Thursday, December 1, 2011

"There is nothing on which it is so hard as...

...poverty, and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth." ~Ebenezer Scrooge (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843)

A Christmas Carol: Reviewed
 Ghost of Christmas Past by ftongl:

Some of my fellow writers/critiquers have read this story several times. I'm not sure I ever read it in its entirety. I think I only ever saw the various films or plays based on the novel. So, perhaps unlike many of my friends who have read tale this before, I took particular joy in soaking up the prose.     

While the language and writing of the period were difficult (and sometimes cumbersome) to read, I found the prose very visual. I think if I had not seen the films and/or the plays, this story would have played out in my mind much like the many renditions of it were portrayed.

The descriptions of Scrooge, Jacob Marley on the face of the door knocker, the exclamation 'humbug', and the description of Marley's ghost wrapped in chains and various cash-boxes were consistent all around. I found it pleasant to read what I'd 'seen' before, in part, because of the consistency the story and the films carried along with them.

Some things I noted that differed from the movies/plays:

Scrooge took his evening meal in a Tavern and not at home. I used to wonder about this as I watched the movies because I couldn't fathom Scrooge fixing dinner for himself, cleaning his own dishes or paying for a maid to clean his home. And I didn't know that he lived in Jacob Marley's old home. Cinema made it look as if Scrooge lived in a large wealthy house (albeit austere) but the book leads the reader to believe he had a modest residence.

I found it interesting that at the beginning of the book, Bob Cratchit's name was not used. In film, and in plays, his name is used to define and describe the character but at the beginning of the story it is not used, almost as if to emphasize how little Ebenezer cared to focus on the 'personal' of life of others.

As the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge out to where he had once been a boy, Charles Dickens takes a moment to describe the numerous smells that Ebenezer encountered which I thought was brilliant. Film does not portray this, but it is significant because our human memories are strongly linked to the sense of smell.

The Cratchit house and events were more elaborately described in the novel, and the descriptions of the miners and the men at sea were additional pieces I'd not seen/heard before. And the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is initially titled a Phantom, which is an eerie name to use for the spectral figure compared to what I've heard the Spirit called before.

These are just a few examples, but I do want to say that although the writing is a reflection of the timeperiod, and sometimes difficult to follow, I thought the overall text was extremely well written. Dickens placed very clear images in my head with most of his paragraphs/descriptions, and I was amazed how he did this with (seemingly) very little effort.

I didn't expect to enjoy this book. So many films, so many plays, led me to think I would find the narrative boring or uninteresting. But the novel was far from my expectations.  Tiny Tim made me cry, my heart went out to Ebenezer despite his 'humbug' self, and in the end I realized that it is never too late for any of us to change as long as we have our very last breath to take in this world.

So, whether we believe in god, or a goddess, or take refuge in the Buddha, or whether we follow a prophet or simply hug our own humanity...our compassion toward each other can be found inside ourselves whenever we choose to see it. And whenever we open our eyes to a brand new day, we are given the opportunity to change and make change. It is only 'choice' that keeps us from growing, or allows us to reach out and grasp a new beginning.

And so that is what it means to me when Tim says, "God bless us, everyone!" 


"We came, we saw...

...we kicked its ass! (Dr. Peter Venkman/Ghostbusters)

Ghostbusters (1984): Film Review 
     In 1984, I was serving the second of what would eventually be many years in the U.S. Navy. My childhood was fairly subdued. My brother and I grew up largely sheltered from the inappropriate evils of the world such as Saturday Night Live T.V. and Monty Python films. When I went to see the movie (I believe I was in Millington Tennessee at the time) I found Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd extremely entertaining even though I had no idea who they were.  For the day and age in which it was made, Ghostbusters included what I thought was fun computer technology and special effects...and I'm a sucker for special effects. Couple the effects with my love of bizarre story lines (the Giant Stay-PuftMarshmallow Man really reeled me in) and I was hooked.
    I sat down in front of the T.V. a few nights ago and watched the movie again, per our assignment.  I noted how far our computer graphics and special effects have come in just over twenty years.  I still enjoyed the movie, although my enjoyment was on a more primitive level. Instead of extolling the virtues of the excellent special effects on the screen, I merely sat back and enjoyed the non-sensical story.  And I did enjoy it, I am afraid to say.  I'm sure many of you readers will call me nuts. 

     Why did I enjoy it? Well, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd by themselves are quite entertaining, not to mention Rick Moranis has a stupid lovable quality about him that I enjoy hating. I had a good time watching the various ghosts as they popped up and seeing how they got sucked up into the 'ghost' trap of a vacuum cleaner. It reminded me of how much I used to go after spiders hanging from the corner of the ceiling in our living room in order to clear them from the house. (Now, I'm usually a bit more humane and escort them out). 

And I am a sucker for the slapstick, horror-bizarro story tale.  I mean seriously; a giant marshmallow man, a keymaster, a gatekeeper, a refrigerator that holds the palace of Zuul inside and a vacuum cleaner trapper-thing that cleans up ghosts?  What is NOT to love about this story?

Oh, yes, I realize it IS a cheezy flick. But the cheese is what made it fun for me. 

Would I watch the film again, right now, this minute? Not unless I had to. There are too many movies, theater plays, Broadway shows and T.V. series I've yet to watch and Ghostbusters doesn't rate on my top ten "really wanna see that film again" chart. Still, it was a fun 'blast from the past' and my son enjoyed taking time to watch the movie with me.  Family hours well spent with some laughter, some discussions on how my son used to love to make 'slime/goo' in the kitchen and then some firm remonstrations for him to never do it again while he protested that he thought it was the perfect time to create more. 

Good times. Good times. Boo!