Revisiting Disney


Soon I will be traveling with my family to Walt Disney World in Florida.  I’ve previously visited Walt Disney World on three occasions (1976, 1981, and 1982) as well as once visit to Disneyland in California in 1980. So it’s been 35 years since my last visit to a Disney park, and my have things changed.

When I last visited, there was just the Magic Kingdom and some hotel resorts.  EPCOT was under construction and Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom were not even on the drawing board.  This guide and the film below show what it was like on my last visit (kind of disappointed we didn’t take advantage of the free loans of Polaroid cameras!).

Growing up in the 70s and 80s meant a different relationship with Disney than the generations before and after.  The classic animated movies were re-released to movie theaters from time to time, but weren’t shown on television (even on cable) or available on video until the late 80s, when I was a teenager and not as interested.  I do remember seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a stage adaptation at Radio City Music Hall, but other than that it was The Wonderful World of Disney and later The Disney Channel that provided glimpses of classic Disney films.  Meanwhile the Disney studios were going through a troubled period and while I loved The Fox and the Hound, most of the movies released in the 1970s and 1980s were not very memorable.  Kids who grew up during the Disney Renaissance starting in 1989 don’t know how lucky they had it.

So in a strange way, the parks were the main thing for Disney when I was growing up.  There were all these rides and characters based on movies we never saw and vaguely knew the plots.  People dressed as characters have always been part of Disney World, but planning for this trip I’m surprised to learn that they no longer walk around the park greeting visitors but instead it is required to queue up for “character experiences” and even pay good money to have diner with characters. It seems strange to me but apparently it is an extremely popular thing to do.  Luckily, my kids are interested in going on rides, which I think is much more fun.

With that in mind, here are ten things I loved at Disney as a kid.  It will be fun to see what lives up to memory, and what new things will join the list.

 

  1. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – the roller coaster so good that even my roller coaster hating mother liked it.  I remember riding it three times in a row one afternoon.  And we didn’t even need a FastPass.
  2. Contemporary Resort – also known as the hotel that a monorail goes through, which is freakin’ awesome!  We didn’t stay here, or any Disney hotel, but we did have dinner her one night, and apart from the freakin’ awesome monorail going through the lobby I also enjoyed playing in the video arcade.
  3. The Enchanted Tiki Room – audioanimatronic birds singing and telling bad jokes, what could be better?  And as my Dad noted, the birds won’t crap on you.
  4. The Haunted Mansion – a ride that is fun because it’s funny, from the stretchy portraits to the hitch-hiking ghosts.
  5. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – another funny ride I absolutely loved, from the oncoming train to the trip to hell. I suppose that might’ve scared some kids.
  6. Pirates of the Caribbean – the ride so good that they made it into a movie.
  7. The Skyway – Who doesn’t like a bird’s-eye view of the magic? (Apparently the people who decided to tear this ride down)
  8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – It may have been a kid’s perspective, but it really felt like one was going on a submarine voyage.  Can anyone explain why Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, The Skyway, and this are all gone but the boring-ass Carousel of Progress still survives?
  9. Space Mountain – the coolest ride at the center of the coolest land, Tomorrowland (my impression is that Tomorrowland is not so cool these days because the future came and it’s nothing like what we were promised)
  10. WEDWay PeopleMover – I was an impressionable child and believed them when they said that peoplemovers would be the transportation system of the future in big cities.  I’m still waiting.

 

To prepare for our visit, I’m going to try to watch some animated Disney movies I’ve never seen before, so you’ll be seeing my reviews here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The November 18th All-Stars


As a child growing up rooting for the Mets, I knew that Dwight Gooden (then Mets’ ace and arguably the 2nd-greatest Met of all time) celebrated his birthday on November 16 and the all-time greatest Met, The Franchise, Tom Seaver, celebrated his birthday on November 17.  With my birthday on November 18, I was a natural for future Met great.  There was one problem, I had no baseball talent.

I’m now 43, past retirement age for baseball, although as long as the ageless Bartolo Colon continues to pitch there will still be an active major leaguer older than me.   For fun, here is the all-time all-star roster for players born on November 18.

C – Deacon McGuire – known as a gentleman who played 26 seasons at the most demanding position
1B – Roy Sievers – hit nine career walkoff homeruns
2B – Gene Mauch – can also be the team’s manager
SS – Kermit Wahl – finding a shortstop for the team was tough,  could move over Sheffield and seek out another third baseman?
3B – Gary Sheffield – Doc Gooden’s nephew!  Wonder if they celebrated their birthdays together?
LF – Steve Henderson – his walkoff homerun at Shea Stadium in 1980 is one of the defining moments of my baseball fandom
CF – Les Mann – regular centerfielders were also hard to find, but Mann played a key role for the Miracle Braves of 1914
RF – Dante Bichette – I remember him being called “Bionic Fat” which was inspiring to us men of large girth
DH – David Ortiz – Big Papi is  without question the greatest November 18th baseball player of all time

SP – Jamie Moyer – pitched until he was 49!
SP – Jack Coombs – won 31 games for the Athletics in 1910
SP – Allen Watson – was born in Queens and was briefly a Met in 1999
SP – Jay Hook – pitcher of record for the Mets’ first ever franchise win in 1962
SP – Cal Koonce – a reliever for the 1969 Miracle Mets although he was a starter earlier in his career with the Cubs

CLOSER – Tom Gordon – the Red Sox star of the late 90s had a Stephen King book named after him
RP – C.J. Wilson – a 2011 All-Star
RP – Shawn Camp – was the 500th selection in the 1997 draft
RP – Mark Petkovsek – had his best season in 1996 working as starter and long reliever for the Cardinals
RP – Matt Wise – appeared in 8 games for the 2008 Mets

 

Happy birthday to all of the November 18th All-Stars!

Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them #TopTenTuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is“Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them.”

 

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh – taught me to be spiritual in the moment, event when washing the dishes, by imagining your washing Buddha or the baby Jesus

My Life With the Saints by James Martin – inspired me to spend a year posting about my own favorite saints

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift – walked along the Hudson to find the lighthouse in person and read the book aloud to my son and various children who gathered around

Sleep Thieves by Stanley Coren – made me realize the pernicious evil of Daylight Saving Time

Asphalt Nation by Jane Holtz Kay – made me an activist against prioritizing automobile use and car culture

Book Lust by Nancy Pearl – this book reccomends books to read and read a lot of the books reccomended

Celebrating Marriage Preparing the Wedding Liturgy by P. Covino – at our wedding, my soon-to-be wife and I greeted guests at the door to the church based on a historic tradition mentioned in this book

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp – I learned how to soothe a baby through swaddling and bouncing.  I got pretty good.  Then the babies grew up.

Amusing the Million by John F. Kasson – made me want to travel in time to visit Coney Island at its historic peak and fueled an obsession with Brooklyn I had for several years in the early 1990s. Although I’ve never lived in Brooklyn, I’m the ultimate hipster, because I wanted to move to Brooklyn before it was cool.

Snowshoeing Through Sewers by Michael Aaron Rockland – one of the urban explorations in this book is walking the full-length of Broadway on Manhattan from Marble Hill to Bowling Green.  I followed in Rockland’s footsteps.  A few years later I created my own long urban walk on Washington Street in Boston.

 

 

 

 

#TopTenTuesday: Top Ten Books Set Outside the United States


Top 10 Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.  This weeks topic is top 10 books set outside of the United States.

  • Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (England)
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery (Canada)
  • The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (England)
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (alternate universe England)
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (France)
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel (India, Pacific Ocean, Mexico, and Canada)
  • Like Water for Chocolate  by Laura Esquivel (Mexico)
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Iran and Austria)
  • A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle (Ireland)
  • Stalemate by  Icchokas Meras (Lithuania)

This is probably a good time as any to remind you of my Around the World for a Good Book project.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Facts About Me (mostly bookish)


Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Ten Facts About Me (bookish or just general about you facts or ten facts about you as a blogger…whatever you want).” I learned about this meme from my Comment Challenge partner at A Kernel of Nonsense.

  1. I’m inspired to participate in this meme, because despite getting better at scheduling posts ahead of time, I have nothing else to post today.  This is supposed to be my movie and tv review day, but I’ve not watched anything in the past week even though there are 140 items in my Netflix queue.
  2. Unlike most bookish people who read their favorite books again and again, I tend to read most books once.  Even when I want to reread a beloved book I find myself constrained by the desire to read all the other books I haven’t read yet.  Maybe my motto is YORO?
  3. I had very little interest in science fiction, fantasy, and comic books/graphic novels when I was young, but I started getting interested in my mid-30s.
  4. Despite reading a lot and holding a masters in library and information science, I try not to own books.  I think this sets me apart from other bookish people who like to surround themselves with books.  When I moved from Virginia to Massachusetts in 1998 I divested myself of almost every book I owned and haven’t added many since.  I just think too many books are clutter and that they’re better off in a library.  Of course I’m lucky to have access to many public and academic libraries to borrow books and digital files.
  5. The exception is that our house is filled with children’s books.  It’s great to have a large selection of books on hand for the kids, and I read 3 books each night with one of the children.
  6. That being said, while I’m philosophically opposed to book burning in the vast majority of cases, I would happily toss the following books onto the fire: Truckery Rhymes and Sesame Street: Elmo Look and Find.
  7. My wife and I once did a walking tour across London following the routes of characters from Virginia Woolfe’s Mrs. Dalloway.  It’s a great way to visit a city.  One of these days I’m going to make a tour of Cambridge based on Quentin Compson’s peregrinations in The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (stopping short of jumping into the Charles River, of course).
  8. The first book I read on my own was a children’s book about cats.  One of the cat facts in this book was that cats like to sit on books which my cat demonstrated by sitting on the book about cats.
  9. My favorite book series is Jasper Ffforde’s Thursday Next, which features a book-crazy populace who reenact Richard III in the style of Rocky Horror. Thursday also learns to jump into books, which I think would be a great superpower.
  10. If you poke around this blog you’ll find links to my favorite books of all time, a constantly updated reading list, and a catalog of almost every book I’ve ever read.

Webcomics


If you’re my age or older, you’ll remember the anticipation of getting the Sunday newspaper, fighting with your sibling for first dibs, and the joy of laying out the full-color comics section (a.k.a – the Funny Pages) and reading your favorite comics.  I feel that I grew up in the last golden age of newspaper comics with The Far Side, Bloom County, and Calvin and Hobbes all making  their debuts in the 1980s.  Older comics like Peanuts, For Better or Worse, and Doonesbury were also still fun to read.

Newspapers have gone into a steady decline and newspaper comics have gone down with them.  Of course, there are still newspaper comics and I read the Comics Curmudgeon daily to see them lovingly lampooned by Josh Fruhlinger.  I think even today newspaper comics could be brilliant but publishers these days have focused on keeping the limited space for comics occupied by legacy comics of deceased cartoonists that have long past their freshness date. Large format comics with artistry and provocative topics might even draw some readers back to newspaper, but we won’t ever know in this extremely risk averse climate.

And so today I turn to the internet for my comic joy.  A number of comic artists have been brilliantly innovative in the web format and I’ve listed below the comics I read regularly.  They can also get to be very specific to certain topics, as you’ll note I have multiple comics about biking and libraries.  My list is arranged in reverse alphabetical order.

Yehuda Moon and Kickstand Cyclery – Set in a fictional Cleveland-area bike shop, this comic focus on the joys and challenges of the American bicyclist

Wondermark – This comic repurposes 19th-century illustrations to create quirky commentaries on popular culture and bad puns. I’ve been accused of writing for Watermark, so close is creator David Malki’s sense of humor to my own.

XKCD – The stick figure comic features clever jokes about science, math and computing as well as some creative large format works that use web technologies to their full advantage. The strip can be arcane so it’s handy to check out Explain XKCD when you just don’t get it.

Unshelved – Set in a public library, this comic has jokes that library and information professionals appreciate, but it’s broad enough to be appreciated by a general audience.

Shelf Check – Another library comic, which may be a bit more inside jokey, but also addresses issues of representation and equality in libraries.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – Another comic that usually has some science or philosophy underlying the joke although it has no set theme and focuses on lots of different issues.

Medium Large – A joke-a-day comic with a few recurring characters that focuses on pop culture arcana. Creator Francesco Marciuliano also writes for the newspaper comic Sally Forth (and mocks in Medium Large).

Lunarbaboon – The comic depicts a fathers view on parenting and children. Another comic that seems to have been drawn from the thoughts within my mind.

Leftycartoons – Infrequently published satirical comics about politics from a left-wing perspective.

Jen Sorensen – Another editorial comic with a slightly less left-wing perspective than Leftycartoons.

Hark! A Vagrant – Oddball humor inspired by historical events and literature. I previously wrote a review of a volume collecting these comics.

Dustinland – An autobiographical weekly comic that’s basically whatever is on the mind of artist Dustin Glick each week. When I first started reading this years ago, it was about dating, dead-end jobs, and social lives of young adults. These days it alternates between comics about raising a young child and political commentary.

Dinosaur Comics – This is the opposite of artistically adventurous as every single comic is the same six panels repeated, but with different text every time. And yet it somehow stays fresh seeing a new joke in the same formula over and over.

Derangement and Description – Can’t have library comics without an archives comic too. The jokes here are brilliant but probably aren’t going to be understood outside of the field.

Bikeyface – A Boston bike commuter’s commentary on why she bikes and all the problems of a city hostile to biking.

What webcomics do you read?

 

Bands Everyone Loves (Except Me)


I expect this will be my most controversial post ever because I’m going to confess to not liking iconic rock bands and artists. Now, there are plenty of bands/artists I don’t like but I can understand why other people like them. Boy bands, for example, are not my thing but I can see why they appeal to teenage girls. And there are plenty of artists who I respect as being talented musicians but I’m just not interested in listening to them much (Bob Dylan and Tom Petty come to mind). But the bands/artists I’m listening here are ones that not only do I not like but I can’t understand why anyone else likes them.

So here we go! Beware, some sacred cows will be slayed!

The Eagles

People who know me know that I’m “the guy who hates The Eagles.”  To be honest, the hate is greatly overstated and it arose from the fact that when I went to high school and college in the 80s and the 90s, The Eagles were treated as the Best. Thing. Ever.  Like, people would list the best rock bands of all time and it would be “Beatles. Rolling Stones.  Eagles.”  The Eagles are a fair to middling band but in response to the great overstatement of their talents I went in the other direction to extreme Eagles hatred.  I’ll confess I like “Take It To the Limit” and the harmonies on “Seven Bridges Road.”  Still, it’s good to know that I have The Dude as company in hating The Eagles.

The Cars

I’m pretty good at tuning out bad music, but songs by The Cars have the ability to get under my skin and grate at my nerves.  It’s hard to listen to music that causes such a physical reaction.  Of course, everyone loves The Cars, and as they’re a Boston band I will be doubly ostracized for not liking them.

The Pretenders

This band causes pretty much the same effect as The Cars, the physical inability to ignore the music, and the mood-altering affects of a seething boredom.  In my experience, people who love The Cars also love The Pretenders.  They must be made of stronger stuff than me.

Jimmy Buffet

There is a subculture of people known as Parrotheads who wear floral shirts and leis, sip mixed drinks, and generally seem to have a chill time hanging out together.  They seem like nice people having a fun lifestyle.  But I just don’t understand how they’re brought together by an old white dude singing overproduced and country-tinged calypso songs.  So much color comes from so much blandness?

Allman Brothers/Lynyrd Skynyrd

Speaking of country and mixing it with other genres, I’ve never been able to tell these bands apart and even if they’re being ironic, I don’t see why they have such a wide appeal outside of the former Confederate states.

Queen

This is one I thought people were in general agreement on.  In the 80s & 90s we could look back at the excess and melodrama of the 1970s and laugh about what crazy things got popular during those heady days, and Queen was the epitome of this.  Remember when Wayne’s World parodied losers driving around singing “Bohemian Rhapsody?”  But then, within in the last decade people started admiting in dribs and drabs that they unironically liked Queen, and now they seem to be universally accepted as one of the great rock bands of all time!  Ok, “Under Pressure” is a great tune and baseball games would not be the same without “We Will Rock You” and “Another One Bites the Dust,” but “greatest of all time” is a case of dramatic excess worthy of a suite of Queen songs.

Meat Loaf

By now  you may sense a theme that I don’t like rock music that is a) from the 1970s, b) prog rock, and/or c) excessive and overly dramatic.  So you should not be surprised to see Meat Loaf on this list

Wilco

This is a band that music critics and fans I respect go on and on about how great they are.  Yet, the music of Wilco makes absolutely no impression on me.  They’re kind of the opposite of the Cars/Pretenders in that it goes in one ear and out the other.  So I can’t say I dislike Wilco so much as I am completely unable to remember Wilco, and thus cannot understand why they’re so beloved by others.

3 Days 3 Quotes Day 3


The rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you.

2. Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day).

3. Nominate three new bloggers each day.

Thank you Ashley from Inside My Minds!

“Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.”  — Samuel Beckett

I feel totally awkward about tagging other people, but if you do want to participate, please do so and let me know in the comments!

3 Days 3 Quotes Day 2


I got tagged to participate in a 3 Days 3 Quotes challenge.

The rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you.

2. Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day).

3. Nominate three new bloggers each day.

 

Thank you Ashley from Inside My Minds!

“My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.” – Peter Golkin

I feel totally awkward about tagging other people, but if you do want to participate, please do so and let me know in the comments!

 

3 Days 3 Quotes Day 1


I got tagged to participate in a 3 Days 3 Quotes challenge.

The rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you

2. Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day).

3. Nominate three new bloggers each day.

Thank you Ashley from Inside My Minds!

“Whenever people say, ‘We mustn’t be sentimental,’ you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, ‘We must be realistic,’ they mean they are going to make money out of it.” – Brigid Brophy

I feel totally awkward about tagging other people, but if you do want to participate, please do so and let me know in the comments!

The Book Blogger Test


Here’s a book blogging meme via Ashley at Inside My Mind.  I took the advice to tag myself.

What are your top three book pet hates?

  • Books where the narrators are completely oblivious to their privilege and how they unwittingly disparage others. This happens in fiction (The Nanny Diaries) and non-fiction (Under the Tuscan Sun).
  • Writers who use big words and overly complicated sentence structure.  In other words, academic speak.
  • Anyone who trashes the writers of popular history and science because they actually use engaging writing in place of academic speak (David McCullough, I’ve got your back!).

Describe your perfect reading spot

  • I do most of my reading on the T these days.  As long as it’s not overly crowded and I can get a seat, I’m happy to cozy up on a subway train or bus and miss my stop if the reading is too engaging. :)

Tell us three book confessions

  • I’m completely unable to read Charles Dickens.  Something short circuits in my brain and I’m unable to comprehend anything my eyes scan over.  This makes me feel bad because I have a lot of friends who love Dickens.
  • There are a great number of class children’s books that I never read or even heard of until I was an adult.  These include Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, The Phantom Tollbooth, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Snowy Day,  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Bridge to Terabithia, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Winnie the Pooh, A Wrinkle in Time, The Westing Game, and anything by Beverly Cleary.
  • I had no interest in science fiction or fantasy until I was in my 30s.  I’m saving Romance for my 50s.

When was the last time you cried during a book?

I felt a lot of emotion reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  If I didn’t cry, I was close to it.

How many books are on your bedside table?

No books.  No bedside table.

What is your favorite snack to eat while you’re reading?

Whatever I can hold while holding a book or e-reader and will not get the book sticky.

Name three books you would recommend to everyone

  • The Eyre Affair by Jaspe Fforde
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

Show us a picture of your favorite bookshelf on your bookcase

I endeavor to get all my books from the public library and I neglected to take a photograph of my favorite shelf last time I was there.

Write how much books mean to you in just three words

Need more words.

What is your biggest reading secret?

I don’t think I read enough.

Massachusetts 351


I’ve lived in Massachusetts for nearly 19 years (and in a bordering state for 15 years when I was younger), but despite it being a small state I feel that I have not seen much of Massachusetts.  I am the stereotype of the Boston urbanite who rarely ventures outside the confines of the Rt. 128 beltway and certainly never go Westa Wistah.

There are 351 cities and towns in the Bay State and with a handy list on Wikipedia, I was able to determine how many of them I’ve visited.  I left out any place I merely passed through – whether in a car, bus, train, or bike – and focus on the places I have a concrete memory of visiting.

In alphabetical order, here’s the list:

Amherst
Aquinnah
Arlington
Belchertown
Belmont
Beverly
Boston
Braintree
Brookline
Cambridge
Canton
Carver
Chelsea
Chilmark
Concord
Danvers
Dedham
Eastham
Edgartown
Essex
Everett
Falmouth
Foxborough
Framingham
Gloucester
Haverhill
Hingham
Holyoke
Hull
Ipswich
Kingston
Lexington
Lincoln
Littleton
Lowell
Malden
Manchester-by-the-Sea
Marblehead
Marlborough
Maynard
Medford
Melrose
Nantucket
Natick
Needham
New Bedford
Newburyport
Newton
North Andover
North Reading
Northampton
Norwood
Oak Bluffs
Peabody
Plymouth
Provincetown
Quincy
Reading
Revere
Rockport
Salem
Sharon
Shelburne
Somerville
Southborough
Stockbridge
Stoneham
Stoughton
Sturbridge
Tisbury
Topsfield
Wakefield
Waltham
Watertown
Wayland
Wellesley
West Tisbury
Westford
Weston
Westwood
Wilmington
Winchester
Woburn
Worcester

So there we go, 84 Massachusetts’ cities and towns, about a quarter of the total of 351.  What I’m going to do is try to make an effort to visit all 351 municipalities, take a picture of myself by a local landmark, and post it here.  I don’t know how long this will take (and I’m not even sure how one gets to Gosnold, the smallest community in Massachusetts), but I’ll do my best.

Edit on 1/11/2016: Thinking of some places I’ve been on outdoor adventures in western Massachusetts and realizing I can add a few more municipalities to the list.

Charlemont (Mohawk Trail State Forest)
Lenox (Tanglewood Music Center)
Mt. Washington (Bash Bish Falls)

There are probably others that I will add if I remember them, but this brings the list to 87!

Do you live in Massachusetts?  Tell me about your city or town? What local place should I not miss when I come to visit?

2015 Year in Review: Bodies of Water I Went Swimming In


  • Ipswich Bay at Crane Beach, Ipswich, MA
  • Charles River, Boston, MA
  • Cape Cod Bay at First Encounter Beach, Eastham, MA
  • Atlantic Ocean at Nauset Light Beach, Eastham, MA
  • West River, Dummerston, VT
  • Casco Bay, Freeport, ME
  • Atlantic Ocean at The Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach, SC

  

Strange Lyrics in Later Verses of Popular Christmas Carols


A lot of people sing the first verse and chorus of popular Christmas carols and then move on.  But if you stick around to later verses you can find some interesting attempts by the lyricist to fit in large concepts and unique rhyme schemes.  Here are some of my favorites.

Carol: “Cherry Tree Carol”

Lyric: And Mary gathered cherries / While Joseph stood around.

The whole song is rather bizarre, but I like to think of this part as if it were a stage direction.

“What was Joseph doing while all this was happening?”
“I don’t know, he just stood around.”


 

Carol: “Deck The Hall”

Lyric: Troll the ancient Yule tide carol

The redefining of “troll” in Internet culture makes this sound like a rather rude thing to do, but even before that it brought to mind of creatures under bridges eating billy goats, not sing festive tunes.


 

Carol: “Do You Hear What I hear?”

Lyric: A Child, a Child shivers in the cold–
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.

Or maybe a blanket or something that actually insulates rather than metals that would be rather chilly on a cold night.


 

Carol: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Lyric: This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.

The words “doth deface” sound so Metal.


 

Carol: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Lyric: Hail, the incarnate deity

I can’t hear the words “Hail, the incarnate deity” without hearing them in the voices of the aliens from Toy Story.


 

Carol: “In the Bleak Midwinter”

Lyric: Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air

A choir director really wanted us to emphasize the word “thronged” while singing and now I can never get past what a strange word that is or the imagery of a throng of cherubim and seraphim hanging out in the air.


Carol: “Little Drummer Boy”

Lyric: The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum

Once again my mind fills in the details and I get an image of the ox and lamb wearing berets in a smokey jazz club and saying “dig!”


 

Carol: “Silent Night”

Lyric: Shepherds quake, at the sight.

THERE ARE REPORTS OF JUDEA BEING HIT BY A SHEPHERD QUAKE, ESTIMATED AT 5.7 ON THE RICHTER SCALE.

 

 

38 Things About Me and Star Wars


38 years ago in May 1977, Star Wars made its debut changing film and cultural history.  I’ve never been a Star Wars superfan, but I liked the movies as a child and grew up alongside the franchise.  With The Force Awakens premiering this week, here are 38 random thoughts about me and Star Wars.

  1. I was 4-years-old when I first saw Star Wars.  It’s possibly the first movie I ever watched in a movie theater.  The earliest I can remember, at least.
  2. I watched the movie with my sister and father at the Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts (on Martha’s Vineyard).  The seats slid back and forth to allow the user to adjust the seat back to upright or slanted position. My sister and I slid back and forth in the seats a lot, to my father’s annoyance.
  3. I most likely fell asleep during the movie since for years afterwards I thought our heroes escaped from the trash compactor and then got medals.
  4. R2-D2 was, and remains, my favorite character.
  5. It would be another 6 years before I saw the movie again, something that’s hard to believe when movies these days are readily available on video, cable tv, and streaming on the internet shortly after release.
  6. I watched it on HBO at my grandparents’ apartment in Brooklyn.  The image was very fuzzy because my grandparents didn’t actually subscribe to cable tv, but somehow picked up HBO from their neighbors.
  7. In the intervening years, what I knew about Star Wars was informed by a picture book that had an audio cassette accompaniment.  I’m pretty sure that this audio cassette include scenes & characters cut from the film that were later restored in the Special Edition.
  8. I had a large number of Kenner Star Wars action figures and toys that I played with often, accumulating a large well-loved collection over the next 7 or so years.
  9. I made up my own stories with the action figures, many involving Luke & Han having to work with Darth Vader against a common foe.
  10. We also had a 45 of the disco version of the Star Wars theme by Meco.
  11. My mother got really good at singing the Star Wars theme by clucking like a chicken.  She only does it for family members, so don’t ask her.
  12. Because the movie was called Star Wars when I first saw it (and for 20 years after), I still call it Star Wars even if it’s more fashionable to call it A New Hope or Star Wars IV.  I liked that for the original trilogy at least there were no roman numerals and wish they’d stuck to that.
  13. I saw the Empire Strikes Back at the Ridgeway Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut.
  14. I missed most of the scenes where Luke was training with Yoda because I had to go to the bathroom.
  15. During the climactic duel between Luke and Vader, the film melted and we had to wait for the projectionist to restore it to the screen.  Twice.
  16. I was certain that Darth Vader was lying about being Luke’s father and clung to this belief for three years until Yoda confirmed it in Return of the Jedi.
  17. I saw Return of the Jedi the New Canaan Playhouse in Connecticut.  I had recently touched poison ivy and my body and face were covered with rashes and calamine lotion.  Watching this movie was the first time in days where I was so pleasantly distracted I forgot that I itched.
  18. Return of the Jedi was the first Star Wars film I saw multiple times in the theaters (and after Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the first films to see again and again, period.  It was a novelty back then).
  19. I loved the Ewoks, and while it’s unfashionable to admit it, I still do.
  20. The Ewoks tv movies were terrible, however, and oddly disturbing to my young mind.
  21. I saved up proof-of-purchase tabs from Kenner products to mail in for a free (+ shipping & handling) action figure of the Emperor.  It took a lot longer than the promised 4-6 weeks to arrive.  I checked the mailbox every day for months suffering crushing disappointment every day until it arrived.
  22. There was a time in the late 80s and early 90s when Star Wars kind of disappeared from the cultural consciousness.  I was part of this and didn’t pay much attention to it during that time.
  23. Before moving to Virginia and starting college in 1991, I sold all my Star Wars toys at a tag sale.  The action figures went for 25 cents each.  I hope they’re still around getting loving care and someone is playing with them.
  24. My freshman year of college someone rented Star Wars and we all watched it over and over again.  I’d only seen it maybe 3 times in my whole life, so it was weird to see it several times in one weekend.  I also noticed things about it I’d never noticed about it as a child. Like, Luke Skywalker is super whiny.
  25. In 1997, I enjoyed seeing the Special Editions as they were released to movie theaters over a period of months. I thought the Star Wars Special Edition was a fun alternate take, although it shouldn’t replace the original theatrical run, the changes to Empire Strikes Back were mostly cosmetic, and the changes to Return of the Jedi were too cornball for a film that could use more gravitas.
  26. Unpopular opinion: I don’t really care if Han or Greedo shot first
  27. I saw The Phantom Menace while visiting my friend Vicki in Bowling Green, Ohio.  Like many, I thought it was dumb and disappointing.  I haven’t seen it again.
  28. I mean really though – Jar Jar Binks, the “Yipee!” kid, and endless podracing!  What were they thinking.  Natalie Portman was good though.
  29. My favorite memory of the movie is seeing two shirtless, shoeless dudebros from Cape Cod riding the MBTA Red Line who were planning “to smoke a bong and watch The Phantom Menace.”  At every stop one guy would ask the other if this was their stop and the other one would say “No, my brother, it’s Davis!”  They did get off Davis.  Hope they enjoyed the movie.
  30. A year later I went camping with some friends in Western Massachusetts and some creepy guys in an adjacent tent site where watching The Phantom Menace in their tent.
  31. Speaking of bad Star Wars movies, my wife Susan informed me that there was a Star Wars Holiday Special that frightened her as a child.  I’d never heard of it before, but ordered a bootleg off Ebay.  It’s just as bad as you’ve been told.  But whoever taped it initially did so from a television broadcast in Baltimore so it has all the 1978 commercials in it, which is pretty cool.
  32. I saw Attack of the Clones with Susan at the AMC Loews Boston Common Theatres. The first time we tried to watch it, we had to be evacuated due to a fire alarm just after the opening credits.  I remember watching the fire fighters casually riding the escalator on the way to investigating the fire.
  33. Attack of the Clones was better, but still disappointing. I really hated all the monsters in the pit, and Yoda acting like Robert Duval in Apocalypse Now.
  34. Saw Revenge of the Sith at the same place, and with the same feeling of “this is okay, but could be better.” It is the only one of the prequel trilogy films that I watched a second time.
  35. I’ve read all the novel adaptations of the Star Wars films.  I found the writers of the prequel trilogy actually did a better job with plot, dialogue and characterization than appeared in the film, and wish these books had somehow been adapted into the movies rather than the other way around.
  36. I also read Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy and The Hand of Thrawn books which are excellent stories with some interesting new characters, although I think they would actually adapt poorly to film, so I’m glad they’re going a different route with the new trilogy.
  37. My children don’t like watching movies, so I still haven’t been able to convince them to watch any Star Wars films, but when I do I’m going to try Machete Order.
  38. If things go to plan I will see The Force Awakens while vacationing with my in-laws in Myrtle Beach after Christmas.  I love that I always seem to be in a different city and state when I see these movies.

Halloween Costume Generator for Archivists


Sexy Microfiche.

Derangement and Description

Still trying to come up with a brilliant archives-themed Halloween costume? Use this handy generator! Also available as a PDF.

Halloween Costume Generator for Archivists (download PDF for readable text) Halloween Costume Generator for Archivists (download PDF for readable text)

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Playlist of Modern Christmas Music


Since Thanksgiving my children have enjoyed listening to an endless stream of Christmas music on the Boston radio station Magic 106.7.  I’ve been surprised that despite a 24/7 Christmas music format that the playlist of Magic 106.7 seems extremely limited.  They do not play any overtly religious songs which is not surprising as they would want to appeal to the largest audience possible.  And as Magic 106.7 has a pop “adult contemporary” radio format, I would not expect them to play any folk, traditional, or foreign language tracks either.

Nevertheless, there is a still a large body of popular Christmas music that they seem to ignore.  Tune in for an hour, or even half-an-hour and you are certain to hear some rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” as well as Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.”

I decided I would use Rdio to make a playlist of Christmas songs to see how many I could get without repeating.  I decided to set the following guidelines. I would only select “modern” Christmas and winter-themed songs, that is ones that were written to be recorded and sold to the public (roughly the 1930s to the present).  I also chose the earliest recording of the song I could find as many have obviously been recorded numerous times by multiple artists.  So far I have 105 songs, more than 5 1/2 hours of Christmas music without repeating a song, and this doesn’t even include modern interpretations of traditional Christmas carols from the 19th-century and earlier.

Check out the playlist on Rdio.  If you use Rdio, feel free to add additional tracks, and if not please feel free to make suggestions in the comments on this post.

http://rd.io/x/Rl5fvL0v6y1i/

Songs that qualify for the playlist, but are not available through Rdio:

  • “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl
  • “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band Aid
  • “Three Kings” by Robbie O’Connell
  • “Merry Xmas Everybody” by Slade
  • “Christmas Time” by Bryan Adams

Songs that qualify for the playlist, but I cannot bear to listen to:

  • “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney
  • “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” by Elmo & Patsy

The complete playlist:

Name Artist
‘Zat You, Santa Claus? Louis Armstrong & The Commanders
(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays (1954 Version) Perry Como
2000 Miles Pretenders
A Child Is Born Oscar Peterson
A Holly Jolly Christmas Burl Ives
Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) Spike Jones
Anderson: Sleigh Ride The Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler *
Another Lonely Christmas Prince
Auld Lang Syne Guy Lombardo
Baby, It’s Cold Outside (78rpm Version) Dinah Shore
Back Door Santa Clarence Carter
Blue Christmas Ernest Tubb
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus Mabel Scott
Carol of the Drum Trapp Family Singers
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) Darlene Love
Christmas Canon Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Christmas In Heaven (Monty Python Sings) Monty Python
Christmas in Hollis RUN-DMC
Christmas in Killarney Dennis Day
Christmas In New Orleans Louis Armstrong
Christmas In The Trenches John McCutcheon
Christmas Is Run-D.M.C.
Christmas Island The Andrews Sisters
Christmas Medley The Swingle Singers
Christmas Rappin’ Kurtis Blow
Christmas Song Dave Matthews Band
Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal – Album Version) Vince Guaraldi Trio
Christmas Will Soon Be Here John Gaudet & The Laurels
Christmas Wrapping The Waitresses
Do You Hear What I Hear? The Harry Simeone Chorale
Dominick the Donkey Lou Monte
Donde Esta Santa Claus? Augie Rios
Father Christmas The Kinks
Feliz Navidad José Feliciano
Frosty the Snowman (78rpm Version) Gene Autry
Gee Whiz, Its Christmas Carla Thomas
Give Love On Christmas Day (Group A Cappella Version) The Jackson 5
Happy Holiday Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (2010 Digital Remaster) John Lennon
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Judy Garland
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right down Santa Claus Lane) Gene Autry
I Believe In Father Christmas (Album Version) Emerson, Lake & Palmer
I Don’t Intend To Spend Christmas Without You The Garlands
I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day Fred Waring And His Pennsylvanians
I Just Can’t Wait Till Christmas Teresa Brewer
I Pray On Christmas (Album Version) Harry Connick, Jr.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus Jimmy Boyd
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas Gayla Peevey
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday Wizzard
I’ll Be Home For Christmas Bing Crosby
I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm Dick Powell
If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas Day (Album Version) Gene Autry
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas Perry Como
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Andy Williams
Jingle Bell Rock Bobby Helms
Just Like Christmas Low
Last Christmas (Single Version) Wham!
Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Vaughn Monroe
Little Saint Nick The Beach Boys
Lord Of The Dance The Christmas Revels
Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past Sufjan Stevens
Marshmallow World Dean Martin **
Mary’s Boy Child (Remastered) Harry Belafonte
Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas) Bing Crosby
Merry Christmas Baby Charles Brown, Johnny Moore, Eddie Williams
Merry Christmas Everyone (Remastered) Shakin’ Stevens
Merry Christmas from the Family Robert Earl Keen
No More Christmas Blues The Vacant Lots
Nuttin’ for Christmas Art Mooney Orchestra
Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy (Medley) (2006 Digital Remaster) Bing Crosby
Percy, The Puny Poinsettia (Album Version) Elmo & Patsy
Please Come Home for Christmas Charles Brown
River Joni Mitchell
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree Brenda Lee
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Gene Autry
Run Rudolph Run Chuck Berry
Santa Baby Eartha Kitt
Santa Claus The Fuzztones
Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto James Brown
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town Harry Reser & His Orchestra
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town The Smothers Brothers
Silver Bells Bob Hope
Sleigh Ride Andrews Sisters *
Snoopy’s Christmas The Royal Guardsmen
Someday At Christmas Stevie Wonder
Step Into Christmas Elton John
Suzy Snowflake Rosemary Clooney
Suzy Snowflake Rosemary Clooney
Swiss Christmas The Smothers Brothers
The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) (1999 – Remaster) Alvin and The Chipmunks
The Christians and The Pagans Dar Williams
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) Nat King Cole Trio
The Closest I Can Get Sunturns
The Secret Of Christmas Ella Fitzgerald **
The Shepherd’s Carol (vocal by Kip Ledger) Charlene Lockwood
This Christmas Donny Hathaway
Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights) JD McPherson
We Need A Little Christmas Angela Lansbury (And Cast)
What Christmas Means To Me Stevie Wonder
White Christmas Bing Crosby
Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas The Staple Singers
Winter Song Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson
Winter Wonderland (feat. Joey Nash) Richard Himber and his Orchestra
Yes, There Is a Santa Claus Betty Madigan
You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch Thurl Ravenscroft

Footnotes:

* The only song repeated in this playlist is “Sleigh Ride.”  First there is the iconic orchestral rendition by The Boston Pops.  The Andrews Sisters provided one of the early vocal recordings with the song’s lyrics.

** Bing Crosby is credited as the first person to record “Marshmallow World” and “The Secret of Christmas,” but as this playlist was already heavy with Crosby’s crooning, I chose the Dean Martin and Ella Fitzgerald versions of these songs respectively.

15 New England Municipal Place Names That Are Fun To Say


  • Belchertown, MA
  • Bozrah, CT
  • Effingham, NH
  • Groton, CT
  • Hooksett, NH
  • Isle au Haut, ME
  • Mashpee, MA
  • Ogunquit, ME
  • Seekonk, MA
  • Tewksbury, MA
  • Thetford, VT
  • Tiverton, RI
  • Wethersfield, CT
  • Winooski, VT
  • Woonsocket, RI

Previously: Words That Are Fun To Say

Hipsters Go Berserk


With apologies to Sandra Boynton on her birthday, here is a parody of a her classic picture book Hippos Go Berserk that I felt compelled to write.  I originally posted this on Facebook and several of my friends contributed, including: Steve W., Susan L., Christine R., Edward H., Chris D., Debbie W., Sid S., and Carolyn G.  I don’t have the skill to add illustrations to the text, but if you’re interested in drawing it up, have at it.  Just give credit where credit is due.

 

One hipster, all alone, texts two hipsters on an iPhone.

Three hipsters at the door, bring DVDs of mumblecore.

Four hipsters in fedoras sardonically talk about their auras.

Five hipsters with ironic facial hair wear bow ties and rock their flair.

Six hipsters pedal fixies while wearing tweed caps.

Seven hipsters sneak in some Pabst.

Eight hipsters with white girl dreads, proudly display their artisanal breads.

Nine hipsters get down and pretend to twerk.

 

ALL THE HIPSTERS WRYLY SHOUT “LET’S GO BERSERK!”

All through the hipster night, hipsters dance to Times New Viking,
but at the hipster break of day they seek tunes more to their liking.

 

Nine hipsters amble out the door making their way to a vinyl record store.

Eight hipsters then head west to make it to Coachella ahead of the rest.

Seven other hipsters thought it was best to head instead to SXSW.

Leaving behind six hipsters wearing skinny jeans that are quite distressed.

Five hipsters prepare for their northward treks by donning pairs of horn-rimmed specs.

Four hipsters move to a transitional ‘hood, avoiding Wal-Mart like no one else could.

Three hipsters, as was their wont, designed websites in a quirky, homemade font.

Two hipsters get their kicks applying filters to all their pics.

One hipster, alone once more, thinks all those hipsters were such a bore.