Sunday, November 22, 2009

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come . . .

I always liked that song.

I really like the holiday of Thanksgiving. I know that there are some who dislike the holiday for the very legitimate reason of "well, it didn't turn out so well for the Indians, now, did it?" But I like Thanksgiving. So - a list of Things Mockingbird Is Thankful For.

1. Green bean casserole. Just about the only way I like cream of mushroom soup.
2. Hand turkeys. Sure, you may know how to make one, but try switching hands.
3. Pie. Pecan, pumpkin, Kentucky Derby, apple - you name it. Pie is good.
4. Canned cranberry sauce. While I don't eat it, any food that is considered complete when it has the exact shape of the can it comes in - well, that's a marvel.
5. Family. Be it blood or chosen, whether you get along like the John Walton family or the Homer Simpson family, it's a good thing to have.

There's plenty more, but it'll save. What about you? What's Turkey Day like in your household? Is it all about the Black Friday sales or is it about the homemade dressing? Or the football? Or the board games?

Friday, November 13, 2009

The House Is Closed

It was a good run and a valiant effort. I "hmmed" a good bit when the news came out no episodes of Dollhouse would air in November - it's sweeps time, after all and that's when all-important advertising rates are set. But now it's official - Dollhouse will finish its run (the finale will most likely air in late January) but it's gone to the scrap heap of canceled shows.

Whedon has assured fans that we'll know about his next project by the time the final episode airs and we'll see what direction he'll be going in.Many fans are understandably upset about this, but no one is particularly surprised. Friday night is the "death slot" for network television and Dollhouse never attained stellar ratings. As I've posted here, I found the show to have flashes of nigh-brilliance, but also some anvil-heavy storylines, characterizations, and direction.

Back in 2003, Whedon said in the New York Times interview that his "favorite fictions . . . are about the getting of strength and that's probably the most important theme in any of my work" and Dollhouse wanted very much to be going in that direction. Alas, the path through the woods has been barred by a Fox, but I can't much blame the Fox for acting according to his nature.Maybe this frees Whedon up a little - they're in the process of filming Episode 11, meaning there are still two to film - plenty of time to jazz things up, especially now that there's no worry about Pleasing the Network Masters. Amazing how freeing that can be. Let's go out with a bang - or at least a loudly slamming door.Then again, I've always been a sucker for the idea of toys (Dolls, if you will) becoming real - a concept Whedon must have a liking for as well, considering his writing credit for Toy Story and certainly one he's been working with here. So let's end with this from the classic for children of all ages, Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit:

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.

But the Skin Horse only smiled.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

No, that's not a misprint. According to the Celts, today is New Year's. Well, sort of. To the Celts, the year was divided into two sections - the "light half" ran from May 1 until Halloween, then the "dark half" held sway from November 1 back to the start of May. Therefore, yesterday was New Year's Eve.

Key to understanding this idea of two half-years is a basic concept of Celtic theology. Where we moderns (or post-moderns, I always confuse the two) tend to look at things from a dualistic point of view, those wacky Celts were more inclusive.

OK, that's not too clear to me, and I'm the one writing it. Let me back up and try again.

These days, we tend to see things as "either/or." Something is either good or it's bad. Theology-wise, we tend to view light as "good" and dark as "bad." The Celts were more rounded, viewing events as more like points along a spectrum (or circle, being rounded and all). Things just are - they aren't one or the other; it's bigger than that. Put in modern Halloween terms, the modern Western view is Swedish fish (all chewy, all red, nothing chocolate-coated and mutilayered) while the Celts are more like Reese's Cups (chocolate and peanut butter).

What all this means is that to the Celts, the "dark half" isn't a bad, icky, scary time. Growth takes energy and that's what the "light half" of the year is for. But you can't sustain that always and forever - you need the "dark half" of longer nights and quieter time to contemplate what's coming next, to recharge and refresh so you can be ready to spring forth when the light time comes.

Not a bad idea, when you think about it. In the meantime, we poor mods (post-mods; whatever) are just about to enter what is (for many of us) the wackiest of times - holidays. Multiple guests, special food, redecorate the house, send cards and letters (most of us don't do much of that during the year, then feel we suddenly need to turn into Victorians - we even go caroling!), and feel inferior if we don't have a handmade centerpiece that would take a staff of six a solid week to create in the first place.

I think my Celtic ancestors may have had the right idea all along.