More Christmas Hullalaboo

Christmas card from 1940, from wikipedia
Christmas card from 1940, from Wikipedia

So This Is Christmas

As John Lennon would say, “Another year over, And what have you done.” Actually, “So This Is Christmas” by John Lennon, has to rank as one of my favorite Modern Age Christmas songs. The lyrics, though quite simple, are very poignant and always deserve a good listen right about this time of year.

For this blog, reflections on the year that is about to end, will come shortly, but I would like to pause for a moment on what I like best about the Christmas season….and that  is, its pagan nature.

I am quite aware that come December, there are lots of signs and placards put up to remind us how important it is to “keep Christ In Christmas”. Nonetheless, what I like most about late December are all the festivities that seem to revolve around the time of year, when the days are at their shortest and the nights are so very long.

These are the times that are ripe for storytelling. For it seems that the long, cold nights are the perfect catalyst for spurring the human mind into creating fantastic apparitions and riveting insights into why we are here on the planet and what monumental efforts might be required for our survival. And in our present-day situation, our survival may be more in peril than ever before.

 

Santa Claus emcounter
Santa Claus encounter, copied w/o permission

Christmas Quotes

  1. “What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus? Claustrophobic.” – Anonymous
  2. “Always winter but never Christmas.”  by C.S. Lewis, from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  3. “Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!”  by Charles Dickens
  4. “The worst gift I was given is when I got out of rehab that Christmas; a bottle of wine. It was delicious.” by Craig Ferguson
  5. “Glen had a disability more disfiguring than a burn and more terrifying than cancer.
    Glen had been born on the day after Christmas………”My parents just combine my birthday with Christmas, that’s all,” he explained.
    But we knew this was a lie. Glen’s parents just wrapped a couple of his Christmas presents in birthday-themed wrapping paper, stuck some candles in a supermarket cake, and had a dinner of Christmas leftovers.” by Augusten Burroughs, You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas
  6. “It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.” by Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
  7. “If my Valentine you won’t be,
    I’ll hang myself on your Christmas tree.”  by  Ernest Hemingway
  8. Santa Claus: “Don’t you know who I am?”
    Joe: “Sure, you’re a nut.”
    Santa Claus: “I’m Santa Claus.”
    Joe: “Right and I’m the tooth fairy.”
    from the movie, Santa Claus
  9. “Don’t be scared if a big fat man comes in to your room and stuffs you in a bag… I told Santa I want you for Christmas!!!” Anonymous
  10. “Tales, unlike stories, never lie.” Lord Autumn

Another Glimpse from the Past

Santa Claus gets some attention, Puck Magazine 1904
Santa Claus gets some attention, Puck Magazine 1904
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Is Hollywood Passé?

A Hollywood based business in New Mexico, photo by author
A Hollywood based business in New Mexico, photo by author

A Unique Photo Op

This abandoned business in Northern New Mexico, got me thinking about the present fortunes of tinsel town. Though the West Coast film mecca is very much economically alive and producing popular films, there is no doubt about it, the film industry is going through changes. People just don’t attend movies like they use to…..but to compensate for the lack of moviegoers, the industry has found a healthy market in foreign countries and at the American home. This and the ability to lead the field in special effects have enabled the popular industry to remain an important force within the entertainment industry. ……. And don’t forget cartoon characters almost always sell well.

Quotes On the Nature of Hollywood

1. “The classy gangster is a Hollywood invention.”  by Orson Welles

2. “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” by Marilyn Monroe

3. “Hollywood is like Picasso’s bathroom.”  by Candice Bergen

4. “Mark Twain’s old saying ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story’ still reigns in Hollywood.” ― James Morcan

5. “Sometimes it’s good to be the smartest rat in the sewer.” ― Michael Houbrick

6. “Whether you’re talking about the Egyptian pharaohs or Hollywood movie stars, it all ends the same way. DEATH.” Neal A. Yeager

7.  “I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I’m not afraid to look behind them.” – Elizabeth Taylor

8. “Hollywood didn’t kill Marilyn Monroe; it’s the Marilyn Monroes who are killing Hollywood.” – Billy Wilder

9. “It’s actually great to shoot far away from Hollywood because we don’t have the distractions of the parties and premieres and all that. And, of course, you can save money – there are no good shoe stores.” – Katie Holmes

10. “But the West did not last long enough. Its folk myths and heroes became stage properties of Hollywood before the poets had begun to get to work on them.” – Christopher Dawson

11. “Independent films are where you really get to cut your teeth and have some fun and do the things that mainstream Hollywood doesn’t want to do.” – Anthony Anderson

12. “Hollywood isn’t your cesspool, America. It’s your mirror.” – Bill Maher

13. “In Hollywood, the real stars are all in animation. Alvin and the Chipmunks don’t throw star fits, don’t demand custom-designed Winnebagos, and are a breeze at costume fittings. Cruella DeVille, Gorgo, Rainbow Brite, Gus-Gus, Uncle Scrooge, and the Care Bears are all superstars and they don’t have drug problems, marital difficulties, or paternity suits to blacken their images.” ― John Waters

14. “Hollywood is loneliness beside the swimming pool.” – Liv Ullman

 

Did Hollywood peak in 1939?

No way around it, Hollywood had a great year in 1939. Some even say it was the best. While large parts of Europe were falling to a fascist regime, our American moviemakers put out a short list of great films. Among the 1939 greats are such classics, as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and Wuthering Heights. Looking at the titles, one might think the country was oblivious to world events, but Hollywood has always been a bit of an escapist and surreal enterprise. If America was in a cloud during the last year of third decade of the twentieth century, they would soon find themselves rudely awakened by events in the Pacific, nearly two years later.

Moviemaking In New Mexico

Actually, film directors are more often coming to the Land of Enchantment to film parts or all of their movies. The Spanish state has always had great desert scenery and recent economic incentives from New Mexico seem to be working well in attracting film companies. Just a few years ago, Lone Survivor, was shot almost entirely here because the landscape resembled Afghanistan so well. Other film crews that have spent all or part of their time here include The Lone Ranger, True Grit (2010 version), The Avengers, Crazy Heart and the 3:10 To Yuma.

“I’m not homeless, I’m just on a cheap vacation.”

The quote in the title comes from a sign held out by a young couple, while pan-handling in Salt Lake City. I guess it all goes to say that how you define your own experience might determine how others view your activity. Nonetheless, being without a home or being a tramp is nothing new. Here’s a small selection of words illustrating what writers have experienced along these lines in the past.

Hitching Toward_Los_Angeles,_CA_8b31801u_original
A depression era photo of two travelers walking towards Los Angeles, photo by Dorothea Lange

Tramps

Tramps, hobos, bums, vagabonds, drifters, homeless people….no matter what you call them, there has always been a certain amount of admiration and mystique mixed in with contempt for these people of the streets and highways. Among writers, the road or the highway has been the proving ground for many a talented author. Being on the road probably won’t make you write any better, but it give you that special “outsider” status, which will allow you to look into the heart and soul of modern society with a fresh perspective. Following are a few quotes that explore this reality.

1. “Actors really should be tramps”. by Martin Milner

2. “I modeled my looks on the town tramp.” by Dolly Parton

3. “I tramp a perpetual journey.” Walt Whitman Song of Myself

4. “A man can sleep around, no questions asked, but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes she’s a tramp.” by Joan Rivers

5. “He cut short my request for something to eat, snapping out, “I don’t believe you want to work.” Now this was irrelevant. I hadn’t said anything about work. The topic of conversation I had introduced was “food.” In fact, I didn’t want to work. I wanted to take the westbound overland that night.” by Jack LondonThe Road
6. “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” by Eleanor Roosevelt

7. “Tramps like us, Baby we were born to run” by Bruce Springstein

8. “Tramping is too easy with all this money . My days were more exciting when I was penniless and had to forage around for my next meal… I’ve decided that I’m going to live this life for some time to come. The freedom and simple beauty of it is just too good to pass up.” by Christopher McCandless,

9. “Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to except heaven & hell & I have only a vague curiosity about one of those.” by Mark Twain

10. “Perhaps the greatest charm of tramp-life is the absence of monotony……. The hobo never knows what is going to happen the next moment;” hence, he lives only in the present moment.”
by  Jack London, The Road

11. “Tramps and hobos are commonly lumped together, but in their own sight they are sharply differentiated. A hobo or bo is simply a migratory laborer; he may take some longish holidays, but soon or late he returns to work. A tramp never works if it can be avoided; he simply travels. Lower than either is the bum, who neither works nor travels, save when impelled to motion by the police.” by H.L. Mencken

12. “A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow always hopeful of romance and adventure.” by Charlie Chaplin

13. “Girls who put out are tramps. Girls who don’t are ladies. This is, however, a rather archaic usage of the word. Should one of you boys happen upon a girl who doesn’t put out, do not jump to the conclusion that you have found a lady. What you have probably found is a lesbian.” by Fran Lebowitz

14. “We fumed and screamed in our mountain nook, mad drunken Americans in the mighty land. We were on the roof of America and all we could do was yell, I guess—across the night, eastward over the Plains, where somewhere an old man with white hair was probably walking toward us with the Word, and would arrive any minute and make us silent.” by Jack Kerouac, On the Road

15. “Only the large cities attempted anything in the way of identification. The Bertillion system was in the experimental stage and fingerprinting unknown in police work. We jumped from one state to another, kept away from the cities, lived almost entirely on the road except in the dead of winter, and spent our money in the jungles…” by Jack Black from You Can’t Win

Old Route 66 in Albuquerque, NM...photo by author
Old Route 66 in Albuquerque, NM…photo by author

More Words from Bloggers

Yellow Bug parked in front of the NM Museum of Art, photo by author
Yellow Bug parked in front of the NM Museum of Art, photo by author

Best Piece of Writing Advice Ever

Best Piece of Writing Advice Yet  (from the venerable Mark Twain)   “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Nothing could be more simple, right?

Today’s look around the internet includes more on Amazon-Hatchette, words from a black screenwriter and a bunch of Tom Swifties.

Does Anybody remember Boyz in the Hood?

Don’t go through the system. Do it yourself. Do something you believe in.”
Oscar-nominated writer/director John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood

The title definitely caught my eye when the film first came out in 1991, but I never got around to watching the movie (on DVD) till a few years ago. I must say I enjoyed the show immensely. It’s a great coming of age story about a tight-knit group of black teenagers trying to cope with the urban, drug-infested neighborhood that they find themselves thrust into.

The amazing thing about this film is that Singleton wrote the screenplay and landed the director’s spot just a year or two after he graduated from UCLA film school. I can’t imagine anything like this happening today, even though they are more opportunities out there and internet sites like the Black List have made Hollywood more accessible. Do it yourself is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

This Hatchette-Amazon Thing Drags On

“Consider the French Revolution. A bunch of blue bloods really thought they were born to rule, and the peasants couldn’t live without them to govern. They were wrong.” Joe Konrath

Mr. Konrath continues his defense of ebook publishing and self-publishing with this timely rage against Author’s United. His assertion that the ebooks are radically changing the publishing world has been around for several years. Now that the Amazon-Hatchette feud dominates the literary conversation, Joe has gained more notoriety as the great defender of Amazon and the new reality of cheap ebooks. No different than the rise of paperbacks right after WWII or the emergence of DVD discs and the consequent demise of VHS tapes, ebooks are here to stay. Check out his blog…….even if don’t agree his opinions you may the argument compelling.

Who Was Tom Swift?

Last week while discussing the overuse of adverbs, Anne Allen dug up the popular 60s phenomena of Tom Swifties, which derived from the Tom Swift character of YA fame that has been around since 1910.

Here are some of my favorites.

“Careful with that chainsaw,” Tom said offhandedly.

“I might as well be dead,” Tom croaked.

“I wish I drove a Scandinavian car” Tom sobbed (Saabed)

“I wonder if this radium is radioactive?” asked Marie curiously

“We could have made a fortune canning pineapples” Tom groaned dolefully

“That’s the last time I’ll stick my arm in a lion’s mouth,” the lion-tamer said off-handedly.

“I’ll have a martini,” said Tom, drily (dryly)

“I unclogged the drain with a vacuum cleaner,” said Tom succinctly

“Hurry up and get to the back of the ship!” Tom said sternly

“I have no flowers,” Tom said lackadaisically

Don’t lend me more yarn— / I can’t mend worth a darn,” / Said Tom, as he knitted his brow.

Kind of silly, but in a way they still retain some of their charm.

Final Quote of the Day

“Don’t write a book someday, write a book today. That’s what I did.” Chuck Wendig

 

Words from Bloggers

 

Danger, Smile!!!  photo by author
Danger, Smile!!! photo by author Even in the face of danger, it might be beneficial to laugh a little bit.

 

Today’s Quotes

Today, and especially the last month in particular, has been a news junkie’s delight. With major historical events occurring in Iraq, Syria, West Africa, the Ukraine, the U.S. and most recently the British Isles, there is a lot of conflict in the world, capable of fueling the various news outlets for a long time. This situation is great for journalists, newscasters, filmmakers, commentators and political pundits. It is also a rich resource for novelists, comedians, short story writers, screenwriters and playwrights…….. but in a different way. The following quotes mostly ignores all the world troubles and instead is drawn from the rich world of writers commenting on their craft. Hope you enjoy this Sunday’s selection.

P.S. Each quote is supplied with a link to the appropriate blog.

1. “A lot of people think I had such a rosy career, but I wanted to identify that one of the things that helps you have a long career is learning how to deal with adversity, how to get past it.”   19-time All-Star baseball player Cal Ripken, Jr.

2. “A few aspiring authors get to stay home and write all day. Think of them as the 1%.”

3. “Have fun. Have as much (effing) fun as you can.” 

4. “Something to marvel at. 1 out of every 20 books was written by E.L. James.

5. “Don’t overthink it.”

6. “but if you can find the time to write a number of days or nights a week, even if it’s just five hundred words – that process will help free up your subconscious. And that’s where so many good ideas come from, so many good characters, so many good connections between characters, so many great plot ideas.”  writing advice from Thomas Keneally

7. “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.“ by Flannery O’Connor

8. “Simple words can become clever phrases
And chapters could turn into books
If I could just get in on paper
But it’s harder that it ever looks
If I could Just Get It on Paper
Lyrics by Jimmy Buffett

9.  “Never sign any deal for more than a ten year term.”

10. “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”  —Yasutani Roshi

11. “She’s a charming middle age lady with a face like a bucket of mud and if she’s washed her hair since Coolidge’s second term, I’ll eat my spare tire, rim and all.” by Raymond Chandler

12. “Getting it published in the present climate is the heartbreak, but there’s always Amazon.”

And as an extra bonus here is a simple outline on how to write a good ghost story. With all the killing and dying that is going on these days, this might be especially good advice for aspiring writers.

Well, the basic plot of a ghost story goes something like this:

  1. A ghost shows up.
  2. The ghost gets scarier.
  3. The ghost gets even scarier.
  4. The ghost becomes truly horrifying.
  5. The protagonist figures out what to do about it.
  6. Denouement.
In the Center of the Lagoon Nebula  Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA - Processing & Licence: Judy Schmidt
In the Center of the Lagoon Nebula
Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA – Processing & Licence: Judy Schmidt

 

Advice from the Good Doctor

Are You a Fan of the Cat in the Hat????

The Cat in the Hat visits Las Vegas, Nevada
The Cat in the Hat visits Las Vegas, Nevada

Remembering Those Children’s Book

You might say I grew up in the “golden age” of children’s books, the fifties. This was a time when you go to your elementary school library and choose from a wide array of current or time-tested titles. Our particular book lending venue in small town Maryland was well-stocked with popular titles, such as The Cat In the Hat, The Little Engine That Could, Little Black Sambo, Babar the Elephant and the Tales of Peter Rabbit. I have to admit my favorite was “Curious George”, but high on the list was the Cat In the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham by the notorious Dr. Seuss. Following is some general info and ever-so-timely advice from the man who went by the nom de plume of Doctor Seuss.

Will the Real Dr. Seuss Please Stand Up?

Dr. Seuss was the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel, who was born in 1904 and died in 1991 at age 87. Before settling on Dr. Seuss, Geisel wrote under the pen names of Dr. Theophrastus Seuss, Theo LeSieg and Rosetta Stone. Theodor, a product of German immigrants, was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts and attended nearby Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Strangely enough, Theodor first used his Seuss pen name after he and nine companions were busted for drinking gin in a dorm room at Dartmouth College. This event occurred during the Prohibition era. So in order to avoid being banned from the campus newspaper, of which he was an integral part, Theodor Geisel began using a variation of his middle name to get around the college authorities. After Dartmouth, Seuss attended Lincoln College in England with hopes of obtaining a P.H.D. in English Literature. In 1927, Theodor Geisel dropped out of Lincoln College to begin a job in the U.S. creating political cartoons.  In 1937 Dr. Seuss published his book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. The rest is history.

Advice for Writers (and others)

1. ” Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

2. “It’s a troublesome world. All the people who’re in it are troubled with troubles every minute. You ought to be thankful, a whole heaping lot, for the places and people you’re lucky you’re not.”

3. ” I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”

4. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

5. “I’m sorry to say
so but, sadly it’s true
that bang-ups and hang-ups
can happen to you.”

6. “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”

7. “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try.”

8. “Fun is good.”

9. “I am a zizzer zazzer zuzz as you can plainly see.”

10. “Preachers in pulpits talked about what a great message is in the book. No matter what you do, somebody always imputes meaning into your books.”

The cat in the hat shares some thoughts on aging
This “Cat In The Hat” spoof shares some thoughts on aging

At Last

And finally don’t forget that March 2 – Dr. Seuss’s birthday – is Read Across America Day.

More Advice from Writers

Street Sign in Las Vegas, NV
Street Sign in Las Vegas, NV

Here are some more quotations from writers. As usual they are slightly on the humorous side. Hope you enjoy.

1. “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” by Theodor Seuss Geisel better known as Dr. Seuss.

2. “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” by Ray Bradbury

3. “A friend is one who has the same enemies as you have.” by Abraham Lincoln

4. “All stories if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true storyteller who would keep that from you.” by Ernest Hemingway

5. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

6. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” by Samuel Beckett

7. “On any street corner, the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.” by Albert Camus

8. “Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future.” by Oscar Wilde

9. “The difference between fiction and reality. Fiction has to make sense.” by Tom Clancy

10. “Perversity is the muse of modern literature.” Susan Sontag
11. “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” Peter Pan