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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

A Little Christmas Ham

Posted by Dirck on 18 December, 2020

I will warn you at the outset– this presentation of the Dickens classic is… not great. I have no idea what the intended form of presentation was. Early TV? C reel in theatres? No clue. But the acting is… mostly not quite there.

Why am I offering it, then? Two reasons. One is the remarkable interpretation of the Ghost of Christmas Present; he’s generally promoted as a roaring giant (give yourself a treat if you get that reference), but I can’t think of anything else where he’s shown as an angry professional wrestler.

The other– Vincent Price narrates! It’s worth the struggle to listen to him read, and occasionally be shown his warm expressions.

Rest ye merry, folks. We’re almost through to the solstice.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Taranis
Today’s ink: Herbin Violette Pensée

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…and I in my cap…

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2018

Merry Christmas to all.  I have a few days off work, which will deform the usual schedule here. I will look in again on Friday, with a progress report. For today, here’s the foundation of a lot of our modern notions of Christmas, read in pleasing voices, to keep you company while you wait for the rattling of many hooves on your roof.

It must be more than one creature stirring up there. Right? So many hooves…

Today’s pen (a Christmas gift): Waterman Phileas
Today’s ink (a festive colour): Diamine Syrah

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‘Twas Two Nights Before Christmas…

Posted by Dirck on 23 December, 2016

I’ve mentioned previously, at roughly twelve-month intervals, that I’m a devotee of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, to the extent that I’ve actually read it (gasp!).  However, I am happy with a relatively passive enjoyment of the work– I’m not what one might call obsessed with it.  Unlike the poor soul behind today’s filched film, who appears to have spent an awful lot of effort in composing a fugue and variations on the subject.  If you can’t enjoy it, at least be astonished:

For my part, I’ll be watching dear old Alastair Sim again tonight, in what I hold to be the definitive version.  But that’s merely my opinion.  Stay warm, be of good cheer, and keep the day in your hearts throughout the whole of the year.  I’ll see you next week.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Snorkel Valiant
Today’s ink: Diamine Denim


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If Not Comfort, Then at Least Joy

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2015

Well, here we are at Scrooge Startling Day, hopefully all glowing with the anticipation of a happy tomorrow spent in the bosom of a family of however much extension one can manage.  I certainly am; for the past ten years, there have been three generations at my parent’s place, and for the past seven the same has been true at my in-laws, and we are as non-strife-seeking a pair of families as can well be imagined.

This year, there is a confusion in our plans, because in an act of what should be unnecessary charity, we will be bringing an outsider into the proceedings at both grand-parental abodes.  It’s the sort of thing that ought to get Dickens’s various haunts stirring their stumps, too, because the reason we are doing this is rather scandalous.

Our friend has had what I can only call a dismal year.  The financial problems which I occasionally touch on in my own case are the proverbial copes of lead in her case.  Single, she is not eligible for any of the provincial low income supplement programs; these are limited to low income families (I’ll mention that I am technically able to apply for at least one of these, but due to the gross household income being enough the adults present to be above the poverty line, it would be about $30/month at a cost of many hours/month of dealing with bureaucracy; it’s not exactly an open-handed set of programs).  She is working several part-time jobs in keeping with the current notions of employment, the combined income of which almost covers her rent… in a good month.  Because of the increased workload at the one retail job she has, the main and most regular employment, she finds her hours cut to a maximum of two hours per week, to make room for a load of temporary minimum-wage workers– rise up, o rise, you Dickensian spectres!

We add to this litany of financial woe her mother tipping into full dementia.  This landed her in a public care home (the lickpenny provincial government has not quite unwound the socialist works of the 1950s through 1970s so far as to do away with these institutions), where she may if in a state of relative coherence receive brief visits.  Thus, the friend’s traditional Christmas of spending the day with mom becomes impossible.  Her father, long estranged from mom, and his family live about 2,500 kilometres away, a distance she cannot pay to travel even if she were disinclined to spend whatever of tomorrow as she can with mom.

The most deeply scandalous element of this: there is other family here, diverse maternal aunts and uncles and their progeny.  Many of these people have money in excess of basic need, and a couple we might even call well-off.  They have decided to get together for Christmas… elsewhere.  Only a few hours drive away.  Friend was not invited.  I don’t know, and can’t gather the heart to ask, whether this is a stems from her being born as the result of a fling and never legitimized, if it’s just because she’s from the poor wing of the family and we don’t want their kind at our quasi-posh gathering, or if it is down to her father being black and they not.  I suppose one could imagine a smorgasbord of -isms at work and allow all of the above reasons to have some influence in the affair, life being the rich tapestry that it is.  She can’t just turn up where they are and see if they stand by the exclusion, because she’s too poor to have a car; this would otherwise be what I would urge, because then they’d have to actively tell her to go away rather than just passively neglect her, and that might actually activate some consciences.

Thus, my own Christmas travels grow some curlicues, which I italicize in this roster of waypoints:

  • Take wife and son to her parents’ house;
  • After collecting friend;
  • Enjoy a morning at the in-laws (an unironic phrase);
  • Deposit friend at the care home;
  • Enjoy afternoon at my parents’ place;
  • Then collect friend from care home, unless her visit extends beyond…;
  • The devouring of the traditional Christmas Roast Beast;
  • Which would then see friend collected to be fed left-overs;
  • …and home for my merry little family to settle gifts in the house* and loll in post-prandial torpor;
  • …possibly with friend who would then need to be taken home later.

The selfish brute in me grumbles at the inconvenience of all this to-and-fro.  However, I quell that beast with a mental image of friend stuck in her over-priced apartment, casting glances alternately at the snowy terrain beyond the window, a picture of her and mom in a better time, and the cat toys she hasn’t cleared away after the death of her pet at the end of spring (a hard year indeed).  If she didn’t get suicidal from that, I would from imagining it, and my parents’ new digs offer a fifteenth floor balcony as a temptation to the despondent.

Grim jesting aside, how could one avoid the torments of the Spirit of Christmas Past for all the years to come if one left someone in a lurch like that?  Whatever one’s faith, this season is about enhancing the quantum of joy and human fellowship, and happily all the families involved agree with this sentiment*.  So, as you sit down to your own Christmas dinner, be it Roast Beast or Who Hash, spare a moment of reflection about your power to enhance the lives of others.  It is, really, the whole point of being here.

Now, if that hasn’t put you in too blue a mood, and you’re interested in the old English tradition of being gently frightened at Christmas**, here’s Annie Lennox out caroling:

…and to finish with a grin– the same tune, slightly altered.

Today’s pen: Parker 75 (I indulge myself– tomorrow it’s the OMAS Arte Italiana)
Today’s ink: Quink Black (to balance the indulgence)

* My father, who as I have mentioned before spent his formative years in an only intermittently exciting zone of one of the most destructive wars in the whole of history, suggested about a month ago that money that might be spent on adult gifts be given instead to the organizations smoothing the arrival of Syrian refugees in this country.  Gifts for the kids remain, because their lives are among the ones we all mean to enhance, but we are carrying the principle of mankind as our business unusually far this year.

** In a similar vein– here’s the latest on the fiction side of things, that wee flash I mentioned a couple of progress reports back.

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The Loooooong Holiday Weekend

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2014

But first, to please the Watching Conscience:

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 22 December
  • 23 December
  • Christmas shopping
  • First draft of “The Yellow Oracle.”
  • Sufficient
  • Seven manuscript pages
  • 55 min.
  • 50 min.

…and that’s the last of that you’ll see until the new year.  I’m taking some time off from The Regular Job, and while I entertain notions of getting as much writing done at home as I do here, they’re only slightly less unrealistic than the notions I have of establishing a resort on the Moon.  There is, after all, a six-year-old who is extremely demonstrative of affection, very anxious to share cool stuff, and by noon Thursday in a frenzy of Christmas-induced glee.  There is already much whispering to parents and pointing suggestively at a drawer we don’t know he’s hidden a gift to his Mom in.

Plus I’m the behindest I’ve ever managed on correspondence.

In any event, since doing anything with this is pretty much a work-day event, and the next work-day is 5 January, it’s apt to be very quiet here until then.  I hope you’re all keeping on the right side of too much fat, calories, alcohol and other seasonal indulgences (“right side” being highly subjective, of course).  As the clock ticks down to the recurrent rehabilitation of Alistair Sim, I thought the thing to throw up on the Lifted Video Service would be the thing I’ve been using to drown out the Country and/or Western station that’s being allowed to make noise elsewhere in the office.  It’s made the day go much more easily for me.

For those who find Baroque warbling a rather more egg than their nog can support, there is also a reading of Dickens’s famous seasonal work by a chap whose name you may recognize (although it may be having a little bandwidth trouble).  Merry, Jolly, Happy, Cheerful or Reflective Roughly-Solstice Event to all, and we’ll see you all in the painfully science-fictioney year of 2015.

Today’s pen: Italix Parson’s Essential (Parsons figuring in a seasonal lyric)
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Walnut (being as close to roasted chestnuts as I could manage, given my allergies)

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ALSO not that one

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2013

A brief thrusting-in of head before I enter seasonal incoherence in a proper way– a Freshly Pressed item yesterday alerted me to this little film, and I’m providing a link to an entirely different presentation of it with slightly less commercial additive.  If you haven’t had quite enough Dickens this year, here’s the oldest known film version of his yule parable:

Compact narrative in film-making, back in the then, wasn’t it?  Ho ho ho, one and all, and may the chonologically-arranged ghosts have no cause to upset your sleep tonight.

Today’s pen, writing on the paper of idleness: Sheaffer Thin Model Triumph
Today’s ink, hopefully spent on merry letters once the festivities settle down: Herbin Lie de Thé

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No, Not That One.

Posted by Dirck on 20 December, 2013

The weekend before Christmas, and what do we do?  We watch Alastair Sim, as it’s less rough on the Whos.

…and when I was looking for something to stick up here in that line, I found a perfectly terrifying overlap of two favourites– Alastair Sim making Scrooge noises, but not in the usual shape, as he’s being animated by Chuck Jones.  How did I not know about this before?

Now, to finish the shopping….

Today’s pen: Cross Century II
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Tulipe Noire

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Just Another (Big) Day

Posted by Dirck on 21 January, 2013

Well, the week off is over, and the wonderful glow of accomplishment around the home is replaced with the return to The Regular Job and its spiritual equivalent of a spike-covered log swinging out of the ceiling into one’s face in the form of a heap of things any of the co-workers could have attended to (as I have for them) but was left to heap up for a week.  Good thing it wasn’t two weeks, eh?

But enough complaining– let’s get down to complaining!  I don’t have as much time to write today as I’d like, thanks to someone at the post office having a vastly complex transaction to conduct and apparently about three-fifths the necessary materials; it wasn’t a money-order, it wasn’t a parcel to be sent, but it sure took a lot of talking, hand-waving, and handing over of twenty dollar bills.  So, with very limited time, let me refer to something I noticed recently, so you can notice it too.

My favourite store in this city points out that Wednesday is National Handwriting Day.  I will add to the pointing out that the nation referred to by “National” is the US, so I can’t agitate for us to have a day off or cake in the board room, nor can I insist on chaining down a number of co-workers and insisting upon their learning how to apply a pen to paper with some dexterity.  As with Fountain Pen Day, I’ll be observing the event through doing exactly what I do each and every day– writing by hand as well as I’m able.  But, as Scrooge on Christmases subsequent to his ghostly visitations, there will be a touch more savour to the inherent joy of acting every day as many people do only when reminded by a note on the calendar.

I will also, as I do most days, keep an eye out for the handwritten efforts of others, to appreciate the effort if (in most cases) not the artistic achievement.  We’re told that beauty lies about us at all times.  Some of it is the result of human achievement, and some of that is a mere note or grocery list, discarded by the writer.  Keep an eye out for it, and you may also get a smile of no expense and, to the vast majority, of mysterious genesis.

You’ll get extra bonus points if mysteriously-generated smiles make others nervous.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Statesman TM (at long blinkin’ last)
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Bundled Up Snug in Your Bed

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2012

We tend not, in our modern and shiny world, to consider Christmas as a night of spooks, haunts and spectres.  Sure, there’s the reform-minded spirits that drive old Ebenezer Scrooge into a frenzy of wealth redistribution (and may their efforts thrive) but they’re not alone.  One of the fruits of listening to the M.R. James Podcast is the discovery that a lot of his stuff, with its hair-monsters as one might expect in a Japanese movie and its vengeance-driven spiders and its whistle-powered hug-demons, is meant to be read at Christmas.

Since I’m too lazy to research even a little, I wonder if  this is a hold-over from some long-ago pagan propitiation of the solstice or if it’s just a clever way to get the kids from underfoot while the mysterious gifts from Santa, or St. Nicholas, or Father Christmas (in order of increasing gauntness and terror of aspect) are installed.  Did some druid one day say, “Y’know… this is kind of icky.  What say next year we just take it in turns telling scary stories and call it good, even if no one actually dies of fright,”  or was there some bright Victorian parent that realized that it’s a lot easier for a few candies to magically manifest in stockings if the kids are in a quivering heap, dead centre of the bed, with the comforter clasped about their heads?  I know that I’d certainly not put a foot off the edge of the bed if, at age eight, someone had read Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook at me.

And then there’s this guy:

Have a very stabby Christmas!

An honest-to-goodness vintage image, which even if you’re not in the “clown = scary” camp is a pretty distressing one.  Look at the gleeful way that homunculus is working away with his knife.  Who, that isn’t bent on a rampage of destruction, uses two hands on a knife, even when trying to work free a fragment of fruit-cake?  And when I say “fruit-cake”, I say so with a tone of doubtful hope in my voice, because I suspect what wee Pagliacci there hungers for is something more in the line of… human brains!

You know how it is; laughing on the outside, plotting grim deeds on the inside.

The first mistake is to make eye contact.

Knife and repast aside, that’s a flat affect if ever I saw one.  He’s smiling with his mouth… sort of, and if we make allowance for what appears to be an utterly inhuman tongue… but there’s only calculation in those eyes.  Utterly chilling.

Looking at the matter positively, though– as much as I like the idea of the world being merry and gay (use the word however you wish) in the face of the bleakest season, I should hate for a reduction in the amount of M.R. James’s tales that might stem of an entirely un-dark Christmas.  Also, we might be without The Nightmare Before Christmas, either in its animated form, or in the earlier poetic incarnation:

By the way, if you’re as much a Christopher Lee fan as I am, you’ll absolutely want to lay hands on his heavy metal “Little Drummer Boy” (“Silent Night” is a little less fun, but not without merit).

Now, because I don’t want to be totally contrary to the received spirit of the season, I offer a couple of non-skeletal, terror-free items.  First is a link to a somewhat late gift-idea, which may not even bear more than a sense of having properly applied one’s powers in the direction of charity– Shawn Newton is running another raffle to drum up some scholarship money for a deserving urchin.  Since we are, indeed, out of work-houses, how can you decline to give?  The prospect of possibly getting a nice pen out of it is a mere sweetening of the deal.

And from nice pens, let’s move to pens being used nicely:

And that is it from me until after Boxing Day. Don’t do you livers too much injury in the next couple of days through either booze or fatty treats, forgive your family in their lesser failings, and try not to worry about that damn clown.

He knows when you are sleeping!  HE KNOWS!

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Legacy
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lie de Thé

Post Scriptus– I find that I’m not the only one considering the terrors of the season; there’s a BBC article on the very same subject.  Strangely, while touching on Zwarte Piet, they miss entirely that most Jamesian of Christmas critters, the Krampus:

This is just about the least distressing image on the Wikipedia page regarding Herr Krampus.

This is just about the least distressing image on the Wikipedia page regarding Herr Krampus.

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It’s Later Than I Think

Posted by Dirck on 18 December, 2012

I’ve just fought my way back from depositing the last of the pre-Christmas returns of pens to clients, and “fought” is the word.  The swarming of crowds intend upon getting that just-right gift, combining with extremely sullen weather, makes getting out over the lunch break a real challenge.

The worst part; I have to become a component of the swarming crowds.  The month has slipped away from me, and the 25th being a very firm deadline, there’s a few things I really have to get at.  This is, then, yet another apology to the readership for not appearing here and making my strange pronouncements with my usual myrmidon regularity between now and the anniversary of Scrooge dancing with is nephew’s wife.  I’ll almost certainly look in, and I may even have a handy robot put something up for your amusement, but between the demands of consumerism, family, and Regular Job seasonal lunches, I can’t promise I’ll be here to grumble in person.

I was hardly here today.

Today’s festive pen: Sheaffer Triumph TM
Today’s rather sober ink: Iroshizuku Fuyu Syogun

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