Santa Claus is comin’ to Town

Rankin Bass Christmas specials! This was one of the things I loved most about Christmas as a child.

Watching television on holiday afternoons featuring those distinctive doll-like characters, brought to life with a stop-motion animation technique called “Animagic”. (I used to look forward to it almost as much as Santa dropping off the presents!)

According to wikipedia
The company was founded by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass in the early 1960s as Videocraft International. The majority of Rankin/Bass’ work, including all of their “Animagic” stop-motion productions, were created in Japan. Throughout the 1960s, the Animagic productions were headed by Japanese stop-motion animator Tadahito Mochinaga.
Their traditionally cel-animated works were animated by Toei Animation, Crawley Films and Mushi Production, and since the 1970s, they were animated by the Japanese studio Topcraft, which was formed in 1972 as an offshoot of Toei Animation.

The 5 most popular films (and also my personal favourites) were

Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer (1964)

With narrator Burl Ives in the role of Sam the Snowman

The Little Drummer Boy (1968)

About the birth of the baby Jesus, and with Greer Garson providing the dramatic narration

Frosty the Snowman (1969)
This was actually cell animation (as opposed to “Animagic”) and narrated by Jimmy Durante (who also sang the title song). Jackie Vernon voiced the title character.

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (1970)
An origin story about Santa Claus, narrated by Fred Astaire as (the animated character) mailman S.D (“Special Delivery”) Kluger. Kris Kringle is voiced by Mickey Rooney

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
Narrated by Shirley Booth as (the animated character) Mrs. Claus, and featuring Mickey Rooney once again as the voice of Santa Claus. The iconic characters of Snow Miser (voiced by Dick Shawn) and Heat Miser (voiced by George S. Irving) also featured in this film.

Snow Miser

and

Heat Miser

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and best wishes for a great start to 2013!
(Back again in early February. All the best in the meantime).

Oh, Great Spirit

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives life to all the world. Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.

Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
Help me seek pure thoughts and act with the intention of helping others.
Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy – Myself.
Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame
“.

Great Spirit Prayer
By Yellow Hawk, Sioux Chief

I’ve been a bit all over the place this week and, ultimately, have felt a big need to anchor and centre myself somehow. To put my energy and focus where they really belong.

I was reminded of the beautiful prayer above. It’s a personal favourite.

I don’t think a person has to be religious to pray, or even to necessarily believe in God or a “Great Spirit”, though I sort of do myself.

Saying a prayer can sometimes be just a way of accessing our own spirit, and focusing our own intentions. A way of asking the highest part of ourselves – the least purely self-interested and most honourable person within us – to be the driver in our lives and call the shots.

Drinking from the poisoned well

There was once a wise king who ruled over a vast city. He was feared for his might and loved for his wisdom. Now in the heart of the city, there was a well whose waters were pure and crystalline from which the king and all the inhabitants drank. When all were asleep, an enemy entered the city and poured seven drops of a strange liquid into the well. And he said that henceforth all who drink this water shall become mad.

All the people drank of the water, but not the king. And the people began to say, “The king is mad and has lost his reason. Look how strangely he behaves. We cannot be ruled by a madman, so he must be dethroned.”

The king grew very fearful, for his subjects were preparing to rise against him. So one evening, he ordered a golden goblet to be filled from the well, and he drank deeply. The next day, there was great rejoicing among the people, for their beloved king had finally regained his reason“.

–Author Unknown

This story is told in a scene from the film Serpico (directed by Sidney Lumet and released in 1973) between the title character (played by Al Pacino) and his girlfriend Laurie (Barbara Eda-Young).

Serpico covers twelve years (from 1960 until June 15th 1972) in the life of NYPD officer Frank Serpico. It is based on the non-fiction book of the same title by Peter Maas and is about an extremely diligent police officer who discovers a hidden world of illicit activities among his own colleagues – witnessing cops doing drugs, committing violence, taking paybacks and other forms of police corruption. He decides to blow the whistle on the rot within, but doing do so leads to him being harassed and threatened, suffering great personal hardship and even enduring life-threatening situations. After being shot in the face during a drug bust on February 3, 1971, Frank Serpico eventually testified before the Knapp Commission, a government inquiry into police corruption between 1970 and 1972.

The fact is that going against the grain is never the easiest choice.

And voicing the unpopular can often make us terribly unpopular as well.

But sometimes the very things people are least willing to see and hear are the very things they most need to be told and have their attention drawn to.

Remember that Galileo was thrown in prison about 500 years ago for trying to tell everyone that the world wasn’t flat.

And until relatively recent times some people had the legal right to keep other human beings as slaves.

And doctors once used to advertise cigarettes.


“More Doctors Smoke Camels than any other Cigarette”

So even if you can’t beat ’em, don’t ever be tempted to join ’em.

Be strong and be brave, and refuse your drink from the poison well.

The lonely voices of reason and sanity can take a while to make themselves heard, but without them the world would stay unhealthy, unfair and incorrect.

People come into your life for a reason

A friend of mine posted the following incredible poem on Facebook today. It’s by an unknown author and I couldn’t find out much about it, except that it’s included in a short film on Youtube called “People come into your life for a reason” (included at the end of the post).

People come into your path for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When you know which one it is, you will know what to do with that person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.

They have come to assist you through a dificulty…

To provide you with guidance and support…

To aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually…

They may seem like they are a godsend, and they are.

They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die…

Sometimes they walk away…

Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand….

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled…

Their work is done.

The prayer you sent up has now been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON.

Because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.

They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.

They may teach you something you have never done.

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.

Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons.

Things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation.

Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

It is said that love is blind, but friendship is clairvoyant.

Thank you for being a part of my life…

Whether you were a reason, a season or a lifetime

~ unknown author

Fantastic Conspiracy Theories

No doubt you knew that the moon landing was faked.

And that the Roswell alien landing was covered up.

And that the CIA killed JFK.

And that the lottery is rigged

But did you also know that a race of beings called “Agarthians” live deep below us in the centre of the Earth? Apparently, they were first discovered in 1947 after an expedition to the North Pole by Admiral Byrd. (Sounds like 1947 was a big year between this and Roswell!). Byrd was in the U.S. Navy when he made two flights into the hollow earth, which has only two openings – one at the North pole and one at the South pole. The U.S. Navy, of course, are keeping all this information Top Secret.

And you know what else? Shapeshifting reptilian aliens are really running the planet and controlling everything. – the government, the media you name it. David Icke should know – he used to be a reporter for the BBC! Okay, he was a sports reporter, but who cares…He knows the truth about the “Reptilians” (or “Reptoids”, or “Reptiloids” or “Draconians”…guess they’re still struggling the naming process), an alien race which colonised Earth long ago which includes everyone from George W. Bush to the British Royal family. (And you thought “V” was just a television series!)

“The scariest and most powerful thing about conspiracy theories is they can’t be disproven, because any evidence that contradicts a conspiracy theory can be immediately dismissed as a plant of the conspiracy itself, created and disseminated specifically to disprove it. That’s what’s so clever about Fantastic Fest selection “The Conspiracy“. writes Matt Singer of Criticwrire (in a piece called “Fantastic Fest Review” 26th September, 2012).

The Conspiracy is a faux documentary which uses found footage and was written and directed by Christopher MacBride.

The film follows two doc filmmakers who decide their subject will be a man who’s made a name for himself by yelling protests in the streets of Toronto. This man explains that we’re all sheep (think real life Matrix), and slaves to a government attempting to become one powerful entity. The tales that are spun come directly out of conspiracy forums and are essential in integrating a level of believability to this intriguing mockumentary. When the old man goes missing, the filmmakers piece together his office full of newspaper clippings – which leads them down the rabbit hole of “truth.”

… what makes The Conspiracy so compelling is that it’s based on real conspiracy theories. Everything that’s suggested in the film is something I’ve known or read about, which makes the mockumentary that much more believable and even more thrilling.
according to Mr Disgusting at the Bloody Disgusting.com (“Chilling ‘The Conspiracy’ Brings Found Footage Thrills!” 23rd September, 2012)

Some people simply do not like the discomfort that a conspiracy theory creates. But for others, conspiracy theories are intriguing. They like to explore all of the possibilities that a conspiracy theory presents, in the same way that they like to explore puzzles or mystery novels. Sometimes a conspiracy theory is ridiculous and learning about it is a form of entertainment. Or you may find that the theory is credible and it makes you think. It’s interesting to consider the theory, weigh the evidence and come up with a conclusion“. Marshall Brain, “How Conspiracy Theories Work“. (How Stuff Works.com)

Personally, I struggle to believe that the world is being run by shapeshifting reptiles… but maybe that’s because their minion helpers – the microscopic carnivorous slug aliens – have hijacked my brain and I can no longer even trust my very own thought processes! Because they control them…telling me what to write at this very moment!!

Whatever. They’ve managed to be a bit more productive at this whole blogging thing than I have recently. Maybe I should leave them to it.

Stranger than Fiction

I am dedicating my blog post this week to my cat Saski, who probably used up 8 of her 9 lives and half of mine last weekend.


Saski is an indoor cat, and has been one for all of her 10 year life. Last Saturday night she got out of the house. We still don’t really know how, we just suddenly noticed she was gone and couldn’t find her anywhere when we looked for her, inside or outside of the house.

We looked for her the following morning, too. For hours. And rang the RSPCA. And animal shelters. And so on.

We made flyers to put up around the neighbourhood. And to cover all houses in a 5km radius as advised by the RSPCA.

I had an appointment on Sunday that I couldn’t get out of, so I drove the 40 minutes away from home to get there. Thinking about what else we could do to try and find Saski the whole way.

Then I parked my car – in 27 degree (Celsius) heat for 4 hours – while I dealt with stuff I had to, in the back of my mind thinking the whole time about how soon I could get home and look for Saski again. (The RSPCA advised looking up trees, especially at dawn and dusk).

Finally, I made the 40 minute trip home again.

When I got out of the car I heard meowing – it was Saski! Somewhere!

I looked around everywhere. Until I realised – to my horror – that the sound was coming from inside the bonnet of my car. I opened it and felt nauseous when I saw her inside, trapped somehow at the very front end of my car engine.

My neighbour John got her out of the car bonnet, as she was trapped inside and I couldn’t manage to get her out. And I took her to the vet to have her checked out right away.

She was fine. No physical harm at all. Not even terribly dehydrated ( I mean, she had a big drink of water, but she didn’t need a drip or anything, often used when animals are really dehydrated).

We’ve surmised that she must have been stuck inside the car bonnet the whole time. Because if she was any closer to the radiator or moving engine parts this would be an entirely different story. (Doesn’t bear thinking about for me). And if she’d gotten out of the car – a 40 minute drive away from her home – I think it’s safe to say we’d have lost her for good that way, too.

It’s nothing short of miraculous that we still have her, unharmed.

The funny thing is, last week when I was looking up links for my post 5 of My Favourite Urban Legends I came across a number of “completely bizarre but true” stories that were very interesting.. As well at this article… And I was half planning to blog on that subject this week…

5 of My Favourite Urban Legends

I DO NOT believe that Jamie Lee Curtis was born a hermaphrodite. I think it is probably one of the more blatantly spurious assertions I’ve ever heard. My husband, on the other hand, insists he thinks that one is true. (Mostly to wind me up, I suspect).

Richard Gere and the gerbil? Didn’t happen either.

“Life is so much more interesting with monsters in it. It’s the same with these legends. They’re just good stories” says Mikel J. Koven, a folklorist at the University of Wales.

Heather Whipps interviewed him in an article for Live Science (27/8/06) called “Urban Legends: How They Start and Why They Persist

“Urban legends are also good indicators of what’s going on in current society, said Koven, who is part of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) and is editor of its peer-reviewed journal, Contemporary Legend.

“By looking at what’s implied in a story, we get an insight into the fears of a group in society,” he told LiveScience. Urban legends “need to make cultural sense,” he said, noting that some stick around for decades while others fizzle out depending on their relevance to the modern social order.

It’s a lack of information coupled with these fears that tends to give rise to new legends, Koven said. “When demand exceeds supply, people will fill in the gaps with their own information…they’ll just make it up.”

About.com has a list of the (current) Top 25 Urban Legends and the two I mentioned at the start of this post are amongst them.

Here are some other personal favourites

The Old Lady who dried her pet poodle in the microwave

An elderly lady apparently washed her miniature poodle and decided it would be quicker and better to dry him in the microwave. So she put her beloved little dog inside, set for “defrost” and turned it on.

A few moments later as she getting his lead to take him for a walk, she heard a muffled explosion from the kitchen…

Alligators in the New York sewers

Versions of this story have apparently been around since the 1920’s and 30’s. The story goes that families would illegally bring baby alligators home with them from vacation in Florida for their children to keep as pets, but flush them down the toilet when they grew too large for comfort. According to the legend, the alligators survived and bred within the sewers, feeding on rats and rubbish, growing to terrifying sizes.

Souvenir cactus full of poisonous spiders

The version I first heard of this story was that a family bought a strange and beautiful looking cactus on an overseas holiday and didn’t bother declaring it at airport customs so that they could keep it. They put it inside the house, in a prominent spot in the living room.

A few days later the cactus appeared to be “breathing” – the sides of the plant seemed to be moving in and out slightly. At first they thought nothing of it, but soon the “breathing” became more pronounced, so the father decided to call the local plant nursery and ask about it.

When he described the “breathing” phenomenon he had observed in the plant, The nursery owner was horrified, and told the him to told to “Get the cactus outside, out of the house! Immediately!!”. The father complied, dropping the phone and racing to get the plant out into the back yard.

He had just made it back to the house when the cactus erupted and thousands of baby spiders leapt out from inside it.

Organised organ thieves

In 1997, the following email began circulating

Subject: Fwd: Travelers BEWARE!!!!!!

Neighbors, beware!

Dear Friends,

I wish to warn you about a new crime ring that is targeting business travelers. This ring is well organized, well funded, has very skilled personnel, and is currently in most major cities and recently very active in New Orleans.

The crime begins when a business traveler goes to a lounge for a drink at the end of the work day.

A person in the bar walks up as they sit alone and offers to buy them a drink. The last thing the traveler remembers until they wake up in a hotel room bath tub, their body submerged to their neck in ice, is sipping that drink. There is a note taped to the wall instructing them not to move and to call 911. A phone is on a small table next to the bathtub for them to call.

The business traveler calls 911 who have become quite familiar with this crime.

The business traveler is instructed by the 911 operator to very slowly and carefully reach behind them and feel if there is a tube protruding from their lower back. The business traveler finds the tube and answers, “Yes.” The 911 operator tells them to remain still, having already sent paramedics to help. The operator knows that both of the business traveler’s kidneys have been harvested.

This is not a scam or out of a science fiction novel, it is real.

It is documented and confirmable. If you travel or someone close to you travels, please be careful.

Actually, it’s not documented anywhere and not one single case of this happening to a person has ever been confirmed.

“There is absolutely no evidence of such activity ever occurring in the U.S. or any other industrialized country,” says the United Network for Organ Sharing. “While the tale sounds credible enough to some listeners, it has no basis in the reality of organ transplantation.”

The Princess of Amen-Ra

My all time favourite urban legend had to be this incredible story…

The Princess of Amen-Ra lived some 1,500 yrs before Christ. When she died, she was laid in an ornate wooden coffin and buried deep in a vault at Luxor, on the banks of the Nile.

In the late 1890s, 4 rich young Englishmen visiting the excavations at Luxor were invited to buy an exquisitely fashioned mummy case containing the remains of Princess of Amen-Ra. They drew lots. The man who won paid several thousand pounds and had the coffin taken to his hotel. A few hours later, he was seen walking out towards the desert.

He never returned. The next day, one of the remaining 3 men was shot by an Egyptian servant accidentally. His arm was so severely wounded it had to be amputated. The 3rd man in the foursome found on his return home that the bank holding his entire savings had failed. The 4th guy suffered a severe illness, lost his job and was reduced to selling matches in the street.

Nevertheless, the coffin reached England (causing other misfortunes along the way), where it was bought by a London businessman. After 3 of his family members had been injured in a road accident and his house damaged by fire, the businessman donated it to the British Museum. As the coffin was being unloaded from a truck in the museum courtyard, the truck suddenly went into reverse and trapped a passer-by. Then as the casket was being lifted up the stairs by 2 workmen, 1 fell and broke his leg. The other, apparently in perfect health, died unaccountably two days later.

Once the Princess was installed in the Egyptian Room, trouble really started. Museum’s night watchmen frequently heard frantic hammering and sobbing from the coffin. Other exhibits in the room were also often hurled about at night. One watchman died on duty causing the other watchmen wanting to quit. Cleaners refused to go near the Princess too.

When a visitor derisively flicked a dustcloth at the face painted on the coffin, his child died of measles soon afterwards. Finally, the authorities had the mummy carried down to the basement. Figuring it could not do any harm down there. Within a week, one of the helpers was seriously ill, and the supervisor of the move was found dead on his desk.

By now, the papers had heard of it. A journalist photographer took a picture of the mummy case and when he developed it, the painting on the coffin was of a horrifying, human face. The photographer was said to have gone home then, locked his bedroom door and shot himself.

Soon afterwards, the museum sold the mummy to a private collector. After continual misfortune (and deaths), the owner banished it to the attic.

A well known authority on the occult, Madame Helena Blavatsky, visited the premises. Upon entry, she was seized with a shivering fit and searched the house for the source of “an evil influence of incredible intensity”. She finally came to the attic and found the mummy case.

“Can you exorcise this evil spirit?” asked the owner.

“There is no such thing as exorcism. Evil remains evil forever. Nothing can be done about it. I implore you to get rid of this evil as soon as possible.”

But no British museum would take the mummy; the fact that almost 20 people had met with misfortune, disaster or death from handling the casket, in barely 10 yrs, was now well known.

Eventually, a hard-headed American archaeologist (who dismissed the happenings as quirks of circumstance), paid a handsome price for the mummy and arranged for its removal to New York.

In April 1912, the new owner escorted his treasure aboard a sparkling, new White Star liner about to make its maiden voyage to New York.

On the night of April 14, amid scenes of unprecedented horror, the Princess of Amen-Ra accompanied 1,500 passengers to their deaths at the bottom of the Atlantic.

The name of the ship was “Titanic.”

So why wasn’t that in the movie??