Favorite Christmas Movies, Part I–Revisited

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This is a post that I have used before, but given the season of the holidays, especially at a time when giving as opposed to greed should be happening (although that should always be  the case), I will repost this series. Scrooge1970Film

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There are so many aspects of this holiday season that are wonderful to me: getting together with loved ones, friends and family alike; the spirit of giving that I hope continues to grow; celebrations; the holiday music; and the memories of happy times.  Among the favorite memories I have are a few specific Christmas movies.

The movie I will talk about today is Scrooge with Albert Finney as the star; he does a magnificent job in his performance as the miserly and misanthropic loan-shark. This musical version of A Christmas Carol is one of the finest filmic adaptations of the classic Christmas Eve ghost story and morality tale.  This film follows  the story closely with Scrooge being visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, of Christmas Present, and of Christmas Future. Among the movies best songs are Scrooge singing “I Hate People” which clearly shows his despicable and greedy nature,  “Thank You Very Much” in which a tap dance is done on Scrooge’s coffin in the future, and “I Like Life” in which the ghost of Christmas Present teaches Scrooge about experiencing life as well as having empathy for others.

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This movie does an excellent job of showing Dickens’ critique of a greed based society and one that did little or nothing to help alleviate the enormous difficulties of the poor.  When first confronted by the ghost of his dead partner Marley, Scrooge tells him that he was always a good man of business.  Marley’s ghost responds, “Mankind should be our business.”  This is a sentiment that stands today.  We should be putting the good of humanity above the pursuit of greed.

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I was a teenager when this movie was first released in 1970, and I loved seeing it with two of my closest friends.  We were captivated by the music and the story, and it remains as powerful to me as when I first saw it. If you have never had the opportunity to see this particular film, I give it my highest recommendation.

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I also remind all of us, in paraphrasing the Master Charles Dickens, that we must always remember to make the good of others our business. That matters more than accumulation of wealth.

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Favorite Horror Films: The Horror of Dracula: Revisited

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I am returning to my series of examinations of horror movies through various decades.  After the great horror  cycle of movies from Universal Studios in the 1930s and 1940s culminating in the Abbott and Costello spoofs, serious horror movies vanished for a period. They were replaced by the spate of giant critter movies spawned by the fears of nuclear fallout post World War Two and the ominous threat of nuclear armageddon of the Cold War.

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In 1957, Hammer Studios, a British film company initiated a new cycle of horror films with the release of The Curse of Frankenstein. Following on the success of that film, Hammer then produced its new version of a filmic adaptation of Dracula by Bram Stoker: Horror of Dracula (the American title) or Dracula (the British title).  This film not only allowed this film studio to emerge as a major force in horror films, but also it, along with The Curse of Frankenstein, spawned a new cycle in horror that would span nearly two decades. The film starred Sir Christopher Lee as Dracula, Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing, and Michael Gough as  Arthur Holmwood and was directed by Terence Fisher.

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This film dramatically changed the course of horror films.  Prior to Horror Of Dracula, most horror movies, especially  the classic Universal films were shot in black and white; this film was in vivid color. Also changed noticeably from the 1931 Dracula with Bela Lugosi was the pacing and the level of over sexuality and violence. This movie moved at a very rapid pace with condensed action and compression of characters from the book.  A very lively film score added to the tension and feeling of almost constant movement.

 

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Christopher Lee brought an imposing physicality to the role and played the count with a noble British accent. He showed great strength and mobility in his performance. And this film introduced  the vampire with fangs and blood.  When he emerges in full fury after the vampire girl has attacked Jonathan Harker, he is a demonic image.  This was a representation of the vampire that was entirely new and very powerful.

In Britain, this movie received an X rating because of its, what was for the time, overt sexuality and violence. The women sometimes wore low cut gowns, and Dracula’s attacks carried a not too subtle sexuality, although by today’s standards, this shocking sensuality certainly would be tame or almost quaint.

Horror Of Dracula was a success both financially and critically. Hammer studios would make numerous sequels to this film and would also base the release of other movies, principally on Dr. Frankenstein , on their good fortune. If you enjoy horror films and have not seen this particular movie, I recommend it.

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

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Thank you!

The book trailer:

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My radio interview:

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Available on Amazon

A Guest Post For the U.L.S. The Underground Library Society by K.D. Dowdall

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I want to thank the wonderful writer and blogger K.D. Dowdall for becoming a member of the U.L.S. The Underground Library Society and for writing this post about the books she would become. Please visit her site Pen and Paper !

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K.D. Dowdall

As a member of Dr. Charles F. French’s Underground Library Society, I have been asked to write about what book or books I would choose to become, should the world, someday, resemble the novel, Fahrenheit 451 in which books are illegal.

Colonial America has always fascinated me. It was the beginning of a new world order, but it wasn’t about democracy, at least in the beginning—far from it. It was about religious freedom and freedom from tyranny. Yet, nothing could have been farther from the truth.

The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, in 1620, to start a new life—with or without a religion of their choosing. And then came the Puritans, in 1630, who landed at Salem, a band of Calvinists believers. They were refugees, expelled from England, and then also expelled for the Dutch city of Amsterdam for their harsh, cruel, and unorthodox beliefs.

This brings me to my choice of a book or books I would become, based on two young women’s true life stories, which changed the narrative of Colonial America’s journey into becoming a democracy. They are: Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, and Tidewater by Libbie Hawker.

Of course, there were other young women in Colonial America that helped to bring enlightenment, humanism, and the beginning of the scientific movement, like philosophy in which we see Descartes’ famous quotation: “Cogito, Ergo sum – I think, there for I am.”

Two such notable women were Anne Bradstreet and Anne Hutchinson. Anne Bradstreet published the first book written by a woman in Colonial America. Anne Hutchinson was one of the first feminists in Colonial America to advocate equality for women. Their independent thinking, in the days of Puritan tyranny in Colonial America, helped to impact America’s journey into independence, equality, and separation of church and state.

Tidewater by Libby Hawker, set in 1607, Jamestown, Virginia, is the story of Amonute, commonly known as Pocahontas—a nickname given to her by her grandfather. Twelve year old Amonute’s independent, intelligent, inquisitive, and brave nature, allowed her to walk naked to the small settlement of unbathed, filthy, and starving English men. These men, without women, had had no idea how to survive in this new land.

John Smith, with his similar nature, welcomed Amonute’s knowledge and wisdom. She alone, for good or ill, changed the course of history, bringing together, as least temporarily, a truce between two vastly different cultures. Pocahontas married a caucasian Protestant minister and was invited to mingle with Royalty in England. She is still remembered with great fondness, by the English people, and they have dozens of statutes of Pocahontas throughout England.

My second favorite, Caleb’s Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks, is set in 1665, and brings vividly to life the story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University. The real heroine of this story, however, is Bethia Mayfield. Despite growing up on a small island, surrounded by strict Puritan theology, Bethia grew up possessed of “a restless spirit and a curious mind.”

Despite her upbringing, Bethia defied the bounds of her rigid Calvinistic father’s ministry. One day, while exploring the forested island, Bethia met Caleb, the son of the Chieftain of Great Harbor, now known as Martha’s Vineyard. They became secret friends. Bethia was impressed with the young Wampanoag Indian’s innate intellect, and she was further impressed by the freedom to speak their minds, given to the males and females in Caleb’s Native American Indian society.

As they grew up, Bethia fought to have Caleb become a learned young man in Puritan Colonialism. She won the fight between the old ways and the new, and Caleb went to study Greek and Latin at Harvard University. Bethia went to Cambridge at the behest of her brother, and she became the voice in a society that required women’s silence.

I would have chosen to become either one of these intuitive, brave, and independent, forward-thinking young women who helped to promote, as it says in our Constitution, “…the general welfare, and to secure the Blessings of Liberty.” 

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Thank you again to K.D. Dowdall for her wonderful post!

 

Quotations by J.R.R. Tolkien

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All of the following quotations are by J.R.R. Tolkien

“I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”

 

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.”

“An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience, but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely complex, and attempts to define the process are at best guesses from evidence that is inadequate and ambiguous.”

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Rest In Peace, Stephen Hawking

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Renowned scientist, philosopher, and author Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. Mr. Hawking was a brilliant thinker, someone whose accomplishments put him with the pantheon of great intellects, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein.

At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with the disease ALS and not expected to live for more than a few years at most. His longevity, despite facing a terrible illness, demonstrates his tenacity.  He forged new ideas in science and wrote about those ideas in works that brought such thinking to nonscientists, including, but not limited to,  A Brief History of Time and The Universe In A Nutshell.

He remained optimistic about the future of humanity, especially if we can successfully make our way into space.

The human race was fortunate to have had such a mind. They are indeed rare.

Rest In Peace, Stephen Hawking. (1942-2018)

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Let Us Celebrate Thomas Paine Day!

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January 29 is Thomas Paine Day, which is a time to remember one of the most important, but often forgotten, writers of the American Revolution. His pamphlet Common Sense was one of the main reasons that the majority of colonists came to support the revolution against England and for independence.

He was born and raised in Britain, and he became embroiled in legal problems for advocating the abolition of royalty. Afterwards, he would support the French Revolution, and he also ran into problems there, only to be imprisoned. He was later released because of influence by the American government.

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He was a revolutionary thinker and a representative of the Romantic movement, in which individual rights and revolution in all aspects of life and society were encouraged.

Paine went on to write several other important works, including Rights Of Man and The Age of Reason. If you have not read these works, I recommend all of them!

Like many of the other intellectuals of this time, Paine was a Deist and let his ideas be known. As a result of his forthcoming, he suffered being ostracized by many of those whom he  had helped.

He should be remembered, however, for his contributions to the United States of America, to human rights, and to literature.

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Quotations From Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare is one of my favorite plays, and I have had a life long connection with this work. I have read it, seen numerous productions, acted in it, directed it, studied it in college and graduate school, written about it, delivered a conference paper on it, and taught the play in college at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. So, you can see that I have had quite a relationship with this wonderful play.

As a simple tribute to Shakespeare and this play, I offer a few quotations from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

“Captain of our fairy band,

 Helena is here at hand,

 And the youth, mistook by me,

 Pleading for a lover’s fee.

 Shall we their fond pageant see?

 Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

                                             (Act 3. Scene 2. Lines 110-115)

 

“I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.”

                                             (Act 4. Scene 2. Lines 203-204)

 

“If we shadows have offended,

 Think but this, and all is mended,

 That you have but slumbered here

 While this visions did appear.

 And this weak and idle theme,

 No more yielding but a dream,

 Gentles, do not reprehend.

 If you pardon, we will mend.

 And, as I am an honest Puck,

 If we have unearned luck

 Now to scrape the serpent’s tongue,

 We will make amends ere long;

 Else the Puck a liar call.

 So, good night unto you all.

 Give me your hands, if we be friends,

 And Robin shall restore amends.” (Act 5. Scene 1. Lines 418-433)

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