Bless the Beasts and Children . . . and the Weird People

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Bless the Beasts and Children.

I was thinking about this novel and film a few weeks ago. I can’t tell you exactly why it popped into my head, the ways things do sometimes. After all, it is a darned long way from 1971–forty-four long years to be exact. A lot has changed since then, and a lot has changed in me.

I was just a twenty year old kid when the novel came out, in the summer of 1970 if I remember right. I read it and thought it was pretty cool, a sort of Catcher in the Rye, way out west.

It was about a bunch of misfit kids. Off on a mission to do good–at least good the way they saw it. I was always a sort of misfit kid myself, so I kind of identified. At that age I suppose I also thought that the ends always justifies the means.

I’ve changed my viewpoint on that somewhat, now that I’m a pretty old guy.

Six misfit boys at summer camp, decide to free a herd of bison, slated for culling by hunters.

The tagline for the movie, which came out the next year was something like: “Who were the misfits? The men who killed for sport . . . or those who fought for the buffalo?

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It was a good question at the time, and I guess it still is today. Every story and question has two side, I suppose, and each of us has to decide for ourselves how we feel about some of the big questions. Hunting for sport, killing for whatever reason, guns and gun violence in general, now that violence is a sad staple of everyday news. In other words–the culture wars.

In 1970, these questions were pretty new. Not so much now.

But that was the beauty of the book and the movie. It made us think–just as countless other books and movies, and music as well over the years. Bless the Beasts and Children was also a mega hit by The Carpenters the same year. It was a really good one too. Karen’s voice was silk . . . on ice. Like the film and book, it made us think.

And that’s where the weird people come in.

The sign at the head of this article I found on Facebook. It got me pondering, as they say–about that old movie, and about some of the folks that make us think–and really good and hard. The ones that challenge us. The weird people. The poets, the artists, the writers and the music makers. The misfits of the world.

What a sad, lonely and depressing place it would be without them.

I thought about this blog post all week, and I wanted to say something profound and heartfelt here at the end of 2014. I wanted to make a blog post that would live on in memory, sort of like the Gettysburg Address or something. I wanted to stir feelings, perhaps bring a tear or two to the eye, and make people say . . . “Wow! That Lee Capp, Larry Lee Caplin fellow–he sure is something!”

But instead, I find that what I really want to talk about is Apropos of Nothing. And where it’s headed for 2015. It’s been a lot of years since my birth. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge as they say. And a lot of spilled milk too–to royally mix a metaphor.

What I guess I’m trying to say is that here, in 2015, my sixty-sixth year of life on this planet, maybe it’s time to just say what’s on my mind every once in awhile. I guess maybe I’ll get some new readers that way–and I’ll surely lose a few as well. But–that’s just part of being a little weird.

Oh, we’re still going to talk about classic entertainment. The great books, and movies, and music of the decades, and the centuries. That for sure won’t change. The stuff that challenges us and makes us think. And lots about the weird (and wonderful) human minds that created them.

The outsiders. The dreamers. And their dreams.

But I want to expand just a little bit more in the coming year too. I want to have a dumb-joke of the day (mostly courtesy of my nine year old granddaughter Melanie, and her never ending supply of Laffy-Taffy. (“What’s a caterpillar afraid of? . . . Answer–A Dogerpillar. What do you call a sleep-walking nun? . . . Answer–A Roman Catholic.”)

Sorry about that.

I’m looking forward to doing some new product reviews. Meaningful ones–based on good stuff and personal experience. The kind of things and products I think my readers use. And a column from time to time on Unsolved Mysteries and other goose-bumpy weird and fun stuff.

And every once in awhile, just a good old-fashioned rant on one subject or another. And it doesn’t have to be just me either. I invite each of my subscribers, and absolutely anyone else as well, to leave a comment and let me know what you would like to see here and/or rant about.

We could have a lot of fun.

Maybe we’ll all become weird people . . . join up–we can be a weird virtual family.

Here at the end of this year, I want to thank each and every one of you who took the time to find this blog and to read it. Each of you are in my heart. If you haven’t registered for email updates, I invite you to do so. The “Register” link is just on the left on the welcome page, in the black bar.

I absolutely promise you that your email will never be sold or given to anyone. And I will never contact you to try to sell you anything either. The  advertising links on these pages are simply for reader convenience in finding products I think are germane to the subject of the page.

May each and every one of you have a most wonderful and happy new year. May peace, joy, wealth, in all it’s forms, and abundance find you.

May you, in the words of Mr. Spock, “Live long and prosper.”

Until we meet again then next year . . . Goodnight.

 

2015

 

 

 

 

 

Auld Lang Syne . . . and Days of Saying Goodbye

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 Auld Lang Syne is a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788. It is strongly elegiac in content, expressing sorrow and mourning for that which is lost and irrecoverably past. A rough and idiomatic translation to the English would be . . . “long, long ago.”

Set to music, it is one of, if not the most maudlin and thought-provoking artistic expressions of our late December Holiday tradition.

Played most frequently just before the New Year, it is a piece nearly guaranteed to bring a misty eye to even the most hardened among us. A remembering of people–and days long gone.

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And so this day, Apropos of Nothing will follow another annual tradition of long standing, and remember a short list of celebrities now moved on. Those who entertained us with their talent, and made the world, for the brief time that they were here–just a little bit better place.

There are many more than can be covered here–each deserving in their own right. The following only represents those who came to my mind, for whatever reason.

I guess you could say they were important to me. They probably are to you as well.

Richard Attenborough (1923-2014)

English actor, and master of the stage and screen.

 

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Lauren Bacall (1924-2014)

A beauty queen and a ton of talent to go along with it.

 

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Sid Caesar (1922-2014)

A funnyman. From the days when they were actually funny.

 

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Joe Cocker (1944-2014)

Singer and Songwriter. And yes Joe–You are so Beautiful.

 

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James Garner (1928-2014)

Comfortable. A perfect fit. Like an old shoe.

 

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Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Author and Poet. And pure genius.

 

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Jeb Rebhorn (1948-2014)

A character actor’s character actor.

 

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Joan Rivers (1933-2014)

The Queen of mean. And of laughter.

 

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Mickey Rooney (1920-2014)

Little man. Big, big talent.

 

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Maximilian Schell (1930-2014)

Best Actor (1961) Judgment at Nuremburg.

 

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Meshach Taylor (1947-2914)

Television funnyman. Talented.

 

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Shirley Temple (1928-2014)

America’s Sweetheart.

 

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Ralph Waite (1928-2014)

John Walton. Forever. Simple as that.

 

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Eli Wallach (1915-2014)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. And dozens more.

 

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Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Actor, Comedian, Maniac. Loved forever.

 

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Thanks for the memories, and thanks for touching our hearts. We love you all. And the ones not mentioned here as well.

Second star to the right–and straight on till morning. No goodbyes Robin.

We’ll be seeing you again . . . in the Sweet By-and-By.

May you never be forgotten. And days of Auld Lang Syne.

Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas . . . and goodnight.

 

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Season’s Greetings . . . and Merry Christmas too!

 

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We are a Christian website here at Apropos of Nothing. However, we are not fanatics about it, and we love all our readers equally, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jew, or just plain old-fashioned non-believer.

So, to all . . . Season’s Greeting . . . and Merry Christmas too!

May Peace be upon you and yours at this sacred time of year.

As the Caplin family gathers together this Christmas day around the tree, we are surrounded by family, mostly in the form of four dear grandchildren, the flotsam and jetsam of a broken and shattered family, courtesy of a bitter divorce.

Not a rare story at any time of the year. The kids, it seems these days, are hardly ever a priority when mom and dad come unraveled.

Ours in a home in microcosm–the same tragedy repeated over and over countless times in a world that seems to have forgotten the old ways.

It shows–as we turn on our television to watch, or pick up the daily newspaper to read, of the latest atrocity of the day, occurring somewhere on the planet in brutal and bloody “splendor.”

But enough of the sad and bad stuff. ‘Tis the season to be jolly.

Let death, and pain, and darkness and sorrow take a day off.

Let there be a day of light.

Wreath

 

Here is hoping that each of you have a wonderful Christmas Day and New Year, surrounded, like us, by those you love.

Good food, good friends, good family . . . and joy–in extra large measure.

Remembering the wonderful days of Christmas past, and people gone on before, and appreciating the present–and those in our lives at this moment.

God-bless you all–from the bottom of my heart.

See you again right after Christmas. After all–it’s a new year coming up. And in the immortal words of Bilbo Baggins–I think I’m quite ready for another adventure!”

Peace my friends–this Christmas Day . . . and always.

 

Aunty Acid

Ooooh, Fuuudge! . . . A Christmas Story

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Is it the best Christmas movie line of all time?

Well, maybe–and maybe not. But it’s definitely in the top ten.

The nineteen eighties were not especially known for producing many great works of art. It is sort of a lost decade. Gone were the avant- garde and ground-breaking films of the seventies. Granted, some of them didn’t come off all that well. But at least there was the attempt. Instead, the eighties–well, it was sometimes pretty dismal, with film makers worshipping the gods of profits, rather than creativity. It was the decade that coined the phrase “fill and spill” at the new mall multi-plex theaters.

It was all about the money.

Who would have guessed that the Christmas season of 1983 would produce both an endearing, and enduring instant Christmas classic.

A Christmas Story is based on the short stories and anecdotes of author Jean Shepard. It consisted basically of elements taken from his book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.

Jean Parker Shepherd (1921-1999) was a radio and television personality. He was also considered to be a pretty darned good raconteur, right up there with the greats–Will Rogers and Mark Twain. A Christmas Story concerns his own childhood (in a semi-autobiographical sense) and he narrated the film, as well as co-scripted it.

The plot is simple. Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker wants only one thing for Christmas. A BB gun. Yes, a parents worst nightmare. His request is rejected by everyone, but none more vociferously than his mother, who declares–“You’ll shoot your eye out!”

He gets the gift from dad anyway.

And the game is afoot.

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There is an outrageous table-lamp (a major award) a tongue stuck on frozen pole, a malfunctioning furnace, double and triple dog dares, and in the funniest scene of the movie, Ralphie manages to toss a box of tools while helping his dad changing a flat tire. Out of Ralphie’s young mouth come the famous line “Ooooh, Fuuudge! Of course, as the adult Ralphie narrates–“I didn’t say Fudge.”

“I said the mother of all swears.” The twenty-four karat gold-plated number one worst ever swear word of all time.

Time freezes as Ralphie waits for his father’s reaction. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you what it is–just in case you haven’t seen the movie.

I had the pleasure a few years ago, to attend the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle, to see a local production of A Christmas Story. It was great, sprinkled with top-notch local talent. The man and the boy playing Ralphie and his father were terrific. I will always remember how incredibly long the freeze-frame lasted after Ralphie said the famous word.

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It seemed to go on forever. I sat and wondered how long they could keep it up. The answer was, of course, for as long as the audience kept laughing.

It went on for a very long time. My sides kind of hurt.

The movie is likewise a gem. Director Bob Clark earned two Genie Awards. In 2012, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Peter Billingsley plays Ralphie, and Darren McGavin is “the old man,” Ralphie’s father. It is one of the best roles of his lifetime. Melinda Dillion plays the mother.

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The movie is set in the fictional Indiana town of Hohman, a version of Mr. Shepard’s hometown of Hammond, Indiana.

Director Clark stated in the film’s DVD commentary that he and the author wished for the movie to appear to be set, late thirtyish, or perhaps early forties. A specific date is never mentioned.

The film unfolds over a variety of lush classical music. A good choice, providing a counterpoint to the stereotypical American mid-west bible-belt set-piece.

All in all, a lot of fun and another great creator of Christmas spirit and cheer. There is just about time to squeeze in a viewing before Christmas. It is available from Amazon as both a DVD and instant viewing–as well as being widely available in stores ranging from big-box to the corner drugstore–at least in the weeks leading up to the grand holiday.

It is also playing at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle through the end of the year.

Give it a view if you can. It is a real keeper. You might just get stuck on it.

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Thanks so much for reading.

Next up, Auld Land Syne . . . a heart-felt look at 2014. What (and who) we have lost, and what (if anything) we have gained.

Until then . . . Goodnight.  And sweet dreams.

Wreath

 

 

 

The Grinch . . . and How he Stole Christmas

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Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904 – 1991) was a writer and cartoonist. He was also an author of extraordinarily imaginative Children’s books, under the pseudonym, Dr. Suess.

And he was a genius. Mr. Grinch provides the proof of that statement.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was written in 1957, and published by Random House.  Like A Charlie Brown Christmas, which would come eight years later, it criticizes the commercialization of Christmas.

The animated television special hit the small screen on December 18th, 1966.

According to Wikipedia, “Based on a 2007 on-line poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its ‘Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children.’ It was one of the ‘Top 100 Picture Books’ of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal. In 2000 the book was turned into a film starring Jim Carry . . .  “The Grinch.”

I can’t say too much about the movie, never having seen it, but the television special, well, that’s another matter. It was an annual tradition in the Caplin household.

And it was a good one.

The Grinch is some kind of creature–although we never know for sure just what that is. Sort of like a giant chicken and lizard combined, and green to boot. He dwells in an ice cave, high in the mountains, with his loyal but largely unloved dog Max.  And brother are those mountains really something too. Vast crevasses, incredibly high peaks–the stuff of dreams, or of nightmares. Mountains like these do not exist in real life.

The Grinch is a bitter, grouchy, and lonely old “whatever” with a heart “two sizes too small,” according to the author. He lives on Mount Crumpit, just north of Whoville, home of the warm-hearted and happy Whos. The Whos seem to be pretty much always happy, and pretty darn near unflappable, as we see as the story unfolds.

It’s pretty hard to get a Who upset. You have to really work at it, it seems.

The Grinch believes he is up to the task. He’s hated Christmas for fifty-three years.

Why does he hate Christmas and the Whos? We never really know–except to learn that Mr. Grinch is pretty easily annoyed, and the happy sounds of the happy, happy Whos drifting up the mountain from Whoville down below is enough to send the Grinch over the cliff . . . literally.

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Dressed crudely as Santa, and poor old mistreated Max disguised as a reindeer, the Grinch drives a sleigh down the mountain to Whoville at night, to steal Christmas from the Whos. He supposes that by stealing every single  gift, decoration, and treat from the Whoville homes, one by one, he will destroy Christmas and put the ever cheerful Whos into a blue funk.

But of course, Mr. Grinch doesn’t know Whos very well at all–and it doesn’t turn out nearly the way he expects it to.

To make a long story short, he doesn’t destroy Christmas or the Whos at all. Far from the notes of keening despair that he expects to hear the next morning, the sounds of joy and celebration reverberate up the mountainside.

This is when the evil Mr. Grinch learns that maybe, just maybe, Christmas isn’t about stuff at all. “Maybe Christmas, he thought, means just a little bit more.”

His heart grows three sizes bigger that day, and a reformed Grinch returns all the stuff to the grateful Whos, and even participates in the feast, taking top honors with the townfolk and carving the semi-sacred roast beast himself. Max gets the first slice as a reward for all his considerable trouble.

A very happy ending, indeed.

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The 1966 CBS TV special was directed by famed cartoonist Chuck Jones. It ran for only 26 minutes. It is a little less than half an hour and that’s probably a good thing, as it hurts a person’s sides to laugh non-stop too much longer than that.

And laugh I did, on the first viewing, and on the hundredth. Mostly at the plight of poor little Max. Suffice it to say that today, PETA would probably insist on a disclaimer at the end stating that “No cartoon dogs were harmed during the filming of this television program.”

Boris Karloff, of Frankenstein fame, in one of his last roles, provided the voice of the Grinch. He was the master. There was never anyone else like him, and there never will be again. The choice of Karloff was masterful. He also read the story as well.

The critics of the day granted the special a lukewarm reception–calling it “as good as most of the other holiday cartoons.” Sometimes it takes quality a little while to be recognized. Today How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is considered to be a classic in everyone’s book. Even Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 100% rating on it’s website.

Several Grinch sequels were made, but of course, never even began to match the quality of the original. It is one of a kind, and praise be, is shown somewhere on the TV dial every holiday season.

If you have by chance not seen it, give it a look.

It’s a guaranteed way to make your own heart grow three sizes.

And just before the holidays . . . that’s not such a bad thing at all.

Thanks for reading. Up next time . . . “Oh fudge!” A Christmas Story.

 

Take care now . . . and Goodnight.

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