23 December 2012

A Christmas Story Sunday

We did get up this morning and go to BJs. We didn't get there exactly when they opened, but there were still parking spaces up front—good enough! They still aren't carrying Brawny paper towels, but we did find the other items, and a nice container of Romano cheese, which we also needed, and James got Tom Clancy's newest book with a coupon. The Christmas air of the store is now greatly diminished and January magazines are already on the stands.

We packed all the things in the truck and then headed west, intending to go to the Books-a-Million in Acworth, as we had a 20 percent off total purchase coupon. I thought we might pick up a few future gifts. Instead of taking the freeway, we just continued on Highway 92; the businesses dwindled and soon we were in the country. Before we got to Lake Allatoona, we detoured and went through downtown Acworth, to emerge just south of the shopping center with Books-a-Million.

Sadly, I found only one item for someone else, and three books for me! (One was a bio of Judi Dench, plus there was Kenneth Davis' A Nation Rising, and also The Lexicon.) James also bought some gifts and only bought magazines for himself. By this time it was after noon, so we went across the parking lot and had lunch at Panera Bread.

Finally came home through a relatively-deserted Mars Hill Road, stopped at Kroger for milk and a newspaper, then went on home. Wow, a whole Sunday afternoon to relax—we don't know what to do with it.

Well, I had done something I'd been thinking about for a while, even though it cost me a few extra dollars. My Christmas DVD collection is getting a bit crowded, and I had noticed that someone has put almost all the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials (except for Little Drummer Boy, Book II, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, and The Story of the First Christmas Snow) on two DVD collections along with a few other Christmas specials. If I bought these two collections, it would take up less space and I would get some additional specials. They were pretty cheap at BJs (one was on a coupon), so I took the plunge.

I hadn't yet watched Santa Claus is Coming to Town this season, so I watched that off the first disk of "The Original Christmas Classics." This has a lively soundtrack, and I have always loved the closing words S.D. Kruger gives about Santa Claus: "…but what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learn to give as only he can give, of ourselves, our talents, our love, and our hearts? Maybe if we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson...maybe there would finally be peace on earth and goodwill toward man."

Sadly, I know the version of Little Drummer Boy that goes on this disk—it is missing parts of the soundtrack—so I didn't play it. (The videotape is complete, so I'll play that instead.) And we had watched Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol the other night. So I went to the second disk and skipped Rudolph, which we'd already watched as well, and put Frosty the Snowman on. I haven't watched this in years. It's really not one of my favorites, although Jackie Vernon is cute as the snowman who says "Happy birthday!" every time he comes alive. The disk also has Frosty Returns and The Cricket on the Hearth.

The other collection is"Classic Christmas Favorites."  This has the remastered version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which I'd been wanting, since we have the version where the Grinch is yellow for half the show. This also included three Rankin-Bass specials I hadn't seen in years: The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold, Pinocchio's Christmas, and The Stingiest Man in Town. The leprechaun special is rather pedestrian, with a passel of stereotypical Irish types on an island full of leprechauns and a banshee. I can only surmise that Rankin-Bass were running out of ideas for Christmas specials by then. :-)

Pinocchio's Christmas is interesting because, in a Christmas wrapping, it tries to use situations from the original Collodi novel that Disney excised: Gepetto's wig, the origin of the log that became the puppet, Pinocchio selling his schoolbooks and burying the money at the Fox and the Cat's connivance, Master FireEater being the one who has the puppet show. It even shows Pinocchio being rude to the Cricket (who, of course, is not named Jiminy!) and throwing a book at him, although of course he is not killed as in the book. It appears to be a "midquel," as when the Blue Fairy shows up (in the carriage drawn by mice, just as in the book), she hints at Pinocchio's future being turned into a donkey and being swallowed by the whale.

The Stingiest Man in Town has an interesting history. It was a musical Christmas Carol originally written in the 1950s for an Alcoa Hour broadcast which was about 90 minutes long, and Basil Rathbone played Scrooge. This has been one of television's "Holy Grail" performances for years and this year a copy of the original special was resurrected for DVD. But in 1978, Rankin-Bass did a 52-minute version with Walter Matthau as Scrooge. It kept most of the celebrated songs, if it did add a stupid bug ("B.A.H. Humbug," voiced by Tom Bosley) as the narrator. The music is quite good, if the special itself is rushed to cram so much material in a smaller time slot, and Matthau is surprisingly effective as Scrooge.

(The other disks have: The Year Without a Santa Claus, Rudolph's Shiny New Year [which I will watch next Monday], and Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey; Frosty's Winter Wonderland and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, the latter which I watched after Scrooge was redeemed yet again; and Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July [which is a dead bore and I would have preferred Life and Adventures of Santa Claus myself! but one can't have everything.])

Finally I put on A Christmas Story while we had supper: boneless pork ribs in a ginger sauce with rice. Ralphie and his family never fail to put a smile on my face.

A Very Magical Christmas!
Not really a book, but a magazine that I was delighted to find on the newsstand! It has "Norman Rockwell" emblazoned all over the cover, but is really a collection of many different artists' memorable "Saturday Evening Post" covers with commentary about each of them. Magical!

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