Thursday, December 01, 2005

And now…. T.H.E. .M.U.S.E. .A.N.D. .W.H.I.R.L.E.D. .R.E.T.O.R.T.

This Month’s Featured Article: Hi-Ho Silver Away in a Manger by Chris Chandler is a great read. It is a bit longer, so you'll have to get it by clicking the 'comments' button and reading from that page.

Chandler is a great story teller. I had the opportunity to meet him via Anne Feeney at an event I staged on 9-11 a couple of years ago. Very insightful and funny too. You might want to get a CD of his or if you live in the east, check out one of his gigs in the weeks to come. It is all at his web site.

Plug: Have you got your copy of American Storyteller?

What would make a better holiday gift? It is a 2 vol. CD set – but wait, there’s more! Each CD is also a CD ROM enhanced with 3 short films extra art work, lyrics and cracker jack surprises! It is a double CD so it is a little bit more expensive but what would make a better Christmas gift than “American Storyteller? “ Just Click here!

His 8 minute movie:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

FROM CHANDLER and his email list:

On Thanksgiving, after three plates full of turkey, I fell asleep on my mother’s couch, watching the annual Turkey Day football game thankful I could visit my relatives and thankful for the kind of sleep you can only obtain on your mother’s couch. When I awoke the next morning I had the hazy feeling the game was not over yet. But then I realized it was not a sesquicentennial overtime kick off – it was the kick off of the Christmas season. Not really Kick off so much this year as face off.. How’s that old joke go? “I went to a the shopping maul and a hockey game broke out.”

You can see why I was confused in my hazy pre-coffee mirage - The pack of people huddled before the doors open, their thick down parkas resemble shoulder pads and thick helmet like toques - as the whistle blew and the twos sides of the shopping mall opened – both sides flying down the long narrow hall way to tackle which ever person has the latest X-Box play station.

Yes, the preseason was officially over. It had started sometime between Memorial day and Halloween. I first heard the marching band just before All Saints Day. We were still in high autumn in Ohio – the leaves were vibrant yellow and plum red as I enjoyed my first ubiquitous Christmas Fight Song “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” But now, all those pre season festivities were over and Christmas is in full swing.

So, armed with our generation’s most relevant contribution to human history – the TV remote – I began to flip around a bit. The news stations gave up to the minute reports on parking at the malls, weather conditions, and the latest line on sales. ESPN gave up to the minute reports on parking at the Stadium, weather conditions and the latest line on the score. The classic movie stations gave us hours of nostalgia, as did ESPN as they reviewed the Dickens Classic “The Games of Christmas Past,” and the Home Shopping Network “The Gifts of Christmas Past.” TV land gave us the Christmas episode of Gilligan’s Island, The Love Boat and most importantly The Lone Ranger. All of the shows began to blur together. The History Channel and The Home Shopping Network, NFL Total Access, FOX News’ “Inside Jihad,” The all God All The Time Channel (AKA FOX News) and Turner Classic Movie gave us Dances with Wolf Blitzer.

The various team mascots were waiting in the wings – The Christ Child and Santa Claus, The Lone Ranger and Mohammed, Jimmy Stewart and Terrell Owens and on the Independent Film Channel Rudolph VS Godzilla. Actually, I would like to make that film.

The Atheist Channel aired their version of It’s a Wonderful Life – where Jimmy Stewart jumps off the bridge and that’s the end of the movie.

Now of the mascots, the original Christmas® franchise, has indeed, gotten the most media hype over the years. In fact, in terms of paragraphs written, it is about two million to one. Now, you might think that is because old Saint Nick is a relative new comer. Not so. In fact he is a mere 270 years younger than the Christ Child, and a good 270 years older than Mohammed. However, He is 1550 years older than America’s great Icon, The Lone Ranger. Santa Claus was born an even 750 miles from Christ and Mohammed respectively. However it was a good 10,000 miles from the Lone Ranger.

I know this because I flipped from the TV land encore performance of The Lone Ranger over to the History Channel where I learned that Nicholas, not yet a Saint – but according to ESPN my beloved and beleaguered New Orleans Saints franchise would be glad to take him -- was born in Pbtras, now in the State of Lycia, Turkey.

Unlike the Christ Child’s humble origins, Nicholas and The Lone Ranger were born a noble birth. Mohammed was born in the middle class but obtained his wealth the honest way, he married into it. After Nicholas’ parents died, young Nick spent his days wondering how to spend his riches for good. After The Lone Ranger’s Brother died, he became the sole heir to a Silver mine and spent his days trying to use his wealth for good. After Mohammed’s wealthy widow died he spent his days trying to use his wealth for good.

I say none of this to mock anyone or any idea. I say it to point out that good storytelling is – well… good storytelling – so incase you were reading this with some sarcastic tone – you can stop right now – has Santa Jumped the Shark? Not the St Nick I know. But I digress.

Times were tough in Pbtras and young Nick heard tale one of his neighbors were considering selling off his three daughters into prostitution. Nick wrapped a hefty sum of gold into a cloth (because wrapping paper had not yet been invented) and tossed it into the open window of the neighbor. (Not because Jolly St Nick was a Jolly John, so the neighbor would NOT become a pimp – now, stop thinking like that.) I will spare you the details but I will say as the History channel reported all of this I had to check twice to see if I was watching an episode of Petticoat Junction. (which in it’s 343 installments only had one plot.)

Come ride that little train that is rolling down the tracks to the Junction, Petticoat Junction!

Eventually Nick, (that’s Nicholas, not Nick at Night) who had not yet found the flying reindeer, and walking ones don’t exist in Turkey, throws the wrapped gold down the chimney, when by the hair of his chinny chin chin the neighbor catches him but Nick makes him promise not to reveal his identity until after his death. The three daughters will not be sold into prostitution.

The Train is a comin up that hill then it goes to Hooterville past the Junction….Petticoat Junction!

I rolled over and flipped the channel at this because it was all a bit confusing – I mean, WE know who St Nicolas is. HOWEVER, he (if you believe like I and most children do) is alive and well after moving to the North Pole around the time The Lone Ranger was born. Just when was his identity revealed?

Folks will walk a country mile for that chicken country-style at the Junction, Petticoat Junction!

The Lone Ranger, on the other hand, wants his identity as John Reid concealed for reasons, we can’t quite figure out. It seems he and 5 Texas Rangers (one of which is his brother) were in a gun fight with the fiendish Butch Cavendish Gang. All were killed except John Reid who was left for dead. A Pottawatomie Indian named Tonto (ironically Spanish for “Fool”), nursed John Reid back to health while loosing his ability to use helping verbs. Tonto mutters, “Other Texas Rangers all dead. You only Ranger left. You lone Ranger now."

After the Ambush, The Cavendish gang discovered John Reid’s grave. One story has it that Tonto dug an extra grave when he buried the Rangers, perpetuating the myth that there were no survivors. Or, did The Lone Ranger, like other mythic heroes, rise from the dead? The only thing we know is when they rolled away that stone – The Masked Magi was gone.

To conceal his identity from the outlaws, the Ranger decides to cover his face with a mask made from the black vest of his dead brother - A sort of shroud of the Pecos.

One must understand here, that like most stories – most notably the first four books of the New Testament – there are many retellings of the same tale with different and sometimes conflicting nuance in each one. There is the book of “Mutual Radio Broadcasting.” The Book of “CBS Saturday morning cartoons,” The Book of “The Tarzan/Lone Ranger Adventure Hour,” The Book of “Dell Comics,” and most importantly, The Book of “The Lone Ranger Rides Again.”

However, when I flipped over to The-All-Law-and-Order-Channel Also know as TNT, I am further confused as to why he wants to keep his identity a secret – like Racer X. In order to be an eye witness in the prosecution of the evil Cavendish Gang and to keep his silver claim, The Lone Ranger would have to reveal his identity. Other wise the claim would go over to it’s rightful owner, and that would be ummm….. let me think about this…. The rightful owner? Tonto’s tribe? (See why they named him “Fool” How does that joke go – “What we, white man?”)

As I flipped back and forth between TV Land and the History Channel there are countless examples of Nick and The Lone Ranger performing miracles, often quite similar to those performed by Christ. The Lone Ranger made his decision to be a virtuous vigilante – a high plains holy man.

Nick makes his decision to become a priest and makes a pilgrimage to the holy land. This is St Nicholas (not yet a Saint) we are talking about – not Mohammed (not yet born). Along the way to the holy land, he gives away all of his riches anonymously and largely to children. On his return trip the weather turns rough and the sailors call out for help. Nicholas, not an experienced sailor, begins to help with the rope and rigging and as soon as he does the storm abates and his reputation for performing miracles spreads far and wide – including one where he walks on water.

Over on ESPN the Saints were loosing badly to the Patriots. Even worse though – they are loosing on CNN as well.

Upon his return home, the bishop of Myra has died. In his last breath the Bishop said that his successor shall be the first person to walk through the church doors at day break.

Well, there's a little hotel called the Shady Rest at the Junction, Petticoat Junction!

Miraculously, the first person to walk through the doors is, you guessed it, Nicholas, who of course is installed as Bishop. It is run by Kate, come and be her guest at the Junction, Petticoat Junction!

Now, this may seem like a fortuitous series of events, however the year is 303 and at the ominous age of 33 the emperors Diocletian and Maximtan began a terribly cruel persecution of the Church throughout the Roman Empire, starting in the city of Nicomedia where upwards of 20,000 Christians were burned in the church. Many Christians, including Bishop Nicholas, were arrested, tortured, chained and thrown into prison. Most were executed. It is said that Nicholas even brought back to life some of the prisoners who had been executed.

Lots of curves, you bet, even more when you get… to the Junction,

However it turns out the neighbors daughter, who married the noble man from Myra (remember the Gold down the chimney episode?) successfully pled for Nicholas’ life pointing out that he was the sailor who calmed the seas.

Nicholas was spared but lived in prison until the year 313 when Constantine ascended to power. Constantine, when hearing that the sailor who calmed the seas was in prison, freed Nicholas who returned to his flock in Myra and took part in the Council of Nicaea in 325.

He was canonized a few years after his death and later given his own day of festival December 6th. But his canonization was taken away in 1968 having something to do with too much secular fiction. Many variations of stories around the world began to melt into one long tale. Much like lying on your mother’s couch and watching lots of TV.

Over on the All-God-All-the-Time-Channel I learn that as changes were occurring within the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, even St Nick had to go underground. The rise of Protestantism throughout Europe had a profound effect upon the veneration of Saints in general. Protestant teachings emphasizing personal responsibility in salvation – prayer, bible studies, good works, and absolutely no fun – lead to a diminishing of the importance of the Catholic saints and replaced it with a TV show near the town of Hootetville.

As a result, Christians throughout Europe stopped worshiping Saint Nicholas. The Puritans in England and colonial America passed laws to abolish the celebration of shopping season – it was to be a working day like any other – and ask any one that works in a convenience store – that is still the case.

But Christmas – and Saint Nicholas – would not be legislated out of existence. St Nick took on some different personas and moved around a bit.

In England, he became Father Christmas, a large man who wore a scarlet robe lined with fur and a crown of holly, ivy, or mistletoe. Christkind or Kris Kringle was believed to deliver presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. Meaning "Christ child," Christkind is an angel-like figure often accompanied by St. Nicholas on his holiday missions. In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. Pere Noel is responsible for filling the shoes of French children.

But the dishes to observe are those pretty gals who serve at the Junction, Petticoat Junction!

In Russia, he cross dresses as Babouschka and in Italy as La Befana, a kindly witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children.

As I flipped the channel over to A&E’s Miracle on 34th Street –(BTW why isn’t 20th Century FOX mow called 21st Century FOX?) I find that it was the Dutch who smuggled St Nick to 34th Street in New Amsterdam – and I also learned something you might find very hard to believe. Our current vision of St. Nicholas Kringle is mostly shaped by…. Americans. It was largely here, that he met reindeer, elves, Rudolph, Snoopy, Mrs Clause, learned to drink Co-Cola, took up smoking a pipe, made the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, met a talking snowman and learned to fly on a giant Norelco electric razor.

After the Russian Revolution and the American Bolshevik scare – Co cola moved him from Russia (though how he got there I am not sure) to The North Pole – a politically neutral location. Oddly, The Russians – due to their theological neutrality – find themselves agreeing with the Americans – and kick him and his co-cola out of the Mother Land and off to the North Pole. In The USSR he is replaced with a father winter figure who brings toys to children, wears well… a red suit and smokes a pipe and has ummmm… flying reindeer.

It is unclear whether modern Santa ever flips his remote over to the weather channel and just what his stance on drilling in the Artic is. However he is a bit concerned about global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps.

Canada, The United States and Russia are in negotiation as to who will get the shipping rights over the North Pole once it melts. I think we should give the rights to Santa.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

When all through the House

Not a creature was stirring

not even a mouse

When a fiery horse with the speed of light,

a cloud of dust and a hearty “On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!”

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

The Lone Ranger calls out.

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

From out of the past come the thundering hoof beats a miniature sleigh,

and eight tiny reindeer, and the great horse Silver! Away!

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

“Who was that masked Man?” his nose like a cherry!

With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto,

up the chimney he rose;

the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came

When he finished helping those in need

he rode off into the sunset never asking for thanks for his deed.

As he galloped away

He sprang to his sleigh,

He could be heard shouting "Hi Yo Silver Away!

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Have a terrific Holiday Y’all – and drop me a line when ya get a chance.

-- chandler