'Tis the season for writing "'tis, " and also for concerts. Daughter had her first concert in the school's rehabbed auditorium, a 90-year old space with the accoustics of a cotton warehouse. It's been restored and spiffed with new lights and chairs and carpet, and it needed it: reminded me of the old Fargo theater in which I saw all the 70s sci-fi movies and Woody Allen films. Chairs from the 20s, with their heavy seats that swing up so fast it's like having a croc snap at your buttocks.
The literature describing the space, and the speech announcing its dedication, praised its Art-Deco details.
It was built in 1925. I really don't think the style raced from the Paris International Exposition in the course of a few weeks, and besides: there's nothing Deco about it. Classical pilasters and columns. Rote minimalist Beaux-Arts details, like the rest of the school. I don't know how anyone can look at it and say it's Art Deco, unless the term has come to mean "not very ornate and also old, but not, like, age-of-men-in-whiskers old?"
By "Deco" people really mean "Moderne," as I keep saying to no effect. So they're not even using the right term to describe the style incorrectly.
If only the Depression hadn't crimped the Moderne style. Leaving aside the human toll of massive unemployment and shifting the urban economy entirely to apple-selling, if you believe the cliches, the Depression was a great loss for cities. Imagine if the boom had gone on another five years. Imagine how white-stone sleek Moderne structures with glass blocks and elegant metal details would have transformed the look of the big cities.
They'd have been knocked down in the 60s and 70s for Miesian monoliths and mirrored-glass mediocrities, I suppose - ten years before people started to argue that the style deserved preservation. By then the best would have been lost. This is a culture that builds the future in the form of a World's Fair, and plows it under when the Fair ends its run.
On Sunday we had the annual Christmas concert at church. Packed house - we always end up in overflow, which is fine; that's the side chapel where Daughter was baptized by Pastor Bud. The walls open so you can see the main sanctuary. The speaker system, retrofitted in the old structure, is impressive. I tune most of it out.
This may seem peculiar: why go to church and ignore what's going on? I don't; I listen, but I'm not following along in the program, and the selections of scripture to advance the plot are not exactly news to me by now. I have never been an Aeolian harp in church, waiting for the breeze of the liturgy to quicken my strings. I sit there and I read the Bible. I read things I've never read before, like the Book of Amos. It makes me want to know a bit more about Amos; the man had stones, but I don't know what his beef was. It's all about dire smiting, and the prophecies, as is the case in the OT, feature a remarkably voluble God. The problem of modern Christianity - and I say that knowing there are tens of thousands of reams of exegeses on the question, but really, it's a fair question - concerns the great clamming up. If the wickedness of this king was so crucial it required G*d to send Amos to tell the king what's what, how was that highly specific event - not without out its political ramifications in later years - greater than the perils the world faced later?
Just realized I know a guy who wrote a book about, and I could do a podcast about it. Anyway: finished Amos before the event began, and tucked into Matthew. It's all familiar, but sometimes you see things in a new light. A few years ago it was the parable of the spendthrift son; I found myself sympathizing with the other one, who behaved himself. This year it was the parable of the king who invited everyone to the wedding.
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
This seems unwise, given that it's the KING who's made the invitation.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.
Again, I have to ask: what are these guys thinking? You can't even say "sorry, not feeling well, wife sends her regards"? You have to kill the guys who show up ON BEHALF OF THE KING. Brilliant.
The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
Now that seems like something of an overreaction. No one's acting smart today.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Now this seems nice. The daughter gets a crowd, the people get some grub, the king has his party. If you ended it there, it might be a message about ingratitude, or how it's not whether your guests are high-born or rich but whether they enjoy the party. But it doesn't end there.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
As well he should have been, because here he is in the king's house, having been rounded up for a party, and now here's the man himself looking at him with this peculiar expression, and the guy who was bum-rushed off the street into the King's house has no idea what he's done wrong, but this can't be good.
“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
For heaven's sake, why? For this lesson:
“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
This exegesis explains: "The matter of the wedding garment is instructive. It would be a gross insult to the king to refuse to wear the garment provided to the guests. The man who was caught wearing his old clothing learned what an offense it was as he was removed from the celebration." Okay, but that's not in the parable. You can't add that later to justify the king's decision. And it's not enough to kick him out? He has to be bound hand and foot?
Yes, I know, it's a parable, and everything has a metaphorical meaning, but let's think of the bride, whose day began with Daddy burning down a city, and ended with him throwing out a guest who laid in the darkness weeping.
Father Edward J. Flanagan is the founder and visionary for what’s known today as Boys Town. He had a dream that every child could be a productive citizen if given love, a home, an education and a trade. He accepted boys of every race, color and creed. Father Flanagan firmly believed, “There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.”
Now and then there's a bad boy.
Googling around, I've learned that these stamps are called "cinderella stamps." Wikipedia: "In philately, a cinderella stamp is virtually anything resembling a postage stamp, but not issued for postal purposes by a government postal administration."
If it has a gummed back and a serrated edge, it's a stamp.
Ads like these thrilled kids; they indicated that everyting was coming together, and the grown-up world was incorporating the things that excited you as well.
And how was that something kids cared about? Because:
Hermey the Dental Elf, and everyone's favorite, Yukon Cornelius. We liked Yukon because he was funny, brave, and he knew the ways of the Arctic. We did not know he was a Peppermint prospector, though. That's why he licked the tip of his pickaxe after he embedded it in the snow.
Without the notion that he was hoping to taste peppermint, that made no sense.
WATCH HIM GO with this buzzy knife:
We had that knife. As for Santa, I am reminded again that he was a complete jerk in the Rudolph show - he appears in the sparsely-furnished cave where one of his employees has become a new dad, and sings a song about himself being, among other things, the King of Ding a Ling. He can't be arsed to pretend to be interested in a song of fealty from his elves. He bails on Christmas at the earliest possible sign of bad weather. He is a man whose character disappoints in almost every way.
Holly; jolly; etc:
As you can tell, these are electrical products for men. Shoe shiners, meat carvers, car cleaners. If only they could be combined into one manly device.
Why does a snowman need an umbrella? To protect from deadly rain, I'm guessing. The very touch of it would burn. Most of us back in the olden times knew Sam before we knew Burl; when we realized the resemblance, it was another sign that the show had a strange magic.
How to sell a mixer to Dad? Simple. BOOZE.
That's one of the unnamed elves, right? Or did he have a name? I'm sure there's fanfic that gives each a rich backstory. His eye seems to indicate he's the right choice to sel dad a liquor-blender.
And now, the ad you'd never see today:
Because it would make children want to smoke, of course. Don't remember that elf. He looks rather . . . simple.
OH BOY OH BOY CAN I GET ONE CAN I:
It's been reissued, and the credits say the overture featured the "Videocraft Orchestra. The elf singing was done by the Videocraft Chorus. Other instrumentals were done by the Decca Concert Orchestra. Which never gave a concert.
That's some sharp cross-promotion there. Early brand penetration for the footie-jammie set..