Category Archives: Holidays

Halloween Musings

puppy-pumpkinHalloween is over. Decorations are still up though. Pumpkins are still out along with other scary and spooky things. Costumes have been put away but candy is not all gone yet. The leasing office where I live still has candy out and kids were dropping by today to get some. Not many trick or treaters came around this year. Many parents take their kids to Halloween parties, Haunted Houses, or other family friendly places (like malls). Pumpkins can be used for a few more days (if they are fresh, carved ones only last a few days unless you follow some complicated steps that seals it up). It was quiet where I was.

As my spooky movie for Halloween, I watched The Haunting. This 1963 classic based upon the Shirley Jackson book The Haunting of Hill House is noted for its clever camera work, mood setting, and how one character breaks down and becomes literally possessed by the house. Something that Stephen King would use as a them for his novel The Shining. While the book is more supernatural in tone, the movie makes it more of a psychological issue. There is no doubt a supernatural force. It is never seen but felt and heard in the movie. The movie has genuine scary moments and perhaps one of the most unsettling as well. A remake in 1999 starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta Jones and Owen Wilson was panned and changed the story considerably. Stephen King attempted a remake in the 1990’s pitching the title Red Rose to Steven Speilberg. It never came about although eventually a miniseries called Red Rose was made in 2002, but it had very little relation to The Haunting though it used some elements from the book.

Though it is now considered one of the scarier movies of all time, it has its problems. We are never let in as to why the people are selected (except for the relative Luke Sanderson played by Russ Tambyln). This is particularly true of Eleanor Lance. Dr. Markaway apparently wrote her to come to stay at the house as part of his team. Yet we never learn the reason why he wrote her. Theodora is a psychic, so she makes sense. But Eleanor, who was fragile and had nursed an ailing mother till she died, is a mystery. Nor what whatever spectral entity that haunts the place wanted her. And she dies in the end at the very spot the first Mrs. Crain was killed. Character motivations are not explored and its plot seems to be inconsistent. Still despite this it has genuine scares and the camera angles employed (and an excellent selection for exterior using Ettington Hall). In some ways one can argue Stephen King took the cinematic depiction of Shirley Jackson’s book and improved on it for his work The Shining. In the book and the miniseries that were made, the characters are fully developed and the reason for what happens to Jack Torrance is clear (to get to Danny).

After watching a scary movie, I like to follow up with something light. It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is a great way to do so. It has never lost its appeal to me. First you have Linus who believes the great pumpkin will arise out of a pumpkin patch and deliver presents to kids. He gets Charlie Brown’s sister to wait up in the pumpkin patch with him. Second you have Charlie Brown and the gang out for trick and treating followed up with a party (which Charlie Brown was not supposed to get invited to). And then there is Snoopy, who dons his aviator goggles and goes off to fight the Red Baron. He gets shot down and makes his way (in his imagination) across the French frontier until he comes to a party (the Halloween party that Charlie Brown and everyone else is attending). And then onward until he reaches the pumpkin patch. Needless to say, the great pumpkin never appears and Linus gets yelled at for missing tricks and treats. Ah but there is another year yet where the great pumpkin may yet appear.

Another family favorite is The Good Witch starring Catherine Bell who comes to Middleton to reclaim Grey House and ends up helping out a lot of people in the process. She is a mystery and whether she really is a witch or not is left open to interpretation. She ends up falling in love with the town’s police chief (played by Chris Potter) and helps out his kids. Of course not everyone is enamored of her and her shop (Bell, Book & Candle) so they are trying to get her out of town. Unfortunately things take an unpleasant turn when two boys, the sons of the woman seeking her ouster, end up vandalizing her store and are caught. However it all ends up well in the end. A good movie anytime of the year but Halloween is a great time to watch it.

Sadly it is now time to put away some fun decorations. I love my handlabra, a monster hand with twinkling lights on the fingers. I got a canvas of the Headless Horseman that lights up and is pretty cool. But what everyone thought was cool was the orange and black lava lamp. Lava lamps are strangely hypnotic. You watch the goo float up and then back down. It is a trade secret as to what it is though Mythbusters figured it out in dealing with various stories and myths about these lamps. The downside to these particular lamps is that they take a while to heat up and then you get the goo going up and down. You cannot run them more than 8 hours (otherwise they will get too hot). I have some glitter lava lamps that are pretty cool. One is a blue one in the bedroom and a silver one which is pretty cool around Christmas.

Till next Halloween….

Summer Is Officially Here

The Summer Solstice officially occurred today at 5:04 hours UT, 1:04 a.m EDT, or if you are on the West Coast at 22:04 PDT. It is an important day on the calendar as it marks an important shift from spring to summer. Ancient times saw the day celebrated with all kinds of rituals to welcome summer. It is the day of the highest sun and the longest daylight hours, but not the hottest day as some used to believe. And it was the time when the growing season for most crops had reached a turning point. National Geographic has a good article here about the 2013 summer solstice.

Today most of us have forgotten the significance it had for our ancestors. Today it is marked as the shift towards a time for vacations, kids to play, and work to be done on homes needing repair. The rituals have changed but the season is a vital part of the year for those who grow our food. Perhaps we ought to be thanking them.

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Memorial Day

boy-arlington2012
Boy Touching Gravestone at Arlington National Cemetery(2012)

Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those who gave all to serve this country. At national cemeteries and smaller ones around the country, flags and flowers have been placed to remember them. We also remind ourselves that freedom is not easily granted, often requires great sacrifice. President Lincoln made note of this in his famous 1863 Gettysburg Address:

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Happy St. Patricks Day

March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, a day which faithful Irish (and others) remember St. Patrick. He is the patron saint of the emerald isle and Irish are justifiably proud. In the old days that meant morning mass and a celebratory meal (usually at dinner). Since his feast day falls within Lent, it can pose a small problem should it fall on a Friday (traditionally a meat-free day). Special dispensation is granted to eat meat should the feast day fall on a Friday.

It is often a day for family and friends to gather and share a meal. Contrary to what some may think, it is not a day to get drunk. Drinking beer, hard cider, or liquors are done but it is wrong to use the day for just drinking. Unfortunately many abuse the feast day for just this reason sometimes resulting in awful things happening later (drunk driving for one). Enjoy the day but remember what it is about, St. Patrick, and what he did in Ireland.

Rick Steves’ Ireland 2013

Home in Ireland

In Search of Ancient Ireland (Includes Over Ireland)

Christmas Eve Means A Visit From St. Nicholas

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” are the opening lines of The Christmas Song. The song has been performed by various artists over the years but the best, I think, are Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. The song is quiet in its tone unlike other Christmas songs that belt out the tune with great force. Yet it manages to convey the Christmas season well and that kids are going to bed in great expectation of a visit from Santa Claus. And although not a song, a poem written in 1823 by Clement Clarke Moore, has also become a staple of Christmas. Titled “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” it is always worth a read on Christmas Eve.

Enjoy!

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Image:public domain
Image:public domain

A Visit from St. Nicholas

by Clement Clark Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”