Monday, December 24, 2007

That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown

This story is reprinted from this weekend's Hamilton Spectator:

Truce 'a short peace in a terrible war'

Mark McNeil
The Hamilton Spectator
(Dec 22, 2007)
It has to be the most moving Christmas story of the past 100 years.

"Beginning Dec. 24, 1914 German and British troops in Belgium laid their weapons down, and crawled out of their trenches to celebrate Christmas with carols, gifts and an impromptu game of soccer in No Man's Land.

And while the story from the First World War is well known -- what is less known is that two letters that describe the historical event are kept at McMaster University's archives.

They were written by a soldier named Gerald Blake who served with the London Rifle Brigade, British Expeditionary Force.

The letters are part of a collection of more than 60 notes he wrote to his mother and brother Clive between November 1914 and June 1916. McMaster acquired the letters as part of a larger purchase of military artifacts decades ago, apparently without knowing about the references to the Christmas truce.

More recently, researchers working on a digitization project took a closer look at the collection to find that Blake participated in the famous temporary armistice.

"It began with the singing of various songs by the Germans who also had a cornet and concertina going. Our fellows cheered each song and the two sides shouted Christmas greetings," Blake wrote in a letter to his brother dated Dec. 27, 1914.

In a letter to his mother, dated Jan. 7, he retells the story and also mentions hearing a German soldier call out "are you as fed up with the war as we are? ... A very quaint proposal was made to us that England and Germany should call it a draw and divide France between them."

Alan Cleaver, a newspaper journalist in Britain, and his partner Lesley Park host an extensive website dedicated to collecting and transcribing letters about the Christmas truce.

Through a network of Internet volunteers, they have transcribed more than 500 letters over the past four years, many of which are included in the book Not a Shot was Fired.

"I think (the story) still strikes a chord with people because it offers hope," Cleaver says. "In a world bedevilled with hatred and war, the story of the Christmas truce offers people with the possibility that one day men might simply lay down their guns, cross no man's land and shake hands."

Yet Gerald Blake is almost matter of fact in his letters. Going from killing to celebrating and back to killing again is an irony that seems lost on him.

As researcher Justina Chong writes about the Blake letters, as part of the digitization project of McMaster archives called Peace and War in the Twentieth Century:

"The peculiar thing about Blake's account of the Christmas truce is that it is inserted so casually, almost dismissively, amongst his detailed reports of other military and naval matters. Why is such a miraculous interlude described in no more than half a paragraph?"

Unfortunately, little else is known about Blake. McMaster has no picture of him. Chong's case study says it's believed he was later captured by Germans and it is unclear what happened to him after that."

Snoopy was certain that this was the end
When the Baron cried out "Merry Christmas, mein friend!"

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

Friday, December 21, 2007

Finally a musical that makes sense.

After watching Sweeney Todd, I can come to only one conclusion: Across the Universe needed a lot more slashing at people's throats with razors.

Musicals always have the difficulty of being taken seriously, so making a horror story into a musical is the only logical solution. I suddenly have the desire to see Evil Dead the Musical. The film was ridiculous, and musicals are ridiculous. It's kind of the equivilent of "two wrongs make a right".

I was also very impressed by Alan Rickman's singing ability and capacity for creeping the hell out of me. I propose another film make the transition to musical, following the success of The Lion King, Spamalot and Evil Dead. Die Hard the Musical.

Yippie-kay-yay indeed.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


There's a brilliant site on the internet that has comic book covers that are well... um. Yep. Um.

There's an entire section on Propoganda in Comic Books that is especially... um.

Firstly I shall link you to God comics. I haven't even begun checking them all out, but I can't imagine I will find anything to top this. It is. Huh. Um...

Mind you there is a more recent comic that I discovered. It's called Liberality. I hope that the ultimate villain is Jon Stewart.

I'm going back to see if anything tops that God Comic. I pray that nothing will.


And now I've been laughing non-stop for like an hour and a half. The actual inspiration for this site is apparently "Superman is a Dick" a section of comics depicting Superman... well being a dick. There are over a hundred of them. This one however, has a sepcial place in my heart. We finally identified the second shooter. Seriously, check this site out. You'll laugh til it hurts. And believe me it will hurt.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007 in Review

After reading TIME Magazine's 2007 "lists" I decided to make a quick list of my own.
Favourite movies of 2007, favourite TV episodes, favourite albums, favourite books, favourite plays and favourite days.


#1 Fido
This was not my toughest decision, but it did have some competition. Eastern Promises is my current Oscar favourite, and whatever anyone says I thoroughly enjoyed Pirates of the Carribean III. But Fido stands above the rest simply because I'm making observations about the world around me. I think it's healthy.
Seriously see it. I'm not going to tell you twice.

TV Episodes

#1 The Imaginationland Trilogy of South Park

I know what you're going to say "Cheat!". OK, fine, "Imaginationland III". If you want to know how I feel about Religion, Children's stories, Christmas and Art in general listen to Kyle's speech at the end of this episode. If you're wondering, my other nominees were not just South Park episodes. I was pretty impressed by the CSI "Dead Doll"/"Living Doll" episodes, but I am still mad at the direction of the former. From The Office "Grief Counselling" (pretty sure that was this year), and I am counting the Sir Ian McKellan episode of Extras, since I could not technically have seen it until this year here in Canada. Also high on the list was the episode of the Colbert Report where Jane Fonda is his guest. If you haven't seen it, do so. But watch Fido first.


#1 Neon Bible, the Arcade Fire

A VERY tough call. I also loved Modest Mouse's Before the Ship Even Sank and, of course, The White Stripe's Icky Thump. I suspect that "You Don't Know What Love is, You Just Do as Your Told" is my single of the year, although Feist's "1,2,3,4" is also very good. Neon Bible just has the best obsessive replay value for me. There are several songs dominating my iTunes "Most Played List" the most prominent being "No Cars Go" which seems to cause me to automatically turn the volume up on my car radio no matter how loud it was to begin with.


#1... ok so you've probably guessed that by now...

Yes, I really loved Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Unlike a lot of critics, I liked it the best of all of the books. Interestingly, and I don't think that this is normally true, the other books that I read this year that are actually new books of 2007 were probably my favourite reads of the year (as opposed to books I read that were published in the past). Douglas Coupland's Gum Theif was not his best book, but I did thoroughly enjoy it and Stephen Colbert's I Am America and So Can You is pretty much awesome in every possible way. I have begun to stick his stickers of approval on my book collection. I am trying my best to find books that really expemplify Stephen's notions of literary excellence (like Catch 22, 1984, Contact, Michael Moore's Stupid White Men, etc.)


#1 Facebook of Revelations

OK I'll admit it. Second City is not evil. In fact that play was pretty excellent. And it is the first play that I have ever seen that had previews. I just can't wait to see "Safe Bet: The Musical" featuring popular rock songs and a love story. I wish I could say that this had more competitors, but I have seen tragically little theatre this year. The biggest one would be a rendition of Samuel Beckett's Not I, which I saw performed at Stratford, as well as The Merchant of Venice. Apart from that, I must simply see more theatre next year.

after trying to pick a best day I have come to a conclusion:

2007 is the best summer I've had since before I started University. Actually, make that "in recent memory". Between going back to camp, filming the movie with Zach and Yvonne, seeing a bunch of shows at Stratford and seeing several movies (in particular the Simpsons Movie), I'd say the summer may have actually redeemed 2007.

and finally

Best Concert.

Actually there was no real contest there. You Say Party We Say Die. I just wanted to mention how great they were.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Flim Critics

"She doesn't even care about spelling, this blog must be hot!"

This is an exceptionally interesting article from Time Magazine:

Do Film Critics Know Anything?
by Richard Corliss

I sprinted down the corridors of TIME this afternoon, eager to spread the news of the New York Film Critics Circle voting for the year's best films. The winner, in the film, director, screenplay and supporting actor categories? The Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men, which three different people told me they'd been meaning to see. The runner-up, with wins for best actor and cinematographer? There Will Be Blood, an audience-punishing epic that doesn't open for another two weeks. Best actress? Julie Christie, in Away From Her, which earned less than $5 million in its North American release.

I didn't even tell them that the very popular, and very good, Pixar cartoon Ratatouille lost out to a French movie about the troubles in Iran. (Though Persepolis, take my word for it, is funny.) By the time I'd got back to my office I had realized that we critics may give these awards to the winners, but we give them for ourselves. In fact, we're essentially passing notes to one another, admiring our connoisseurship at the risk of ignoring the vast audience that sees movies and the smaller one that reads us.

In the past five days, five groups — the National Board of Review, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Washington. D.C. Film Critics Association and my crowd, the New Yorkers — have convened to choose the most notable movies and moviemakers. No Country was named best picture in four of the groups, There Will Be Blood in L.A. George Clooney won two best actor awards for playing a lawyer at crisis point in Michael Clayton; Daniel Day-Lewis a pair for his oil mogul in There Will Be Blood; and, in Boston, Frank Langella won the prize for playing an aged novelist in Starting Out in the Evening. Three groups selected Julie Christie as best actress — she's an Alzheimer's patient in the Canadian film Away From Her — and two liked Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in La Vie en rose.

You will be forgiven if, like my friends at TIME, you are scratching your head and feigning interest, hoping I'll get quickly to the sexy stuff, like best non-fiction feature (the Iraq docs No End in Sight and Body of War and Michael Moore's Sicko) and distinguished achievement in production design (Jack Fisk, There Will Be Blood, L.A.) . Gee, you're wondering, did The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the French story of a man totally immobilized by a stroke, beat out the German spy drama The Lives of Others? (Three out of five critics groups say yes.) If you're getting restless, movie lovers, too bad. You'll be hearing the same obscure names at the Golden Globes and on Oscar night.

In animation, Ratatouille won the award outright in Washington and from the National Board of Review. Boston gave the Pixar film a screenplay award, which rarely goes to a cartoon. But in L.A. it shared the L.A. prize with Persepolis, the biographic cartoon from the Iranian exile Marjane Satrapi. And the New York critics rebuffed Ratatouille — and The Simpsons Movie and Bee Movie and Beowulfand other ani-movies people have actually seen — with a first-ballot vote for Persepolis. An art-house film beat out movies that have already grossed nearly $1.5 billion dollars (or about 47 euros) worldwide.

That's the deal with critics' awards. They give prizes to whom they damn well please. No problem with that; it's their gig, and obviously they should pick their favorites. (The choices are fine with me: No Country, Persepolis and No End in Sight are all on my 10 best.) But these laurels factor into publicity campaigns for the Oscars and Golden Globes; often they are the campaigns. It's the way we critics contribute to the art-industrial complex. Our prizes certainly help determine which films get nominated, setting in motion the next round of ballyhoo before the final prizes are handed out. So almost all the nominees will be from worthy obscurities that can't draw much of an audience in the theater or, when the awards shows are aired, on TV.

You might think the highest-rated Oscar telecasts are in years when there's a close contest in the major categories, as with Crash and Brokeback Mountain two years. Nuh-uh. It's the runaway years, when billion-dollar blockbusters like Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King get what are essentially People's Choice awards, and its makers wear a path in the rug from their seats to the stage. Moviegoers who are TV viewers don't want horse races; they want coronations — validations that somebody in Hollywood is ready to honor the movies they love.

That won't happen this year. If the Oscars follow the critics' prizes, there won't be a hit film among them — not even the hits that reviewers loved. Disney's megahit comedy Enchanted has the highest rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the critics' polling site, but I barely heard the film mentioned at the New York voting today. Dozens of scribes raved about the smash comedies Knocked Up and Superbad, but neither film has won a critics' prize. The comedy they love now is Juno, which came out last week.

Actually, it's hard to tell which if any of the critical faves will be popular, because most of the big winners (Diving Bell, No Country, Persepolis, Starting Out in the Evening, Sweeney Todd, There Will Be Blood) are November or December releases. Half of them haven't hit the commercial theaters yet. Maybe the critical establishment has A.D.D.

But the Golden Globes and the Oscars, if they follow the critics' lead, will have V.D.D. — viewer deficit disorder. Large numbers of people won't watch shows paying tribute to movies they haven't seen. In the old Golden Age days, most contenders for the top Oscars were popular movies that had a little art. Now they're art films that have a little, very little, popularity. The serious movies Hollywood gives awards to in January and February are precisely the kind it avoids making for most of the year. The Oscars are largely an affirmative action program, where the industry scratches its niche. The show is a conscience soother, but not a crowd pleaser.

And it all starts here, with critics fighting over which hardly seen movie they want to call the best of the year.


This seems like as good a time as any to reveal some interesting information about Sweeney Todd. Director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have done several films together, and it is not the least bit surprising to see them at it again. But how was Burton so fortunate to secure such an outstanding supporting cast, featuring Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall? Unless of course he had some sort of special powers...

Sorry. I think it should be clear by now that I really can't help it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Things I didn't come up with, but am totally impressed by

I will definitely be adding this web log to my links section soon.

My brother has also drawn my attention to:


A is for Alone, and always complaining that you are just that
B is for Bracelets, but any wrist adornment will do
C is for Crying
D is for Dyed black hair
E is for Emotion and exaggerating every one you have
F is for Floorpunch!
G is for Glasses, preferably thick black rims
H is for Heartbreak. Boo hoo.
I is for the Intense pain you feel from your unrequited love
J is for Jilted lover
K is for Kissing, and whining about how you aren't doing it
L is for Labelling yourself
M is for Moodswings
N is for Never having any friends who care about you
O is for Old-man pants
P is for Picked last in gym class, and other cliches of the sort
Q is for Questioning your self worth
R is for Remembering when things were wonderful and then crying about your life now.
S is for Sweaters
T is for Thrift stores
U is for Underdeveloped muscles, because you have to be out of shape to be emo
V is for Veganism
W is for Whining
X is for X-Girlfriends and talking about the pain they bring you
Y is for Your miserable existence
Z is for Zooming with your camera because you're a photographer

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tree Decorating 101

I'm home today with my family and we are decorating the tree... once it meets my standards for straightness and having the rightside facing the right part of the Living Room, that is. Apparently no one wants to decorate the tree with me. Something about me yelling at them if the decorations aren't spaced properly- ridiculous accusations. Although I think it is probably better if I do it myself. SOME people in this famiy don't realize the importance of not having two Santa ornaments next to each other.

Here is a picture of me calmly telling my brother to make sure that longer ornaments be put on branches with more space underneath of them:

Now I want to make it clear that I am not the only person fanatical about Christmas in my house. My Mother has nearly every square inch covered in decorations. She has over 20 boxes of ornaments. This was my Father's expression in Canadian Tire when she approached him with a wreath made of little stuffed snowmen:

Well, back to work. Hope everyone else's first day of Advent is as eventful and fun-filled as mine.