Monday, December 31, 2012


New year's resolutions. I guess they're a good idea. At least, as long as they are positive goals to aspire to, and not guilt-inducing impossible tasks.

Anyway, I hope to approach the new year with a more positive spirit and lighter touch. It's in my nature to worry too much and try to take on too much responsibility — even when I'm already overburdened. I hope to be able to, well slack off a bit. I'd also like to pursue my course of getting stronger and healthier in the new year and beyond. I'd like to be lest apt to jump on things, react too quickly or too tartly. Be kinder. Especially with myself. I'd like to laugh a lot more. I'd like everyone else around me to do the same.

Here's hoping that 2013 is fun, funny, and relaxed.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

get the champagne ready

It's almost New Year's!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

how to relax

This past week I have been running around a lot. I think today is a day to relax. And I could take a lesson from my furry friends.



Friday, December 28, 2012

some more mom treasures

Over the holiday break I have been doing some "spring" cleaning and have found some more of my mom's old sketchbooks. These two drawings are from 1983, the year she left (my dad and) New Jersey for a new life in Florida.

I find this first drawing particularly fun. My mom was always sketching, but I had no idea that she sketched my favorite '80s band, The Clash. She captured Mick Jones and Joe Strummer on television singing "Should I stay or Should I go" and "Straight to Hell." They must have been promoting Combat Rock. I even remember that sleeveless shirt of Joe's. Joe!


She must have done this drawing soon after arriving here at her mother's — my grandmother's — apartment in Florida. Our view from the same balcony hasn't changed very much all these years later.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

the fairies return

Article first published as Book Review: The Fairies Return: Or, New Tales for Old Compiled by Peter Davies and edited by Maria Tatar on Blogcritics.

In the introduction to The Fairies Return: Or, New Tales for Old, well-known children's literature academic Maria Tatar quotes philosopher Ernst Bloch on fairy tales:

"'Once upon a time' refers not just to the past but points forward to a 'more colorful or easier elsewhere,' the place where courage and cunning can help you change your station in life..."

The Fairies Return is a collection of modern, that is 1930s-era, takes on classic fairy tales collected by Brit Peter Davies, who himself was no stranger to fairy tales. The adopted son of J. M. Barrie, Davies is believed to be the inspiration for Peter Pan. Davies, founder of the publishing house, Peter Davies Ltd., may have grown tired of his association with "the boy who never grew up," as he is reported as referring to Peter Pan as "that terrible masterpiece," but it is clear from this volume that he was very interested in collecting and sharing tales of enchantment.

Peter Llewelyn Davies
Tatar, apart from analyzing the entries in the collection, includes a comprehensive biography of Davies. There is also a nice section at the back of the book with author biographies. Eight women and seven men are the authors of these updated versions of familiar tales. Only E. Arnot Robertson's "Dick Whittington" could not be included in this edition due to copyright reasons. The fourteen tales include:
"Jack the Giant Killer," by A. E. Coppard: Worse than any Blitz, giants Demos, Kudos, and Osmos invade London, eating its inhabitants and only leaving their discarded clothing to tell the gruesome tale. A young Cornish fisherman named Jack with an eye for the Boss's daughter and a knowledge of prawns and fishing with bait has a plan to save the city. 
"Godfather Death," By Clemence Dane (Winifred Ashton): Two generations of Devon doctors, a father and son, form a curious relationship with the Grim Reaper in this powerful tale. 
"The Fisherman and his Wife," by E. M. Delafield (Edmee Elizabeth Monica de la Pasture Dashwood): In an updated version of the classic tale of greed, an increasingly annoyed and magical flounder grants wishes to a diffident man and his unsatisfied and unappreciative wife. 
"Little Snow White," by Lord Dunsany (Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany): Lady Clink, jealous of the beauty of her stepdaughter Blanche, schemes to get rid of her. You know how it ends. A gramophone cleverly replaces the magic mirror, as Lady Clink continually sings her question, "Oh gramo, gramo, gramophone, which of us is the fairest one?" 
"Aladdin," by Anna Gordon Keown: In an amusing version set in Scotland the genie is a helpful demon with a long tail, and his master, Mr. Aladdin, an embarrassed undertaker. The demon disguises himself as a bishop to gain the trust of the locals. As much as Mr. Aladdin may be doubtful of his new friend, the genie does help the shy man get what he wants out of life. 
"Sinbad the Sailor," by Eric Linklater: In Baghdad, two men with the same name, Sinbad the Porter and Sinbad the Sailor, trade tales of their adventures. The sailor's eighth and greatest adventure takes him sailing to a strange isle where people play a game with little white balls on fields of green, and a widow named Dalila mercilessly pursues him. What if Sinbad was just an old bore telling (and re-telling and re-telling) outlandish and unbelievable stories, over and over again? 
"Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," by A. G. Macdonnell: In a fun crime spin on the classic fairy tale, two brothers, Cassim and Alastair, more commonly known as Ally, get some inside financial information that helps to make them rich, but sets a gang of thieves on their tail. 
"Puss in Boots," by Helen Simpson: The updated version still features a loyal and enterprising cat who is determined to help his dullard of a master advance in the world. His solution? Go into politics, of course. 
"The Little Mermaid," by Lady Eleanor Smith: As tragic as the original Andersen story. Beautiful and talented young swimmer Mary pines for an American movie star and gives up everything just to be near him. 
"Little Red Riding-Hood," by E. Oe Somerville: In a very Irish take on the tale, Moira is pursued by local boy Curley Brech Wolfe, who may or may not be a friend to her grandmother. 
"Cinderella," by Robert Speaight: An elderly Cinderella tells a very different version of her story, a cautionary tale of love, to a traveler. 
"O, If I Could but Shiver!," by Christina Stead: Nothing seems to be able to scare Lludd, until he meets the beautiful Esther. Love truly does conquer all. 
"The Sleeping Beauty," by G. B. Stern: When two high-living sybarites, Roy and Queenie, have a little girl named Beauty, they decide to retire to the country and give up their wicked ways. But country life doesn't quite suit them and Beauty becomes bored with her parents and her life in this flapper-era update full of wild parties and curses that do come true. 
"Big Claus and Little Claus," by R. J. Yeatman and W. C. Sellar: In an amusing and increasingly violent tale, Big and Little compete until one can be proclaimed the winner.
Originally published in 1934, the stories reflect the anxieties of life in post-World War I Britain. Many of the tales have a decidedly adult spin, with sex, romance, drugs, and crime making an appearance, but most retain the humor and earthiness of their original inspirations. The Fairies Return is both an entertaining read and a fascinating look at an era's adult take on the timeless tales that children are still being reared on today.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

my favorite xmas gift this year

A handmade card and poem from the kid.





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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

merry christmas!

Here are some fun images from Christmases past and present. Merry Christmas to all!
Barbara Periale & Elizabeth Anne Periale
Barbara with Elizabeth on her first Christmas
Dolly for Christmas
John's First Xmas
John's first Christmas
John Periale, Waretown, NJ
A few Christmases later ...
In Rockefeller Center
The kid in Rockefeller Center, NY
A festive Ann
The kid decorates the tree
With Santa
Seeing Santa in Florida with Grandma
Xmas tree
She made that ornament
Mother and daughter reflected in an ornament
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Monday, December 24, 2012

one of my favorite holiday movies ...

... is We're No Angels, with Humphrey Bogart. "Bogie in a Christmas movie?" you say? Yes! Not only is it a Christmas-themed movie, but it's a comedy, and Bogart, along with costars Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray, are quite funny.

The basic plot concerns three Devil's Island convicts in 1895 — Joseph (Bogart), Albert (Ray), and Jules (Ustinov), who escape from prison at Christmastime. They hide from the authorities at a local general store, run by the Ducotels family, Felix (Leo G. Carroll), Amelie (Joan Bennett), and Isabelle (Gloria Talbott), their teenage daughter. The trio manage to ingratiate themselves with the family by performing odd jobs, but soon get caught up in the family's personal dramas, which include an evil cousin (Basil Rathbone) and his equally evil nephew Paul (John Baer) who plan to take over the failing store and eject the Ducotels. With the help of the three "angels" and their pet snake Adolphe the Ducotels end up having a very merry Christmas.

Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Ray fix the roof  well as fix a family's problems
The film, directed by Michael Curtiz, who also directed Bogie in Casablanca, shows its stage roots in the enclosed spaces and farcical nature of the situations. It's all pretty silly stuff, but it's done with good humor and it's hard not to like the three convicts and their adopted family. It's clear that Bogie and everyone involved are having a great time, and it's impossible to watch the movie without laughing and smiling, even when the comedy takes a black turn.

There's something about We're No Angels that reminds me a bit of Arsenic and Old Lace, except at a much more laid-back pace. The humor strays far from logic at times, but it rolls on inevitably to  a satisfying conclusion. Not to be confused with the sorry attempt at a remake starring Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn, We're No Angels is a great chance to see Bogie try his hand at comedy as well as dispense some Christmas cheer.

Happy Christmas Eve!

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

i'm dreaming of a ...

... white Christmas? Well, not exactly. But after a few weeks of listening to holiday tunes in the car with the kid we have decided that as much as we love Bing Crosby's classic rendition of "White Christmas," that this version by the Drifters is absolutely tops. We sang along and then did our own a capella version all the way home last night.

"I yi yi yI'm dreamin' of a white Christmas ..."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

merry go round and round

The kid got a ride on a merry-go-round the other day. It was custom made, with a Florida theme — besides horses, there was also a heron, a flamingo, a sea turtle, an alligator, and a Florida panther.

We'll have to go back soon — I might even take a ride on the flamingo next time.

Friday, December 21, 2012

no snow ... but we've got sand!

Florida is not known for its white Christmases, but the locals do know how to make up for the lack of white stuff with some ... off-white stuff.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

the kid's new fave xmas song

"Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" is still probably her all-time favorite, but this year my daughter heard this holiday novelty song on the radio and loved it. It's incredibly goofy, but I love hearing the kid sing along. And I find myself doing it, too.

The song, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" came out in 1953 and was performed by Oklahoma child star Gayla Peevey. The song was such a success that there was actually a campaign to gift Peevey with an actual hippopotamus for Christmas, which she later donated to a local zoo.

I probably should have mentioned that once you listen to "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas", it becomes a true earworm for the rest of the day. Ooops.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

the bfg

I am pretty psyched that the kid and her third grade class are reading Roald Dahl's The BFG (which stands for The Big Friendly Giant). As funny as it is, it's also actually pretty sophisticated stuff, replete with Dahl's wonderful, playful language, like the giant's food, snozzcumbers (a sort of nasty cucumber) and his favorite beverage, frobscottle, which is sort of like soda pop, but with bubbles at the bottom of the bottle which cause the drinker to make noisy whizzpoppers, which speak for themselves.

The BFG has his own unique way of speaking, a humorous mish-mash of English. The kid likes the book so much that she has been reading it to me while we're in the car. There are themes of bullying and individuality and friendship and loneliness, but Dahl also addresses violence. In the chapter "Journey to Giant Country" the young human girl Sophie, who is quickly becoming the BFG's friend, is shocked that most giants (not the BFG, of course) eat humans. But the BFG gently explains to her that giants aren't so different from other creatures. Birds eat worms, cats eat birds, etc. He points out that humans are the only only animals that kill others of it own kind, humans.

As the BFG puts it, "Human beans is always killing human beans." It seems an oddly appropriate book to be reading at the moment.

Sophie and the BFG, illustration by Quentin Blake

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

christmas is sexier than you think

Have you ever noticed that for every "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" there are an equal number of sex-ay holiday tunes? As much as Christmas is (mostly) for the kiddies, there are also plenty of adults who want to get both naughty and nice around the holiday season.

The crown prince of  sexy Christmas songs has got to be "Baby, It's Cold Outside," a three-minute anthem to a man (nicknamed Wolf in the lyrics) using every wintery excuse in the book in order to convince the not-too-unwilling lady (nicknamed Mouse in the lyrics) to spend the night with him. It's become a favorite duet, with everyone from Ray Charles and Betty Carter to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jourdan doing their own version. The most recent incarnation has Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera dueling it out on his holiday album, Cee Lo's Magic Moment.

Also full of double-entendre is the teasing classic "Santa Baby."
Come and trim my Christmas tree
With some decorations bought at Tiffany's
I really do believe in you
Let's see if you believe in me
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

The original and best version is the 1953 recording by the inimitable Eartha Kitt, who can do more with phrasing and diction than just about anyone. A must-to-avoid is Madonna's Betty Boop-ish version. It would have been interesting if Marilyn Monroe had had the chance to give the song a shot, but Eartha's will always be "the" version.

Maybe a little more about romance than sex or commerce, but still decidedly more grown-up holiday songs are Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and The Eagles' "Please Come Home for Christmas," which have love, not presents, on the singers' minds.
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you

Both songs are nods to old-style Christmas music, with Carey paying homage to the Ronettes and the Eagles' bluesy honky-tonk version tapping into the blues that can frequently accompany the holiday season.

Bells will be ringing this sad sad New Years
Oh what a Christmas to have the blues
My baby's gone
I have no friends
To wish me greetings once again
Choirs will be singing Silent Night
Christmas carols by candlelight
Please come home for Christmas
Please come home for Christmas
If not for Christmas by New Years night

It's nice sometimes to have an alternative to fa la la la la and pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.
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