessings
In those that goodness guides,
And those that practice evil
He in pity passes by.
He wanders on and goes his way
Ere the stars can dim with day.

I, sleeping, saw this vision
And so can tell the tale
And saw these things on Christmas Eve
Before my dream could pale.
But I wonder who, without a pause,
Knew 'twas the elves and Santa Claus?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Ballade Of Suicide: Favorite Poems

A Ballade Of Suicide

The gallows in my garden, people say,
Is new and neat and adequately tall;
I tie the noose on in a knowing way
As one that knots his necktie for a ball;
But just as all the neighbors--on the wall--
Are drawing a long breath to shout "Hurray!"
The strangest whim has seized me...After all
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

Tomorrow is the time I get my pay--
My uncle's sword is hanging in the hall--
I see a little cloud all pink and grey--
Perhaps the rector's mother will not call--
I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall
That mushrooms could be cooked another way--
I never read the works of Juvenal--
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

The world will have another washing-day;
The decadents decay; the pedants pall;
And H. G. Wells has found that children play,
And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall,
Rationalists are growing rational--
And through thick woods one finds a stream astray
So secret that the very sky seems small--
I think I will not hang myself to-day.


Prince, I can hear the trumpet of Germinal,
The tumbrels toiling up the terrible way;
Even to-day your royal head may fall,
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

--G. K. Chesterton, 1874-1936.

G. K. Chesterton was probably the man who would be voted the least likely to commit suicide, and in this poem mocking the idea, he gives several reasons why. It is written in the ballade form, which he and his friends took up with glee after seeing it demonstrated in the play Cyrano DeBergerac. Sometimes they would compose them together, taking alternate lines and trying to top each other in preposterous rhymes. The "envoi" always concludes with disparaging remarks addressed to the "Prince", who represents the acme of all that is contemptible. Chesterton was friends with both Wells and Shaw, but always thought their grand analyses never took into account the ordinary life of ordinary people.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Santa Claus Protocols

From: The Law Offices of Lios, Dyrin, Cobweb, Ilbereth & Hermes
RE: The commercial portrayal of our client, S. Claus

To Whom It May Concern:

At this rolling time of year, it behooves us to issue a reminder to all and sundry that the distasteful and damaging abuse of the image of our client, Santa Claus (a.k.a. St. Nicholas, Sinter Klaas, Father Christmas, etc., etc.) is strictly frowned upon. Such abuses include but are not limited to:

1) Portrayals of him as skinny and unbearded;
2) Portrayals of him on the beach or dressed in summer apparel;
3) Portrayals of him as using cars or airplanes rather than traditional reindeer and sleigh;
4) Portrayals of him in a sexual fashion;
5) Portrayals of him using the clumsy technology of ordinary mortals, such as computers;
6) Portrayals of him as patronizing particular stores or companies (which is not only partisan
but foolishly assumes that a supplier of his magnitude buys retail);

In short, any portrayal deviating too far from traditional, magical image that he not only supports but lives, or that serves the selfish ideologies of the purveyor, are to be eschewed at the penalty of our client's extreme displeasure.

And while it is true that Mr. Claus is of a forgiving, charitable, and jovial nature, we elves are not always so inclined.

Yrs. Sincerely,
Lios, Dyrin, Cobweb, Ilbereth, & Hermes, Ltd.

P.S.: Though it is out of our purview per se, we would also strongly suggest that any further parodies of Clement Clark Moore's poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" for commercial use be discontinued, especially if the writer cannot scan the correct meter of the line.